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Adam Carter

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Adam Carter
Spooks character
Adam carter spooks.jpg
Rupert Penry-Jones as Adam Carter
First appearance "Project Friendly Fire"
Last appearance "New Allegiances"
Portrayed by Rupert Penry-Jones

Ted Baxter[1]
Luke Chivers[2]
Ami Tlass[3]
Roger Thornhill[4]
Nick Harding[4]

Adam Morgan
Gender Male
Occupation MI5 officer
Title Chief of Section D
Spouse(s) Fiona Carter (deceased)
Children Wes Carter (son)
Nationality English

Adam Henry Carter[5] is a fictional character from the BBC espionage television series Spooks, which follows the exploits of Section D, a counter-terrorism division of MI5. He is portrayed by British actor Rupert Penry-Jones. The character is a former MI6 officer who takes charge as the chief of Section D, and hence the head protagonist following the departure of Tom Quinn in series three.

Adam Carter was created with the knowledge that Matthew Macfadyen, who played Tom Quinn, would leave the series. The intention was that Adam would be different from Tom; the producers wanted a character who was a husband with an MI6 background. Rupert Penry-Jones was cast after three auditions. Before the sixth series finale aired, it was announced that Penry-Jones would leave the series. In the premiere episode of series seven, Carter is killed in a car bomb. His death was voted the fourth most shocking death in the series. Rupert Penry-Jones was awarded "Best Actor" at the Crime Thriller Awards for his portrayal of Adam Carter.

Role in Spooks[edit]

Before joining Section D, Adam Carter was an MI6 officer who specialised in the Middle East. Oliver Mace (Tim McInnerny), chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, describes Carter as a "loose cannon".[6] He is a fluent Arabic speaker[7] and has good countersurveillance skills.[8] In one past operation, Adam worked a case in Damascus to recruit Syrian intelligence officer Farook Sukkarieh as a double agent to work with the Israelis and stop a string of suicide attacks. He used Farook's wife, Fiona (Olga Sosnovska) as a way in. Fiona and Adam subsequently fell in love and started an affair. When Farook discovered this, he had Adam brutally tortured. After he escaped, Adam framed Farook, persuading the Syrians that he was a traitor, and Farook was supposedly hanged for this.[6][9] Adam subsequently married Fiona and together they had a son, Wes.[1]

Adam first appears in the series three opening episode "Project Friendly Fire", hired by head of Section D Harry Pearce (Peter Firth) to help clear Tom Quinn (Matthew Macfadyen) who has been framed for the assassination of the Chief of the Defence Staff. Ultimately Tom is cleared and returns to duty,[6] only to be decommissioned in the following episode after sabotaging an operation.[10] Harry decides to have Adam transferred to MI5, replacing Tom as head of Section D.[8]

Adam recruits Jo Portman (Miranda Raison)after seeing that she saw through his surveillance cover and was impressed by her improvisation skills; he continues to be a mentor to Jo

In the series four episode "Syria", Adam learns that Farook had faked his own death; he is in England, where he kidnaps Fiona during an operation of hers. At the end of the episode Adam guns Farook down, but not before Farook fatally shoots Fiona, who dies in Adam's arms.[9] Harry later relieves Adam of duty until he receives a psychological evaluation.[11] In the series four finale, Adam is shot by rogue MI5 officer Angela Wells (Lindsay Duncan).[12] At the opening of season five, Adam appears to have made a complete recovery and has returned to the Grid.[13]

In series five Adam hires a nanny, Jenny (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), to look after Wes while he takes part in operations.[13] Midway through the series, she and Adam start a brief love affair,[14] which ends in the penultimate episode.[15] In the fifth series, particularly in its later episodes, Adam suffers from several mental breakdowns following the loss of Fiona. He has recurring nightmares that involve his being wounded and unable to return home to his son,[14] and in the eighth episode, he has a panic attack after learning that Wes has briefly run away from home; this attack jeopardises his life during an operation.[16] In the series finale, Adam is revealed to be suicidally depressed, wishing he had died in Fiona's place. But after another panic attack, he is able to pull through, save fellow officer Ros Myers (Hermione Norris), and escape from the Thames Barrier before they both drown.[17]

In the sixth series, Adam has recovered from his breakdown—said to have been caused by post-traumatic stress—after receiving psychiatric counseling. Despite a brief affair with Ros Myers, he has an affair with Ana Bakhshi (Agni Scott), wife of Iranian Special Consul Dariush Bakhshi (Simon Abkarian).[18] Ana later realises she is pregnant;[19] whether Adam or Dariush is the father of her child is never resolved. Halfway through the series Adam is mugged, and his assailant is seriously injured during their struggle. The man, who is identified as a journalist, later dies, and Adam is wanted for murder. It is later revealed that the man was no journalist; Adam was set up, to prevent his stopping a deal that would have allowed Iran to become a nuclear power.[20] He has a brief affair with Ros,[19] and later fakes her death to protect her from CIA retaliation after it is exposed that she has worked with the anti-American shadow organisation Yalta.[21] In the series six finale, Jo is kidnapped by the Redbacks, the group that tortured Zafar Younis; Adam was revealed to be the ultimate target after being betrayed by Bob Hogan in the CIA. Adam manages to meet with Jo, where he learns that she has been tortured and raped; fearing she will end up like Zafar, Jo begs Adam to kill. The episode ends on a cliffhanger where it is unclear if Adam went ahead with her request.

In the first episode of the seventh series, Adam works with officer Lucas North (Richard Armitage), newly returned from imprisonment in Russia, to rescue a kidnapped British soldier in London. Also, it is revealed that he did not kill Jo and is looking after her following her ordeal with the Redbacks. Harry Pearce comments that "[Adam] is the only person she trusts." Later, Adam discovers that an Al-Qaeda operative has positioned a car bomb to explode at a Remembrance Sunday ceremony. Adam is able to drive the car to an unpopulated zone, but it explodes just as he exits the car, killing him.[22] It is later revealed that FSB head-of-operations in London, Arkady Kachimov, withheld his knowledge of the bomb plot. Harry Pearce kills him in revenge. Ros Myers succeeds Adam as section chief, and Jo Portman returns to honor his memory.[23]

Conceptual history[edit]

It took the producers months to choose Rupert Penry-Jones as Adam Carter.

The producers were aware that Matthew Macfadyen would leave the series after playing Tom Quinn for two years, and they did not know whether he would return for the first two episodes. An eight- to nine-member team came up with the new character of Adam Carter.[24] They wanted Adam to have a different dynamic than Tom; the producers set up a girlfriend/boyfriend storyline in the first series – with Adam, they wanted him to have a wife (Fiona Carter) who works in the Security Service, since married couples working in that environment are common.[24] They wanted Adam to be more animated and energetic than Tom.[25] Writer Howard Brenton wanted him to have an MI6 background, and have something awful happen to him in the past. Brenton invented the backstory of Syria early on into the third series, which he wanted to revisit in the fourth series.[25]

Early on in the development process, the producers wanted to cast a "brilliant actor" with a strong screen presence. They discussed casting Rupert Penry-Jones for the role of Adam Carter early in the process, though it took months to finally decide to cast him.[24] Though Penry-Jones was aware of Spooks and its success, he had never seen any episodes. To be interested in the role, he spent a weekend catching up on the entire first and second series. He did not take long to decide, since his last leading role was four years previously, in 2000 in the Channel 4 drama North Square.[24] Adam was originally meant to be older, and more "street." When he found acting "street" was too difficult, Penry-Jones acted more like himself.[25] He had to audition three times before the producers included him, four months before filming commenced.[26]

On his first day for filming series three, Penry-Jones participated in a fight scene in the middle of the first episode.[27] He felt a little wary replacing Matthew Macfadyen. After two months of filming, Penry-Jones began to feel more at ease with the role.[26] He felt especially so after he started working for the fourth series.[28] He returned to the fourth series because he thought his character took off by the end of the last series, and wanted to see which direction he would go to next. The crew wanted Adam to go from a "happy-go-lucky" figure to wanting him to deal with things that would make it hard for Adam to be jokey towards the end of the fourth series; this involved Fiona's death.[29]

Before the sixth series finale aired in December 2007, it was announced that Rupert Penry-Jones would leave the series sometime in series seven.[30] Penry-Jones wanted to leave the series as he felt the character had run its course, as well as wanting to explore other venues. He also stated that working in Spooks was "great," but felt he was "getting to the point where I needed to move on."[31] Before the seventh series aired, Penry-Jones revealed his character would leave in what he believed was "one of the best" Spooks exits.[32] He found that his last days on Spooks was generally upsetting and "welled up" on his final day.[33] Penry-Jones did not envisage lasting as long as he did, because he believed the series would not last as long as it has.[32]


Rupert Penry-Jones noted that the initial fan reaction towards Adam Carter was negative, "because Matthew [Macfadyen] was so successful and loved." It took a while for fans to accept him.[34] Penry-Jones also felt that his role in Spooks, "definitely took my profile up several notches."[35] In the "best of drama" viewer polls at BBC Online, Penry-Jones was voted third in the "Best Actor" category, beating co-stars Matthew Macfadyen, who was fifth, David Oyelowo, who was seventh, and Peter Firth, who was tenth.[36] He was later voted fifth in 2005,[37] and ninth in 2006.[38]

In a DVD review of the third series of Spooks, Michael Mackenzie of Home Cinema had mixed views of Adam's introduction, stating "despite ardent protests from both cast and crew, Tom and Adam are almost exactly the same character."[39] In the fifth series, Mackenzie felt more open towards Adam, stating Adam Carter "isn't exactly James Bond [...] he doesn't jet around the world, bedding multiple women and engaging in fisticuffs atop precarious construction rigs, but he does rush around London with a gun in his hand and occasionally ends up on the receiving end of the odd beating."[40] David Blackwell of Enterline Media was receptive of Adam in the fourth series, as he felt Adam became "more fleshed out and interesting."[41] However, Blackwell was critical of Adam's role in the following fifth series, stating it is "too much" about him.[42]

Fans and critics alike displayed shock towards the character's death in the first episode of the seventh series. Fans voted Adam's death as the fourth most shocking death scene in the series.[43] The Radio Times stated the shock factor of his death was "spectacular" and said that "driving a primed car bomb to a safe place is so run-of-the-mill for the spooks they wouldn't normally break a sweat. This time, however, it went off.[44] has said that Adam's death was "bound to happen" and stated "just when we've formed a deep, meaningful and totally healthy relationship with the lead gentleman [...] they go and blow him up", adding "It's just not fair."[45] The Times's Hilary Rose noted that fans will remember Adam's "dramatic exit," and said that "the nation's women duly went into mourning," regarding that "pretty much every woman with a pulse seems to fancy Rupert." She then noted that some would find "consolation in the shape of new Spooks totty Richard Armitage."[34]

In 2008, Rupert Penry-Jones won a Crime Thriller Award for "Best Actor" for his portrayal as Adam Carter.[5] Penry-Jones won the award against Ashes to Ashes' Philip Glenister, Midnight Man and Murphy's Law's James Nesbitt, The Wire' Dominic West, and Criminal Justice' Ben Whishaw. In the same ceremony, co-star Hermione Norris won "Best Actress".[46]


  1. ^ a b Bill Anderson (director); Raymond Khoury (writer) (22 November 2004). "Outsiders". Spooks. Series 3. Episode 7. BBC. BBC One. 
  2. ^ Alrick Riley (director); Ben Richards (writer) (22 September 2005). "Divided They Fall". Spooks. Series 4. Episode 3. BBC. BBC One. 
  3. ^ Alrick Riley (director); Howard Brenton (writer) (22 September 2005). "Divided They Fall". Spooks. Series 4. Episode 4. BBC. BBC One. 
  4. ^ a b Jeremy Lovering (director); Raymond Khoury (writer) (6 October 2005). "The Book". Spooks. Series 4. Episode 5. BBC. BBC One. 
  5. ^ a b "BBC – Spooks Personnel Files: Adam Carter". Retrieved 5 August 2010. 
  6. ^ a b c Jonny Campbell (director); Howard Brenton (writer) (11 October 2004). "Project Friendly Fire". Spooks. Series 3. Episode 1. BBC. BBC One. 
  7. ^ Alrick Riley (director); Ben Richards (writer) (13 December 2004). "The Suffering of Strangers". Spooks. Series 3. Episode 10. BBC. BBC One. 
  8. ^ a b Cilla Ware (director); Rupert Walters & Howard Brenton (writer) (25 October 2004). "Who Guards the Guards?". Spooks. Series 3. Episode 3. BBC. BBC One. 
  9. ^ a b Omar Madha (director); Raymond Khoury (writer) (20 October 2005). "Syria". Spooks. Series 4. Episode 7. BBC. BBC One. 
  10. ^ Johnny Campbell (director); Howard Brenton (writer) (18 October 2004). "The Sleeper". Spooks. Series 3. Episode 2. BBC. BBC One. 
  11. ^ Omar Madha (director); Howard Brenton (writer) (27 October 2005). "The Russian". Spooks. Series 4. Episode 8. BBC. BBC One. 
  12. ^ Julian Simpson (director); Howard Brenton (writer) (10 November 2005). "Diana". Spooks. Series 4. Episode 10. BBC. BBC One. 
  13. ^ a b Omar Madha (director); Ben Richards (writer) (17 September 2006). "Gas and Oil, Part 1". Spooks. Series 5. Episode 1. BBC. BBC One. 
  14. ^ a b Andy Hay (director); Raymond Khoury (writer) (16 October 2006). "Hostage Takers, Part 1". Spooks. Series 5. Episode 6. BBC. BBC One. 
  15. ^ Julian Holmes (director); Neil Cross (writer) (6 November 2006). "The Criminal". Spooks. Series 5. Episode 9. BBC. BBC One. 
  16. ^ Julian Simpson (director); Julian Simpson (writer) (30 October 2006). "Agenda". Spooks. Series 5. Episode 8. BBC. BBC One. 
  17. ^ Julian Holmes (director); David Farr (writer) (13 November 2006). "Aftermath". Spooks. Series 5. Episode 10. BBC. BBC One. 
  18. ^ Omar Madha (director); Neil Cross (writer) (16 October 2007). "The Virus, Part 1". Spooks. Series 6. Episode 1. BBC. BBC One. 
  19. ^ a b Stefan Schwartz (director); David Farr (writer) (27 November 2007). "Broadcast". Spooks. Series 6. Episode 7. BBC. BBC One. 
  20. ^ Brendan Maher (director); Zinnie Harris (writer) (13 November 2007). "The Deal". Spooks. Series 6. Episode 5. BBC. BBC One. 
  21. ^ Stefan Schwartz (director); Neil Cross (writer) (4 December 2007). "Infiltration". Spooks. Series 6. Episode 8. BBC. BBC One. 
  22. ^ Colm McCarthy (director); Ben Richards & Neil Cross (writer) (27 October 2008). "New Allegiances". Spooks. Series 7. Episode 1. BBC. BBC One. 
  23. ^ Colm McCarthy (director); Ben Richards & Neil Cross (writer) (28 October 2008). "Split Loyalties". Spooks. Series 7. Episode 2. BBC. BBC One. 
  24. ^ a b c d Collins, Simon Crawford; Featherstone, Jane; Penry-Jones, Rupert (2005). Rupert Penry-Jones (Spooks DVD (Series 3) Disc 2). Contender Entertainment Group. 
  25. ^ a b c Brenton, Howard; Penhale, Faith; Penry-Jones, Rupert (2005). Adam Carter (Spooks DVD (Series 3) Disc 2). Contender Entertainment Group. 
  26. ^ a b Penry-Jones, Rupert (2005). Hellos and Goodbyes (Spooks DVD (Series 3) Disc 5). Contender Entertainment Group. 
  27. ^ Penry-Jones, Rupert (2005). Episode 3.1 (Spooks DVD (Series 3) Disc 1). Contender Entertainment Group. 
  28. ^ Penry-Jones, Rupert (2005). Series 4 (Spooks DVD (Series 3) Disc 5). Contender Entertainment Group. 
  29. ^ Penry-Jones, Rupert (2006). An Elusive Peace – Series 4 Documentary (Spooks DVD (Series 4) Disc 1). Contender Entertainment Group. 
  30. ^ "Explosive end is nigh for Spooks spy Rupert". Daily Mail. Associated Newspapers. 14 December 2007. Retrieved 5 August 2010. 
  31. ^ "Interview: Rupert Penry-Jones". Sky TV. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 4 October 2010. 
  32. ^ a b Hirons, Paul (9 October 2008). "Coming soon... Spooks, series seven and Rupert Penry-Jones interview". TV Scoop. Retrieved 5 August 2010. 
  33. ^ Oglethorpe, Tom (27 December 2008). "Former Spooks star Rupert Penry-Jones returns to action in new version of 39 Steps". Daily Record. Trinity Mirror. Archived from the original on 10 June 2011. Retrieved 4 October 2010. 
  34. ^ a b c Rose, Hilary (13 December 2008). "Rupert Penry-Jones on Spooks, vanity and family". The Times Online. News Corporation. Retrieved 4 October 2010. 
  35. ^ Lockyer, Daphne (5 March 2007). "Watch out, Darcy, a new torso is in town". The Daily Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group. Retrieved 5 August 2010. 
  36. ^ "BBC – Drama – Best of 2004 – Best Actor". BBC Online. BBC. Retrieved 9 October 2010. 
  37. ^ "BBC – Drama – Best of 2005 – Best Actor". BBC Online. BBC. Retrieved 9 October 2010. 
  38. ^ "BBC – Drama – Best of 2006 – Best Actor". BBC Online. BBC. Archived from the original on 29 October 2010. Retrieved 9 October 2010. 
  39. ^ Mackenzie, Michael (27 September 2005). "Spooks: Season Three (2006); Region 2 DVD Video Review". Home Cinema. The Digital Fix. Retrieved 5 August 2010. 
  40. ^ Mackenzie, Michael (4 September 2007). "Spooks: Season 5 (2006); Region 2 DVD Video Review". Home Cinema. The Digital Fix. Retrieved 5 August 2010. 
  41. ^ Blackwell, David. "MI-5/ SPOOKS Season 4 review". Enterline Media. Retrieved 6 October 2010. 
  42. ^ Blackwell, David. "TV review: SPOOKS/ MI-5 season 5 Part 1". Enterline Media. Retrieved 6 October 2010. 
  43. ^ "Spooks – Most Shocking Death Scene". LastBroadcast. Archived from the original on 5 September 2010. Retrieved 5 August 2010. 
  44. ^ Brook, Stephen (11–17 September 2010). "Death duty". Radio Times. BBC Magazines: Pages 14–15. 
  45. ^ "Spooks-ness R.I.P. Adam Carter". 28 October 2008. Retrieved 4 October 2010. 
  46. ^ "The Winners of ITV3 Crime Thriller Awards". In2Town. Retrieved 4 August 2010. [permanent dead link]

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