ACT News


Sneak peek: ABC thriller decodes Canberra's dark secrets

It is probably the best car-parking spot any driver has ever scored in Canberra – right out the front of Parliament House. 

And there is not a parking meter to be seen.

The upcoming ABC TV drama The Code, which was shot in Canberra in September last year, might take some artistic licence with parking restrictions in the Parliamentary Triangle in the opening Canberra sequence of its first episode. But Canberrans amused to see a battered blue Peugeot pull up and park next to the Parliament House forecourt will also find much to admire in the smart, slick political hacktivist conspiracy thriller, as some of the capital's landmark  buildings, its skyline and streetscapes provide grand backdrops for gripping drama.

Starring David Wenham, Aden Young, Lucy Lawless and Adam Garcia, The Code follows two brothers – one a young press gallery journalist for an upstart website, the other a computer hacker with high-functioning autism – unravelling a deadly plot that reaches from the red dust of Broken Hill all the way to the PM's office.

Screening on the ABC from Sunday, September 21, and already sold to US cable TV, the six-part series features gun-toting counterintelligence operatives stalking the shores of Lake Burley Griffin and cut-throat media-manipulators stalking the corridors of power on Capital Hill.


Like US drama Homeland and British spy series Spooks, The Code is a sophisticated blend of politics and espionage – complete with abrutal interrogation scene involving cable ties, a black hood and cruel torture tactics.

The show's sleek opening credits flash past the Nishi building wrapped in mist, high-speed headlights blurring along Parkes Way, grey clouds rolling over stormy lake waters and ominous shadows cast across the front of Parliament House.

There is no sign of the new ASIO building, but more than a hint of the acclaimed House of Cards about The Code's time-lapse-enhanced characterisation of Canberra as a coldly imposing city hiding dark secrets.

The first episode's first view of Canberra is a spectacular sweeping aerial panorama of the blue Peugeot travelling across Commonwealth Avenue Bridge past the National Library.

Brothers Ned and Jesse (played by Dan Spielman and Ashley Zukerman) are soon parking their bomb of a car out the front of Parliament House.

Much of last year's Canberra filming was done inside the building, including on the roof, and these scenes add a degree of realism to the cloak-and-dagger intrigues of Wenham's character, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ian Bradley.

"Throw the reptiles in the gallery something to chew on," he blithely directs Randall Keats, the PM's chief of staff played by Young.

And there is nothing like a screaming headline under a Canberra Times masthead glimpsed on a media flak's iPad to lend authenticity to the ministerial sex scandal that ensues ("Minister for Sleaze!").

The Shine Dome, a super-computer room at the ANU and New Acton also provide locations through the series.

Creator and script-writer Shelley Birse, who collected two Australian Writers' Guild AWGIE Awards for The Code last week, said Canberra provided the perfect backdrop as "a sophisticated international city with a lot going on beneath the surface".

As for that imaginary parking spot, Birse said security issues with Parliament House's underground car park required a late script change.

"Yes, I know, it will raise a few eyebrows, but hopefully only in Canberra," she said.