Columns Film & TV Lifestyle

Get with the programme: M.I.High – what childhood spy dreams are made of

[email protected]’s. Thank you so much for this. Thank you for reminding me of this absolute diamond in the rough. Thank you for taking me on the throwback journey of my Michaelmas Term, through the rollercoaster world of late-noughties CBBC programming, to where I am now: stuck at home.

I guess a little explaining is required. When I first asked people what their favourite childhood TV show was as I grew increasingly desperate for people to sign up for post-Evensong dinner, I didn’t expect many responses. Sure, most would just type in the relevant information – name, dietary requirements, a “your mum” answer to any random question I asked otherwise – and that’s that. But one TV show stood out the most: M.I. High – a glorious TV show where UK spy agency M.I.9 employs three Year 6 (maybe 7? 8? The show’s not clear here) students at St Hope’s School as they defend the UK from the evil plans of the grand master of worldwide criminal organisation S.K.U.L., the Grand Master.

I remember watching M.I. High as a kid and I quite liked it; but then, for some reason, I just stopped watching it. It lay there by the wayside, left to hitchhike its way around my subconscious and my memory, never once catching my train of thought until I was reminded of it by chance of my position as this year’s choir social sec – what a good decision that was.

Straightway then, I threw myself headlong to iPlayer (M.I. High was on CBBC, I had remembered after almost 10 years) to scour the catalogue for the show, and lo and behold – there it was. I started with an amuse-bouche of its very first episode, ‘The Sinister Prime Minister’, where the Prime Minister has been replaced with a cyber-clone. Then onto the next episode, ‘Eyes on the Stars’ – a zombie pandemic is haunting the streets of England as kids rush to the music stores to buy the latest Crush album. And before you know it, I was gorging on M.I. High. I couldn’t stop watching them. They were my go-to lunch viewing. Memories came flooding back like it was December 2013 – a Geography GCSE case study that has never left me – where the plot points and the characters and even the individual scenes of M.I. High episodes rushed back into my mind. My pre-teen self was restored and I basked in the loving arms of nostalgia.

Unfortunately, like the moment when the Grand Master rears his face shrouded in sunglasses, fedora and either a scarf/pashmina or extremely unique turtleneck sweater in every episode, time itself had become the villain to my nostalgia. There are many faults with M.I. High: the awful CGI clearly ripped from David Tennant-era Doctor Who, from the Doctor’s bright yellow regenerations to very dodgy transformation sequences; the obviously terrible acting paired with jokes that would put Christmas crackers to shame; and how badly our dearly beloved noughties trends have survived. An Ozzy Osbourne parody, kids running into stores to buy CDs of all things, the awful stereotyping of certain school tropes like “the goth girl”, “the posh totty” and worst of all “the NERD gamer” – so bad I had to put it in all caps. The villains are honestly just as cheesy – gamer genius The Worm has this incredibly creepy, nasal voice, and any seemingly non-English villain is German, Russian or from a fictional Eastern European sounding country.

But you know what I say? I say that these criticisms are no match for the sheer joy-filled ride that these episodes take you on. Yes, Oscar might be the worst TV character I’ve ever seen with the most punchable face in the country apart from Piers Morgan (but with even worse acting), but M.I. High treats its children spy team as adults, stuck in between their duties as soldiers in defence of their country and their innate childhood. Indeed, there is no real sense of danger – everything will end with “happily ever after” (until the next episode) – but it’s still a children’s TV show, after all. I love it.

It isn’t, can’t and will never be a BAFTA winner, but it’s not trying to be. It’s a wonderful piece of entertainment for young and old, and it deserves a watch whether on a nostalgia trip or for the first time, if you were fed on a diet of Cartoon Network and Disney Channel.

M.I. High is the definitive escapist childhood spy fantasy, realised before your very eyes on the laptop screen. 

With illustration by the Marketing team

Thang is a second year Classicist at Trinity. He plays the trombone and sings tenor in the Trinity College Chapel Choir. He enjoys baking and long walks along the beach.