Imagine you were someone important. A famous, talented novelist, a billionaire business person, or a diplomat, perhaps. You’d be used to being treated well, to being ferried about in a Range Rover with a cream leather interior, to being engaged in polite conversation by picturesque young lackies. You’d be accustomed to canapes, to tiny roast dinners served up on a single square inch of toast.
You’d be comfortable in the presence of popular celebrities and television personalities, to lounging around on expensive leather Chesterfield sofas while being handed glasses of wine by waiters.
Now imagine for a second you’re an unknown hack for a geek culture website, more used to dashing around between film and television screenings in the pouring rain than enjoying the genteel life of a millionaire.
It was an odd experience, therefore, when I and around 30 other writers were piled into a series of Chelsea tractors to attend a screening in a top secret area of London. “We were supposed to blindfold you,” said Dave, our vast yet affable driver as he trundled through the streets of the capital, “but they didn’t arrive in time.”
Dave, it turned out, was a bodyguard for hire, had performed bullet defense duties for Oprah Winfrey, and looked like the kind of person strong enough to choke the life out of a swan with his thumb and forefinger.
The fact that we’re heading to a secret location, meanwhile, is lost on me, as I’ve no understanding of London geography in any case. We meander through main road and side street, past Victorian pubs and kamikaze cyclists, ultimately alighting at a building somewhere north of Kings Cross.
There, we’re ushered into a room full of Victorian sofas, platters of tiny nibblets and drinks, where we’re each given an iPad by people who look as though they’ve stepped from the pages of a mail order catalogue. I’ve never held an iPad before, and I’m fascinated both by the surprisingly weighty weight of the thing and the idea that, if I were brave enough, I could perhaps run off with it before one of the numerous heavies lining the room caught me by the scruff of the neck.
With this thought percolating in my mind, the charming Danny Wallace appeared in our midst, and announced that we were witnessing the world’s first “iPad premiere” of Nikita.
Now, if you’re familiar with the work of French writer, director and producer Luc Besson, you’ll know that Nikita, starring Anne Parillaud, was his fabulous 1990 film about a young female delinquent who is pressed into service as a top secret government assassin.
You may also remember that, in 1993, the film was subjected to a dreadful US remake starring Bridget Fonda called The Assassin (Point Of No Return in the US), and later adapted into a similarly forgettable Canadian series called La Femme Nikita.
Nine years on, and Warner is reviving the property for a new series, trailers for which have been doing the rounds for some months, called, simply, Nikita.
Starring Maggie Q, who appeared alongside Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible 3, and memorably tanned Bruce Willis’ posterior in Die Hard 4.0, Warner’s post-millennial take on Luc Besson’s classic is strikingly similar to its source material.
As before, Nikita is a young tearaway spared the death penalty by a secret government agency commonly assigned to carry out the most dirty, hush-hush missions its official networks can’t legally complete. And in a replay of the original film’s events, Nikita’s attempts to form a meaningful relationship are terminally disrupted, leaving her seething with anger and determined to exact revenge on the group that trained her in the first place.
Xander Berkeley is the villain of the piece (or he is in the 45 minute opening episode we saw), and makes it clear he’ll stop at nothing to silence his once loyal top secret operative.
Meanwhile, we’re afforded a little insight into how the agency trains its subjects, as we see young protégée Alex (Kick-Ass‘ Lyndsy Fonseca), pressed into service as a similarly sexy assassin, and steadily learning the twin arts of stealth killing and seduction.
As a series opener, it’s convincing enough, with Maggie Q acquitting herself well as a smoothly dressed angel of vengeance, and Xander Berkeley on form as a bureaucratic villain with a desk.
After our iPad acquaintance with Nikita, compère Danny Wallace led a brief Skype conversation with Xander Berkeley in a live feed from Los Angeles. It was a lively exchange, filled with the usual pleasantries about how wonderful everybody was to work with. And then, from left field, Wallace asked if Maggie Q had any interesting habits or quirks worth mentioning, and just as Berkeley blurted out an enigmatic syllable, which may or may not have been “pot” – we couldn’t say for sure – the feed went coldly, irretrievably dead.
And with that strange, dead silence, our evening ended as it had begun, with a question mark, and a tantalising mystery.
The first episode of Nikita premiered on 9 September in the US, is available to download now at iTunes Store, and is due to air on the UK channel Living in October.