The Code, Series 2 Episode 4 by Shelley Birse

The Code, Series 2 Episode 4 by Shelley Birse (Playmaker Media)

Judges' Comments

Given the threat of extradition and incarceration in the US, Jesse, an Asperger-ish hacker and his journo brother Ned are compelled to find a teen who may have been sold into paedophilia. Jesse’s task is to ensnare Jan Roth, a shadowy ‘darknet’ player of interest to authorities who ultimately has no link to the sex trade, but is a perceived threat to security worldwide. Only now the tables have turned. Ned and Jesse, pursuing their own agenda, align with Roth to expose exploitation in West Papua and the Australian mining company driving it. Meanwhile, Canberra authorities with vested interests panic as they realise Jesse has gone rogue.

In this finely researched, gripping political thriller, Shelley Birse boldly immerses us in a world resonating with the anxieties of our times - terrorism, cyber-crime, national security - played against upholding the value of civil liberty, freedom of speech and human life beyond our shores. Multiple strands intertwine between visually dynamic portrayals of the jungle of West Papua to the confines of Canberra. Dramatic tension drives the story forward with intrigue and momentum in this captivating work. 

Birse’s muscular writing skilfully balances subject matter and style. The personal is not lost to the political: a complex, story-laden plot still allows for the characters (and there are many to service) to breathe and interact – in surprising and original ways. Humour is interwoven amongst the high stakes tension and the dialogue is snappy and precise.  An outstanding television screenplay, The Code is a sublime, riveting read.