02 July 2021 568 Views

Fleming Friday: The James Bond/ Dr Who connection.

by James Murphy

Two Icons of British pulp and pop culture. There are links.. DOCTOR WH007!

IN NEWS THIS PAST WEEK: We might be getting a new Doctor! OLLY ALEXANDER has denied being TARDIS bound, for now. GREAT actor. Shame everyone is touting him as the first ‘GAY ACTOR’ rather than just ‘actor’.

Olly’s aura and image are no longer ‘eccentric’ but very much in vogue. Gone are the days of the Doctor in fringe culture. The character is now mainstream because yesterday’s geek / uncool is today and tomorrow’s power playing image maker.

Be daring: make the character conservative and grumpy but charismatic and confident in action, as those values are now the ones under attack by ‘society’.

Hire Russell T Davies as a kind of Kevin Feige /Barbara Broccoli: Godfathering the brand, whilst sourcing out the writing duties to a wide variety of imaginative innovators across genres. No more substitution of morality for plot and character.

If you have to keep saying ‘The Doctor is GOOD..and so are zyz identies of people’..(a trend, incidentally, that started under Steven Moffat but just became more pronounced with Chris Chibnall), then the brand is dead.

It can be saved, but the work needs to be done properly. Good stories, well told, for the good in everyone, everywhere. THAT is the key to time!

I cited the lovely Ms Broccoli in how you master a franchise. That is but one of many Dr Who /007 connections. Yes, they are linked as heroes/brands etc. True, there are major differences. Bond = human; Doctor = alien. One kills and does sex stuff..the other..less so? But still nominally ‘good’, beloved British icons.

So here are some more connections to consider..in no particular order..here we go!

 

  • Jon Pertwee was a real life adventurer. He saw action in war. Went diving for treasure. Experimented with a number of refined pursuits and so his Doctor was a well dressed, wine appreciating, masculine but slightly foppish and particular gentleman. Bit like JAMES BOND?

  • Steven Spielberg is a fan of both 007 and Doctor Who. Pertwee was runner up choice (with Gregory Peck) to play Indiana Jones’ father, had Sean ‘007’ Connery been unavailable. 

 

  • Sylvester McCoy was offered the role of the Doctor just as Timothy ‘Rassilon’ Dalton was approached to play Bond. They discussed their roles together as the two men were appearing in a play at the time. Small world, back in 1986/7!
  • Daniel Craig is buddies with Christopher Eccleston. 

  • Both Bond and The Doctor were placed on hiatus in 1989, having enjoyed a then uninterrupted run which peaked in the ’60s and bounced back in the ’70s but began to wane in the the ’80s.
  • Needless to say, the two heroes kept returning, with 1995-6 a soft reboot for both before hitting further strides from 2005/6-12. The fiftieth anniversaries were a big deal, in each icon’s case. They’re still around, of course. But, may need further restoration at some future time via soft / other reboot?

 

 

  • Our two heroes are always up for helping the real life charitable efforts of Comic Relief.
  • Jonathan Pryce (baddie in Tomorrow Never Dies) featured in the Curse of the Fatal Death skit.
  • Daniel Craig has often been a good sport for the cause, too.
  • Hugh Grant is a fixture in the charity’s mini movies and played The Doctor in that charity sketch context. His star ascended circa 1994, when he was mooted for both 007 and the titular Timelord, c/o Four Weddings and a Funeral breaking box office records.
  • Bizarrely imho, Christopher Eccleston did not participate in Comic Relief last year for its lockdown special. Fine. Except every other Doctor did. Even Peter Cushing (and he’s non canonical and been dead 25 years). 

 

  • Comic Relief was of course founded by Richard Curtis, who wrote Vincent and the Doctor and he and partner (the lovely Emma Freud) would do a great polish on a 007 script sometime.
  • Emma does know Barbara Broccoli (oh to be a fly on the wall at their meetings?!) so anything is possible.

 

  • Amazon now owns a piece of 007. It is thought they may well buy into Doctor Who, having already invested in the not dissimilar Good Omens.
  • Sir Ridley Scott was one of the designers consulted on the look for the original Daleks. He also almost directed a Bond movie.

 

  • David Tennant is a massive Bond fan and has been suggested for Q as well as villain roles in Bond films. He read On Her Majesty’s Secret Service for the Fleming Foundation /Glidrose /Audible and was great as Bond, Blofeld and even, Tracy! Seriously..when he says ‘Oh James’..you BELIEVE him as that Bond girl..he’s that good an actor. 

 

  • Paul McGann screen-tested for GOLDENEYE, where the baddie was played by SEAN BEAN, who ultimately replaced Paul as SHARPE, thanks to scheduling conflicts.

 

  • John Barrowman was among those tested for Bond in the run up to the re-casting for CASINO ROYALE.
  • Both Bond and the Doctor can change leading actor without losing the fan following. That’s part of the appeal and the essence of their constant evolution.
  • These heroes can be either pro or anti establishment; operating on its fringes and orders, depending on what constitutes the greater good from their own perspective. UNIT = Mi6; Royal Navy /Gallifrey..bit of a stretch but the comparison is ‘there’.

 

  • Speculation is ALWAYS rife on who will play Bond /The Doctor. Sex/gender/sexuality/race swaps always on the table.
  • Common misconception is that it’s always Doc’ v Daleks and Bond vs SPECTRE/SMERSH etc. The reality is those villains simply punctuate an entire stream of antagonists, many of which are standalone originals.

 

  • Neither need always ‘get younger’ in the change between actors, despite what people say. Roger Moore was older than Sean Connery. Capaldi a lot older than Smith and so on.
  • It’s about getting the best person at the best time and shaking things up a bit. Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig are both the perfect Bond for their respective times.
  • Eccleston was the best man to re-launch our favourite Timelord in 2005; Tennant unbeatably good at developing that modern take. And so on.

 

  • Matt Smith played the Duke of Edinburgh in The Crown. Basically, a 007 audition: the characters are not dissimilar!

 

    • Bond and The Doctor epitomise English qualities at their best. Yet neither is from England. A Time Lord is alien. Bond is Scots/Swiss.

  • Both characters face unresolved childhood trauma and legacies via ancestral homes. SKYALL = LUNGBARROW? 
  • They cannot decide on whether to oppose or personify old school snobbery? Bond turns down a knighthood; The Doctor ran away from being a full time Time-Lord.
  • But they love dropping their credentials and class /rank..everywhere, even when claiming to seek secrecy. That attracts an opposite villain’s attention, inevitably. Hence:
  • ..Their arch nemeses enjoy taunting the hero counterpart and trading off the mirror image idea (Blofeld, The Master).

 

      • Tendency toward protection of women; restoring them from distress and empowering their ambition (both characters adore beauty; neither is ‘sexist’ imho).

    • The aloof unattainability seems to compel female interest.  Sometimes an old muse gets revisited: poignant, painful, pathos or fun, nostalgic revisiting between missions. Gentlemen commitment-phobes: a ship in every port? 😉

  • Each series pays lip service to real world culture trends though are aware of popular fashions. Bond knows who The Beatles are. Doc’ has been known to watch inter-galactic soap operas and so on.

 

  • MUSIC is KEY to the brand. THOSE theme tunes /variations. The Bond songs! MURRAY GOLD basically IS the new JOHN BARRY, such is his capacity to elicit immediate emotion through skilful score. 
  • HANS ZIMMER is scoring NO TIME TO DIE. He once wrote a song to save the Doctor Who series from the axe.

 

    • THESE CHARACTERS ARE KIDS’ PROPERTIES, FOR SURE! But adults can enjoy it all too, kinda like a panto. Adolescence is the ideal demographic, perhaps.
    • One can dip in and out of the adventures of both Bond and Dr Who at any stage in life, with nostalgia for the past merging into escapism from the present. 

  • ENDLESS FAN FICTION, EXTENDED ENTERTAINMENT PLATFORMS (comics, games, audio) and hence, an infinite capacity for discussion and definition of ‘canon’.

 

      • I do treat Big Finish and Virgin New Adventures as proper Doctor Who, arguably more so than the last few series of the television show.
      • But a Bond continuation novel that’s non Fleming is basically fan-fiction imho. Anthony Horowitz is the latest custodian of the 007 in print legacy. And he’s good and I like him enormously. But he’s no Ian Fleming and indeed, I suspect the best new Bond books would be those with a truly radical yet somehow faithful ‘take’.

    • John Gardner’s Scorpius is a great thriller; Doubleshot, by Raymond Benson a convincing extension of the Brosnan era Bond. And I really loved Carte Blanche by Jeffrey Deaver.

 

  • Both franchises have also thrived in digital as well as physical media, with extra features becoming a kind of industry for beloved figures in the series’ past.

    • James Bond and Dr Who are nominally romantic lone warriors and adventurers. But, much like Dominic Toretto: they love FAMMMILLLEEEE and are defined as much by those with whom they collaborate as by their own merits and exploits.
    • Ensemble is key: Q, M, MoneyPenny, Tanner, Felix / The Brigadier, Rose, K9, Sarah Jane, Jo Grant, Captain Jack etc.
    • Toys are important, too. 007 and The Doctor LOVE GADGETS AND VEHICLES!
    • Sonic screwdriver /PPK; BESSIE/Aston Martin etc. 

  • Personal connection? I have had the privilege of meeting a number of personnel from the worlds of both James Bond and The Doctor.
  • Including: Timothy Dalton, George Lazenby, Sylvester McCoy, Peter Davison, Harriet Walter, Colin Baker, Billie Piper, Sophie Aldred, Janet Fielding, John Barrowman, Maud Adams, Lois Chiles, Maryam D’Abo, Desmond Llewelyn, Virginia Hey, John Glen and Russell T Davies. Splendid fellows. All of them! 😉

Ok that’s enough. Time waits for nobody, including James Bond, Dr Who and James Murphy.

Enjoy your weekend(s), one and all!  x



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