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Topic: The BBC Radio 4 James Bond series

As far as I know, we don’t have a thread dedicated to the series as a whole (I’d be happy to be corrected on this) though there are some on individual programmes.



The BBC Radio 4 James Bond productions (2008- )

This started as a tie-in with the 100th anniversary of Ian Fleming’s birth, and was endorsed by IFP (Ian Fleming Publications)- specifically Lucy Fleming, Ian’s niece. An actress, she has performed in the series. It isn’t endorsed though it is tolerated by Eon, who haven’t allowed the productions to be available on CD or download but have casting approval. The success of the first adaptation naturally led to more.

The series is directed by Martin Jarvis and produced by his wife, Rosalind Ayres. Jarvis also provides the voice of Fleming as narrator. Regular cast is headed by Toby Stephens as Bond, with John Standing as M, Julian Sands as Q, and Janie Dee as Moneypenny. Felix Leiter doesn’t have a regular actor (sound familiar?).

Various well-known actors have contributed, including Sir Ian McKellen, Joanna Lumley, David Suchet, Rosamund Pike, Stacy Keach, Eileen Atkins, Hector Elizondo, Mark Gatiss, Tim Pigott-Smith, Alistair McGowan etc. Several of the actors have been in Eon Bond films, most obviously Toby Stephens himself.

The adaptations are very faithful to Fleming, though naturally edited to fit their 90-minute slot and to fit the audio format. Stephens does a splendid job as Bond, totally different from and superior to his performance as Gustav Graves in Die Another Day- concurrently he was also playing Philip Marlowe in a similar series adapting the Raymond Chandler novels, in which he was again very convincing. It’s hard to think of someone being able to play both those parts, and carry it off as well as he has done. John Standing is excellent as M, while Sands and Dee both do just fine as Q and Moneypenny.

In my view the main weakness of the series, which is not its fault, is the legal inability to use the authentic music- for example, I find it almost impossible to listen to James and Tracy’s romance, their wedding and its tragic end without hearing John Barry’s “We Have All The Time In the World”.  It’s the only melody that should be heard at those points- and similarly, when 007 looks into a diamond at the start of DAF we all know the tune we should be listening to and we don't hear it, and hearing Elvis sing “Golden Coins” in GF rather than Shirley Bassey busting her lungs is simply bizarre.

It's a pity the series hasn't been done in book order, rather than the random way it has been made, but that's a minor point.


Dr No (2008)  David Suchet’s No is... er... an acquired taste (he’s a great actor, of course). Peter Capaldi as The Armourer (NB- not Q) is an effective tribute to the original, real, Geoffrey Boothroyd.

Goldfinger (2010) Sir Ian McKellen plays a wonderful Goldfinger, though the image of Gert Frobe (and the voice of Michael Collins) still reign. Being a faithful adaptation, we don't get "Do you expect me to talk? No, Mr Bond, I expect you to die!" but we do hear most of Fleming's ruder original (unbroadcastable, covered by sound effects). Rosamund Pike (Miranda Frost) as Pussy Galore! This production has an almost unique distinction among all other James Bond film/TV/radio/etc adventures- can anyone identify it?

From Russia With Love (2012) The first part of the novel is drastically edited, and the whole gypsy camp (camp gypsies? Sorry, in-joke http://www.ajb007.co.uk/post/806787/#p806787) sequence is excised. Still, Eileen Atkins does a good job as Rosa Klebb as does Tim Pigott-Smith as Kerim. Mark Gatiss is superb as Kronsteen.

OHMSS (2014) Alfred Molina as Blofeld- excellent, he’d be a good Blofeld for the films. Joanna Lumley (who was in the 1969 film, of course, and has also narrated some novels) is a surprising but effective choice as Irma Bunt.

Diamonds Are Forever (2015) Jared Harris (another potential Eon villain) as Mr Spang, Stacy Keach as Ernie Cureo. One of the weaker adaptations, being based on one of the weaker novels.

Thunderball (2016) Alfred Molina returns as Blofeld, and Tom Conti plays Largo. This one is particularly narration heavy- no way round that.

Moonraker (2018) Samuel West a disappointing Drax.

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Re: The BBC Radio 4 James Bond series

With no disrespect to this series (which I think is largely terrific) I think it goes a long way to showing how good the film adaptions are. With the books that were closely adapted as films you end up missing the stylish additions Eon gave, the incredible performances (Stephens is very good, but if I had to choose between him and Connery..?), and the beautiful music; not to mention that Eon improved the plots! Most of Fleming’s stories introduce the villain in the very final act only to have him killed offscreen somehow: not always dramatically satisfying. Plays like OHMSS, Goldfinger or Thunderball feel pointless when the films are really pretty close to the novels.
The Eon films may not always be faithful to the word, but they generally adapt the books faithfully to suit the medium. And that ignores the weird additions these plays do make. Such as: why is Q in them? And played by Julian Sands?! Make up your minds, guys.

So Moonraker was one of the more worthwhile ones as it hasn’t been done before onscreen (Die Another Day is probably too loose an adaptation) and passes the time pretty well. The card game doesn’t really work as we can’t even follow it, just being told who won each round, which rather sucks the drama out; and the car crash happens entirely offscreen, oddly. Q is pasted in for some reason, and I don’t think Bond gets his usual catchphrase of “You bastard!!” But he does get do some heavy breathing and panting, and it’s fun enough.

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Re: The BBC Radio 4 James Bond series

emtiem wrote:

(Stephens is very good, but if I had to choose between him and Connery..?)

No contest! Connery rules.

emtiem wrote:

and the beautiful music;

Again- no contest! Barry rules.

emtiem wrote:

not to mention that Eon improved the plots!

Again, agreed!

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Re: The BBC Radio 4 James Bond series

I too have enjoyed these radio plays and I think
There is an older BBC version of YOLT ( but made
By a different company ? ).
Not having the Bond music is really sad, but you can
Play some Bond soundtracks in the background.
I also agree that despite some fine actors playing
Villains, some of the voices they have chosen to use
To seem a little odd.
  Despite these misgivings I do look forward to hearing
About a new play.

"Let his death be a particularly unpleasant and humiliating one."

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Re: The BBC Radio 4 James Bond series

Thunderpussy wrote:

I too have enjoyed these radio plays and I think
There is an older BBC version of YOLT ( but made
By a different company ? ).

A bit of info on that here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00fbzkg   It's not bad.

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Re: The BBC Radio 4 James Bond series

Barbel wrote:
Thunderpussy wrote:

I too have enjoyed these radio plays and I think
There is an older BBC version of YOLT ( but made
By a different company ? ).

A bit of info on that here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00fbzkg   It's not bad.

I like Michael Jayston (good voice)  and it seems he's played Peter Guillam in Tinker,Tailor,Soldier,Spy, and Quiller in the lost
1975 BBC series (pre-video?)  and then Bond in the radio version of YOLTwice.

Good spy credentials!   
Bleuville.

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Re: The BBC Radio 4 James Bond series

Barbel wrote:

This started as a tie-in with the 100th anniversary of Ian Fleming’s birth, and was endorsed by IFP (Ian Fleming Publications)- specifically Lucy Fleming, Ian’s niece. An actress, she has performed in the series. It isn’t endorsed though it is tolerated by Eon, who haven’t allowed the productions to be available on CD or download but have casting approval.

do the recordings "circulate"?
I don't think EON should be telling the literary rights holders what they can and cannot do with their legal properties, especially when they're taking 4 years and counting in between films.

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Re: The BBC Radio 4 James Bond series

caractacus potts wrote:
Barbel wrote:

This started as a tie-in with the 100th anniversary of Ian Fleming’s birth, and was endorsed by IFP (Ian Fleming Publications)- specifically Lucy Fleming, Ian’s niece. An actress, she has performed in the series. It isn’t endorsed though it is tolerated by Eon, who haven’t allowed the productions to be available on CD or download but have casting approval.

do the recordings "circulate"?
I don't think EON should be telling the literary rights holders what they can and cannot do with their legal properties, especially when they're taking 4 years and counting in between films.

I presume that Eon have all audiovisual rights to Bond. IFP can make novels and that's about it, I guess.

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Re: The BBC Radio 4 James Bond series

Moonraker is still streaming on the BBC4 website, for another "eleven days" (when's that? Sunday April 29th+/-?)
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09x8sp7
can't figure out any cheat to "save as..." but there must be a way

I gave it a half-listen while doing dinner and chores, will have to return again before it goes away in 11 days. Mostly noticed the Bond vs Gala rapport, she starts off very frosty indeed.
I think its good to have a proper adaptation of this particular story.

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Re: The BBC Radio 4 James Bond series

caractacus potts wrote:

do the recordings "circulate"?

They're on YouTube-

DN: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JdSRFSXEEus
GF: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=girg_bSFutw
FRWL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X6zmIyKXPBE
OHMSS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPVsViLxUnU
DAF: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eU0VuOTRX3Q
TB: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=89v48t98Kqc#
LALD: https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=to … ORM=VRDGAR

And here's the version of YOLT mentioned above, with Michael Jayston as 007:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tudq1-cLUpE


caractacus potts wrote:

Mostly noticed the Bond vs Gala rapport, she starts off very frosty indeed.

Excellent pun, caractacus!  ajb007/biggrin

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Re: The BBC Radio 4 James Bond series

Thanks for finding all those YouTube links, cap'n!
Gives us all something to tide us over while we wait another 18months plus for EON/Craig/Boyle et al to decide what they're doing. And these actually contain genuine Fleming content!

I listened to the first half of Dr No ... it follows the book much closer than the film did.
Hilarious to hear Peter Capaldi's voice, instantly recognisable.
Hey his TimeLord gig is up, maybe they can add him to the big-screen MI6 team? He could tell the new Q how its bloody stewpid to connect the villain's laptop to the departmental network, and other helpful advice like that.

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Re: The BBC Radio 4 James Bond series

I had a good listen to Moonraker. I recommend all catch it before it goes offline (Sunday?)
It is nice to have this properly adapted, since the film threw almost all the Fleming out.
Also because we know the second ever Fleming adaptation was another Moonraker radio play, back in the fifties, that now appears to be lost forever. 'bout time somebody recreated that!


observations:
-Krebs is played almost exactly like Peter Lorre.

-We are told repeatedly Drax has crude manners, yet he seems very charming as he leads Bond round his project.

-There is romantic music playing as Bond and Brand take off all their clothes and go swimming. You know, as a twelve year old, I always figured there was a hidden sex scene in between paragraphs in this chapter, and the music in this adaptation reinforces that adolescent belief.

-The flatbed truck with the huge rolls of newsprint is one specific scene just waiting for a cinematic adaptation.

-Professor Muriel Train, who gives Bond a "crash" course in guided missiles, is not quite the same as in the book, where the Professor is described as "a fat, scruffy, undistinguished-looking man". I had assumed this Professor was a hot nerd girl, because babe is the default setting for all female characters in a Bond adventure.

-the nationwide live broadcast of the rocket launch is a good device for a radio play, almost like Fleming wrote it with the radio play in mind. A bit like Orson Welles' War of the Worlds, a listener could tune in halfway, miss all the dialog and plot, and assume this rocket launch gone wrong was really happening, and mass panic ensue!!

-The Moonraker sure is a slow moving rocket. Drax has time to press the launch button, descend the cliffs, and board the submarine, after which the submarine has time to start, submerge, travel, then reemerge in the middle of the Channel flying Russian colours, before the rocket descends and blows it up. All I know about rocketry comes from Thomas Pynchon, so I'm no expert, but wouldn't it have to travel an inefficiently high distance nearly straight up to waste so  much time before descending? Why not launch it at a low arc close to the ground? But that is the way Fleming wrote it.

-the nuclear explosion and mushroom cloud would be very difficult to cover up, especially given the live coverage of the rocket launch. I'm sure the authorities could, and the public easily distracted by some tabloid trivia til everybody forgot. But that would be why, in Pearson's 007 Biography, the "real Bond" insists Moonraker is the only adventure that never actually happened. Even if it secretly did, just like the other 13 missions Fleming told the world about, this one in particular probably had a higher security classification than the others, so the "real Bond" had to continue the cover-up even while he was being so candid with "Pearson" about the others. (and in Trigger Mortis, Bond remembers the mission, but does not mention it out loud while meeting with the American rocket authorites. it must have been some cover-up even the American military never heard of it!)

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Re: The BBC Radio 4 James Bond series

caractacus potts wrote:

-the nuclear explosion and mushroom cloud would be very difficult to cover up, especially given the live coverage of the rocket launch. I'm sure the authorities could, and the public easily distracted by some tabloid trivia til everybody forgot. But that would be why, in Pearson's 007 Biography, the "real Bond" insists Moonraker is the only adventure that never actually happened.

Well I guess it would also mostly be because the Moonraker was very well-publicised in the book version and the whole British public knew about the rocket and Drax. If Bond in Pearson's book was supposed to be living in our world and had met Ian Fleming etc. that doesn't make sense as Moonraker was never built in 'our' universe.

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Re: The BBC Radio 4 James Bond series

caractacus potts wrote:

-Krebs is played almost exactly like Peter Lorre.

But of course he is- that's how Fleming described him,  "a youthful version of Peter Lorre".

https://s7.postimg.cc/7fon3umzr/aa_old_man_4.jpg



caractacus potts wrote:

-The flatbed truck with the huge rolls of newsprint is one specific scene just waiting for a cinematic adaptation.

Yes, 100% agreed.

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Re: The BBC Radio 4 James Bond series

caractacus potts wrote:

-the nuclear explosion and mushroom cloud would be very difficult to cover up, especially given the live coverage of the rocket launch. I'm sure the authorities could, and the public easily distracted by some tabloid trivia til everybody forgot. But that would be why, in Pearson's 007 Biography, the "real Bond" insists Moonraker is the only adventure that never actually happened.

emtiem wrote:

Well I guess it would also mostly be because the Moonraker was very well-publicised in the book version and the whole British public knew about the rocket and Drax. If Bond in Pearson's book was supposed to be living in our world and had met Ian Fleming etc. that doesn't make sense as Moonraker was never built in 'our' universe.

yes you're quite right, that is the most logical explanation of why Pearson made that choice. The events of the other 13 books all would have flown under the general public's radar. Even the events of Thunderball could have been covered up. But not Moonraker. (in the films there are many villains with the public profile of bookDrax, and large scale property damage that could not have been ignored, but the books are more subtle cloak-and-dagger stuff).

It just bugs me that Pearson claims this one adventure is still make believe while the others are true (because otherwise I'd like Pearson's book to be canonical). There's gotta be some way of explaining away that bit of dialog and making Moonraker still true. Massive cover-up and higher level classification still doesn't completely work, I know, unless Special Branch and MI6 had some way of brainwashing the entire British public into forgetting Drax and his rocket ever existed. I still say, the public memory is short. Tell them no, that wasn't an atomic explosion they all saw over the English Channel, distract them with nonsense about a new Royal baby or something, and they'll quickly forget all on their own.

Maybe this is why the original 1956 radio play has gone permanently missing? it got too close to the truth and had to be suppressed.

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Re: The BBC Radio 4 James Bond series

caractacus potts wrote:

Maybe this is why the original 1956 radio play has gone permanently missing? it got too close to the truth and had to be suppressed.

This old thread may be of interest: https://www.ajb007.co.uk/topic/25174/bob-holness/

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Re: The BBC Radio 4 James Bond series

I love this series, but unfortunately I've not been very present online lately and just heard about Moonraker. 2 days after it left iPlayer.

Have to hope it winds up on YT too.

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Re: The BBC Radio 4 James Bond series

It looks like the same person uploaded most of the earlier plays.
And following the links she seems to be part of a community who upload radio plays in general.
So, with luck one of these radio play enthusiasts will get to this new one, and we should just keep checking.

Then whichever one of us finds it on youtube first, be sure to post the link here.

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Re: The BBC Radio 4 James Bond series

Bleuville wrote:
Barbel wrote:
Thunderpussy wrote:

I too have enjoyed these radio plays and I think
There is an older BBC version of YOLT ( but made
By a different company ? ).

A bit of info on that here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00fbzkg   It's not bad.

I like Michael Jayston (good voice)  and it seems he's played Peter Guillam in Tinker,Tailor,Soldier,Spy, and Quiller in the lost
1975 BBC series (pre-video?)  and then Bond in the radio version of YOLTwice.

Good spy credentials!   
Bleuville.

I might have to give YOLT a re-listen. My overall memory is of Jayston sounding a bit too soft to be Bond but my ears were drawn more to Clive Merrisons portrayal as TT as Merrisons Sherlock Holmes is the best ever IMO and I can't get enough of his voice!
Why the Beeb didn't get an actual Japanese person to play TT is beyond me, but it kind of worked...same as Suchet in the DN I guess.

In terms of audio Bonds; Simon Vance / Robert Whitfield is the best for me, but obviously they're readings rather than dramas so not sure it counts ;-)

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Re: The BBC Radio 4 James Bond series

Oh and guys, if anyone asks I don't happen to have all the Radio 4 dramas on my drive so don't send me a PM if you want them putting onto USB for you...ok? ;-) (he said convincingly ajb007/biggrin)

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Re: The BBC Radio 4 James Bond series

Updated to include MR:

DN: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JdSRFSXEEus
GF: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=girg_bSFutw
FRWL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X6zmIyKXPBE
OHMSS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPVsViLxUnU
DAF: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eU0VuOTRX3Q
TB: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=89v48t98Kqc
MR: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kFINj5ol6l4
LALD: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pBT0SLN6_ew

And here's the version of YOLT mentioned above, with Michael Jayston as 007:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tudq1-cLUpE

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Re: The BBC Radio 4 James Bond series

And the links below may be of interest, also:

CR: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7N43_F0Iq8
LALD: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxP9q1wmLdM
MR: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TpgNWMwIfZ4&t=22s
DAF: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7iGiel3UOzc
FRWL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-wqpd-iQNHY
DN: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gTNEmdF9jWg
FYEO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=68j5B_H3cio and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JNDzEf69OkY
TB: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQfLea1_26c
TSWLM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBAI1P4ys2Y
OHMSS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1VIDl9d9rM

I haven't heard all of the above yet, all thoughts welcome.

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Re: The BBC Radio 4 James Bond series

I have enjoyed all the James Bond radio plays.  I thought they would not work on the radio but I was wrong. I recommend them to every one. I listened to Moonraker when it was on radio last year but have just heard it again on you tube. I think my favourite part about all these plays is that they are faithful to the Ian Fleming books as much as possible.

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Re: The BBC Radio 4 James Bond series

So still a fair amount left to do: Casino, Live and Let Die, Thunderball, Spy Who Loved Me, You Only Live Twice and Golden Gun.

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Re: The BBC Radio 4 James Bond series

TB's been done, emtiem, please see above.  If they ever get all the novels done (they seem in no hurry) then they could do the short stories- some of them, anyway.