It’s no secret that science fiction fans are particularly strict when it comes to their beloved genre — especially about deciding what should be included as part of that genre. Endless debates ensue as to whether this book or that movie is science fiction or just some other genre dressed up in science fictional clothing. Highlander , Meteor or — God forbid — Zardoz . I’m talking about Bond… James Bond. (You had to see that coming.)
By any reasonable measure, the James Bond films are not science fiction. They are spy movies based on the spy novels Ian Fleming started writing in 1953. It’s spyfi, not scifi. The Bond films are about secret missions to save the world, jet-setting to exotic locales, double agents and counter-intelligence, good guy vs. bad guy, car chases and fist fights, and, of course, romancing glamorous, suggestively-named women. They are not about asking the science fictional question of, “What if?”
However! While not overtly scifi, the Bond films have occasionally dipped their swizzle stick into the shaken-not-stirred martini of scifi. It’s not as if Bond traded in his Aston Martin for a land speeder, but you could say that over the past 45 years, James Bond has been flirting with scifi.
All Those Cool Gadgets
The most obvious nod to science fiction in the Bond series — the
gadgets — is why many people consider the films to be scifi.
Beginning with From Russia with Love , Bond’s pre-mission technical briefing with “Q” is where the films get to play in the scifi sandbox. More recent technological advances make Bond’s
“futuristic” gadgets seem like no big deal, but
the typewriter-sized Lektor Decoder of From Russia with Love or the homing beacons of Goldfinger were considered cutting edge… back in the sixties.
But consider Thunderball ‘s use of the jet pack, the Gyrojet rocket guns and the X-Ray Desk. Or, consider the radioactive lint used for weapons targeting in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service . In Diamonds Are Forever ,
there’s an electromagnetic RPM controller ring that guarantees a slot
machine win. Live and Let Die showed us a watch that doubles as a buzz
saw. In The Spy Who Loved Me, Bond’s car, the Lotus Esprit S1, sports missiles, landmines and torpedoes. Despite oddities like the explosive toothpaste in License to Kill , these are cool, futuristic gadgets that show James Bond toying with the tech you might find in a science fiction movie.
Blofeld’s Grand Scheme in Diamonds Are Forever
Diamonds Are Forever may start as your average Bond film, with
Bond posing as a diamond smuggler to uncover an economically troubling
price-fixing scam, but it eventually turns towards much more science
fictional pursuits. The smuggled diamonds, it turns out, are being used
by Bond’s longtime enemy, Ernst Stavro Blofeld for his nefarious
schemes. Blofeld’s plan?
Nothing less than nuclear supremacy on a worldwide scale.
It may be interesting to note that space satellites and the threat
of nuclear destruction were not part of the 1956 Ian Fleming novel on
which this film is based. Could it be that in 1971 the movie makers
were looking to update the novel in light of the recent moon landing of
1969? Whatever the reason, Diamonds are Forever was one of Bond’s earliest flirtations with scifi, even if it was tacked on.
Rebooting the New Human Race in Moonraker
If the ultimate plan of Blofeld in Diamonds Are Forever is only a flirtation with scifi, then the world-domination plot of Hugo Drax in Moonraker
is like a full-blown make-out session in Bond’s Aston Martin. (Too bad
there’s no back seat.) This was another adaptation of one of Fleming’s
novels, and another chance for Hollywood to add scifi elements where
there were none before.
Drax’s plan is the stuff of science fiction: To reboot the human
race. He selects a group of genetically perfect Adams and Eves and
squirrels them away to his space station, while he destroys the rest of Earth’s population with gaseous poison.
Space stations? Genocide? World re-colonization? These are the
tropes of science fiction. Add to that the space shuttles and laser
battle between Drax’s henchmen and the Marines, and you have a film
that even Star Wars fans might pay money to see. At least, that was the hope of the producers when they saw the huge success of Star Wars in 1977 and bumped up the production of Moonraker to 1979. ( For Your Eyes Only was originally slated to be the next Bond film after The Spy Who Loved Me.)
So you see, James Bond is no stranger to science fiction. He’s more
like a well-dressed second-cousin to scifi… who would garrote you
with his wristwatch in a heartbeat. He is a spy, after all.