It’s the longest running movie franchise in cinema, and a British institution as embedded in our culture as The Beatles, Football and Post Office queues. James Bond has been wowing global audiences worldwide for well over 50 years now, and he’s been doing it with style, panache and a shaken Martini.
007’s latest adventure, Skyfall, has been one of his biggest and best to date, with fans and critics alike singing its praise. Many have commented that the main achievements of the film include its fresh approach and its loyalty to the franchise’s heritage. However, there was something else Skyfall did: it opened up a Pandora’s Box of fan theories. These sorts of conspiracies are nothing new to cinema, or to Bond, with fans developing their own unique interpretations of the film into complex and view-changing ideas. Specifically to 007, there has been one huge theory that has been cemented in the minds Bond fans for years, but finally, with Skyfall, that theory was disproved. This caused an eruption of new fan theories, from the plausible to the downright ludicrous…
The Original ‘Codename’ Theory
As previously mentioned, there has been one theory attached to James Bond franchise that has been around for so long that I have no doubts that at some point most of you will have heard it. This theory, like most, attempts to add plausibility to the fact that the character has been played by 6 different actors in a seemingly chronological order. The theory is, of course, that ‘James Bond’ is in fact just a code name used by a variety of different MI6 agents.
The idea is that Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig are all actually playing different agents, with each of them inheriting the legendary ‘James Bond’ codename when their predecessor either dies or retires (neither of which is ever shown to the audience, obviously). This goes some way to explaining why 007 can seemingly change his entire appearance, while those around him (M & Q) stay the same.
The codename theory has been around for some time, and has only once become very close to being disproved before. Bond enthusiasts among you will remember George Lazenby’s Bond getting married in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, only for his then wife to be killed. This tragedy is referenced in many later Bond films, by several other Bonds. If all the Bonds are different agents, why do they all pine for Lazenby’s missus?! Pretty creepy stuff. Despite this slight hiccup though, the 007 fanboys were quick to point out that when inheriting the mantle of Bond, the agents also inherited all of ‘Bond’s’ previous files, and so the latter Bonds are simply acknowledging the tragedy that befell one of their forerunners. So cases solved, villains fought and, indeed, women married are all part of the baggage.
However, the codename theory would appear to have permanently been put to bed thanks to Skyfall, in which every effort is made to assure us that Daniel Craig is James Bond. We see his family estate, his father’s gun, and even his parent’s graves, all of which indicate that his was given the name by his parents, not MI6.
None of this however, is particularly mind-blowing, ground-breaking stuff. Champions of the codename theory point out that it can still hold strong, with the caveat that Daniel Craig is the true, original James Bond, that all other James Bond’s a named after (though surely Judi Dench’s demise disproves this). The conspiracy can-of-worms isn’t truly opened until this new information is combined with a certain 007 artefact: the Aston Martin DB5. Making a triumphant return in Skyfall adds fuel to the fire as it supports both Daniel Craig Bond continuity (he won it in a card game in Casino Royale) but also that he is the original bond, and that Skyfall is set before Sean Connery’s secret agent is given the Bond codename and uses the pimped-out car in Goldfinger. Problem solved right? Well, actually no, thanks to a little quip in Skyfall where Bond threatens to eject M using the red button atop the gear stick.
So this isn’t a pre-Goldfinger version of the car being driven around by the original Bond, years before Connery takes the codename and the wheel? This is the car, already modified by Q, AFTER it was used in Goldfinger? That means that the car was used in 1964 by Connery’s agent under the codename ‘James Bond’, a codename that originated from the ‘First’ James Bond, played by Daniel Craig, who not only inexplicably had the same tricked-out DB5, but who also wasn’t born until 1968, 4 years after Goldfinger! Cue the sound of a million Bond geeks’ brains imploding.
So, with the canon well and truly shot to pieces (no pun intended), the very same fanboys who had cherished the original codename theory have taken to the internet to try and salvage what’s left of it with newer (and even wackier) theories as to how one MI6 operative can appear to be 6 different men. Here are some of my favourites…
The ‘Jason Bourne’ Theory
This one requires a bit of imagination (as do all the theories to be honest) but luckily there is a separate, Matt Damon-helmed trilogy to refer to. James Bond is still a codename given to MI6’s top agent, however when promoted to the role, the agent has their memory wiped using Treadstone-esque brainwashing techniques. As part of this process, agents are embedded with the same memories as the previous ‘Bond’, thus the estate, the car and the graves in Skyfall are all belonging to the original James Bond which, thanks to the brain-washing by MI6, all 6 of the ‘Bonds’ think they are. It’s great because it means all 23 films can remain chronological, complete with overlapping supporting characters such as M, Q and Moneypenny, all of which play along to avoid suspicion of the top-secret techniques that create the new ‘Bond’. What makes it even better is that Albert Finney has a hand in both, playing the puppet master behind Treadstone in the Bourne films, and the old groundskeeper in Skyfall, ‘planted’ by MI6 to really sell their deception.
The ‘Reset Button’ Theory
This one works with the notion that the makers of the Bond films just wiped the slate clean after Pierce Brosnan’s outing as 007. With the reboot of Casino Royale in 2006, they completely started again with all adventures by the pre-Daniel Craig Bonds being erased. So rather than having little signifiers nostalgically reminding us of previous films, they are simply starting all over again. Imagine, if you will, the gap between the events of Casino Royale and the events of Skyfall being about 10 years (not a real stretch as the films were released 6 years apart). What if in that decade-long gap, as well as the Quantum of Solace escapade, Craig’s Bond undertook every adventure from the other 20 films. Sound ridiculous? Well if each adventure takes him a few months to complete, he could easily manage 2+ adventures a year. So he wins the car in Casino Royale, has the unseen Goldfinger adventure, in which Q adds the gadgets to the DB5, and then stores it away until Skyfall. It sort of works! Especially with Skyfall’s Q remarking ‘we don’t do those anymore’ when referring to the simplification of the newer gadgets.
The ‘Time Lord’ Theory
Ok, it is mental but please, stay with me here. So James Bond is fact a Time Lord, à la Doctor Who, meaning he is immortal and can regenerate into a different person. As crazy as it sounds, it actually fits to a certain degree. It allows Bond to change completely, while staying in essence the same person with the same skills and memories. It even explains how DB5 can jump from one film to another in different time periods: It’s Bond’s Tardis!
Of course, for this to be true it would also require M, Q and Moneypenny to be Time Lords also, not to mention Albert Finney’s groundskeeper. But what if all of MI6 were Time Lords? What if all the agents were, including 006? What a lovely thought it would be to think that Silva is just a pissed-off, regenerated Alec Trevelyan! And then there’s Bond’s answer when asked if he has any hobbies: ‘Resurrection’.
There you have it, from the creative to the fundamentally insane. As long as 007 continues to grace our screens (forever!) fans of the super spy will continue to speculate. But which theory do you like most? Or do you have a completely different thought altogether?…