I’m going to pre-cursor this theory with a simple statement: This is my opinion of the series and not necessarily the intended view. It isn’t an original view, I’d heard it many times before and dismissed it as quickly but as I watched every film this year (and most this last month) I soon realised how much sense this theory made compared to the idea that James Bond is the same man in every one of the 24 movies about him. Not only did this make more sense, I actually enjoyed the films more because of it and as this theory took hold, so did my imagination and the clues within the Bond films that support it…
The number 007 and the name James Bond are both codenames given to an individual when he enters the 00-program. To protect his real identity completely and to ensure that he is never traceable, the agent is given a new name and a new back-story, including favourite drink, weapon and car.
How you choose which spy gets which codename is dependent on their characteristics and personality. James Bond will always be given to the most reckless of people. James Bond will be the name for the person who is most likely to shun orders, be a womaniser and shirk authority. You could even argue that 007 is always the best spy as well. This would explain why you get similar people who do similar things but who are all slightly different.
The first piece of proof is obvious but also the most easily dismissed – they are all completely different people played by completely different actors. That’s not such a great argument because superheroes have changed actors countless times without as much as a raised eyebrow but each actor is so different from the last and their version of Bond is too.
Connery starts us off with a rugged, grounded playboy who is handy in a fight as he is seducing a woman. He completes many a mission successfully but his version of James Bond is “killed off” to cover his whereabouts (You Only Live Twice).
This is when George Lazenby takes over. He is less the charming womaniser and more the rugged, brutal assassin. He even says at the beginning of the movie (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) “This never happened to the other fellow.” It also explains why Blofeld (another character who changes face) doesn’t recognise Bond when they first meet – even though they have seen each other already (You Only Live Twice).
At the end of the movie, a newly married Bond sees his wife assassinated by Blofeld. What better reason to leave the service than the mourning of a recently lost love?
So Connery, noticeably older, is asked back to finish the job he started (Diamonds are Forever); assassinate Blofeld. This (slightly) goes to plan but Connery is too old to play James Bond so a new, younger man enters.
This Bond isn’t the serious, brutal assassin that we knew before but more a gentleman spy, focused more on the women than the mission. This James Bond is willing to go to the silliest lengths to complete the mission, including dressing as a clown (Octopussy)! Roger Moore’s Bond also gets the best gadgets and most outlandish missions (Moonraker). He survives in the job longer than anyone, opening the door for our next agent.
Timothy Dalton is a different kind of James Bond. He has a problem with anger and seeking vengeance. He almost compromises his first mission (The Living Daylights) because of it and then essentially quits MI6 completely (License to Kill). With Dalton’s Bond too reckless, they seek a new agent to take the title.
Pierce Brosnan is probably the best of the new spies. He is cocky, reckless but also mildly respects authority. He also sees in a new M, (Goldeneye) one who is more invested in her agents than any other, played by Judi Dench. Brosnan sees through many missions but he is captured (Die Another Day) and his trustworthiness as well as usefulness becomes a factor so a new, much more volatile Bond is recruited.
What is unique about Daniel Craig’s James Bond is we see his first mission and first ever kills. He is Judi Dench’s M’s personal choice and we get our first look at a raw 007 recruit. His missions have the first over-arching story too and after his first mission, he almost quits completely! (Casino Royale).
My theory would also explain how we have Judi Dench’s M at the beginning of a James Bond’s career and at the end of another’s (Die Another Day). It could also explain the very final feeling at the end of Spectre (which for spoilers sake I won’t go into too far now).
This theory makes for a more interesting saga. It demonstrates the changes in the 00-program and MI6. It also explains why when Craig’s Bond hears about Spectre, he has no idea who they are! Add to this a very exciting prospect: if there are many different James Bonds, could we have two of the actors fight side-by-side?
This has been heavily debunked! There is lots of evidence to link all the Bonds together as one person. Roger Moore visits Tracy Bond’s grave. There are many references to Bond’s wife through many of the different films. This can be easily forgotten and overlooked though.
What can’t be dismissed is the two most recent movies. Skyfall and Spectre both involve James Bond’s past and actually name him as the spy as a child! We go to Bond’s family home in Skyfall and the villain is linked heavily with his childhood in Spectre. This could still be explained away with a codename though except…
James Bond’s parents’ graves are in Skyfall – with Bond as a surname! You start to have to take pretty big leaps to explain this evidence away – but I’m willing to ignore it.
Overall, I prefer the theory that James Bond is a codename and six different people. It explains the huge, mixed-up timeline that has been developed. It explains the inconsistencies in character and the wild change in technology. It also makes for a more interesting series which follows one codename rather than one very lucky spy! You may not like it, it may certainly not be what the creators of the Bond franchise have intended but it’s how I view the series and what I believe when I watch the films.