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Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Ian Fleming: Where Bond Began, BBC1

Did we like it?
Former Bond Girl (1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) Joanna Lumley presents this look at the life of Ian Fleming and how his real-life experiences proved the inspiration for James Bond. With trips to Goldeneye (Fleming’s house in Jamaica), Eton, and the Admiralty office, this was about as comprehensive as an hour’s documentary could get. And Lumley made an enthusiastic and flirtatious presenter…

What was good about it?
• We didn’t realise that Fleming was 43 before he wrote his first Bond book – and as he died at the relatively young age of 56, the twelve novels were written at the rate of one a year.
• The look on Lumley’s face as she is driving along in a vintage sports car, and describing how obsessed Fleming was with cars. With a conspiratorial wink at the camera, she floors the accelerator and the sheer glee on her face couldn’t help but make us smile.
• Lumley was having a high old time making this documentary, as she flirted outrageously with the camera – “Bond expected his ideal woman to make a Bearnaise sauce as well as she made love. Though presumably not at the same time. Although I of course can. (pause) And do. (longer pause) Frequently.”
• The obvious parallels between Fleming’s life and Bond’s – Fleming’s father died in the First World War when he was 8 years old, Bond was orphaned at age 11.
• Lumley had lined up some interesting interviewees, including Charlie Higson – author of the Young Bond stories; and Sebastian Faulks who has recently written a Bond book in Fleming’s style. We also liked the interview with the Eton librarian who revealed that one of Fleming’s school contempories was a boy he disliked – by the name of Scaramanga…
• Also fascinating was the interview with the son of the gentleman who was the inspiration for ‘Q’ – who proceeded to show Lumley some of the intriguing gadgets his father had worked on. We loved the map that was invisible until the user urinated on it… (or ‘piddled’ as Joanna would have it…)
• The 62 year old Lumley still looked great in a swimsuit, and transported us back to her ‘New Avengers’ days as Purdey with her handling of a Beretta on the shooting range.

What was bad about it?
• Though Jonathan Pryce’s narration of excerpts from the various Bond books was well done, why did the programme makers insist on running them over clips from a completely different Bond film? It made no sense.
• While examining one of Fleming’s notebooks, Lumley ‘suddenly’ discovers the phrase ‘Quantum of Solace’. Yeah, right. Like we didn’t all realise that this was timed to coincide with the new film’s release.

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