I saw Skyfall last night, and after breaking it down, I can come to only one conclusion: this is the Bond film in which it is revealed that James Bond is a Time Lord.
Bear with me here.
In high school, my friends and I had a pet theory that James Bond wasn’t one man, but many. “James Bond” was a secret agent “work name” that was assigned to someone new whenever the old agent bearing the name was retired. (Dead or alive.) This theory is nothing revolutionary—I’ve come across a number of people over the years who came up with a similar idea to retcon some sense of continuity to a series that spans now fifty years and six different actors in the role. (And far more writers.) Each generation has its own Bond, we decided, but it’s a different person fulfilling the role each time—not just on screen, but in the world of the movie.
SPOILERS for Skyfall ahead.
The one instance in Bond film lore that puts this theory to the test is the Lazenby Bond’s marriage to Diana Rigg and her accompanying death in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. A number of later Bond films—with different actors playing Bond—reference this incident directly or indirectly. (See the Wikipedia article on Tracy Bond for a comprehensive list.) Each time, it’s played off as though the death of Tracy Bond happened to that Bond actor at some point in his past, as though all of them are the same Bond. In that sense, our little theory falls apart, and we’re asked to believe the strange fiction that we’re watching the same Bond each time—a man who, incredibly, changes faces and remains relatively the same age no matter what the decade.
Okay. Fine. I’m a grown man. I can suspend my disbelief. But of course, in the best crazy fanboy tradition, my friends and I tried to shoehorn even this glaring discrepancy into our retcon. It could still work that each Bond is a new man with the codename “James Bond,” we argued, if upon inheriting the mantle each new agent gets to read through the old Bond’s files. After all, in becoming “James Bond,” the new agent gets not only the kick-ass reputation the work name brings with it, but also all his predecessors’ surviving villains and baggage. So all the references to Tracy Bond throughout the series could just be the later agents’ acknowledgement of and respect for a tragedy that once occurred to one of their extraordinarily exclusive fraternity. (It also pretty nicely explains why we only get one Lazenby Bond: he was too distraught to carry on being Bond!)
All well and good. Until Skyfall. (Warning: spoilers follow.)
In Skyfall, we have the very first definitive proof that the man we’re watching on screen is James Bond. As in, James Bond was his given name at birth, not an assumed alias. Despite evidence in this film that other agents carry work names (Silva insists M call him by his “real” name, Tiago Rodriguez) we’re made to understand pretty pointedly that James Bond really is James Bond. We see the initials on his father’s gun. The old caretaker of his family’s estate calls him James Bond. We see his parents’ grave marker. In what would have been a marvelous opportunity to show us that his real name is not James Bond, that’s he just a wayward soul who ended up taking on the work name “James Bond” when the opportunity arose, the writers decided to go the opposite direction.
Fine. So my precious pet theory was officially undone in canon. Again, I’m a grown-up. I can laugh at my own pretensions and breathe and just relax, as MST3K advised. The writers of popular fiction make decisions like this all the time that subvert our fanboy conceits, and we are forced to either accept them as canon or walk away from that fandom. (Midichlorians, anyone?) Craig’s James Bond is the James Bond. Forget all the others who came before him.
So where did that Aston Martin come from?
Bond and M are on the run. He makes a pit stop to change cars. He opens a storage garage, and there, in all its glory, is a pristine 1964 Aston Martin DB5. Sweet! I thought. It’s the Aston Martin Craig’s Bond won in a card game in Casino Royale, which of course was an homage to Goldfinger. We’re maintaining some continuity between the new Craig films! Off they go in the DB5, the banter continues, and Bond flips up the cover on the gear shift and jokingly threatens to use the ejector seat on M.
Wait, do what with the what now?
This isn’t just an Aston Martin DB5 Bond won in a card game. It is the Aston Martin DB5 from the Goldfinger adventure. As if Craig’s Bond lived through that mission, and then, for nostalgia’s sake, rented a storage unit and put the tricked out Aston Martin on ice for almost 50 years. In one breath, the writers want us to believe that this Bond is every Bond—the same man who battled Dr. No in 1962, Mr. Big in 1973, Max Zorin in 1985, and Janus in 1995—and in the next breath believe that Daniel Craig is the only James Bond there ever was, because his parents named him James Bond.
But you can’t have it both ways. Daniel Craig can’t have an Aston Martin he used in 1964, because Daniel Craig wasn’t born until 1968. This would work great if “James Bond” was a code name, and this Bond was going old school and using the tools of one of his predecessors. (If only they had asked me!) But they didn’t do that. They made this Bond the only Bond.
There’s no way this can work. Unless, of course, James Bond is a Time Lord.
It’s the only logical answer. James Bond is the James Bond—born sometime around 1930. He grows up, not realizing he’s a Time Lord, and joins MI6 as a secret agent. No “work name” necessary: “James Bond” is pretty bad-ass already. He battles Dr. No, and Ernst Blofeld, and Auric Goldfinger, and Ernst Blofeld a few more times. Then he dies.
We don’t see it, but Bond dies, and then, surprise surprise, he regenerates. He fights Blofeld again. Marries. Loses his wife. Leaves the service. Eventually dies again. (From a broken heart?) Regenerates and fights Mr. Big, and Scaramanga, and Stromberg, and a host of other villains, hanging around a lot longer this time than any of his other incarnations and, frankly, overstaying his welcome. After some down time, he comes back in a new incarnation and has some rather forgettable adventures, then regenerates again looking all slick and debonair to battle double agents, industry moguls, and somebody else I’m still not really clear about.
And then, at last, we reach Bond’s sixth incarnation. Daniel Craig’s James Bond. The James Bond, just like all the others, but different. He’s lived it all, done it all, and yet he looks like a man born in 1968. He still has all his predecessors’ skills and knowledge though, and some of their toys. And they all share a single dark past: raised on a dire Scottish moor, orphaned at a young age, pressed into service as a licensed government hit man, married to Mrs. Peel and lost Mrs. Peel, only to later find a surrogate mother in M and lose her too.
One Bond. Many incarnations. James Bond is a Time Lord.
I think we can all agree this is the only logical analysis.
Alan Gratz is the author of a number of books for young readers, including Starfleet Academy: The Assassination Game. He has a great idea for a James Bond movie called “The Five Bonds,” if anyone at Eon Productions is interested.