Cover artwork for Ian Fleming’s “Il Grande Slam Della Morte” (Moonraker) in Amica magazine, August 1965. (Artist: Gianni G. Gaeta)
Ian Fleming provided an heroic image for Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) by pitting it against the ‘malevolent’ intelligence agencies of the Soviet Union and the ‘evil’, often unhinged, plutocrat bad guys they often supported. Britain may have forfeited its place as a world power to the United States, but Fleming made it relevant through the Cold War exploits of Commander James Bond.
SIS, better known as MI6, has in recent times earned a certain notoriety having suffered several public relations setbacks involving the exposure of its part in ignoble deeds. There was ‘Operation Mass Appeal’ which involved planting stories in the media in a ploy aimed at influencing public support for the idea that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. MI6 also helped the United States with its policy of ‘Extraordinary Rendition’. And a 2015 Old Bailey case against a jihadist was dropped on the grounds that Britain’s security and intelligence services would have been “deeply embarrassed” about their covert support for anti-Assad militias in the Syrian Civil War.
One can therefore be forgiven for indulging in the nostalgia and moral certainty attached to James Bond as the BBC radio drama department produces yet another installment in the series of adaptations of Fleming’s novels.
Moonraker, which was the third Bond novel, is the story of Hugo Drax, an industrialist who is behind a project to design a missile capable of defending England from a Soviet attack. Seemingly a super-patriotic Englishman who was orphaned at an early age and seriously wounded as a soldier during World War Two, Drax is later revealed to be a German Nazi who is hellbent on avenging Germany’s wartime defeat. The missile is due to be launched amid great public fanfare as part of a test firing exercise. However, instead of landing harmlessly in the North Sea, Drax plans to arm the projectile with a nuclear warhead and re-configure its flight coordinates so that it destroys London.
The drama features Toby Stephens in his seventh appearance as Bond. Winston Churchill (played by John Baddeley), in his post-war phase as prime minister, makes a ‘cameo appearance’. The actor who perhaps steals the scenes is Nigel Anthony who plays Drax’s German henchman Krebs with a Peter Lorre-inspired accent.
Moonraker was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Saturday, March 31st 2018.
Director: Martin Jarvis
Producer: Rosalind Ayres
Adaptor: Archie Scottney
© Adeyinka Makinde
Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.