Pop Between Realities, Home in Time for Tea 7 (The Prisoner, You Only Live Twice)
Pop Between Realities, Home in Time for Tea is a recurring feature in which things that are not Doctor Who are looked at in terms of their relation to Doctor Who. Today we look at two classics of British spy fiction from 1967, the James Bond film You Only Live Twice and the ITV television series The Prisoner.
Well this is certainly a bit of an awkward pairing. I mean, never before has “Well, do both of the espionage things you need to do in one entry” seemed like quite so staggering a task. They may both feature secret agents, be British, and be from 1967, but that’s about where the similarities between James Bond in You Only Live Twice and The Prisoner end.
Let’s start with Bond, since that’s the one that’s kind of long overdue in this blog. The thing to note regarding You Only Live Twice is that it is a movie that expects nothing out of its audience. It would be easy to describe this as having a sort of cynical contempt for its audience, but it’s more complex than that. It is not as though the movie thinks little of its audience and thus concludes that it can be lazy. No, the movie thinks little of its audience and then goes out of its way to please them.
There’s something almost giddily entertaining about the movie’s complete lack of irony. Later James Bond movies would begin to poke fun at the series’ tropes, using things like Bond’s refined tastes for comedic scenes. But this movie is caught in a bizarre midpoint in the franchise. It’s well established enough that everybody knows that Bond likes vodka martinis (though here he seems quite pleased to get one stirred) and is a rakish womanizer. But it’s not well enough established to play Bond complimenting his host on the choice of vodka or describing at some length the proper temperature for sake to be served at for laughs. Instead these scenes are presented with a sort of earnest conviction that the audience really just wants to see Sean Connery explaining the proper presentation of sake. And apparently, given how the movie did, they were right.
But perhaps the most astonishing thing about You Only Live Twice is its structure. When some of the production documents for the first Indiana Jones movie leaked onto the Internet a few years back, one of the things people excitedly pointed at was the fact that Spielberg and Lucas talked explicitly about using the structure of a serial and putting a cliffhanger in at regular intervals. This is indeed a clever trick, but for some reason people seemed to think that Lucas and Spielberg were the first people to think of it, as opposed to the first people to have their discussion about it leaked onto the Internet. Because once you’re past the opening credits sequence of You Only Live Twice, with very few exceptions, the movie is structured as a serial comprised of five minute episodes.…