Toby-Stephens-James-BondLater this year the fourth 007 movie Thunderball will celebrate its 50th anniversary, so it seems doubly appropriate that the Ian Fleming novel on which the film was based is to be the next BBC radio James Bond play.

Yes, Bond is Back: our favourite spy and BBC Radio-4 in the UK are uniting once again for a new entry in the audio drama world of 007, and this time its an exciting adaptation of the ninth Fleming Bond adventure Thunderball (1961).

The BBC’s publicity department have announced that the latest 007 BBC radio adaptation will be transmitted on BBC Radio-4 on Saturday, December 10th, 2016, at 2.30pm. Produced by Jarvis and Ayres Productions in collaboration with the BBC, the 90-minute audio play is the sixth radio production of a Fleming Bond thriller.

Although there has been no confirmation of who will play 007 in Thunderball, all the previous five adaptations starred Toby Stephens as 007 (see photo), who first took on the role of James Bond in Dr. No in 2008. This was followed by Goldfinger in 2010, From Russia With Love in 2012, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in 2014, and Diamonds Are Forever in 2015. It is thought that Stephens will indeed be reprising the role for the latest radio production. Toby Stephens, of course, is very familiar to Bond aficionados as, uniquely, he has played both 007 and a Bond villain. In 2002 he was the baddie Gustav Graves in EON’s fourth Pierce Brosnan Bond movie Die Another Day.

Previous radio productions from Jarvis and Ayres have also seen John Standing as ‘M,’ with Martin Jarvis as the voice of Ian Fleming. Jarvis and Ayres have been praised for their determination to offer faithful adaptations of the original Ian Fleming Bond stories. In 2010, Jarvis explained to the UK’s popular SFX magazine that one of the remits behind his James Bond radio productions is that ‘we’re not making a version of the movie. We go back to the novel and keep great faith with it’.

Operation Thunderball

The storyline to Thunderball saw the introduction of SP.E.C.T.R.E. as a global criminal organisation, headed by Ernst Stavro Blofeld from the syndicate’s secret HQ in Paris, and involved the audacious theft of two atomic bombs from NATO, masterminded by SP.E.C.T.R.E. operative No.1, Emilio Largo. The atomic bombs are used as part of a ruthless blackmail plot to try and extract a huge financial ransom from the British Prime Minister and the US President. Naturally, MI6 boss ‘M’ calls on the Service’s Double-0 Section to help find and track the bombs, and Bond’s assignment to investigate the plot (codenamed ‘Operation Thunderball’) takes him to the Bahamas and a confrontation with Largo.

Fleming’s ninth Bond novel, of course, had some controversy attached to it, as it was based on a screen treatment that had originally been developed by Kevin McClory, Jack Whittingham, and the Bond creator himself. When Fleming worked up the material into his latest Bond novel in 1961, McClory took legal action against his former friend, which culminated in a complex court case, and McClory being awarded the rights to make a screen version of Thunderball.

Did You Know?

Bond creator Ian Fleming once revealed that the word ‘Thunderball’ had lodged in his mind ever since he had heard it used to describe an American atomic test that had taken place in the Pacific in the 1950s.

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