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One of the most popular and frequently visited news articles the JBIFC has put up in recent years concerns the little-known screen treatment that was produced for a film that was never made: a third Timothy Dalton James Bond adventure.

Yes, not many people realise that it was very much in the pipeline, and – as we revealed back in December, 2012 – a detailed screen treatment was put together for the proposed third entry in the Dalton James Bond tenure (with a working title of ‘Bond 17’). A French website, ‘Commander James Bond France’, recently made use of our original article, and it is one of those aspects of Bond history that people still find intriguing.

As many 007 aficionados know, Timothy Dalton, the fourth actor to hold a licence to kill in the official EON series, had made two James Bond movies, and was all set for a third – but then complex legal wrangles halted pre-production on the seventeenth Bond film. After waiting very patiently for five years for MGM/UA to sort out the various legal wrangles, in the spring of 1994 Dalton announced (with a heavy heart) that he was leaving the role of 007. The Broccolis (Cubby and Barbara) had wanted Dalton to continue in the role, but (behind the scenes) John Calley, who was overseeing United Artists, felt that a new face was needed to place in front of audiences.

The screen treatment that nearly became the basis for a third Dalton movie in 1990-91 is a fascinating document to explore. Not many fans realise how advanced the plans were for ‘Bond 17’ in 1989-90. An outline treatment by Michael G. Wilson and Alfonse Ruggiero was completed in May, 1990, and – although it was not a full script – it contained a detailed outline story, with descriptions of locations, the main characters, and major plot concepts. Indeed, as envisaged in 1990, Dalton’s third would-be Bond movie would have entailed the Bond series continuing to move in the notably rugged and realistic direction taken in Licence to Kill, but also brimming with ambitious hi-tech concepts.

In fact, Ian Fleming’s ‘blunt instrument’ (as played by Dalton, who was keen to ensure the character remained faithful to the original Fleming creation) would have been placed in a much more ambitious and visionary story, with an element of science fiction at its heart. Wilson and Ruggerio penned an outline which used robotic designs, microchip technology and other advanced electronics to provide the movie with a markedly scientific backdrop. Intriguingly, the treatment included a preface which referred to the ‘robotic devices’ that would be required, ‘complex and exotic machines designed for specific tasks’, devices that would be created ‘especially for the film for maximum and dramatic and visual impact’.

The main villain of the story was to be Sir Henry Lee Ching, described in the treatment as ‘a brilliant and handsome thirty year old British-Chinese entrepreneur’, who – in a familiar and nicely traditional ‘Bondian’ sense – was to be a dab hand at science, but not necessarily for the good of mankind: he is clearly demented, as 007 discovers. With his malicious expertise, Sir Henry planned to unleash a computer virus that would paralyse every military and commercial unit in the world. A classic confrontation between Bond and Sir Henry occurs at the climax of the story, with 007 turning a welding torch in the villain’s face!

Alas, it was never to be. Whether some of this material sowed the seeds for later ideas that were employed in the Pierce Brosnan Bond movies is difficult to say, but the 1990 ‘Bond 17’ treatment provides us with some tantalising glimpses of how the film may have turned out – had it been made.

Interestingly, in a rare interview Timothy Dalton gave to the popular British movie magazine Empire in June, 2012, the former Bond star confirmed to the interviewer: ‘There was a third script; I remember feeling quite enthusiastic. I’d have loved to have made a real scorcher of a film, one that harnessed the best of Living Daylights and Licence to Kill…’.

Tim Dalton remains an actor very much in demand. He has recently reprised his role as the explorer Sir Malcolm in the third season of John Logan’s popular and critically-acclaimed gothic horror series Penny Dreadful, which will be premiered on TV in the USA this coming May.