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For quite some time, the lore behind Timothy Dalton’s exit from the James Bond franchise has been centered around one film. As the story goes, an adaptation of the Ian Fleming short story “The Property of a Lady” was mentioned to be the third 007 adventure that would have seen Dalton in the tuxedo. But, as history and some new discoveries have proven, this assumption was actually false. Surprisingly, there were three unmade James Bond movies that could have given the actor more of a substantial foothold in the James Bond franchise, and each of them went on to influence the series after he left.
If you’re a mega fan of the 007 franchise, then The Lost Adventures of James Bond by Mark Edlitz is going to knock you for a loop. Between dissecting pieces of lost media like the James Bond Jr. cartoon series, as well as a special birthday video Sean Connery once recorded in character on the set of The Avengers, there are a lot of hidden treasures that’s come out of the shadows of the James Bond legacy in the book. Most prominent among them are the following revelations, which still managed to leave a mark on the 007 films despite never seeing the light of day.
Why Timothy Dalton Left The James Bond Franchise
We’ve mentioned this previously during our discussion of the two Timothy Dalton films, so we won’t spend too much time on the subject. That being said, Dalton’s departure from the James Bond series is important because in the time he was still contracted to play the part a couple different concepts were in play under the presumption that he would be playing James Bond into the 1990s. Of course, that would turn out to be false, as The Living Daylights and License To Kill, the 15th and 16th James Bond films, respectively, turned out to be his only entries. As Dalton’s contract expired during some legal wrangling that put the franchise on hold, the actor left the series. But if history had turned out a little differently, here’s what we could have also seen in the actor's run as 007.
The Film That Would Have Been Bond 17 (The Serious Version)
If there was a word that could define the draft of Bond 17 that was written by series producer/writer Michael G. Wilson and Wiseguy writer Alfonse Ruggiero, Jr, it would have to be “robotics.” The film would have centered around a series of disasters involving out of control devices wreaking havoc on everything from a Scottish chemical plant to a Chinese atomic power plant. Bond would have investigated these goings on alongside Bond woman/ex-CIA agent Connie Webb, and the two even ran into a robot that looked so human that it was a climactic reveal in a big fight towards the end of the film.
Eventually, Bond 17 would reveal that the British-Chinese industrialist Sir Henry Ching was behind the insidious plot of the movie’s narrative, with his aim being to create chaos between the UK and China. With the installation of a specially manufactured microchip, Sir Henry gained the ability to remotely sabotage various devices, leading to the disasters that would have occurred during the run of the picture. Bond would have saved the day by avoiding a missile strike on Shanghai (which would have come from a vessel under the British Royal Navy) by flooding Sir Henry Ching’s command center and sending his adversary to a watery grave.
The Film That Would Have Been Bond 17 (The Silly Version)
After the initial draft of Bond 17 ceased development, the rough bones of that idea were used by writers William Osborne and William Davies (known for films such as Twins and Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot) to make a more comedic version of events that would have been a partial send up of the James Bond formula. An “I’m too old for this” approach was instituted, with Bond doing everything from calling a bomb disposal robot R2-D2, to participating in a rodeo as a cover for his investigation into a stolen stealth fighter. Connie Webb also appeared in this draft, though she was given quite a few quips to deliver in reference to James’ prowess as an agent and a lover. So yeah, this movie would have totally been at home in the Roger Moore era of James Bond capers.
Bond 17’s revised draft saw Sir Henry Ferguson as its antagonist, and rather than using microchips to execute his plan to shake things up on a global scale he uses the Scimitar, an advanced prototype plane that caused a rather fun third act complication. If if wasn’t for James Bond saving the day in Bond 17, that plane would have caused China to launch missiles on Washington and London. But after dispatching of Sir Henry with said aircraft, and a well timed fencing pun, Bond actually gets to kick back with Connie Webb for all the uncomplicated sex and villainous name dropping he could ever want.
How Bond 17’s Unmade Drafts Influenced The 007 Franchise
Undoubtedly, there were some aspects that stuck out to you Bond fans during the recollection of both Alfonse Ruggiero, Jr.’s more serious take on Bond 17, as well as the more action-comedy geared version from William Osborne and William Davies. While the 007 franchise was in flux at the point in time the scripts were written, and totally new writers would be brought in to usher in a new Bond in Goldeneye, Bond 17 did have some ideas that were deemed worthy of being recycled into the series. Tomorrow Never Dies was able to take some cues from these drafts, for example, in particular the Osborne/Davies version of events.
As Goldeneye was the actual 17th James Bond movie, it kind of makes sense that the pre-title sequence for Bond 17 made its way into Pierce Brosnan’s huge debut as James Bond. Though instead of a Scottish/Libyan chemical plant going up in smoke, we’d see a Soviet facility play a crucial role on Alec Trevalyan’s defection to the side of evil in the actual film. And in the second draft of Bond 17, the theft of a prototype fighter jet feels like the inkling that would lead to the Tiger helicopter’s theft in the first act of Goldeneye.
The lion’s share of ideas seemed to fall into the lap of Tomorrow Never Dies, though, as the first draft’s diabolical plot for Sir Henry Lee Ching and his microchips, as well as the attempt to launch China and the UK into World War III, was totally a rough draft for Elliot Carver’s GPS manipulation plot in the second Pierce Brosnan 007 movie. The Alfonse Ruggiero version also ran on a ticking clock, though Bond’s investigation into this would-be world domination plot was shortened from the original 72 hours into a 48 hour window in Tomorrow Never Dies.
Even more interesting is the fact that the sillier version of Bond 17 did manage to give Pierce Brosnan’s second Bond outing a rather serious boost. Towards the end of William Osborne and Wiliam Davies’ draft, there’s an action sequence that sees James Bond trying to avoid an international incident through the disposal of a rather well-armed fighter jet. While the jokes about jumping into a swimming pool from a speeding jet may have been dropped, that concept sounds very close to what Tomorrow Never Dies’s terrorist supermarket scenario eventually executed.
Reunion With Death: The Film That Would Have Been Bond 18
Perhaps the most exciting thing about reading Mark Edlitz’ The Lost Adventures of James Bond was the fact that there were two other unused ideas in the works for Timothy Dalton’s 007. Naturally, as the third never happened, everyone has talked about the possibility of what would have been Bond 17 rather extensively. But Edlitz introduced the world to a new hot topic for the ages: writer Richard Smith’s treatment for a film called Reunion With Death.
Flipping back to a more serious tone with tinges of humor (much like The Living Daylights), Reunion of Death would have seen another dramatic entry into Timothy Dalton’s Bond canon. Quips and one-liners would have been scattered in 007’s mission, which would have mostly centered on a trip to Tokyo, looking into the activities of one Yasuhiro Nakasone. An industrialist and the godfather of the Yakuza, Reunion With Death’s villain would also provide one of James Bond’s allies for the film, Nakasone's wife, Michiko.
With the meat of the plot focused on the assassination of M’s friend, Sir Robert Grey, Reunion With Death 's script eventually reveals that not only was Nakasone the one who ordered the hit, but that he was trying to corner the market in computer chips in doing so. Though Bond successfully dispatches his adversary, it comes at a cost, as Michiko Nakasone dies in the third act; causing 007 to grieve for a Bond woman’s death for the first time since On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
How Bond 18’s Unmade Draft Influenced The 007 Franchise
There was quite a bit that the Pierce Brosnan era got out of Reunion With Death, as there’s a steam room fight with a henchman that feels like the successor to Pierce Brosnan and Famke Janssen’s tussle in Goldeneye. And even though On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was invoked in Michiko’s death, this aspect looks like the first pass at the tragic reunion between Bond and Paris Carver (Teri Hatcher) in Tomorrow Never Dies; right down to a surveillance camera outing their connection.
Though going even further into the world of the Bond, The World is Not Enough got some mileage out of Reunion With Death’s plot, as Sir Robert Grey is an easy enough character to change into Sir Robert King, the industrialist assassinated in the film’s opening sequence. Also, a close relationship with M, who was injured and recovering throughout the movie, was something else we’d see. Considering that, as Mark Edlitz points out, this script was being developed to get the 007 franchise back on track after the extensive delay it suffered, it’s not surprising that some of the components would find their way into future Pierce Brosnan adventures.
The Film That Would Have Been Timothy Dalton’s Bond Reboot
If you’re still in the mood to be impressed, wait until you read about one final project that would have had one huge influence on the James Bond series, should it have come to pass: Bond 15. In an older treatment that Mark Edlitz unearthed from writers Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson, Timothy Dalton’s first adventure was almost a period piece that would have started in 1972 and seen him make his way into becoming a 00-agent through the tutelage of M himself. It would have been an origin story in every sense of the word.
Bond 15 would have introduced the world to Lieutenant James Bond as he lives a carefree youth of punching out Austrian diplomats and gambling away what’s left of his family fortune. Bond’s grandfather and aunt are introduced at the Bond family’s ancestral home, with James deciding to take up M’s invitation into her majesty’s secret service after his grandfather’s passing. Learning from his mentor, 00-agent Bart Trevor, we eventually learn that Trevor recruited Bond into a mission to kidnap/kill a warlord known as General Kwang required someone with his skills on a short notice.
Of course, being a wet behind the ears operative, James Bond learns how to become a 00 in Bond 15, and in the end he takes on the number of his now dead mentor. Now operating as 007, M sends Bond on his first mission to Crab Key, in search of a man known as Dr. No. Cue the reset of the James Bond legacy!
How Dalton’s Unmade Reboot Influenced The 007 Franchise
Even as someone who likes to think of themselves as an expert in the James Bond legacy, this prequel treatment that was drafted around 1985 is something that even I couldn’t have dreamed of discovering. The huge influence that Bond 15 clearly had on the franchise was that as early as the end of Roger Moore’s tenure had the James Bond team thinking about the longevity of the franchise. Seeing how 007 turns into one of Her Majesty’s best and brightest was in the cards for some time, and the concept of a rolling timeline would have carried over from the books to the films in this execution.
However, it would take 21 years for Casino Royale to bring that concept to the fans in a gloriously executed fashion. But even in those years leading up to the end of the original continuity of 007 films, you could kind of feel the eyes of the writers and producers on the clock, trying to loosely connect backstory from films like On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in future installments like License To Kill. With No Time To Die supposedly making some bold swings, and closing out the era of Daniel Craig’s rebooted Bond, this is probably the best unmade Timothy Dalton film to be discovered, at a time where continuity is about to become a great topic of franchise discussion.
Obviously, we’ve only really gone through a brief overview of these three films, and how they eventually influenced James Bond history as it unfolded. But one thing that remains clear, even at a surface level observation, is the fact that Timothy Dalton’s tenure as Bond might have been defined by his potential third and fourth films. And even if he’d stuck to just two films, with one of them serving as an origin story for Bond’s career, that decision would have made things very different indeed.
To get a better picture of the Timothy Dalton films we never got, as well as a bunch of obscure and unknown projects that make the 007 legacy even more exciting to behold, I highly recommend you check out The Lost Adventures of James Bond by Mark Edlitz. Not only will you get a better context for the projects I’ve described above, but even the most experienced James Bond die-hards will learn a thing or two from this impressive reference volume.