BBC Radio 4, 21 July 2012
Martin Jarvis' production went back to the Fleming source and situated
the action in the mid-1950s, a time when the Cold War was at its height, and the two sides - East and West - were perpetually
at loggerheads with one another. Rosa Klebb (Eileen Atkins) of the KGB hatches an evil plan designed to lure Bond (Toby Stephens)
into a trap, using beautiful Tatiana Romanova (Olga Fedori) at bait. Rosa is not to be trusted; when Tatiana has outlined
her usefulness, she will be ruthlessly despatched. On the western side, Bond's employers treat him as a pawn in their schemes;
despite his reluctance to do so, he is sent to Istanbul to find out the KBG's purpose. John Standing's 'M' came across as
quiet-voiced yet ruthless in his treatment of his wayward subordinate.
Bond and Tatiana try to negotiate their way through this version of the Great Game;
while sometimes they are successful - especially with the help of the weapons helpfully provided by 'Q' (Julian Sands) - we
got the distinct feeling that they would always be outwitted by forces beyond their control. This was especially evident at
the end, when Bond brought Klebb to justice, yet laid himself open to one last attack from her. He gradually lost consciousness,
the events of the previous few days passing before his eyes; and the drama ended. We were left uncertain as to whether Bond
would survive or not.
This production was very different from the film. Bond was still the debonair hero,
but we were given regular insights into his state of mind through voiceovers. He understood the difficulties of his role as
a secret service employee; how they demanded a combination of iron will and courage, and a consideable amount of luck. There
were none of the witty remarks characteristic of the films in this adaptation: we understood something more about him,
and how he had to suppress his natural attraction towards women in order to do his job.
Like many Jarvis and Ayres productions, From Russia with Love was a
starry affair: additional members of the cast included Tim Pigott-Smith playing Kerim, Bond's Turkish colleague, and
Mark Gatiss as Kronstein. Martin Jarvis was a sardonic Ian Fleming, acting as narrator. I thoroughly enjoyed the production:
quite an unexpected treat.