You Only Live Twice by Ian Fleming

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BBC Radio 7, 7 November 2008

This revival thrived on stereotypes, ranging from Bond himself (Michael Jayston) who was described at one point as a “pommie poofter,” to the Japanese agents Tanaka (Clive Merrison), an Oxford-educated smoothie with a marked inability to pronounce his r’s. The plot is straightforward enough: Bond is sent to Japan and enters the Garden of Death (a neat reversal of the Eden myth) disguised somewhat implausibly as a Japanese yakuza, or hired killer. There he encounters numerous perils, including a meeting with his nemesis Blofeld (Ronald Herdman) before emerging triumphant to bed a local girl. The story reeks of orientalism, ranging from the Japanese people with funny accents to Bond’s overt mimicry as he impersonates a yakuza, confidently believing that no one will recognize him. As with Dr. No, broadcast earlier this year with Toby Stephens in the title role, You Only Live Twice celebrates masculinity – especially the European variety – which outwits all potential adversaries while reducing all females to quivering wrecks. It’s all quite harmless fun on one level; but nonetheless I got the feeling that Jayston’s Bond was not entirely happy with his public persona. If he were, then he would not be so concerned to take listeners into his confidence through asides, as if endeavouring to convince them of his point of view. Maybe that’s what the Bond books are really about: a homosexual author establishes an ideal of masculinity and spends most of his time trying to reinforce it in a vain attempt to distance himself from his fictional alter ego. Yet sometimes saying something too frequently can have the opposite effect. In this version of You Only Live Twice there remains the distinct suspicion that Bond was not quite the clean-cut heterosexual he imagined himself to be. This rollicking production was directed by Gordon House.