Completing a PhD by Published Works

Bethan Jones, University of York

4 March 2022


In June 2021 I sat my viva. Not unusual for a PhD student, I hear you say. You’re right. But my PhD was done via published works and in the research I did to prepare for the viva I didn’t find much about this route.

A PhD by published works (https://www.postgrad.com/advice/phd/phd_by_publication/) isn’t a particularly common route in the UK, though the availability does seem to be growing. As the name suggests, it’s an option which allows you to submit a thesis comprising of a series of publications on a common theme (books, book chapters or journal articles) which when put together fulfil the requirements of a PhD – original work making a significant contribution to the field and demonstrating a rigorous approach.

I started my PhD journey via the standard thesis routes but for a variety of reasons ended up withdrawing and subsequently applying for a PhD by Published Works at Cardiff University  (https://www.cardiff.ac.uk/study/postgraduate/research/types-of-degree/phd). Because this isn’t generally offered to students beginning a PhD there were some specific requirements. These will vary from institution to institution but at Cardiff you have to have:

  • graduated from Cardiff University six or more years ago, or
  • been a member of staff for six years, or
  • been the holder of an honorary title from Cardiff University for six years

I received my MA from Cardiff in 2010 and was applying for the PhD by Published Works in 2019 so that checked the first box. I’d also published extensively on anti-fandom and had enough to demonstrate a coherent research direction. My submission was reviewed by an internal panel who approved my application for a February 2020 start. All I needed to do was produce a 5,000 – 10,000 word critical commentary evaluating the field (fan studies in my case) and indicating the original contribution to learning I’d made and submit within 12 months.

Then Covid happened.

Did I mention I was working full time in government communications? Cardiff granted extensions to all PhD students which meant that despite the pandemic I was able to submit in April 2021 and passed the viva in June. I was the first person who’d done a PhD by Published Work in Cardiff for some time, and while I was writing the critical commentary and preparing for the viva I found very few resources for completing this route (Agata Frymus’ IAMHIST blog – http://iamhist.net/2018/06/prepare-viva-8-tips/ – on viva preparation was really useful though!). So here’s what I did and how I did in, in the hopes it might help others undertaking this route.

Writing the Critical Commentary

The critical commentary that I had to produce needed to evaluate the field and indicate the original contribution to learning I’d made. What I did first was arrange a meeting with my supervisors to talk about what I felt the key themes were and how I was thinking of approaching the commentary, and then discussing what they thought the key themes were and how they suggested approaching it. The key things to keep in the back of my mind throughout the writing were originality, significance and rigour. I also had to not be too modest (this is underlined and followed by an exclamation mark in my notes).

We talked about pulling out themes and talking across them, as well as making nods to omission and things I didn’t have the time to do. I had thought about writing the commentary chronologically, but given the often arduous process of academic publishing (one of the chapters I wrote in 2013 was published in 2019) that didn’t really make sense. So I read through each of my articles, noted where there was overlap between the things I was discussing and ended up with four categories (textual anti-fandom and beyond; power structures and hierarchies; intra- and extra- fandom relationships; and ambivalence and unticipation for those who are interested). Each category discussed two of the chapters, and I also included a methodology section which discussed a journal paper I wrote about the ethics of researching anti-fans. My commentary ended up looking like this: introduction; methodology; discussion of submitted papers; absences and future work; conclusion; bibliography.

Introduction

I wrote a paragraph introducing myself and my entry into fan studies as well as the things that led me to researching anti-fandom. From there I went straight into a mini lit review of the scholarship on anti-fandom, the different waves of fan studies as defined by Gray, Sandvoss and Lee Harrington (2007) and where my work intersects and builds upon this. I outlined three key areas which my work has focused on and pointed out where I had expanded previous work, including references to articles and chapters that I’d written as well as work by other scholars. I briefly outlined the later sections of the commentary, again pointing out where my key contributions were.

Methodology

Fan studies borrows a lot of theoretical and methodological approaches from other disciplines and the ethics of research fans has long been a debate in the field. I felt it was important to engage with this not only to show the approaches I’d used across my work and my understanding of different methodologies, but to highlight the contribution I’d made in writing the first article of the ethics of researching anti-fans. A recent special issue of Transformative Works and Cultures (https://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/issue/view/59) discussed methodologies so I was able to cite that, as well as older work to demonstrate my depth of knowledge. I also brought these back to other papers I’d written, pointing out the methods I’d used in papers that I would be discussing in later sections. This section also allowed me to demonstrate rigour in terms of number of survey participants, how I approached public tweets, etc.

Paper discussions

Although the paper discussions were divided into four sections each followed a similar pattern. I first gave a brief overview of a key text that had influenced my thinking (e.g. Gray’s 2003 article on anti-fandom), explained why that was important or how I was using it, and then talked about how I expanded on that text in the articles discussed. I highlighted where my original contribution was (there was a LOT of this throughout the commentary) and included pertinent quotes from my papers. I ended each subsection with a short summary of where the papers expanded current thinking and signposted to the next one.

I referred to existing literature throughout this section to demonstrate my understanding of work in the field and to situate my scholarship amongst it. It felt like a lot of blowing my own trumpet, and the consistent feedback from my supervisors was to talk more about my original contribution, to show what I’d done was significant. That was probably one of the hardest things to do but it made me think critically about the work and ultimately helped with the viva.

Absences and future work

I was keen to point of where there were weaknesses in my research and what I was thinking about doing next. 10,000 words isn’t a huge amount to play with, but with current discussions in the field about race and racism I felt it was important for me to address that lack in my work. I also wanted to point out where fan studies as a field was growing and how I was engaging with that, so I talked about a paper I had recently presented and a book chapter I’m writing that engage with the current climate. You’ve always got to show the significance of your work!

Conclusion

The conclusion was essentially a recap of what I’d been saying throughout the commentary: my work has developed as the field has developed and I’ve been able to influence that through the publications I discussed. I also touched on work I’d done elsewhere that I hadn’t included in the commentary, and lectures I’ve been asked to give. This was really the final place where I could underscore how my work has been significant and where my contribution to the field is original.

Preparing for, and Undertaking, the Viva

I submitted the PhD in April and had a few weeks off before thinking about the viva. That time was important not only to switch my brain off but because I’d become sick of reading and rereading my work! When I got the date for the viva I turned to Google to see how others had done their viva preparation. There wasn’t much on the PhD by published works route, so I turned to Reddit and was told it would be very similar to a regular viva except I’ve already got the benefit of having the work peer reviewed and published. The focus would be on showing I did the work and understand it. That was pretty reassuring so I returned to Google, read various blogs and articles about viva questions and jotted down some of the ones I thought I’d struggle with. This blog was particularly helpful with those: http://www.open.ac.uk/blogs/ResearchEssentials/?p=156. After that I began reading through the publications I was including and making notes as to their key arguments and findings; the methodology and scholarship used; and their strengths and weaknesses (thanks to Agata’s blog piece).

I’d fairly recently read the work for the commentary so each article was pretty clear in my mind. This time though I read the articles on my laptop and made notes and highlighted sections I thought would be useful for answering questions. At the same time had a notebook next to me where I noted really top-line details using the headings Agata outlined in her blog. Once I’d done that I wrote  down the theories used across all articles, the originality of the work as a whole, and its strengths and weaknesses.

That done, I arranged a mock viva with one of my supervisors. As much as I hate doing things like mock interviews it was really useful. My supervisor treated it as a real viva and covered questions from the methods I chose to use to what was significant about particular articles to what had gone wrong and what would I do differently. Some of the questions I could answer easily, others I had to really think about, but it gave me the chance to think through my work and articulate the things that were really important.

The weekend before the viva I read over my notes, then went to visit friends for a birthday party. I had thought about staying home and revising some more, but a lot of the blogs I’d read suggested that would only stress me out and wouldn’t do much good (remember, at this stage you know your work inside out). So I went and had a lovely time, and I’m really glad I did. The day before the viva I put my back out so spent most of that day on painkillers and not doing much reading either. 0/10, would not recommend.

The day of the viva I read through my notes a bit and, I think, played games on my phone. The viva was via Zoom so I made myself a cup of tea and put two bottles of water and some sweets by my computer. I had my submission up on one computer with the other ready to log into the meeting, and I had the notebook I’d been using to prepare with me as well. I took some painkillers because I still couldn’t move without being in pain and also hoped that my cat wouldn’t come in and start meowing at me (I love him, but the number of meetings he interrupts…)

Yes, that is the mug I used…

I logged in at half three, met my examiners and the chair, then logged out until their pre-brief was done and they were ready for me. I’m not going to lie, I was as nervous as I’ve ever been! At this point everyone had been telling me I had nothing to worry about, but with a PhD by Published Works you don’t have the option of different types of corrections – the work is already published so you’re looking at a pass or fail. The first question I got asked – what’s significant about your research – totally threw me even though I’d been preparing for it and it’s one of the most common opening questions. I bumbled through somehow and as the viva went on it did become easier. I got asked about the duty of care we have to research participants (even if we completely disagree with their actions or the views they’re expressing) as well as ourselves as researchers, and the difficulty of undertaking surveys rather than face to face interviews. I got asked to expand upon something I’d mentioned in the commentary but hadn’t talked in detail about; I got a really interesting question after talking about Fifty Shades of Grey about whether you can be an anti-fan of domestic violence and if not, why not. By the time we’d been going for an hour I was really enjoying it. The chair asked if we wanted a break, my examiners said they were done and I got asked to leave while they deliberated. Deliberations took about five minutes but it felt much longer. I got told I’d passed, had a bit of a joke about how normally they’d ask what my publishing plans were but that kind of didn’t apply in this case, and one of my examiners suggested expanding upon one of the things I’d talked about and submitting it to a journal. Then it was over. I rang my family, texted my friends and celebrated with cake.


Dr Bethan Jones is a Research Associate in the Department of Theatre, Film, Television and Interactive Media at the University of York. Her work primarily focuses on gender, anti-fandom, and popular culture and she has been published in SexualitiesIntensities, and Transformative Works and Cultures, among others. She is coeditor of Crowdfunding the Future: Media Industries, Ethics and Digital Society published by Peter Lang and is a founding board member of the Fan Studies Network.


Disclaimer: The IAMHIST Blog is a platform that offers individual scholars the opportunity to present their work and thoughts. They alone are responsible for the content, which does not represent the view of the IAMHIST council or other IAMHIST members.

New Book from Jerry Kuehl: Help Wanted!

Sebastian Cody, Open Media

26 October 2021


Jerome Kuehl – a dedicated member of IAMHIST Council for many years, known to all as Jerry – was my business partner, serving as a director of our production company Open Media from 1986 until he died in 2018. With the support of his estate I am now compiling a book of his writings, published and unpublished, for scholars of film and television as well as historians and a wider public. This is by way of an interim report on the project.

Jerry, probably best known to IAMHIST as a specialist in archive film, trained both as a historian and a philosopher. He was a serious scholar with the great gift of a light touch, both on and off the page. So very intelligent, steely and forensic, so acutely critical – yet also so funny. When necessary he could be severe and uncompromising, such as when confronting bogus people or bad ideas, or fighting for what he believed in (as when he campaigned against those at Channel 4 who chose to abandon our After Dark live discussion series). His writing – rooted in an almost supernatural ability to recall details of what he came to call visual history – has clarity and academic rigour, and is somehow also both amusing and elegantly brutal. His body of work stands as a remarkable testament to a lifetime’s dedication to the highest standards and deserves to be better known.

Jerry on the After Dark set before a show with host Gaia Servadio

Originally from the US Jerry studied at the Sorbonne and then came to Oxford as a post-graduate at St Anthony’s, where he met many of his subsequent friends. Jeremy Isaacs was an undergraduate at the time, as were Bernard Donoghue and Melvyn Bragg (Jerry appears in one of Melvyn’s novels). Jerry studied under Sir Isaiah Berlin and travelled around Europe with John Searle.

After teaching history at both Oxford and Stanford Jerry joined the BBC as a historical adviser, to help launch BBC2 with its landmark documentary series The Great War. A forty-year television career followed. He made significant contributions to programmes – primarily about history and politics – in Britain and the US, from Jeremy Isaacs’ The World At War (still, I believe, the most commercially successful non-fiction series of all time); to Destination America; Auschwitz: The Final Solution;  Vietnam: A Television History; The Spanish Civil War; Today’s History; The French Revolution; and Cold War.

His work set new standards for accuracy and authenticity in the use of film archives (indeed the Financial Times gave him the title “Officer Commanding Archive Integrity”). He often fought with historians, believing the academy should accord visual material the same value as other historical documents, while at the same time challenging his own colleagues when sloppy in their use of archive footage and thus, as he understood, perpetuating errors into the future. He wanted to prevent nonsense from becoming orthodoxy. For this he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by FOCAL International, the Federation of Commercial Audiovisual Libraries, in 2004.

In parallel Jerry maintained a steady publication output. The earliest pieces I have found are from the 1950s (they are about what was then East Germany); the last was published posthumously in the Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television. He was a frequent contributor to historical and media publications, including Sight and Sound; Cineaste; the Journal of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts; Broadcast; Spectrum; Focal International (which became Archive Zones); Film and Television Technician; Viewfinder; The Consultant, the Journal of the Association of Moving Image Archivists, as well as the TLS; The Journal of War and Culture Studies; The International History Review and International Affairs.

He lectured all over the world, including at the Royal United Services Institute; the Imperial War Museum; the National Film and Television Archives; the Royal Military College, Sandhurst; the National Archives, Washington D.C; and in France, Canada and at several US universities as well the universities of LSE, Warwick, Manchester and Oxford in the UK.

Jerry and the Office Cat © Vincent Yorke

In the 21st century he became internationally known for fathering The Office Cat, a widely available column (including for a time in the Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television and later the IAMHIST Blog) that pointed out the abuse of archive film by television producers, as seen by a proud but incompetent film researcher. As Jerry explained, unlike human film researchers the Office Cat can find any film whether or not it exists. Thus the Cat could – and did – find ‘film’ of Adolf Hitler marrying Eva Braun in the Führerbunker; of the Wright Brothers’ first flight in 1903; and of the iceberg which sank the Titanic. Producers and Directors demand such images, and film researchers, often with a heavy heart, try to provide them.”

 

Juliet Gardiner summed up his life’s work in History Today:

“Jerry stuck firmly to his creed of popularisation without vulgarisation. His mission (was) to make scholarly history accessible”.

The proposed volume of his selected writings – drawn from 60 years of occasional articles, book chapters, reviews, The Office Cat and so on – falls into three parts. The first is a short book (unfinished but self-contained and most interesting) called Looking At History, to be published for the first time. Next comes a selection of his previously anthologised work that is currently out of print (for example his devastating attack on docudrama from the 1990s called, unambiguously, Lies About Real People). Finally, a significant section of important pieces which appeared once in obscure places but, though hard to access at present, retain their salience.

The collection will range across (at least) his 1960s fight with academic historians about visual history; his 1970s assault on docudrama; his significant contributions to the historiography of The World At War; his fight for nitrate film; and his Torquemada-like pursuit of scholarly precision in the use of archive film, not forgetting The Office Cat and Kuehl’s Reels.

Over the years his work has grown more, rather than less, relevant. My hope is that this book will appeal, not only to the general enthusiast for film and history, but to scholars, to those who write curriculum, and to students, specifically in three publishing markets: the niche areas of archival studies, film preservation etc; the larger areas of film/tv/documentary/media/production studies; and finally, those historians who work on the 20th century and seek to take visual history seriously.

Although I have already collected a number of pieces – as well as seven chapters of his book manuscript – there may well be more waiting to be found. If any IAMHIST members have some gems of Jerry’s writing tucked away, please get in touch as soon as possible. I am also looking for collaborators to help prepare this volume for publication.


Sebastian Cody is a senior media executive. A pioneer independent producer in the formative years of Channel 4 he has been responsible for many British network television programmes including the celebrated discussion series After Dark. In 2010 his company Open Media launched an online social history of Britain, InView, alongside the BFI, BBC, The National Archive and others. Recently he has been Associate Producer of documentaries for HBO and the BBC. He has written for many newspapers including The Times and The Guardian and acts as a consultant for companies and NGO’s, such as Universal Music/Decca and IIASA, the international science research organisation where he advised four successive Directors General over the last fifteen years.

From 2001 to 2019 Sebastian Cody was a Visitor at the University of Oxford, variously at the Environmental Change Institute at the Oxford University Centre for the Environment and the Rothermere American Institute. He was elected a Senior Associate Member of St Antony’s College Oxford in 2004. In 2019 he became Visiting Researcher at the Communication and Media Research Institute at the University of Westminster where his research interests include public service media and transnational cultural diplomacy.

Please contact Sebastian in relation to this project at: s.cody@westminster.ac.uk


Disclaimer: The IAMHIST Blog is a platform that offers individual scholars the opportunity to present their work and thoughts. They alone are responsible for the content, which does not represent the view of the IAMHIST council or other IAMHIST members.

No Time to Say Goodbye to Bond

Daniel Craig’s last film as James Bond sees him go out with a bang rather than a whimper. But it’s a rare thing for a Bond star to leave on their own terms, argues James Chapman, University of Leicester.

5 October 2021


The much-anticipated, and much-delayed, release of No Time to Die, the 25th entry in the Eon Productions series chronicling the adventures of Ian Fleming’s apparently ageless secret agent hero, James Bond, closes the ‘era’ of Daniel Craig’s James Bond, which began on 15 October 2005 with that now-notorious press conference beside the River Thames in which Craig, entering via a Royal Navy RIB, was widely if unfairly mocked for wearing a life-jacket. Five films and over US $3 billion at the box office later, and no-one is mocking Craig now. The man who was deemed by some fans ‘too short’ and ‘too blonde’ for Bond has indelibly put his stamp on the role of Britain’s most famous super-spy.

It’s been public knowledge for some time that No Time To Die – delayed first by the departure of original director Danny Boyle and then by successive postponements due to the closure of cinemas during the global Coronavirus pandemic – would be Craig’s last Bond adventure. His place in the history of cinematic Bond is assured. But how does his exit compare to other last films by his predecessors who also carried Bond’s ‘licence to kill’?

It turns out that, rather like politicians and sports stars, Bond actors have rarely had the chance to choose the timing and nature of their exit from the stage.

Never say ‘never’ to Bond

Sean Connery was the first cinematic Bond, beginning with Dr No (1962), and remains the yardstick against which all new Bonds are judged. Connery was also unique in having no fewer than three ‘last’ Bond pictures. He first announced his retirement from Her Majesty’s Secret Service during the shooting of You Only Live Twice (1967) in Japan, where he tired of the constant press intrusion. For those who don’t know their SMERSH from their SPECTRE, You Only Live Twice is the one where the villain’s lair is inside a hollowed-out volcano and mod cons include a pool of man-eating piranhas. Some critics have suggested that Connery looks bored in You Only Live Twice: he certainly looks uneasy during his unconvincing disguise as a Japanese fisherman.

Connery was always going to be a hard act to follow. Australian model-turned-actor George Lazenby, who starred in On Her Majesty’s Service (1969), lasted for just the one film. Although it was less successful at the box office than previous Bonds, this was probably due as much to the film’s downbeat ending (Bond’s wife Tracy is shot dead before their honeymoon) as to the inexperienced Lazenby, who was excellent in the action sequences and not at all bad in the dramatic moments. But Lazenby felt that Bond was ‘Connery’s gig’ and left of his own accord. OHMSS is now regarded as one of the best Bond films within the fan culture, an early hint of the greater emotional and psychological depth of the Craig films.

The distributor United Artists drew the conclusion that Connery was irreplaceable and lured him back for Diamonds Are Forever (1971) with a bumper salary and an offer to make two other films of his choice. For non-enthusiasts, Diamonds Are Forever is the one where Bond nearly gets cremated, drives a moon buggy across the Nevada desert and gets knocked around by two athletic women called Bambi and Thumper. It would fair to say that Diamonds Are Forever is a mess: the plot doesn’t make much sense (even by the standards of the James Bond films) and the tone is uneven (the death of Plenty O’Toole is particularly nasty in a film that otherwise adopts a tone of high camp). But Connery, purring his way through the film with the self-satisfied smirk of a man earning over $1 million and a percentage of the box office, was clearly enjoying himself more than in Twice.

Connery intended that Diamonds would definitively be his last Bond appearance, telling the press ‘never again’. Like Steve Redgrave after the 1996 Olympics, however, he came back one more time in the ironically-entitled Never Say Never Again (1983). This was a ‘remake’ of Thunderball produced outside the Eon Productions series by Kevin McClory. [i] It’s neither the best nor the worst of the Bond pictures, but Connery’s swansong doesn’t match up to sixties classics such as From Russia With Love (1963) and Goldfinger (1964).

More – much more – Roger Moore!

The king of eyebrow acting, Roger Moore starred as Bond in seven films, from Live and Let Die (1973) to A View To a Kill (1985). Three years older than Connery, Moore was 45 when he first uttered the line ‘Bond – James Bond’. Initially signed to a three-picture contract, there was always a sense that Moore was making his last Bond film. The opening scene of For Your Eyes Only (1981) was clearly written to introduce a new actor by linking to Bond’s past, and it’s known that James Brolin screen tested for Octopussy (1983), but in the end the terms were always agreed for ‘one more’ film. Prior to A View To a Kill, however, Moore and Bond producer Cubby Broccoli agreed that this would be his last.

A View To a Kill is undoubtedly one of the weaker Bonds and the consensus is that it was a mission too far for the 57-year-old Moore whose role by now had become akin to a high-salaried stand-in for the teams of stunt performers. Moore’s swansong is saddled with an annoying heroine – the late Tanya Roberts is even less convincing as a geologist than Denise Richards’s nuclear scientist in The World Is Not Enough – and a poorly structured script that cheats the audience out of the promised showdown between Bond and Grace Jones’s larger-than-life villainess May Day. It’s also the one where Bond escapes Russian pursuers by snowboarding to the strains of ‘Surfing USA’ and reveals his hitherto unknown culinary prowess to demonstrate that real agents do eat quiche. A lukewarm critical reception confirmed that it was time for a change. [ii]

From Dalton to Brosnan

Timothy Dalton – for many Fleming purists the closest to the author’s characterisation of Bond – made only two pictures before a dispute between Eon and distributor MGM/United Artists led to a long hiatus in the early 1990s. The Living Daylights (1987), the 25th anniversary Bond picture, was seen at the time as breathing new life into an old warhorse of a series that had started to look stale, and the classically-trained Dalton was praised for bring fresh vitality and a degree of grittiness to the role. These attributes were highlighted even more prominently in his second outing Licence To Kill (1989). This film deliberately did away with the criminal megalomaniacs and other sensational plot devices of other 007 adventures: Bond is pitted against a ‘real world’ villain in the form of drugs baron Franz Sanchez (a brilliant Robert Davi), though the stunts and action set pieces are as impressive as ever. The harder-edged violence of Licence To Kill earned a more restrictive ‘15’ certificate in the UK which made it off-limits for the traditional family audience of the Bond pictures. It divided critics and underperformed at the US box office, but, like OHMSS, has since received sympathetic reappraisal. Licence To Kill was ahead of its time: the first Daniel Craig Bond film – just without Daniel Craig. It should not have been Dalton’s last.

Dalton had been cast as Bond only when Pierce Brosnan, the original choice for The Living Daylights, became unavailable due to his commitment to the television series Remington Steele. Brosnan’s turn came when Dalton and the producers decided by mutual consent that there had been too long a hiatus between Licence To Kill and GoldenEye (1995). Brosnan pitched his Bond somewhere between the light comedy style of Roger Moore and the seriousness of Timothy Dalton. It was evidently a popular interpretation, as each of Brosnan’s four Bond films took more at the box office than its predecessor. However, like Dalton, the circumstances of his leaving the series were not of his own choosing. His last, Die Another Day (2002), was a mixed bag, never quite able to resolve the internal tension between realism (Bond’s capture and torture ordeal in a North Korean prison) and outright fantasy (this is the one with the Ice Palace and the invisible Aston Martin). For all its popular success, producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson resolved that they wanted once again to pursue a grittier style.

The end of an era

Casino Royale (2006) – the first film since the 1960s to use significant amounts of the original novel – marked a new direction for Bond: tougher and more psychologically plausible, even if the action sequences remained as improbable as ever. It met with near-universal critical acclaim. Quantum of Solace (2008) was a mess, its production disrupted by a writers’ strike, but Skyfall (2012) took Bond to new box-office heights, becoming the highest-grossing film in the series to date (unadjusted for inflation), and Spectre (2015) consolidated that success as the second highest-grossing.

The Daniel Craig films differ from previous eras of Bond: there’s a greater emotional depth (albeit within the parameters of what are still big action movies: Bond is no exercise in Ken Loach-style realism) and a continuing narrative arc that links the films. Quantum of Solace was a direct follow-up to Casino Royale and No Time To Die is a sequel to Spectre, with returning characters Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) and Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) – the latter in a Hannibal Lecter-style cameo – as well as the now-familiar ‘Scooby Gang’ of ‘M’ (Ralph Fiennes), Moneypenny (Naomi Harris), ‘Q’ (Ben Wishaw) and Tanner (Rory Kinnear).

Personally I was left rather underwhelmed by No Time to Die: perhaps this time the hype and expectation were too much, especially after the repeated delays to its release. There’s a lot in the film to like, including some nice visual nods to Bond films past and the inclusion of material from Fleming, especially the references to the novel of You Only Live Twice. I liked the character of Paloma (Ana de Armas), though she features rather too briefly, and the banter between the retired Bond and new ‘007’ Nomi (Lashana Lynch) as their relationship develops from initial rivalry to mutual respect. But I felt that the desire to tie up all the left-over plot elements of Craig’s previous films meant the film was too overcrowded. And I never really understood *why* (as opposed to how) the villain Safin (an under-used Rami Malek) wants to wipe out half the human race. Even a Bond megalomaniac needs some sort of warped, perverse logic for the chaos they seek to create.

The Daniel Craig Bond films have succeeded in bringing a new level of critical respectability to a nearly 60-year old film franchise. That deserves to be acknowledged as a major achievement. And Craig got to choose the moment and the manner of his swansong. The end credits of No Time To Die promise (as ever) that ‘James Bond Will Return’. Whoever is the next 007 will have a hard act to follow.

Figures of all six James Bonds, Madame Tussauds, 2021.


[i] Strictly speaking, Never Say Never Again was ‘based on a screen story by Kevin McClory, Jack Whittingham and Ian Fleming’ rather than being an actual remake of Thunderball. It’s a moot distinction, but matters to the lawyers.

[ii]  Moore later took umbrage at comments in Cubby Broccoli’s autobiography When the Snow Melts (Boxtree, 1998) that he didn’t want to relinquish the role. It may be that Broccoli’s collaborator Donald Zec added the comment to spice up the book.


James Chapman is Professor of Film Studies at the University of Leicester and author of Licence To Kill: A Cultural History of the James Bond Films (I. B. Tauris, 2nd edn 2007). He is currently writing a stand-alone study of the first Bond film, Dr No, to be published by Columbia University Press in October 2022.


Disclaimer: The IAMHIST Blog is a platform that offers individual scholars the opportunity to present their work and thoughts. They alone are responsible for the content, which does not represent the view of the IAMHIST council or other IAMHIST members.

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