One of the most interesting things I’ve been asked to do as an author is create a “bracketologist” graph of James Bond gadgets and whittle my choices down to the Best Bond Gadget of All Time.
My graph was a chapter in The Enlightened Bracketologist: The Final Four of Everything (ed., Mark Reiter, Bloomsbury, 2007), and I co-authored it with Robert Weinberg, with whom I wrote The Science of James Bond (Wiley, 2006).
Here for the first time is the manuscript I wrote before creating the final graph. Do you agree with my choices and how I whittled everything down to the Best Bond Gadget of All Time? I suspect that many of you have your own favorites. After all, it’s a subjective matter whether you prefer an invisible car to an invisible stealth boat.
James Bond is defined by girls, martinis, guns, cars, and toys that are outlandish and, therefore, Bondish. Some are more Bondish than others, meaning they’re more clever, high-tech, outrageous, yet still realistic. In making our choices, coolness was a factor, too. Of course, if coolness was the sole criterion and we didn’t have to concern ourselves with gadgets not being people and people not being gadgets, then Sean Connery would be the ultimate Bond gadget of all.
Below is a snapshot of my original Bond Gadgets Spreadsheet. Beneath the snapshot is the rest of the manuscript describing how I made the choices.
First, I came up with my top 32 gadgets for the first round of what would become the “bracket” in the book. I then eliminated half of the first round’s gadgets to yield 16 winners for the second round. As you might have guessed, I then eliminated half of the second round’s gadgets to yield eight winners for the third round, then four for the fourth round, two for the fifth round, and finally–tra la!–I had my winner, the final Champion.
Call-outs 1st round 1961 Sunbeam Alpine light-blue convertible (Dr. No, 1963) vs. Martini.
A choice between Bond’s first car and first drink. Bond’s cars were always important. But the light-blue convertible appeared only in Dr. No, whereas the Martini stayed forever. Debate over shaken not stirred will never be settled. But James would never bruise the gin.
2nd round, Gobbling spaceship (You Only Life Twice, 1967) vs. Moonraker space station (Moonraker, 1979).
A matchup in outer space. The space station is “radar invisible” until Bond turns off the radar-jamming system, at which point a battle ensues between Marines and the bad guy Drax and the station catches fire. The gobbling spaceship is equally outrageous but watching it “eat” the Jupiter 16 ship is unforgettable.
2nd round, Russian Lektor message decoder (From Russia with Love, 1963) vs. U.S. Clipper Chip (GoldenEye, 1995).
Both encryption methods are based on real techniques, the Lektor probably on the Enigma cipher device, in which agents fed data in one end and decoded messages came out the other end on a paper roll. The U.S. Clipper Chip is still very cutting edge for a Bond film. Never mind that Bond’s villain instantly cracks the Clipper Code, most likely untangling the Skipjack algorithm. In 1998, the NIST needed 22 pages of math to describe Skipjack.
3rd round, Lotus car-submarine (The Spy Who Loved Me, 1977) vs. Hydrofoil boat (Thunderball, 1965).
The hydrofoil boat in Thunderball actually is nothing new, simply blending aero- and hydrodyamics. The Lotus car-submarine dives beneath the ocean, with four rear sprayers behind the license that fires cement at pursuers. In the water, it can discharge floating mines, underwater color smoke screens, torpedoes, even surface-to-air missiles. Very cool.
4rth round, Lotus car-submarine (The Spy Who Loved Me, 1977) vs. Jaws (The Spy Who Loved Me, 1977 and Moonraker, 1979).
The cool car-submarine versus Jaws. Dare we send two cars to the Finals? Tough choice, but it’s hard to turn thumbs down on a biting machine that treats industrial cable as dental floss. It has to be Jaws.
5th round, Aston Martin DB5 car (Goldfinger, 1964) vs. Jaws (The Spy Who Loved Me, 1977 and Moonraker, 1979.
Played by actor Richard Kiel, Jaws is a 7-foot assassin standing possessing incredible physical strength and titanium-steel teeth, capable of ripping out human throats and biting through the cable supporting a cable car above Rio de Janeiro. But in Bond, cars rule. Q updates Bond’s DB5 with machine guns hidden behind the parking lights, smoke canisters fired from the exhaust, a sliding steel plate in the rear to repel bullets, and tire cutters extending from the hubcaps. It also has GPS, and reappeared in Thunderball. The DB5 was the first truly over-the-top Bond car that did it all.
LOIS GRESH is the New York Times Best-Selling Author (6 times), Publishers Weekly Best-Selling Paperback Author, and Publishers Weekly Best-Selling Paperback Children’s Author of 27 books and 45 short stories. Her books have been published in approximately 20 languages. Current books are TERROR BY NUMBERS: A WALL STREET THRILLER (May 2012), dark short story collection ELDRITCH EVOLUTIONS (2011), and THE HUNGER GAMES COMPANION (Nov 2011). She’s also the editor of anthology DARK FUSIONS: WHERE MONSTERS LURK (2013). Lois has received Bram Stoker Award, Nebula Award, Theodore Sturgeon Award, and International Horror Guild Award nominations for her work.