The Spy Command marks its 10th anniversary

Today marks the 10th anniversary of The Spy Command.

It has been a long journey. Initially, the blog was a spinoff of a website (Her Majesty’s Secret Servant) that’s no longer online.

It took a few months for the blog to find its own voice, its own point of view.

Yet it did. The blog’s main reason for being has been to apply some journalistic principles to a fan endeavor.

The blog is a hobby. But it also keeps track of what has been said and revisits whether that’s occurred.

Some James Bond fans don’t like that. They want to celebrate all things 007. If there have been inconsistencies, they don’t care.

That’s fine. There are plenty of sites on the internet.

But here, the basic idea is to keep track of what is happening now while providing context of how it compares with the past.

One example: What really happened with the script of Quantum of Solace? which examined various contradictory accounts of how the 22nd James Bond film came together.

In hindsight, a better title would have been “Whatever happened to Joshua Zetumer?”

Zetumer was the scribe who was doing rewrites during filming. His contributions were noted in stories published while the movie was in production. Examples include a story on the Rotten Tomatoes website as well as pieces on the MI6 James Bond website and the Commander Bond website.

However, Zetumer’s is a forgotten man these days. That’s because of  later stories quoting Daniel Craig how he and Quantum director Marc Forster rewrote the movie during production. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend, I suppose.

Another example: A 2015 post, A SPECTRE reality check, noted how, in 2012, Eon said the SPECTRE organization was passe and that Quantum was much better than SPECTRE in the 21st century. All that changed, of course, once the rights to SPECTRE were secured from the Kevin McClory estate in 2013.

Finally, more recently, the blog documented (so far) the writing process of Bond 25 complete with various contradictions.

Paul Baack (1957-2017) and the Spy Commander in 2013.

Origins

The blog was the idea of Paul Baack (1957-2017), one of the co-founders of Her Majesty’s Secret Servant. He wanted HMSS to have a presence in between issues of the “e-magazine,” which specialized in producing magazine-length stories on James Bond and related topics.

Paul informed HMSS contributors about the blog and said it was all of theirs.

I was the one who took him up on it.

Initially, I was skeptical. But, after a few posts, I got hooked. It was an outlet that quickly became one of my main hobbies.

Over time, I took it over. By 2009, I was the primary contributor. By 2011, the blog established its own voice separate from HMSS. By 2014, the blog was totally on its own after HMSS went offline. On Feb. 8, 2015, the blog took the new name, The Spy Command.

So much different. Yet so much the same.

Since its debut, there have been three James Bond films released (Quantum of Solace, Skyfall and SPECTRE); three Tom Cruise Mission: Impossible films; and a movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (which I long thought would never happen).

Blog Highlights

The blog tries on occasion to get into the business side of the entertainment industry. One of my personal favorite series of posts was a three-part series about the involvement of Film Finances Inc. with Dr. No.

Film Finances supplies “completion” bonds to ensure movies can finish production. The company ended up taking control of Dr. No during post production.

It’s an episode that hasn’t been written much outside of a book Film Finances published about its work with Dr. No, which reproduced many documents. One example was a memo showing Dr. No fell a half-day behind schedule on its first day.

Photocopy of the title page of Richard Maibaum’s 1961 draft of Thunderball

Some other personal favorite posts include those about scripts for Bond movies. In some cases, like this 2015 post about You Only Live Twice, dealt with drafts similar to the final film with a few significant differences. Others, like this 2017 post about a Bond 17 treatment dealt with stories that never saw the light of day.

Perhaps the most enjoyable was an examination of three Thunderball scripts, including Jack Whittingham’s first draft in 1960 and Richard Maibaum’s first try in 1961.

On this 10th anniversary, my thoughts keep going back to Paul Baack, who died last year. Last month was what would have been his 61st birthday. He gave me the chance to contribute. After I had taken over, he always provided encouragement.

If there is an after life, I hope Paul is pleased with the result.

I’d also like to thank, one more time, J. Kingston Pierce’s Rap Sheet blog. The Rap Sheet had some kind words in 2009 about a series this blog did about Goldfinger’s 45th anniversary. That, and other feedback, indicated there was interest in what this blog was doing.

Finally, two replies to posts were particularly satisfying.

In 2013, the blog had a post about how the current Hawaii Five-0 series was remaking an episode of the original series titled Hookman. The post noted how a CBS press release left off the names of the original writers, Glen Olson and Rod Baker. The post raised the question whether they’d get a credit.

Baker wrote a reply. “Thank you for pointing out that Glen Olson’s name and my name were left out of the CBS press release as the writers of the original Hawaii Five-0 ‘Hookman’ episode.. The Writer’s Guild contacted CBS today and that omission was corrected immediately.”

In July, the blog wrote about Adrian Samish, who had been an ABC executive and later one of producer Quinn Martin’s key lieutenants. It’s part of a series dubbed “unsung figures of television.”

The post got this reply: “There are two sides to every story… I am Adrian Samish’s granddaughter and it’s been nice to read some kinder comments about him, especially since he isn’t here to defend himself or tell his side of the story. Thank you for writing this.”

Well, enough sentiment. Bond 25 and other spy entertainment topics are present to be analyzed and written about.

Hawaii Five-0 presents a hyper remake of original pilot

A still from the Cocoon remake.

Hawaii Five-0 began its ninth season with a remake of the original show’s pilot.  While it was pretty close to the 1968 TV movie in places, the 2018 version was more hyper.

Part of it couldn’t be helped. The original (written by Leonard Freeman and directed by Paul Wendkos) has more time to work with. It filled a two-hour time slot. In those days you got around 50 minutes of show after excluding commercials.

The 2018 version filled a single-hour time slot, and these days you get 40 to 43 minutes or so without the commercials.

The remake also gives McGarrett 2.0 (Alex O’Loughlin) more of a personal motive. (Of course.)

In the original, McGarrett was a friend of Hennessy, a U.S. intelligence operative (he wasn’t identified as working for the CIA) who turns up dead. It turns out he was one of several agents who had mysteriously died. In the remake, McGarrett had known all of the dead men.

With the remake, McGarrett puts things together really, really quickly. Still, the show faithfully recreates the sensory deprivation tank torture of the 1968 pilot. In that TV movie, the pilot was supervised by Wo Fat.

The Wo Fat of the current show was killed off back in 2014. Nevertheless, Wo Fat 2.0 (Mark Dacascos) makes an appearance in the form of a hallucination while McGarrett is being tortured. There’s a new villain, part of a “rogue” faction of Chinese intelligence. He happens to have a shaved head like the original Wo Fat (Khigh Dhiegh).

The 2018 version also retains (understandably) the style of the current series. So, we still get arguments between McLaughlin’s McGarrett and Scott Caan’s Danno. In the remake, McLaughlin and Caan are together where Jack Lord’s McGarrett was by himself in the 1968 pilot.

Also, of course, the fight scenes are faster paced and violent than what viewers got in 1968. In the original, the climatic fight is between McGarrett and a traitorous U.S. intelligence agent. (They had to let Wo Fat go so he’d spread false information McGarrett had been programmed to say.). In the remake, McGarrett fights several guys, including the lead villain.

To be honest, I haven’t watched the current series that closely for the past few years. The remake held my interest. It was interesting to see what would be included.

Finally, the writing credit read, “Written by Leonard Freeman and Peter M. Lenkov.” Lenkov is the executive producer of the current series. The script of the remake used a surprising number of lines from Freeman’s original script.

So it was nice to see Freeman share in the full writing credit and not be relegated to a “story by” credit. Freeman died in 1974, after production of the original show’s sixth season had ended production. It would run another six seasons without him, although it was never quite the same.

Hawaii Five-O’s 50th anniversary: Cop show with a spy twist

Jack Lord as Steve McGarrett

Jack Lord as Steve McGarrett

Adapted and updated from a 2013 post.

Fifty years ago this month, Hawaii Five-O debuted. While a cop show, it had an element of international intrigue from the start.

The two-hour television movie version version of the pilot, which first aired on CBS on SEPT. 20, 1968, concerned a plot where Red Chinese intelligence operative Wo Fat was torturing U.S. intelligence agents in the Pacific Rim and obtaining important information.

Steve McGarrett, the no-nonsense head of state police unit Hawaii Five-O is drawn to the case because the latest victim was a friend of his. The lawman, a former U.S. Naval intelligence officer, isn’t one to back down from official pressure to lay off.

The pilot immediately grabbed the attention of viewers. A short pre-titles sequence shows Wo Fat using a sensory deprivation chamber for the torture. That’s followed by a 90-second main title featuring a stirring theme by Morton Stevens.

The composer initially thought about re-using the theme he wrote for an unsold pilot, CALL TO DANGER. His wife, Annie Stevens, strongly advised against the move, according to a 2010 STORY IN THE HONOLULU STAR ADVERTISER. As a result, Stevens created one of the greatest themes in television history.

The series was conceived by veteran television producer Leonard Freeman, who wrote the pilot. Freeman’s 1967 first draft had a team led by McGarrett, with a mid-20s Hawaiian sidekick, Kono Kalakaua, a third, heavy-set detective and Chin Ho Kelly, who was the Honolulu Police Department’s liaison with Five-O. In the final version of the story, the sidekick became the Caucasian Danny Williams; the Kono name was given to the heavier-set character; and Chin Ho was made a full-fledged member of Five-O.

Freeman & Co. were preparing to film the pilot with American actor Robert Brown as McGarrett. Rose Freeman, widow of the Five-O creator, told a 1996 fan convention in Los Angeles that CBS objected to the casting and, just five days before filming was to start, Brown was replaced with Jack Lord, the first screen incarnation of Felix Leiter in Dr. No. Brown ended up starring in another 1968 series, Here Come the Brides.

Perry Lafferty, a former CBS executive, told the story a bit differently in an interview for the Archive of American Television. His version, though, still had Jack Lord as a last-minute casting.

The pilot had Tim O’Kelly as Danny. When the series was picked up, Freeman recast the part with James MacArthur, who a small, but notable role in Hang ‘Em High, a Clint Eastwood Western film that Freeman had produced.

The international espionage aspect of Five-O remained throughout the show’s 12-year run, though less so in the later seasons. Wo Fat, played by Khigh Dhiegh, made a NUMBER OF RETURN APPEARANCES, including the 1980 series finale. As the U.S. and China began to normalize diplomatic relations, Wo Fat became an independent menace. In the ninth-season opener, Wo Fat attempts to take over the Chinese government.

George Lazenby in a 1979 episode of Hawaii Five-O

Five-O matched wits with a number of other spies played by the likes of Theodore Bikel (who had tried out for Goldfinger), Maud Adams and Soon Tek-Oh. George Lazenby, the second screen James Bond, played a secondary villain in a 1979 episode filmed on location in Singapore.

Five-O wasn’t always an easy show to work on. Freeman died in early 1974, after the sixth season completed production. Zulu (real name Gilbert Kauhi), who played Kono left after the fourth season; he told fans at the 1996 convention about problems he had with Jack Lord. His replacement, Al Harrington as another detective, departed in the seventh season.

Nevertheless, Five-O had a long run. When it left the air, Five-O was the longest-running crime drama, a status it held until Law and Order, the 1990-2010 series.

Lord’s Steve McGarrett emerged as one of the most recognizable television characters. In 2007, 27 years after the final Five-O episode, THE NEW YORK TIMES’S OPINION PAGES summed up Five-O’s appeal.

“Evil makes McGarrett angry, but when he speaks, his voice is startlingly gentle, exuding a quiet control that a beleaguered generation of parents surely wished they had when facing the forces of social decay,” reads the commentary by Lawrence Downes.

The writer ends his piece describing what it might be like if McGarrett was president. He dispatches Kono and Chin to stop illegal immigration and tells Danny that he wants undocumented workers “legalized. Tell Congress to send me a bill. I want it tough, and I want it fair. And I want it on my desk Monday morning.”

In 2010, CBS introduced a new version of the show, with a slightly different spelling (Hawaii Five-0, with a digit instead of a capital O as in the original), a younger McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) and a Danny with more attitude (Scott Caan).

The current series is in its ninth season. For the 50th anniversary of the original show, it will feature a remake of Cocoon, the 1968 pilot. The remake is scheduled to be telecast on Sept. 28.

The 2010s Five-0 has other significant differences than the original. In the eighth season, the McLaughlin and Caan versions of McGarrett and Danny decided to go into the restaurant business on the side. I can’t imagine Leonard Freeman would have approved.

On the other hand, the producers were smart enough to keep the Morton Stevens theme music. Now, as in 1968, it’s still a highlight.

Wo Fat 2.0 to be part of Five-0 pilot remake

A still from the Cocoon remake posted on social media by executive producer Peter Lenkov.

You can’t keep a good man — or arch villain — down.

Mark Dacascos, who played Wo Fat 2.0 in the current Hawaii Five-0 series, will be part of a Sept. 28 episode that remakes Cocoon, the pilot for the original 1968-80 Five-O series, according to Entertainment Weekly’s website.

The original Wo Fat (Khigh Dhiegh) was the villain of the 1968 pilot and would bedevil Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord) until the show’s final episode.

However, in the current series, which began in 2010, the Dacascos version of Wo Fat seemed to be definitively killed off in a 2014 episode.

This begs the question. Has executive producer Peter Lenkov devised a way to bring his Wo Fat back from the dead? Or will Wo Fat still be dead but appear in a flashback?

Naturally, there are no answers now.

Decascos tweeted out the Entertainment Weekly story. Lenkov, in turn, did a “quote tweet.” (Sunset on the Beach refers to an annual outdoor showing of the first episode of a Five-0 season.)

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Hawaii Five-0 to remake original show’s pilot

Khigh Dhiegh, Soon Tek-Oh, Andrew Duggan and Jack Lord in a scene from the original Hawaii Five-O pilot in 1968.

Hawaii Five-0 is doing a remake of the original Hawaii Five-O pilot, Cocoon, the current show’s executive producer said on Twitter and Instagram.

“For those who guessed it… we’re redoing the 1968 pilot “Cocoon” for our season 9 premiere of #h50 – best way to celebrate our 50th anniversary- honoring the original and creator Leonard Freeman,” Peter Lenkov wrote on Instagram.

The original Hawaii Five-O was a police drama that often had espionage story lines. That was established with the two-hour TV movie pilot, written and produced by Freeman and which aired in September 1968.

In the pilot, Chinese agents are abducting U.S. intelligence agents and subjecting them to a new form of torture, dubbed the cocoon. They’re suspended in a pool, wearing a mask (with a tube supplying oxygen) with their ears, nose and eyes covered.

The lack of sensory impulses eventually breaks them and they provide crucial intelligence information. They are then killed, with their deaths made to look like an accident.

Lawman Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord) gets involved when Hennessey, a friend of his and an intelligence agent, turns up dead, apparently the result of a drowning. McGarrett doesn’t buy it. Hennessey never learned to swim because he sunburned too easily.

The pilot also introduced Wo Fat (Khigh Dheigh), who’d be McGarrett’s arch foe during the series.

The remake is going to have to make one major change. The Wo Fat of the current show (Mark Dacascos) was killed off in a 2014 installment that was also the 100th episode.

The current series debuted in 2010 and, as Lenkov noted, will begin its ninth season this fall. In 2013, the show also did a remake of an episode of the original series, Hookman, about a killer with no hands.

UPDATE (3:30 p.m.): Lenkov posted a photograph on Instagram from the remake. McGarrett 2.0 (Alex O’Loughlin) is undercover doing repair work inside a ship, the same way Jack Lord’s McGarrett did in the 1968 pilot.

Five-0 Cocoon remake

Hawaii Five-O: In the beginning

Hawaii Five-O logo in the main title

The recent news that Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park are departing the Hawaii Five-0 remake that has aired since 2010 has created a stir.

Example: IndieWire posted a July 6 article about why the departures are “a huge problem” for the series that’s entering its eighth season.

As it turns out, the makeup of the Five-O (official spelling of the original show) is an issue goes back to the very beginning of the original series.

In 1996, the Spy Commander attended a Five-O convention in Los Angeles. One part of the event included an auction. One of the items up for auction was a photocopy of the first-draft script for the pilot episode written by creator Leonard Freeman.

The Spy Commander lost out in the auction, but had a chance to examine said script.

In that first version, the Five-O team only had one white member, Steve McGarrett (initially American actor Robert Brown, but replaced by Jack Lord days before filming). Five-O’s second-in-command was Kono Kalakaua, described as a Hawaiian in his mid-20s.

Another Five-O member was named Lee, who was described as a heavy-set Hawaiian. Rounding out the cast was Chin Ho, who worked for the Honolulu Police Department but was also a liaison with Five-O.

Between that script and filming of the pilot, Five-O got another white member, Danny “Danno” Williams (Tim O’Kelly in the pilot, James MacArthur in the series); the Lee character got the Kono name; and Chin Ho was made a full-fledged member of Five-O.

As an aside, arch villain Wo Fat was named after a restaurant in Honolulu. The character of Chin Ho Kelly was named after Chinn Ho, a successful Hawaiian businessman.

Hawaii Five-0 loses two stars

Cast of the 2010 Hawaii Five-0

Hawaii Five-0, the remake of the original Five-O series, is losing two of its stars in a pay dispute, Variety reported.

Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park are departing the series ahead of its eighth season, according to the entertainment website.

The two “had been seeking pay equality with stars Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan, but were unable to reach satisfactory deals with CBS Television Studios, which produces the series,” Variety said. “Kim and Park were believed to be making 10-15% less than O’Loughlin and Caan.”

The remake debuted in 2010. Park played Kono Kalkaua, who had been a man in the 1968-80 original show. Kim was a fitter, trimmer version of Chin Ho Kelly.

O’Loughlin and Caan are revamped versions of Steve McGarrett and Dan Williams from the original series. The characters were played by Jack Lord and James MacArthur in the 1968-80 show, although Tim O’Kelly played Williams in the 1968 pilot TV movie.

The remake series also has done new takes on other characters from the original, including turning villain Wo Fat, Gov. Paul Jameson and U.S. spymaster Jonathan Kaye. For the new series, Jameson and Kaye were made into women characters.

The new versions of Jameson and Kaye were revealed to be in cahoots with Wo Fat and were killed off. The new Wo Fat was killed off in the new show’s 100th episode.

(And yes, the official spelling of the original is Hawaii Five-O while the 2010 series is spelled Five-0.)