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.

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays from The Spy Command

The accompanying graphic has been the blog’s annual Christmas/holiday season greeting since 2011. It’s a tradition and it wouldn’t be the same without it.

The graphic was designed by Paul Baack (1957-2017). It’s just one sample of his artistic handiwork. He designed it when the blog was part of the Her Majesty’s Secret Servant website (1997-2014).

So this year, there’s an additional reason for the greeting. It’s a reminder of the life he led — and how he made things interesting for those who knew him. This isn’t being melancholy. It’s celebratory.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone.

 

Paul Baack, extraordinary 007 fan, dies

Paul Baack (1957-2017 ) in 2013, wearing headphones to utilize his voice-activated software.

Paul Baack, co-founder of the James Bond fan site Her Majesty’s Secret Servant, died today at 60.

Paul and Tom Zielinski began the site, intended as a James Bond “e-magazine,” in 1997. HMSS, according to the founders, was the equivalent of a “toy train” for them.

It was more, of course.

From 1997 until 2011, HMSS presented magazine-length articles about James Bond and related topics. Contributors included Raymond Benson, the 007 continuation novel author from 1997 to 2002.

Benson named a character after Paul in his 1999 Bond novel High Time to Kill.

Normally an obituary refers to its subject by his or her last name. But the Spy Commander, for this obit, will refer to him by his first name.

Paul, from the beginning, designed the HMSS pages. His graphics enhanced the articles. He had a way of prodding the authors to make their contributions just a little bit better. Paul would make suggestions to improve the articles.

Those suggestions came in the form of a gentle nudge, not a dictate. HMSS, after all, was a hobby — the toy train analogy — not life or death. Nevertheless, Paul’s instincts were excellent. He was right far more than he was wrong.

Paul Baack-designed promo for the fall 2011 issue of Her Majesty’s Secret Servant, the e-magazine’s last issue.

Paul led a tough life. In 2003, he was paralyzed after being struck by a car. Despite that, he carried on. He utilized voice-activated software to do his HMSS work and follow his various other interests, which included doing artwork such as THIS and THIS and THIS.

This blog was, in fact, Paul’s idea. He wanted a way for HMSS to have a presence on the internet between “issues.” The Spy Commander was among the HMSS contributors.

Eventually, I took over the blog. But I was always aware he was reading. I was always glad to receive his feedback.

HMSS had a good run. It went offline in 2014.

“Bond and Holly” by Paul Baack

Paul was one of the most memorable people I ever met. I cannot imagine the pain and suffering he endured since 2003. But he endured it with warmth, and grace and humor.

James Bond fandom is richer for what Paul and Tom Zielinski started. This blog, obviously, would not exist without Paul’s encouragement.

After HMSS went offline, the blog published THIS POST about how it was now on its own. Paul posted this comment:

“‘Upward and onward’ indeed! Heartfelt thanks to you, Bill, for keeping the flame.”

Thanks to you Paul, for lighting the flame in the first place.

Jeff Sneider follows up on 007 universe rumor

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Jeff Sneider, editor in chief of The Tracking Board website, has weighed in with his opinions about the 007 film franchise.

Sneider last week wrote a post on Twitter saying there were rumors that Eon Productions wanted a 007 film universe. It was widely picked up by entertainment news websites.

Sneider is part of an online show, Meet the Movie Press. In the newest edition, posted June 30, the website editor expanded upon his tweet.

“Let’s start with that pesky, little tweet of mine. Was this even a big thing?” Sneider said. “I tweeted something to the effect I heard the Broccolis were planning a Bond unvierse and potentially juggling multiple movies simultaneously.

“To me, to have a Bond movie once, I don’t know, once every three or four years in this kind of competitive landscape, you can’t really do that anymore. You have to keep the well going. I don’t know if Bond thinks it’s special.”

However, Sneider didn’t demonstrate a detailed knowledge of Bond.

“I heard Daniel Craig is coming back but I heard he could be passing the reins to another 007. James Bond is a code name, right? His name actually isn’t James Bond, right?”

007 film scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade have said in the past (including a 2007 interview at the former Her Majesty’s Secret Servant website that’s no longer online) that James Bond is not a code name.

“We don’t believe Bond is just a transferable codename – and don’t like the idea at all,” Purvis and Wade said in that interview. “Bond is a character, a special individual, who happens to have been played by different actors.”

You can read that quote in the comments section of this 2015 post on the Cinelinx website. The comment was posted by Tom Zielinski, who did the 2007 HMSS interview.

Meanwhile, on The Meet the Movie Press, Sneider also suggested the Bond franchise could also make a Jane Bond film and then have a “James and Jane pair-up.”

“I just think there’s a lot more that you can do with that franchise,” Snider said. “I just think this franchise is at a crossroads. If it’s not at a crossroads now, it will be at a crossroads in a few years.”

Finally, he said: “As a reporter, one of the most fun things to speculate about I feel like Bond news breaks overseas anyway, it’s always Baz Bamigboye (of the Daily Mail). You can say anything you want. It’s open season.”

You can view the whole thing here. The Bond discussion begins around the 2:12 mark.

20th anniversary of Her Majesty’s Secret Servant

Paul Baack, co-founder of Her Majesty’s Secret Servant, left, along with some doofus, circa 2013.

Next month is the 20th anniversary of the Her Majesty’s Secret Servant fan website.

This blog, which debuted in 2008, was a spinoff of the site.

HMSS was founded by Paul Baack and Tom Zielinski in April 1997 as a James Bond “e-magazine.”

HMSS churned out issues that included contributions from Raymond Benson, the 007 novel continuation novel author from 1997 to 2002.

HMSS’ final issue was in the fall of 2011 and it went offline in 2014.

Still, for those of us (such as the Spy Commander) who contributed articles it was mostly an enjoyable time. In any creative endeavor, there are different points of views. But the end product was always worth it.

The highlight of every issue were the graphics that Paul Baack designed. If an article was OK, his graphics made it good. If the article was good, his graphics made it excellent. He always had exciting ideas to bring articles to life.

A personal note: I’ve always admired Paul’s energy and ideas. Not to belabor the point (and not to go into details), but he’s had health difficulties for a long time. I cannot personally imagine what he’s gone through.

So, with this post, the Spy Commander (figuratively) raises a glass to a special time. Those of us who contributed ot the site will never forget it.

Announcing an archive project

The HMSS Weblog Spy Command has begun an effort to archive at least some articles from the former Her Majesty’s Secret Servant website.

So far, only three articles are back online: IRON MAN, THE COLD WAR YEARS (originally published in 2010), MATT HELM, AMERICA’S LOADED WEAPON, originally published in 2000 with an update in 2007, about the Dean Martin movies, and IOWA: SPY CENTRAL, about the University of Iowa’s collection of papers by 007 screenwriter Richard Maibaum and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. executive producer Norman Felton.

We have the text and art for several other articles and will try to get those up as time and real life permit. There’s no way for the blog to preserve all the stories but we’re trying to do what we can.

Her Majesty’s Secret Servant was published from 1997 until 2014, with the last new issue in 2011. The HMSS Weblog, now The Spy Command, started in 2008, formally became a separate entity last year. The name Her Majesty’s Secret Servant is copyrighted by Paul Baack and Tom Zielinski.

UPDATE (Feb. 8): Two more stories have been archived:

THE BOND TOO BIG FOR 007: The first draft of Moonraker was so big, it was too much even for James Bond. Story looks at that script as well as drafts for Diamonds Are Forever, Casino Royale and Tomorrow Never Dies. Originally published in 2011 in the final issue of Her Majesty’s Secret Servant.

QUANTUM OF FLEMING: How much “Fleming content” is in each James Bond film? A feature article expanded from posts in The HMSS Weblog originally written in 2010. Updated to include Skyfall. The expanded article never ran until now.