I was rather shocked to read esteemed TES contributor Colin Harris coming over all negative about our political leaders after his recent trip to see SPECTRE. Personally, I experienced an unexpected, popcorn-scented epiphany within just a few minutes of the lights going down.
After the usual opening scene of frenzied pursuit and surrounding mayhem we were then taken, by way of contrast, to a reassuringly staid, oak-panelled room deep inside the bowels of HQ back in London. The message here was surely unmistakable. Out there in the field it was another tale of reckless, blinkered operatives failing to see the bigger picture. Inside HQ, on the other hand, everything was about reason, calculation, planning and protocol.
Suddenly I got it. At last I began to see our world as our own leaders in London must surely view it. All the main characters in the film began to make sense after that. Here’s my short, spoiler-free guide to them:
N: Previously known as “Nicky”, N is now seen to be in charge of “Intelligence”. Intelligence used to be in a different department from education, but when the latter became so intensely focused on data-collection and “observation”, the merging of the two seemed as inevitable and cost-effective as MI5 joining MI6.
She took over from the pioneering M about a year and a half ago. She is basically a good sort but vowed early on to stick to M’s whimsical little overhaul of the infrastructure, while also trying to keep onside her many thousand agents on the ground. This was never going to be an easy path to follow. Not after M.
BOND: Bond is all of us, N’s operatives on the ground. Our own working day tends to be punctuated more by bells than by torture, assassination and impulsive quickies against a wall but N still has a genuine admiration for our own version of resilience, energy and inventiveness. That said, she is exasperated with our endless grumbling over pay, pensions, pressure and workload. She probably longs to deliver the classic Judi Dench line – “Bond, you’re a bloody fool” – and, in a sense, perhaps she would be right.
Yet she cannot manage without us and in her darkest moments N worries that we may all decide to desert her one day. Worse still, we might be seduced into joining those evil forces intent on world domination, most acutely personified in the form of the smiling yet utterly ruthless Bousted (see below).
MARY (CALL ME “ERNST”) BOUSTED: Bousted is the calm, cat-stroking mastermind behind a fearsome global network known as ATL. People once thought that ATL was a mere minnow in the quest for world domination but Bousted was plainly in it for the long game. Her plans for a new world order have gone viral repeatedly in recent weeks and she has shot to the top of N’s hit-list. N knows that she must act soon, before Bousted takes over the internet entirely and all channels of communication fall into her hands.
INSPECTRE: A rather ambiguous player on the UK intelligence stage, INSPECTRE is supposed to be on N’s side. However, its charismatic leader, W, can go slightly off-message.
MONEYPENNY: She also works for N and her main role is to flirt with us, rather like a television recruitment advert. For as long as austerity rules, however, we know that we can never have Moneypenny.
But what is the end game? Where will it play out? And how will the teachers of Britain escape the clutches of N and the Inspectorate?
Stephen Petty is head of humanities at Lord Williams's School in Thame, Oxfordshire