Friday, 11 March 2016

James Bond and Danger Mouse

The animated adventures of the super secret agent rodent, Danger Mouse, and his sidekick Penfold (a hamster) were reintroduced to great acclaim in October last year. The original series, broadcast between 1981 and 1992 and written by Brian Trueman, drew heavily on the James Bond films, but also on the 1960s' television series, Danger Man (starring Bond contender Patrick McGoohan). The rebooted series, now into a second batch of its projected 52 episodes, has retained those influences, and for me it has been fun spotting the Bond references.

The show contains all the familiar Bondian elements well established in the original series. In the best tradition of classic spy fiction, in which spy chiefs are known by a single letter (Bond's chief is M, Ashenden's is R, and Eric Ambler's Dimitrios has G), Danger Mouse's chief, a chinchilla, is known as Colonel K. Danger Mouse's nemesis is Baron Silas von Greenback, a toad, who, with his vague Eastern European origins, penchant for over-elaborate schemes to rule the world, and a white caterpillar on his lap, is clearly modelled on Blofeld.

There are some new characters, too, including Professor Squawkencluck, a chicken who invents and supplies Danger Mouse with gadgets. And echoing Bond's sometimes fractious relationship with Q, on whom the character is based, the professor doesn't appreciate Danger Mouse's casual attitude towards her inventions. Speaking of gadgets, Danger Mouse's gadget-laden car, the Danger Car, includes an ejector seat (as used in the episode 'From Duck till Dawn'), and has more than a hint of Bond's Aston Martin DB5.

Danger Mouse is, of course, the series' Bond figure. While his appearance owes more to Danger Man, but his quips, cool attitude, and raised eyebrow give him a definite Bondian quality, particularly of the Roger Moore era. And like Bond, Danger Mouse is a not very secret secret agent, being well known to all the villains, a paradox that is acknowledged in the episode 'From Duck till Dawn'.

Apart from the Bondian characters, the episodes contain a number of additional allusions to Bond. Episode titles typically play on existing film titles, Bond films included. Thus, there is one episode called 'Never Say Clever Again', and another called 'Greenfinger'.

In the episode 'The Hamster Effect', during a flashback which reveals how he met Penfold, Danger Mouse introduces himself as 'Mouse, Danger Mouse'. This naturally recalls Bond's famous style of introduction, although it should be noted that John Drake, the hero of Danger Man, introduced himself in the same way.

Another episode, 'Danger at C Level', brings to mind the film of The Spy Who Loved Me, featuring as it does an underwater base that resembles Stromberg's Atlantis. I also thought of Blofeld's bath-o-sub, and the pod in which Bond and Anya are jettisoned from Atlantis, when Greenback makes his escape from his underwater base in a pod-like vehicle.

Penfold has his own Blofeld moment in the episode 'Sinister Mouse'. Alternative realities, the basis of the plot, mean that opposite versions of the characters exist, and Penfold is not exempt. At the end of the episode, a swivel chair is turned towards the viewer to reveal evil Penfold, complete with a white cat(erpillar) of his own.

The rebooted series of Danger Mouse is great fun, and well worth watching, especially for those Bond memes, as well as its nods to other genres, such as horror and science-fiction. Roll on the next batch of episodes.

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