Expanded from a Feb. 15, 2015, post in The Spy Command. There is a 2019 update to add an entry for Quantum of Solace.
By Bill Koenig
The release of Kingsman: The Secret Service marks the return of a familiar meme in spy entertainment — the megalomaniac environmentalist who has the means to take radical action (i.e. wipe people out) to restore ecological balance.
This is a sampling of both television and movie efforts.
The Wild, Wild West: The Night of the Murderous Spring (first broadcast April 15, 1966): Dr. Loveless, after three prior defeats by U.S. Secret Service agents James West and Artemus Gordon, is in the midst of his biggest scheme yet.
Loveless (Michael Dunn) arranges to use West (Robert Conrad) as a test subject for his newest discovery. When Loveless’ powder is mixed with water, it’s absorbed into people. When that happens, they lose their inhibitions and their aggressive tendencies are magnified. The powder also causes hallucinations.
In separate incidents, West imagines he kills Loveless and Gordon (Ross Martin). When the real Arty gets into town, he’s told West has been taken to a hospital. It’s really a cover for Loveless’s hideout.
The plan is revealed. Loveless will use a large number of birds to distribute his powder. It’s the start of spring. The birds will reach water, spread the powder and people will kill themselves. Loveless provides a demonstration where the bulk of the staff the “hospital” kill themselves off.
West and Gordon barely avert catastrophe. Loveless and two women, Antoinette and Kitten Twitty, flee on a boat across a lake. West shoots a hole in the boat and it sinks. After 20 minutes, the agents give up. Bad move, but that won’t become evident until the show’s second season.
Kiss the Girls and Makes Them Die (1966): Ardonian (Raf Vallone) is concerned about the prospects of overpopulation. (The world’s population was about 3 billion at the time, it reached 7 billion in 2011.)
Ardonian, being a megalomaniac, isn’t content to just fret. He plans to launch a satellite that will zap the earth. Sexual activity will stop and the population will decline naturally as people die off.
Meanwhile, Ardonian is abducting various beautiful women and having them frozen. When it’s time to repopulate the Earth, Ardonian will have sex with the women and get them pregnant.
Ardonian’s activities, however, don’t go unnoticed. American agent Kelly (Mike Connors) and British agent Susan Fleming (Dorothy Provine) eventully join forces and foil the scheme.
The Malthusian Affair, unmade television movie, 1976: Sam Rolfe wrote the pilot for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and was its first-season producer. In 1976, he was hired to write a new U.N.C.L.E. television movie that would double as a pilot for a new series.
The title refers to Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834), who warned about population growth in his day.
The head of Mogul Industries is a big believer in Malthus. So he’s going to kill off vast numbers of people to restore ecological balance and run things himself. (Funny how megalomaniacs never volunteer to sacrifice themselves.)
U.N.C.L.E. agents Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin, aided by two younger agents, put a stop to the plan. But their luck with studio executives wasn’t nearly as good so the story never went before the cameras.
For more information, CLICK HERE For The Man From U.N.C.L.E. episode guide’s page on never-made U.N.C.L.E. projects.
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977): Industrialist Karl Stromberg (Curt Jurgens) is concerned about the world’s oceans. All those billions of people keep polluting them.
Solution: Snatch nuclear submarines and launch their missiles to start a nuclear war. Stromberg uses a specially built freighter. Its front opens up, swallowing up the subs. Stromberg also has some kind of electronic device to disable the submarines, making it easier to make off with them.
James Bond (Roger Moore) and Soviet agent Triple-X (Barbara Bach) are assigned by their respective governments to find the missing submarines. Similar to Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die, the two agents initially oppose each other before joining forces.
The two are aboard a U.S. submarine to observe Stromberg’s massive ship when the megalomaniac adds that sub to his collection. The timing is good. Stromberg is just about to execute the final stages of his plan. Long story short, the plan is foiled, Bond kills Stromberg and Bond and Triple-X have sex.
Moonraker (1979): Industrialist Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale) has two obsessions — the exploration of space and fixing the environmental mess on Earth.
Like other megalomaniacs, he concludes it’s best to kill off most people, leaving himself in charge. He already has a space station in orbit that nobody knows about because it has a radar jamming system. He plans to make it into an orbiting “stud farm” to repopulate the Earth after he kills off everybody except himself and his employees.
Drax makes his first mistake when he steals one of his own Moonraker shuttles from the British. One of the shuttles Drax planned to use developed a fault. The problem with this move is the British are rather annoyed (they’ve lost a 747 aircraft and its crew was killed). So James Bond (Roger Moore) is on the case.
Bond begins his investigation in Southern California, where the Moonrakers are made. It turns out the CIA has an operative, Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles), working undercover there. Like Mike Connors and Dorothy Provine….well, you can guess by now what happens.
The story goes to Venice to Rio to the Brazilian rain forest to, eventually, Outer Space! (as it says in the end titles listing the locations.) The space station will launch globes of a deadly poison to kill off Earth’s population. After dispatching Drax, Holly flies a Moonraker while Bond destroys three launched globes (the others were destroyed previously) with a laser.
Quantum of Solace (2008): Adding this entry by popular demand. Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) poses as an environmentalist. Greene, for example, is shown hosting a social event that has an environmental theme.
However, Greene’s real plan is to gain control of a South American country’s water supply. As a result, I think the environmental angle isn’t as strong here as it was with The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker. But readers expressed an interest, hence this entry.
Director Marc Forster, in a 2008 New York magazine interview, said his interest was to work in a political point of view into the film.
The second James Bond film for Daniel Craig was the shortest in the series made by Eon Productions. In the film, Greene works for Quantum. But Eon secured the rights to SPECTRE and Ernst Stavro Blofeld in 2013. As a result, Quantum apparently was retconned as a subsidiary of SPECTRE in SPECTRE (2014).
Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015): Samuel L. Jackson’s Valentine is the latest megalomaniac to decide he’s the man to solve Earth’s environmental problems.
His plot is similar Dr. Loveless’s, except Valentine’s involves electronics, rather than a chemical. Valentine finances a massive giveaway of smartphones and wi-fi. Anybody who wants a smartphone can have one. This is also how Valentine will send a signal causing people to lose their inhibitions against violence.
This being the 21st century, things are nastier. As it turns out, a person only needs to be in the vicinity of where the signal is sent. Kingsman Harry Hart (Colin Firth), who doesn’t have one of Valentine’s smartphones, goes on a killing spree when Valentine tests his system on the members of a racist, homophobic Kentucky church. The church members are killing each other as well but Hart is the only one to survive the massacre. Hart is stunned by what he’s done. The Kingsman doesn’t have much time to contemplate the horror. Valentine kills him, shooting him in the head.
Having successfully tested his system, Valentine is ready to go global. He’s talked all the major world political (and presumably business) leaders into going along. They’ve all received an implant that ensures Valentine’s signal won’t affect them.
The plot is eventually foiled. However, it’s implied Valentine is at least partially successful. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people may have died before new Kingsman Eggsy has dispatched Valentine.