Real-world threat: Ronald Reagan's "Star Wars"
Bond version: Diamond-studded satellite laser
Diamonds are another stalwart Bond plot device, and in Diamonds Are Forever the gems take center stage. Fleming’s novel has Bond busting an illegal smuggling chain that begins in Sierra Leone and ends in New York City. But Fleming published his novel in 1956, a year before the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik -- the first artificial satellite in orbit and the starting gun of the race to weaponize space.
Inspired by the intensifying Cold War-era conflict, film producers in 1971 conspired to jazz up the book’s plot. Instead of ending the diamond smuggling chain in the Big Apple, the gems went to a remote laboratory outside of Las Vegas. The villain needed them, of all things, to enable a laser satellite that destroys nukes from space.
The idea may sound comical now, but in 1983 President Ronald Reagan announced the Strategic Defense Initiative. The press quickly named this program “Star Wars” because one tenet was to use -- yes -- space-based laser satellites to neutralize nuclear missiles in flight. Who’d have thought? Bond. James Bond.