Listings

Review: 007: Road To A Million mixes globe-trotting spectacle with quizzing - and a phoned-in turn from Brian Cox

Brian Cox as The Controller in 007: Road To A Million
Brian Cox as The Controller in 007: Road To A Million Brian Cox as The Controller in 007: Road To A Million

AVAILABLE to stream from today on Prime Video, 007: Road To A Million is a new James Bond-themed reality gameshow where contestants must traverse the globe and attempt Bond-esque stunts for the chance to claim their share of a £9m prize pot.

Succession star Brian Cox is The Controller, an omniscient Bond villain-esque figure who sends nine two-person teams on a treasure hunt through international locations seen in the long-running spy film franchise while monitoring their progress from his 'lair'.

The Controller supplies clues which must be decoded in order to locate hidden multiple choice questions in a race against the clock: gaining access to the question usually necessitates the completion of a tricky task or nerve-wracking stunt, such as scaling a towering construction crane, ascending a sheer mountainside or measuring the length of a live snake (no, really).

Only then do the teams get to have a crack at answering the question: each correct answer wins an increasing amount of their £1m prize money and secures progress to the next 'level' of the show, while an incorrect answer results in the hapless duo being dropped into a shark tank or bisected by a powerful laser beam. 

OK, not really - they are just instantly disqualified.

Two contestants find themselves in a typically Bond situation
Two contestants find themselves in a typically Bond situation Two contestants find themselves in a typically Bond situation

Read more:

  • Brian Cox and Bond producers talk 007: Road To A Million
  • James Bond producer says 007 game show could be a one-off
  • "I'm happy to move on': Brian Cox and co say goodbye to Succession  

Having watched the first three episodes, 007: Road To A Million feels a bit like a cross between Race Across The World and Fear Factor, without the entertaining core element of direct competition in those shows, as these teams never cross paths (or at least not in the first three episodes), and some sort of high-tech pub quiz.

It's entertaining enough fare, if surprisingly traditional in reality TV terms: contestants are constantly sharing their various hard luck stories and personal/family histories to better capture viewers' hearts or whatever - one team even phones home to speak to their dear old mum, bless her.

Contestants may have to resort to planes, boats and trains in 007: Road To A Million
Contestants may have to resort to planes, boats and trains in 007: Road To A Million Contestants may have to resort to planes, boats and trains in 007: Road To A Million

Without going full Partridge, that kind of thing just feels a bit 'Bond-wrong' - as does the fact we see the first contestants reporting for 007: Road To A Million duty via public transport. As far as I can recall, 007 never had to resort to getting the bus on any of his missions (not counting that stolen double-decker in Live and Let Die).

Apart from the stunts and exotic locations - the show takes in Scotland, Italy, Turkey and Brazil in the first three episodes alone - other 'Bondian' elements include David Arnold's music, including his re-jig of the iconic James Bond theme which plays over the Bond-esque opening titles, the lavish cinematic production values evident on screen, and a feast of Bond-related 'Easter eggs' in the form of various vehicles, gadgets, props and references which 007-nerds will recognise from the films.

Brian Cox, thinking of the money
Brian Cox, thinking of the money Brian Cox, thinking of the money

As for Brian Cox, sadly he's a bit wasted as The Controller. There's no doubt that such a formidable actor would have made a really good Bond villain, or perhaps even a really good M, but here he doesn't even get to interact with any of the contestants.

He's mostly seen pottering around his vid-screen-equipped office, reading out questions and offering generic pithy commentary on the teams' progress or lack thereof, all of which feels pretty detached from the onscreen competition and very much like it was recorded entirely in one day without Cox actually seeing any of the footage he's supposed to be 'reacting' to.

Hopefully, the Scotsman was well-paid for lending his image to the show - perhaps the prize pot was originally £10m until he trousered 10 per cent as his fee? - and hasn't now spoiled his chances of actually landing a proper Bond role in the near future.

Brian Cox as The Controller
Brian Cox as The Controller Brian Cox as The Controller

Another niggle with 007: Road To A Million - a terrible title, by the way, worse even than Quantum of Solace and Octopussy - is that there are just too many contestants. Three episodes into the eight-part run, you still haven't even met half the teams, which feels like a slight wrinkle in the format.

Perhaps seven duos - as in (gasp) '007' - might have made for slightly tidier viewing?

Also, since there's apparently no element of direct competition involved between teams, maybe the unclaimed prize money from each eliminated duo could have then sweetened the survivors' prize pots to make things more exciting - though a scenario in which all teams compete to win the full £9m (or even £10m? Sorry, Brian) would be even more appealing.

In austerity-wracked 2023, somehow there's something a bit 'Dr Evil' about offering folks a measly £1m prize on a show bankrolled by the Amazon and Bond fortunes.

All eight episodes of 007: Road To A Million are available to view now via Prime Video.

007: ROAD TO A MILLION - MEET THE CONTESTANTS


JAMES AND JOEY

James and Joey grew up in south-west London in a family of four siblings. Despite the six-year age gap, the brothers have always been good friends.

Joey trained as an electrician before completing 'The Knowledge' in his 20s, becoming a black cab driver. He has since returned to the trade and runs his own electrician business.

James is a creative and describes himself as a “copy writer by day and musician by night”. When his copyrighting work dried up at the start of the pandemic, he returned to his first love, music, and recorded a folk/punk-inspired album.

He has also dabbled in stand-up comedy, putting on shows at the Edinburgh Fringe.


BETH AND JEN

Jen trained as a nurse in Dorset and became a prison nurse, then joined the RAF reserves and trained to go to Afghanistan to assist with Aeromedical evacuation in 2010, bringing injured soldiers’ home.

She then ran a medical clinic in Kabul at the British Embassy before going to Australia, where she worked on Christmas Island with asylum seekers.

Recently, Jen has been working in Guyana, providing medical care to crews working offshore on drill ships, and is now back in the UK doing local agency work.

Beth has worked in emergency departments internationally, and her specialty is emergency care. She’s worked in expedition medicine with ultra-marathon runners in the Amazon and the Arctic Circle.

She now works as an advanced clinical practitioner in Gloucestershire in the urgent care clinic.

KAMARA AND JOSH

Kamara and Josh met at work while they were working as youth workers in their local community. They bonded over their shared love of travel, anthropology, and interest in different cultures.

Despite their different cultural backgrounds and worries that their families would disapprove, love blossomed, and they became an item.

Kamara is more daring and riskier than Josh, when a decision needs to be made, she will take the lead.

SAIQA AND SANA

They’re only 18 months apart and their family sees them more as twins than older or younger siblings.

They’ve lived in Bahrain and Dubai but also spent time growing up in the UK, deciding to do their university studies there. They now live with their grandparents in London.

They see ‘home’ as between the UK and Dubai, where their parents live and work.

Sana is a process engineer and Saiqa is a fraud analyst.

JAMES AND SAM


James and Sam are father and son who share a close bond, but James is often away for up to eight weeks due to working on oil rigs.This has left him feeling like an ‘absent father’, but he now wants to make up for lost time and make lasting memories with his teenage son before he becomes an adult.

Sam idolises his dad, describing their relationship more like a ‘friendship’. Sam recently moved out after studying for his A-levels during the pandemic and has been working as a bar tender in a tapas restaurant (he’s trying to learn Spanish)

KEITH AND NICK

Peas in a pod, these two retired police officers enjoy laughing their way through life, but their years of service mean they’re calm under pressure.

Having found themselves in many dangerous and life-threatening situations throughout the years, they tend to look for the lighter side of things to help them cope.

Their MO is to ‘Take nothing seriously'.

GRACE AND DANIELLA

They met in 2012 while they were both working at Capital Radio in Glasgow and bonded over giving out leaflets in cold shopping centres and driving around as runners for the station.

Both are now fully-fledged radio presenters, with Daniella having presented on Radio 1 and Grace has her morning breakfast show.

They share a love of their native Scotland and feel passionately about representing their beloved nation as wee Scottish lasses.

TANAKA AND JAMES

Tanaka describes James as a ladies’ man and remembers a “swarm of girls” around him at school, whilst Tanaka was the school sports star.

They remained close friends throughout university and often visited each other and have since shared travelling trips to Brazil, South Africa, and Colombia.

They have a warm, loyal, fun friendship and are full of respect for one another.

COLIN AND DANNY 

They met 10 years ago through their wives when Danny was new on the scene and was being introduced as his now-wife’s new partner.

They soon connected over the fact that their fathers come from the same parish in Jamaica, which has given them a good grounding and understanding of each other.

Fast forward a decade and Danny says they are “brothers from another mother”.