We were watching Casino Royale the other night when the question occurred to me: How can this character possibly be the same one portrayed by Sean Connery in the early 60s? I know, Casino Royale was officially supposed to be a reboot of the series, but even if that's true, how can the 007 of Dr. No be the same 007 as in Die Another Day? In short, how can the secret agents portrayed by Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, Daniel Craig, and even David Niven possibly be the same character?
And then the answer occurred to me: They're not.
"James Bond" is MI6's answer to the Dread Pirate Roberts.
As with the original DPR, the name is the important thing. Think about it. No master villain is ever going to be intimidated, no two-bit thug ever frightened, by a spy named Percival Wedbetter, even if he sounds (and fights) like Sean Connery. Percival Wedbetter is never going to seduce the femme fatale, even if he looks like Daniel Craig. A name like that will inspire only derision. But James Bond - there's a name to respect, and fear, and love (or at least lust after). James Bond is a name with power.
So I figure that Sean Connery's character may actually have been named James Bond. But as lampshaded by Daniel Craig's version, double-Os tend to have short life spans. So when the original James Bond died (or retired to live like a king in Patagonia), MI6 passed on the name along with the 007 designation. Each successive James Bond was replaced in their time, some after long and glorious terms of service (Moore), some after only a mission or two (Lazenby, Niven). The current incarnation (Craig) may have different attitudes and methods to match more contemporary threats, but is still a valued member of Her Majesty's Secret Service. When his time is up, he'll be replaced by someone else, and the name will live on.
And thus for more than half a century, the British Secret Service and the world have enjoyed the service and protection of the greatest of spies, secret agent 007 - James Bond.
(Everyone who's officially involved in the matter denies this, of course.)