Q (James Bond)

Q (James Bond)
Q (Major Boothroyd)
Character from the James Bond franchise
From top left, clockwise: Peter Burton, Desmond Llewelyn, Alec McCowen, John Cleese
Major Boothroyd (Peter Burton and Desmond Llewelyn, top) R (John Cleese, bottom left) and Algernon (Alec McCowen, bottom right)
Occupation Quartermaster
Affiliation MI6
Portrayed by Peter Burton (1962)
Desmond Llewelyn (1963–1999)
John Cleese (2002)

Geoffrey Bayldon (1967)
Alec McCowen (1983)

Q is a fictional character in the James Bond novels and films. Q (standing for Quartermaster), like M, is a job title rather than a name. He is the head of Q Branch (or later Q Division), the fictional research and development division of the British Secret Service. The character actually appears only fleetingly in Ian Fleming's novels, but comes into his own in the successful Bond film series; he is also mentioned in the continuation novels of John Gardner and Raymond Benson.

Q has appeared in 19 of 22 official EON Bond films; all except Live and Let Die, Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. The character was also featured in the non-official Bond films Casino Royale (1967) and Never Say Never Again.




The ancestry of the Q character is rather complicated. In the Fleming novels there are frequent references to Q and "Q Branch" with phrases like "see Q for any equipment you need" (Casino Royale) and "Q Branch would handle all of that" (Diamonds are Forever), with a reference to "Q's craftsmen" in From Russia with Love. In the sixth novel, Dr. No, the service armourer Major Boothroyd appears for the first time. Fleming named the character after Geoffrey Boothroyd, a firearms expert who lived in Glasgow, Scotland.[1] He had written to the novelist suggesting that Bond was not using the best firearms available. Boothroyd is also referenced occasionally in the Bond novels of John Gardner, but the author preferred instead to focus on a new character. Charles Fraser-Smith is also widely credited as being the inspiration for Q[2] due to the spy gadgets he'd built for the Special Operations Executive being called "Q-devices" after the Royal Navy's World War I Q-ships.


In the films, Major Boothroyd first appears in Dr. No and later in From Russia with Love, although played by different actors. Desmond Llewelyn stated that though credited as Major Boothroyd the original line spoken by M, "Ask Major Boothroyd to come in" was replaced with "the armourer" as director Terence Young stated Boothroyd was a different character.[3]

Beginning in Guy Hamilton's Goldfinger and in each film thereafter Major Boothroyd is most often referred to as Q; however, in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) he is referred once again as Major Boothroyd in dialogue. Some sources[who?], most notably the 1980s James Bond 007 role-playing game suggested[citation needed] that Boothroyd's first name was Geoffrey (the real Boothroyd's given name), although no first name was ever mentioned in the novels or on screen. In the non-canonical James Bond Jr. cartoon series, Boothroyd's grandson was Horace Boothroyd III (and was known to his friends as "I.Q."), suggesting that Major Boothroyd was also named Horace.

Official James Bond film series

Peter Burton as Major Boothroyd (1962)

In the first film, Dr. No, Boothroyd is played by Peter Burton in only one scene in which he replaces Bond's .25 Beretta 418 pistol with Bond's signature .32 Walther PPK handgun. The character later appeared in From Russia with Love played by Desmond Llewelyn, due to scheduling conflicts that kept Burton from reprising. He is referred to by M as "the armourer." The 2008 BBC Radio 4 adaptation of Dr No also features the character as 'the armourer'. Here he's played by Peter Capaldi.

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Desmond Llewelyn as Q (Major Boothroyd) (1963–1999)

Beginning with From Russia with Love, Desmond Llewelyn portrayed the character in every official film except Live and Let Die until his death in 1999. In the 1977 film The Spy Who Loved Me, as Q was delivering the underwater Lotus, Major Anya Anasova/Agent XXX (Barbara Bach) greets Q as "Major Boothroyd".

The scenes in the films where Q briefs Bond on the gadgets that he is going to use on his mission would include dialogue of antagonism between the two, with Q often annoyed by Bond's seemingly playful lack of respect for the equipment he and his branch develop and famously telling the agent, "I never joke about my work, 007" (a line referenced by his successor in Die Another Day). In Thunderball, Bond can be heard muttering "Oh no" when Q joins him in the Bahamas.

However, on occasion, Q has shown a warm and fatherly concern for 007's welfare, such as at Bond's wedding in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, when he assures Bond that he is available if Bond ever requires his help despite Bond planning to leave MI6, and when, at the behest of Miss Moneypenny, he secretly sneaks gadgets out of MI6 to help Bond survive his vendetta against the drug tyrant Sanchez in Licence to Kill. Arriving unannounced in Isthmus City (posing as Bond's uncle – similar to how he posed as Bond's father in You Only Live Twice), he flatly tells the agent, "If it hadn't been for Q Branch, you'd have been dead long ago" — to which Bond has no answer. Q has also assisted Bond in a more active role in his missions in Octopussy, remaining to aid Bond in person even after another ally is particularly sliced in half by a massive chainsaw. He frequently refers to Bond as "007", rather than by his name. Despite the great annoyance Bond causes Q on many occasions, there is always a sense that they certainly get on well and have great respect for one another.

The growing respect is also evident in GoldenEye when Q actually shares a joke with Bond for the first time, and when in The World Is Not Enough he reveals his plan to retire, Bond is clearly saddened at the prospect, and Q signs off with some touching last words of advice;

Q: "I've always tried to teach you two things: First, never let them see you bleed;"
Bond: "And the second?"
Q: "Always have an escape plan" — before he is lowered out of view.

This was the final film appearance of Desmond Llewelyn as Q in the James Bond series, although he would revive the role once again as Q in a Heineken commercial, a TV cross-promotion for The World Is Not Enough. Llewellyn died in a car crash just weeks after the film's release.

In the series, Llewelyn's Boothroyd was preparing to retire during the events of The World Is Not Enough (1999), and has clearly retired by the time of Die Another Day (2002), being replaced by John Cleese's character. It was not indicated on screen whether Llewelyn's Boothroyd had died. In the PlayStation game 007 Racing (2000) however, the character "R" (voiced by John Cleese) specifically says: "Q could drive better than that, and he's dead!".

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Llewelyn also portrays Q in the EON Productions-produced TV special Welcome to Japan, Mr. Bond (1967).

Llewelyn portrays Q in the documentary Highly Classified: The World of 007, which is included on the Tomorrow Never Dies Ultimate Edition DVD.

Llewelyn has appeared in more Bond movies (17) than any other actor to date.

John Cleese as Q and Q's assistant (1999–2002)

In The World Is Not Enough an assistant to Q was introduced, played by John Cleese. His real name has yet to be revealed, but he is initially credited as R in The World Is Not Enough, stemming from a joke in which Bond asks the elder Q: "If you're Q, does that make him R?"

Between films, Cleese was still referred to as "R" in the video games The World is Not Enough (2000), 007 Racing (2000) and Agent Under Fire (2001), though not all of the video games are canonical. He was officially referred to as "Q" in Die Another Day (2002) following actor Llewelyn's death in 1999. In 2004, Cleese was featured as Q in the video game James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing.

Initially portrayed as rather clumsy, R then became more self-assured and more in the style of his predecessor. They both shared the same attitude towards their professional work, requesting Bond to be more careful in the testing laboratories and to return his equipment intact. In Die Another Day, Bond at first refers to R as "Quartermaster" but, silently impressed by the gadgets he is given, calls him "Q" at the end of their meeting. (The Die Another Day DVD reveals that Bond initially saw R as an 'interloper', only awarding the proper title of 'Q' after R has proven himself.)

According to an interview on the Die Another Day DVD, Pierce Brosnan was very glad to rename Cleese's character 'Q', rather than 'R', because his native Irish accent made it difficult to pronounce 'R' with a convincing English accent.

When Bond tries to joke with Q, Cleese's Q was a lot quicker at comebacks than Llewellyn's, making him more of a match for Bond in terms of wit. Bond: "You're cleverer than you look." Q: "Still, better than looking cleverer than you are." or "Ah yes, the legendary 007 wit, or at least half of it."

In the 007 game, Everything or Nothing, Cleese's Q has an assistant, Miss Nagai, portrayed by Misaki Ito.

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Future film appearances

With the reboot of the Bond series in 2006's Casino Royale and its successor, Quantum of Solace (2008), the character of Q has, so far, not appeared. Bond actor Daniel Craig expressed concern over the absence of Q, and has said that he hopes Q will return in Skyfall.[4]In the 2010 Bond Video game 007: Blood Stone, although Major Boothroyd is not seen, it is mentioned that Bill Tanner works at Q Branch. [1]

Other Bond films

Geoffrey Bayldon as Q (1967)

In the satirical version of Casino Royale, Q is portrayed by Geoffrey Bayldon, but instead of outfitting James Bond, he provides gadgets for Evelyn Tremble (who is portrayed by Peter Sellers). Generally held[by whom?] to be one of the stronger sequences in the film, the famous gadget sequence is mercilessly lampooned. "It's an American idea," Q tells Tremble as he gives him a watch with two-way camera attached, "they got it from one of their comic strips," a reference to Dick Tracy. In this film, Q is assisted by Fordyce (John Wells).

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Alec McCowen as Q (Algernon) (1983)

In the 1983 film Never Say Never Again, Q Branch is headed by a man (played by Alec McCowen) referred to by Bond as "Algernon" and "Algy", though his opening line is "Nice to know old Q can still surprise you 00s." In the closing credits, he is named as "Q Algy". Q Branch itself is depicted as underfunded (per dialogue) and ramshackle compared to the high-tech surroundings of the EON films. He also has a very different attitude to other Q's, by commenting that it had been very dull without Bond, and now that he is back, hopes that there will be "plenty of gratuitous sex and violence".

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Related characters


John Gardner, in his James Bond novels, introduced the character of Ann Reilly, a young female assistant to Q whose co-workers as well as Bond nicknamed Q'ute. Major Boothroyd himself was only mentioned a couple of times. During Licence Renewed and For Special Services, Q'ute and Bond maintained a brief romantic relationship. Afterwards, it was revealed a number of times that Bond and Q'ute were involved in a casual relationship.

By the time Gardner left the book series, Q'ute had taken over the running of Q Branch, but when Raymond Benson took over the literary series, he ignored much of Gardner's continuum and gave Q Branch back to Major Boothroyd with no explanation and no further references to Ann Reilly.

Horace 'I.Q.' Boothroyd III

In the James Bond spin-off television show James Bond Jr., the character I.Q. is a scientific genius and one of James Bond Jr.'s best friends. Very intelligent, quick-witted and highly logical, he is responsible for developing and building the many artifacts and gadgets that help James defeat agents of S.C.U.M. and save the day. The series depicts him as the grandson of Q.

See also

Further reading

  • Robert Wallace and H. Keith Melton, with Henry R. Schlesinger, Spycraft: The Secret History of the CIA's Spytechs, from Communism to al-Qaeda, New York, Dutton, 2008. ISBN 0525949801


External links

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