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[[James Bond's Qs|250px]]
'Major Boothroyd (Peter Burton and Desmond Llewelyn, top), R who later became Q (John Cleese, bottom left) and Algernon (Alec McCowen, bottom right)

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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 never appears in Fleming's novels though Fleming's first two novels do refer to him; in subsequent Fleming novels, we read only of "Q Branch".[1] The character "Q" appears in the Bond film series and the novelizations of Christopher Wood, John Gardner and Raymond Benson.

Q has appeared in 20 of 23 Eon Bond films; all except Live and Let Die, Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. The character was also featured in the non-Eon 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.

Major Boothroyd

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.[2] He had written to the novelist suggesting that Bond was not using the best firearms available.

Ann Reilly

Boothroyd is also referenced occasionally in the Bond novels of John Gardner, but the author preferred instead to focus on a new character, Ann Reilly, who is introduced in the first Gardner novel, Licence Renewed and promptly dubbed "Q'ute" by Bond. Charles Fraser-Smith is also widely credited as being the inspiration for Q[3] 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 he was credited as playing "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.[4]

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.

In most films in which Q appears, he is restricted to a "behind the scenes" involvement, either based in London or in secret bases out in the field. Two notable exceptions in which Q becomes directly involved in Bond's missions occur in Octopussy, in which Q actually participates in field work - including the final battle against the villain's henchmen - and Licence to Kill in which he joins Bond in the field after 007 goes rogue.

Eon Productions

Peter Burton: 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."

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Desmond Llewelyn: 1963–99

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 Amasova/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 include dialogue of antagonism between the two, with Q often annoyed by Bond's wandering attention, often telling him to "pay attention, 007", and Bond's seemingly playful lack of respect for his equipment, telling the agent, "I never joke about my work, 007". 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 killed. 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 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 saddened at the prospect, and Q signs off with his famous "Now pay attention, 007," and then offers some words of advice;

Q: "I've always tried to teach you two things: First, never let them see you bleed;"
Bond: "And 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.

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Llewelyn also portrays Q in the Eon Productions-produced 1967 TV special Welcome to Japan, Mr. Bond, as well as portraying Q in the documentary Highly Classified: The World of 007, which is included on the Tomorrow Never Dies Ultimate Edition DVD. Llewelyn appeared in more Bond films—seventeen—than any other actor to date.

John Cleese: 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 that Bond be more careful in the testing laboratories and 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.

Cleese did not reprise his role for the later Bond films of Casino Royale or Quantum of Solace. Cleese was not re-cast in the 2012 Bond film Skyfall as a younger version of the character was going to be portrayed in the film by Ben Whishaw.

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  • The World Is Not Enough (2000) (as R)
  • 007 Racing (2000) (as R)
  • Agent Under Fire (2001) (as R)
    • Originally Cleese was to provide his likeness and voice for the character of R, and the production footage release contained Cleese. However, due to copyright issues, Cleese's image was replaced with that of an old man with a crow-like face and his voice sounded more like Llewelyn's.
  • Everything or Nothing (2004)
  • 007 Scene It (Board Game)

Ben Whishaw: 2012

Ben Whishaw as Q

Ben Whishaw as Q as seen in the official Skyfall trailer

The character of Q did not appear in 2006's Casino Royale or its sequel, Quantum of Solace (2008). Bond actor Daniel Craig expressed concern over the character's absence, and expressed his hope that Q would return in Skyfall.[5] In November 2011, it was announced that British actor Ben Whishaw had been cast in the role.[6] Aged 31 as of 2012, Whishaw will be the youngest actor to play the role.

In the 2010 video game 007: Blood Stone, Major Boothroyd is not seen, but it is mentioned that Bill Tanner works for Q Branch.[7]

Non-Eon films

Geoffrey Bayldon: 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). In the film, Q is assisted by Fordyce (John Wells).

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Alec McCowen: 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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In the novels, Q is first mentioned by a name in Dr. No. He is referred as Major Boothroyd. Boothroyd was at the post of Q for all the novels by Ian Fleming.

In John Gardner's novels, the post of Q is taken over by Ann Reilly (called Q'ute by her colleagues). She also forms a relationship with Bond. But it is supposed that she held on the post for a short while only as in Raymond Benson's novels, Boothroyd again takes over the post with no reasons given.


In the Eon films, the MI6 Quartermaster is called Major Boothroyd in Dr. No and From Russia With Love. Boothroyd appears in Dr. No just to replace Bond's pistol Beretta 418 with a Walther PPK. Boothroyd was in the post of Q until The World Is Not Enough. Boothroyd tells Bond about his retirement in the same film. Boothroyd had been completely retired by the time of the next film, Die Another Day. His assistant was on the post of Q in the film (he is never mentioned by his real name but Bond referred him as R).

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 0-525-94980-1


External links