Q (James Bond)

James Bond character

Portrayed by
Peter Burton (1962)
Desmond Llewelyn (1963–1999)
Geoffrey Bayldon (1967)
Alec McCowen (1983)
John Cleese (2002)
Ben Whishaw (2012–present)
Occupation Quartermaster
Affiliation MI6
Classification Ally

Q is a fictional character in the James Bond films and film novelizations. Q (standing for Quartermaster as well as a reference to the deceptive Q-ships), 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.

Q has appeared in 21 of the 24 Eon Productions James Bond films, the exceptions being Live and Let Die, the 2006 Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. The character was also featured in both non-Eon Bond films, the 1967 Casino Royale and Never Say Never Again.


The character Q never appears in Ian Fleming's novels, and only the Q Branch is mentioned;[1] although Q does appear in the novelizations by Christopher Wood, and the later novels by John Gardner and Raymond Benson.

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. It is supposed that she held the post for a short while only, because Raymond Benson's novels return Boothroyd to the post without explanation.

Charles Fraser-Smith is widely credited as the inspiration for Q[2] due to the spy gadgets he built for the Special Operations Executive. These were called Q-devices, after the Royal Navy's World War I Q-ships. 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 [3] who 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.


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 to once again as Major Boothroyd in dialogue.[5]

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. Three 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. Also in Spectre, aiding Bond to disappear, and out in the field.

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 .380 ACP Beretta M1934 pistol with the signature .32 Walther PPK handgun. He is referred to by M as "the armourer," and later as Major Boothroyd. Scheduling conflicts prevented Burton from reprising the role in From Russia with Love.

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Desmond Llewelyn: 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 delivered the underwater Lotus, Major Anya Amasova/Agent XXX (Barbara Bach) greets Q as "Major Boothroyd".

While briefing Bond on the gadgets that he is going to use on his mission, Q often expresses irritation and impatience at 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.

In GoldenEye, Q shares a joke with Bond for the first time, and in The World Is Not Enough when he reveals his plan to retire, Bond is saddened at the prospect. Q signs off with "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 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. Between films he also starred as Q in various commercials for a diversity of products and companies. These included Bond collectable merchandise, TV3, Hyundai motorcars, LG video recorders, Highland Superstores, Visa credit cards, and Reach electric toothbrushes, the latter of which featured Q briefing himself in the mirror.

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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's likeness was also used to portray the Q character in 2005's video game James Bond 007: From Russia with Love, though the voice of Q was portrayed by Phil Proctor. Llewelyn has appeared in more Bond films — seventeen — than any other actor to date.

John Cleese: 1999 (as "R"), 2002 (as "Q")

In The World Is Not Enough an assistant to Q was introduced, played by John Cleese. His real name was never revealed, but he was 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.

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

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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]

Ben Whishaw: 2012–present

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.[8] In November 2011, it was announced that British actor Ben Whishaw had been cast in the role.[9] Whishaw, aged 31 in 2012, became the youngest actor to play the role. In Skyfall, Q's gadgets were comparatively simple, consisting of a miniaturised radio and a gun coded to Bond's palmprint so only Bond could fire it. Q is demonstrated to be highly knowledgeable on the subject of computer security to the point where he designed some of the most sophisticated security protocols in existence. He shows disdain for field agents, believing their particular skill sets to be secondary to his own, but does acknowledge their usefulness under certain circumstances. However, he is also somewhat short-sighted; while engrossed in the puzzle of a security system set up by Raoul Silva, the film's main antagonist, he is unaware that he is inadvertently facilitating Silva's escape from MI6 custody until Silva actually escapes. Whishaw returns as Q in Spectre, assisting 007 on his mission, similar to Q's assistance to Bond in 1989's Licence to Kill. Q meets 007 in Austria where he outruns Spectre agents after a ring he eventually decodes, revealing the organization's existence. Q returns to London to assist Moneypenny and M in foiling Max Denbeigh's launch of the Nine Eyes intelligence network. At the end he provides Bond with his remodeled Aston Martin DB5.

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Non-Eon films

Geoffrey Bayldon: 1967

In the 1967 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 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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See also

Further reading


  1. Griswold, John (2006). Ian Fleming's James Bond: Annotations And Chronologies for Ian Fleming's Bond Stories. AuthorHouse. pp. 25–26. ISBN 978-1-4259-3100-1.
  2. "Careful Carruthers That Paper Clip Is Loaded". New Scientist. 14 August 1993. Retrieved 2 May 2012.
  3. Macintyre, Ben (5 April 2008). "Was Ian Fleming the real 007?". The Times. Retrieved 8 April 2008.
  4. "Desmond Llewelyn". Follyfoot-tv.co.uk. 19 December 1999. Archived from the original on February 17, 2012. Retrieved 2 May 2012.
  5. Chapman 2000, p. 293.
  6. http://www.dailyllama.com/news/2003/llama202.html
  7. "007: Blood Stone – Review – by Sean Colleli". GamingNexus.com. 6 December 2010. Retrieved 2 May 2012.
  8. "Daniel Craig talks about the future of JAMES BOND". Collider.com. Retrieved 2 May 2012.
  9. "Ben Whishaw cast as Q in new James Bond film Skyfall". BBC Online. BBC. 26 November 2011. Retrieved 26 November 2011.
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