Open main menu

Q is a fictional character in the James Bond films and film novelisations. Q (standing for Quartermaster as well as a reference to the deceptive Q-ships) is a job title, unlike M, which is a cypher for the character's name. He is the head of Q Branch (or later Q Division), the fictional research and development division of the British Secret Service.

James Bond character
Portrayed byEon films:
Peter Burton (1962)
Desmond Llewelyn (1963–1999)
John Cleese (2002)
Ben Whishaw (2012–present)
Non-Eon films:
Geoffrey Bayldon (1967)
Alec McCowen (1983)

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 novelisations 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 BoothroydEdit

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

Ann ReillyEdit

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, although 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. 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 ProductionsEdit

Peter Burton: 1962 (as "Major Boothroyd")Edit

In the first film, Dr. No, Boothroyd is played by Peter Burton in only one scene in which he replaces Bond's .25 ACP Beretta 418 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, although he later made two uncredited reappearances in Bond films, first as an RAF officer in Thunderball (1965) and later as a secret agent in the satirical Casino Royale.[6]

Featured in

Desmond Llewelyn: 1963–1999Edit

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 short attention span, often telling him to "pay attention, 007", and Bond's 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. 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, and Licence to Kill saw him travel to assist Bond while he is officially on leave from MI6 even after Bond has resigned from MI6 to pursue his own vendetta. 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. Llewelyn 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.

Featured in

Llewelyn also appeared in five James Bond video games:

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)Edit

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 007: The World is Not Enough (2000), 007 Racing (2000) and Agent Under Fire (2001). He was officially referred to as "Q" in Die Another Day (2002) following Llewelyn's death in 1999. In 2004, Cleese was featured as Q in the video game James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing.[citation needed]

Much like his predecessor, R is a consummate professional who is frequently annoyed by Bond's cavalier attitude. 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 video game, James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing, Cleese's Q has an assistant, Miss Nagai, portrayed by Misaki Ito.

Featured in

Cleese also appeared in five James Bond video games:

Ben Whishaw: 2012–presentEdit

Ben Whishaw, the incumbent actor in the role

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.[7] In November 2011, it was announced that British actor Ben Whishaw had been cast in the role.[8] Whishaw, aged 31 in 2012, became the youngest actor to play the role.[9] 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. 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 organisation's existence. Q returns to London to assist Miss Moneypenny and M in foiling corrupt MI6 bureaucrat Max Denbeigh's launch of the Nine Eyes intelligence network. At the end he provides Bond with his remodelled Aston Martin DB5.He is the first Q who is younger than James Bond.

Featured in

Non-Eon filmsEdit

Geoffrey Bayldon: 1967Edit

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). The sequence parodies the regular series' outfitting, and features Q presenting Tremble with an elaborate bullet-proof vest, laden with preposterous features ("a Beretta in the buttonhole, and a cute little mini-gun in the gusset").

Featured in

Alec McCowen: 1983Edit

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.

Featured in

See alsoEdit


  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". 19 December 1999. Archived from the original on February 17, 2012. Retrieved 2 May 2012.
  5. ^ Chapman 2000, p. 293.
  6. ^ "Peter Burton".
  7. ^ "Daniel Craig talks about the future of JAMES BOND". Retrieved 2 May 2012.
  8. ^ "Ben Whishaw cast as Q in new James Bond film Skyfall". BBC Online. BBC. 26 November 2011. Retrieved 26 November 2011.
  9. ^ Lyng, Eoghan (2016). "The Ten Best Ben Whishaw Performances" Taste of Cinema

Further readingEdit

  • 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