The return to Q’s lab in Spectre (2015)

Curator's Note

Let’s take a moment to pay attention to the contemporary significance of Q in the James Bond franchise. The Q scenes have been an important part of the Bond formula since the 1960s, thanks in large part to the iconic visit to Q’s lab in Goldfinger (1964), which characterised the Q-Bond relationship, and in total Desmond Llewellyn made seventeen appearances as the Quartermaster. Yet Q was noticeably absent from the ‘rebooted’ Daniel Craig era until Skyfall (2012), when he returned in the form of a younger, geekier tech genius played by Ben Wishaw.  The Q of Skyfall met Bond in the National Gallery rather than the lab of Q Branch, and he boasted that he could do more with his laptop wearing his pyjamas than Bond could do in the field. ‘Brave new world’, Bond wryly commented.

At the time of the film’s release, the significance of the National Gallery meeting scene in Skyfall was widely discussed both in the media and in Bond scholarship for the way that it re-established the relationship between Bond and his new Quatermaster. With this contribution I propose that their next meeting scene in Spectre (2015) might be used to further reflect on the new Q in the Craig era for two reasons. Firstly, the scene returns Q to a familiar lab setting associated with past Q scenes in the franchise, but may also be compared to others in the film that take him out in the field with Bond, or challenge old distinctions between the home base and the field agent. Secondly, the scene can be understood using the long-standing association between masculinity and technology in the Bond formula.

In this scene the weapon that Bond instinctively picks up and handles is wordlessly removed from him with equal confidence and authority by Q, followed by the prompting ‘Shall we get started?’ We have already learnt that Q has sensibly kept his division ‘away from prying eyes’, and his lab also illustrates that he is still personally hands-on in the creation of some old-school gadgetry. However, in other parts of the Q Branch workshop shown in the film this is complemented by long lines of workstations and monitors to display the operating systems that realise the brave new digital world of the Q character. This negotiation of a newly imagined yet nevertheless familiar relationship might well raise questions as to whether it’s possible that Q could now do more in the film formula than accessorise Bond’s heroic masculinity. With the final Craig era Bond film No Time to Die approaching, it might be worth keeping our attention on the signification of the Q character. 


A terrific post to finish out the week on, Claire!  Your (Q)uestion about whether Q has more relevance in modern day espionage than “a blunt instrument” like James Bond got me thinking about a major theme to run throughout Craig’s tenure.  From Casino up to Spectre (and one assumes No Time to Die, considering it starts with Bond in retirement and Lashana Lynch’s Nomi taking his place), the Craig era has continually been about questioning Bond’s effectiveness in a contemporary, digitized, globalized world.  Whether that be through M doubting his brutal, thuggish tactics in Casino and Quantum, Bond’s age getting the best of him in Skyfall, or the comparison of a disorganized, outdated MI6 with the coldly efficient Spectre, each film has put Bond’s methods in conflict with an alternative paradigm.  I feel like your comments about the portrayal of Q are directly in-line with that; he is no longer a simple comedic foil for Bond, but a challenger to his job.

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