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How James Bond Works

The Spy Who Loved Me: Allies, Enemies and Origins
Dame Judi Dench as the newest "M" in the 2006 film "Casino Royale."
Dame Judi Dench as the newest "M" in the 2006 film "Casino Royale."
Image courtesy Sony Pictures Classics

Just as James Bond is far from your average spy, his opponents and allies have certainly been more than faceless minions. The most prominent opponent in earlier years was the diabolical Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Blofeld headed the organization Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion (SPECTRE), which he used to further his own aims -- mostly world domination or raking in huge sums of money.

Blofeld was known for his bald head, conspicuous facial scar and, in some accounts, his attachment to a white Persian cat. However, he was known to resort to extensive makeup, masking and even plastic surgery to alter his appearance. Blofeld was directly responsible for the murder of James Bond's only wife, Teresa di Vicenzo. He is presumed dead after a fall resulting from a struggle on a helicopter with Bond himself, though with Blofeld, appearances are always deceiving.

Other notable Bond enemies include:

  • Dr. Julius No -- an atomic scientist who reportedly lost both of his hands
  • Auric Goldfinger -- a gold-obsessed smuggler who also works for SMERSH, a Russian espionage agency
  • Oddjob -- Goldfinger's henchman
  • Max Zorin - a genetically engineered psychopath
  • Jaws - a massively strong, steel-dentured man
  • 006 -- a former MI6 Agent
  • Elliot Carver -- a warmongering media mogul

Fortunately, Bond has not been alone when facing these villains. Allies from within and without MI6 have come to his aid at crucial moments throughout 007's career:

Carey Lowell as Bond Girl Pam Bouvier and Desmond Llewelyn as the original "Q" in the 1989 film "License to Kill"
Carey Lowell as Bond Girl Pam Bouvier and Desmond Llewelyn as the original "Q" in the 1989 film "License to Kill"
Image courtesy Sony Pictures Classics
  • M -- M is the head of MI6. Bond has served under several different "M"s during his tenure at MI6. M typically finds Bond's personal habits exasperating, but respects his many talents.
  • Q -- Q is the Head of Q Branch, MI6's research and development division. Unlike M, for many years there was only one Q, Major Boothroyd. As MI6's resident mad scientist, he developed the gadgets and weapons systems that often saved 007's life. He also fretted about the damage Bond always seemed to cause to them. Sadly, Major Boothroyd passed away after decades of service to his country. He has since been replaced by a new Q, formerly his assistant, R.
  • Moneypenny -- M's personal assistant, Moneypenny is known for her flirtatious verbal jousting with Bond, but it never gets in the way of getting her job done.
  • Felix Leiter -- Bond's missions often bring him into contact with his American counterparts in the espionage field. Leiter has assisted Bond on at least eight missions. Sources disagree as to whether Leiter works for the CIA or the DEA.
  • General Anatol Gogol -- This former KGB head opposed 007 at times, but Bond came to know him as a man of principle who could be counted on to help defeat schemes that threatened world security.

Bond's Beginnings

Of course, James Bond is a fictional character, created by British author Ian Fleming. Fleming's early life mirrors that of Bond in some ways -- his journalism and stock broker careers were interrupted by World War II. He joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve in 1939 and worked in an administrative position in Naval Intelligence. Fleming also occasionally did field work, including breaking and entering to photograph sensitive documents. The character of Bond as he appears in Fleming's novels is probably a romanticized version of Fleming himself, with additional traits from others. Even after leaving the Navy, Fleming craved adventure both as a reporter and as recreation, diving with Jacques Cousteau, skiing and mountain climbing and leading "expeditions" with friends to exotic destinations.

After the war, Fleming again took to journalism, and retreated annually to an estate in Jamaica that he had christened "Goldeneye." He wrote "Casino Royale" and all the subsequent Bond novels at the estate. After showing "Casino Royale" to a friend who read for a publishing house, the novel was accepted and achieved modest commercial and critical success. Fleming wrote a new Bond novel almost every year, eventually completing 13 of them. After Fleming died from a heart attack in 1964, a book of Bond short stories was released. Other authors were given license by his estate to write additional novels based on the Bond character.

The Bond depicted in the novels is an earthier, darker character than the flippant charmer familiar to the films' fans. Absent are the science-fictional superweapons and gadgets, and while the Bond of the novels does not relish killing, he doesn't seem to mind it all that much, either.