Sunday, September 27, 2015

'Q' drives the script

I have not missed even a single James Bond movie.
That is some sort of an understatement. I have watched all Bond movies multiple times, in movie halls and on TV. There indeed was a time a friend of mine and I used to compete as to who is better in Bond trivia. We went beyond naming characters (villains, their side kicks, and Bond girls), actors who played them, music score by, title song sung by and so on. For example, I would answer the phone and the voice would introduce itself as Blofeld, Pussy Galore, Dr. Good Head, Scaramanga, Alex aka Janus, or Mr. Big. It was then for me to identify the Bond movie. It went both ways.
But two characters never formed the name bank we used – ‘M’ and ‘Q’. ‘M’ was an uninteresting character (the exception being “Mommy-was-very-bad” Judy Dench as ‘M’ in Skyfall). But ‘Q’ was not. This post is about that lovable, unassuming, ready-to-travel-anywhere in the service of Her Majesty, quick-witted-enough-yet-non threatening old rat, Q (till Skyfall in which the ‘old’ went out the window, while the ‘rat’ stayed).
It was only over time I realized it was ‘Q’ who drove the script. The script writers must first imagine what contraptions ‘Q’ could/would develop (the car that would mask itself is something straight out of current research) and then write in the script situations for Bond to use them.
The script writers did everything possible to conceal the importance of ‘Q’; after all, the protagonist cannot be upstaged by a character appearing only minimally in the plot, though hugely essential he is to it.
If you were to run through a Bond movie in your mind, you would recognize Q’s contributions to Bond’s success. While Sean Connery’s Bond did not leverage ‘Q’s talents as much, Roger Moore went at it with gusto. This tradition has built up over time and hasn’t looked back.
If you are as serious about watching Bond movies as I am, the moment ‘Q’ comes on the screen, your mind races to build scenarios where his inventions would come in handy. If ‘Q’ offers a ring – not an engagement ring, for sure – that can shatter a bullet proof glass sheet using ultrasonic sound waves, you are on the edge of the seat for that scene in which a glass wall/floor will be shattered. And, you are not disappointed.
Or, take Skyfall. Bond was given just a gun and a “radio” to beam up his location. Bond shows his contempt for this “offer” from ‘Q’. But, ‘Q’, in his new avatar a super savvy computer expert, has the last laugh. Even the simple “radio” is integral to the plot. Ironically, as Bond realizes, the “radio” has been used more effectively by the villain, to be captured deliberately!
One can argue whether ‘Q’ and his inventions were written into the script or the script has been developed around what ‘Q’ could invent. Even if you thought I am trying to put the cart before the horse, I would gladly do so and have the cart pull the horse – a more interesting scenario, if you get my drift.
‘Q’, in a few minutes, adds as much punch to the script as what Bond delivers to his assailants in a 100 plus minute long movie. There lies the strength of ‘Q’.
Yes, I realize that Bond movies are for having mindless fun. But, I also realize that if only we set aside that mindlessness, we can find something interesting. This is ‘Q’s contribution.
Hence I love ‘Q’.
Raghuram Ekambaram

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