A lot of the thrill of James Bond movies comes from getting to ogle the clothes and weaponry and gadgets that exist in another tier of luxury. I’m talking, specifically, about the sweaters that Ben Whishaw wears as Bond’s tech consultant Q. The tea set that Ben Whishaw has in his weapons drawer as Q. And, of course, the gorgeous-looking bamboo steamer that Ben Whishaw as Q uses to steam some zucchini* before James Bond arrives at his home and rudely interrupts him to talk about the movie’s plot.
The movie No Time to Die is nearly three hours long, much of it ponderous, some of it punched up with dialogue that could only have been written by Phoebe Waller-Bridge (like when Bond, clearly a Broadway fan, calls Billy Magnussen “Book of Mormon”). Within that span, we only get a few minutes of the Daniel Craig Bond series’s true hero, who is, of course, Ben Whishaw’s Q. There’s much to celebrate about Q’s standout scene in No Time to Die, specifically that we get to meet his cat. And yet still, one is left longing for him to get even more to do.
As a reliable employee of MI6, Q has had to put up with a lot over the years: Bond’s numerous attempts to quit and come back in a huff, having to describe a whole bunch of tools that he knows Bond will invariably misuse, a code name that feels like someone in the agency watched too much Star Trek or was trying to make fun of his sexuality. But in No Time to Die, Q ends up getting a little scene of his own where he prepares dinner in his beautifully appointed London home. We see a table set for two, a hairless cat, and Q hard at work chopping and steaming some zucchini, before Bond arrives with Moneypenny and tries to get him to help stop some nanobot-virus thing from destroying most of the human race. (I wasn’t really paying attention at that point, too busy wondering what Q was steaming the zucchini for. A tart side salad of some sort? Maybe with some rice and fish? Ooh, and a little white wine? That’d be a great date meal.)
When Bond and Moneypenny press Q on decoding the evil organization’s files, he points out that he has someone coming over for dinner, whom he refers to as “he” in a moment that’s so quick you could probably deny it to government censors who might stop your Bond movie from releasing in a market where they have criminalized homosexuality. It’s never explicitly stated that Q is prepared for a date night, but this looks like a date night (otherwise, wherefore the fancy zucchini steaming?) and feels about as close as MGM was going to get to its own exclusively gay moment. An exclusively Q moment, if you will.
Personally, I don’t care much if Bond has queer representation; it’s not really what the Bond movies are for. Diamonds Are Forever had its own messy portrayal of seemingly gay villains and Daniel Craig got plenty homoerotic with Mads Mikkelsen and Javier Bardem in his other movies. It seems boring to debate whether or not this is good for the gays (generally not, like most things). But I do know that I want Whishaw’s Q to be happy, primarily because I like Whishaw as an actor, whether he is doing an opera slash performance piece with Renée Fleming that I saw in Hudson Yards after which many people walked out in confusion, or delighting children and too-online adults by voicing Paddington. Who is Q’s mystery man? What is his profession? Did Q get this hairless cat because he has allergies? Does the man know what Q does for a living, or does he think he works in an obviously fake profession like “consulting”? How does he like his cucumber?
No Time to Die does not have time to answer these questions, which, again, I consider rude. Once Bond and Moneypenny stress that saving the world is more important than Q’s date (is it???), he relents, and in a line Whishaw delivers quite Britishly, says, “Well, the job is never just the nine-to-five, is it?” So Q sighs and rolls up his sleeves and types a lot on his computer, which is 95 percent of what Whishaw does in these movies otherwise. (By my calculation: 95 percent sighing and typing, one percent saying gadget names, 3.9 percent having good hair, .1 percent steaming cucumbers.)
Whishaw himself happens to be married to the film composer Mark Bradshaw, and I assume that they have a home life much like Q’s, so perhaps wedging this scene in was a thank-you to him for all the typing and sleeve-rolling. I do think the scene would have been better if it were longer, and if we had gotten to see Q’s date, and perhaps just sat and watched them make light conversation over dinner and flirt for a bit. I don’t think Q needs his own spinoff or anything like that, but perhaps since his scene was so short during the movie, MGM could release a supplemental Architectural Digest home tour of Q’s apartment done by Whishaw in character. Or, if that’s too much lift, just a recipe for whatever those steamed cucumbers were being used for, and some wine-pairing suggestions. It’s important for me to be able to visualize what would have happened on this date.
*A friend pointed out that what Ben Whishaw is steaming may in fact be zucchini, not cucumber as I first assumed, though the green vegetable in question appears only briefly and it is hard to verify its identity. I’m not British enough to call it courgette.