This has been much discussed by fans lately. Many of us were horrified to learn that these two staple characters wouldn’t be in Casino Royale, but when that movie was so wonderful, well, now the discussion is, should they come back? And the tone is sort of fearful, like Oh noes! If stock characters come back so will silly gadgets and double-taking pigeons!
First of all, Eon just made a great movie. Let’s give them credit for not being total idiots. Second, if they wanted to screw up the series without Q and Moneypenny, they certainly could. So let’s set aside the whole “they’ll screw it up” motif and just ask if they belong.
In my mind, absolutely.
James Bond is part of an organization. I think recent movies have made him too Lone Wolf; we haven’t seen him as part of a big, organized battle since TLD. 007 isn’t Jason Bourne, or John McClane, or Rambo; it’s not One Man Against Everyone. So to see other important people in that organization is meaningful. And to have those people be anonymous faces just doesn’t work over time. Oh, sure, it’s fine that we don’t know the name of the guy who gave Bond the trace implant in CR, but if that guy comes back and we still don’t know him, it’s implausible, and if it’s a different anonymous guy, that’s also implausible. Fans are cringing at the thought of a Q because they don’t want Bond to revert to jokey, but those same fans loved Michael Kitchen’s recurring role as Tanner, and Colin Salmon as Charles Robinson. These characters fleshed out MI6 and made Bond appear a part of something.
And here’s another thing. Q and Moneypenny are recurring characters in Fleming’s novels. Q is referred to as Boothroyd or the Quartermaster; nonetheless, his role exists. So if we want to get back to a “Fleming feel” (and we do), then eliminating Fleming’s characters doesn’t work for me.
Finally, these are real-life, authentic characters. The real MI6, like the CIA and the KGB, has gadgets and geeks who make them and provide them to agents. The real-life MI6 has a support staff that interacts with and forms relationships with agents. Again, we get back to the fact that Bond isn’t Bourne; he has people he connects to, who send him on missions. And those people matter.
The more we, the audience, care about the supporting cast, the more fully-fleshed our film experience is. So definitely, let’s start caring about Moneypenny and Q again.