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Spoiler warning: This article contains spoilers! Plot and/or ending details follow.


"My late husband was a great lover of poetry, and, um, I suppose some of it sunk in despite my best intentions. And here today, I remember this, I think from Tennyson. "We are not now that strength, which in old days moved Earth and Heaven. That which we are, we are. One equal temper of heroic hearts, made weak by time and fate. But strong in will, to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.""
― M.[src]

"M" is a fictional character in Ian Fleming's James Bond series; the character is the Head of Secret Intelligence Service, also known as MI6. After the long period between Licence to Kill (1989) and GoldenEye (1995), the Bond producers brought in Dame Judi Dench to take over as the new M. Dench played the role of M throughout actor Pierce Brosnan's tenure as Bond. Following Brosnan's departure from the role of 007 and the rebooting of the franchise with the 2006 film, Casino Royale, which starred Daniel Craig as Bond, she continued to perform the character of M for a further three films, and appeared in a video message in Spectre (2015).

Dench's M was never referred to by name on-screen. However, a prop from the final scene of 2012's Skyfall, where M bequeaths some of her possessions to Bond following her death, revealed that her character was given the name "Olivia Mansfield".[3] As the character was never directly referred to by this name, its canonicity is unresolved.[4]

Biography

Classic continuity (1995-2002)

GoldenEye - M briefs Bond

M briefs Bond in GoldenEye.

Tanner: "Seems your hunch was right, 007. It's too bad the Evil Queen of Numbers wouldn't let you play it... (Bond clears his throat at Tanner to tell him that she is right behind him)"
M: "You were saying?"
Tanner: "No, no, I was just..."
M: "Good, because if I want sarcasm, Mr. Tanner, I'll talk to my children, thank you very much."
―M scolds Tanner for insubordination.[src]

Known only by her prefix "M", the character has recently become the new Head of MI6 in GoldenEye. Few personal details are revealed, with the exception that she studied law at the University of Oxford[5] and has children. At the time of the GoldenEye incident, her 00-Section subordinates are still adjusting to the "evil queen of numbers" and her preference for statistics and analysis rather than impulse and instinct (and bourbon to her predecessor's cognac). Tensions flare over her perceived methods during James Bond's mission briefing. She gives the spy an impromptu dressing-down; calling him a "sexist, misogynist dinosaur, a relic of the Cold War." and stating that, despite her analytical caution, she has no compunction about sending him to his death. Just not on a whim. She sends Bond to investigate the theft of the GoldenEye weapon system and, with a trace of warmth, tells him to come back alive.

Several years later[6], during the events of Tomorrow Never Dies, M is involved with a joint operation to investigate and neutralise a terrorist flea market on the Russian border. She joins General Bukharin from Russia, Britain's Admiral Roebuck and a handful of other military brass in the Ministry of Defence Situation Room, as 007 relays live intel from the field. Despite her better judgement, the Admiral and General hastily order a cruise missile strike on the bazaar. However, shortly afterward it is revealed that one of the terrorist aircraft is armed with a Soviet SB-5 nuclear torpedo. Unable to abort the missile, Bond is forced to steal the plane - along with its deadly cargo. After the mysterious sinking of the HMS Devonshire, supposedly an unprovoked attack by the Chinese, M and Admiral Roebuck cross swords over the proper response; with Roebuck opting for retaliatory action and M favouring caution, suspecting that the ship was sent off course by a third party. To that end, M uncharacteristically sends Bond on a mission to Hamburg in order to "pump information" from his old flame, Paris Carver, now married to suspicious media mogul, Elliot Carver.

At some point prior to The World Is Not Enough, M is approached by fellow Oxford alumni, Sir Robert King. His daughter, Elektra, was kidnapped by the anarchist, Renard. She advises him not to pay the ransom and sends 009 to kill her captor. Elektra escapes before he does, resultantly harbouring a deep grudge against M and her father. In November 1999[7], Elektra conspires with Renard to deliver a fertiliser bomb into the SIS Building, under the pretence of returning Sir Robert's money. King is killed in the blast, but M is unscathed. Later, playing the innocent victim, Elektra manipulates M into personally coming to Baku to "protect" her from Renard. She kidnaps M and holds her captive in the Maiden's Tower in Istanbul; watching a clock count down to a nuclear catastrophe. Demonstrating improvisational skills, she rewires the clock to supply power to a GPS locator card Bond had given to her. 007 also finds himself captive at the Tower, but escapes and liberates M from her cell. She follows Bond, as he chases Elektra and coldly shoots her dead. After Renard is killed, MI6 attempts to locate 007 and Dr. Jones using a thermal-imaging satellite. They unwittingly catch them both in a compromising position, much to M's evident distaste.

After Bond is captured in North Korea during Die Another Day, M reluctantly trades them the terrorist, Zao, in exchange for him; believing he had cracked under torture and was haemorrhaging information. She meets the imprisoned spy on-board a British warship in Hong Kong. Callously appraising his situation, she informs him that he is bound for MI6's evaluation center in the Falklands, his Double-O status rescinded, along with his freedom. After she leaves, Bond escapes to find the men who set him up. M is grilled by her U.S. counterpart, Damian Falco, who suspects her of helping him escape. When Bond returns to London, she arranges to meet him in a disused tube station and reinstates him, assigning him a partner and dispatching him to investigate the suspicious Gustav Graves in Iceland. Later, as North Korea prepares to invade the South with the assistance of Graves, M meets with Falco at a U.S. Command Bunker near the demilitarised zone. She takes him to task for misleading her and sends 007 into North Korea to stop Graves. She is last seen following the shutdown of the Icarus super-weapon, breathing a sigh of relief.

Craig continuity (2006-2015)

"I thought 'M' was a randomly assigned letter. I had no idea it stood for--"
"Utter one more syllable and I'll have you killed.
"
― Bond and M after she asked how he found out where she lived.

Following actor Pierce Brosnan's departure from the role of 007 and the rebooting of the franchise with the 2006 film, Casino Royale, Dench continued to perform the character of M for a further four films. In this new continuity, M's identity is revealed to be Olivia Mansfield. Initially married, at some point between 2008 and 2012 her husband passes away. M conducted herself with intelligence, stoicism, and above all pragmatic, unapologetic professionalism. She implies that she has worked for MI6 for some time, at one point muttering, "Christ, I miss the Cold War".[8] By 1997, Mansfield was section chief of Station H, Hong Kong. During the transfer of the territory to China in 1997, she discovered that one of her agents, Tiago Rodriguez, was operating beyond his brief and hacking the Chinese. Displaying a ruthless pursuit of the "big picture", she has no qualms sacrificing Rodriguez to them in exchange for six prisoners and a smooth transition.

In 2006, now Head of SIS, she would send James Bond to execute a duplicitous station chief in Prague, Czech Republic and his informant. She promotes him to 00 status, and quickly regrets her decision, as 007 creates an international incident by shooting up an embassy in pursuit of a suspected bomber. She is called before parliament to answer for Bond's behaviour. Returning home, she discovers the spy has uncovered her identity and forced entry to make use of her laptop. She chides him for his shortsightedness and threatens to feed him to the bastards who want his head. After Bond unilaterally meddles in the business of terrorist financier, Le Chiffre, M and her assistant Villiers travel to the Bahamas to debrief and dispatch him to bankrupt the criminal in a high-stakes Poker game in the Casino Royale in Montenegro. After he succeeds and offers his resignation, she contacts him on behalf of HM Treasury; who are concerned about the overdue return of the winnings. It is revealed that the Treasury liaison, Vesper Lynd, had been blackmailed into passing the money to a criminal syndicate and subsequently commits suicide. Frustrated at the oversight, M cynically laments that the takeaway is not to trust anybody.

Shortly afterwards, 007 tracks down the man responsible, Mr. White, and brings him to a SIS safe-house in Sienna, Italy. M is personally present for the interrogation; which is sabotaged by her traitorous bodyguard, who kills several operatives and allows White to escape. Narrowly surviving the ordeal, M is wracked with an increasing sense of impotence and urgency. SIS uncover a money trail leading to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and dispatches Bond to investigate. When the investigation collides with an antagonistic CIA operation, the highly perceptive M sees through the Americans' attempt at deception and attempts to traverse the diplomatic minefield. Already frustrated by Bond's nonchalant attitude and liberal usage of his licence to kill, M reaches breaking point after he kills a member of Special Branch at a clandestine meeting of Quantum in Bregenz, Austria. After her attempts to recall him to London fail, she personally travels to La Paz, Bolivia with her entourage and confronts him in his hotel suite. With another operative dead and the Americans threatening to put Bond down, she tries and fails to have him put in custody. Mistrustful of the CIA and suspicious of the activities of philanthropist, Dominic Greene, M permits Bond to go rogue. After 007 successfully interrogates Greene, a satisfied M joins the spy to oversee the extraction of a honeypot in Kazan, Russia.

Some time later, her position as SIS head is compromised by a bungled operation to recover a computer drive containing the identities of NATO intelligence operatives. The Istanbul mission ends with 007 presumed killed (from a botched shot she ordered) and the drive in enemy hands. Three months later, the British government puts pressure on the disgraced M to retire. The humiliating theft was part of a scheme orchestrated by the vengeful Tiago Rodriguez (a.k.a. Raoul Silva); who would subsequently destroy the SIS Building and begin leaking identities. When Bond resurfaces in terrible condition, M conceals his sub-par evaluation scores, reinstates and sends him after Rodriguez. Against the odds, the villain is taken into custody by 007 and is incarcerated in SIS's backup facility. Later, as she appears in front of a parliamentary inquiry into the Istanbul affair, Rodriguez escapes and attempts to murder her at the hearing. Rescued by 007, she is taken to his Scottish ancestral home, Skyfall Lodge, where they attempt to make a stand against Rodriguez and his men. The villain lays siege to the estate, during which M is fatally injured. She flees to the estate's chapel; where she is intercepted by Silva, who forces his gun into her hand - goading her to kill them both. Bond arrives and kills him, but M succumbs to her wound and dies uttering, "I did get one thing right."

Her position as head of SIS is subsequently taken by the former Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, Gareth Mallory. Perhaps demonstrating a sense of humour, she left Bond her infamous Bulldog Ornament in a box whose inscription read: "From the Estate of Olivia Mansfield Bequeathed to James Bond." Still intent on pursuing the mysterious criminal organisation behind Le Chiffre, Greene and Mr. White; Mansfield ensured that upon her death a video message would be mailed to 007. During the message she cryptically tells Bond that if anything happens to her she wants him to find and kill Marco Sciarra; using the resulting funeral to identify his contacts in the organisation.

Alternate continuities

Video Game appearances

Judi Dench lent her likeness to the The World Is Not Enough video game. She also provided her voice in a few video games. In Everything or Nothing, she briefs Bond before his missions. She had a short role in GoldenEye: Rogue Agent where she narrates at the beginning regarding the player. She appears in the videogame version of Quantum of Solace, which combines the storylines of the 2006 version of Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. She is seen at the beginning of Blood Stone, trying to get a general to stop a fundraiser as a terrorist is planning on destroying, but the general ignores her and has her to have faith and trust in the general. Later when Bond stops the bomb, the general thinks they were fireworks and M congratulates 007 and orders a drink for him. As well as Daniel Craig's likeness in all levels of 007 Legends, Judi Dench only voiced her character in this game. A female M also appeared as a voice-only role in Agent Under Fire and Nightfire, portrayed by Caron Pascoe and Samantha Eggar, respectively.

GoldenEye: Rogue Agent

M effectively gives the game's opening narration while reviewing MI6 employee Hunter who was shot in the right eye three years prior by Dr. No. In order to test whether the reckless agent is unfit for duty, she has him put in a simulator with Agent 007. After the agent failed, she fired him for recklessness and the 'death' of 007.

GoldenEye (novelisation)

After the previous M retired, the new M was promoted from her position in statistics to head of MI6. After taking the office, She made many changes including largely removing the "Secret" aspects of the Secret Service, much to the dismay of many employees, and her loyalty to statistics earned her the name "The Evil Queen of Numbers". She nearly forced Bill Tanner to quit his position by changing his title from "Chief of Staff" to "Senior Analyst".

After Agent 007 was captured in the field by French authorities for attempting to sabotage the launch of the Tigre helicopter, which he defended as an attempt to stop its theft by Janus Crime Syndicate. M was skeptical of 007's assessment of the situation, but their meeting was cut short by Moneypenny informing them that the Tigre had been found. They rushed to the briefing room where they watched a live satellite feed of the destruction of Severnaya, due to its being the Tigre 's final location. After assessing the situation as the work of the GoldenEye weapon, which M believed to not exist due to the Soviets not having had the budget or resources to build it. While she was still skeptical of the Janus Crime Syndicate's involvement, she sent 007 on Assignment GoldenEye to find the lone survivor of the Severnaya incident and to see if she knows who the inside man that allowed the Tigre 's thieves to enter the facility.

Behind the scenes

The character is based on Stella Rimington, the real-life head of MI5 between 1992 and 1996.[9][10]

Trivia

  • With Skyfall, Judi Dench's M became the first character to use a variation of the word "fuck" on-screen in a James Bond movie. (Timothy Dalton is seen using the word "fucking" in his debut in [The Living Daylights, although he is not audible at the time, while Roger Moore used the same word in a deleted scene from A View to a Kill.)
  • She is the first M to be killed in the line of duty.
  • In both continuities, she is the first M to interact with the film's main villain (The World Is Not Enough & Skyfall).
  • She appears in Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comic book series. In her younger spy years, she resembles Emma Peel from the British spy drama The Avengers, though referred to by her maiden name Emma Night (a slightly different spelling of her actual maiden name Knight to write around the trademark).

Gallery

See also

References

  1. (by Bill Tanner (Michael Kitchen))
  2. (by Kincade)
  3. Ellery, Ben. "M's real name uncovered: 007 fan discovers James Bond's boss is called Olivia Mansfield," 5 May 2013. Retrieved on 5 May 2013.
  4. Mortimer, Ben. "The Level of Detail in Skyfall's Props," ComingSoon.net, 21 February 2013. Retrieved on 23 February 2013.
  5. (1999). The World Is Not Enough (Blu-Ray). 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. Event occurs at 00:05:57. "We read law at Oxford together."
  6. (1997). Tomorrow Never Dies (Blu-Ray). 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. Event occurs at 00:25:20. "Friday 11, April, 1997 Late Edition"
  7. (1999). The World Is Not Enough (Blu-Ray). 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. Event occurs at 00:23:53. "Receipt dated 15th November 1999"
  8. McKay, Sinclair (2008). The man with the golden touch: how the Bond films conquered the world. London: Aurum Press, p=353. ISBN 978-1-84513-355-9. 
  9. West, Nigel (2010). Historical dictionary of Ian Fleming's world of intelligence: fact and fiction. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, p.45. ISBN 978-0-7524-2896-3. 
  10. Rimington, Stella (2008). Open secret: the autobiography of the former Director-General of MI5. London: Arrow Books, p.244. ISBN 978-0-09-943672-0. 
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