For Your Eyes Only: The Top-Secret ‘00’ World of James Bond

Daniel Craig was the first Bond younger than the 007 franchise itself when he joined the cast of Casino Royale. He was 38 when he became 007, about the same age Bond was when the commander got his ‘00’ status in the Ian Fleming novels.

What exactly does 00 status mean, however? Here’s your debrief on the fictional 00 unit, a branch of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service.

Daniel Craig at the casino as 007 in Casino Royale
While 00 status is typically written as a digit now, Fleming's novels use the letters OO


What inspired the ‘00’ title? 

Some historians link the 00 designations to Fleming's World War II service as a real-life Naval officer working in British military intelligence in the 1940s.

Fleming worked as the assistant to Rear Admiral John Godfrey, who is believed to be the inspiration for ‘M’. Fleming was also the liaison to the Special Operations Executive (SOE), Britain’s underground Army that waged a secret war in Europe and Asia.

Damien Lewis, the WWII historian and author of Churchill's Secret Warriors, said Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s SOE agents were given a ‘0’ prefix to signify they were a 'zero'-rated agent, meaning they were trained and licensed to use all means necessary to ‘liquidate’ the enemy.

For Your Eyes Only: The Top-Secret ‘00’ World of James Bond

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Daniel Craig was the first Bond younger than the 007 franchise itself when he joined the cast of Casino Royale. He was 38 when he became 007, about the same age Bond was when the commander got his ‘00’ status in the Ian Fleming novels.

What exactly does 00 status mean, however? Here’s your debrief on the fictional 00 unit, a branch of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service.

Daniel Craig at the casino as 007 in Casino Royale
While 00 status is typically written as a digit now, Fleming's novels use the letters OO


What inspired the ‘00’ title? 

Some historians link the 00 designations to Fleming's World War II service as a real-life Naval officer working in British military intelligence in the 1940s.

Fleming worked as the assistant to Rear Admiral John Godfrey, who is believed to be the inspiration for ‘M’. Fleming was also the liaison to the Special Operations Executive (SOE), Britain’s underground Army that waged a secret war in Europe and Asia.

Damien Lewis, the WWII historian and author of Churchill's Secret Warriors, said Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s SOE agents were given a ‘0’ prefix to signify they were a 'zero'-rated agent, meaning they were trained and licensed to use all means necessary to ‘liquidate’ the enemy.

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Sean Connery as 007 leans against his Aston Martin DB5
Bond (Sean Connery) next to 007’s Aston Martin DB5


Attaining 00 status


In Fleming’s novel Casino Royale, Bond said he earned his ‘00’ status after killing his first two ‘villains’ while in Her Majesty’s Service. The first incident involved a Japanese cipher expert cracking British codes in New York and the second involved a Norwegian double agent working for the Germans.

“For those two jobs I was awarded a Double 0 number in the Service. Felt pretty clever and got a reputation for being good and tough,” Bond said. “A Double 0 number in our Service means you've had to kill a chap in cold blood in the course of some job."

Since then, Bond has reportedly killed about 600 baddies in the film series since tackling Dr. No (1962).

Pierce Brosnon as James Bond with agent 006
 006 Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean) with 007 (Pierce Brosnan)


The 00 agents of Her Majesty's Secret Service

The novel Moonraker establishes that the 00 section routinely has three agents (the others being 008 and 0011) who all have a license to kill. Bond, the senior officer, shares an office and secretary, Loelia Ponsonby, with 008 and 0011.

"The 00 section of the Secret Service was not concerned with the current operations of other sections and stations,” Fleming writes in Moonraker. “Only with the background information which might be useful or instructive to the only three men in the Service whose duties included assassination - who might be ordered to kill.”

In all, Fleming only mentions five 00 agents - 009 is referred to in Thunderball and 006 is mentioned in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. 

In the films, Thunderball establishes a minimum number of nine 00 agents active at the time. We first meet 006, Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean), in the movie GoldenEye as he launches a plot to destroy London as revenge for the betrayal of his parents by the British Army at the end of WWII. 

Desmond Llewelyn as 'Q' with 007 Roger Moore
Desmond Llewelyn as 'Q' with 007 Roger Moore

When do ‘00’ agents retire? 

Roger Moore was 58 when he announced his retirement from Bond duties, far older than the statutory retirement age of 45 mentioned in Fleming’s novels. 

In Moonraker, a 37-year-old Bond contemplates the eight years ahead before he will automatically be taken off the 00 list at age 45 and be given a staff job at HQ. “At least eight tough assignments,” Bond thought. “Probably 16. Perhaps 24. Too many." 

Actress Lashana Lynch (Nomi) with Daniel Craig (Bond)
Actress Lashana Lynch (Nomi) with Daniel Craig (Bond)


Are 00 numbers retired or reassigned? 

In No Time to Die, the 007 codename is assigned to Nomi (Lashana Lynch) after Bond's retirement from MI6. Trevelyan and Nomi are so far the only 00 agents (other than Bond) to play a major role in the film franchise, with other appearances either being brief (another female 00 appears in a group meeting) or simply by reference only.

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