For villain week of the MI6 Cafe’s rare pair fest, I couldn’t resist talking about Bond/Drax. One of my absolute favorite things about the Moonraker book is the feeling I get that Bond totally has a crush on Hugo Drax, the villain of the book, who claims to be building a rocket–the Moonraker–that will be able to protect England from atomic bombs. Bond is so admiring of Drax’s genius and charisma–despite Drax’s assholery, physical ugliness, and the hints at his villainy–that it reminds me quite a lot of the ‘falling for the bad boy’ trope. (A trope that’s emphasized by the juxtaposition of Drax with M, who is clearly ‘the good one.’) Bond’s brain recognizes Drax as a “raving paranoiac,” but Bond’s heart is nearly overcome with admiration for this genius weapon builder.
When we’re first introduced to Drax, Bond practically has a case of hero worship:
“… And then when you think what he’s doing for the country, out of his own pocket and far beyond what any government seems to be able to do, it’s really extraordinary that they don’t insist on making him Prime Minister.” Bond saw the cold eyes getting chillier, but he was determined not to let his admiration for Drax’s achievements be dampened by the older man.
CRUSH CITY. MAKE THE MAN PRIME MINISTER. JFC.
Even when Bond learns that Drax is cheating at cards, there’s something intimate and personal about his anger; we can see Bond asserting himself against the ‘hero’ who has not only disappointed him by cheating and being crass but who has tried to take advantage of M, perhaps the most important person in Bond’s life:
And suddenly Bond didn’t care about the high stakes. Suddenly all he wanted to do was to give this hairy ape the lesson of his life, give him a shock which would make him remember this evening for ever, remember Bond, remember M., remember the last time he would cheat at Blades, remember the time of day, the weather outside, what he had had for dinner.
For all its importance, Bond had forgotten the Moonraker. This was a private affair between two men.
Later, Bond wonders why Drax cheats at cards and spends a deal of time thinking about him, concluding that “Sir Hugo Drax is a raving paranoiac” and wondering if someone should “really find out about this man, perhaps get him in the killing-bottle before it was too late.” Some time in the presence of Drax and his creation causes him to dismiss these conclusions, however:
[Bond] was greeted by a scene of such splendour that for several minutes he stood speechless, his eyes dazzled by the terrible beauty of the greatest weapon on earth.
… “What do you think of her?” [Drax] looked with pleasure at Bond’s rapt expression.
“One of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen,” said Bond.
DO YOU HEAR THAT? THAT’S THE SOUND OF THE TORCH BOND WAS CARRYING FOR DRAX REIGNITING.
[Bond] felt a glow of admiration and almost of reverence for this man and his majestic achievement. How could he ever have been put off by Drax’s childish behaviour at the card-table? Even the greatest men have their weaknesses. Drax must have an outlet for the tension of the fantastic responsibility he was carrying.
(It’s not too difficult to picture Bond being so admiring that he volunteers to be an outlet for Drax’s tension himself…)
This push-pull between the mounting evidence of foul play and Bond’s personal admiration for Drax continues throughout the book, and that tension is one of the reasons I love Moonraker so much. Drax is the one true villain Bond is almost taken in by!