Dr.No was, of course, the first James Bond film-but novel-wise it’s the sixth in the series. In the novel, Bond is still recovering from being stuck with a poison-tipped shoe at the end of “From Russia With Love.”, and M figures that a light assignment-the disappearance of a section chief in Jamaica, Strangways.
In the film, Bond begins pretty much in good health, going to Casinos, drinking etc., as it’s the first Bond film and these scenes are needed to establish his character-Although like in the novel,M mentions that he was injured on a previous assignment due to his Beretta being jammed (a “sort of” reference), and requests that Bond carry a Walther PPK. He is then given the weapon by armorer Major Boothryd. Although played by a different actor than the later Desmond Llewelyn and the current Ben Wishaw, this is actually the first appearance of “Q”, as Desmond’s Q is called by Boothryd in the later film, “The Spy Who Loved Me”. Q/Boothryd would later become a major element of the series, although in Fleming’s novel canon, he only appears in Dr.No.
It’s with more urgency that M sends Bond on this mission in the film, as he’s aware that Strangways was investigating the ‘toppling’ (or sabotage) of missiles-sending them on the wrong course using radiation-whereas in the novel, he mainly sends Bond on the assignment for him to recuperate, unaware of Strangway’s investigation. He mainly assumes that he went MIA with his secretary.
Once Bond goes to Jamacia, things play a little differently in the film and novel. In the novels, Bond had already met Strangways and local fisherman Quarrel in “Live and Let Die”, and he’s Bond’s main partner in this adventure. However, the movie adds Felix Leiter-a character not present in the original novel but in several others-to the mix, and it’s also in the film that Felix and Bond have their first meeting (and are initially suspicious of each other, until it’s clear they’re both after the same goal), as “Casino Royale” had not been adapted yet. (When that eventually happened, they have their “first” meeting again, as Casino Royale is a “Reboot” and therefore not in continuity with the Connery-Brosnan films).
Dr.No is also given two notable henchmen in the film-Dr.No’s spy in Government house, Miss Taro, who attempts to lure Bond into an ambush (in what becomes the series’s first real car chase, although one without any of the usual car gadgets):
and also Professor Dent, a geologist who is covering for Dr.No, and tries to kill Bond several times, only for Bond to trick him into wasting his six bullets of ammo on a bed of blankets and pillows, leaving Bond to take the man out:
“That’s a Smith and Wesson. And You’ve had your six.”
Bond also has to deal with some additional threats, such as poisoned fruits and centipedes, in the novel. The poisoned fruit is instead switched to a cigarette and given to a fake chauffeur instead; the centipede becomes a more film-practical tarantula.
Much of the rest of the story-Bond venturing to Crab Key, meeting Honey Rider, etc. largely unfolds the same way-with Quarrel unfortunately killed while evading No’s fake “Dragon” vehichle, and Bond and Honey captured by the villain. However, Dr. No’s fascination with radiation is toned down a bit (In the films, the radioactive materials have rotted away his real hands, with metal substitutes; in the novel they were cut off for betraying the Tongs). Also, like Rosa Klebb/Red Grant/Kronsteen in “From Russia With Love”, Dr.No’s affiliation changes from SMERSH to SPECTRE.
No’s death is also somewhat more gruesome in the novel than it is the book. Instead of running a mine as cover for his criminal activities in the film, the book’s Doctor No harvests Quano. In the film, Dr.No’s metal hands prove his undoing as he falls into a pool of radioactive, boiling water.
In the book, he gets buried in a flow of Bat Quano from his own stock….