Saunders: The Unsung Hero of The Living Daylights
Saunders is the fictional Head of Section “V” Vienna, who was brought to life by British actor, Thomas Wheatley in the 1987 James Bond film, The Living Daylights. His character is the ultimate professional bureaucrat, and serves as an essential ally to Bond, but unfortunately he’s mixed up in Koskov’s manipulation, meeting his demise in the heat of battle.
Saunders orchestrates General Koskov’s defection, embodying the quintessential British bureaucrat. He organizes the smuggling of Koskov from Czechoslovakia into Austria, while overseeing James Bond in his role as a sniper.
Saunders takes offense when Bond unilaterally modifies the escape plan, anxious about not receiving acknowledgment for the operation’s design. He even contemplates reporting to M about Bond intentionally missing his shot at Kara Milovy.
Acting on a tip-off from Bond, Saunders rendezvous with him at a café in Vienna’s Prater to provide updates on Brad Whitaker and Koskov. However, his investigations make him a liability to Whitaker’s plans, prompting Necros to kill him.
As Saunders leaves the café after meeting Bond , Necros detonates an explosive device in the automatic sliding doors with exact timing. The doors violently shut, instantly killing Saunders.
Bond later discovers a balloon emblazoned with “Death to Spies” and, in a fit of rage, ruptures it with his bare hands. Ultimately, Bond avenges Saunders’s murder by causing Necros to plummet to his death from a cargo plane over Afghanistan.
Thomas Wheatley, born in August 1951 in Chelmsford, Essex, is an English actor known for his extensive work in theater. After training at Drama Studio London, he immersed himself in the Tribunal Plays at the Tricycle Theatre, performing in pieces like Half the Picture and The Colour of Justice.
His career also led him to perform at various renowned stages, such as Shakespeare’s Globe and the Royal Exchange Manchester. Between 2009 and 2012, he performed in two Alan Bennett plays directed by Christopher Luscombe. Despite his focus on theater, Wheatley has made notable appearances in film and TV, including his role as Saunders in The Living Daylights (1987).