by Mel Gilden
I.Q., Tracy, Trevor, Mr Milbanks, Coach Mitchell,
Synopsis: James, I.Q., Tracy, their friend Lotta Dinaro, and
Trevor Noseworthy are picking fruit in the countryside surrounding
Warfield Academy, when a gold-plated HGV turns up and offloads a
mini-tank driven by Odd Job, who begins to fire the tank's lasers at
them. Trevor runs away but falls down a small slope, hitting his head.
James tries to distract Odd Job to protect the others, but the crook
eludes him and manages to grab Lotta, pulling her into the tank. James
runs up a ledge and leaps onto the top of the lorry just as it drives
off with the tank inside. He remains on top of the vehicle all the way
to the airport, where he sees the tank unloaded, marked 'Puerto, Peru'
and put onto a cargo plane.
Back at Warfield, Trevor tells Mr Milbanks the story - but since he's
banged his head and is being bandaged up by the nurse, Milbanks assumes
Trevor's just concussed and doesn't believe him about the tank. The
authorities don't seem to believe James either, Mr Mitchell informs
him, and explains that Lotta's father has a record of being rather
eccentric - he's spent his whole life searching for El Dorado, the
mythical city of gold. Mr Dinaro has also been missing for a month,
having been searching for the city in Peru. James suggests that Tracy
and I.Q. accompany him to Peru to find the pair fo them - and with a
few gadgets packed up, they distract Milbanks with a fake phone call by
Phoebe from the Prime Minister's office, before exiting Warfield in
secret via the secret passage in Milbanks' study.
When the gang arrive in the village of Puerto on mules, James detects
gold in the mountains using I.Q.'s detector, and heads off to
investigate - while Tracy and I.Q. head into the village of Puerto to
book into the hotel and ask around about the Dinaros. While they're
there they see a gang of 'Mountain Men' - footsoldiers dressed in
yellow - raiding a local merchant's fruit store and refusing to pay.
When they try to intervene, the stall owner admonishes them, telling
them that the Mountain Men take what they please - and that they have a
'big cannon' up in the hills. James is up in the mountains and spies
Odd Job in a helicopter; using a slingshot he fires a homing device
which sticks the chopper, allowing him to track it. Just then a huge
earthquake shakes the area. The hotel and the other buildings in Puerto
are crushed by huge boulders, and James is trapped in a rockfall.
Noticing the Mountain Men aren't concerned about the quake, I.Q. and
Tracy head up into the mountains to assist James - who escapes from the
cave-in with the help of one of the mini grenades I.Q. gave him,
dropping the other grenade by accident in the process. He tracks the
helicopter towards a cliff edge overlooking an area where Goldfinger is
holding the Dinaros captive, alongside the huge cannon the merchant
talked about. Goldfinger is also searching for El Dorado, but is
annoyed that Mr Dinaro won't tell him which of the mountains it's
hidden within. His ultrasonic cannon - Earthcracker - has been
systematically crumbling mountains onto Puerto in order to locate El
Dorado, with no success so far. Stepping things up a gear, Goldfinger
has Odd Job tie up Lotta and points Earthcracker at her. If Dinaro
doesn't tell Goldfinger which mountain hides the lost city, he'll
hard-boil Lotta like an egg.
To save Lotta, Dinaro tells Goldfinger which mountain El Dorado is in,
and the criminals set to work pointing Earthcracker at the relevant
mountain, wearing headphones to protect them from the high-pitched
noise the cannon produces. Lotta apologises to her father for never
believing him about El Dorado; he replies that he wishes he'd been
wrong. But as Earthcracker uncovers the ancient city Odd Job notices a
beeping from James's gold detector, and spots him watching them from a
rope on the cliffside! Odd Job flings his razor-edged hat at James's
rope, and he topples to the floor. Odd Job takes him back to
Earthcracker to be questioned by Goldfinger, who is unpleasantly
surprised to learn he's 007's nephew.
Goldfinger explains that he plans to use giant lasers to melt the
entire city into golden bricks so that they can be smuggled out of
Peru. Dinaro is furious, citing the archaeological and cultural value
of the find, but Goldfinger's of the opinion that the form of gold is
unimportant. He forces James, Lotta and Dinaro onto one of the giant
statues at the entrance to the complex, and turns his lasers on them -
explaining that, once the statue melts, they'll find themselves
floating in liquid gold at over 1000 degrees. As the statue slowly
melts, Tracy and I.Q. arrive on the scene and decide to cause a
distraction - they've found the grenade James dropped, and use it to
create a rockfall.
During the confusion, James fires I.Q.'s pitons from his watch, pulling
the statue to a tilt so that Lotta and Mr Dinaro can climb off it.
James then fires the pitons to the floor, using his belt to zip to the
ground, where he boards the Earthcracker machine. He turns the device
to maximum and aims it directly at El Dorado, causing tremors that
wreck Goldfinger's melting operation and bring the city tumbling down.
Odd Job throws his hat at James, but Earthcracker slices it in two. The
city collapses on top of Goldfinger and Odd Job, apparently burying
them, as James rejoins his friends on the mountainside. James has
picked up a small golden statue on the way out, which he gives to Mr
Dinaro as evidence that El Dorado did exist, after all.
One of the series' earliest episodes, Earthcracker
is also one of the best. As the first 'proper'
adventure following the necessarily limited action that takes place in The Beginning, this
episode sets out the winning formula for the series in most major
respects: the guest female character/love interest; the exotic locale;
the mildly amusing Trevor sub-plot to keep things light-hearted; and
the outlandish criminal master scheme - which on this occasion is taken
up by 007's old foe Goldfinger, apparently resurrected following the
incident in the aeroplane. Such details matter not in Bond Jr,
where more or less anything goes; and the advantages of including the
wily old villain far outweigh the continuity problems it poses, most of
which will after all not have been apparent to the show's younger
audience. On the love interest front, James doesn't actually 'get the
girl' in any meaningful sense despite what I.Q. suggests. Lotta's
character doesn't really do very much, but her mere presence is enough
to drive Tracy to distraction; after her recent experience of being
rescued, she's furious even at the prospect of another girl being at
the centre of James's attention. The Warfield/Trevor storyline is
subtle enough here not to cause too much of a distraction, meanwhile;
most subsequent episodes would use increasingly contrived variations on
this basic theme of Trevor grassing up Bond to Mr Milbanks. And the
mountainous South American backdrop lends a great atmosphere to the
episode too; the artwork is a cut above average, and the incidental
music during the Peru sequences uses hints of the usual themes while
being tailored specifically for the locale - a feature that would be
lacking later in the series as more generic music was increasingly
used. The overall verdict: a true James Bond Jr classic.
Highs: Film buffs will appreciate the
reference to Miss Moneypenny, whom James's mule is named after.
Likewise, the allusions to Goldfinger's encounter with James' uncle are
a nice touch. Such instances are far more common in the earlier few
episodes of the series; towards its end the villains' plots would
become so outlandish that any attempts to tie in proceedings with the
film series were given up on altogether.
Lows: It's not entirely clear that James's
wanton destruction of an ancient archaeological site is justified as a
means of scuppering the villains' plan - but it's far from the last
time he pushes the 'destroy everything' button in order to resolve the
plot in an expedient manner.
to Remember: Goldfinger, after
James introduces himself: 'I see the family resemblance.
Not only physically, but in your talent for making trouble!'
James: 'Goldfinger, wait!' Goldfinger:
'Not this time.'
& Gizmos: The studs around James's watch casing are
now pitons on the end of super-strong cords, that will hold firm when
fired into a cliff face. I.Q. also invents a homing device with suction
cup attachment. And there's a camcorder which can detect gold anywhere
in a 25-mile radius. The camera's batteries are miniature grenades in
disguise - which begs three (naturally unanswered) questions of (a) how
the camera's actually powered; (b) how James got it through airport
security; and (c) whether I.Q. is actually licensed to create
S.C.U.M. on the Surface: Actually,
no. Perhaps surprisingly for the second episode, the organisation isn't
mentioned at all - and Goldfinger's henchmen are dressed in
gold-coloured military gear, not S.C.U.M. uniforms.
Blunders & Bloopers: In
one brief shot close to the end of the episode where the characters in
Peru are pictured at a distance, Tracy's figure is replaced with that
of Trevor - odd, since he's thousands of miles away back at Warfield!
Loco Parenthesis: Coach
Mitchell comes across as very unconcerned about the fact that a
Warfield student has been kidnapped, while Mr Milbanks and the police
don't even believe the story. Why don't they at least look into it?
Isn't the point of Warfield Academy to afford pupils extra protection
given their high-profile relatives?
O Mother, Where Art Thou: The perils faced by Lotta and her
father are pretty much an archetype for a huge number of subsequent
'guest girls' featured in the show. With almost comic frequency will
they have a father in grave danger because of his occupation, and
absolutely never will they have a mother appear on-screen, raising the
question of where all these absent mums have gotten to - and why none
of them have dangerous occupations.
Comic Capers: Issue 3 of
the comic book series is an adaptation of Earthcracker. Key
differences include the absence of Mr Milbanks and Trevor, and the
suggestion that Tracy and Lotta are best friends, which rather leaves
poor absent Phoebe out of the loop. Some of the supporting characters
look different (Lotta and her father) although this would become par
for the course in the comics. There's some stunning artwork, including
a considerable upwards extension of the lost city from the portion seen
in the show, despite retaining the same basic appearance.
Notes: Phoebe's phone call to Milbanks occurs off-screen and
we don't actually see her in this episode. Gordo also does not appear.
I.Q.'s statement at the end of the episode - 'I get the credit, you get
the girl' - is actually rather optimistic. In almost all future
episodes, James bags both the credit and the girl, despite I.Q.'s
increasingly noble gadgetary contributions.
James and I.Q. make the assumption that since Odd Job was in the tank,
Goldfinger must be responsible - although several later episodes show
that Odd Job works for other S.C.U.M. villains, too. Nevertheless,
while James recognises Odd Job, the script clearly marks this out as
his first meeting with Goldfinger - so it may well be the first time
he's met Odd Job, too, and only recognises him from his uncle's
This episode is interesting in that it marks a referenced 'first
contact' between James and one of the villains - most other crooks'
first appearances are simply treated as if James has already foiled
their plans many times before.
As in the film Goldfinger, Odd Job doesn't speak
in this episode. This characteristic is soon deemed problematic,
though; and by his next appearance in Cruise
to Oblivion, Odd Job's unexplainedly a lot more