by Jeffrey Scott
Featuring: James, I.Q., Tracy, Gordo, Phoebe, Trevor, Mr Milbanks, Coach Mitchell, the Chameleon.
the American military base at Fort Mead one stormy evening, a
suspicious-looking man in a soldier's uniform turns up at the gate and
is asked by the guard for his identification. But instead he
electrocutes the guard with a small stun device and, looking into his
eyes, transforms his face into an exact replica of the guard's! Heading
inside, he repeats the procedure on a more senior officer, before
ordering a junior to get him a four-star general's uniform. When the
junior officer returns with the clothes, rainwater from the impostor's
hood drips onto his face, causing it to morph into a horrible,
monstrous expression. Terrified, the guard drops the uniform - the
stranger grabs it and flees from the scene.
Warfield Academy, James and his friends make preparations for a class
trip to Washington D.C. - but Coach Mitchell realises Tracy's passport
has expired, meaning she can't come. Meanwhile, in a suburb of
Washington, the crook we saw at the army base - the Chameleon - runs to
a doctor's surgery, still hideously disfigured. We learn that the
doctor is an accomplice reponsible for implanting 'micro-moulders'
under the Chameleon's skin, which allow him to assume the appearance of
anyone he chooses. But the implants are shorted out when they become
wet, explaining the disfigurement.
The doctor puts the problem right, but army officers burst in,
searching for the Chameleon. Assuming the face of a man on the front of
a magazine, the Chameleon fools them - but when they notice the
general's uniform, he and the doctor knock the soldiers out with gas.
They find a note on one of the soldiers that says a Lt Shelley Kaysing
is arriving in Washington to inform General Armstrong about the
Chameleon's theft from the army base; he heads out to intercept her.
Soon enough the very same lieutenant runs into James and his friends at
the airport, and offers to give them a lift into the city - but the
Chameleon and two of his goons are in a van nearby, and follow them.
Since she has some time to burn, Shelley agrees to give the gang a
quick tour of some of the Washington landmarks, including the Lincoln
They then head for the Washington Monument, where the Chameleon
follows, disguised as an old woman. Separating James and Shelley from
the others, 'she' follows them to the top of the Washington monument,
before pushing both out of the open window! As they hold on desperately
to the ledge, their bafflement at the old woman's taunting turns to
horror, as her face morphs into that of the Chameleon. As he leaves
them to slip to their doom, Gordo, Phoebe and Trevor arrive at the top
of the monument - Gordo hangs an unwilling Trevor out of the window to
grab onto James, and Shelley manages to climb back to safety. James
tells Gordo to let him and Trevor drop, and a parachute I.Q. sewed into
Trevor's clothes allows them to land - right on top of the Chameleon's
The rest of the gang use I.Q.'s headphone homing device to follow
James, picking up Trevor on the way who's hanging for a tree. Meanwhile
at the Pentagon, General Armstrong is looking at the schematics for an
army prototype: the Robot Armoured Tactical Soldier, or R.A.T.S., a
walking metal pod which combines almost impenetrable protection for a
single soldier with state-of-the-art weaponry. The first R.A.T.S.
prototype will be arriving this afternoon - and this is what the
Chameleon is after, as he plans to sell it to S.C.U.M. for millions.
James rides on the crooks' van to a nearby hotel, and listens in on
their plan at their door, before disguising himself as a waiter
bringing them room service. On entry he takes the two goons out with a
champagne cork and a piece of spicy chicken, and chases the Chameleon
down to the lobby.
At that moment the rest of the gang arrive in the jeep with Shelley.
Spotting them, the Chameleon hides in an empty room. James asks the
gang to help him search for the Chameleon, and Trevor has a run-in with
him just as the police turn up. The Chameleon assumes Trevor's form and
starts throwing things at the police before escaping out of a window,
leaving the police to arrest the real
Trevor. He's taken down to the station, accompanied by all the others,
where they reconvene with an angry Coach Mitchell, who's forced to
explain the predicament to Milbanks on the phone. The gang realise
Trevor's been framed, so James and Shelley head off to the Pentagon to
warn General Armstrong that the Chameleon may be about to strike.
At the Pentagon, the Chameleon assumes the face of a departing senator
and sneaks into the building, zapping General Armstrong and assuming
his form, before heading to the demonstration of the R.A.T.S. machine.
At the demo, a soldier and scientist showcase all the incredible
features of the R.A.T.S. machine - it's pretty impressive. So much so
that the 'General' insists on getting inside himself, despite the
scientist's protestations. Just as he's being secured in the vehicle,
James and Shelley arrive - and the Chameleon reveals himself, opening
fire on the pair of them. Sheley fires a mortar at the R.A.T.S. but it
barely scratches the surface.
Just as the Chameleon is about to blast Shelley, James bursts in with a
tank, but the Chameleon uses the R.A.T.S. to bend the tank's gun back
on itself, rendering it useless. As the battle continues, the Chameleon
fires lasers at James who is swinging overhead on a ceiling hook - but
accidentally ruptures one of the water pipes. As the water cascades
down onto the prototype, the Chameleon's face short-circuits again and
his face swells back to monstrous proportions. He leaps from the
R.A.T.S. which promptly falls on top of him, crushing him as armed
soldiers arrive to arrest him. BAck at the police station, Trevor is
released from jail and, on General Armstrong's orders, Shelley gives
them a proper VIP tour of Washington.
Review: One of several strong early episodes, The Chameleon
ticks all the boxes in terms of both action and atmosphere, set as it
is against the backdrop of some of America's most famous landmarks. The
show's third episode introduces a third master villain, the eponymous
Chameleon, whose sinister presence adds a healthy degree of intrigue to
proceedings right from the atmospheric outset; while the science behind
his facial implants may not stand up to much scrutiny, the idea itself
works well as a plot device - so well in fact that the Chameleon bags
two further appearances in the series as a result. The R.A.T.S.
prototype isn't quite as convincing (largely because, like the
Chameleon himself, it doesn't appear even to be waterproof), so that
the ending is a slight anticlimax, although the Chameleon does get a
fairly comprehensive comeuppance - and unusually for James Bond Jr,
is captured and presumably jailed. Meanwhile Lt Shelley Kaysing more
than amply fills the role of junior Bond girl, confidently coming
across as a far stronger character than the previous episode's Lotta. A
generally strong script yields some decent one-liners, particularly
from Gordo - indeed, even Trevor manages to be amusing in this episode,
becoming embroiled in the plot himself as opposed to remaining a
sideshow as he all too often is.
Chameleon is a great concept for a criminal - and one who is criminally
underused throughout the rest of the run. His best bit here is a quite
chilling scene when in role as the old lady: when asked for a hand by
James, he simply stands there clapping. Lt Kaysing's rebuff to Trevor's
sexist comments is also a highlight.
couple of sections of the script read more like a holiday brochure
entitled 'Visit Washington' than a cartoon, as each of the famous
attractions are name-checked and explained in detail.
Lines to Remember: Trevor to a taxi driver: 'Haven't you got a limo?' Driver: 'Yeah. But I left it in the garage with my Rolls and Mercedes.'
Gordo to Shelley: 'This is a cool jeep, lieutenant. Have you thought about adding a roll bar and chrome rims?'
Trevor, at the Lincoln Memorial: 'Some day thousands are going to flock to see a statue of me!' Gordo: 'Yeah - thousands of pigeons!'
Gadgets & Gizmos: I.Q.
has modified a bog standard radio/cassette player so it acts as a
homing device, which can be tracked using a pair of remote headphones.
In addition, Trevor's long underwear is equipped with a sewn-in
parachute to help combat his fear of flying.
S.C.U.M. on the Surface: Sort
of. The Chameleon states that he plans to sell the R.A.T.S. body armour
to S.C.U.M. for millions, which probably suggests he's not a paid-up member
of the organisation. This is later made explicit in the episode The Art of Evil.
Loco Parenthesis: Coach
Mitchell is on top form today; despite a specific instruction from
Milbanks to ensure the kids don't get into any trouble, he decides to
stick around to read the Gettysburg Address at the Lincoln Memorial,
giving his pupils carte blanche to go off entirely unsupervised.
Blunders & Bloopers: The
waiter whose uniform and trolley James borrows claims the food he has
is for room 311 - but that is the Chameleon's room, and his goons
explicitly state that they haven't ordered any. In addition, James says
the food is Indian, but it looks more like chicken and chips with hot
sauce poured all over it.
VHS Vault: The Chameleon was released in the UK alongside episodes of various other kids' TV shows on the compilation video The Biggest Ever Saturday Morning Picture Show.
Notes: Jeffrey Scott's first name is misspelled as 'Jeffery' in the opening credits.
If the Chameleon's face short-circuits every time it gets wet, how does he ever wash?
Why does Lieutenant Kaysing need to tell General Armstrong about the
theft from the army base in person? Doesn't the army have telephones?
At the doctor's surgery the Chameleon hides his face under a copy of The Man magazine, a publication that Mr Mitchell is later seen sleeping under in The Inhuman Race.
The Chameleon hides in Room 101, which could be a reference to George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. But probably isn't.