'POMPEII AND CIRCUMSTANCE'
by Jeffrey Scott
Featuring: James, I.Q., Tracy, Gordo, Phoebe, Trevor, Mr Milbanks, the Worm.
Synopsis: At an Italian military installation, agents of
The Worm use explosives to blow through a door, stealing high-powered
boring drill-machines from within. At another military base, a fleet of
army tanks is stolen, despite soldiers' best efforts to stop the
crooks, and The Worm cackles inside his trademark limousine as he is
informed that Phase 2 has been accomplished; but just what is he up to?
Coincidentally, at Warfield Academy, Trevor Noseworthy makes a
last-ditch attempt to buy some friendships by inviting James, Gordo,
Phoebe, I.Q. and Tracy to stay at his family's summer home on the
Italian coast. He expects to travel in the family limousine, but their
butler, Hornsby, informs him that the limo is exclusively for the use
of Fifi, his mother's poodle, whom he will be 'babysitting' for the
duration of the holiday!
While the others take the family van, James decides to ride to Italy in
his sports car along with I.Q..The others all enjoy the sun, sea and
sand, while Trevor is left minding the troublesome mutt, who does not
appear to be fond of him! Meanwhile, deep underground,
The Worm's henchmen install the giant drills on the front of the tanks,
to create powerful boring machines. We are also introduced to his new
henchmen, Slug and Cricket, who are soon informed of the details of his
latest scheme: to drill tunnels into the buried treasury of the ancient
city of Pompeii, and steal the priceless gold and gems within. He warns
them, however, that there are lava veins everywhere in the area and
that if they hit one, the tunnel will fill with 'deadly molten rock'.
Later, after I.Q. has tinkered with his car a little too much for his
liking, James decides to go for a drive to a café down the coast, and
takes I.Q. along with him.
On the way, James spots a
pretty girl in a car up ahead, and speeds on to get a closer look. As
he does so, a huge crack opens up in the road - one of the boring
tanks, driven by Slug and Cricket, has gotten too close to the surface
and is causing massive ruptures. Just as James pulls up alongside the
girl's car, the highway completely collapses and, while James swerves,
the girl drives straight into the pit. Terrified of what The Worm will
say when he finds out, Slug and Cricket sneak away, and James and I.Q.
rescue the girl, who introduces herself as Louisa, and is furious about
the loss of her new car which now looks pretty crumpled. The three of
them examine the boring tank and James decides they should investigate
further; Louisa, a tour guide, insists on coming too in order to wreak
revenge on whoever destroyed her car.Using I.Q.'s new sure-grip tyres,
James drives his sports car down the hole and they begin to explore the
network of tunnels.
Meanwhile, Trevor and Tracy
walk round the town to give Fifi some exercise, but, due to vibrations
from another boring tank, she ungratefully escapes, chased by a frantic
Trevor. Underground, Slug and Cricket hijack another of The Worm's
tanks, telling the drivers that they're taking over and pretending The
Worm has ordered it. They then lie over the radio, claiming there is no
sign of the ancient city in two quadrants when they're only exploring
one. As they break into another tunnel, they come across James and his
friends driving the other way, and, coming upon a dead end, James uses
the tyres again to escape - along the tunnel's ceiling! As they're
driving, Louisa falls out of the car and to the ground, where The Worm
picks her up in his limousine.
He tells Bond not to interfere any further or he'll hurt her, then
drives off, using a smoke-bomb to prevent James seeing which tunnel he
escaped down. On the surface, Trevor finds Fifi but is then confronted
by a vicious-looking bulldog, who is chased away by Fifi, leaving
Trevor thinking she'll get eaten by the other dog. Underground,
James chases Slug and Cricket's tank, blocking the exhaust with a stone
so that the machine comes to a halt. When the occupants step out to
check out the problem, James and I.Q. jump in and drive away.
Meanwhile, The Worm informs Louisa that, once he's done with her, he'll
leave her buried under Pompeii, and she notices his dislike of bright
lights when a tank commander switches one on. They've found the ancient
temple treasury and prepare to rake up the treasures, but James arrives
and attempts to stop him.
As Louisa snatches The Worm's sunglasses in order to escape, Slug and
Cricket attack James and I.Q. in a third tank, and
the ensuing collision causes a nearby pillar to collapse, almost
flattening Louisa. James puts his tank in the way
of the pillar, taking the blow instead of Louisa, but the tank is
crushed and he and I.Q. are forced to crawl out. The
Worm and his stooges head for the temple, but realise that the treasury
itself is buried underneath the lava flow. Slug warns that drilling to
it would cause massive lava eruptions in the city above. The Worm
doesn't care, and tells them to go ahead with it anyway - he then loads
up his tank and escapes with the booty, leaving the walls collapsing so
that James and his friends can't escape. They are soon surrounded by
lava, and can see no way out, but James uses I.Q.'s remote to bring his
car around just in time to save them.
They head back to the surface, surprising Trevor and Tracy by emerging
from the ground along the way, and drive to the crushed tank that
originally destroyed Louisa's car, force entry, and use it to drill a
hole into the ocean so that the network of tunnels fills with seawater.
The lava flow is counteracted, saving modern Pompeii from ruin again
and stopping The Worm dead in his tracks. The tank is forced to
surface; after they try to drill James's tank, Slug, Cricket and the
other stooges are arrested, but The Worm manages to wriggle away again.
Trevor is thrilled, however, when, thinking Fifi has been eaten, James,
Tracy and I.Q. bring her back alive and well. It seems Fifi isn't so
pleased to see Trevor, however - the only thing getting eaten today is
second (and last) Worm-centric episode in the series is, despite its
various faults, somehow easier to swallow than the first; intentionally
burying a city in molten rock is far closer to fantasy than bringing
down a New York skyscraper, although this wasn't necessarily evident in
1991. However, this episode is an improvement on A Worm in the Apple in
other ways, too. The Worm himself, whose high-pitched voice is
amazingly even whinier than before, comes across as far more sinister
and villainous than in his previous outing - his willingness to kill is
more clearly on display here - while his new idiot-henchmen Slug and
Cricket add their own brand of bungling comedy to the proceedings. Even
Louisa, the token foreign girl, is a great deal feistier than her
counterparts in most other episodes; amusingly, her concern throughout
appears not to be for Pompeii but for the fact that the crooks wrecked
her new sports car. The episode's locations are well utilised, and The
Worm feels truly at home in the vast network of underground tunnels in
a way that he somehow didn't in New York, while the boring tank idea is
quite original and works for rather than against the episode, despite
being pretty unfeasible. Aside from James and I.Q., the regular cast in
general are very underused here: Gordo and Phoebe get next to nothing
to do while Tracy is relegated to the position of co-dog walker along
with Trevor Noseworthy, who is painted perhaps as less obnoxious than
usual, showing his desperation to be liked by inviting the gang to
Italy. For once, his quarrel is not with James and his friends but with
the dog, which removes the repetitive insult-trading between him and
While the Fifi subplot is hardly spectacular, it is at least original
and somewhat less contrived than past Trevor mini-adventures. The scene
in which James attempts to catch up with Louisa's car at the beginning
is also a breath of fresh air, allowing for some development of the
James and I.Q. characters (excessive confidence versus excessive
rather than plunging us too soon into the plot as is so often the case.
All in all, Pompeii is a good, enjoyable episode
which, while not among the series' very best, is certainly well above
Highs: The extent of The Worm's writhing unpleasantness is
so great that watching him is almost cringeworthy - an impressive
achievement for a cartoon villain.
Lows: The Worm's unnamed senior henchman (in a mining helmet
and moustache) is voiced either by Arnie or a very practised
Lines to Forget: Gordo, witnessing James's tank
coming out of the ocean:
'Woah! I've seen big sand-craft, but that one takes the
Gadgets & Gizmos: I.Q. installs some new features
for the sports car, including 'sure-grip' tyres with a thousand
retractable steel hooks (so 'sure', in fact, that I.Q. offers a five
year, 50,000 mile warranty), and a homing device in the dashboard,
allowing the car to be driven from a distance by remote control.
S.C.U.M. on the Surface: Once again, The Worm's relationship
with S.C.U.M., if existent, is not mentioned and he appears to work
O Mother, Where Art Thou: Not
for the first time, Trevor's mother gets a mention - as we learn that
she summoned Trevor to the family holiday home in order to babysit Fifi
the dog. Predictably she remains entirely offscreen, however.
Loco Parenthesis: The
usual charges of negligence are averted, since the action takes place
while the gang are on holiday.
Notes: James Bond Jr would next return to Italy in The Heartbreak Caper, another
episode in which lava features prominently.