'NEVER GIVE A VILLAIN A FAIR SHAKE'
by Francis Moss
I.Q., Tracy, Gordo, Phoebe, Trevor, Mr Milbanks, Mr Farragut, Captain Plank, Jaws.
A young woman, Ms Teri
Firma, is pursued while out driving by a large black car whose driver
makes several attempts to force her off the road. When he finally
succeeds, the driver emerges from the car, revealing himself to be
Jaws, and kidnaps Teri, telling her that if she fails to follow his
instructions she will never see her father again. Meanwhile, at
Warfield, the students are in a geography lesson about plate tectonics,
taken by the appropriately named Doctor Drone. Soon however, the lesson
is interrupted by Mr Milbanks, who introduces Mr Farragut, Phoebe's
father, and Professor Firma, whom the class will be accompanying on a
field trip on board Farragut's ship, the San Andreas.
Mr Farragut and the professor are involved in a series of scientific
experiments at the Azores Fault testing Firma's seismic conductor, an
invention that produces waves that counter the waves of earthquakes,
thus neutralising them and potentially saving thousands of lives. When
the day of the field trip arrives, the party all board the San Andreas,
but I.Q. is worried about his seasickness. Teri Firma is on board the
boat too, evidently having been released by S.C.U.M., but Tracy and
Phoebe are not pleased that another girl is on board to distract
James's attentions. When I.Q. ventures into the control room to check
out the seismic probes, he catches Jaws making modifications - Jaws
exits quickly but is pursued by James.
During a short fight Jaws drops a small electronic device on the deck,
after which he is knocked overboard by an iron hook Gordo swings at
him. Mr Farragut thinks the intruder was a business competitor, but
James knows that, with S.C.U.M. involved, there is much more than
profit at stake. On a nearby submarine,
Captain Walker D. Plank lets Jaws on board and asks if he planted the
tracking device - it seems this is the item he dropped. Plank decides
they'll have to follow the San Andreas manually, while on board the
ship Gordo finds Jaws's tracking device - James wonders why S.C.U.M.
wants to follow them, while Trevor taunts I.Q. about his seasickness.
Later, on their way to dinner, Tracy and James catch Teri using a
torch to signal out to sea. She denies it but James can tell there's
something wrong. The next day, the ship is boarded by Plank and his
piratical crew. Plank tells Firma that he wants him to use his
invention to create earthquakes for him, and orders a plank to be
nailed to the side of the ship so that anyone who disobeys will be made
to walk it. Mr Farragut is the first to object, and Plank makes an
example of him, tying him up and forcing him to walk overboard. Plank
pulls Farragut back up in a net, but warns them that next time there
won't be one to save them. James decides to act, and runs towards a
punchbag on the other side of the deck, claiming he can't take it
He dives into the water and hides below the punchbag, which is shot to
ribbons by Plank's minions. Everyone believes James is dead, but once
the deck is clear he climbs back on board. Meanwhile, Doctor Drone and
Professor Firma are both being forced to do Plank's bidding in the
control room - he wants them to use the machine to flood the southern
coast of England, killing millions. The students and Teri, meanwhile,
are locked in the kitchen by Jaws, and are sorrowful about James until
he makes his entrance through the air conditioning system. I.Q. rigs up
some gadgets to help him stop Plank including underwater breathing and
propulsion apparatus and a data eraser, while Teri finally tells the
truth about her signalling - Jaws told her that if she didn't help him,
he'd harm her father, the professor. After assuring he'll be okay, she
agrees to help James instead.
and Teri leave the kitchen to stop Plank, but she is soon caught by
guards and James is forced to rescue her by slamming a door into them.
Plank is informed and sends his other goons after them. Just as James
is about to use I.Q.'s device to erase the data on the computer,
rendering the machinery inoperable, Plank catches up with him. He uses
a smoke device to escape, but is unable to erase the data. On deck,
Plank puts out an announcement warning James that unless he surrenders,
one of his friends will walk the plank. Trevor is chosen, and pushed
towards the edge despite his pleas for the pirates to take the girls
instead! James arrives in the nick of time, however, and soon replaces
Trevor on the plank. He is forced off, and Plank tells his goons to
fire if he surfaces.
However, James uses the fire extinguisher to travel under the ship,
cutting the ropes that bind his hands on the turbines. He then lets the
extinguisher go, using it as a distraction to creep past Plank's guards
on the surfaced S.C.U.M. submarine. On board, he finds a minisub, and
quickly boards it. Back on the San Andreas, Plank orders Firma to plant
the seismic conductor's probes in the fault on the ocean bed, and
prepare to start a test quake, which, when executed, submerges a small
uninhabited island completely. Plank and his crew then abandon the San
Andreas, stealing the equipment so that they can control the large
quake themselves - he warns Farragut that he'll be torpedoing the San
Andreas once they're back in the sub, so they may want to board the
lifeboats! James, however, soon uses the minisub's robotic arms to
remove the probes from the seabed, and attach them instead to Plank's
When Plank orders his henchmen to start a magnitude-nine quake, he soon
finds that it is not England that is flooding, but his own submarine!
James boards the San Andreas again, and they all watch as the craft
sinks into the ocean. While most of the pirates are picked up by the
Royal Navy (whom James has contacted) and arrested, Jaws and Plank
escape in another minisub; Plank is prepared to leave Jaws behind, but
Jaws threatens him and forces Plank to take him, too. As the pair
escape, Plank lifts the roof of the minisub and warns Bond and his
friends that he'll be back. Teri is informed that her mother and
sister in Oxford are safe, as well as her father, and the gang enjoy
the rest of the cruise. Gordo taunts Trevor about his cowardice on the
plank,which inevitably ends up with Trevor toppling fully-clothed into
the swimming pool - much to the amusement of all.
excruciating Captain Walker D. Plank makes his third appearance of the
series in this episode, which sets him back on the seas in contrast to
his previous foray into toy manufacturing. While we have our
doubts about the principles behind the seismic conductor, we suspect
that most of the target audience would have raised few objections to
the science. The Teri/Professor Firma side-plot is confusing and
largely unnecessary - neither character is interesting enough to
warrant the attention they get - and arguably Trevor's character is
taken a step too far when, faced with death, he pleads for the others
to be taken instead of himself. Another slightly controversial point is
James's apparent suicide towards the beginning of the episode. Granted,
he never intended to go through with such a thing; but it does at first
appear that this is his intention, and the scene certainly creates a darker, more foreboding feel to the episode as a whole - as
Tracy seems to highlight when she admonishes Gordo for talking about
his favourite subject - food - just minutes after James has 'died'. The
Bond character himself comes across unsympathetically as a result,
making light of his faked suicide through his endless puns and
jollities, and only partly redeems himself through his rare and rather
self-satisfied 'act of kindness' in calling the Navy to rescue Plank's
henchmen from the ocean. Gordo and Phoebe are once again underused, and
we have too many one-dimensional supporting characters - namely Dr
Drone and Mr Farragut - who add little to the episode. In all, then,
while this is great in terms of the villains' characterisation ('Highs'), and
passable in terms of plot, everybody else seems to have been left by
Highs: Plank is on top
form ('This is your captain speaking... I've always wanted to say
that!'), as is Jaws - and their almost violent confrontation towards the
end, when Jaws physically threatens Plank in order to let him in the
minisub in order to escape, thus reversing authority roles at least
temporarily, certainly adds extra depth to both characters and raises
important questions about the nature of the S.C.U.M. organisation.
Lows: Archetypal damsel Teri Firma is one of the least
inspiring guest females in the series, and displays all the bravery and
cunning of a bag of wet cement. Likewise, nobody will be objecting to
the fact that Phoebe's whining profiteer of a father makes only one
further appearance in the run.
Lines to Remember: Plank, on learning that Jaws has
lost the tracking device: 'Blast it! Now we'll have to
follow the San Andreas before we take her. And I
did so want to terrorise a few pleasure craft before we went after
Plank's rhetorical question after one of his
crew questions whether they should be feeling the quake so strongly: 'What
do I look like, a seismologist?'
Lines to Forget: Gordo, on the seismic conductor: 'No
more earthquakes? What are people in California gonna do for fun?'
Trevor Noseworthy on the San Andreas: 'Of
course, Pater's yacht is ever so much better appointed than this tub!'
Gadgets & Gizmos: I.Q.'s underwater breathing gear
is made from an aerosol can; he also provides James with a device made
from a fire extinguisher that can propel him at high speeds through the
water. A device that creates plumes of purple smoke is also used by
James during this episode, and presumably invented by I.Q.. Finally, he
provides him with a device that ought to erase all the data from the
seismic conductor's computer program.
S.C.U.M. on the Surface?: Although S.C.U.M. logos, vehicles
and uniforms are absent from this episode, both James and Plank refer
to the organisation by name so there is no doubt that this is a
Loco Parenthesis: Dullard
geography teacher Dr Drone is the Warfield staff member nominally in
charge of the field trip. Not that he succeeds in safeguarding any of
his pupils during the pirate incursion, instead spinelessly doing as
he's told by Plank.
O Mother, Where Art Thou: Unusually,
Teri mentions her mother (and sister) in Oxford as potential targets
for S.C.U.M., and we're told at the end that the police found S.C.U.M.
agents snooping around the house. But neither mother nor sister is seen.
Blunders & Bloopers: While referred to
as Plank in shorthand in both his previous appearances and nearly all later ones,
everyone in this episode (including Plank himself) refers to him as
'dePlank' - as if the 'de' is part of his surname, rather than a middle
initial 'D.' as most tie-in material suggests.
Notes: In the scene
following the villains' defeat when a policeman arrives to tell Teri
her family is safe ('O Mother, Where Art Thou'), someone's clearly neglected to draw the copper in,
so a generic scene of the boat is played out over his lines.
Plank's submarine gets a name - the Jolly Roger. Original.