'CITY OF GOLD'
by Mark Jones
I.Q., Tracy, Gordo, Phoebe, Trevor, Mr Milbanks, Coach Mitchell,
Synopsis: An unnamed island of the Caribbean, and a group of
workmen are hacking down vegetation, apparently in search of a hidden
city. As a snake emerges from the grass, one of the workmen gets
jittery and mentions a curse, but the supervisor ignores his warnings.
Suddenly, the group uncovers a vast city made entirely from gold -
protected by a huge golden wall. As one of the men climbs up and looks
at the city, a local curse - which states that a golden dragon will
rise up and destroy anyone who looks upon the city - appears to come
true! A terrifying golden dragon, flanked by an army of lizard-men,
appears out of the shrubbery and breathes fire on them. The lizard-men
chase the workers along the cliff path to a steep ravine, where they're
forced to jump into the water below and swim for safety.
But all is not quite as it seems. The golden dragon is but a costume,
inhabited by none other than Barbella! She meets up with Goldie Finger
and reports her success in scaring away the workmen. The two fly off in
a giant golden helicopter. Meanwhile, at Warfield Academy, the gang is
completing an assault course - and poking fun at Trevor, who doesn't
quite seem to have got the hang of the rope swing. Mr Milbanks
approaches and informs them that the school has arranged a trip to the
Caribbean, drawing names from a hat. Trevor, Phoebe, Gordo and James
are the winners, leaving Tracy and I.Q. behind. Back on the island, in
Goldie's mountain lair, she orders Barbella to dispense with a
whimpering, inadequate henchmen named Jasper, telling Barbella darkly:
"You know what to do."
Soon after, the Warfield gang, accompanied by Coach Mitchell, arrive at
the island's airport. At the baggage carousel, James runs into a pretty
girl, Ivy Digger, and offers to help with her bags. It transpires Ivy
is staying in the same hotel as the gang, along with her father,
Professor Digger. But lurking at the back of the room are two ladies in
trenchcoats: Goldie and Barbella. They recognise the Diggers
immediately, and Goldie orders an unseen accomplice at the other end of
a walkie-talkie to ensure they don't reach the hotel. Trevor has a
close encounter with Barbella and gets sorted with the rest of the
baggage, as the gang heads onto a bus. But it soon becomes clear the
bus driver has ill intentions as, on a precarious clifftop road, he
leaps from the vehicle, leaving it to drive off the cliff!
Always enjoying a good driving challenge, Coach Mitchell leaps into the
driver's seat - but the brakes have been jammed. Gordo hangs James out
of the window and he's able to disable the vehicle by pulling out a
security cap. As the bus stops and everyone climbs out, they realise
it's not really an airport bus after all, but a rental vehicle.
Professor Digger explains that it may be his presence that put them in
danger, telling the gang about the recent discovery of the City of Gold
and how he and Ivy have come to excavate it. Goldie and Barbella watch
the discussion from a clifftop vantage point - Goldie's furious that
James is on the scene, but tells Barbella they've got to be extra
careful in order to prevent him ruining their plans. Back at Warfield,
I.Q. consoles Tracy over not having been picked to go on the trip.
That night, James sees Ivy and the Prof into a new hotel to throw the
crooks off the scent, then heads back to his own. But before he leaves
he's stopped by Ivy, who has something else to tell him. She explains
about the curse, the dragon, and how anyone who looks upon the city
will die a horrible death. James doesn't believe it, and suggests the
pair of them go to the city in person to check it out. The two head out
by moonlight, crossing the ravine by swinging on the vines. They find
an ancient shrine to the dragon, whose inscriptions extend the curse:
saying that the dragon will rise up and breathe fire on the city,
melting the gold and burning everything in its path. At that moment,
Goldie and Barbella appear in their chopper. Barbella throws a
sharpened boomerang at them, cutting down trees in its path - so that
James and Ivy are forced to jump into the ravine.
Back at the Warfield gang's hotel, Coach Mitchell tells the others that
an oil tanker was stolen from a local port today. And sure enough, as
James and Ivy dive under the water, using I.Q.'s trainers to inflate an
air pocket under James's jacket in order to breathe, they come across a
secret underground cave, where the same oil tanker is waiting. But the
pair quickly runs into Barbella and a pair of henchmen; Ivy escapes,
but James is captured and taken to Goldie in her lair. It's quickly
implied what happened to her failure of a henchman earlier, as a row of
solid gold statues are on display, each seemingly contorted in agony.
James is put in a large trough beneath a slowly tipping pot of molten
gold, and told that he will soon be encased in it, and added to
Goldie's collection. She explains her plan: having stolen a huge mirror
from the Andes observatory, she plans to focus the sun's rays to melt
the entire city and collect the resulting molten gold in the oil tanker
she stole. So the city will be melted by fire - just as in the curse.
As Barbella and Goldie leave James to his fate, Ivy has returned to the
hotel to tell Gordo and Phoebe that he's been captured. Just as he
manages to divert the molten gold flow from the cauldron onto a nearby
pot plant, Ivy, Phoebe and Gordo arrive. They borrow a nearby jeep and
head to stop Goldie before the sun rises and lights up her mirror.
James uses Goldie's own trick against her by taking Gordo's foil
burrito wrapper and reflecting sunlight into Goldie's chopper. She
loses control and hurtles towards the giant mirror; Barbella, who is
hanging onto the base of the chopper by a rope, smashes right through
it. The chopper spins out and sinks into the sea. The gang heads home,
as James bids goodbye to Ivy - and Trevor, who's been battling
sickness, promptly throws up when James deliberately mentions fried
It's spectacularly silly in too many respects to
mention - and yet, there's something incredibly enjoyable about this
episode. The premise is essentially the same as that of Earthcracker - a
gold-obsessed villain searching for a city made entirely out of
you-know-what, in order to melt it and smuggle it out of the country.
But the realisation is very different, if not quite an improvement on
the earlier episode. The characterisation is actually much better than
average here, with Goldie Finger in particular coming across as rather
sadistic, given her foray into live statue-making which echoes the film
from which she's descended. On the goodies' side, Tracy and I.Q. are
also fleshed out nicely (see 'Highs'), as is Ivy, who's a surprisingly
likeable junior Bond girl, even if her token father doesn't get very
much to do. Admittedly, the whole Scooby-Doo approach
with the golden dragon isn't exactly an original way to keep away the
locals; but, unlike in Scooby-Doo, the device
isn't overused, and the opener is actually done rather well, with
Barbella very quickly revealed as the suitably sinister ma'am behind
the mask. The villainesses work well together, as always, and tend to
be a little more hands-on than some of their haughtier S.C.U.M.
counterparts. And the scenery is pleasingly varied too, the exotic
island backdrop with its local mythology offering something a little
different than from most episodes. All in all, definitely a worthwhile
watch and certainly in the top half of the league.
Highs: There's a nice back-at-Warfield scene
in this episode between Tracy and I.Q., a pair of characters whose
relationship isn't often explored, as the genius manages to tease out a
confession from Tracy that she's jealous she can't be on the 'exotic,
romantic island' with James. Like a true friend he then tries to
console her by offering her a game of Scrabble. Tracy icily replies
that she'd rather be bored!
Lows: Goldie Finger uses
a giant mirror to melt a golden city. Worse still, it appears to be
Lines to Remember: Gordo, on Milbanks'
announcement that he has good news for them: "Good news?
Trevor to Gordo:
"I'm stuck in a hotel room with you, feeling sick." Gordo: "Ah,
look on the bright side. At least you're not in a pit of deadly
scorpions and centipedes!" Trevor: "Good point."
Lines to Forget: Goldie Finger to
her goons: "If anyone dares to come back... use the
mechanical dragon to stop them."
Gadgets & Gizmos: I.Q.'s
inflatable trainers double up as a life preserver - though the logic
seems rather flaky given that, surely, floating feet mean the rest of
you would sink?
S.C.U.M. on the Surface: There
doesn't seem to be a mention here. Perhaps Barbella and Goldie are
Notes: This episode marks the first appearance of
Goldfinger's greedy daughter and her bodybuilding accomplice, Barbella
- although the father-daughter relationship isn't actually made
explicit until much later on in the series (Goldie's Gold Scam), when the two characters
finally feature together.
city didn't appear well-covered, and it isn't exactly a huge island -
so why has it remained unnoticed for so long? And how do Barbella and her goons know that the
workmen are about to discover the city? Have they been waiting in those
bushes for months?
is the first of at least two occasions in the series when Milbanks
picks names for a trip out of a hat - and Trevor attempts to cheat his
way into being selected (the second occasion is in A Race Against Disaster).
On this occasion, however, Milbanks has dispensed with any pretence of
including the rest of Warfield's pupils in the draw, and approaches
James and his friends when they're alone together to break the good