'LAMP OF DARKNESS'
by Jeffrey Scott and Mark Jones
I.Q., Tracy, Gordo, Phoebe, Trevor, Mr Milbanks, Cortex, Leftbrain &
Synopsis: It's evening on
the Noseworthy estate, and two unwelcome visitors hoist themselves over
the railings. It's Leftbrain and Rightbrain, and, despite their
squabbling, they seem to have come with a particular purpose in mind.
As they dash past the guard dogs and enter the house, they soon spot
what they're looking for, right under Trevor's chair - a Persian rug.
Grabbing it, and flooring Trevor in the process, they make their escape
to a nearby van where Cortex is waiting for them. The next day, at
Warfield, Trevor tells Milbanks about the theft, and then James and the
gang. He gives them a tape recorded by the security cameras, and I.Q.
views it - he quickly recognises the crooks, but James shuts him up and
sends Tracy and Gordo with Trevor to check out local rug shops.
When they're alone, I.Q. runs a search on the rug and it turns out that
it's one of only four like it in the world, two of which have been
stolen recently. Pulling up the address of the fourth rug's owner as a
manor house in Sussex, James, I.Q. and Phoebe head there in
anticipation of the crooks' arrival. When they get there, James goes to
look around while Phoebe and I.Q. keep a lookout. Soon, Leftbrain and
Rightbrain turn up and quickly steal the rug through the front
entrance. In an attempt to stop them, I.Q. ties a hosepipe to their van
and part of the railing, but the rails end up coming loose and dragging
I.Q. along behind the van. James comes to his rescue, and reveals he
put some of I.Q.'s luminous cologne on Cortex's van, so it's leaving a
trail for them to follow.
At Cortex's mansion, the crook watches as his henchmen pin all four
rugs onto the wall, side by side - together, he explains, taking a
picture, they form a map of the location where, in the Middle East,
Aladdin's lamp is said to be hidden. He says the lamp will make him the
most powerful man alive, and orders Leftbrain and Rightbrain to prepare
the jet to fly there. Overhearing, Phoebe tells James and I.Q. that her
father's aircraft design plant is nearby - so they take one of the
planes and, with Phoebe as pilot, follow Cortex to the Middle East in
it. As the two
planes fly over the desert, Rightbrain activates the radar and Cortex
realises he's being followed.
He fires a missile at Phoebe's jet, causing the tail to fall off and
the plane to spiral down towards the sand. Ejecting from the plane, the
gang use parachutes to float to safety. Back in England, Trevor, Gordo
and Tracy browse rug shops in the hope that they'll find one so similar
to the stolen rug, Trevor's parents won't notice and berate him for not
turning the burglar alarm on. They don't seem to be having much
success, however. In the desert, Cortex and his men are in a jeep,
following the map the rugs made. They soon come across an ancient
temple, and find the secret switch that opens the door. Meanwhile, some
way away, as the heat increases and the water runs out, I.Q. begins to
hallucinate and starts seeing mirages. James tells him to snap out of
it - but his final vision isn't imaginary.
A woman on a camel approaches, introducing herself as Lytra, and
explains she's following the tracks from Cortex's jeep. She agrees to
give them all a lift, and they follow the crooks' trail into the
temple. Inside, Rightbrain ends up dangling by his feet when he sets
off a trap, and has to be helped down; then crosses a lightbeam and
gets buried by sand. James and friends come across another trap: a
giant stone floor that causes heavy objects to fall when stepped on.
Luckily James anticipates the trap and throws a stone to trigger it
before they cross. Soon though, Cortex spots James and the gang from a
vantage point higher up in the temple, and orders his goons to roll a
giant, spherical rock down a slope to crush them. They press themselves
up against a wall to avoid it, and as the boulder flies through a hole
in the side of a cliff-face, the wall spins round to reveal a treasure
room full of gold and jewels.
The glyphs on the wall identify the room as the home of Aladdin's lamp
- and soon, I.Q. hits his foot on a metal object which turns out to be
the lamp. As James pulls it out of the ground the floor around them
crumbles away, leaving them on a pillar of dirt surrounded by lava.
Cortex appears from a chamber higher up in the temple, using a
grappling hook to steal the lamp from James's hand and explaining that
the map said no-one could live through the final challenge. As the
pillar continues to crumble, Cortex and his minions make their escape.
Back in England, Gordo's desperate for lunch but Trevor insists they
keep looking for a rug. They find one that's passably similar, and
Trevor decides to buy it, hoping his parents won't notice.
Meanwhile, outside the temple, Cortex decides to test the lamp -
holding the crystal within, anything you think about can be
materialised into the physical universe, he explains. He imagines a
huge one-eyed monster and, sure enough, it appears, then disappears
when he wills it to. Inside the temple, James uses the telescopic belt
I.Q. has given him as a rope to get his trainer in a foothold up above
and pull them all to safety, just as the mound beneath them crumbles
into the lava. They go after Cortex by camel, and he arrives back at
the landing site in the jeep. Just as Cortex's plane lifts off, James
rams the jeep into its side, crippling it. Wielding the lamp, Cortex
turns the jeep into a huge metallic car monster, that chases James.
I.Q. grabs Cortex from behind, causing the crystal to fly from his hand
and into Leftbrain and Rightbrain's. The jeep monster disappears; and
together they imagine a giant clown, which proceeds to chase James
instead. The pair then argue over who should make the next wish, and
grapple for the crystal, causing it to fly from their hands and split
Cortex grabs one half, while James grabs the other, for a final battle
of wits. Cortex conjures up a giant snake, so James imagines a huge
rock monster that ties the snake in a knot. Cortex turns the snake into
a huge fire-breathing dragon, so James imagines a waterfall which
causes the dragon to evaporate. Cortex's crystal then stops working,
and James reveals that, rather than outwishing Cortex's monsters, he
simply wished for Cortex's crystal not to work. James then wishes for a
cage to appear around the crooks and tells Cortex to think about it on
his way to prison. Back at Warfield, Trevor's furious that, having
spent so long finding a replacement rug, James has brought the real one
back. To punish him for his ingratitude, Gordo uses the magic crystal
to cause the rug to wrap around Trevor, promptly muffling his
More outlandish than most editions of
the show, Lamp of Darkness
with the laws of science in favour of magic and mythology, so that the
realism or otherwise of the episode isn't even up for debate. The
villainous Maximillion Cortex makes his debut here (although James and
his friends appear to have encountered him off-screen before), and his
power-mad scheming suits the episode perfectly, with his idiot stooges
Leftbrain and Rightbrain providing light relief in an otherwise fairly
epic installment. The quest for Aladdin's lamp is, of course, about as
epic you can get, and it actually works very well, despite being
unexpected in what's usually a spy show and perhaps more suited to an
'Indiana Jones Jr' or suchlike - although, incidentally, there's more
mention made here of James and his friends being 'secret agents' than
in most episodes of the series. There's no Disneyesque genie or
three-wishes malarkey here; the lamp is depicted as an altogether more
straightforward artefact that simply brings anything you imagine into
the physical world. Although the ending is unsatisfactory in that we
realise the Warfield gang still has the lamp (or the crystal from it),
and don't appear to have any intention of handing it to the authorities
or destroying it for the security of the world, this can be taken with
as much of a pinch of salt as the rest of the episode, which is clearly
intended as a partial break from the usual format. Phoebe and I.Q. are
both nicely fleshed out in this instalment, as in fact is Trevor -
although, while using the latter as a launchpad into the story worked
well, the writers would have done better to remove some of the tedious
sequences in which he looked for a new rug, instead affording more
the challenges of the temple. Overall, a refreshingly different episode
and among the series'
Highs: There's a real air of
mystery about this episode - we're never told the exact setting, but
Saudi Arabia or Egypt seem likely. Some better elements of the series' underscore are used to create a real sense of foreboding
in the temple.
Lows: As a result of Leftbrain and
Rightbrain's combined mental efforts, James is chased at one point by a
gigantic clown, who's given the immortal line: 'Welcome, boys and
girls, to the circus!'
Lines to Remember: James,
on I.Q.'s extendable belt: 'This could come in handy.' Gordo:
'Yeah, if you unexpectedly gain some weight!'
Rightbrain, terrified of Cortex's monster:
'Aaaagh! That looks just like Leftbrain's mother!'
Gadgets & Gizmos: The latest products
of I.Q.'s genius are a luminous cologne with a dubious
fragrance, and a telescopic trouser belt.
on the Surface: As another unusual factor to
this episode, S.C.U.M. isn't mentioned - perhaps Cortex is working
Blunders & Bloopers: When
James and the gang are riding the camel towards Cortex's plane, the
animal is hugely out of proportion at roughly three times the
Notes: Maximillion Cortex and his henchmen would reappear in just one more episode, Leonardo da Vinci's Vault.
This is the only occasion on which one of the regulars' homes, aside
from Warfield Academy itself, features in the show - here, it's
Trevor's family estate.
The flask seen here as James, Phoebe and I.Q. trek through the desert
is first seen in Shifting
Sands, although on that occasion it was filled
with the most powerful acid known to man. Let's hope they rinsed it out