'THE EMERALD KEY'
by Sandra Ryan
I.Q., Tracy, Gordo, Phoebe, Coach Mitchell,
Synopsis: In the Mexican
jungle, explorer Cal van Horne is pursued by Dr Derange and Skullcap,
firing lasers from a limousine. As they reach a small airfield, Cal
passes a package to the pilot of a small plane which is just lifting
off, asking him to 'give this to Erica'. On Derange's orders, Skullcap
tries to shoot the plane down, but misses. Cal drives off, but Skullcap
launches a missile into the back of his car. Taking him captive,
Derange tells him he'll chase the package to the ends of the earth. We
soon learn that Erica is a student at Warfield, Cal's niece - and the
secret subject of I.Q.'s affections! She receives a parcel in the post
- the very same package Dr Derange is after. Inside is a priceless
golden statue, adorned with emeralds, with curious turned-out feet.
As I.Q. admires Erica, she admires the statue - but it's packaged with
a note from Cal, asking for help. It names the statue as the Emerald
Key, and explains that criminals have made several attempts on his life
in order to seize it. The note instructs Erica to take the statue to Dr
Paul Hineley at the British Museum. The following day, Erica, I.Q. and
James do just that; but they almost lose the statue when it's snatched
by a rather odd-looking woman, actually Skullcap in disguise. Luckily
they manage to retrieve the statue with I.Q.'s grappling device, but
the thief escapes. At the Museum, Dr Hineley explains that the Mayans
believed the Emerald Key was the means of entering the pyramid of
Quetza'ital in the Mexican jungle, and retrieving its legendary jewels.
Hineley advises Erica to hang onto the statue, telling her not to worry
about Cal, whom he's sure is safe. But before they depart he translates
a warning engraved on
the statue, which says: 'The Ram's Horn must remain silent.'
Desperate to help her uncle, Erica wants to go to Mexico - and I.Q.
volunteers to go with her. But James spots a secret code hidden at the
beginning of each line in Cal's letter, spelling out 'S.C.U.M.'. I.Q.'s
beginning to get a little jealous of James solving the clues, but is
buoyed when James agrees they should go to Mexico with Erica. However,
Dr Derange and Skullcap are in a nearby car listening to their
conversation, and resolve to follow them to Mexico. When the gang
reaches their destination, a drive along a mountain road is rudely
interrupted by Skullcap dangling from Derange's helicopter, attempting
to grab the statue from them. He fails again, and the pair retreat to a
nearby lair, built into a mountain with a mechanical opening roof. Cal
is held prisoner here, and Derange tells him Erica has brought the
statue to Mexico, before sending Skullcap out to try and grab it again.
Skullcap makes his next attempt that night, breaking into the girls'
hotel room and stealing the statue from the bedside cabinet. He trips
over a chair on the way out, waking them. James and I.Q. run in, but
Skullcap has Phoebe at gunpoint and says he'll take her with him unless
they hand over the statue. They reluctantly agree, and Skullcap escapes
with his loot - returning to the mountain lair. He and Derange head out
to the pyramid, leaving Cal tied up in case they need him again. But at
the hotel, I.Q. soon reveals that the statue Skullcap took was a fake
he and James made; he had been keeping the real one safe all along.
They still need to save Uncle Cal, however, and I.Q., in fighting talk,
suggests they go and confront Derange directly. When Tracy and Phoebe
mock his idea, he's humiliated in front of Erica.
At the pyramid, Dr Derange is furious to discover that the Emerald Key
doesn't fit the entrance to the pyramid, and soon realises it's a fake.
Breaking it against the temple door, he vows to get the real artefact
by using Uncle Cal as bait. Back at the hotel, James attempts to
console I.Q., who's convinced Erica thinks he's an idiot. But when
James suggests he back off a little, I.Q. jumps to the conclusion that
James is after Erica for himself, and storms off, saying he'll rescue
Uncle Cal without James's help. Skullcap has delivered another letter
which Derange has forced Cal to write, inaccurately claiming that he's
in the pyramid and asking for help, when he's actually in the mountain.
I.Q. and Erica rush off to save him, along with the key - without
telling James and the others. When James finds the discarded letter
later on, he finds another code, revealing Cal's true location.
At the mountain, Derange has Cal hauled up over a pit of acid, with
drips from the ceiling slowly eating away at the rope that's holding
him up. Derange says Cal had better hope that nothing goes wrong and
that he and Skullcap get back in time to release him. The crooks then
head to the pyramid, where they capture I.Q. and Erica and steal the
key. Derange opens the pyramid successfully, and goes inside, followed
by Skullcap and their captives - surviving a rockfall that's triggered
by Derange opening one of the inner passageways. At the mountain,
James, Gordo, Tracy and Phoebe arrive just in time to save Cal from the
acid pit. The party then rush off to the pyramid to save I.Q. and
Erica, and stop Derange.
Inside, James finds the Ram's Horn that's mentioned in the engraving on
the statue. When they reach the treasure room, where Derange is busy
admiring the gold and gems. James causes a distraction, causing
Skullcap to topple into a snake pit, before freeing I.Q. and Erica.
James gives I.Q. the Ram's Horn; when he blows it it causes the temple
to cave in. The gang escape, as do Skullcap and (reluctantly) Derange.
As they leave, Erica thanks I.Q. for what he's done and kisses him on
the cheek. James and I.Q. make up after their argument, Cal returns the
Emerald Key to the Mexican government, and James modestly admits to an
impressed Tracy that he deliberately let I.Q. take the credit by giving
him the Ram's Horn, saying: 'Why shouldn't my best friend blow his own
Getting back to the adventurous roots of
the show that made Earthcracker
such a classic, this is one of the better Doctor Derange episodes in
the run, showing more than a little flair and originality as the
secrets of the Mexican jungle are gradually unravelled. With Trevor
(mercifully) failing to appear at all for the only occasion in the
whole TV series, light relief is provided by the constant banter
between the two main villains, back together again following Skullcap's
replacement with Jaws in the previous episode. This
installment is chock full of blink-and-you'll-miss-em visual
highlights: including Skullcap's encounter with some snakes (see
'Highs'), the silent group of Mexicans sitting outside the hotel
listening to the gang's conversation (which we're left to presume are
Derange's spies), as well as the villains' hilarious 'expedition'
costumes, comprising fairly unfashionable variations on their usual
colour schemes. Skullcap dresses up as a woman fairly needlessly for
the second time in the series, meanwhile (following his brief stint as
a waitress in The Eiffel
Missile) leading us to wonder whether he rather
enjoys doing so. But the real departure for the episode is the focus on
James and I.Q.'s friendship, which shows its first ever strong signs of
coming apart at the seams. I.Q.'s rage at James may not be justified by
the events of this episode, but given their success ratio when it comes
to women over the series as a whole, it's entirely understandable.
Despite his friend's outburst, however, James goes out of his way to
give I.Q. the best possible chance with Erica; and his explanation to
Tracy at the end, in which he explicitly calls I.Q. his 'best friend'
for possibly the first and only occasion in the series, is rather a
nice moment, showing a distinctly more sensitive side to our hero's
nature - as well as Tracy's. Overall, this episode is exciting enough,
and different enough, to mark it out as among the series's highlights.
Highs: Like a true master
criminal, Derange is so captivated by the pyramid's treasure that he
barely notices when Skullcap topples into a deadly snake pit. Then,
when he finally gets round to throwing him a rope, he simply throws the
whole coil into the pit without holding onto one end - hardly
increasing his henchman's chances of survival!
Lows: In comparison to
the significant character development for James, I.Q. and Tracy, Erica
makes for a fairly bland female lead, and it's difficult to grasp what
I.Q. sees in her.
Lines to Remember: Skullcap, when the fake key
doesn't work in the pyramid door: "Maybe it's rusty?" Derange:
"Of course it's rusty!" It
hasn't been openéd for a millennium!"
Derange: "When I say jump,
jump! Skullcap: "So what
else is new?"
Gadgets & Gizmos: I.Q.'s
grab-and-reel grappling gun can quickly snatch objects mid-fall - ideal
for impressing the ladies.
S.C.U.M. on the Surface: Aside from
Derange's use of a S.C.U.M. helicopter, the organisation isn't exactly
high-visibility here. Nonetheless, even Uncle Cal is clued up enough to
know that Derange and Skullcap are members, and he writes 'S.C.U.M.' in
code down the side of his letter to Erica. Also, in
what we presume is an allusion to Scumlord, James responds to I.Q.'s
assertion that Derange is the most dangerous man in the world by saying
that in fact, he's only the second most dangerous.
Notes: This episode was the basis for the first
section of the James Bond Jr Super Nintendo
game, which also featured Dr Derange and Skullcap.