'THE ART OF EVIL'
by Jeffrey Scott
I.Q., Phoebe, Trevor, Coach Mitchell,
Dr No, Jaws, Odd Job
Synopsis: James, I.Q., Phoebe and Trevor are on a class trip
to Paris, touring the art galleries and museums of the city with Coach
Mitchell. But at one venue they're introduced to Rodin's bronze
masterpiece The Thinker, which looks oddly
familiar. A strange man arrives who expresses his interest in the
statue, before it suddenly springs to life before their eyes! The
newcomer hands the statue figure a laser, and he begins to destroy the
building with it, knocking over priceless exhibits in the process. The
'statue' seemingly brings down an archway, almost crushing James, then
disappears during the confusion, along with his strange accomplice. The
'collapsed' archway now appears intact. James and the others are
interviewed by police and Mimi Chaussé, an agent for the museum's
insurance firm, but can offer no rational explanation for what's
happened other than possible 'mass hypnosis'.
In a nearby warehouse, the strange man - criminal conjurer Lex Illusion
- and the 'statue' - the Chameleon in disguise, complete with a new
'illusion suit' woven by Lex to allow him to change his clothes as well
as his face - discuss their plan to rob Paris of all its famous works
of art using a series of illusions. They've already managed to steal The
Thinker by having the Chameleon disguise himself as the
statue while Lex's henchmen, Hocus and Pocus, stole the real article.
The Chameleon's ultimate aim is to impress Scumlord, whom he hopes will
make him a full member of S.C.U.M. Later, at another gallery, the gang
are shocked as flames burst from the pictures. But they notice that the
sprinklers aren't turning on, and James realises the flames aren't real
- rather, they're another illusion, designed to allow Hocus and Pocus
to steal a load of paintings! Soon the Chameleon arrives with Lex
Illusion. James deflects the Chameleon's laser blasts, causing the
sprinklers to turn on and making the Chameleon's face warp.
As revenge for his intervention, the Chameleon takes James's form,
steals a painting in view of the police, and bundles the real James out
to the crooks' truck where the henchmen are loading up the stolen
artwork. A fight ensues during which it's difficult to tell which James
is the real one. As they leave, the Chameleon returns to his normal
form, pushing the real James out of the truck and into the custody of
the police, who are now convinced he is one of the thieves! James is
promptly arrested and put in a police cell; he tries to tell the
inspector about the Chameleon, but his story is dismissed as too
outlandish. But the insurance investigator, Mimi, suspects James may be
telling the truth, and agrees to help when I.Q. comes up with a plan to
break him free - while Trevor is gleeful at the prospect of telephoning
Mr Milbanks to tell him James has been arrested.
Meanwhile, James has accurately predicted the Chameleon's next move -
he and his associates soon turn up at the Louvre in hope of stealing
Paris's most famous work of art, the Mona Lisa.
The Chameleon takes the appearance of one of the security guards in
order to gain access for their truck, locking the real guard in the
back of the lorry. Back at the station, I.Q. hands Mimi a cake to
deliver to James in his cell - but the icing is an explosive! He uses
it to blast the bars from his cell window and escape - Coach Mitchell,
Phoebe and I.Q. are waiting in the sports car outside the window. The
police give chase, and Trevor determines to help them catch James! At
the Louvre, the museum visitors are horrified when what appear to be
waterfalls begin to burst from all the paintings. It's simply another
trick by Lex Illusion, however; and in the confusion he and the
Chameleon head for the room where the Mona Lisa
The Chameleon smashes the painting's case and grabs the Mona
Lisa, just as James arrives to stop him - but James is
overwhelmed when another painting appears to spring alive. It's Lex
Illusion, who thrusts another work of art into James's hands just as
the crooks escape and the police run in, but James thrusts the painting
into their hands and heads off to chase the
crooks. Mimi's with them and is now convinced James was behind the
previous thefts after all. The police inspector and Mimi move into
another room just as the Chameleon comes to a dead end with the Mona
Lisa. He takes the painting out of its frame and then alters his
appearance to look like the woman from the painting - before sitting in
a corner and poking his head through the frame! Needless to say the
police fall for it, and move on to continue their search.
However, Mimi spots James running into the room just as they're
leaving, and runs back in, holding him at gunpoint. He tries to
convince her of his innocence but she doesn't believe him - until the 'Mona
Lisa' comes alive and grabs the gun from her hand! The
Chameleon regroups with Lex and his goons, and the four of them take
James and Mimi prisoner. They take the lift down to the lowest floor
before disabling it, and tying James and Mimi up. The Chameleon throws
a bomb down which he hopes will finish off James and blow a hole in the
floor, so the crooks can escape on an underground train. Luckily, James
manages to push a nearby sculpture over, blocking the explosion and
saving them, but there's a huge hole in the floor - and the two almost
fall in the path of an oncoming train.
James uses the threaded dart attachment in his watch to cause the
signal box to short-circuit, stopping the train in its tracks. But
there's more trouble to come when a handcar approaches. Riding it are
four familiar faces: Doctor No and Doctor Derange, with Odd Job and
Jaws operating it. James and Mimi run down the tracks to escape them,
but the S.C.U.M. agents turn out to be nothing more than another
illusion courtesy of Lex. James and Mimi run down the passage to the
nearest metro station, where James sends Mimi to tell the police the
truth about what's been happening. He then hitches a ride in another
train to pursue the crooks, who have taken control of the first vehicle
that James stopped, in order to escape the Louvre. Enlisting the
driver's help, James leaps from the roof of one train to the next.
In one of the carriages he comes across Hocus and Pocus with a stash of
stolen paintings, but manages to render them both unconscious with a
duck and a well-aimed punch. He confronts the Chameleon in the front of
the train, and manages to grab his laser gun in the struggle. Lex
Illusion turns up, disguised as a vampire to scare James, but James is
now wise to his tricks and sees through the ruse. Lex retaliates by
throwing James from the carriage - but he clings on for dear life. As
the police catch up with the train, James clambers back aboard, using a
fire extinguisher to warp the Chameleon's face. The train grinds to a
halt and the crook is taken away by the police, just as Trevor turns up
on his bicycle. He grabs James to turn him into the police, but is
flabbergasted as the inspector simply apologises for the mix-up and
thanks James for all his help.
This is a very unusual installment in
many respects, most importantly because for a good deal of the episode
it's the protagonist, James, who is suspected to be the villain of the
piece, as opposed to the real culprit, the Chameleon. It's amazing that
the face-shifting crook hasn't attempted to steal Bond's identity in
either of his previous appearances in the series. But although seeing
James fighting to assert his innocence is a fairly unique occurrence in
the series, it isn't done especially well; James may not have been
responsible for the thefts, but he thinks nothing of jostling police
officers, blowing up jail cells and mounting audacious escapes to prove
it, which can hardly be doing wonders for his reputation. That said,
vigilantism has always been a necessary element of the show - if James
called the police every time he ran into S.C.U.M. and let them deal
with it, it wouldn't make for much of a story. James is also portrayed
as (relatively) violent in this episode - at one stage he even rolls
back his sleeve and punches one of Lex's henchmen square in the face.
Speaking of Lex, he's an interesting partner-in-crime for the
Chameleon: while his admittedly limited scope prevents him from being
reused in future episodes, he makes for quite a menacing one-off
adversary. That said, his take on the now fairly tired bungling
duo format leaves much to be desired - while most of his so-called
illusions seem difficult to explain rationally (not that the script
even tries). Finally, it's worth pointing out
that the excesses of Trevor's character are taken a tad too far here,
as he actively attempts to get James arrested.
Highs: The opening to this episode is the televisual
equivalent of the start of a good page-turner, clocking up gallons of
action and intrigue within the first sixty seconds. The Derange
& Co handcar cameo is also a highlight - although it would have
been better if it was real.
Lows: The Parisian detective questioning James appears to
think S.C.U.M. is a product of his imagination. Evidently he wasn't
working the day the organisation blew the top off the Eiffel Tower...
Lines to Forget: Lex Illusion, having loaded up a
metro carriage full of priceless works of art: 'This is
going to be our gravy train!'
Gadgets & Gizmos: The
watch's latest addition fires a cord that makes shorting out metro
trains a piece of cake. Speaking of cake, I.Q. (rather irresponsibly)
creates one with highly explosive icing.
S.C.U.M. on the Surface: Sort
of. The Chameleon, it's explicitly revealed here, is not yet a full
fledged member of S.C.U.M. - but he's convinced that Scumlord will make
him one if
he pulls off his art heist.
(Why Scumlord has thus far refused to allow a villain with such a
useful ability into his organisation, while admitting the likes of,
say, Skullcap, is anyone's guess - but interestingly, this is only one of two
episodes, the other being Dutch Treat, in which Scumlord is namedropped without appearing.) The
narrative is contradicted
somewhat, though, when elsewhere in the episode, James appears already
to think that the Chameleon is part of S.C.U.M. - while Lex Illusion
appears to rule out his own membership by taking umbrage at James'
suggestion that S.C.U.M. was responsible for the illusions, saying it
was actually him.
Loco Parenthesis: Hay may not directly have condoned James blowing a
hole in the side of
a police station in order to stop S.C.U.M. looting the Louvre - but
why, as his guardian, did Coach Mitchell think it appropriate to be
seen driving the getaway car?
Notes: This is the second episode to be set in Paris,
following the events of The
Eiffel Missile. When he was arrested, couldn't
James have called up Monsieur Beaucoup for a reference?
Presumably, Lex Illusion and his two cronies are still on board the
train and are captured by the police at the end - but they're neither
seen nor mentioned in the final scene.
The theme of art also features prominently in the very next episode, The Heartbreak Caper.