'LEONARDO DA VINCI'S VAULT'
by Jeffrey Scott
I.Q., Tracy, Gordo, Phoebe, Trevor, Mr Milbanks, Coach Mitchell,
At the Museum of Venice, Maximillion Cortex breaks
through the lock on the doors and gains access. Using
a reflective device to get past the light beams of the security system,
he rushes into a gallery where a valuable painting is kept. As soon as
Cortex touches it, however, the alarms sound and a guard appears.
Cortex uses a hpynotic ring to take control of the guard, and orders
him to attack his colleagues who come running to provide backup. In the
commotion, Cortex manages to slip out of the building with the
Warfield, I.Q. makes an audacious escape attempt from school grounds -
by wearing a Mr Milbanks mask! It transpires I.Q. is off to Venice as
well, to see the very painting Cortex stole! It's a newly-discovered
work by Leonardo da Vinci.
I.Q. leaves a recorded
message for James explaining where he's gone, saying he'll be back
tomorrow, and has bequeathed some gadgets just in case. When Trevor
walks in to gloat at a newspaper report he's just read saying the da
Vinci painting has been stolen, some pillows and a tape recorder I.Q.
has rigged up under his duvet with a snuffly-sounding recording of him
is enough to convince Trevor he's ill under the blanket and highly
contagious. But when the gang read the report in the paper and hear
that the museum guards began shooting at each other as the painting was
stolen, they realise that I.Q. could be wandering into a dangerous
situation. They resolve to go to Venice and find him. The gang sneak
down a drain outlet pipe during Coach Mitchell's swimming lesson, and
escape onto the beach.
Cortex, meanwhile, has retreated to his underground lair with the
painting, where he orders Leftbrain and Rightbrain to cut it out of the
frame and use an x-ray scanner to examine what's under the paint.
Cortex's research has led him to believe that da Vinci invented and
built some 'incredible weapons', but was 'afraid they'd be used for
war'. To prevent this, Cortex believes da Vinci hid them in a secret
vault somewhere beneath Venice. Sure enough, the crooks' x-ray scanner
shows a coded map beneath the painting - which should lead to the
weapons. Meanwhile, I.Q. arrives at the Museum to find out that the
painting has been stolen, so heads to see the sights instead. James and
the others soon arrive, and run into a tearful young woman called
Sophia, who was responsible for keeping the painting safe and is now in
danger of losing her job. James promises to help her retrieve it.
Meanwhile, I.Q. has wandered into the premises of the Venice Oil Paint
company - quickly followed by Left and Rightbrain, who've been sent by
Cortex to find the first clue from the coded map. As I.Q. snaps a photo
of a stained glass window said to be designed by da Vinci himself, he's
attacked by Left and Rightbrain. James and the others show up, and a
fight ensues during which Cortex hypnotises the owner of the company,
ordering him to start mixing up the paint. His goons then tie up James
and the others and place them on a conveyor belt, leading straight for
the paint mixer. As the crooks leave with the stained glass window,
Cortex starts up the belt and machine. James cuts the ropes with his
watch torch and frees the others, but ends up in the mixer himself.
Luckily, I.Q.'s electromagnetic heels save the day, and he escapes
I.Q. discerns from the photograph of the window, and Cortex from the
real article, that the next clue is written backwards in the glass:
'The library holds the key to knowledge'. Both parties quickly head for
the Library of St Copela - the next location on the map, which Sophia
realises she has a copy of, since all the paintings at the museum are
x-rayed as routine. I.Q. thinks the clue refers to the book, The
Key to Knowledge,
which da Vinci studied. But on reaching the library, James and Sophia
that the truth is far more literal than that - they actually find a
real key, stuck to a wall at the back
of a bookshelf. Turning it, the gang uncover a secret passage, and
follow it. But the pair are unaware that Cortex and his stooges were
already at the library, and have followed them down the passage - and
just as they reach the door to da Vinci's vault, Cortex
ambushes them, using his hypnosis ring to paralyse James before
throwing the pair into a tomb and sealing them in.
Meanwhile, back at Warfield, Trevor is convinced I.Q.'s faking his
illness after overhearing a bird landing on his bed and triggering the
tape recorder message, and creeps into his room in the middle of the
night to prove
it. As the tape recorder spews forth its 'contagious' line on a loop,
the tape gets mangled and Trevor realises he's been deceived. He runs
off to tell Mr Milbanks that I.Q. has left school grounds. Back in
Venice, I.Q., Tracy, Gordo and Phoebe catch up at the library, and see
footprints leading into the bookshelf, realising it's a secret passage.
James and Sophia escape using a sword they find to cut a hole in the
ancient limestone walls, and rendezvous with the others in the vault -
just after Cortex has found what he's been searching for. It's a
huge, ancient submarine-warship that da Vinci built, armed with
laser-like weapons. The crooks drive the craft through an underwater
exit which takes them onto the canals, in order to wreak havoc with
their new toy. But Sophia has rushed inside the ship to stop them - and
James clings on behind using I.Q.'s corded harpoon, gaining access
through a hatch in the base of the ship.
Sophia succeeds in grabbing the painting from under Cortex's nose, and
James floors Leftbrain and Rightbrain - but Cortex soon has them at
gunpoint and forces them into the torpedo tube. James and Sophia
oblige, but as they do, James knocks the gun from Cortex's hand and
flips a switch, causing the engines of the craft to begin overheating.
As James and Sophia swim to safety, da Vinci's sub explodes into a
thousand pieces. Seeing the ship explode in the distance, James's
friends are convinced he's gone down with it - but he soon rows past in
a gondola with Sophia, and Tracy quickly forgets her concern! Back at
Warfield, Trevor drags Milbanks to James and I.Q.'s room to reveal that
they've gone - but they arrive back in time, and Milbanks finds them
both tucked up in bed - I.Q. faking a cold very convincingly! Trevor
gets detention - again.
would be remiss of us not to acknowledge some of the daftness that
surrounds this episode - in particular the plot. Leonardo da Vinci's
newly-discovered pastime of submarine manufacture is neither credible
in theory nor convincing in its realisation. Nor is it entirely clear
in what sense da Vinci's submarine contraption is such an amazingly
powerful weapon, what Cortex intends to do with it, how exactly
Cortex's hypnosis ring is supposed to work, and why the crook's eyes
seem to light up a brilliant neon white at the beginning when he steals
the painting from the museum. Does he have some kind of special power
that works in conjunction with the ring, that we ought to know about?
And if so why does he not make use of it in his other episode, Lamp of Darkness?
Despite all these niggles, there's plenty good to be said about da
Vinci's Vault. Cortex
himself remains an effective villain, with a particularly sadistic
streak: there's a lot of allusion to blood in the form of the red paint
he attempts to drown James and company in at the factory, while his
decision to lock James and Sophia in the airless tomb and leave them to
suffocate is equally unpleasant. In that context our heroes come across
a little better than usual, with the possible exception of James
himself, who's even more glib than usual throughout. Lastly, there are
numerous laughs to be had (see 'Highs'), and Trevor's scenes are more
enjoyable than usual. Overall, this is a generally average affair, with
a smattering of above-average high points.
a fair bit of comedy value in this episode, with the 'contagious' tape
recording gag a particular pleasure. Also amusing is I.Q.'s Mr Milbanks
mask, which is surely the most audacious method yet seen of escaping
from the Warfield grounds. Except perhaps for...
and the others' own method of escaping the grounds, which involves
sliding down the drain outlet during Coach Mitchell's swimming lesson -
before putting their clothes back on over the top. Wouldn't want to
spend the day sat next to them on a plane, would
Lines to Remember: An unusually self-aware Trevor,
when he receives no response to his taunts from I.Q.: 'Did
you hear one nasty word I said?'
James, ignoring Phoebe's
protests as he wanders away with his arm around Sophia: 'Eh,
this is Italy, the land of amore!'
Phoebe, to Gordo: 'If
there's one thing James doesn't need, it's one amore girlfriend.'
A pocket flashlight that fires a small, retractable corded harpoon is
on the agenda today, as is a pair of trainers whose soles become
electromagnetised when the heels are clicked together.
S.C.U.M. on the Surface: As with Cortex's earlier episode,
S.C.U.M. seems to go without mention here.
Notes: The second section of the James Bond Jr Super
Nintendo game is loosely based on this episode: it features Cortex, in
Venice, looking for da Vinci's secret weapon.
James and I.Q. would return
to Venice in the comic story The Gilt Complex.