'FAR OUT WEST'
by David Wise
I.Q., Tracy, Gordo, Phoebe, Trevor, Coach Mitchell,
Dr No, Odd Job.
South Dakota, USA - home to Mitchell Petroleum, an oil
company owned by Coach Mitchell's brother, Harry, who has invited the
Coach and his Warfield pupils to stay on his ranch for a field trip.
But there's trouble afoot as Harry is pursued through the desert in his
jeep by some nasty-looking assailants whose vehicles are equipped with
lasers. When they fail to capture Harry, a helicopter appears - piloted
by Odd Job. Fellow crook and turncoat Mr Roper lassoes Harry (his boss)
and pulls him aboard. Later, when Coach Mitchell, James and the other
pupils arrive at the ranch, it's Roper who greets them. He tells them
that Harry has had to go away on urgent business, and that he'll look
after them while they're here. Coach Mitchell is instantly suspicious,
telling James it's unlike Harry to go away on such short notice.
Ropershows the gang to their quarters, where I.Q. demonstrates his
latest inventions to James.
James explores the ranch to see if he can find any clues about Harry's
whereabouts. He enters Harry's house through an open window, despite
being warned off by Roper. In Harry's bedroom, he finds stacks of
papers hidden in a cavity under the floorboards. Meanwhile, in an
underground lair, Roper reports to Odd Job and Doctor No, telling them
he noticed James snooping around. No is furious, and orders Roper to do
away with James. Roper's reluctant, saying he's 'just a kid', but No
insists. Back at the ranch, James and his friends meet Sage Brushfire,
a girl who works as a rigger for the company. The gang each take their
turn on the bucking bronco machine - Gordo does well but Trevor is
thrown off instantly. Before James takes his turn, Roper arrives and
adjusts the bolts on the machine, before sending it into overdrive.
Sage warns James just in time and he jumps aside, as the machine flies
off its stand and hits the roof. Sage chastises Roper for letting the
machine get out of control, but James suspects there's more to the
'accident' than meets the eye.
James has passed the papers he found at Harry's house to Coach Mitchell
- they're anonymous letters threatening Harry with dire consequences if
he doesn't sell Mitchell Petroleum. While the Coach, James and Sage
head off to investigate Harry's disappearance, I.Q., Tracy, Gordo,
Phoebe and Trevor head off to visit Mount Rushmore. But their plans are
soon cut short when they're accosted by a group of native Americans in
full tribal gear. The gang panic and run away, but the tribe catches up
with them and tells them they're taking them to their reservation.
Meanwhile, Sage tells Mitchell and James that she's convinced there's
something odd going on - Harry wasn't called away on business and some
of the riggers, especially Roper, have been acting strangely. They
follow some of the workers by car out into the desert, where James
spots Odd Job from a distance as part of their group. They follow the
group to the opening of an abandoned silver mine, which conceals a
high-security entrance to No's lair.
At this point Trevor turns up, having split off from the rest of the
group during the flight from the natives. He claims the others have
been captured - but Sage insists the Dakota tribe wouldn't hurt anyone,
and takes them all to the reservation to clear things up. Tracy, I.Q.
and the others are there, having a great time with their new hosts. The
tribal leader, Charging Buffalo (aka Michael), explains that they were
wearing their war paint in protest about the reopening of the silver
mine, which passes through one of their ancient burial grounds - they
were worried their relics were being stolen. The gang head off to
resume their investigation. I.Q. manages to crack the electronic lock
on the door to No's lair and James and Sage head down by lift into the
mine shaft. Meanwhile Gordo and Phoebe head to Mount Rushmore - but are
surprised to see a bright red light moving across George Washington!
After walking through the Dakotas' burial chamber, James and Sage are
pursued by a wayward minecar and are forced to jump into it to avoid
being crushed. It takes them along a rollercoaster ride that ends in
Doctor No's control room, where Odd Job and the treacherous riggers
point lasers at them and take them to the mastermind himself. No
reveals that he was the one who wanted to buy Harry's business - not
for the oil, but for a super-rare crystal called dialantium, of which
the mine they're in, on Harry's land, is the only known source.
Dialantium is 100 times harder than pure diamond, making it the ideal
focusing crystal for his heat wave generator. The generator, he brags,
can melt solid rock and crumble entire cities within minutes. They're
finally introduced to Harry, who's now No's prisoner and slave - and a
section of the control room begins to rise up to the desert surface so
No can test his invention - on Mount Rushmore!
Climbing on the Mount itself, Gordo and Phoebe realise that the red
light is coming from a laser guidance system, which is being aimed at
the monument by No's rigger goons from the ridge opposite. Realising an
attack is planned, they scramble to safety, as No connects his machine
to the laser and prepares to turn Mount Rushmore into molten glass.
First, however, he orders Odd Job to through James and Harry into the
canyon. James uses the hypno-ray on I.Q.'s hat to temporarily paralyse
Odd Job just in time, and steals his flying hat, sending it careering
into No's diabolical machine. The generator explodes, and a furious No
chases James with a portable version of the device. Coach Mitchell and
Harry are reunited, and head to the reservation with the rest of the
gang to enlist Charging Buffalo's help. James, meanwhile, leads No and
his lackeys towards an ancient ghost town for a final wild west
showdown (complete with tumbleweed). No
fires his portable heat generator at James, but James uses I.Q.'s
reflective belt buckle to send the ray back at the Doctor, shorting out
his cybernetic arm/claw. Fuming, No orders his goons to attack, but
Charging Buffalo and his tribe arrive just in time, their battle cry
sending No's henchmen running for the hills. The turncoat riggers are
captured, but Doctor No escapes by helicopter.
Like most of the Doctor No stories in the series, Far
Out West is for the most part very watchable, with a
reasonably solid plot that just about comes off. The No/Odd Job
partnership is suitably sinister and highly effective (it would be used
again in Garden of Evil),
even if No's motivations (aside from his being evil epitomised) aren't
immediately clear. The South Dakota/Mount Rushmore backdrop is an
interesting one, and the involvement of Coach Mitchell's brother ups
the stakes somewhat, though the character himself is entirely
underused. Unfortunately, we're not given much of an insight into
Roper's and the other riggers' motivations for betraying Harry Mitchell
- presumably they're in it for the money, or he's simply a git of a
boss. Roper himself plays an unusually large part in proceedings for a
one-off villain: his hesitance and protestation before agreeing to make
an attempt on James's life bring a modicum of depth to a mysterious
character whose own aims aren't ever elucidated. Sage is also an
intriguing and understated character, bringing both charm and
intelligence to the guest girl role that's so often lacking in both.
One minor moan is that the episode ends incredibly quickly after the
battle with the villains is done; and rather than a Trevor-led epilogue
back at base to round things off, attentive viewers can actually see
young Noseworthy waving and cheering in the background as the crooks
are beaten, in a rare and unrealistic display of support for James. But
Trevor's on top form throughout the rest of the episode, successfully
displaying pride, prejudice and downright cowardice to his usual high
The denouement at the ghost town is packed with
more Western clichés than James has had one-liners - but somehow it
works rather well.
Lows: Roper's 'clandestine' assassination attempt on
James somewhat lacks deniability - given that he adjusts the machine's
bolts in plain view of everyone and then wrestles the levers from the
bartender to send the ride bucking out of control.
Lines to Remember: James, on I.Q.'s
detachable mirror belt buckles: 'In case I have to comb on
James on the bucking bronco: 'Reminds me of
a washing machine I once knew!'
Lines to Forget: James to
Sage, with what must be the century's worst chat-up line: 'I
had no idea oil workers could be so lovely!'
Gadgets & Gizmos: I.Q.'s customised cowboy hat
has a 'hypno-ray' attachment, which can render anyone senseless for
five minutes. He also brings along a special rope - press the button
and the electromagnetic fibres woven into it cause the rope to become
magnetised. Finally, a pair of belts each have a detachable belt buckle
with a reflective backing, so James and I.Q. can communicate from a
distance in morse code using light signals.
S.C.U.M. on the Surface: The
organisation is not mentioned specifically.
Coach Mitchell's first name, Buddy, is used here
for the first and only time in the TV episodes.
Despite being featured fairly heavily in this episode, Tracy doesn't
manage to get a single spoken line. In fact Gordo's cryptic and
apparently unprompted comment: 'you wanted Indians, Tracy? You got
'em!' may refer back to earlier lines that were cut, perhaps due to the
absence of Tracy's voice artist.