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Episode #40
'BARBELLA'S BIG ATTRACTION'
by Mary Crawford and Alan Templeton

Featuring: James, I.Q., Tracy, Gordo, Phoebe, Trevor, Barbella, Jaws, Nick Nack, Scumlord, Ms Fortune.

Synopsis: A run-of-the-mill visit to a London waxwork museum plunges James Bond Jr into a web of intrigue, as he spots S.C.U.M. agents Barbella and Jaws sneaking into the building. Quickly locating a wax statue of the famous pirate Blackbeard, Barbella orders Jaws to grab it, wanting to present it as a gift to Scumlord. But as James watches them, another of the waxwork statues comes to life and points a gun at him! It's Napoleon - or Nick Nack. He fires his laser but James deflects it by borrowing a sword from another statue. Nick Nack escapes, stealing a double-decker bus to make his getaway. But James grabs onto the back of the bus and scrambles onboard. Realising he's trapped, Nick Nack starts driving erratically, into newsstands and parked cars. Realising he's cornered, he leaps from the vehicle while it's still running. James rushes to the controls and brakes, screeching to a halt just inches away from pedestrians.

Back at the hotel they're staying in in London for an ecology club event, James shows I.Q. a walkie-talkie that Nick Nack dropped - it's fingerprint-locked so that only Nick Nack can pick up S.C.U.M. signals, but I.Q. rewires it so they can listen in on Barbella. She plans to present the statue she stole to Scumlord at the organisation's crime conference in Rio, Brazil - right after S.C.U.M. decides which world city to drop an asteroid on! At that moment I.Q. realises he's set off a security system by modifying the walkie talkie, and James disposes of it just before it explodes. James decides they should go to Rio and locate the S.C.U.M. conference, precipitating a mass arrest of S.C.U.M.'s entire leadership. Trevor offers them an opportunity - he's collated a 'save the rainforest' petition, and wants to present it to the Ecology Council of the Brazilian government. He and Tracy go off to convince Mr Milbanks it's a good idea.

Meanwhile, James heads to the Brazilian Embassy to pick up visas for the gang. An official there, Carmen Marimba, not only gives them permission to fly a private plane into Brazilian airspace - she also says she wants to go with them, explaining that her father is a scientist at the ecology research laboratories. James agrees. Meanwhile, deep in the Brazilian jungle, Barbella, Jaws and Nick Nack are preparing S.C.U.M.'s 'Sky Magnet', a magnetic cannon which they plan to use to pull Asteroid 604 out of its orbit as it passes the Earth and plunge it into a major city. Scumlord calls on the videoscreen to check their progress. When Barbella tries to tell him she's devised a master plan for world domination, he slams her down, telling her she's the muscle, not the brains. Then when the trio reveals the statue and claim they had it made, Scumlord furiously tells them that he knows they stole it, and that it's allowed James Bond Jr to trail them to Brazil.

Scumlord shows them a video image of the private plane flying across the jungle, and tells them to test the magnetic cannon by using it to bring the plane to the ground! Once Scumlord has logged off, Barbella has a temper tantrum, cursing Scumlord for being so ungrateful and taking her anger out on the statue. On the plane, while ultra-green Trevor complains that the dinnerware isn't recyclable, I.Q. realises S.C.U.M. must be planning to use magnetism to crash the asteroid - and provides James with some gizmos to help combat them. At that moment, Barbella turns the magnet cannon on the plane, and it spirals down towards the jungle. With the pilot and his assistant knocked unconscious by the lurch, James and Gordo are forced to break into the cockpit and manage to perform an emergency landing - on quicksand! The passengers escape as the plane disappears beneath the bog, and a rescue team takes them to Rio.

That evening, Barbella watches in fury as news reports show the teen arriving safely in Rio after the crash. Scumlord is quick to contact her, admonishing her for failing to destroy the plane. He then tells her that the S.C.U.M. High Council has decided on the target for Operation Overkill - they want to bring Asteroid 604 down into stationary orbit over London, wiping out the city completely! Barbella then begs to come to the crime conference, but Scumlord acidly tells her he doesn't reward incompetence. Once he's hung up, Barbella goes into another fury, wrecking control panels and terrifying Jaws and Nick Nack. She throws the scientist operating the cannon out of his seat and takes control, resetting the coordinates for the asteroid to those of Rio! She tells her accomplices that she plans to crush Scumlord and the rest of the High Council, so she can take over as head of S.C.U.M.!

In Rio, Trevor heads to the Ecology Council to hand in his petition, while Gordo, Tracy and Phoebe hire fancy dress and go out to take part in the Mardi Gras festival. James and I.Q. search for the crime conference, and quickly come across a suspicious mass booking at the Hotel Del Rio for the 'Society of Classical Ukelele Manufacturers'. Sure enough, when they reach the hotel there are two floors sealed off, so James heads to the roof and down the side of the building on a janitor's lift. He's soon peering into a vast conference room where Scumlord and the rest of S.C.U.M.'s high command, including Ms Fortune, are sitting around a table. James listens in with one of I.Q.'s gadgets; Scumlord plans to hold London to ransom with the threat of the asteroid looming over the city. Scumlord suddenly spots James's silhouette in the window, and orders his sky patrol to capture James. Two men on a jetpack drift into view and fire lasers, causing the lift to fall - so James grabs onto one of the jetpacks, and the two plummet into a giant bunch of balloons, part of one of the floats in the festival below.

Meanwhile Trevor rejoins the rest of the gang at the festival, having apparently sustained a bit of a mauling at the environment ministry. The gang sees James fall from the top of the building and onto the float - but there's more trouble as he spots some familiar plain-clothes S.C.U.M. agents in the crowd, with guns. The driver bails in terror, and James takes control of the float, while the S.C.U.M. agents chase him on mopeds they've stolen from festival-goers. As they fire their lasers at the float, it bursts into flames - so to put them out, James drives the float straight into the sea. He uses I.Q.'s oxygen ring to swim underwater to safety, while the S.C.U.M. agents, seeing that he doesn't emerge, assume he's drowned. At the hotel, James rejoins I.Q., Carmen and her father, who has told the police but can't get them to believe James's story. But his lab has been using infrared cameras to survey the jungle, which reveals the heat signature of a large, unidentified building that wasn't there at the time of the last survey. Realising this must be Barbella's base, James, I.Q. and Carmen take a chopper out into the jungle to investigate.

On their way towards the base, a giant anaconda grabs and almost suffocates I.Q. - but James uses his friend's sonic device to stun the snake. They pick up the reptile and carry it towards Barbella's base, releasing it just as it's waking up. The snake sets off the intruder alarm and Jaws goes to investigate, before getting wrapped up by the snake himself. As Barbella and Nick Nack go to free him, James and the others creep into the control room and lock the door, as I.Q. sets to work redirecting the asteroid to stop it hitting Rio. He eventually succeeds in altering the asteroid's course to hit their current location. A furious Barbella breaks back into the control room, but when I.Q. tells her that Asteroid 604 will hit them in five minutes, the crooks lock James and the others in a holding cell and escape in a helicopter. James uses the oxygen ring to freeze the lock off the cage and kick it in, and the three escape, agreeing to invent a story to tell Scumlord. As the asteroid appears in the sky, James and Carmen dive to the ground, but I.Q. simply sniggers. He'd been trying to tell them that the asteroid's mass-density ratio and composition was such that it would burn up almost entirely in the atmosphere. When it hits the ground, it's the size of a tennis ball! The gang reunites, including Trevor, who's been arrested for breaking into Mr Marimba's research lab in order to get more signatures!


Review: With all its changes to the traditional format, this episode is one of just a handful of 'special cases' in the series, and also stands out as among the best of the 65 shows. Freed from her usual underdog role in the partnership with Goldie Finger, firebrand Barbella is a great character to have chosen as lead antagonist. She comes across as truly unhinged here, as she plans to destroy not only the city of Rio, but also all of her S.C.U.M. colleagues at the crime conference, in an act of betrayal unprecedented in the series. Given Scumlord's consistently unpleasant treatment of Barbella, we're led to empathise with the misunderstood madam in an unusual kind of way. We might even have been rooting for her to succeed by the end, were it not for the fact that everyone else in Rio is in danger, and not just the crime conference. It's unclear whether Scumlord ever found out about her plan - but since she's back working for S.C.U.M. just a few episodes later, we can probably assume not. Juxtaposed against the carnival atmosphere of the Mardi Gras, the conference itself is also particularly sinister, with all of S.C.U.M.'s key agents gathered under one roof to provide a unique sense of tension and danger magnified by their intention to hold London to ransom. We get a first and only glimpse of the organisation's High Council here, and only Ms Fortune is identifiable within the room aside from Scumlord - but it's probably safe to presume that most of our other favourite villains are sat around the table, too. There's so much action and intrigue in so many different locations, from the London bus chase, to the conference and carnival, to the Brazilian jungle, that it's easy to forget the episode is still only 22 minutes long. We can certainly credit the writers for that; the quality of the dialogue is much higher than usual, and the plotting is sufficiently complex to tell an interesting tale, while remaining neat and concise. Even Trevor gets something original to do here, within his newfound role as eco-warrior. Though still his obnoxious self (deliciously so at times, berating James who has just saved him and the rest of the plane passengers for having landed them in 'another fine mess'), we can also very much empathise with Trevor's cause here, which is a refreshing improvement on the status quo.

Highs:
More or less everything. But if we have to pick one moment it's Barbella's mischievous assertion to Jaws and Nick Nack as they escape by chopper that they'll tell Scumlord 'the absolute truth' about what happened - 'as soon as we make it up.'

Lows:
While everyone else in the gang dons relatively modest costumes, Tracy goes out to the carnival dressed as a giant fish. Why?

Lines to Remember:
Barbella on Scumlord: 'Ooh, why, that overbearing, rotten creep!' Nick Nack: 'Now now, Barbella - remember your blood pressure!'

Scumlord, to Barbella: 'Why is James Bond Junior still breathing?'

Jaws on Barbella, to a S.C.U.M. scientist whom she's just thrown out of his chair: 'She was misunderstood as a child.'

Gadgets & Gizmos:
I.Q. has modified James's class ring with compressed liquid oxygen, so it can be used as a breathing apparatus for diving underwater. Since liquid oxygen would freeze one's lungs, he provides a regulator hidden in a pen which will bring the oxygen to body temperature. Meanwhile, an 'ordinary-looking roll of mints' is actually a microsound amplifier, that's perfect for tranquilising snakes.

S.C.U.M. on the Surface?:
Very much so. This is probably the most important episode in terms of learning about the organisation. While the information we get is still very threadbare, we learn that the organisation has a High Council (also referred to as 'High Command'), which incorporates Scumlord, Ms Fortune and around ten other members who are unidentifiable, being shown only as silhouettes at a distance. We also see the first prominent example of outright treachery within the organisation from Barbella (and Jaws and Nick Nack, although whether their involvement is entirely voluntary is open to interpretation). It's worth mentioning as well that the amount of security around the crime conference - including uniformed agents on jetpacks, and the rarely-seen band of plain-clothes operatives patrolling the festival - is a reminder of just how powerful S.C.U.M. is. And there's yet more evidence of their ubiquity in Scumlord's own assertion that: 'I know everything!' when questioned by Nick Nack about how he found out they stole the Blackbeard statue. How does he know? Has he bugged James's hotel room, or does he have police moles with access to the CCTV in London? Worse still, could he have a mole at Warfield who has heard from Milbanks that the gang is going to Brazil? These questions, while intriguing, remain tantalisingly open-ended, allowing us to draw our own conclusions.

Buzz Books:
This episode was adapted and simplified by Caryn Jenner for the Buzz Books series, under the title 'Barbella's Revenge'. While Nick Nack remained in the adaptation, Jaws did not feature. Various other changes were made to shorten the story, including the removal of most of the carnival scene, and a change to the initial confrontation with Nick Nack, which in the book takes place in an airport rather than the museum.

Sticker Story:
This is entitled 'Barbella's Dream' for the Merlin Stickers album adaptation.

Notes:
This episode should not be confused with the similarly-themed Goldfinger episode, Killer Asteroid.

In a non-speaking cameo, Ms Fortune can briefly be seen around the table at Scumlord's crime conference in Rio, presumably making her a member of the High Council.

The band of plain-clothes S.C.U.M. agents seen chasing James through the festival in this episode also appear in Hostile Takeover, Mindfield and No Time to Lose.

Trevor must really have rubbed up the ecology ministry the wrong way. He comes back from his petition handover with his suit in shreds, including one full arm missing!

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