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Episode #41
'THERE BUT FOR MS. FORTUNE'
by Alan Templeton and Mary Crawford

Featuring: James, I.Q., Tracy, Gordo, Phoebe, Trevor, Mr. Milbanks, Ms. Fortune, Snuffer.

Synopsis: At a train station near Warfield, James observes Snuffer stealing a parcel from a courier, then making a getaway by hijacking a passing train! Not about to let him get away with it, James drives alongside the train on a motorbike, before leaping from the bike onto the moving train. Climbing on top of the engine, he swings through the window as the train passes over a bridge, snatching the envelope from Snuffer's pocket before kicking the crook out of the window and down onto a passing shipment of manure. James leaps from the train himself as it passes Warfield Academy - just in time for the day's lessons! Later on, I.Q. experiments with some gadgets in the courtyard. James catches up with him, and we learn what was in the envelope Snuffer attempted to steal: a special formula I.Q. had invented that can freeze water at room temperature, which was en route to his grandfather at MI6 headquarters in London. James hands him back the envelope and suggests he give it to his grandfather when he visits for the science fair at the weekend.

I.Q. soon gets a chance to demonstrate his formula. When he and James return to their dorm room, they find I.Q.'s science project smashed up on the floor. When Trevor drops by to gloat on his way to the hot tub it's clear who's responsible for the sabotage. As revenge, I.Q. follows him to the Academy's swimming baths, where Trevor is busy berating some younger students. I.Q. adds a sample of the formula to the water of the hot tub, freezing Trevor in place for an hour. Meanwhile, just outside the grounds, Ms. Fortune and Snuffer prepare their second attempt: having failed to intercept the formula, they decide to kidnap its inventor in the hope that Major Boothroyd will agree to trade the formula for the safe return of his grandson. With the formula, Ms. Fortune plans to freeze the Colorado River, so that the Hoover Dam can no longer produce electricity for the southwest USA. Snuffer uses a crossbow to fire a homing device into the Academy grounds, which sticks to I.Q.'s moped.

Shortly afterwards, a fuming Trevor confronts I.Q. in the car park. To pay him back for the incident in the hot tub, Trevor steals I.Q.'s moped and his jacket, with the fountain pen containing the ice substance in the pocket. Ms. Fortune and Snuffer track the device as Trevor speeds away on the moped, then remotely take control of the vehicle using the device, capturing a terrified Trevor in the back of their truck. Using the crossbow, Snuffer then fires a ransom note into Milbanks' office, saying that if Major George Boothroyd wants to see his grandson again, he needs to bring the ice formula to the Pharaoh's Oasis casino in Las Vegas, and contacting Ms. Fortune by playing the enclosed coin in the Megabucks slot machine there. Milbanks storms down to the sports hall where the gang is playing volleyball and, seeing I.Q. among them, assumes the note is nothing more than a practical joke. He warns them it had better not happen again, and marches off. But I.Q. quickly realises that Trevor hasn't been seen since he stole his moped and jacket, and correctly concludes that Ms. Fortune has kidnapped the wrong person.

The gang decide they must travel to Las Vegas to save Trevor and the ice formula, and wait until nightfall to creep out of Warfield through the secret passage in a sleeping Milbanks' office, before catching a plane to Nevada. Meanwhile, at Ms. Fortune's base on the banks of the Colorado River, the crooks have a whining Trevor suspended in a cage fitted with a trapdoor above a gorge, still convinced that he's Horace Boothroyd. They have placed a tracking device in the silver dollar they enclosed in their ransom note, and see that it is nearing the Pharaoh's Oasis casino - presuming that Major Boothroyd is the one who has brought it there. At the casino, Tracy and Phoebe see a poster advertising a concert by their rock star idol, Pelvis Paisley, and are desperate to go - so James tells the others to go and enjoy it while he checks out the casino, despite I.Q. and Gordo's reluctance. When they go to the box office, though, the show is fully booked - so introducing themselves to security as the backing singers, the 'Warfield Warblers', they gain access. However, their plan backfires when the real backing singers can't make it - and the gang are forced to sing on stage along with Pelvis!

Meanwhile, James is prevented from putting the special coin in the Megabucks machine by a security guard, as he's not old enough. However, he tells his whole unlikely story to a waitress, Delta Card, who agrees to play the coin in the slot machine on his behalf. When she does, images of Ms. Fortune appear on the dials of the slot machine. A trap door opens under her feet, and she falls down a chute into a van driven by Snuffer. James leaps in after her - but Snuffer doesn't realise that he isn't carrying Major Boothroyd until they arrive back at Ms. Fortune's base. James introduces himself to her, but she's hardly thrilled to make his acquaintance. Locking the van doors again, she resolves to earn some brownie points with Scumlord by disposing of him. Snuffer starts up the van again and the crooks watch with glee as it crashes over the side of the Hoover Dam. Delta starts shrieking as the van sinks, but James finds a convenient emergency exit lever, which pops open the back of the van without any trouble.

Reaching the base of the gorge over which Trevor's cage is suspended, James begins to scale the sheer cliff-face with I.Q.'s special gloves, while Delta looks on incredulously. But Ms. Fortune and Snuffer have already returned to the base, and their intruder alarm alerts them to James's approach. Snuffer suggests they employ a device known as the 'Wheel of Misfortune', one of the ornaments in their casino-themed base - which Ms. Fortune is now keen on vacating, worried that others will follow James's example and find them. Snuffer starts the Wheel spinning - and Ms. Fortune tells Trevor that when it stops, unless by some slender chance it stops on 'Jackpot', the whole base will explode and the cage will open, dropping Trevor into the canyon below.

As the crooks fly off in their chopper, the wheel does indeed land on 'Jackpot'. But it must be rigged, because it then flicks over onto a neighbouring segment, and Trevor drops from the cage as the base is obliterated. James, who has nearly scaled the cliff, jumps off again, grabbing onto Trevor, who has passed out and is still wearing I.Q.'s parachute jacket. The two float to safety, onto a boat that Delta has borrowed. She kisses him on the cheek, but as they move into a more passionate embrace, they topple over the side of the boat! James and Delta then put Trevor on a plane back to England - via the North Pole, as payback for all the trouble he's caused and in order to stop Trevor from knowing who saved him! The rest of the gang hitch a ride back to England with Pelvis Paisley, as a reward for stepping in as backing singers at the last moment. James bids Delta goodbye, and back at Warfield, I.Q. wins the first prize at science fair - on top of everything, Trevor has been disqualified for late entry!


Review: A very enjoyable installment all round, which deviates at least in part from the usual format in that a regular character is kidnapped - the fact that it's Trevor makes things all the more interesting, as James goes out of his way to save him despite what a brat he's been to I.Q. His incessant whinging makes the impatient and impulsive Ms. Fortune the ideal villain to have done the deed, too, as her frustration with him grows throughout the episode, with genuine comedy effect. Yet she and Snuffer also display incredibly sinister attributes; both the van plunge and the rigged 'Wheel of Misfortune' are rather sadistic, but effective, plot devices. Even though one must question why anyone would waste time bothering setting up the latter device, the likely answer is in Ms. Fortune's character: perhaps more than any of the other villains on the show, she really relishes being unpleasant for unpleasantness' sake. So does Trevor in this episode (see 'Notes'), as he displays a particularly malicious side - making it all the more commendable that James bothers to track him down and rescue him. Meanwhile the whole room temperature ice plot element is largely abandoned half way through, as Trevor becomes the real stake - Ms. Fortune never does find the pen in his pocket. (This slight niggle is addressed in the novelisation of the episode, in which Ms. Fortune is briefly allowed to wreak havoc at the casino with I.Q.'s formula before being eventually defeated.) Combined with the novelty setting and the eccentric Delta as female lead, these elements serve to put There But For Ms. Fortune firmly among the series' highlights.

Highs:
There's some cracking and genuinely humorous dialogue, at least by James Bond Jr standards - and in this respect it's Trevor who tends to steal the show (see 'Lines to Remember').

Lows:
Pelvis Paisley. Oh, and the emergency exit lever in the van. One might have expected Ms. Fortune or Snuffer to have considered removing or disabling it in some way if they really wanted to do away with James.

Lines to Remember:
Trevor, as Ms. Fortune's device makes the moped drive backwards into her truck: 'Help! Haunted moped!'

Gordo, on Trevor's kidnap: 'Let's hope nobody comes up with the ransom!'

Trevor, whinging to his captors: "You can't treat me like this, I'm a British citizen! Why can't I have a TV set? I'm bored out here, and hungry!" Snuffer: "Couldn't I open the trap door just a teeny bit, ma'am?" Ms. Fortune: "Don't tempt me."

Trevor, on the news that Ms. Fortune's base is about to be blown sky-high: "Good! It's a ghastly eyesore!"

S.C.U.M. on the Surface?: Yes; James apparently meets Ms. Fortune and Snuffer for the first time here, and describes her as one of S.C.U.M.'s richest and nastiest. Ms. Fortune also brags that Scumlord will be pleased if she gets rid of James for him.

Gadgets & Gizmos:
In addition to his ice formula, I.Q. comes up trumps with a pair of super-strength gloves that, when a current passes through them, can break through any material with a single swipe. He also designs a jacket with a built-in parachute.

A Novel Approach:
This episode was adapted by John Vincent for the novelisation High Stakes.

Blunders & Bloopers: There seems to be some confusion in this episode over the relationship between Q and I.Q. It's been established in several other episodes that I.Q. is Q's grandson, but here Major Boothroyd is referred to alternately as I.Q.'s father and his grandfather. We've corrected all references in the synopsis above for clarity's sake.

Notes:
We get the most solid sign yet in this episode that the official running order is all over the place; although James knows of Ms. Fortune as a leading S.C.U.M. agent, it's clearly stated that she hasn't met him before this episode - despite having been very familiar with him in the 'earlier' episodes Fountain of Terror, The Heartbreak Caper and Mindfield. She also appears briefly in Barbella's Big Attraction, although there's no evidence she recognises James in that episode. Aside from this there are other telltale signs that this episode was one of the earliest ones to be completed: the explicit use of the secret passage in Milbanks' office being one of them. Another sign is that Trevor, whose character is softened considerably as the format progresses, is portrayed here more as a bully than an outcast, and particularly victimises I.Q. (breaking his science project deliberately, stealing his things, and at one point calling him 'four-eyes'), as he does in The Beginning. James's reaction, again as in the first episode, is one of absolute outrage, rather than simply laughing off Trevor's behaviour as he does 'later' in the series.

The cashier at the box office for the Pelvis Paisley concert is none other than Miss Pearce, of Hostile Takeover fame (or at least the same artwork is used). Though given her capacity for attracting doppelgangers in that episode, perhaps we shouldn't be surprised.

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