'WEATHER OR NOT'
by Francis Moss and Ted Pedersen
Featuring: James, I.Q., Tracy, Gordo, Phoebe, Trevor, Mr Milbanks, Coach Mitchell, Dr Derange, Skullcap.
Synopsis: On a sunny day, outside a bank in central London, Skullcap and a band of S.C.U.M. cronies await, donning winter coats and skis. An armoured cash van pulls up and the crooks have plans to rob it - but only after a freak snowstorm suddenly appears out of nowhere! It's Dr Derange's doing, and instant chaos ensues, allowing Skullcap and his goons to plunder the cash van at laser point and escape on jet-powered skis! The sudden storm causes pile-ups on the road, and one lorry swerves off into a park where James and the Warfield gang are having a picnic. Channel 6 meteorologist Wendy Day is also doing a forecast in the park, and urgently reports the freak snowstorm - which she says is limited to a five-block area of the city - just as the lorry hurtles towards her. Climbing into a nearby tree, James pulls Wendy out of the lorry's path, saving her.
As the gang warm up back at their hotel, Wendy turns up to join them. She's as confused as they are about the freak weather, and tells them about the three men seen robbing the bank on jet-powered skis - as if they knew the storm was coming. I.Q. says that they could know, if they had control of the National Weather Satellite - a rumoured government gizmo that can control the weather. Wendy has heard of it too, but thought it hadn't been activated yet. As it's getting late, Trevor uses his position as curfew monitor to bully the others into staying in their rooms. Meanwhile, in a disused building somewhere, Dr Derange is pleased with Skullcap's haul - and also with the fact that the control codes for the satellite are working perfectly. He explains that a new supercomputer, if stolen, will allow him to use the satellite to wreak climate havoc across England.
Back at the hotel, I.Q. has hacked the Weather Institute's database and found that the satellite has indeed been activated - and that S.C.U.M. broke the control codes, but doesn't have strong control yet judging by the small area of the storm. Borrowing a porter's uniform to get past Trevor, and equipped with a pocketful of gadgets, James heads off to the Weather Institute to learn more about the satellite - meeting Wendy at Channel 6 along the way. But she tells him another freak storm has occurred in Mayfair, and another crime is in progress; so they take the station helicopter to investigate. Meanwhile, Dr Derange has taken control of the former Post Office Tower, and is using it as his base of operations. He tells Skullcap via radio to get a move on with stealing the supercomputer. Skullcap and his goons steal the computer, escaping on snowmobiles, as another spontaneous storm rages.
The police cars following the crooks lose control and skid into one another, but James intervenes, lowering himself down from the helicopter and unseating one of the S.C.U.M. agents. He then causes Skullcap to crash into a tunnel wall, but the crook escapes with the computer, telling Derange on his radio that James is onto them. The crooks head to the Meteorological Institute themselves in order to ambush James and Wendy when they arrive. Holding them at gunpoint, they take them to the Institute's climate testing chambers, where different climate types are reproduced, and lock James and Wendy in the 'Arctic' room. James uses one of I.Q.'s gadgets to escape, and they rush back to the hotel, where James climbs into bed just as Trevor comes to check on them. Foiled again, he slopes off, and James fills I.Q. in on what they've learned. Disguised as waitresses, Wendy and her computer genius friend Hildy arrive with a load of computer hardware. While I.Q. and potential love interest Hildy stay to try and crack the satellite code, James and Wendy get back in the chopper to locate Derange.
At the Post Office Tower, Derange has his supercomputer hooked up to the weather satellite, and tests it out, creating a rainstorm over the vicinity. He says he can now steal anything he pleases by ambushing people with freak weather bursts - and he's particularly interested in the Crown Jewels! But I.Q. and Hildy have traced the origin of the satellite signal to the Post Office Tower, and realise Derange must have taken it over. He radioes James and Wendy, who head there in the helicopter, attempting to land on the roof. Derange's intruder alarms pick them up though, and he fires lasers at the chopper through guns he's installed in the walls, causing the helicopter to spiral to the ground. They make a crash-landing and escape the exploding chopper just in time. Trying the ground floor doors of the tower they find them unlocked, but James notices a series of tripwire traps along the corridor, and realises Derange has taken control of the entire building. To evade the wires, James decides they must scale the side of the building with I.Q.'s suction pads - much to Wendy's horror!
As they climb, a fierce hailstorm ensues, and Wendy's grip begins to loosen. They decide to take their chances and enter through a window on an upper floor, cutting a hole in the glass with James's watch. Inside, James finds a mop in a store cupboard and uses it to nudge a CCTV camera to point away from them - but Derange notices the picture moving erratically, and two S.C.U.M. agents are sent to investigate. They eventually catch up with James and Wendy, and begin firing lasers at them. But James knocks them out, and the pair head upstairs to Derange's control room. At the hotel, Hildy reveals she was on the team that invented the satellite, and attempts to override Derange's control. She's struggling, but I.Q. comes up with a partial solution. Then Hildy remembers that the satellite is solar-powered, and realises that if they can stop it receiving solar energy, it will weaken and die. Able to control the solar panel section of the satellite, I.Q. and Hildy retract the panels.
At the Tower, a furious Derange sends Skullcap to help the two goons, but James sets up a slippery trap for the trio, using a spilled bucket of water to send them careering into an elevator, before sending them to the basement. Wendy and James then come across a booby-trapped floor that's electrically charged, so use I.Q.'s stick-pads to crawl across the ceiling instead. Fooling Derange into thinking they're in an elevator, James and Wendy ambush him from behind in his control centre. He tries to create a hurricane to demonstrate his might, but with the solar panels retracted, the batteries on the satellite have run down. A furious Derange tries to blast them with his laser gun, but in doing so initiates an auto-destruct sequence. As a countdown begins, Derange escapes on a jetpack through the roof, leaving James and Wendy inside. They're forced to take a leap of faith from the window, and I.Q.'s parachutes open, as the control room explodes above them. They return to the hotel, where Hildy and I.Q. are locked in a spiral of mutual congratulation. Trevor turns up to accuse James of sneaking out, but ends up falling on top of Mr Milbanks.
Review: There's no doubt that the plot of Weather or Not comprises several elements of the most audacious silliness - the National Weather Satellite being somewhat of an elephant in the room in terms of the credibility deficit. But there are so many intelligent characters running around apparently unperturbed by the fact that a satellite exists which can control the weather, and it's such a fun idea, that the audience is able to suspend at least a degree of disbelief. There's plenty of enjoyable material here to help us do so, not least madcap Dr Derange whom, in comparison to his previous outing, is used to his full criminal potential. The Post Office/BT Tower provides a great dramatic backdrop for the second half of the episode, meanwhile, and interest is added to the usual "I.Q. overrides the crooks' control" sequence by the presence of the likeable Hildy, one of I.Q.'s few possible romantic interests in the series (and similarly a bespectacled computer nerd, naturally). Wendy Day, too, is a fairly formidable lady, and throws herself into the action rather more readily than some of her predecessors have. While this episode is by no means outstanding, there are certainly many worse, and this one's sufficiently action-packed and enjoyable to largely paper over the gaping holes in the plot.
Highs: Quite literally, the scaling of the Post Office town amidst the heavy hailstorm - and the subsequent race to the roof.
Lows: There's little original about Trevor's exploits here, as he once again humiliates himself without James even having to lift a finger.
Lines to Remember: Derange, on being called mad: "Mad, am I? Mad, am I? Yes, I suppose I am."
Derange, locking James and Wendy in the Arctic room: "In a few moments, you will be turnéd to Bond on the rocks!"
Derange on Wendy: "I'd say that weather girl's forecast is gloomy. Very gloomy!"
Gadgets & Gizmos: Today's selection includes two cloth sacks which fold out into parachutes, an anti-magnetic pen, and a pair of super-stick pads to help James climb up any surface. The watch glass-cutter also makes an appearance.
S.C.U.M. on the Surface?: Yes - plenty of S.C.U.M. agents crawling about here.
Buzz Books: Caryn Jenner adapted this episode for the Buzz Books series under the name 'Freeze Frame', amending it in various ways. The most significant change was that Goldfinger and Odd Job were used as the villains in the book, presumably since Derange and Skullcap had already appeared in another book in the series. The basic plot of S.C.U.M. taking control of the weather satellite was the same, but the book featured a showdown at the Tower of London, rather than the former Post Office tower as in the TV episode.
Notes: Aside from the impossibility of it all, why would the British authorities bother creating a weather-altering satellite if they didn't want to alter the weather? Isn't this just asking for trouble?
Tellingly, James says of I.Q.'s super-stick pads: "I'm not sure about these. I hate to get too attached to things." See commentary for the previous episode, Canine Caper.
The fictitious television station Channel 6 plays a regular role in Murakami Wolf Swenson's other, more famous cartoon, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.