'BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE'
by Jeffrey Scott
Featuring: James, I.Q., Tracy, Gordo, Phoebe, Trevor, Coach Mitchell, Dr Derange, Jaws, Odd Job.
Synopsis: James and his friends, accompanied by Coach Mitchell, are on a camping expedition in the Australian outback, enjoying a tasty meal around the campfire. Having cackled at Trevor for unwittingly biting into a live lizard sandwich, the gang suddenly notice what appears to be a military aircraft spiralling out of control overhead. The pilot manages to eject but the plane itself crashes. Two rangers, Cathy Kangaroo and her brother George, are quickly dispatched into the outback to look for the plane, which contains a state-of-the-art experimental weapon system - but they're not the only ones looking for the wreckage. Dr Derange is also in Australia and, along with Jaws and Odd Job, plans to seek out the weapon system at any cost, and put it to use in furtherance of S.C.U.M.'s master crimes. Before long the crooks catch up with the rangers and engage them in a deadly off-road pursuit which eventually leads to the rangers' crash and capture.
Tying Cathy to a tree, the crooks drive off with her brother George, whom they hope will help lead them to the site of the crashed plane. They soon run into James and his friends in the Warfield jeep, who are also out looking for the plane; but the crooks successfully shred the vehicle's tyres, causing the Warfield gang to go crashing into the river at the bottom of the valley. Everyone's okay, but James and I.Q. are separated from Coach Mitchell and the others in the confusion. James and I.Q. soon come across Cathy and untie her; she explains that Derange and his goons are in the vicinity, looking for the plane. The crooks have meanwhile managed to crash their truck into a rock, and are forced to get out and walk; James's party escapes a snake but run into alligators while crossing a river; and Trevor meets his match when he comes up against a duck-billed platypus.
James uses I.Q.'s booster rocket trainers to propel them and Cathy to safety from the alligators - and in Coach Mitchell's party, Trevor is attacked by a large rodent, causing him and Tracy to fall down a cliff and become separated from the rest of the group. Spotting a man passing by in a truck, Derange and his henchmen decide to hijack it, throwing the driver aside and stealing his vehicle. In order to catch up, James, I.Q. and Cathy manage to construct their own vehicle from some old cannisters and parts of a steam engine, and quickly give chase. They soon catch up with the crooks but Jaws blasts them off a cliff using a bazooka. Luckily James activates I.Q.'s pop-up tent, inflating it with the hot air from the steam engine and allowing the threesome to float into the air, using the tent as a balloon.
Having located the mountain on which the plane has crashed, Derange has no use for George and leaves him behind, again tied to a tree, while he, Odd Job and Jaws begin to drive up the mountain road - but the ranger soon frees himself and follows them. As the road becomes too narrow, the crooks get out and walk to the site of the crashed plane. Finding the plane and the pilot nearby, they steal the weapon system from the plane's dashboard and make their escape. But they soon see James and his friends overhead, floating along under the 'balloon', which is gradually losing air. Jaws attempts to shoot them down, but fails, allowing James to land on top of their truck, tie the 'balloon' to it to slow it down, and retrieve the suitcase containing the radar device.
He runs away from the crooks along with I.Q. and the ranger; Odd Job attempts to throw his flying hat at James but without success. Cathy then takes Jaws and Odd Job down with her boomerang. Throwing the case between them like a rugby ball, she, James and I.Q. enlist the help of a passing kangaroo, throwing the case in its pouch for safe-keeping. James then kicks a pile of rocks, starting a rockfall which sends the crooks tumbling off a cliff. Meanwhile, Trevor and Tracy continue making their way through the jungle, avoiding lizards and alligators, which they have to row away from across a river, using their hands as oars. Finally, Trevor's terrified by a koala and jumps right into the arms of the kangaroo that helped James. They're reunited with Mitchell, James and all the others, the weapon system is safe from S.C.U.M., and everyone has a good laugh at Trevor - again.
Review: A particularly silly episode, even by Dr Derange standards, Between a Rock relies on all kinds of spurious contrivances, and a raft of antipodean clichés that border on insulting, to advance what barely passes for a plot at all. Indeed, this is almost entirely an action-based episode; the premise is largely unimportant, and it's the thrill of the chase that takes centre stage, interspersed, of course, with footage of Trevor being mauled by a variety of Australian fauna. The combination of Odd Job and Jaws working with Derange is an unusual formula that is actually fairly effective; their imposing stature, ruthless driving and heavy-duty weaponry works well in an action context, though aren't particularly conducive to characterisation. The guest girl - disappointingly named Cathy Kangaroo - is more or less a nonentity, but since her role is very limited the episode doesn't really suffer from it. The nature of the experimental weapon system is never made clear, and doesn't especially matter - though arguably the fact that the villains are dispatched rather too quickly and easily at the end of the episode does. In summary, were the show still on air, this probably isn't the sort of episode you'd willingly stay in for - unless of course you're a true, diehard fan.
Highs: The dense outback setting forms a novel backdrop to an otherwise fairly mediocre episode.
Lows: At one point Jaws puts tacks in his mouth then spits them all over the road, shredding the Warfield jeep's tyres.
Gadgets & Gizmos: A pop-up tent, ready to use instantly with the click of a button, is I.Q.'s gizmo of the day; there's also a pair of booster rockets that attach to James's trainers. The watch's acetylene torch features, too.
Lines to Forget: Dr Derange, suddenly feeling the need to justify an evil, villainous laugh: "That's a bad guys' habit."
S.C.U.M. on the Surface?: No explicit mention, we don't think - but having sat through the whole 22 minutes it's really difficult to care.
Notes: A new off-road safari-type vehicle features in this episode, adorned with the Warfield crest and painted orange (presumably not for camouflage).