'RUBIES AREN'T FOREVER'
by Kent Stevenson
Featuring: James, I.Q., Gordo, Phoebe, Trevor, Mr Milbanks, Baron von Skarin, Tiara Hotstones, Jaws.
Synopsis: While riding through London one day, James witnesses a robbery of a young woman's ruby necklace by two bikers. When the girl, Ruby Delight, refuses to cooperate, they try to kidnap her as well - until James intervenes, wrecking the crooks' moped with a laser beam I.Q. has installed his motorbike. The goons get away with the necklace, but the moment the police turn up, Ruby vanishes without trace. James manages to retrieve one of the thugs' headbands with an insignia, but is nonplussed as to why Ruby disappeared. Meanwhile, Trevor is in full tinpot dictator mode in his role as editor of the Warfield Gazette. He upsets Phoebe by telling her there's no room for her latest article, because the paper will be full of his own - and that he's cancelled her arranged interview with Colonel Neil of the US Air Force, who's returned to Germany as a result. I.Q. helps Phoebe exact revenge by hacking into his computer and hiding all Trevor's stories.
James offers Phoebe the change to help him investigate the ruby necklace affair, since it might score her a newsworthy story. Having tracked down Ruby, James and Phoebe pay her a visit. She explains that the necklace belongs to her aunt, who prefers not to involve the police. James shows her the insignia on the headband, which James has found out belongs to a street gang who operate near the docks. They head down there to see if they can retrieve the necklace, and spot the two biker crooks again, who are waiting to meet 'the Baron'. They jump in forklift trucks to escape James but they end up crashing them, so are forced to flee on foot. James chases them onto the jetty and eventually manages to seize the necklace from one of the pair. But just as he returns it to Ruby, someone else turns up to take it off his hands - Tiara Hotstones! Ruby is shocked, and asks 'Aunt Tiara' what she's doing. James realises Ruby is Tiara's niece.
Tiara explains that she is taking the necklace to Munich. The gems are actually fakes, but they contain special relays which Baron von Skarin is paying top dollar for. She's taking Ruby with her, as they have a room booked in her name at the Karneval Hotel. In the car, James suggests Ruby must have been duped by her aunt, and says Phoebe can't run the story after all. Phoebe's furious, and says that in that case she's going to Munich to interview Colonel Neil. Remembering that's where Tiara has gone, James suggests they go together. Milbanks grudgingly gives them permission to go, after Phoebe explains her father has invited them to a festival to soak up some culture. James asks I.Q. about the relays, and he recalls that he's read in a magazine recently about some laser configuration relays being stolen from a defence department laboratory.
Baron von Skarin is in Germany already, and has built himself an elaborate base in an old salt mine in the Bavarian Alps, complete with a secret opening, through which he shoots a powerful laser to override the controls of an Air Force F15 plane and pilot it remotely back to his lair. He explains to Jaws that with the new relays Tiara has stolen for him, he'll be able to crank up the power and steal whole squadrons at a time. Colonel Neil is on the news talking about the disappearance of the plane and, sensing foul play, I.Q. prepares a raft of gadgets to take with them to Munich. When they arrive, James heads to the Karneval hotel to track down Tiara and Ruby. In the hotel, Tiara is annoyed with von Skarin for employing the biker gang to steal the necklace from Ruby. But he pays her fee, so they, Jaws and Ruby go out for lunch to celebrate. James spies on them as Tiara hands over the necklace and the Baron raises a toast to his new air force. But then he spots James, hiding behind a potted plant.
Jaws immediately gives chase, but Ruby trips him up, allowing James a head start. He climbs up a nearby statue, as Jaws and the Baron's dog Schnitzel growl at him from the ground. James uses I.Q.'s tone generator to create a deafening pitch which drives both Jaws and the dog away. Later, at their hotel, I.Q. presents James with another gizmo he's created having thought about the relays - it's a compact disc which will gather and amplify laser beams, reflecting them back to their source. They head off to the army base to meet Colonel Neil, so Phoebe can do her interview. He explains that the F15 jets are incredibly powerful and can move at unprecedented speeds. Phoebe manages to bag them seats on a training flight, to allow them to get at von Skarin should he try to swipe it from the sky with his laser. Meanwhile at Warfield, Trevor's attempt to retrieve his stories are scuppered when he discovers I.Q. has injected ink into his keyboard, which promptly splatters all over him.
Sure enough, when the training squadron goes up, Baron von Skarin uses his device to seize control of the planes and drag them all back to his lair. Despite James and Phoebe's best efforts, they're captured by Jaws on exiting the plane, but James manages to immobilise the crook by pulling down on a chain which releases a chuteload of salt onto Jaws's head. Phoebe and James run for it, taking one of the Baron's trucks to navigate the mine faster. Tiara tells the Baron she'll get Bond herself, and she chases his truck along with a team of S.C.U.M. agents in two more vehicles, picking up Jaws on her way. James and Phoebe come to a steep ravine and slide down it into a minecar, and Jaws tumbles down after them when the S.C.U.M. vehicles fail to stop at the ravine, landing in the next minecar. A rail chase ensues, but James uses I.Q.'s web-making golf ball to create a net between his own mine car and Jaws', causing Jaws to bounce backwards and off the rails altogether.
Tiara appears, holding James and Phoebe at gunpoint, but they escape again using the golf ball webbing to stop her chasing them. Furious at everyone's incompetence but their own, Tiara and von Skarin agree to find James and Phoebe in the morning, in the knowledge that they can't escape the mine. James has other ideas and suggests they try to fly one of the F15s out of the mountain. Phoebe's willing to try piloting one, but isn't so pleased that James wants to take Ruby along with them, given that she got them into this mess. They find her wandering around the sleeping quarters and offer to take her with them. Phoebe heads to the aircraft hangar to start up a plane while Ruby tries to open the runway doors - but instead she hits the buttons that turn on all the lights and the alarms! They decide to run for it anyway, as the crooks give chase. They get in an F15 and Phoebe blasts the doors open with a missile, allowing them to fly out. As von Skarin tries to use the laser to blast the plane, James puts I.Q.'s CD in the disc player, and his laser is reflected back at him, destroying his base. James bids goodbye to Ruby and heads back to Warfield with Phoebe, where Milbanks is very impressed with Phoebe's reports from Munich. I.Q. locates Trevor's stories for him, but Milbanks decides to make Phoebe the editor of the Gazette. She tells Trevor she might use his stories - some day!
Review: As a fairly poor retelling of the same basic plot behind Dance of the Toreadors, this episode won't be winning any awards. Once again, Tiara Hotstones is found smuggling precious gems containing dangerous technology across international borders for Baron von Skarin. And while the F15 plane-stealing aspect adds a slight new dimension to the von Skarin/Tiara backstabbing fest, the script isn't great (the phrase 'my dear Baron/James/Tiara' is delivered with leaden sarcasm on no less than five separate occasions) and leaves far too many loose threads, not least the background to Ruby's decision to work for her aunt (see 'Lows' below). Jaws's presence adds little of value - he's no more than cannon fodder here, and without Nick-Nack to bounce off he spends most of the time running around growling. The episode also marks some of I.Q.'s most poorly-conceived gizmos to date (well they work, but don't make the remotest bit of sense). On the upside, however, the Warfield elements of the story actually tend to fit with the plot, as opposed to being tacked-on time-fillers. Trevor's activities actually provide Phoebe with the means to travel to Munich, rendering him more than superfluous, and scaling back on some of the regulars (Tracy, Coach Mitchell and minimal Gordo scenes) allows a sharper focus on the plot at hand. It's a shame that more isn't made of Phoebe's crush on James, however, given that they spend so much time alone together. All in all disappointing, but with the odd chink of light, Rubies Aren't Forever is one of the many later episodes that lets the show down somewhat, as the lack of fresh ideas becomes more and more apparent.
Highs: It's good to see Phoebe getting a rare share of the action - her character is nicely fleshed out during this episode, and she gets another opportunity to practice her piloting skills (previously witnessed in Lamp of Darkness). It's a good job she's there, too; before too long we start to share her exasperation with James's repeated insistence that Ruby is worth saving (she isn't).
Lows: The presence of the character Ruby is unnecessary and confusing. Her relationship with Tiara is never properly explained or resolved - her sudden disappearance after the necklace is stolen suggests she at least knew something fishy was going on, and had apparently agreed to go along with it. Ostensibly a prisoner at the salt mines, she's found freely wandering around the complex at night - an apparent contradiction - and is worse than useless in the aircraft hangar control room (where, rather suspiciously, the first two buttons she presses to try and open the hangar doors turn on the lights and the alarms). Aside from being Tiara's gems mule, her sole purpose appears to be to further the (bad) joke in the episode's title.
Lines to Remember: Trevor to Milbanks: 'And I think you'll be quite pleased with the Warfield Gazette this week, sir. Especially my wonderful article on you.'
Ruby: 'James, how did you find me?' James: 'We have our ways.' Phoebe: 'Besides, you're in the phone book.'
Lines to Forget: Baron von Skarin: 'Come into my web, said ze Baron to ze flyboys!'
Gadgets & Gizmos: I.Q. reveals a malicious streak, hacking into Trevor's computer and hiding all his newspaper stories so he gets fired from his job as editor. He also manages to install ink in the computer that shoots out when keys are pressed. For James, he produces a tone generator (it produces sound waves of any type or pitch) and a bizarre golf ball that leaves strong netting in its wake when it bounces off surfaces. Speaking of bouncing off surfaces, I.Q. also modifies a humble CD 'to gather and amplify laser beams'.
S.C.U.M. on the Surface?: As in Dance of the Toreadors, Baron von Skarin clearly leads the S.C.U.M. effort in this episode - his salt mine base is teeming with uniformed agents - while Tiara Hotstones appears to be a freelance who has been hired for a specific purpose (stealing and delivering the relays). So why Hotstones hangs around to help post-delivery, despite having been double-crossed by the Baron, is anybody's guess.
Notes: We learn that Phoebe's father's first name is Reginald.
Why does Tiara namedrop the hotel she's staying at when it's patently obvious James would follow her there?
Tiara is far less sympathetic a character here than in her previous appearance, Dance of the Toreadors - she colludes with von Skarin even after he's double-crossed her, actively helps hunt down James, and doesn't even raise an eyebrow when the Baron tries to obliterate her niece.