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James Bond Jr Online


Episode #23
by Alan Templeton and Mary Crawford

Featuring: James, I.Q., Tracy, Gordo, Phoebe, Trevor, Mr Milbanks, Coach Mitchell, Baron von Skarin.

Synopsis: A night's hard work at the ballet wins huge applause for the renowned dancer Pavel Popchek, but he's about to get a nasty surprise. In his dressing room, some suspicious-looking flowers release a gas which quickly renders him unconscious. Enter Baron von Skarin, and his associate Gunther Schwein - who appears to have had plastic surgery in order to look exactly like the comatose ballet dancer! A few nights later, and Gunther has taken Pavel's place in the ballet show alongside Popchek's long-term partner Marie Pleeay. James and his friends are at the show and, waiting outside for autographs afterwards, they witness a row between Pleeay and 'Popchek', whom Pleeay claims nearly dropped her. She marches off in a sulk, but 'Popchek' is more than pleased to sign his autograph. Only I.Q., who is suffering from a severe cold and has seen Popchek dance before, notices something odd in his behaviour.

In the car park, Marie is having trouble getting into her car, and runs into James - who offers to help her. But as they get the door open, James notices an odd bleeping sound and throws Marie away from the car, as it explodes in a fireball! Baron von Skarin and his dog Schnitzel are watching from the bushes. James and his friends take a shaken Marie back to Warfield, where I.Q. examines traces of the explosive from the car. She's puzzled about who would want to kill her - and when asked about Pavel, explains they just had a professional dispute, since he's not been himself lately. She explains she's leaving for Switzerland in the morning, as she and Pavel are dancing at a gala for King Vladimir of the Kingdom of Zamora (presumably an obscure Eastern European micronation). According to I.Q., King Vladimir has just come of age and is returning to Zamora to seize power from his 'evil Uncle Igor'.

James and friends offer to escort Marie to Switzerland, but Milbanks swiftly pours cold water on that idea, telling them they're not allowed. I.Q. helps out by inventing a fake tennis tournament for them to attend, with collaboration from Coach Mitchell - who agrees they can take the Warfield van. I.Q., still poorly, decides to stay behind. So James, Phoebe, Gordo and Tracy escape from the grounds through the laundry chute, collect the van from the upholsterers, and head off to meet Marie at the ferry. We cut to Baron von Skarin and Gunther, who is increasingly frustrated that Marie appears to be suspicious of him and has chosen to head to Switzerland separately. Von Skarin is furious that James saved her in the car park, and reveals that Evil Uncle Igor is one of his best weapons customers, so has no intention of letting Vladimir have the throne of Zamora. The baron's plan is for Gunther to assassinate King Vladimir during their ballet dance for him at his Swiss winter residence.

As Marie and the Warfielders drive through France, they're chased by a black car which attempts to bore into the back of the van with a huge drill. It's driven by Baron von Skarin, but luckily he's waylaid when he crashes into some French people, who naturally begin to hit him with baguettes. Back at Warfield, Mitchell is having trouble covering for the gang, as Trevor has rung the tournament and been told they haven't turned up. Luckily, Tracy calls at just the right moment and explains they've been playing in an amateur division, and will only join the tournament later, foiling Noseworthy again. The gang have stopped for a picnic in a French field, but before long are in trouble again - as Baron von Skarin requisitions a combine harvester in an attempt to mow them down! But they survive the latest attempt on Marie's life and drive on.

At Warfield, I.Q. is following up his suspicions about 'Popchek', with some help from Coach Mitchell, following Marie's observation that he hasn't been himself. He compares Popchek's signatures from his autograph book from a previous occasion, with Tracy's from the recent performance - and discovers they're different. He also compares videos of Pavel dancing, and comes to the conclusion that 'Popchek' must be an impostor. I.Q. runs the dance moves through a database for a 'kinetic match', and comes up with Gunther Schwein - who is listed as an assassin in the employ of Baron von Skarin. As Coach Mitchell tries to call James to warn him, I.Q. worries he won't be able to get through, and decides he needs to go to Switzerland himself.

As the gang approaches the Italian border in the van, they're chased through a mountain tunnel by a harrier jet, driven by von Skarin! But James uses the retractable wings I.Q.'s installed to plunge the van off the cliff and land it safely on a road down below, losing von Skarin. Later, they finally arrive in Switzerland, where they head up towards Vladimir's mountain palace in a cable car. But von Skarin is overhead, in a missile-armed blimp, waiting for them. James uses an emergency flare in the cable car to redirect von Skarin's heat-seeking missile, and they reach the palace safely, where Tracy and Phoebe are first in the queue to get King Vladimir's autograph. I.Q. contacts James via his radio sunglasses; he's in Switzerland too, and on the cable car travelling towards the palace. He explains that 'Popchek' is Gunther Schwein in disguise, and that he plans to assassinate Vladimir. Von Skarin has vast financial interests in Zamora and doesn't want Vladimir to return.

James realises that Marie has vanished - Gunther has taken her out onto the balcony. James follows and intervenes just in time, but to get away from a knife and gun-wielding Gunther, he and Marie leap from the balcony and hang on to the wire of the cable car below, just as I.Q.'s car drifts into view. They clamber aboard and, as I.Q. contacts Vladimir's royal guard, James heads towards the palace on skis to save Vladimir. He smashes through the windows of the auditorium, just as Gunther, who is performing alone, is about to make his move. Gunther turns and fires his gun at James, but it misses, goes through the window and hits von Skarin's blimp, which goes crashing into the mountainside as the Baron and Schnitzel parachute out. Vladimir is saved and Gunther led away by the police. I.Q. gets his autograph from Marie, and the gang head back to Warfield - where Mr Mitchell expresses some annoyance at the wrecked van!

Review: As one of the 'big three' episodes deemed action-packed enough to win footage in the opening titles, Live and Let's Dance would be one of the bigger-budget Bond movies were it live action. As with that other great classic, The Eiffel Missile, much of the appeal is in the journey - namely the gang's highly eventful travels through France, Italy and Switzerland, culminating in the explosive denouement as James saves the King with seconds to spare. While the Baron can be quite a farcical villain later in the series, his plot seems a great deal more serious here given that we have a genuinely menacing villain in Gunther Schwein, perhaps the only character in James Bond Jr to be seen with both a dagger and a gun other than a laser (i.e. weapons that could genuinely hurt someone). He's also explicitly described as an assassin, which is unusual, as most crooks in the show are simply 'master criminals' who 'destroy' rather than kill. Dressed in his sinister clerical robes, the scene on the mountain balcony as he advances towards Marie is quite a memorable one, which certainly helps make up for all the silliness about plastic surgery. One regret is that we don't find out what happened to the original Popchek, although we can probably assume he's alive and well when all's said and done. Neither do we meet the wonderful Evil Uncle Igor - although the John Vincent novelisation of the episode expands on that aspect somewhat. Marie, meanwhile, is also a memorable female lead - a little feistier than most, perhaps, and as a celebrity, rather temperamental. And I.Q. gets a rather nice outing too here, struggling all the way to Switzerland on his own despite a serious (and amusing) case of the sniffles.

Lines to Remember:
Gordo to Marie, following several assassination attempts: 'It scopes out like somebody's real keen to make sure you don't reach Switzerland. Any notions as to who?' Marie: 'Well, there's Marguerite, she's a dancer too! I beat her as prima ballerina in Swan Lake." James, hearing a roar alongside the van: "Well I think we can rule out Marguerite... unless she flies a harrier jet!"

Lines to Forget:
Marie: "James! I believe your sunglasses are ringing."

Gadgets & Gizmos:
I.Q. invents a pair of spectacles that can receive both audio and video - though the worldwide range didn't quite live up to expectations, as I.Q. couldn't contact James until he was just yards away. There's also a raft of modifications to the Warfield Van, including auto-conversion between left and right-hand drive - and retractable wings! 

S.C.U.M. on the Surface: The organisation isn't mentioned, possibly because Baron von Skarin is intervening in the politics of Zamora primarily in order to protect his own financial interests. 

Loco Parenthesis: Coach Mitchell is complicit in helping James and friends disobey direct instructions from Mr Milbanks and escape to Switzerland, by pretending to send them to participate in a tennis tournament - and later lies to Milbanks' face, as Trevor tries to prove James isn't at the tournament at all.

A Novel Approach:
Uniquely of his six adaptations, John Vincent's novelisation of this episode - which features additional run-ins with von Skarin both before and after the action of the TV episode - carries exactly the same name. Presumably it was thought simply too good to change.

Notes: German aristocrat Baron von Skarin makes his first of many appearances in this episode.

Why does von Skarin bother forking out for plastic surgery for Gunther when S.C.U.M.'s masks are so realistic, as evidenced in Location: Danger - and they already have seamless cloaking technology, as demonstrated in Hostile Takeover?

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