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Boffins R Us

A panicky scientist with highly excitable hair runs through an apparently deserted village. Chancing upon a post office, he dashes in and asks to use the phone. Before he can do so, however, he's shot dead by that bloke from Are You Being Served?, and his body dumped on a London street. He was a highly regarded scientist, so Nemesis is called in to investigate his death - and as the Champions hear at a meeting with Tremayne, he had also recently vanished. Lots of scientists have recently vanished, so the best plan, obviously, is to vanish another one. The blatantly insane plans that Nemesis comes up with on a regular basis are one of my favourite things about this show, I think. The number of times that "Let's get one of us kidnapped!" turns up as an entirely sensible tactical option can really only be applauded. It's probably only beaten by the amount of times that "Let's try to get one of us killed!" manages to crop up. You have to wonder how the Nemesis agents who aren't superhuman ever survive a mission.

Anyway, on this occasion it's Richard sticking his head in the lion's mouth. He puts about a story saying that he's a top computer boffin who has just resigned due to no longer finding his work challenging enough. This immediately leads to some poor journalist who covered the story being tortured to death in order to check out the facts, which is somewhat unfortunate. Soon Richard is contacted by a head hunter, who whisks him away to a selection board allegedly overseen by the British government. Whoever is recruiting Richard is keen to appear as though they're acting entirely on the part of the government, but when Richard gets on the plane that is to fly him to the location of his new top secret government job, knockout gas floods the passenger compartment. Consequently he has no idea where the project is located, or even if he is still within Britain.

Oh dear. She's wearing pink again.

Richard Barrett, super computer boffin.

A journalist who had the misfortunate to be fed the false story of Richard's resignation from his computer boffin job winds up being tortured to death by the bad guys. It actually rather bothers me how little is made of this. Nemesis set this ordinary guy up, he gets his brain fried, and apparently nobody ever knows about it. And it is at least in part the good guys' fault.

In his special computer boffin's flat, Richard is contacted by a mysterious man offering him a top secret new top secret job which is top secret.

Rather entertainingly, his flat has the exact same pictures in it as the recreation room at the secret facility he's about to be taken to. Elstree Studio, recycling long before it became fashionable. ;)

Outside, Craig and Sharron listen in, making not-at-all-prophetic comments about how they really shouldn't trust gadgets too much.

Craig demonstrates a dog whistle, inaudible to ordinary human ears, that they can use to contact Richard if necessary.

For some reason, this picture amuses me greatly.

A top secret, allegedly government-run selection board, presided over by that nice Bishop of Tatchester from The Box Of Delights. That's rather unexpected. I'd always assumed he was a good guy.

Richard fails to winkle any of the top secret details from the top secret board.

And shortly afterwards winds up being spirited away overseas to a mysterious, top secret location. As he collapses, he drops the electronic gizmo that allows Craig and Sharron to monitor him, and it promptly gets broken. Whoops.

Richard is taken to a secret underground base, where other scientists are working on a secret project. He soon discovers that this is a 'fission gun' - a special laser weapon that causes radioactive material to disintegrate. The problem is that they have no idea who is behind the project, or what they intend to do with it, and when Richard tries to point this out to the scientists, he's hauled off for a go in the torture device that killed the journalist earlier. Being Richard, he's not terribly bothered by the torture, so the bad guys decide that if they can't kill him, they might as well make use of him instead. Fitting him with a microphone around his neck, which will explode if tampered with, they send him off to be a glorified tea-boy for the scientists working on the project. Things are not looking especially clever, but back in Geneva, Tremayne has a plan. Since Operation: Get Richard Abducted has hit a snag, surely the most sensible thing to do is to get Craig and Sharron abducted as well? He sets them up with a cover just like Richard's, presumably getting another journalist tortured to death into the bargain, and then sends them off to sort it all out. Five minutes later, after a quick meeting with the Bishop of Tatchester, they're also gassed into unconsciousness and whisked off in the secret plane to the secret HQ. So far, this is looking like one of Nemesis's rather less competent days.

Upon arrival at the top secret place of top secretness, Richard demonstrates his serial killer look.

Before being ferried off below ground with the rest of the new batch of scientists.

Splendidly silly eyewear is vital when testing a fission gun.

The chief boffin, with his silly eyewear, prepares for a demonstration.

Zap! It's a success, and a test sample of a radioactive substance immediately ceases to exist. Richard points out that they have no idea who is behind the project, but the lab is being monitored, and his words are immediately relayed to the bad guys.

Who trap him in their devious corridor.

Torture proves less than effective, though.

So Richard is soon the owner of his very own exploding microphone. Which sounds like a good thing to give to certain radio DJs.

Craig and Sharron board the top secret plane that is to take them somewhere top secret.

Richard is delighted to realise that he's no longer alone in Top Secretsville, but he can't contact his friends because of the microphone around his neck.

In an impressive display of MacGyvering, he therefore makes his own dog whistle out of a handy piece of metal. I would point out that he could just have used telepathy, but that would probably be churlish after all his hard work.

He uses it to summon Craig, who proves to be at least as well trained as the average sheepdog.

He can't do anything about the microphone without tools, but he does reveal that it has another purpose, besides monitoring Richard, and possibly exploding his head.

It also causes Craig and Richard to stand in increasingly suggestive poses. It's like some strange kind of slash machine. Careful of the microphone, the boys communicate by some peculiar form of lip reading that doesn't seem to involve actually looking at lips at all. This being so much easier than telepathy. It seems to work, though, because quickly they come up with a plan.

Gathering the scientists together, they write them a series of messages. Fortunately this batch of scientists is rather less daft than the one that needed rescuing in "Get Me Out Of Here!", and they don't try to read the messages aloud.

Mind you, Craig has learnt nothing from that particular venture, as he's still assuming that there's just audio monitoring going on, and no cameras.

A boffin does something splendidly boffinly to destroy the hidden microphones.

And everybody plots to send Sharron out through the air-conditioning system, so she can do something largely unspecified.

As Sharron makes her bid for freedom, the scientists cook up a batch of tear gas, which they use to incapacitate the guards. The bad guys have realised that something is up, however, and taking the fission gun, they lock everybody in the secret base and run away. They plan to use the fission gun to disarm either the East or the West - whichever bids highest, presumably - but first they plan to use it to detonate the radioactive material in the secret base, thus killing everybody in there. Hang on, What happened to it just disintegrating stuff? That was rather the entire point of it. Nonetheless, there is much panicking when everybody realises what the plan is, and much desperately trying to escape. People, you built the bloody thing. Stop running about in a flap, and do try to remember that it's not dangerous.

Sharron escapes, although for some reason she decides that a good plan is to run about the countryside in high-heeled shoes. I appreciate that you're super, Sharron, but that still doesn't sound very comfortable.

Sharron follows in the footsteps of the scientist from back at the beginning, and tries to use the telephone at the post office. The bloke from Are You Being Served? is not best pleased.


Some time later, and the bad guys have noticed Sharron's departure. Quickly they put the fission gun aboard their plane, and prepare to depart.

Sharron has returned, however, and has snuck onto the plane. Rather hilariously, there is almost none of her that is actually hidden by that door, but still nobody manages to notice her there.

Back underground, things are getting tense.

Craig is attempting to get rid of Richard's unwanted jewellery.

The plan is to disable the microphone first, and then mostly rely on blind luck.

As well as flirting.


Helpfully, the chief scientist gets himself shot, and the bad guys run away giggling.

Up in their aeroplane, they prepare to use the fission gun to inexplicably blow up their secret underground base.

This causes Richard and Craig to be terribly dramatic, and completely overlook the fact that they're not in any danger. Fortunately for everybody's blood pressure, Sharron soon turns up, and explains that she switched the positive and negative terminals on the fission gun's power supply.

As anybody who's ever put a battery in the wrong way round knows, this is not usually the result. Mind you, in a story where disintegrating suddenly turns into exploding just because the writers want to ramp up the tension a bit, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. And at any rate, it was a very nice explosion.

Sharron, however, is wistful. I'm not sure why, because they kill most of the bad guys every week. I guess she's never been quite so directly responsible before, though.

Craig and Richard combine to give her a psychic hug.

A perfectly entertaining episode, then, and certainly not one of the lesser ones, but the bit when the purpose of the fission gun suddenly changed does seem a bit odd.

Next episode is "The Survivors", which I'm pretty sure is a new one for me. Cool. :)

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