Young Indiana Jones 1.12 – Mexico, 1916

I remember vividly just how ridiculous ABC’s promotional department was, promoting their new show in late February and March of 1992 with a clip of Indy composing a letter to his father. “I’ve joined the Mexican revolution. Sorry about high school.” I thought that was entirely the wrong tone to take, and surely viewers who tuned in to Young Indiana Jones and the Curse of the Jackal looking for that sort of goofy humor switched off two hours later completely baffled. This was not the wacky “TGIF”-style show that the ads suggested.

If only the show could have been this wild and exciting every week, though! It’s really fun. Indy follows bandits into Mexico after they’ve attacked a border town, but ends up captured and only escapes death because General Pancho Villa is in a good mood. Also riding with Villa is an increasingly disillusioned Belgian man named Remy Baudouin, who has been hoping for vengeance since federal Mexican troops killed his wife some time previously. Remy is played by Ronny Coutteure, who effectively takes Lloyd Owen’s place as co-star in the series.

Indy is inspired by Villa’s drive for justice and resolves to aid in his revolution, but he joins Remy in losing his drive. This isn’t his war, and it isn’t his country. Remy wants to return to Belgium and fight the Germans, and the hour ends with Indy accompanying him.

But getting there is full of superbly directed gunfights and action, lots of explosions, and far, far more action than any typical American TV drama of the period, even the better ones like China Beach that spent a lot of money on extras and location filming each week. Our son was in heaven; he says this was by far the best episode he’s seen so far, and I think he’s right.

Incidentally, getting there also means wrapping up the loose end of the killer who got away with the lost treasure in episode one, and Indy killing somebody for the first time. I think that this had a little more weight in the original broadcast when both halves of the jackal adventure were shown together. The story flowed better and there’s more of a sense of righteousness in seeing the villain get his just rewards in the same movie. It also had one of the better bookends of the broadcast episodes, which reveals that Indy did ensure that the stolen jackal treasure made its way to a museum.

I enjoyed the surprise of learning who played the very small role of an American soldier early in the hour. It was Ed Bishop, who spent the sixties and early seventies as one of the go-to American actors in the ITC adventure shows, and providing voices and occasional onscreen roles for Gerry Anderson. I kicked myself for a second for not recognizing him, but I guess there’s one part of my brain that stores “UK TV 1960s/70s” data, and another, much smaller part of my brain that stores “US TV 1990s,” and it never occurs to me that some actors can indeed make their way across the decades and continents to keep finding work!

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