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Young Indiana Jones 3.7 – Paris, 1919

Well, I knew this one would be over our son’s head. Indy has made his way home only as far as Paris, and he gets distracted by a job with the US State Department working as a translator during the peace conference. If you’ve ever spent any time figuring that Georges Clemenceau, played here by the great Cyril Cusack, was an irredeemable asshole, this story isn’t going to persuade you otherwise.

The British Prime Minister, Lloyd George, as played by Michael Kitchen, isn’t much better. And while the two of them get to crawl around on the floor drawing new lines all over maps of the Middle East like the godawful colonialist greedheads they were, President Woodrow Wilson, who was probably ten times the jackass either of them were, just sighs and gets out of their way, too weak to tell them to cut the crap and get out of Arabia and Vietnam.

Our son had no idea what was happening. Pretty much like most of the planet in May 1919, actually.

Anyway, this was the third and final appearance of T.E. Lawrence in the show. Douglas Henshall again plays the character, and while this is a good hour of political drama for grownups all around, Henshall dominates the story, and Sean Patrick Flanery really just gets out of his way. Which makes sense: you get out of Lawrence of Arabia’s way if you’ve got any sense. The friends have a great farewell scene at the end, considering what could have been, and what a better world they could have begun to build in 1919 if the old men hadn’t got in the way. It’s great stuff, but wow, is it ever not for seven year-olds.

Anyway, he and I had a much better time talking about MacGuffins earlier tonight. When we watched Guardians of the Galaxy the other morning, he noted Star-Lord mentioning the Ark of the Covenant and the Maltese Falcon and said “Hey! I understood that reference!”

So we talked about how the Ark and the Falcon and the Infinity Stone and the Peacock’s Eye are all examples of MacGuffins. I explained that one of the things that separates a MacGuffin plot from a plot of conflict (like, say, Buck Rogers versus a space vampire) is how the hero usually has the agency to stop searching for the MacGuffin, just like how Indy was able to give up his search for the Peacock’s Eye. However, there’s often a consequence for abandoning the search, like how Indy was left in the South Pacific with no easy way back to New Jersey. Hence him working his way back to Europe and getting a job that would pay for the passage home. That was a nice transition which he certainly enjoyed more than tonight’s story!

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Young Indiana Jones 2.15 – Palestine, 1917

In 1987, Simon Wincer directed a film called The Lighthorsemen, about the Australian mounted infantry pulling a stunning surprise at the Battle of Beersheba in October 1917 and suddenly switching to cavalry tactics before the Turkish artillery could react. The Turks couldn’t lower their cannons quickly enough and the Australians stormed their trenches.

So five years later, when Lucas was putting together writers and directors and concepts for The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, once Wincer was hired, it was a natural idea to put Indy behind the lines in Beersheeba so that Wincer could reshoot the core battle with new actors while also bringing in lots of footage from his earlier film. The result is an episode that looks like it cost several million more dollars to make than it really did. It’s absolutely seamless.

And speaking of reshoots, the original one-hour episode, which, like the last one we watched, was never shown in the United States, then underwent yet another change before making its way to home video. Writer Frank Darabont and Wincer went back to the drawing board and seriously beefed up their original story. Between expanded footage from The Lighthorsemen and new material with Indy getting to know some of the frustrated Aussie soldiers waiting for their chance to be sent into action, the original forty-five minutes or so is bulked up by an additional half-hour to make the movie version, Daredevils of the Desert. And it’s a corker. After the two comedy episodes and the two political ones, our son was badly in need of something completely thrilling, and this totally satisfied him.

The Palestine installment has always been one that genre fans had been interested in watching because of its stellar cast. It not only features future James Bond Daniel Craig, as seen in the top photo, but also the sixth Doctor, Colin Baker, as a British general, as seen in the second one. There’s also Catherine Zeta Jones as another intelligence operative, Julian Firth as the colonel who we met in the German East Africa two-parter, and Douglas Henshall as the second actor to play TE Lawrence. We’ll see Henshall again in one of the later episodes.

One other note: if you enjoy fistfights in movies, Sean Patrick Flanery, Daniel Craig, and their stunt doubles have an absolutely amazing one in the climax of this story. If I might quibble, I think the sound effects people kind of turned the volume of their impacts a little too loud, because it sounds like they’re hitting each other with enough force to break granite into dust, but that aside, the brawl is just wild, an absolutely desperate struggle between two men using anything they can lay their hands on to pummel the other. My eyes popped out of my head.

Actually, you remember the beginning of Casino Royale when Bond was going after that French bloke who does parkour and Daniel Craig just charges straight through a wall? When they were casting the role, the Bond people probably looked at this fight and concluded Craig was their man. It’s that wild.

That’s the end of the second Young Indiana Jones collection, so we’ll take a short break to keep things fresh. We’ll start on the third box set in a couple of weeks, so stay tuned!

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