Young Indiana Jones 3.4 – Transylvania, 1918

Happy (belated) Halloween! Tonight we watched the seasonally appropriate tale of Indiana Jones’s first encounter with the supernatural, as written by Jonathan Hensleigh. Indy and an American officer are ordered into Transylvania to investigate reports that a General Targo is amassing a separatist Romanian army.

I hadn’t seen this story before, but what I did know led me to wonder whether this was about to become a tip of the hat to a classic serial from the pages of 2000 AD called Fiends of the Eastern Front, written by Gerry Finley-Day and drawn by the late, great Carlos Ezquerra. That’s about a mysterious company of Romanians who turn out to be vampires.

Sadly, General Targo is not an earlier incarnation of Fiends’ Costanza, but he is, of course, a vampire. He’s either a new incarnation of Vlad the Impaler or he really admires the guy’s style. The tone is pure early seventies Hammer – I was most reminded of Countess Dracula – and it’s very gory and very graphic and it creeped the absolute life out of our son, who first went behind the sofa and ended up in another room.

While I mention Hammer, that’s only to note the look and feel. The script is based on the original legends of vampire behavior, and the incredibly specific way to kill them (stake through the heart at a crossroads, for example) rather than on 20th Century film versions. But if I might be allowed one more Hammer comparison, Bob Peck is interesting as Targo, but he’s no Christopher Lee!

Young Indiana Jones 2.3 – Verdun, 1916

When ABC showed those first six weeks of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles in the spring of 1992, they got a reputation of being strange, unlike anything else on television, not even remotely as funny as the badly-edited commercials made them appear, and full of men with really thick French accents. And then there was the violence. One of those “won’t somebody please think of the children” organizations went apoplectic over this episode, which honestly is quite violent and visceral.

The previous two installments, which were written, like this one, by Jonathan Hensleigh, had some very well-staged war movie-like mayhem, with explosions and gunfire and heroic acts of bravery. But this is right in the center of the action, with slow-motion carnage, huge amounts of gore, field hospitals full of men who have had their legs blown into bloody stumps, bodies in mud-filled foxholes being savaged by rats, and the amazing sight of Indy, sent across No Man’s Land at night to spy, crawling across corpses and meeting a fatally wounded man who has been lying there alone for 36 hours just waiting for somebody to finally see him die.

Like war really is. How dare teevee depict it thus?

I wasn’t too surprised. The show’s principal detractor was the most loudmouthed of all numbskulls, that discredited psychiatrist who spent years whining about Dungeons & Dragons driving teens to suicide. Those creeps were all over the place in the seventies and eighties, and desperately tried to stay in the headlines in the nineties. Incidentally, as of July 2018, the dude I’m talking about is currently doing time for what the Pennsylvania Attorney General calls (ahem) “trading opioid addiction treatment drugs for sex.” The harder they fall, you know?

Anyway, it’s a powerful episode. Our son started out thrilled by the explosions, but the grisly and raw visuals didn’t leave him cheering like he might. He was fascinated by the gigantic howitzers that were mounted on railroad cars, and enjoyed seeing Indy, assigned to work as a motorcycle courier, speed away from a German biplane, but the politics were a stumbling block. It’s also worth noting that they hired French actors for most of the roles of officers, and some of them really did have incredibly thick accents. My wife’s language skills dwarf mine, and even she had trouble understanding what Bernard Fresson and Jean Rougerie were saying. So we quickly accepted that our son would just bide his time, eyes glazed, until Indy got on his motorcycle again.

One other thing to note this time: watching these on first broadcast was certainly a pain in the neck, but introducing us to Indy as a corporal when the last time we saw him on ABC he had only just been called up was incredibly annoying. And then there’s Remy, who we meet in the field hospital having a panic attack as he recovers from surgery. ABC didn’t air the episode where he got that injury for another six months. Then they wouldn’t air the next episode in the sequence for another ten months after that. Fortunately, we’re only going to wait three days…

Young Indiana Jones 2.2 – Germany, 1916

Picking up from the previous episode’s cliffhanger ending, tonight’s installment is the big prison break episode. Both parts were originally shown in the US on ABC during The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles‘ truncated run on Monday nights in the fall of 1992. It’s really entertaining. Indy and another member of his Belgian company, who had been captured at the Somme, take the identities and uniforms of two French officers who didn’t survive the transportation behind the lines. Unfortunately for Indy, the man he’s pretending to be has made one too many escape attempts, so they ship him to a maximum security prison for “incorrigibles.” Fortunately, if there’s one man who can break out of any prison, it’s Indiana Jones. Unfortunately, he’s only seventeen at this point…

Among the guest cast this week, a famous French actor called HervĂ© Pauchon plays one of Indy’s fellow captives, Charles de Gaulle. Sean Pertwee plays a German officer, and we’ll see another member of the Pertwee family in the show a little while down the line. Julian Firth plays an imprisoned British officer, which is interesting because Firth has a completely different part in a couple of other episodes later on!

Young Indiana Jones 2.1 – The Somme, 1916

A quick little recap: since the adventures of Young Indiana Jones were shown very haphazardly in this country, with some episodes never shown on American television and others made especially for the home video releases, the numbering you see in the titles for these stories doesn’t correspond to any TV season. “2.1” doesn’t mean “first episode of season two,” it means “the first hour of the second DVD set.”

So, I had promised our son that Young Indiana Jones would be much more exciting once Indy got to the front, and if you can get past Sean Patrick Flanery’s incredibly long hair for 1916, this is a breathtakingly wild hour of ugliness and carnage on the front lines. Previously, Indy had enrolled in the Belgian army under the name Henri Defense, and his company was decimated at Flanders shortly before this episode begins. All of their officers are dead, leaving Corporal Defense in charge, barely.

So they get shipped to a different set of trenches and get new French officers. Indy has a troublemaker in the ranks, played by Jonny Phillips, who may have murdered their old captain, and from there it’s forty-five minutes of machine guns, mustard gas, flamethrowers, and hand grenades, with two days’ leave in the middle to break up the bloodshed and let the Belgians play the British in tennis. A couple of familiar faces are in the cast this week, including Stevan Rimkus as the poet Siegfried Sassoon and Edward Petherbridge as a French major. Petherbridge had played Lord Peter Wimsey for the BBC a few years earlier. (Wimsey had also been a major in the war, and was probably stationed a few miles down the trenches from his French counterpart.)

Our son was much, much happier with this installment than the ones we’ve watched. It’s a terrific hour, with some unbelievable production values as mobs of extras get gunned down between the trenches and explosions are going off all over the place. It’s true that some of the visuals are pepped up a little bit with colorized stock footage, and you can tell every time, but it’s still remarkable that they put this much huge effort into an episode of a TV show.

Young Indiana Jones 1.9 – Benares, 1910

The India episode of Young Indy was among the last ones shown by ABC in the summer of 1993. The program had already been canceled and they were just burning off some of the hours they’d paid for already. It was written by Jonathan Hensleigh and by far the most interesting part of it was the beginning, where Indy teaches a group of local kids baseball, and they teach him a little about cricket.

The show is a gentle introduction to the major world religions, as the city of Benares was once known for being a place where all faiths worshiped with peace and respect from their neighbors. The exception would probably be the Theosophists, and it’s their young figurehead, 14 year-old Jiddu Krishnamurti, who gives Indy the nickel tour while Miss Seymour unsuccessfully tries to convince the Theosophical Society’s president that one of their number is a fraud and a charlatan. I think the show was kind of doomed to failure here. The main characters in this story are all actual people from history, even if they’re ones that have long passed into obscurity. It’s an interesting choice to make Charles Leadbetter the villain, but since Annie Besant never renounced the man, it isn’t going to happen here. Maybe they could have invented somebody else, and a fictional reason for Besant to do the right thing.

And maybe they could have spent a little more time playing baseball and cricket. That’s the best part of the hour.

After the episode, we had a family discussion about treating people of all faiths respectfully, even if we don’t necessarily agree with any of them. Even the theosophists, with all their talk of universal evolution, occult powers, clairvoyance, and auras, deserve kindness and courtesy, even if we certainly don’t agree with what Miss Seymour calls “flim-flam!”