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Young Indiana Jones 3.14 – Hollywood, 1920 (part two)

And so, Young Indiana Jones rides off into the sunset in this funny final hour. Matthew Jacobs handled the script for this installment, where Indy takes a job as John Ford’s assistant as the flamboyant stylist goes to shoot a western. Then one of the actors dies and Indy gets to saddle up in his place. Then, with all the stuntmen carried back to Universal on stretchers, Indy gets to learn how to climb underneath a runaway carriage after being dragged behind it. That’s exactly the sort of skill that comes in handy when you’re clawing your way around speeding trucks trying to hijack the Ark of the Covenant eighteen years later.

More than anything, this story is yet another love letter from George Lucas to all the movies that inspired him. It kind of makes you long for the days when a director like John Ford could shoot from sunup to sundown in six days and make a feature. Stephen Caffrey is terrific as John Ford, and he frankly steals the story completely from Sean Patrick Flanery. This really is just about the actor’s weakest performance as Indy. He’s too immature, too possessive, too petulant, and too indecisive for a character who’s lived through everything that he has. It’s not a very good final outing for Young Indy, but to be fair, everybody hoped that there would be more than this.

Sadly, after the Family Channel decided against ordering any more stories, there was only enough in the budget to finish up what they could to put the 22-film package together. 44 hours isn’t anything to complain about, and a lot more than many series get, but I still wish they’d have got Indy into his late twenties for a couple of them.

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Young Indiana Jones 2.10 – France and Germany, 1917

The first half of the Attack of the Hawkmen story was pretty entertaining, but the second half is great fun! It starts a little slow, and I was a little worried about our son’s attention span, but he was extremely pleased.

Indy’s second mission as “Captain Defense” for French intelligence is to get an offer in the hands of the Dutch aircraft designer Anthony Fokker, who is working for the Germans, and await a reply. But he misses Fokker in Hanover and must follow him to an aircraft manufacturing plant outside Ahlhorn. Fokker is accompanied by General Von Kramer – Jon Pertwee! – and so Indy has to sneak around and pose as Fokker’s valet to get the letter to him. But Indy can’t leave just yet. The Swiss designer Villehad Forssman is also at Ahlhorn with his prototype of a gigantic airplane, which Indy feels he needs to photograph. Then a familiar face turns up, somebody who could recognize him: Manfred von Richtofen!

How could you not love this? It’s terrific fun, watching Indy think on his feet, improvise, and take on new identities. He’s forthright and bumbling at the same time, and as events spiral out of control – you don’t introduce a huge room where hydrogen is being extracted from water and where cigars are banned without planning to blow it up real good – our son was in heaven. This ends with a terrific fight, lots of fire, and, of course, some wonderful explosions. Fortunately, when Indy secreted away his means of escape, we saw him check to make sure he picked one with a full tank of gas.

This was Jon Pertwee’s last television performance, incidentally. I think it was made in the summer of 1995, and first shown on American TV in October. He passed away in May of 1996. Pertwee was actually the second Doctor to appear in Young Indy. Colin Baker appears in one of the earlier-produced episodes (1992-93, I think) that was never shown in the US. It’s set seven months after the events of this hour, and we’ll get to it in about three weeks.

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Young Indiana Jones 2.9 – France and Austria, 1917

We rejoin Young Indiana Jones in the first half of the Attack of the Hawkmen TV movie. This was one of the four films made for the old Family Channel in 1995 and it’s really fun. Our son enjoyed all the World War One flying ace stuff. I was very impressed with the production. If you squint hard, you can tell where they cut in some CGI material, but they also wrecked a couple of prop planes in fields. I’d like to think that the stunt pilots enjoyed the challenge!

In the episode, Indy and Remy have returned to Belgium after their months in Africa and have been reassigned to intelligence work. But Belgian intelligence is hopelessly, laughably, behind the French and the British, so Indy forges a transfer for the two of them to Paris. Remy gets a sweet job working with the resistance in Brussels, but Indy gets sent to work as an aerial reconnaissance photographer, and, on his first day out, his pilot gets shot down by “Baron” Manfred von Richthofen, who invites the young American back to his aerodrome for lunch.

We enjoyed the heck out of this one. The script for both hours within Hawkmen is credited to Matthew Jacobs, Rosemary Anne Sisson, and director Ben Burtt, but I’m not sure whether Jacobs wrote the first hour and Sisson the second, or if it was a true collaboration. Marc Warren, who would later play the amazingly creepy Man with Thistledown Hair – one of television’s greatest villains – in Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, is the Red Baron, and while he doesn’t get a lot of screen time or opportunity to dominate things, he does get some pretty choice moments, especially when he makes eye contact with Indy in the air to let him know what he thinks of a photograph that had been taken a few days previously.

I mean, really, how could you not love an hour of TV where it’s revealed that Indiana Jones came up with the idea for Manfred von Richthofen painting his airplanes red?

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Young Indiana Jones 1.11 – Princeton, 1916

In this blog, I’ve occasionally joked about the fun of watching television from parallel universes, and wondering about the shows that we could have watched if only our selfish TV companies had made them. With this in mind, I suggest to you that somebody in the multiverse got to enjoy at least a couple of seasons of actress Robyn Lively starring as Nancy Drew in adventures and mysteries set in the late 1910s after her no-good boyfriend abandoned her and went off to Europe. I bet that show was huge fun.

It’s perhaps a little unfair to start talking about the guest star instead of the new format for Young Indiana Jones, but it’s their own darn faults for making the earliest chronological appearance of the 17 year-old Indy a story where the guest star just steals the show from him. Sean Patrick Flanery takes over as Indiana Jones in this story, which was first shown on ABC in the spring of 1993, and Lloyd Owen is still here, briefly, as Indy’s father.

We’re in Princeton, where Indy is juggling his high school studies, time on the baseball team, an afterschool job as a soda jerk, and being boyfriend to Nancy Stratemeyer. Nancy is a fictional character, although her father, Edward Stratemeyer, was a real person. In 1916, he was renowned for his children’s books, principally the tales of the Bobbsey Twins and Tom Swift. Later on, he would devise the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, and the Nancy here is clearly meant to suggest that the fictional Nancy is based on his own daughter.

The episode was written by Matthew Jacobs and directed by Joe Johnston, and it’s a delightful tribute to all sorts of adventure fiction for kids. The mystery is all about some important plans that have been stolen from Thomas Edison’s nearby laboratories, and it’s got foreign agents and Naval intelligence and car chases and bad guys who conveniently talk about their secret schemes while our heroes are hiding right behind them. Of note among the actors, Clark Gregg, later to play SHIELD Agent Coulson, is here in a small part. Mark L. Taylor and James Handy, who had appeared together in the delightful Arachnophobia three years previously, are also among the cast. Director Johnston also cast Handy in small roles in his films The Rocketeer and Jumanji.

Our son enjoyed this much more than the previous ten episodes, though he was concerned about why they stopped making the “world tour” stories. This is the sort of development he’d better get used to. You can’t look back at classic television without looking at a lot of aggravating cancellations!

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Young Indiana Jones 1.8 – Athens, 1909

You have to admit that Lloyd Owen had a pretty thankless and very difficult task in playing the role of Indiana Jones’ father. Sean Connery created the role in the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, set in 1938, and Owen had to get some sympathy from the audience as a worried father while most of the audience knows that these two characters are going to spend most of their adult lives not speaking.

This segment is really, really talky. Indy and his dad get some bonding time when they go to one of those hanging monasteries outside the Greek town of Kalambaka – the same one where they filmed the climax of For Your Eyes Only – to translate some medieval books in their library. Henry Sr. decides to introduce his son to Aristotlean logic. It’s not the most exciting thing we’ve ever watched. Later on, some goats eat their clothes while they’re bathing. At least that got our son giggling.

As with the previous hour, this segment was originally shown as part of the TV movie Travels With Father on the old Family Channel in 1996, with the script for both segments credited to Frank Darabont, Jonathan Hales, and Matthew Jacobs. The TV movie was cut and edited at least somewhat differently for its DVD release.

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Young Indiana Jones 1.7 – Russia, 1909

After ABC canceled The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, another network came in to save the day. The Family Channel (later ABC Family and, today, Freeform) ordered four TV movies, three with Sean Patrick Flanery and one with Corey Carrier. The two-and-a-bit stories that made up the Carrier film, Travels With Father, were filmed in 1994 and shown in 1996.

The original movie, its script credited to Frank Darabont, Matthew Jacobs, and Jonathan Hales, had lengthy bookends with Flanery returning home in 1919 after the four years of globetrotting that we’ll see later, and trying to mend fences with his father. Those have been excised from the final DVD version of this series and used to form a separate story on its own. Nothing annoys like George Lucas and his constant tampering.

Our son enjoyed this episode more than the last pair we saw, and it gave us a fun moment of perspective to discuss. Indy has been misbehaving and, accident prone, has caused one spectacle after another, culminating in dropping a chandelier on a wedding cake. Afraid of his punishment, he runs away and meets up with another apparent tramp making his way through the Russian countryside: Leo Tolstoy, who’s trying to get away from his annoying family. They have a remarkable meet-cute – Indy shoots him in the rear with a slingshot while aiming for a weasel, much to our son’s delight – but they bond and decide to work together to get to Russia’s eastern shore and make their way to New Jersey. Michael Gough is terrific as Tolstoy, and I thought this was one of the more entertaining segments as well.

We were amused to learn that our son thought that Indy was perfectly justified in running away and worrying his parents to death, because his father was mean. We protested that Indy’s father didn’t actually do anything other than tell him to stand in one place out of the way – which he promptly ignored – and send him to bed. Yes, he told us, but it was his father’s tone of voice that was the problem. “He sounded mean!” We had to suggest that maybe the destruction of so much of their host’s property, and embarrassment at a wedding might spark a mean tone. Grudgingly, he had to agree a little with us there.

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Young Indiana Jones 1.5 – Vienna, 1908

The Vienna installment was one of six episodes of Young Indy shown in the spring of 1993, and the only Corey Carrier one, before the show was taken off the air ahead of the May sweeps period and quietly cancelled. When the show came back with the highly-publicized appearance of Harrison Ford for the bookends of Young Indiana Jones and the Mystery of the Blues that March, it was to a very respectable audience of 18.2 million viewers on a Saturday night. But audiences, whose numbers were inflated anyway by a massive snowstorm that paralyzed the East Coast and kept everyone indoors that night, weren’t going to stick around without Ford. Just four weeks later, this episode, written by Matthew Jacobs, only had 6.9 million watching.

Young Indy falls in love a lot during this show, but his first crush is shown in this story, and for a guy with decades of women troubles, he certainly started with a humdinger. He meets Princess Sophie, the daughter of Austria-Hungary’s Archduke Franz Ferdinand, at a riding school while his parents are staying at the American embassy in Vienna. Sophie would have been about seven at the time of their meeting – the real Sophie passed away at the age of 89 about two years before this was filmed – and Indy almost causes a diplomatic incident by sneaking her away to ice skate, having no idea that there were people in Vienna who’d love to see her dead.

So with the butterflies of puppy love in his stomach, Indy turns to three other guests of the embassy for advice: Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and Alfred Adler, who are all conveniently in town for a conference. Not only does their frank discussion of sex and biology send the women away from the table, it turns out to be downright terrible advice. Indy is told that he must find balance before his love destroys him, and his literal storming of the palace had our son grumbling “Oh no, he should not do that. This is crazy…”

I had to do a fair amount of walking our son through this one. Everything up to the palace hijinks is very quiet and stately. It looks beautiful – it was helmed by the acclaimed director Bille August, who cast his wife Pernilla in the role of Sophie’s governess – but it’s very talky and hushed. I think he was every bit as confused by the dinner with the psychoanalysts as Indy himself was. Famously, they cast Max von Sydow as Freud. That got a fair amount of publicity in 1993, but it unfortunately didn’t translate to viewers!

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Young Indiana Jones 1.3 – British East Africa, 1909

The British East Africa installment, which guest starred James Gammon as President Teddy Roosevelt, was the third episode shown on ABC during its spring 1992 tryout. It would also be the last time anybody would see the Corey Carrier version of Indy for more than a year. Despite piles of merchandising that featured the younger character, ABC was much happier with the more action-packed Sean Patrick Flanery segments and shelved these, even apparently making a last-minute schedule change to get the kid out of the way, as I’ll discuss later this month.

This time out, Indy and his family meet up with Roosevelt during his celebrated year in Africa hunting and cataloging game for the Smithsonian. This gave us a great opportunity to talk with our son about conservation, and how attitudes have changed about wildlife over the last hundred years. We certainly appreciate all that Roosevelt did for conservation and our national parks, but it’s a little hard to get into the mindset of people from that time believing that the best way to “preserve” rare species was to gun them down in absolutely shocking numbers to bring back to American museums. I’m not sure what number I might think is too few, too many, or just right for an expedition like this. I am sure that I think that 11,400 is too many.

It builds to a climax where young Indy realizes that maybe he shouldn’t have enlisted the help of a local kid about his age to track down an elusive species of oryx. Mostly the hour is kind of soft and gentle without much incident, just lots of pretty animals, but seeing the hunters take positions around the antelopes really is shocking, and there’s not a great deal a ten year-old kid can do about it. I wouldn’t call this great television, but it gave us a chance to talk about something important to us.

This was one of a handful of Young Indy episodes written by Matthew Jacobs. Later on, he was announced as the writer of the ’96 Doctor Who TV movie and I remember punching the air because I recognized his name and was ready to expect great things. Stick around the blog for a couple of years and let’s see how he did, okay?

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