1 March 2008 | Chip_douglas
The first and last Young Indy adventure ever shot
Like it or not, 'The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles' was never meant to be an extension of the movies. Instead of making an action packed adventure thirties' serial packed with cliffhangers and death defying stunts, viewers got an educational series recreated the start of the 20th century in two different time zones. It is no surprise many fans were disappointed. The network even tried to persuade George Lucas to forget about the nine year old Indy segments (starring Corey Carrier) and concentrate solely on the sixteen year old version (Sean Patrick Flanery), but George, stubborn as ever, refused to listen (and kept an idea in the back of his head to go back even further in time to feature a five year old Jones Jr.). When the series began to be broadcast, ABC started to push back the Corey Carier episodes, leaving several of them unaired all together. They did air in most of Europe, though the BBC, trying to show the series in chronological order, skipped them all (save the pilot), only to air them years later during an early Sunday morning time slot. When Lucas decided to reedit the entire series as 22 'feature films' (i.e. two regular episodes shown back to back with new linking material), the first batch released on video in 1999 (Lucasfilm had not yet switched to DVD at the time) consisted of 12 of the more action orientated 'films' featuring Flanery. The new versions of the Carrier episodes had to wait until the DVD release in 2007 to see the light of day.
The pilot movie mentioned above was originally titled 'Young Indiana Jones and the Curse of the Jackal'. It explained how Professor Henry Jones Sr. (Lloyd Owen) was invited to travel all over the world on a lecturing tour with his wife Anna (Ruth de Sosa), young Henry and a tutor, Miss Seymour (Margaret Tyzack). In Egypt the young boy met the first of countless historical figures, T.E. Lawrence, got his first taste of archeology and became involved in a Hardy Boys type mystery involving a stolen headpiece robbed from a tomb, only to lose it to a thief named Demetrious (played by the villainous 'Monkeyman' from 'Raiders of the Lost Ark'). In the second half, 17 year old Indy finally caught up with Demetrious in Mexico and in the bookends, 93 year old Indy (George Hall) ties everything together while explaining to two Hispanic kids how the headpiece ended up in the museum (where it belongs).
When George W. Lucas decided that the Chronicles had to be presented chronologically after all, the pilot had to be split in two. Firstly, the bookends had to be deleted from every episode, as it would make no sense to show old Indy beginning to tell a story to one person and finish recounting a completely unrelated adventure to somebody else. Secondly, new bridging sequences had to be shot. Luckilly, producer Rick McCallum had made every actor involved sign a long term contract ensuring them to be on stand by if re-shoots were needed. So, new scenes featuring Carrier, De Suza, Owen and Tyzack were shot during the production of the TV movies produced for USA Network in 1996. They even flew over Joseph Bennett (T.E. Lawrence) and Vic Tablian (Demetrios) to Tunesia for a short scene during the filming of Episode I: The Phantom Menace in 1997. In this scene Lawrence manages to catch Demetrious, but is unable to retrieve the treasure, retconning the story as told by ancient Indy in the pilot (in which Demetrious escaped on a ship).
It was also decided to ignore the original episodes order (each title of which revealed exactly in with month of each year the story took place) so as not to stick a comedic episode together with a drama. They could have made an effort to place the Corey Carrier shows in the order they were shot (as Corey was at an age when each year showed considerable growing spurts). But seeing as they were going to include footage of a noticeable older Carrier for the bridge segments in all of them anyway, decided not to. How the first Chronicle (shot June and July of 1991) ended up with the unaired adventure 'Tangiers, 1908' (shot in February and May of 1996) remains a mystery. The difference in Young Indy's age and appearance at the midway point is startling. What is more, his mother mentions 'their travels' and Indy talks about Switserland and Russia, indicating they had already visited these countries. Also notice that Lloyd Owen stopped wearing his brown contact lenses (that were supposed to make him resemble Sean Connery), meaning his eyes go from blue to brown and back again.
However, being able to view the 'lost' Tangiers tale for the first time made me forget about these gripes. In it, Indy learns about slavery and has to comprehend that his new friend Omar is actually somebody's possession and has been ordered to do exactly what Indy tells him to. Mom, pop and Miss Seymour get little to do as usual, but Kevin McNally gets a good role one of Henry Sr's school chums. The fact that Indy disguises himself as an Arab with walnut oil is a bit hard to swallow, but at least slavery is presented more realistically here than in the aforementioned Phantom Menace. Still, you can't but help noticing some similarities between TPM and My First Adventre: whereas 9 year old Anakin in the former famously cried 'Yippee', 9 year old Indiana utters stuff like 'jeepers creepers' and 'whoopie'. Also, Sio Bibble appears as the ships captain at the start, the first of many actors that would make an appearance in the Chronicles and end up with a part in the Star Wars Prequels. In fact, McCallum made sure almost the entire crew used on Young Indy stayed on to work on the continuing Star Wars saga.
7 out of 10