The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles – tape 1470

First on this tape, an episode of The Young Indiana Jones ChroniclesBarcelona, May 1917, written by Gavin Scott, who wrote Small Soldiers, and directed by Monty Python’s Terry Jones.

I’m not entirely convinced by the show’s framing device, featuring George Hall as ‘Old Indy’. In this episode, he’s delivering a speech to a large audience, and he’s knocking microphones over, collapsing lecterns, and generally being a bit slapstick. He doesn’t really strike me as in character with the Indiana Jones of the movies.

Anyway, he reminisces about being a spy in Barcelona. It’s got a remarkable guest cast, including director Terry Jones

Terry Jones

Frequent Python collaborator Charles McKeown

Charles McKeown

Timothy Spall

Timothy Spall

Danny Webb plays Pablo Picasso

Danny Webb

Star Wars veteran William Hootkins plays the Russian ballet impresario Diaghilev.

William Hootkins

Amanda Ooms, last seen here in the strange ITV werewolf drama Wilderness, plays dancer Nadia.

Amanda Ooms

Kenneth Cranham plays a German Colonel.

Kenneth Cranham

Harry Enfield makes a brief appearance as a chauffeur

Harry Enfield

And Liz Smith plays Nadia’s dresser.

Liz Smith

Raiders’ Wolf Kahler also makes a brief appearance.

Wolf Kahler

The plot of this episode requires young Indy to get a job as a dancer in Diaghilev’s ballet, in order to discredit Cranham’s Colonel. At one point, he has to communicate with his co-conspirators during a performance of the ballet, by gyrating his jewel-encrusted codpiece to transmit a message in morse code. I swear I am not making this up.

Codpiece Morse

I’m hoping this episode was a deliberately humorous diversion, because if all the episodes in this series are staged at the level of a bad farce, I don’t think I’m going to enjoy them much.

What is interesting about this show is that it lays some of the groundwork that Lucas would go on to use in the Star Wars prequels, with its use of virtual sets to recreate the period city. It also has the same designer and director of photography, as well as producer Rick McCallum.

One thing I did enjoy about this episode is the music, which makes liberal use of Rimsky Korsakov’s Scheherazade, one of my favourite pieces.

After this, the recording stops, and underneath are some more episodes – not sure why I recorded over existing episodes – I’m fairly sure I hadn’t watched them.

The next episode is already in progress, and Indy is in Mexico, talking revolution with Pancho Villa. That makes it Curse of the Jackal.

Stuart Milligan turns up – as (pre-General) Patton, apparently.

Stuart Milligan

There’s some impressive action scenes in this one, with a train filled with explosives breaching a city wall. A slight improvement over the light farce of the previous episode.

I’m not familiar enough with American history to know whether all these collisions of various historical characters are even likely. Did the Mexican revolutionaries really ransack William Randolph Hearst’s estate?

The next episode here is Verdun, September 1916 in which Indy has joined the Belgian army as a messenger, and gets to witness a catastrophic attack.

This episode has, at least, answered a long standing puzzle of mine. I’ve played the Indiana Jones lego games a lot, and naturally they use John Williams’ music from the films, but there are also some cues that I don’t recognise from the movies – I’ve listened to the soundtracks plenty of times, so I should recognise it all. However, I’ve now realised that the unfamiliar cues actually came from this series – one or two specifically from this episode.

This episode is a story about the horror and futility of trench warfare, and the boneheaded strategy of the Generals running the campaign from far behind the front line.

The Next episode is German East Africa, December 1916. It’s written by Frank Darabont. Indy and his brigade march across East Africa, and pick up a small child, despite his commanding officer’s orders to leave the child alone to die. According to Old Indy, the child would grow up to be the first president of the Central African Republic.

After this, recording continues with some Sky News Headlines, then, the start of a Nevil Shute mini series, The Far Country. The recording runs out before the programme finishes.

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