I remember when I first heard about The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles coming along in the early 90s. I was excited by what I heard about it, it would tell the story of Indy’s youth, both as a child and a teen as it played out against the backdrop of the early 20th century and all the events that shaped them.
We also know they count as canon, because Indy (Harrison Ford) referenced them in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
As such, I thought it was time I went back and re-examined them, and watch some of the stories I never saw.
Repackaged, into two hour movies, the first one, conveniently called My First Adventure, aired on 10 July, 2000. It was a combination of the first half of the pilot movie, and one episode filmed five years later, after the series had already been cancelled.
Young Corey Carrier takes on the role of young Henry Jones Jr. as he and his family, father, Henry Jones Sr (LLoyd Owen – who does a nice interpretation of Indy’s dad), mother, Anna (Ruth de Sosa) and his teacher/nanny, Miss Helen Seymour (Margaret Tyzack).
The first story sees young Indy leaving his home, touring the world with his family, and arriving in Egypt. It is here that he encounters both Howard Carter (Pip Torrens), and T.E. Lawrence (Joseph Bennett). He gets to see the pyramids, learns some history, and is involved in the opening of an ancient tomb (and a subsequent theft from it), which sets up an adventure Indy will go on later.
The episode that served as the source material first aired on 4 March, 1992, and was penned by Jonathan Hales from a story by George Lucas.
The second half, written by Jule Selbo, shot five years later, means Carrier had aged (and gotten taller) and there’s a but of a discontinuity from story to story.
The latter half of the story finds young Henry in Tangiers where religions, racism, and slavery are explored. Young Henry (who doesn’t look so young in this episode, especially compared with the previous one) is troubled by this encounter, and while he tries to understand the fact that cultures differ and sees slavery first hand, in the treatment of his new friend Omar (Ashley Walters).
He encounters an English newspaperman, who is friends with his father. A role played by Kevin McNally, barely recognisable to audiences today who know him as Gibbs from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.
He also gets himself kidnapped and almost sold into slavery himself.
The series was a testing ground not only as a bit of education to bring to life events and personages of the early 20th century, but also for Lucas and producer Rick McCallum in terms of computer images, mattes, and a number of things that would come into play for the Prequel Trilogy.
Sure not all the special effects have weathered the years especially well, but the locations and the production values were incredibly high for the time, and a lot more than most television series at the time. It truly did give an epic feel to the adventures.
It also fits nicely within the continuity of the theatrical series. Unfortunately, they are missing the George Hall book ends, wherein the actor portrays an elderly Indiana, who somewhere along the way lost an eye.
The seeds are planted in this episode, and future instalments, for his learning languages, his love of history and archaeology and his knack for getting into trouble. All of the events and people defining who he would become.
In fact you can see Lawrence’s effect on young Henry, something that carries on through his life (or at least through most of the series). Which is a nice nod to Steven Spielberg, as the film, Lawrence of Arabia was the film that inspired him in his youth.
This should be an interesting ride, and I look forward to the later stories and watching Indy’s involvement in the Great War chronologically, as opposed to when they were originally aired.
If adventure has a name… it must be Indiana Jones!