While I was alive when The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones was airing, I don’t ever recall watching the show on television, save for a few random viewings when it went into syndication (for however short of a time that was). I do remember eagerly awaiting each release of the show on VHS, however, when the Harrison Ford Indiana Jones flicks came out in a trilogy set. Though they were released out of order and mostly focused on the Flannery episode I’d already seen, I anticipated each release and rented everyone that came into my library. Then my library stopped getting them in and, as soon as they had started, it seemed the The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones would never finish seeing the light of day on home video. Until now, that is.
The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones follows the exploits of Indiana Jones, from age eight to age twenty. Like the films, the series put Indiana in situations of great historical importance, from meeting the Archduke Ferdinand to joining the Belgian army, Indiana would surely have been mentioned in the history books, if he weren’t fiction, if only for his many relations to the dozens of influential humans he encountered in his youth. That, of course, is part of the delight that one finds in the show; in many ways, Spielberg and Lucas bring to life the great historical figures that we read about in History books in a way that one doesn’t often see in a television show.
Unlike the show, The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones on DVD is shown in sequential order; that is, like the films, the television series was not told in chronological order, with one week being the adventures of an eight-year-old Indiana (Corey Carrier) in Egypt and the next an older Indiana (Sean Patrick Flannery). On the set we get all of the episodes in the proper order of the years; this makes for an easier “historical” viewing, but man does it play tricks with your mind: in several episodes a younger and an older Corey Carrier appear and it’s not a subtle difference—it’s completely noticeable. While some episodes contain the older Carrier at all times, a few feature bookends with him being older and the middle with him younger. The perils of being a child actor, I suppose—but it certainly confused me quite a bit.
Ever since seeing the films, I’ve had an interest in history. Not just the archeology aspect (which I’m still greatly interested in), but the overall history with all of the events that go on while Indy goes on some wild adventure in between. The series puts Indiana in there much closer to the actual historical figures and for the most part, it’s a delight to watch just for areas they film in; I don’t know how much of it is real and how much is green screen, but for the most part it looks completely real—which makes me wonder what kind of budget this show had.
While the first several “movies” (I say it like that because they’re really just two individual episodes of the series cut into one, long film) on the set are intensely interesting, I can’t say my attention was held intently throughout all of them. Several of the younger Indiana episodes had my mind wandering, simply because there was such a lack of story in a few of them—a lot of them almost feel like after-school specials, with Indiana learning of the many religions in the world or about art. For the most part the show takes an approach to it that throws in a bit of adventure with the history, but it’s not until the later episodes of the set do we really get a sense of what the films created for audiences back in the 80s. I will say, however, that the “Travels with Father” movie, particularly the last half, was very reminiscent of The Last Crusade, with Young Indiana and his father already exhibiting hilarious banter back and forth with one another.
Even in its slow moments, the show is remarkably interesting to watch. It’s clear that Lucas and Spielberg are huge history buffs to take on a show such as this, as there is a much stronger focus in the eight-year-old-Indiana episodes towards learning. For those who aren’t big into history, we learn right alongside Indiana and it creates a, like I said before, almost after-school special element. Of course, like all history lessons, not everyone will find everything interesting all the time, so there is a bumpy road in the first few movies in the set, but by the end of the set the audience will have a greater appreciation of Indiana’s life and, very likely, a much greater knowledge of the historical aspects of many countries in the 1900s.
Another great about the show is the sense of continuity; the way the episodes are double up with one another often allows them to directly reference an event that happened in the prior episode. In some cases, as in the second part of “Spring Break Adventure”, we get a reference leading all the way back to the first episode on the set, “My First Adventure.” It adds another layer to the show and really just makes it all that more enjoyable.
While there is no whip-cracking in this volume, there are references to Indy’s hatred of snakes and he even falls in love several times (once as a very young boy, to boot!) in this set. Accompanied with superb music that mirrors, but never fully imitates, the sound of the films, The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones is an excellent show that is family friendly (aside from a little brief nudity from both sexes—though never in an explicit manner) and a ton of fun to kick back and watch. Highly Recommended.
Oh boy, here we go! I had initially thought there were seven discs to this set, likely because there were only seven “movies” on the set, but imagine my surprise when I got the set and began to unfold the dual-layer digi-pak trays and discovered that the set, in fact, had twelve discs! I have to pay closer attention to the press releases, apparently.
Packaged in a cardboard box (not like the heavy-duty The Adventures of Indiana Jones trilogy set unfortunately), the set folds out into the cover of young Indiana’s journal and slowly rolls out into the twelve discs. The art on the backside on the reverse of each of the trays denotes disc contents with images from the show as well as being backdropped by an “aged paper” background. Disc art follows a similar formula with the aged paper look and menus for the sets are all done in similar animated fashion, with only the images for specific movies being changed. They’re all done in an old-journal type style and they look wonderful.
For the technical department on this set we have a solid transfer. Video looks great for a show if its age and I saw no signs of interlacing or compression. The video can tend to be a bit soft on the earlier episodes of the set, but for the most part it’s what you’d expect from LucasFilm. Audio is a solid Dolby Surround 2.0 track that keeps everything loud and clear throughout the series. There are no alternate language tracks and there are only English subtitles offered.
And now we delve into the over twenty hours of extras on the set. Grab your fedora and be prepared to be astonished by the sheer amount of extras and detail that went into this DVD set. Nearly all of these documentaries feature a wealth of historical footage from around the world, which in of itself is reason enough to sit down and watch these extras. For some of the documentaries, still photographs or paintings representing the subject matter is used, but for the most part we’re given real-life footage and sound clips of the historical figures showcased.
My First Adventure
The first of our thirty-eight documentaries is “Archaeology: Unearthing Our Past” (19:17), which takes a look at the onslaught of archeology and how it went from something rich people exploited to an actual study that focused on preserving the aspects of the ancient civilizations.
Howard Carter and the Tomb of Tutankhamun (22:33) starts with the life of Howard Carter and focuses primarily on his career in archeology and the discovery of King Tut’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings. Tutankhamun was the discovery that spurred a lot of the world into being fascinated with the aspect of archeology so it’s no wonder that this is one of the more we well-known temples ever discovered. This extra goes into full detail about the discovery, even touching base on the fabled “curse.”
Colonel Lawrence’s War: T.E. Lawrence and Arabia (36:05) tells the history of Lawrence of Arabia and how he came to be known as such. In a time when the world wanted to forget its troubles with the war in the world, Lawrence took them to Arabia through the magic of film.
From Slavery to Freedom (30:08) details the history of slavery, from its origins to its abolition in the United States after the Civil War.
Passion For Life
Onto the second film in the set, we first have a documentary focusing on President Roosevelt. Theodore Roosevelt and The American Century (30:52) detail the life of the fabled president, his impact on the United States and his constant expeditions around the world. Always traveling, Roosevelt became the president that all current presidents strive to be and despite being boring in a century without a large amount of technology, Roosevelt led the United States into the twentieth century.
Ecology: Pulse of the Planet (24:12) focuses mainly on the worlds wasteful nature and strives toward a greener Earth. While this extra is a bit odd at first (as the “Passion For Life” episodes don’t really mention a wasteful world), we do get a relation towards the end of the extra with mention of endangered species, which young Indy had a problem with while in Africa with Roosevelt.
American Dreams: Norman Rockwell and the Saturday Evening Post (24:17) tells the tale of Rockwell and his rise from being on the streets to one of the more influential artists of the 1900s. Going hand-in-hand with the Art Rebellion: The Making of the Modern (26:07) documentary, these two extras paint a strong picture of the changes that art went through and how the different forms coming from around the world were influential to people everywhere.
Edgar Degas: Reluctant Rebel (22:53) and Braque + Picasso: A Collaboration Cubed (23:14) focus on the more well-known painters in Paris in the 1900s. While Degas’s methods were more practical, those who have heard of Braque and Picasso will no doubt have seen their cubist art and see what a strong impact it has had on the perception of modern art.
The Perils of Cupid
Giacomo Puccini–Music of the Heart (25:34) tells the tale of the fabled opera writer and the plays he wrote during his lifetime. It’s Opera! (29:02) focuses on Puccini’s influence as well as interviewing many current singers who perform in his plays to this day. I’ll admit I was slightly bored by these extras—no matter how romantic they make operas sound, I just have no real desire to ever see one.
The Archduke’s Last Journey–End of an Era (20:56) and Powder Keg–Europe 1900 to 1914 (26:06) were, to me, the most interesting extras on this set as it went deep into aspects of history that are summarized in American history books in one or two sentences. It was very interesting to hear about the assassinations attempt on the Archduke and his wife and how their eventual death was due to a miscommunication with their driver.
Sigmund Freud–Exploring the Unconscious (21:57), Carl Jung and the Journey of Self Discovery (19:30) and Psychology–Charting the Human Mind (26:33) all hone in on the explorations of the human mind. Many discoveries in the 1900s led to a greater understanding of the human mind and led to the explosion of psychological study that is so prevalent in society today. Even though these documentaries focus mainly on events that happened a century (or nearly so) ago, actually seeing these figures move through old video reels just makes it more real than reading about it in text books—if text books had the ability to bring to life history the way these documentaries have, perhaps I would have done better in it.
Travels with Father
Seeking Truth–The Life of Leo Tolstoy (31:15) is a fantastic look into the life of the man who wrote one of the most famous novels of all time, War and Peace. His character in the show was a huge delight to watch (no doubt due to Michael Gough’s superb take on the man) and learning about his life, even in a half hour documentary, was extremely interesting. We learn a bit more about Tolsoy in Unquiet Voices–Russian Writers and the State (26:00), although that particularly documentary focuses more on the overall state of Russian Writers.
Aristotle–Creating Foundations (21:37) and Ancient Questions–Philosophy and Our Search for Meaning (23:52) play a large role in expanding upon the philosophical nature of the second part of the “Travels with Father” episode (one of my favorites on the set). While we get to hear most of the history of Aristotle and philosophy from Indy’s father in the show, this documentary goes into much greater detail and really is a great little history lesson.
Journey of Radiance
Though I had only heard little about him before I watched the show, the documentary, Jiddu Krishnamurti–The Reluctant Messiah (26:50), filled me in on more than I’d even ever known about the influence he had during his time as a “messiah.” Once I finished his part of the episode I immediately wondered what happened past his childhood and this documentary explores it with great detail, from his nine-year absence from his father to study abroad to his eventual return and speech that told his followers to stop. Accompanied are quite a few photographs and video/audio footage of Krishnamurti, which make the documentary all the more interesting to watch.
Annie Besant–An Unlikely Rebel (26:56) also includes a great wealth of photography and historical footage and gives an excellent run-down of her life and the work she did.
Medicine in the Middle Kingdom (26:49) focuses on Chinese medicine and goes into detail about the healing aspects of acupuncture and how study is still being done on what exact effects it has on the human body.
Eastern Spirituality–The Road to Enlightenment (29:06) details the many religions of the Eastern world, including Buddhism, Islam and a few others. This is kind of an odd documentary to throw in at the end, as, before this one, the documentaries had come in order of how they appeared in the episode, whereas this one is at the end of the list, but focuses on the first part of the “Journey of Radiance.” Still, while we get to learn a bit about the many religions in the episode itself, this documentary provides a real-world aspect.
Spring Break Adventure
Onto the third movie of this set to get its own bonus disc, we dive into Thomas Alva Edison–Lighting up the World (26:53) which details the man and his many inventions. His role in the episode was small, but his documentary is one of the longer ones on the set. The next documentary, Invention and Innovation–What’s Behind a Good Idea? (22:55), goes hand-in-hand with the Edison one, as it focuses on the prospect of inventing and talks about what makes something a successful invention and what impacts it will have on the world.
Also a minor character in the first part of “Spring Break Adventure” was Edward Stratemeyer. In The Mystery of Edward Stratemeyer (26:15) we get a detailed account of his life and his many pen names at the paper he worked at. His documentary is especially fun to watch as it details a lot of fun aspects of his life, including the many stories he wrote throughout it.
The final three documentaries on this disc, Wanted: Dead or Alive–Pancho Villa and the American Invasion of Mexico (28:10), General John J. Pershing and his American Army (28:26) and George S. Patton–American Achilles (29:35), all focus on the Mexican Revolution and America’s involvement. The documentaries feature a wealth of historical footage as well as high-quality photos from the time and detail the strained relationship between the nations at the time.
Love’s Sweet Song
Onto the final film of the set, “Love’s Sweet Song” also receives its own bonus disc of documentaries that focus on everything from Ireland to women’s suffrage.
Easter Rising–The Poets’ Rebellion (25:54) and Sean O’Casey vs. Ireland (25:10) focus on the current state of the Ireland’s government and the peoples desires to be independent. The Easter Rising documentary, like the Archduke Ferdinand one from disc five, adds a lot of history to the event that we don’t hear too much detail about and Sean O’Casey’s involvement in all of it is detailed stupendously in his own extra.
Focusing on the poet and playwrights of Ireland are The Passions of William Butler Yeats (27:43) and Ireland–The Power of the Poets (26:53). Like the Rebellion and O’Casey documentaries, these extras paint a picture of a torn Ireland and the citizens that want to express themselves through new ways in theatre and writing.
Winston Churchill–The Lion’s Roar (33:48) also receives a lengthy documentary on this disc, despite being only seen for a few brief minutes in the episode itself. His role in the episode doesn’t seem to sympathize with women and their rights, but the documentary goes into details on his feelings on the subject of equal rights.
Demanding the Vote–The Pankhursts and British Suffrage (27:07) and Fighting for the Vote–Women’s Suffrage in America (31:29) go into detail about the plight of women’s suffrage in both Britain and America and the female effort during the World Wars. Key figures are detailed in the documentaries and plenty of historical footage is combined to make the documentaries even more powerful than they would be with just the historians talking over pictures.
No that’s not the title of the episode, this is just the final disc of the set. Usually “interactive discs” equate to a giant waste of time, but Paramount really did an astounding job at actually sticking to the definition of “interactive.”
“Revolution” Interactive Game, based off of the “Spring Break Adventure” episode, is a “choose your own path” type of game with a lot of reading involved. Throughout are quizzes about the knowledge you have of the world and, depending on how many you answer right, are rewarded with in-game bonuses. These type of games don’t entirely interest me so I quickly became bored with it—combined with the fact I had to look up the answers to all of the questions in the included in-game history book, it got to be a bit too much after about half an hour into it. That and me being only able to carry so much water got to be annoying on more than one occasion.
“Extensive Interactive Timeline” doesn’t begin to describe the timeline. Not only does it detail all of Indy’s adventures, not only on this volume but on the two future volumes, but we get to see a listing of all the historical figures included as well as the names of the documentaries and on what volume/discs we would find them on. I found myself poking around this timeline for over an hour and even by that point I wasn’t bored; a lot of the information is repeated from the documentaries, but something about browsing a timeline that pieces everything together so neatly makes it that much easier to get lost in it.
Finally we have our thirty-eight, and final, documentary, Historical Lecture: The Promise of Progress (41:27). Don’t let the “Interactive Documentary” label on the disc fool you—this is playable in a standard DVD player, just the game and timeline require a PC. This documentary focuses on the “exploration of the people and events of the Industrial Revolution” (as quoted from the press release).
The set is an exhaustive look into the historical events that the series is based off of, but, sadly enough, there are no documentaries on the show itself. There are no interviews with cast and crew, no behind-the-scenes footage of any kind and the documentaries themselves rarely mention the Indiana Jones property at all. I hope future volumes delve into the show itself, because, as worthwhile to watch these documentaries are, not getting something that gives us a look into the production of the show seems kind of odd for a DVD release…especially one that is twelve discs.
Overall this set comes Recommended. The price tag is a tad high, but for all you get, it’s not something to fault too much. While it’s true they could easily have released stripped-down versions of the show with episode-only releases, these documentaries are truly interesting to watch and for history buffs, they’ll find them almost as, if not more, entertaining as the show itself.
The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones arrives on DVD on October 23rd.