We watched the first disc of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles last night. The series has been reedited from one-hour episodes into two-hour movies*, and while later episodes may work better, the series opener really suffers from it.
Sure, the original airing combined two episodes with an eight-year story gap in them, but the story of 9-year-old Henry Jones, Jr. visiting an archeological dig in Egypt and the story of 16-year-old Indiana Jones getting caught up with Pancho Villa in Mexico are linked thematically. More importantly, the Egypt segment sets up a mystery (a murder and stolen artifact) that is only half-resolved in that segment. The rest is resolved in the Mexico segment.
For the DVDs, George Lucas wanted to tell everything in chronological order, so the Pancho Villa segment has been moved later in the collection (I’m not sure what it’s been paired with), and the opening “movie” instead jumps directly from Egypt to Morocco, telling a completely different story linked only by taking place on the same continent. It doesn’t help that it was filmed several years later, making it look like 9-year-old Indy has gone through one heck of a growth spurt between stops on his father’s lecture tour.
The segments work reasonably well on their own — well, except for the fact that the Egypt story isn’t actually resolved — but the overall presentation is weaker.
* OK, more like 45-minute episodes and 1 1/2-hour movies, but you know the score.