Indiana Jones must decide between friendship and the Secret Service at the height of the Russian Revolution... Those watching the 2000 version of this story may wish to know that 'Petrograd, July 1917' was later re-edited to form the second part of what would end up being the TV movie 'Adventures in the Secret Service'. The first part being 'Austria, March 1917'. New material as usual was filmed to bridge the gap in stories.
Having again failed to complete an assignment for the Belgian Secret Service Indy is given one more chance to prove his worth by infiltrating a group of young Bolsheviks hoping to start their revolution. The key is their leader Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, founder of the Russian Communist Party who is hoping to take action. However as Indy begins to understand the Bolsheviks plight his loyalties are soon divided between them and his espionage work for the Secret Service. Will Indy help his new friends or lead them to bloodshed?
Taking place during the height of the Russian Revolution 'Petrograd, July 1917' plays out like the calm before the storm before the eventual and saddening conclusion we the viewer knew was going to come. It a successful episode without the Old Indy bookends in that it makes us care for the revolutionists who the Secret Service are waiting to silence. It makes the outcome all that upsetting. So failing yet again to successfully complete a mission for the Belgian Secret Service Indy or as he's known to everyone Henri Defense is given one more chance to prove himself. It becomes the ultimate test of loyalty as Indiana is split between his duty to his Belgian espionage work and the Bolsheviks he's spying on who he comes to regard as friends. At work in a stuffy room filled with paper documents Indy is constantly aggravated by his work colleague Dimitri (Young Sherlock Holmes' Alan Cox) while with his Russian friends shares a camaraderie that makes him question what he's doing. Gavin Scott's script tries hard to develop and present the young Bolsheviks as people who aren't evil, they just want a better life for themselves. They take Indy in, treat him with respect and even remember his birthday. These are poor people, they don't have much but Sergei, Irene, Rosa and Boris make him feel welcome. It makes Indy's betrayal of them all the more difficult. As someone who is seeking secret intelligence Indiana's values are put to the test when he goes to V. I. Lenin's meetings and sees his plans. Lenin played by Roger Sloman does a good job, delivering a commanding performance of someone who believes the end justifies the means. In fact performances all round are fine actually and Scott's script along with Simon Wincer's expert direction mean we see Indy really struggle not to betray his friends even if his friendship script-wise is perhaps a little overplayed at times. But for the most part it works and as the viewer gets halfway through the episode the false sense of security begins.
At this point the most loyal supporter of the Revolution, Sergei (Ravil Isyanov), has begun to suspect something is up, especially as Indy keeps informing them of secret intelligence details that later become true. Indiana gets found out by Sergei who believes his friendship to be a sham. When Sergei puts himself in possible danger Indy races through huge, dark back alleys and streets trying to gain information on a possible revolt. The location work here is stunning if foreboding with Prague streets like Hystalska, Bank Bridge and the Ministry of Culture doing excellent jobs of doubling up for Petrograd. If there are flaws with the script they're aren't many. As mentioned Indy's friendship with Sergei and co is sometimes overplayed (how long has Indy known them for?). The cake scene analogy of splitting power and wealth among the working class is also pretty heavy handed. While it's necessary to show what his friends are aiming for I just don't buy these Russian people standing around discussing politics for five minutes before just cutting the cake like anyone else would. The acting during this part is also a bit too stilted to be taken seriously. That's not to take anything from this episode. In terms of plot and structure 'Petrograd, July 1917' does share some similarities with 'Ireland, April 1916'. But for the most part 'Petrograd, July 1917' is well realized and presents a period of Russian history where the working class people so fed up with their poverty would have followed Lenin to death if it meant something. Lenin, a man who wanted to have his political fingers in the pie or in this case cake. A particularly recommended story.