When it was decided to re-edit and re-order the Young Indiana Jones episodes into a chronological history of TV movies additional filming was needed. Four extra episodes were filmed with the intention of pairing them off with existing stories from previous seasons to create complete 90-minute movies. 'Tangiers 1908' is one of these newly filmed episodes.
Whilst on his travels Indy befriends a slave boy working for a rich and powerful man. Not being able to grasp why slavery is a requirement for their society Indy takes the opportunity to teach his new friend Omar the fun of freedom. Hoping to prove the story of a decapitated man's head on display is true soon the two boys are captured and sold into a slavery ring. With little to no chance of escaping their grip thankfully for Indy it's an unlikely individual who will ultimately save them both.
I'd just like to start off saying that the two things that really work for this story is first of all the idea of slavery being accepted, represented in Henry Jones friend Walter Harris while secondly the idea of freedom for all shown in the friendship between Indy and his friend Omar. If you've been following the VHS and DVD releases of this show you know that having got rid of the second part of 'The Curse of the Jackal' for chronological purposes this story now takes it's place to form 'My First Adventure' with some rather clever and new (although still slightly abrupt) linking continuity between both. The first thing you may notice however is how much older Corey Carrier is in the role of Indy. Filmed about five years after the pilot you go from a young, squeaky Indy to a slightly taller one with a deeper voice. It's quite noticeable and sometimes unintentionally hilarious but some CG altering to make Carrier shorter does work. It's really the only notable casualty of the episode. The theme running through dealing with the rights of an individual and wanting freedom is a difficult subject. A colleague of Henry called Walter Harris seems to think it's quite normal for they're to be slavery. Omar doesn't understand what freedom is having lived his life so far as a slave. Forming a friendship with Indy teaches him how to have fun, to think for ones self. It's sadder to the viewer and to Indy that these are things he should have inherent in him. Omar's disobeying of his rules to go out and have fun is a way of allowing himself to know what it's like to be a child. Ashley Walters does a reasonable job of presenting a child who might never experience freedom. The search for a man's head on display in the marketplace is simply a catalyst (it's never resolved whether there was a displayed head or not) for both having an adventure leading to their capture by slavers. In one rather ironic turn of events the slavers are attacked and killed by their competition. Indy thinks they've been saved only for competitive slavers (the boys get their decapitated head happen in front of them!) to steal them instead. The fact there are rival slavers out there is both shocking and awful. It shows a world where children are simply cattle to be sold off for a good price. With the threat of being sold off in a bidding arena it's Walter Harris that ultimately redeems himself. Blaming himself for Indy's capture he enters the bid for our hero and buys him back. It's here that Kevin R. McNally shines in his role. He shows a conscience and humanity in fixing a mess he felt he started. In a very funny and well-written scene he buys back Omar with hardly no money by pretending that the boy has no worth to anyone. Such compassion to fight for a slave is commendable but it's also the cleverness in twisting slavery on it's ear, using it to trick the slavers to buy back Omar that makes the episode stand out.
I get the feeling there are many that felt Indy would stop slavery altogether at the end but that would be unrealistic. Having said that while Indy's not a superhero he opens the eyes in innocence (Omar) and in ignorance (Harris), which as you know it's from there that the path to freedom begins.