For the Adherent of Pop Culture

Episode Studies by Clayton Barr


Indiana Jones: The Phantom Train of Doom Indiana Jones
"The Phantom Train of Doom"
(0:00-51:16 on the Phantom Train of Doom DVD)
Written by Frank Darabont
Story by George Lucas
Directed by Peter MacDonald
Original air date: June 5, 1993

Indy hooks up with the 25th Royal Fusiliers in East Africa.


Read the "November 1916" entry of the It’s Not the Years, It’s the Mileage Indiana Jones chronology for a summary of this episode


Notes from the Indiana Jones chronology


This episode takes place in German East Africa, early November 1916.


Didja Know?


The title I've used for this episode ("The Phantom Train of Doom") comes from the title of The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: The Phantom Train of Doom, a TV movie packaged for the Family Channel originally from two scripts of the Young Indiana Chronicles, "German East Africa, Early November 1916" ("The Phantom Train of Doom") and "German East Africa, Late November 1916" ("The Kidnapping").


Here, Indy is reintroduced to the British hunter Frederick Selous. Selous (1851-1917) was a real world hunter and army captain in WWI who was the inspiration for H. Rider Haggard's popular adventure character Allan Quatermain appearing in a series of novels and short stories from 1885-1927, who in turn was one of the inspirations for George Lucas' character of Indiana Jones. Selous previously meet up with Indy in "Safari Sleuth". The actor portraying Selous, Paul Freeman, also plays Rene Belloq in Raiders of the Lost Ark. 


Notes from the Old Indy bookends of The Young Indiana Chronicles


There were no Old Indy bookends for this episode.


Notes from The Lost Journal of Indiana Jones


The Lost Journal of Indiana Jones is a 2008 publication that purports to be Indy's journal as seen throughout The Young Indiana Chronicles and the big screen Indiana Jones movies. The publication is also annotated with notes from a functionary of the Federal Security Service (FSB) of the Russian Federation, the successor agency of the Soviet Union's KGB. The FSB relieved Indy of his journal in 1957 during the events of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The notations imply the journal was released to other governments by the FSB in the early 21st Century. However, some bookend segments of The Young Indiana Chronicles depict Old Indy still in possession of the journal in 1992. The discrepancy has never been resolved. 


The boxed set of DVDs of the complete The Young Indiana Chronicles TV series has notations and drawings in the storage slot for each disk that suggest they are meant to be excerpts from Indy's journal. Most of these notes and drawings do not appear in the The Lost Journal of Indiana Jones book. Here is the slot image for this episode:


The events of this episode are not covered in the journal. The pages jump from August 1916 ("Trenches of Hell") to November 1918 and the end of the war (The Treasure of the Peacock’s Eye). 


Characters appearing or mentioned in this episode


Indiana Jones

Remy Baudouin

Belgian troop major

Belgian troop lieutenant

train station conductor

Mr. Golo

Birdy Soames


Captain Frederick Selous

Donald Parks

General Jan Christiaan Smuts

Henry Jones, Sr. (mentioned only)

Major Richard Meinertzhagen

Bill "Big Mac" MacMillan

General Tom Boer (mentioned only)

German sentries

huge German captain

German soldier card players

German captain





Didja Notice?


The Kenyan fort seen in the opening of the episode is actually Çeşme Castle in Çeşme, Turkey.


Indy and Remy have been reassigned to eastern Africa and are promoted to the rank of lieutenant. They arrive by ship in the Kenyan city of Mombasa and are told to ship off to Lake Victoria, but the pair get on the wrong train, heading towards Moshi, Tanzania (while they should be heading towards Nairobi). Lake Victoria is the largest lake in Africa, occupying portions of the nations of Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.


On the train ride, Remy sees Mt. Kilimanjaro passing on the wrong side of the train if they were heading to Nairobi, cluing him in they are going in the wrong direction. Mt. Kilimanjaro is a dormant volcano and the highest mountain in Africa.


When Indy is proven wrong about the direction they were heading, arriving in Moshi, Remy sarcastically scolds him, "'Trust me,' he says. Mr. Boy Scout with his map." Indy was a member of the Boy Scouts of America, attaining the highest rank, Eagle Scout.


In Moshi, a train station conductor tells Indy and Remy to take the train to Longido, then to Nairobi and Lake Victoria. Longido is a small town in Tanzania.


At 3:10 on the DVD, notice that the badge on the conductor's cap is impressed with the letters and numbers upside-down! It seems the badge was attached to the cap both upside-down and backwards.


After the conductor gives the pair guidance, Indy says, "Asante." This is Swahili (the national language of Kenya) for "thank you."


Indy and Remy again jump on the wrong train. The conductor shouts after them that the train they're on goes to Sabella. As far as I can tell, the only Sabella in Africa is a private retreat in the country of South Africa, over 2,000 miles away.


At 4:33 on the DVD, Remy says "Mon Dieu." This is French for "My God."


At 6:44 on the DVD, Indy and Remy hear Rossini music playing in the distance, soon discovering it comes from the camp of the 25th Royal Fusiliers. Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868) was an Italian composer. The 25th Royal Fusiliers was a British Army unit composed of mostly older men of various talents known for their daring and success against the enemy.


When Indy and Remy start to hear the Rossini, they are carrying the usual Lee-Enfield No.1 Mk.III rifles seen in the hands of Belgian soldiers throughout the series. But earlier in the episode, as they crossed the veldt, they carried different rifles with a longer barrel.


When Indy and Remy are brought into the Fusiliers camp at gunpoint by Golo, at 8:28 on the DVD notice that a man in clown make-up and costume walks among them. This is later revealed to be a man called Zoltan, whom Captain Selous says is " ace mechanic, expert with knives, best clown in Europe." Selous calls him by the nickname "Zoly" later on.


When Donald asks Indy if he speaks German, Indy responds, "Ich spreche viele sprache." This is German for "I speak many languages." In "Mask of Evil", Indy says he speaks 27 languages.


The Fusiliers' staff car is a 1929 Ford Model A...13 years too soon!


The trucks seen at 12:32 on the DVD appear to be custom made for the production.


General Jan Christiaan Smuts (1870-1950) was a South African military leader and statesman from the British Cape Colony. He served the British in its attempts to conquer German East Africa during the war as depicted here.


Richard Meinertzhagen (1878-1967) was a British soldier, intelligence officer, and ornithologist. While initially celebrated for his strategies and espionage against the enemy, later evidence of fraud, false claims, scientific misrepresentation, and even the possible murder of his wife have greatly stained his legend. Meinertzhagen appears briefly again in "The Kidnapping" and Daredevils of the Desert.


When Captain Selous meets up with General Smuts at the beach, the captain expresses surprise that the man is not in Morogoro by now. Morogoro is a city in eastern Tanzania.


After Captain Selous tricks Indy into "volunteering" for the mission to find the big German gun, Indy tries to object that he's not even supposed to be there, as he's in the Belgian Army. Selous responds, "All the more laudable. I'll write a letter of commendation to your general, Tom Boer." As far as I can find, there was no General by the name of Tom Boer, Belgian or otherwise, in WWI.


Birdy remarks that the good lord created the world in six days, so how hard can it be to find and blow up a cannon in that time. According to the Old Testament of the Bible, God created the world in six days.


As far as I can find, the "phantom train" with its massive cannon in use by the Germans during WWI in East Africa is fictitious.


As Selous and his men are riding off on horseback on their mission, he shouts, "Tally ho!" This is a British phrase used during a fox hunt to announce sighting of the prey.


As Indy and the Fusiliers sit around a campfire on the first night of their mission, Indy is frustrated by their lackadaisical attitude towards how they're going to accomplish it and he asks what's wrong with making a plan. Selous tells him, "Nothing. So long as you're willing to adapt when they don't work out. He who survives is he who thinks on his feet." Indy retorts, "Oh, make it up as you go. Oh, boy, that's great advice." This foreshadows (and calls back to) his line in Raiders of the Lost Ark when Sallah asks him how he's going to catch the Nazi truck that is carrying the ark and he responds, "I don't know. I'm making this up as I go."


Big Mac tells Indy that he wound up in Africa when he won a used up ruby mine in a poker game in Abilene. Abilene is a city in Big Mac's home state of Texas.


Selous has a few of his men singing "O Tannenbaum" drunkenly in order to fool the German sentries into letting them pass on to their tents. "O Tannenbaum" is a German Christmas song inspired by an earlier folk song.


Though Donald refers to it as a Daimler (and so does Selous later), the car he and Indy steal from the German motor pool is a 1929 Chevrolet International Phaeton.


As Birdy looks through the field glasses at the retreating German train as he rides the flatcar pumped forward by Indy, notice that the view through the glasses isn't moving even though the flatcar is!


At 30:24, Zoltan flashes Birdy and Indy a message in Morse code using a mirror. Morse code is a method of communicating via a series of on-off signals such as flashes, tones, or clicks, invented by Samuel Morse (1791-1872).


Birdy remarks that real toilet paper in the East African theatre of war is about as rare as snowballs in Kalgoorlie. Kalgoorlie is a desert city in southwestern Australia.


As the Fusiliers enter the phantom train base, Selous cocks his sidearm, an FN Model 1910 pistol.


At 33:41 on the DVD, the German guards are playing cards in a room with a door labeled SIGNALE ZIMMER. This is German for "Signals Room".


During the train chase, the German troops appear to use Mauser M1916 Guardia Civil short rifles. Members of the Fusiliers also appear to have them, possibly picking them up in the phantom train base before hopping the train.


The mounted machine gun on the train fired by a German soldier at 41:41 on the DVD is unidentified. It may be a custom job for the production.


As they are under fire on the train at 41:49 on the DVD, Selous tells Donald "a googly is in order." In the bat and ball game of cricket, a googly is a type of delivery by a right arm leg spin bowler where the ball swerves in one direction and breaks in the other. Occasionally, the term is applied to unorthodox maneuvers in various disciplines.


Big Mac shouts to Zoltan to uncouple the train car and get the hell out of Dodge. The phrase "get out of Dodge" is generally attributed to the long-running (1955-1975) TV series Gunsmoke, a western set in Dodge City, Kansas. But Mac could not have seen the series yet in 1916...not to mention that television did not exist yet!


At 46:02 on the DVD, Big Mac fires a mounted Russian Maxim machine gun.


As the train pulls away from the German soldiers, Big Mac shouts, "Adios, boys!" Adios is Spanish for "goodbye".


After the Fusiliers hijack the train, as Big Mac rides along, seated behind the Maxim gun, he screams, "Yeee-haw!" This may be a nod to the 1964 film Dr. Strangelove, which has a scene of the character Major T. J. "King" Kong, played by Slim Pickens, riding a nuclear missile to its detonation in the USSR as he hoots.


The sharpshooter rifle Selous uses to blow the dynamite at a distance of 500 yards is unidentified. He uses the same rifle briefly in "The Kidnapping".



Memorable Dialog


you don't mess around.mp3

the wrong train.mp3

we're going to have to play a little dodge-ball.mp3

the good lord made the world in six days.mp3

it's a phantom train.mp3

make it up as you go.mp3

leave no outhouse unplundered.mp3

a message in Morse code.mp3

a tremendous boon for our intelligence purposes.mp3

well done then.mp3

the Belgians will shoot us both for desertion.mp3


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