Time Machine restore w/ partial backup


I have MacBook running Leopard. I have an external hard drive which I bought to use with Time Machine. I had been having some problems with the initial back-up... I can get a partial back up and then there is just a generic error message. I was trying to do some self-diagnosis with my Time Machine problems when my entire hard drive crashed. I have lost everything, but I know that there is still at least a partial back-up on my external hard drive... I just can't figure out how to get to it (or if it is even possible). When I open Time Machine now, it looks like there has never been a back-up, but when I open the disk itself, there is a 1.3 gb "package" (which I assume to be my lost computer data) but can't get it to open. Do you have any thoughts or suggestions which my help me to restore at least some of my data??