Planet of the Apes series (1974)

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Planet of the Apes series (1974)

Post  BoG on Fri Apr 16, 2010 9:33 pm


Planet of the Apes - a TV series spawned by the 5-film film series. This short-lived TV series, lasting only 14 episodes, was produced as the movies ran out of steam (following the 5th film, Battle For the Planet of the Apes, in 1973), taking place about 1,000 years in the future.

starring RODDY McDOWALL Like a Star @ heaven RON HARPER Like a Star @ heaven JAMES NAUGHTON
and co-starring MARK LENARD as General Urko * BOOTH COLMAN as  Zaius


This follows 2 astronauts (Harper as Virdon;  Naughton as Burke - a 3rd man died on impact) whose spaceship crashes on Earth of the future (a little over a thousand years from now, in year 3085): humans in this time period are 2nd-class citizens, ruled by apes (Orangutans, Gorillas, and Chimps). There is little or no technology, and the 2 visitors are on the run with new friend chimp Galen (McDowall) from the forces of orangutan politico Zaius (Colman) and General Urko (Lenard), a bad-tempered gorilla.
I think what got on the nerves of many viewers was the constant 'fugitives-on-the-run' aspect; running around a wilderness area, the heroes' travails took on a 'running around in circles' tempo, since they never strayed far from their main nemesis. Much of the action involved the astronauts being chased by gorillas on horseback or fighting them with judo & karate moves.

The heroes' ultimate fates were never revealed, but there were scenes added in later TV re-airings of an older Galen talking about the astronauts finding the computers they were looking for and leaving the way they arrived - whatever that means. A recurring plot thread in the series involved a recording disk that Virdon manages to save from their spaceship; he theorizes that this little disk could be the key to finding a way home, if they could get their hands on computers; Burke has doubts. This was also of interest to viewers from the Bay Area in California, since this is where the action took place (one episode, for example, took place in the ruins of Oakland, which was pretty good set design for a TV series).
Some of the internal logic to the series makes sense in so far as it logically occurs about 900 years before the events of the first 2 Apes films: humans here have not yet devolved to non-speaking brutes, being merely a docile but still intelligent servant class. However, this does contradict the events of the final 3 films; so, that does point to those 3 films as the creation of an alternate timeline: most familiar with the saga point out the dog in the very 1st episode (dogs were wiped out between the 3rd and 4th films); when time travel is entered into the equation of a film series, such contradictions can be, at times, explained away.
Also, the astronauts find a book showing an advanced New York City from the year 2503, which means, in this version of the saga, Apes took over around the 27th or 28th century whereas, in the 5th film, mankind had fallen by our time (early 21st century). That's a difference of about seven centuries. There's also a brief mention, in the first episode, of other astronauts who'd bedeviled Zaius 10 years earlier, but we never learn anything about them, except that they'd been killed. Was this a clumsy reference to the astronauts of the first 2 films? If so, this makes no sense. The first 2 films take place about nine centuries in the future from the time frame of this series. Someone has to keep these things straight when developing a long, complex sci-fi film & TV series.
The stories themselves were often parables, commenting on certain social strictures from our own history, involving a persecution of a lower class; in this case, the lower class are humans. One episode had allusions to the Ku Klux Klan activities of a century past, with apes in hoods, riding around terrorizing humans. "The Gladiators" guest-starred seventies bad guy William Smith, in which humans are raised to participate in arena-type combat.
A better early episode was "The Trap," where Urko and one of the astronauts get trapped together in an old ruin by an earthquake; Urko soon learns of his true heritage and that these humans are much more resourceful than he had ever dreamed. Indeed, the two astronauts usually showed an advanced proficiency in all areas compared to this primitive ape culture, even in such endeavors as farming.
The acting and the characters were fine, overall. Roddy McDowall was an old hand at this by now, playing his 3rd chimp character here, similar to his Cornelius and Caesar, but a little less regimented in his thinking. Ron Harper was OK as the older astronaut, but Naughton took a few episodes to acclimate in portraying the younger, short-tempered one; he overdid it a bit in the early episodes.
Mark Lenard, better known for his Sarek character in the Star Trek TV shows and movies, probably did the best work here as the violence-prone but intelligent gorilla military leader.
This show was obviously low-budget, but suited to relaxed viewing as a Saturday matinee. Though not too popular in the USA, this show did gain a sizable following in the UK.  A DVD set was released in 2001, and this series was included in the ultimate Apes DVD set later.
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