Follow by email

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Planet of the Apes: the TV series


I saw this DVD box set of the Planet of the Apes TV series and I was instantly transported back to the days of my youth. When this show came on the TV, the UK was starved of genre television and I remember it being a reasonable hit. Well everyone in school seemed to be watching it in any case. The franchise was huge in those days - we had the movies, the TV series, a comic book, a cartoon series and I remember my Planet of the Apes belt buckle was the height of fashion. Well that and my patch pocket trousers, mullet hairstyle, home-made skateboard and tartan scarf - worn tied around the left wrist of course.

I had to pick the DVD up as I had such fond memories of the show - the summers were always warmer and longer back then, the winters filled with snow and TV was super cool. Or at least it seemed so. And besides the DVD box set only cost a tenner.

Nostalgia however, can be a dangerous thing and revisiting the shows of your youth never lives up to the rose coloured memories. After all this show only ran the one season - how good could it have been?


The DVD, of course contains all of the episodes, including the Liberator which was never shown as part of the original series. In the UK the show received high ratings but it underperformed in the US - aired on Friday evenings at 8:00 PM Eastern/7:00 PM Central it had to compete with ratings giants Sanford and Son (which was the US version of the UK powerhouse, Steptoe and Son) and Chico and the Man(the first US sitcom set in an American/Mexican neighbourhood). If memory serves me correct it was first shown in the UK on Sunday evening, at about 7PM.

"The series begins on March 21, 3085 with the crash of an Earth NASA spaceship, launched on August 19, 1980. The spaceship is manned by three NASA astronauts, one of whom has died in the crash. The other two astronauts are unconscious but are rescued by a human who carries them to an old bomb shelter. After the human opens a book containing historical text and pictures of Earth circa 2500, the two astronauts are convinced that they are indeed on a future Earth."

The show was cancelled after only half a season but in 1981, several episodes of the series were edited into five made-for-television movies. Though I was older then and not really interested in the Apes and I'm not sure if these telemovies were ever aired in the UK. Perhaps some Archive reader knows otherwise.


Watching the show now I found it reasonably entertaining and its best episodes are comparable to the best TV sci-fi of the time. The ape make-up is carried over from the films and is just as good. The pilot episode which follows the plot of the original movie, as well as the source novel, is especially good. And the pecking order of the apes, the structure of their society is identical to that set up in the book and movies. The one thing the TV series gave us that the movies didn't was the military leader, Urko, a gorilla with attitude who was always on the search for the two intelligent humans.

The DVD box set is disappointing in that it contains nothing but the original TV episodes, no documentaries, not even an episode of the cartoon series. Still if you're on a nostalgia kick and remember the original TV series then you may get a kick out of this one. It's certainly more entertaining that Tim Burton's 2001 movies based on the franchise.

1 comment:

Randy Johnson said...

Did you know that the late George Alec Effinger wrote four novels, each adapting several episodes into a sort of fix-up style?