Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Geek TV: Return to the Planet of the Apes!

splashConcept: A group of three astronauts pass through a time warp, arriving in a future where apes are the dominant intelligent life form, and humans are primitives. They must learn to survive in a world turned upside down, where dangers can come from everywhere.

Total Episodes: 13

Original Air Dates: September 6, 1975 to November 18, 1979 (last new episode aired, although reruns ran until the beginning of the 1976 fall season)

Original Network: NBC


Bill Hudson (Richard Blackburn and Tom Williams): Leader of the astronauts, Bill is blond with blue eyes (when Zira meets him, his eyes cause him to nick-name him "Blue Eyes," and the name sticks with the apes). Bill is a natural leader, athletic, and has a good tactical mind.

Jeff Allen (Austin Stoker): Bill's best friend and fellow astronaut. Jeff is African-American, and is the technological expert of the group. Bill seeks Jeff's advice often.

cornelius and zira
Cornelius and Zira
Judy Franklin (Claudette Nevins): The last of the astronauts, Judy is an excellent pilot. She's captured by the Underdwellers, as their prophecy says that she will be the one to lead them back to the surface one day (because they have a bust of her from the past inscribed "USA," they call her "Usa").

Dr. Zaius (Richard Blackburn): The orangutang leader of the ape civilization. This Zaius is more sympathetic than previous depictions of Zaius, and he has a greater distrust of the military than we would expect, especially of General Urko.

General Urko (Henry Corden): Leader of the gorilla army, Urko seeks power, and hopes that by eliminating all humans and Underdwellers, he will be able to take control of ape civilization.

Cornelius (Henry Corden and Edwin Mills): A male chimpanzee scientist/archaeologist, married to Zira. Cornelius is sympathetic to the humans.

Zira (Philippa Harris): Female chimpanzee scientist who is very outspoken against the gorillas, and very fond of the humans, especially the astronauts.

Nova (Chaudette Nevins): A human female who speaks only a few words of English. She had helped rescue Brent years ago, and accompanies the astronauts on their adventures.

Ronald Brent (Unknown): A US astronaut who left Earth long after Bill, Jeff and Judy, but arrived on the Planet of the Apes years before. He had been injured when he crash landed, but Nova and her people helped him, and he set up camp in the ruins of his ship.

zaius and urko
Dr. Zaius and Urko.
Krador (Unknown): Leader of the Underdewellers, a hooded race of mutants who live underground, and are capable of casting illusions, firing beams of energy from their eyes, and even teleportation. Krador is the most powerful of the Underdwellers.

Geek Pedigree:

The series was produced by DePatie/Freleng Productions, and both David DePatie and Friz Freleng had a long career in animation, particularly working on the Looney Tunes and Merry Melodies at Warner Brothers before branching out on their own. They produced the Pink Panther shorts, leading up to The Pink Panther Show, followed by Here Comes the Grump, Doctor Dolittle, The Houndcats, The Barkleys, and other shows. They later produced the 1978 Fantastic Four cartoon, as well as Spider-Woman, the syndicated Spider-Man, Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, The Incredible Hulk (1982-1983) and Dungeons and Dragons

General Urko and soldier.
Jack Kaplan, who wrote three episodes, had previously been a writer on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, and later wrote episodes of Speed Buggy, Goober and the Ghost Chasers, and Shazam! Austin Stoker had played McDonald in Battle for the Planet of the Apes (making him the only cast member with a connection to the movies), and later played Lt. Bozeman in Horror High, and had guest appearances on Gemini Man and The Six Million Dollar Man. Henry Corden was previously the Monkees' landlord on The Monkees, and was the second voice of Fred Flintstone on The Flintstones. He also voiced Ookla the Mok on Thunder the Barbarian, and has had many more voice roles since then. He passed away in 2005. Claudette Nevins later played Empress of Evil in a two-part episode of Electra Woman and Dyna Girl, and guested in an episode of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman

meet brent
The astronauts are introduced to Brent by Nova.
Doug Wildey was the designer of the show, and he shouldn't need any introduction, but he's known not only for his comic book work, but for designing Space Angel, Jonny Quest, and later Godzilla (1979), Thundarr the Barbarian, The Incredible Hulk (1982), and other shows.

Geek Guests: Not applicable.

DVD Release: Full series available. 

Website: None I could find devoted to the show, but there are single pages on various sites out there.

Notes: This show represents what could be considered the fourth reality in the Planet of the Apes series, at least so far as TV and movies go. It clearly has a different timeline than the movies (which introduced a second timeline itself) or the live-action TV show. In this series, the apes have more technology than we'd previously seen -- they're driving cars and jeeps, have radio and television, trains, as well as more advanced weapons; however, they don't have aircraft until an old fighter plane is discovered and rebuilt (although this is stolen by the astronauts before it could be duplicated). One of the unique aspects of the show is, although the gorillas are shown carrying rifles, they never fire them on the show... Standards and Practices wouldn't allow this, as children could imitate this. A famous story (attributed to Doug Wildey as well as to others) is that a series of other weapons were run by S&P until they hit on Howitzers... since they couldn't argue that children could get their hands on a howitzer and fire it, the gorillas could use howitzers. Another unique aspect of the series is that all 13 episodes are chapters in an ongoing storyline, with each one leading into the next. At the end of the series, it's obvious they were hoping to carry the storyline further along... the astronauts had moved the primitive humans to a new location to keep them safe from the gorillas, had met up with Brent, and had even come to terms with the Underdwellers. Things definitely aren't the same as they started out!

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