1 9 6 6 – 1 9 6 9 (USA)
89 x 50 minute episodes
One of the funniest shows of the late 60s was intended to be a serious drama, but Daktari (the Swahili word for ‘doctor’) was little more than Carry On Up The Jungle as Judy the chimpanzee and Clarence the cross-eyed lion continually managed to rescue their human masters.
Not only were the animals more intelligent than humans, but they were also considerably better actors.
The setting was the Wameru Study Centre in Africa (although the series was filmed in a Los Angeles safari park called, naturally, ‘Africa USA’), an animal-welfare compound run by vet Dr Marsh Tracy, played by Marshall Thompson, who received frequent visits from District Officer Hedley (Hedley Mattingly).
Hedley, in particular, was an astonishing character – so wooden that he blended in perfectly with the trees, and with an upper lip so stiff that he looked as if he had swallowed a packet of starch.
Dr Tracy was assisted by his daughter Paula, an American named Dane and an African native named Mike.
New regular additions to the cast came in 1968. Bart Jason was a former ranger and hunter who had become a guide for picture-taking safaris, and Jenny Jones, a 7-year-old orphan who became part of the Tracy family (played by Erin Moran – who went on to greater success as Joanie in Happy Days).
Judy the mischievous chimpanzee was simultaneously starring on Lost in Space as Debbie. Allegedly, the studio had the chimp’s teeth removed after she attacked the cast once too often.
Dr Marsh Tracy
District Officer Hedley