1 9 7 4 (USA)
14 x 50 minute episodes
After a change of studio to CBS, the Planet of the Apes franchise moved to television in 1974
Astronauts Alan Virdon (Ron Harper) and Pete Burke (James Naughton) leave Earth in 1988 and pass through a time warp and land back on Earth in the year 3085 AD. They find an upside-down world where apes rule supreme and humans are stupid unpaid are servants, labourers and farmers.
Following the plots of the movies, the orang-utans are the ruling class (the role of Doctor Zaius is reprised from the movies), the chimpanzees are the intellectuals and the gorillas are the thuggish military class.
An inquisitive young chimp called Galen (once more played by Roddy McDowall who starred in four of the five Planet of the Apes movies) befriends Virdon and Burke and helps them avoid the gorillas, led by General Urko (Mark Lenard), who hunt the astronauts for fear that they will destabilise the ape society.
The timelines don’t mesh with the films and the humans can talk in this version of Planet of the Apes. They also seem to have access to shampoo and grooming products judging by their appearance!
Planet of the Apes debuted on Friday 13 September 1974, but the plight of the two astronauts was never resolved as CBS cancelled the show after 14 of the planned 20 episodes due to poor ratings in the US.
The series maintained the splendid look of the movies and introduced a few of the more metaphorical elements of Pierre Boulle’s original novel.
A thirty episode cartoon series Return to the Planet of the Apes was made in 1975.
During filming in the summer of 1974, temperatures at the Twentieth Century Fox ranch in Malibu, California (the same location used to film the M*A*S*H series), topped 100 degrees; actors and stuntmen garbed in heavy gorilla soldier uniforms – their heads completely enclosed in hair, rubber and glue – routinely collapsed from the heat.
Bill Derwin, an Assistant Director, called Planet Of The Apes “physically the toughest TV series ever made”.
Colonel Alan Virdon
Captain Pete Burke
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