Developed by Anthony Wilson
Based on the 1963 novel Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle
Main Cast of Characters:
- Galen (Roddy McDowall)-this time around he is a young chimpanzee that becomes embroiled in the lives of the humans after being sent along with a group of apes to ensure the humans’ safety.
- Colonel Alan Virdon (Ron Harper)-mission commander of the crash landed 20th Century ship.
- Major Peter J. Burke (James Naughton)-crew member that survived the crash.
- Security Chief Urko (Mark Lenard)-gorilla that is charged with getting the humans and Galen. The shows central villain. Lenard is most famous as Sarek of Star Trek TOS.
- Councilor Zaius (Booth Colman)-the most important member of the High Council of Central City and the series equivalent of the character from the movie.
20th Century Fox had finished up the original Planet of the Apes film series with a rather cheap and somewhat underwhelming feature film that felt more like a well-produced television movie. But they knew they had something they could still make a buck off of with a much smaller investment than other science fiction shows, so they created this television series.
And the show itself is surprisingly good.
I was first introduced to Planet of the Apes: The Series as a series of movies on the weekend afternoons as a kid. That is just how they were packaged. They edited together two episodes as a single film for when it was sold in syndication. For ages I thought they were feature films. The acting was pretty good. The effects makeup was better than I saw in other science fiction shows of the time.
The show sported better than most production values. Then again, they were able to use pre-existing film props and costumes in the show and did not need redesigns for the character makeup. Nor should they have. The character makeup was absolutely perfect for the universe they created. It looked just as good as the films. I prefer what they did originally. There is something to be said for prosthetics instead of the CGI they use today.
The stories were more sophisticated than you would expect given how the original film series ended. Do not get me wrong. I enjoy them all, but the final film was done on the cheap and a bit simplistic in comparison to any of its predecessors. In this series they touched on topics and social issues of the time. Through the veil of science fiction, they discussed civil rights and equality and weapons of mass destruction and other things.
The humans in the show were not mute and simplistic in contrast to the humans in the first film but were instead similar to the humans in the final film. Thus Planet of the Apes: The Series fits chronologically closer to the final film which occurred shortly after the nuclear war that devastated human civilization than the first which occurred just prior to the end of the world.
This series had some pretty good character development but that was hindered by the adventure of the week format. You could only do something for one episode. Stretching a story to two episodes was just not possible. The main characters were moving from place to place trying to stay one step ahead of Urko as well as find a way home. This is a format similar to The Fugitive.
Each week was new locations and new ancillary characters. Few characters and no plot elements carried over from week to week. The only consistent plot element was the humans trying to find remnants of the advanced human society or even leftover advanced humans in order to get back home. I would have preferred something more serialized and I think the concept could have benefitted from it, but shows were just not like that then in primetime. I personally would have liked to have seen them stay in a particular area for more than one episode. Today such an idea would be a no brainer though.
This show was only a handful of episodes. It never got big ratings and it was still a pricey show to produce despite all the leftover movie props. They even had the ship from the first movie for their pilot episode! Unable to justify the cost, the series was ended. It is rather unfortunate because given time this could have been a classic show. There was so much potential there.
Planet of the Apes: The Series is worth a watch if you are a fan of the original films. This show manages to maintain the feel of the movies while doing something a little different. It is also worth a watch if you like good science fiction television. The episodes are character driven and are about something rather than just a weird situation of the week. If you can come across it give this show a watch.