Planet of the Apes -- The TV Series

Title: Planet of the Apes: The Complete TV Series
Rating: Not Rated
Release Date: November 20, 2001
Running Time: approximately 644 minutes
Ten-second Rundown: Two astronauts crash-land in the future - a future ruled by…APES!
Version: Four-disc Collector's Edition

  • Interactive Menus
  • Scene Selection
  • Choice Scene: Frightened by the appearance of gorillas on horseback, marooned astronaut Burke asks the deathless question, "What kind of planet is this?"

    Tech Specs: Full-frame format (1.33:1), English mono, French mono, English & Spanish subtitles.

    Back before cable made it safe, or at least possible, to be a 24/7 Fanboy, we had to make do with the drips and drabs of science fiction that network television would offer us. Every fall some new show would tease us and then disappear because nobody but the geeks were watching. Such was the fate of Planet of the Apes.

    For thirteen glorious weeks (back when shows had thirteen weeks to fail) kids across America gathered around the set, happy to see apes on TV. We had not the critical faculties to recognize cheese. We only knew we dug it.

    Originally proposed by Rod Serling (screenwriter on the original film), by the time the series made it to air it had become a product of Joe Ruby and Ken Spears. If those names ring a bell, that would be because they later became crown princes of Saturday morning TV, second only to their bosses, Hanna-Barbera. As such, their dramatic product would not be as deep as a Serling-run show might have been. But if truth must be told, they still had a better handle on it than Tim Burton's film.

    The premise will be familiar enough. On a rustic planet, a mysterious spaceship crashes (off-screen, of course, this is 1974 television). Inside lie three human astronauts, one dead, two unconscious, but all in stylish and impractical jumpsuits. Rescued by a local villager who has read storybooks in which humans possessed technology, the two survivors Virdon (Ron Harper) and Burke (James Naughton, now Ally McBeal's dad) piece together that they have traveled to the future.

    This comes as no surprise to orangutan Counselor Zaius (demoted from the film series' PhD status). Astronauts from the past have landed on this Planet of the Apes before, only to be killed before their destructive technology can spread.

    But this time is different, because now Zaius has an inquisitive chimpanzee assistant, Galen (Roddy McDowall), who refuses to let the past stay buried.

    After accidentally killing a gorilla guard, Galen must flee with Virdon and Burke as they try to find remnants of human technology. The two humans hope that they can find a computer to recreate and reverse engineer the accident that brought them to the future. And Galen wants to go back with them.

    So it has a bit of The Fugitive. A lot of shows do. What it also has is a bit of social conscience that never gets too heavy-handed, and a lot of stupid fun. Granted, the ape make-up looks primitive by today's standards, but the actors really know how to sell it, especially McDowall. Having played two chimps previously, he practically owns the concept in a way that Helena Bonham-Carter cannot touch.

    With fourteen episodes in all, the show may not be the deathless classic that box hype would have you believe ("It changed the face of television forever" - by putting ape faces on it, I guess). But really, for the ape nut disappointed by Tim Burton's "re-imagining," this makes a nifty package.

    And it's even niftier if you listen to it in French. They know a thing or two about fromage.

    It lists for $49.98, but you can buy it here for $37.49.

    Derek McCaw


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