Planet of the Apes (CBS 1974 with Ron Harper and James Naughton)

The summer of 1972 was a dark time for Planet of the Apes fans. Yes, 20th Century Fox had just treated us to Battle for the Planet of the Apes in theaters, but there was a problem. After five films, the series had looped in on itself. The cycle was complete. It looked like the Apes were done.

But then came the happy announcement: a Planet of the Apes TV series, set to arrive in time for the 1974 fall season. A five-film re-release in the summer of 73 got the primate blood pumping again, and in September,Planet of the Apes hit the small screen.

The problem of that closed loop remained, but the show’s creators kind of sidestepped it by bringing a totally new pair of astronauts to visit the title planet. Americans Alan Virdon and Pete Burke slipped into a time warp in the not-too-distant future and ended up in the very distant future about 2,000 years forward in time. In this bizarre new world, apes were the ruling class, and humans were their unwilling slaves.

As in the original film, the astronauts found a friendly ape-face among the crowd, this time in the form of the chimp Galen (played by Apes series veteran Roddy McDowall). Unfortunately for our man-creatures, Galen was about the only ape on their side. Ape leader Zaius saw the strangers as a threat to ape society and wanted them lobotomized, while the brutal gorilla Urko simply wanted them dead. Virdon, Burke and Galen fled Zaius and Urko in pursuit, trying each week to unlock the secret of the Planet of the Apes and find a way home.

As a TV series, Planet of the Apes was short-lived, lasting only thirteen episodes on CBS. But despite the lack of commercial success, Apes fans embraced the TV adaptation. The show became a cult favorite, episodes were recut into TV movies like Back to the Planet of the Apes andFarewell to the Planet of the Apes, and the Apes were given one more TV try with the Saturday morning cartoon Return to the Planet of the Apes. The cartoon version was another one-season wonder but it’s a concept that just refuses to die and thanks to two recent big screen revivals is just as popular as ever.

 Release History
9/13/74 – 12/27/74 – CBS
 Sub Categories
20th Century Fox Television
Galen Roddy McDowall
Alan Virdon Ron Harper
Pete Burke James Naughton
Zaius Booth Colman
Urko Mark Lenard