Daktari is the Swahili word for ‘doctor,’ and if you’re guessing this CBS show has something to do with a doctor in Africa, then you’re due for an ‘A+’ in deductive reasoning. The doctor in question was a certain Dr. Marsh Tracy, an American working as a veterinarian and a conservationist at the Wameru Study Center for Animal Behavior in Africa. Working with him at the center were his daughter Paula and another American, Jack Dane. Mike was a native who also helped Dr. Tracy.
The show’s stories usually had Dr. Marsh and his assistants dealing with the natives, treating animals and bringing poachers to justice. For the latter task, Dr. Marsh usually worked with Hedley, a British game warden, who frequently asked for the doctor’s help. Jack left the show in 1968 and was replaced by Bart Jason, a camera-safari guide who was once a ranger. Another 1968 addition to the show was Jenny Jones, a young orphan taken in by Dr. Tracy.
Those were the men and women who got their names on the screen every week, but two of the most popular cast members weren’t even human: Judy the chimp and Clarence the lion, both of whom were pets belonging to Dr. Tracy and Paula. In fact, Clarence may very well have felt snubbed by the show’s title, since Daktari sprang from the 1965 feature film Clarence the Cross-Eyed Lion. Thankfully, Clarence didn’t exact his revenge by eating anyone, and Daktari was able to stay on the air for three seasons. The show was filmed in a Los Angeles Safari Park.
USA / CBS – MGM – Ivan Tors / 89×50 minute episodes / Broadcast 11 January 1966 – 15 January 1969
Creator/Executive Producer: Ivan Tors / Producer: Leonard Kaufman
MARSHALL THOMPSON as Dr Marsh Tracy
CHERYL MILLER as Paula Tracy
YALE SUMMERS as Jack Dane
HEDLEY MATTINGLY as Hedley
HARI RHODES as Mike Makula
ROSS HAGEN as Bart Jason
ERIN MORAN as Jenny Jones