Thursday, 9 August 2018

Your Move, Darwin #6: Planet of the Apes: the TV Series (1974)

It's been a while since I've returned to the Planet of the Apes, but then in order to do this justice, I really had to do a rewatch of ten and a half hours of TV, and that's more than the five movies put together. Here we are, though, the ruin of the Statue of Liberty behind us, and new media ahead.

Thanks again to the assistance of Mark Talbot-Butler, who supplied the stills for this post.

Not pictured: Starsky and Hutch.
The way in which we engage with media, and what particular forms of that media we engage with, has a bunch of weird little circumstantial quirks attached. And with a property like Planet of the Apes, whose fandom, in terms of popularity and cultural weight, probably falls exactly halfway on the scale between Doctor Who and something like, oh, I don't know, Dune, the chances are that if you're a fan, the way you first engaged with it depends on when you were born.

My son, who loves all things Doctor Who, for example, isn't going to be able to watch Kinda or The Five Doctors the way that I did as a kid. Things have moved on. But he is nonetheless exactly the right age to see new episodes of Doctor Who on their first broadcast. With Planet of the Apes, though, which has generated a reasonable but not overwhelming amount of transmedia (eg comics, tie in novels, toys, nonfiction about the property), there are times where one specific form dominates. So for example, that original Planet of the Apes movie is one of my top ten films, but I have never seen it on a big screen. I was born during the period when Return to the Planet of the Apes appeared on TV, meaning I never saw any of the original movies or series first time round. My first contact with Planet of the Apes was when the original movie was broadcast on BBC2 sometime in 1987 or 1988, and my dad told me what a great film it was, and I taped it, and then I watched the hell out of it. And for me, a preteen with an increasingly wobbly VHS copy of a twenty-year-old movie, the film was a treasure, a piece of archaeology. It was an obscure thing that I had, a thing that no one else my age knew about. A Late Night Movie, preserved with the magic of video.

And of course to a kid who might have been my age twenty years earlier it was the Popcorn Sci-Fi Phenomenon of ‘68, the big cinema thing that everyone talked about. My perception of the film as an obscure treasure was based upon my not really understanding that literally a million other people saw that broadcast, and that if I'd been born maybe ten years earlier I'd be reading the comic books. Maybe I'd even have caught Battle of the Planet of the Apes at the Pictures. Or I'd have seen the TV series.

And here's the thing. By 1987 the Planet of the Apes TV series was largely forgotten. I'd catch a few episodes in the early 90s when it was broadcast as part of Channel 4’s Sunday morning sci-fi slot – following Irwin Allen's Lost in Space (1965-1968), The Time Tunnel (1966-1967), Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1964-1968) and Land of the Giants (1968-1970) – but before then I had no clue it even existed.

But back in the mid-70s, it was on TV for the first time, and millions of people watched it. Not enough millions, it turned out, given its swift and ignominious cancellation, but enough that kids, and not a few kids, kids who were just old enough to catch it and too young to have been able to see the movies, would become lifelong fans. And would place the TV series as their introduction to the premise and the franchise.

Now the temptation is to see the Planet of the Apes TV series as an afterthought. But consider: in the second half of the 1970s you were probably more likely to see an episode of the TV series than you were one of the movies, for the simple reason that this is how TV worked back then. The cancellation of the show mid-season meant that you had this block of 14 episodes that an American network could cheaply slot in as a mid-season replacement for something else that had been cancelled, or to fill time when no one else was watching. And by the early nineties, it was safely in the territory of one of Irwin Allen’s family sci-fi shows. Fondly remembered, but not as fondly remembered as Star Trek, and not really remembered as all that great.

So you have this window of a few years where the majority of people who discovered Planet of the Apes discovered it through the TV series, and then that window passed and the films took precedence again, as they began to adopt the status of classics.

The TV series is the third time that the franchise had a jumping-on point, after the original movie and Escape, and the last time where, when you ask the question “Who is this for?” the answer is obviously “Everyone, really.”

But within the range of “everyone” you still have to recognise that it's pitched for some more than others.

Explaining what I mean here requires my going into some of that behind the scenes production stuff that normally doesn't concern me, but here it matters, so bear with me. So Arthur P Jacobs, producer of the five movies and Mr Natalie Trundy, died in 1973 at the tragic age of 51, just after the premiere of Battle, in fact, and the rights for the Planet of the Apes were sold to Fox. Fox reckoned that after some successful TV screenings of some of the movies, the franchise still had space to, y’know, evolve. And so they developed it as a TV series, reasoning that you could do it pretty cheaply, with all those props and costumes still in storage. But a continuing TV series requires a slightly different setup behind the scenes. The speed of production and the way it's constructed means that you're going to need different people who do different things. It means a turnover of writers and directors, and when you have that you need showrunners – a script editor, in fact, or something along similar lines – alongside the producer to keep things consistent.

Stan Hough was the producer, and his career was largely in writing and producing adventure movies of various kinds. This was his only series, but it doesn't seem out of character really. You get every impression that he's exactly the right sort of guy for this sort of property – not a legend exactly, but a safe pair of hands. A more interesting behind the scenes hire, and one the Planet of the Apes TV series displays in pride of place at the end of the credits, where American TV shows would often show something like “created by”, is for “Story consultants”, and the names we're given are Joe Ruby and Ken Spears.

Ruby and Spears were the undisputed kings of 60s, 70s and 80s American children’s TV. You have probably heard of them as writers and animators for a bunch of shows for Hanna-Barbera, and as the creators of Captain Caveman (CAPTAIN! CAAAAVEMAAAAAAAN!) and, enduringly, Scooby-Doo. Ruby and Spears weren't nearly as prolific in live-action TV, although they worked on several shows for kids’ TV legends Sid and Marty Krofft, and looking at their CV, you can see that the most culturally significant product of their work there was cult kids’ superhero show Electra-Woman and Dyna-Girl (1976), which they also created.

This is important, because when you give the final word on script editing to a pair of creatives who are famous for making TV for kids, and only TV for kids, and put their names in a place tantamount to saying, “Hey, everyone, look, it's the creators of Scooby-Doo!” you are saying something very specific about what sort of show you want to make, and for whom you are pitching it.

Planet of the Apes had an early evening time slot. It was shown when kids were watching. It was made for kids to watch. It was also made for adults to watch, with their kids. This was a family show, which is not quite the same as a children's show, but it matters, and in tone and content, you certainly don't get the darkness of that original movie, let alone the batshit (apeshit?) psychic violence of Beneath, the whimsical cynicism of Escape, or the grim slavery metaphors of Conquest.

It's really important here for me to reify that identifying a show as a kids’ show or a family show is by no means any kind of slur: I'm a strong proponent of the view that children’s television is the best television. Besides, one thing that children's media of the post 9/11 age has in common with that of the 70s is that it gives us many of the most powerful, interesting and intelligent expressions of the post-apocalyptic, a subgenre into which the Planet of the Apes franchise comfortably falls.
He's not going to like this.
But a show consciously pitched to include children among its viewers is not necessarily a place for a revolt against the human race, at least not in the 70s: so we're back to Space Gulliver territory here, because 70s TV needs good looking white guys in the lead. So meet Alan Virdon (Ron Harper) and Pete Burke (James Naughton, brother of American Werewolf in London David, who himself would guest star in “The Surgeon”), survivors of a space mission that got lost in the future and wound up on the Planet of the Apes. They befriend a chimp named Galen (Roddy McDowall, of course) and go on the run, pursued by the brutal and not terribly bright gorilla soldier Urko (Mark Lenard, famous for playing Spock’s dad for over 20 years), who is only just leashed by the principled but secretive Councillor Zaius (Booth Colman).

Virdon and Burke figure out early on in the first episode (“Escape from Tomorrow”) where they are, from a book that looks mid-20th century and appears to be from the 25th. It seems a little bit of a step down again: we've gone from the Statue of Liberty as a site of revelation, to the New York Subway, to a picture in a book in a cave. By this point, I think, revelation is only necessary for our protagonists. It's also important that it isn't a game changer. One of the things that most struck me about Beneath, you might remember, was that when you've found the Statue of Liberty, you've got nowhere left to go. The TV series sidesteps this by giving the humans a few minutes to process where they are, right at the start, and then letting them get on with the business of being adventure TV protagonists.

American TV in the era spanning the 60s through to the 80s had broad strands within the adventure show genre. In the mystery show – Quincy M.E. (1976-1983), Columbo (originally 1968-1978, and then, holy crap, 1989-2003), Banacek (1972-1974), and later on Murder She Wrote (1984-1996) – every episode has a mystery and the sleuth supplies a solution. In the classic cop show – like CHiPS (1977-1983), Mannix (1967-1975) or Starsky and Hutch (1975-1979) – there's a new crime each week and the cops have to catch the crooks. But the Travelling Heroes Show is perhaps the most versatile basic setup. Here our protagonists are on the move for some reason. Of course there's Star Trek in its original incarnation (1966-1969), where the mandate to explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilisations, and boldly go where no man has gone before is really just an excuse to have a new site on which to launch a discrete 45 minutes of narrative every week.

But often our heroes are on the run (which makes it a Fugitive Show). So in most episodes, the hero or heroes come to a new place and take part in a story there, and maybe fix a narrative problem there, before moving on to a new spot with new people to meet, and often their adversary catching up with them gives them a reason to move on. And so you've got The Fugitive (1963-1967), the basic pattern for the form, where the protagonist, Dr Richard Kimble (David Janssen) is pursued by the law while seeking a reason to clear his name; The Invaders (1967-1968), where Architect David Vincent (Roy Thinnes) is on the run from aliens who have infiltrated society on a systemic level and foils a new Alien Plot every week; the original Battlestar Galactica (1978), where a bunch of refugees move from planet to planet gathering up more survivors and evading the evil robot Cylons; The A-Team (1983-1987), in which a bunch of loveable and hypercompetent Vietnam vets eke a living sorting out people's problems and evading the military police who want to take them down for a Crime They Didn't Commit; and The Incredible Hulk (1977-1982), where Doctor David Banner (Bill Bixby) goes on the run from himself (Lou Ferrigno) and the press (Jack Colvin), before trouble finds him and his warning not to make him angry (because you wouldn't like him when he's angry) is ignored.

And so we have a reimagining of Planet of the Apes that falls exactly in the Fugitive Show mould. Virdon and Burke, with the help of Galen, are notionally looking for a way home; they come to a new spot each episode, and either they find themselves in direct jeopardy or they meet with a situation they have to provide some change to, and Galen will work with the apes, usually in disguise (because he's a wanted criminal now) and Virdon and Burke will make the resolution happen, usually by a combination of empathy, their superior pre-ape-pocalyptic knowledge, and also their fists, because no episode of Planet of the Apes is complete without our astronaut buddies whacking a gorilla upside the head (apart from "The Liberator", where there are no gorillas).

We only got fourteen episodes, and largely, the scripts play it pretty safe, sticking to fairly standard family adventure TV plotlines. In “The Gladiators” human slaves get made to fight for entertainment, Pete winds up in the arena, and at the end of the episode the games get cancelled. In “The Legacy” the apes intimidate a small boy and his mother into gaining Virdon’s trust by appealing to his paternal instincts and informing on him. In “The Deception” our heroes are looking to take down what amounts to the Ape Klux Klan, and Burke gets the trust of a member’s daughter, and she's blind and thinks he's a chimp, and falls in love with him. In “The Trap”, Burke and Urko wind up trapped in an ancient subway tunnel and have to put aside their differences temporarily to survive.

In the best of the episodes we have, we get to see something of the culture of the Planet of the Apes, in “The Good Seeds”, Virdon and Burke help a chimp family save their farm with 20th century agricultural techniques. In “The Cure”, Virdon and Burke bring an end to a malaria epidemic by reintroducing the ape civilisation to basic wilderness survival techniques, but need to make a shaky compact with a chimp physician who isn't necessarily trustworthy; meanwhile in “The Surgeon”, Galen and Burke have to convince a pair of chimp physicians with deception and appeals to empathy, to use ancient knowledge to save Virdon’s life. In “The Interrogation” the apes catch Burke and try to use an old MK-ULTRA brainwashing handbook on him, with predictably inept results. Even the better episodes rarely stray from formula; the difference is generally in execution, in the writing and direction.
Seriously I could just shoot them.
One of the big problems with reinterpreting the Planet of the Apes for TV is that even though we get a body of filmed narrative that proves to be longer in screen time than all of the preceding five films, neither Virdon nor Burke get the opportunity for as much character development as their grittier forebears Taylor and Brent. But then, Taylor and Brent are movie characters, and movie characters develop; they have traceable arcs.

TV protagonists from this era (particularly ones in American shows) are, on the other hand, what I've just decided to call procedurally forgetful. What I mean is that the nature of this sort of TV – which includes the way in which this sort of TV was sold to networks, and made with an eye to syndication – means that episode to episode, story elements can't be held over beyond the basic ones, and it's only on those occasions where a guest character returns that anyone is allowed to mention anything about them. Captain Kirk, for example, is supposed to have Really Truly fallen in love with Edith Keeler (Joan Collins) in “City on the Edge of Forever”, but when she dies at the end of the episode, Kirk’s grief extends to the credits and then at no point in the original series of Star Trek is his trauma, grief or heartbreak ever referred to again. And the real reason why Jessica Fletcher is as shocked by the discovery of dead people in the eleventh season of Murder She Wrote as she was in the first, hilarious fan theories aside, and notwithstanding the fact she's solved over two hundred murders since, is that for all intents and purposes the intervening two hundred or so murders didn't happen, and at no point is she ever going to say, “Do you remember when I cleared the name of my son in law/another famous author/that supermodel/the vicar/Magnum PI?” because that's not how TV worked back then.

(Yes, Magnum PI, Tom Selleck, ‘tache and all, guested in an episode of Murder She Wrote. You didn't dream it. You're welcome.)

Only once does a guest star return to the Planet of the Apes series – that's Barlow (John Hoyt), a decent chimp official who appears in “The Gladiators” and later “The Horse Race”, and it's only when he's there on screen that his previous appearance can be referred to.

And it's not that Galen, Virdon and Burke don't get meaningful character development. It's that they can't, because it's not that sort of TV show. Alan Virdon survives trauma and surgery, falls in love and has to bury his crewmate, but none of these things will ever be mentioned outside of the episodes they're in (and in fact, poor dead Jonesy, the DOA third astronaut, is such a footnote that I can't even find who played him).

Occasionally one of them will say something like, "I grew up in a farm, so I know how to manage this farm," or "so I learned how to pick locks that one time," and its important to see that this is different from character arcs as such, since this procedural giving up of backstory details usually happens when it's important for one of the characters to know something or surpass a plot obstacle, and often these details, fun as they are, don't get referenced again either.

We're left with characters who have, unless the plot of a given episode demands a specific detail of history or personality, only the easily defined traits. Burke is younger, more hot headed, attractive to women and gets into trouble more (which is why so many of the brief synopses above revolve around him). Virdon is sensible, forward thinking, and knowledgeable. Galen is principled and compassionate, an accomplished liar, and… tends to get overruled in his objections to the astronauts’ plans. Zaius wants to cover up the astronauts’ presence on the Planet of the Apes and catch them alive.

Urko, the character I most enjoyed watching, is dim-witted, mean, thuggish and just wants Virdon and Burke dead. He's also kind of direct and straightforward: the one scene I most clearly remembered from when I first saw it as a teenager was where Zaius is telling Urko that he's got to take the astronauts alive and Urko in frustration saying that he doesn't understand, and if they're so dangerous, why can't he just shoot them? That amused the hell out of me as a kid, and in rewatching it for the first time in 25 years, I was surprised to find that this only happens once, since I had gotten it into my head that it was a more or less recurring theme.
Dr Zaius, Dr Zaius, Dr Zaius, Dr Zaius,
Dr Zaius, Dr Zaius, Dr Zaius, Dr Zaius
Even within these very basic character traits, the writing from episode to episode admits inconsistencies. In the first couple of episodes, Virdon has a computer disk with the co-ordinates for home on it, and in “The Gladiators” he loses it, and the process of getting it back is what gets our protagonists mixed up with the larger plot. But soon, Alan's computer disk is gone. And it's never mentioned again. The same goes for the tantalising mention of other astronauts, who have been here before. They're referenced in that first episode, and then forgotten.

In “The Tyrant”, the stated fact that Urko hates corruption drives the actions of the villain-of-the-week, while in “The Horse Race” Urko is bribing and cheating with the best of them. And sure, you can justify that by saying Urko is a hypocrite, which works just fine, but I don't think that's how it's written.

The way in which apes engage with human remnants isn't consistent either, nor is it entirely clear who knows what and how much. In that first episode, "Escape from Tomorrow", when the astronauts land, Zaius is like, "Damn, not astronauts again," and although he confides in Urko, is all about the cover up. In "The Trap", you can find problematic posters for the zoo lying around. In "The Surgeon", an anthropocene era book of surgery is a stress point in plot; owning it, we are told, could be incredibly dangerous. But in "The Interrogation" the chimp interrogator more or less says, "Hey, let's try this CIA brainwashing handbook I found lying around, guys! It's supposed to work on humans anyway."

I think in fact that the Planet of the Apes TV series is simply a series that never got to find its feet. And you see this a lot with TV shows of this era: often the first half of the first season is filled with writers figuring out what they want to do with the show, finding out what works, and what doesn't, and working out the direction of the show beyond the initial premise, which is always going to be different on paper to how it is once you're making actual TV. They simply hadn't quite nailed down yet who Urko was, or what Virdon cared about, or exactly how the Apes engaged with human remains. And you see this a lot. When, at the start of “The Cure”, Galen loses his temper with his friends and calls them out (quite rightly) on their dickish behaviour, it's so unexpected and so out of character (remember, Galen is the one who goes along with the others) that when I saw it I initially wondered if Galen’s odd behaviour would be a plot point for the episode (ie that he was sick and “The Cure” would be one they'd have to find for him).

You can also see how as the half-season we got continues that the writers are struggling to find stuff for Councillor Zaius to do, and I could imagine quite easily that had Planet of the Apes gone to a second season that he'd have ceased to appear altogether, or might have been replaced with a different character.

All of this might suggest that Planet of the Apes, as a TV show, was necessarily bad, but really at its worst it's still no worse than any other sci-fi adventure show, and at its best it has real flashes of the perversity and strangeness that characterise the best of the Planet of the Apes movies.

But you can see, as they monkey around with the format, that they've still not quite got there, and one of the things that they've not quite got a handle on is how to show the Planet of the Apes itself.

Which Planet of the Apes is it anyway? Ever since Otto Hasslein introduced us to the idea of alternate futures, we've had the possibility of different timelines open up, different ways that the Planet of the Apes might turn out.

In the original pair of films, Taylor and Brent wind up in the 40th century, where the technology level is all over the place and hardly any evidence of human civilisation remains. Humans are mute, and in a stone age state. And then Cornelius and Zira go back in time and kick off, with their child Milo/Caesar, the birth of the Planet of the Apes, and the last we see of that version of the Planet of the Apes is the Lawgiver, in the 27th century, teaching a mixed class of (talking) human and ape children. Virdon and Burke have arrived in the 31st century. Here, humans still talk, but in the words of a deranged but basically pretty awesome late 60s novelty single,
All human beings are flunkies
In a world of gorillas and monkeys
That is, the humans talk, but they're clearly a lower class of citizen, prone to prejudice and exploitation. And even slavery.

As a kid, not paying attention to minutiae like dates, having the humans talk irked me somewhat, but in terms of the timeline, it all fits, really, in terms of the gradual erosion of human rights versus ape rights. But it doesn't have to. It works as part of a canon; it works as a reboot. There's no real point in having a horse in this race, but what it does reveal is that now the Planet of the Apes series as a whole has enough material for it to have a canon, since, as any Bible scholar with any integrity will tell you, you can't have a canon without a few contradictions to argue about.

Anyway, having humans talk in the Planet of the Apes show is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it gives opportunities for various axes of conflict, and allows for Virdon and Burke to hide from their pursuers more efficiently and in more ways. It means that not every guest star has to spend hours in the makeup chair and you don't have to spend quite as much on prosthetic makeup. It means that the astronauts can have occasional romantic entanglements without it being icky, which is more or less a basic requirement for this sort of show (but which raises another problem I'll come back to in a moment). But on the other hand, you get episodes where the literal human drama gets in the way of the fact we're on the Planet of the Apes (to the extent that in “The Liberator”, an otherwise pretty decent piece of post-apocalypse sci-fi, there are no guest apes at all). It's probably the single biggest problem of the show, that from time to time the apes, who should be front and centre, fade into the background.

The biggest symptom of this is, sadly, the show’s treatment of Roddy McDowall, and since this is really the last time we'll talk about him, it's probably a good time to reassess his contribution to the Planet of the Apes.

Out of six filmed excursions to the Planet of the Apes, Roddy McDowall has been in five: two as Cornelius, two as Caesar, and in the TV series as Galen. And even though he's in a functionally identical costume with heavy prosthetic makeup in each of these appearances, he still manages to make the characters very different. As Cornelius, he was the cautious, level-headed foil to Kim Hunter’s Zira, and Zira is the mover in that relationship, enough that it was considered perfectly OK to recast Cornelius in Beneath the Planet of the Apes. When, in Escape, the official at the hearing asks Cornelius if he talks, his reply is “Only when she lets me,” and that more or less defines who Cornelius is. Caesar, on the other hand, is a rebel, an organiser, a leader. He moves differently, speaks differently enough that he's clearly a distinct character, and not one defined by his relationship to another character. Although mentored by Ricardo Montalban’s Armando, Caesar stands alone. He has agency Cornelius doesn't.

Galen, though, is much more like Cornelius, if only that for most of the TV series, he is a much more passive figure. He sticks his neck out for Virdon and Burke in the first episode, and generally spends the rest of the series interacting with other apes on behalf of his friends. He occasionally argues, but only in “The Cure” (the best episode, in my opinion) does he really call out the other protagonists.
The two brightest things in the show.
But for all this, McDowall is effectively the best thing about the TV series. The Planet of the Apes TV series would for all intents and purposes be the end of Roddy McDowall’s work on the series, although he would put on the ape makeup one more time to become an aged Galen in 1979 to film short framing sequences surrounding episodes of the series restructured as five TV movies, and shortly before his passing in 1998 as the presenter of the TV documentary Behind the Planet of the Apes. McDowall is inextricably linked with the first incarnation of the Planet of the Apes franchise. Without him it would not have been the same.

And Harper and Naughton are not at all bad. They're reassuring, likeable, watchable guys and the camera likes them a lot. They're made to be TV heroes, and they have to carry the show, and they do. Should they have had to carry the show? That's another question.

There are very few women, ape or human, in the Planet of the Apes TV series, and it's a shame, really, but then this sort of show isn't really set up for a woman in a lead role. You have to have Roddy McDowall as the lead ape at this point - he's more or less mandatory, and as such you can't recall have a Zira substitute. And the Starsky and Hutch white guy buddy dynamic doesn't allow for a woman to be part of it, and as you note the superficial resemblance Burke and Virdon bear to Paul Michael Glaser's Starsky and David Soul's Hutch in looks and temperament, also note that Planet of the Apes predates Starsky and Hutch by a year, and think about what that says about what US networks expected from their television (one dark one, one blond one; one older, sensible one, one hot-headed younger one).

This absolute lack of strong recurring women in the show isn't really the fault of Planet of the Apes in and of itself, of course. This is how American TV worked in the 70s, and if you really wanted a central character who was a woman, you either had to make it about the women entirely – see Charlie's Angels (1976-1981) or Wonder Woman (1975-1979) – or make a distaff version of an already existing show – as in The Bionic Woman (1976-1978). Still, it's a shame, really, that a franchise that once gave us a character as wonderful as Dr. Zira should fail to allow us a really compelling female lead, ape or human, when transferred to an episodic form.

Planet of the Apes didn't make it to the end of its first season. And this isn't actually anything to do with its quality. Plenty of terrible shows lasted for years. A show’s survival depended on its ratings, and often ratings depended on the time slot. All it needs to kill a show is a popular show on another channel, or a lack of faith from the network, or an Autumn lineup that's particularly strong in a given year. It's not about survival of the fit, after all, it's about survival of the fittest, and who the fittest is depends on who else is there.

Anyway, if the TV Planet of the Apes had had more of the perversity and strangeness of the movies, I suspect it would have been cancelled even faster. They gave the show the widest appeal they could, given what TV formats in the 70s were like.

And Planet of the Apes may not have been the fittest of the shows in Autumn 1974, but it was fit enough to furnish re-runs for years afterwards, and to develop a fan base of its own that outlasts the fandoms of Chico and the Man and Sanford and Son, the shows that killed it. And OK, Planet of the Apes is the sort of show that develops an enduring fandom while a sitcom often isn't, but seriously, hands up who remembers Chico and the Man?

But even a first season cancellation hasn't killed it. Where to now, though? Maybe there was space for one last return.


Ape Rankings
1. Planet of the Apes (1968)
2. Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971)
3. Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972)
4. Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)
5. Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973) 
6. Planet of the Apes: the TV Series (1974)

3 comments:

  1. I call the method of storytelling where everything resets between episodes 'picaresque'. I don't know if anyone else does.
    Aiden says of Sherlock Holmes that he is immortal - he can always solve more cases. And as with other immortals the price he pays is he cannot change.
    I believe Babylon 5 was the show that set the pattern for shifting away from the picaresque model. My personal feeling is that there were losses as well as gains.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Coming in a little late, but...I was 9-10 when these aired, and was absolutely captivated. I was, I guess, pretty much the ideal audience for them, willing to let my delight in the good parts carry me right over all the weaknesses like I was levitating.

    I was very startled to realize, many years later, that the novelizations had been written by friend George Alec Effinger.

    David, agreed that picaresque is exactly what these are.

    ReplyDelete

Comment moderation is back on because harassment and frankly this is why you can't have nice things.