Cult TV Essentials

Cult TV Essentials: Planet of the Apes

Since War for the Planet of the Apes opens this week, I decided to take a look at the 1974 CBS series, Planet of the Apes. It was based on the hit movie of 1968 starring Charlton Heston and the book of the same name by author Pierre Boule. The show starred Roddy McDowall as Galen the chimpanzee who is in charge of the safety of the astronauts played by Ron Harper and James Naughton.

Mark Lenard, best known for playing Leonard Nimoy’s father Sarek on Star Trek was cast as Security Chief Urko. Urko was a gorilla and the major nemesis of Galen and the humans. For six episodes, Booth Colman portrayed Dr. Zaius.

The premise of the show was that Harper and Naughton were on their way to Alpha Centauri in 1980 when their spaceship crashed on another planet. However, as it turns out, they were not on an alien world they were back on Earth in the year 2500.

Galen uncovers a plot by Urko to allow the humans to escape and then to be killed in that attempt. He thwarts the plan and ends up going on the run with Harper and Naughton. The three of them roam the western part of the United States having encounters with other humans and apes.

The show was developed by Anthony Wilson. Fun fact: this series was filmed at Malibu Creek State Park. I used to live very close to that location back in the 90s. It was a hotbed for film and television productions. MASH was also filmed there.

Unfortunately, Planet of the Apes was short lived due to poor ratings. Another interesting tidbit, there were several unfilmed episodes. Among them, a pilot written by Rod Serling and a follow up episode also written by Serling.

In 1980 five made for television movies were released. There were also some books based on episodes as well. I actually collected some of the audio adventures or albums of the series in the 70s. For fans of the show, I highly recommend the DVD box set.

2 replies »

  1. Gene Roddenbery,creator/producer/writerof Star Trek,created a pilot TV-movie entitled Genesis II and was hoping to spin it off into a weekly TV series.

    CBS was on the verge of picking it up as a weekly show when they aired on TV for the first time the Planet of the Apes movie starring Charlton Heston.
    The ratings were so huge that CBS then decided to drop Gene’s TV show and do a POTA weekly show instead. It lasted one season.


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