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Series / Planet of the Apes

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In 1974, a short-lived series was released based on the Planet of the Apes franchise. It ran for 14 episodes before being cancelled.

Joe Ruby and Ken Spears were brought in by then-CBS head Fred Silverman to serve as story consultants, due to the allure of the premise to children.

The plot is simple; on August 19, 1980, two astronauts—Burke (James Naughton) and Virdon (Ron Harper)—encounter a space-time warp whilst exploring space near Alpha Centauri, causing them to crash upon an alien world that they soon discover is actually a post-apocalyptic Earth in the year 3085, where a civilization of bipedal apes now rules over a cowed and submissive humanity. Escaping the cabal of orangutans who seek to execute them for fear that they will spark rebellion amongst the native humans with the aid of a sympathetic chimpanzee named Galen (Roddy McDowall), they go on the run, drifting randomly across the known world of the ape-ruled territories in hopes of finding some way to return to their own time.

This series provides examples of:

  • Aliens Speaking English: Strictly speaking, this goes for the humans. After a thousand years, linguistic drift should have made their English near-incomprehensible to the apes and other humans.
  • Alliterative Title: "Tomorrow's Tide".
  • All There in the Manual: The only clue we have about how the series might have ended comes from a series of spots shot for the TV movies, "hosted" by Galen. Apparently, Burke and Virdon escaped, although we don't know if they made it back to 1980. Here's the final spot.
  • Alternate Continuity/Alternate Universe: To the rest of the original film continuity, possibly. The series is set chronologically before the first two movies and after all the later ones (the television series is set in 3085 while the first two movies were in 3978-79 (possibly 3955) and the later movies were in the late 20th/early 21st century). Humans still speak, unlike the earlier films. The time apes took over is different from the films as apparently human society survived until at least 2503. Not helping this out is uncertainty around the nature of time in the movies generally (with much fan debate over whether it's a circular time loop or history was changed during the films). Dialogue in Escape from the Planet of the Apes implied that it took centuries after apes started being used for pets before they took over which would have been consistent with the TV series' timeline, but the final two films showed apes taking over much sooner. It could be that series is supposed to be set in the films' continuity, before the original films, in the original timeline before history was changed (assuming it was), at some point before humans stopped speaking. Alternatively, it may just be an alternate universe where the world being ruled by apes is basically the only thing in common with the film continuity. The show never gave enough detail to make either answer clear.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: Averted. Many apes are shown to be quite humane in their attitude and, even if there are bigots and supremacists, there are also decent individuals, hard-working commoners, and even a few subtle human rights supporters. Even the gorillas, despite being an obvious target to scapegoat for this, get some notable exemptions to the "militaristic brute" depictions. Police Chief Perdix in "The Deception" comes down with an iron hand on a bunch of murderous anti-human activists once he finds them. In "The Cure", one of Urko's soldiers, Kava, saves a human village from being destroyed (foiling Urko's plans in the process) after Virdon sneaks a malaria cure to him whilst he's dying.
  • Apocalyptic Log: In "The Legacy", in the ruins of Oakland, Virdon and Burke discover a holographic message recorded by a scientist centuries after their time. In this ancient message, the scientist states that various repositories of scientific knowledge were hidden in different locations around the world in anticipation of the apocalypse. It was hoped that humanity would eventually be able to use this knowledge to rebuild its civilisation.
  • Arc Words: "Friend."
  • As You Know: Lampshaded in the episode "The Trap":
    Urko: Where's Mema? What's keeping him?
    Zako: Urko, I'm sure he'll be back as soon as he has searched the city. It would be a good place for the fugitives to hide.
    Urko: When I ask you a question, don't tell me something I already know!
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Used several times with Galen having to fill the role of the authority figure.
  • The Black Death: In "The Surgeon", Leander tells Urko that there is an outbreak of the Black Death in the clinic so that he will leave quickly and Galen, Virdon and Burke can escape.
  • Blind and the Beast: In "The Deception", the blind female chimpanzee Fauna falls in love with Burke, whom she thinks is a chimpanzee named Pargo. Fauna hates humans as she believes that two humans killed her father Lucian.
  • Blunt Metaphors Trauma: Galen suffers from this.
  • Bread and Circuses: In "The Gladiators", Prefect Barlow uses the gladiator games to keep the village of Kaymak quiet.
  • Briar Patching: Galen employs this in "Up Above the World So High". He wants to escape on a glider which Virdon and Burke have built which the episode's antagonist wants tested. He refuses to be the one who flies it and insists on a proper execution. Naturally, she insists he fly it.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: Virdon and, to a lesser extent, Burke, can't seem to keep from trying to help out anyone in need when they cross paths, be they human or ape. Their kindness often pays them off, especially when directed to apes; "The Good Seeds" and "The Cure" in particular showcase this, particularly the latter. Virdon sneaking out of the quarantine zone to treat the malaria-infected gorilla soldier Kava leads to the recovered gorilla showing up just in the nick of time to keep the entire village from being destroyed.
  • Compilation Movie: Five movies were put together from various episodes in the 1980s.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Gorillas (black and purple), chimpanzees (green), orangutans (orange).
  • Deadpan Snarker: Burke.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: In "The Gladiators", Burke refuses to kill Tolar after he defeats him in the ring. Tolar is furious.
  • Determinator: Virdon. He's going to get home, no matter how many idiot balls he needs to carry along the way.
  • Ditto Aliens:
    • In "The Good Seeds", a gorilla officer comments that all humans look alike.
    • In "The Surgeon", the gorilla guard Haman can't describe the human who attacked him, namely Burke, as he thinks that all humans look the same. Urko agrees with him.
    • In "The Deception", Fauna says that all humans looked alike to her when she could see.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The Dragoons, a group of masked apes killing humans, in "The Deception".
  • Downer Ending: At the end of "The Deception", the Dragoons have been dismantled and their leader taken away for trial. However, it seems clear that nobody else will be prosecuted, even though all of them are accessories to the murder of at least one human. Fauna goes on living with her uncle, who admits that he covered up the murder of her father, who's a human sympathizer. And, unusually for this series, Fauna isn't cured of her prejudice against humans at the end. Though Burke inspired her to be more open-minded.
  • Dull Surprise: Most of the apes accept the idea of time-traveling humans with remarkable calm.
  • The Easy Way or the Hard Way: In "The Interrogation", Wanda tells Burke that his interrogation can be either pleasant or unpleasant, depending on his cooperation.
  • Enemy Mine: "The Trap" and "The Tyrant" both have the characters try to do this with Urko. It doesn't really work that well.
  • Expy:
    • Galen (Cornelius).
    • Urko (Ursus and Aldo).
    • Kira, from the episode, "The Surgeon" (Zira).
  • Fantastic Caste System: Lampshaded in "The Tyrant" and "Up Above the World So High". Gorillas do army and police work, chimpanzees are doctors and bureaucrats and the orangutans control upper-level posts in government, education and religion.
  • Fantastic Racism: All apes vs. humans, but also chimpanzees vs. gorillas vs. orangutans.
  • Farm Boy: In "The Good Seeds", it is revealed that Virdon grew up on a farm in Jackson County, Texas. He advises Polar on ways to improve his farm using 20th Century farming techniques. When the cow belonging to Polar's son Anto experiences complications during labour, Virdon is able to save her life and those of her two bull calves. A grateful Anto names them Virdon and Burke.
  • Final Solution: In "The Liberator", Brun intends to use poison gas bombs to wipe out not only the apes in the vicinity of his village Borak but all apes throughout the world in order to free humanity from ape oppression.
  • Food Pills: In "The Trap", Burke shows Urko an advertisement for food pills in a long abandoned and forgotten BART subway station in the ruins of San Francisco. They were seemingly commonplace in his and Virdon's native time of 1980. If a person took three per day, they would not need to eat anything.
  • Future Imperfect: In "The Gladiators", Prefect Barlow collects rediscovered antiquities and shows Galen a golf club which was recently discovered by an archaeological expedition in the vicinity of Kaymak. He notes that its manufacture indicated that the culture that created it had an advanced knowledge of metallurgy but believes that its impractical design meant that it would have made a poor weapon. As he is unaware that humans once ruled the world, Barlow takes it for granted that the club was built and used by apes.
  • Gilligan Cut: In "Up Above the World So High", Galen, refusing to learn how to fly a makeshift glider, declares, "I put my foot down!" Cut to Galen putting his foot down as he learns to fly a makeshift glider.
  • Gladiator Games: In "The Gladiators", Prefect Barlow holds regular gladiatorial games to ensure that the humans of Kaymak have an outlet for their anger and aggression.
  • Happiness in Slavery: Many of the humans accept their inferiority without question. Tolar in "The Gladiators" is fully loyal to his prefect.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Tolar in "The Gladiators".
  • The Heretic: One of Galen's many, many problems.
  • Humans Are Smelly: In "The Good Seeds", Anto says that Virdon and Burke have a smell about them.
  • Hypocrite: Urko apparently hates corruption amongst his officers, as mentioned in "The Tyrant", but at the same time he's willing to force prefects into betting on blatantly unfair horse races and then cheating to win ("The Horse Race"), while it's implied in "The Tyrant" that he cheated during exams in training academy — unlike his friend Aboro, though, he was never caught.
  • Hypocritical Humor: In "The Tyrant", Galen is aghast at the idea that an ape could use bribery to acquire political power, despite the fact he blatantly brings up the fact that his family and Dr. Zaius are old friends in "Escape to Tomorrow" as part of his efforts to secure a job working with him.
  • Joisey: In "Escape from Tomorrow", Burke mentions he grew up in Jersey City, NJ, while he mentions it again in "The Surgeon".
  • Literal-Minded: In "The Interrogation", Urko believes that brainwashing involves removing the brain from the skull and washing it with water.
  • Lost Technology: All of human civilization, basically. In "Escape from Tomorrow", Zaius has some grenades in his office, which serve as mementos of the human capacity for destruction. In "The Surgeon", he also has a number of human books, including a text book on surgical procedures and medicine.
  • Loud of War: In "The Interrogation", Wanda uses the sound of bells and drums in order to disorientate Burke so he will talk.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: In "The Deception", the human-killing Dragoons are malevolent masked chimpanzees and gorillas.
  • Meaningful Name: Galen, who is genuinely intrigued by human history and technological accomplishments, is named after one of the great scientists of antiquity. He passes himself off as a scientist in "The Gladiators".
  • Mighty Whitey: Invoked in that, as time-travellers from before whatever apocalypse left apes in charge of the Earth, Virdon and Pete have knowledge that the apes lack thanks to the Schizo Tech. This is actually a key part of four episodes. Firstly, "The Good Seeds", where they provide several bits of advanced agricultural lore to the ape tenant farmers currently hosting them (how to use a rope to more easily lift hay into a loft, the importance of ploughing around hills to prevent erosion, how to improve future crops by using the biggest corn seed, how to make a rail fence, building a windmill for aided irrigation). In "The Surgeon" Burke teaches two chimpanzee surgeons how to cross-type blood for transfusions. Then in "Tomorrow's Tide", they invent fishing nets for a fishing colony dependent upon spear-fishing. Finally, "The Cure" revolves around their efforts to combat an outbreak of malaria-carrying mosquitoes in a remote village.
  • Monkeys on a Typewriter: Comic inversion in "The Gladiators". Prefect Barlow suggests that if you give "fifty humans" enough paint, they'll ultimately manage to create the apes' own great works of art.
  • Nepotism: In "Escape to Tomorrow", Galen tells Zaius point-blank that he deserves a job because of Zaius' previous connections with his family.
  • Only Sane Man: Burke, as far as he's concerned.
  • Pet the Dog: Prefect Barlow's behavior at the end of both "The Gladiators" and "The Horse Race".
  • Plot Hole: "Escape from Tomorrow" has a dog chasing a man up a tree, while in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, it was stated that all dogs and cats were wiped out by a disease from space which necessitated the humans turning apes into a slave race. Though according to Escape from the Planet of the Apes, the plague wiped out a few cats and dogs while the rest of the species had to be put down to prevent an outbreak. In either case, it's possible a few of them survived.
  • Post-Apocalyptic Dog: Dogs are seen in both "Escape from Tomorrow" and "The Trap".
  • Power Trio: Burke, Virdon, Galen.
  • Prequel: Set over eight centuries before the first film.
  • Propaganda Machine: Even though another set of astronauts landed a decade before the series begins, according to "Escape to Tomorrow", the High Council has successfully turned them into tall tales.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • The paternalistic chimpanzee Prefect Barlow, despite running the titular combat games of "The Gladiators", is quite a reasonable and decent ape.
    • Perdix, the local police chief and a gorilla, in "The Deception".
    • Leander, the chimpanzee chief of staff of the Central City hospital in "The Surgeon". While not the biggest fan of humans, he puts medicine first, which is all that matters in the end. In general, any ape associated with the medical profession is more likely than not to be sympathetic towards the humans (or at least willing to give them a good running start before Urko shows up).
  • Ruins of the Modern Age:
    • In "The Trap", Galen, Virdon and Burke visit the ruins of San Francisco. After an earthquake, Burke and Urko become trapped in a BART subway station.
    • In "The Legacy", Galen, Virdon and Burke discover the ruins of Oakland. The ruined city sets are reused from "The Trap".
  • Schizo Tech: As a result of orangutan meddling, most likely, the technology in the ape-controlled Earth is... all over the place. Particularly beyond the Capital City, residents live in a fundamentally Iron Age setting, but revolver pistols and M-1 carbines are standard armaments for apes.
  • Science Is Bad: Why Zaius is working to keep knowledge about human technology secret. It's implied that the orangutans all tend to support such beliefs.
  • Short Runner: The series only lasted 14 episodes.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In "Escape from Tomorrow", Burke and Virdon find a book showing a picture of New York City that was taken in A.D. 2503. Very close to 2500 which was the year the astronauts in the novel first started their journey, and the first film took place in New York.
    • In "The Interrogation", Burke is almost subjected to a lobotomy. Urko hopes that it will make more docile and more willing to answer questions but Zaius and Wanda fear that the procedure will kill him or render him a vegetable. This is a reference to Planet of the Apes (1968) in which a lobotomy is performed on Taylor's fellow astronaut Landon.
  • Sleep Deprivation Punishment: In "The Interrogation", Wanda deprives Burke of sleep as a form of torture. She believes that this will weaken his mental resolve and make him more likely to name the humans who helped him, Galen and Virdon evade the authorities.
  • Solar-Powered Magnifying Glass: Our heroes deployed this trick in "Up Above the World So High". They needed to delay a flight with a hang glider, so Galen showed off the expander (read: magnifying glass) which he then "accidentally" left in the perfect position to catch the sun and set the glider on fire.
  • Status Quo Is God: Burke and Virdon make zero progress towards their goal.
  • Stock Footage:
  • Theme Naming: Many of the apes have classical names, like Augustus, Galen, and Lucian. This theme is continued from the films.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future:
    • In "Escape to Tomorrow", Burke and Virdon's ship was in the vicinity of Alpha Centauri on August 19, 1980 when it entered a time warp and crashed on the ape ruled Earth in 3085.
    • In "The Interrogation", the recently rediscovered book on brainwashing that Wanda uses in her interrogation of Burke was published in 1986.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The computer disc played a major role in the first two episodes, "Escape from Tomorrow" and "The Gladiators", but was never seen nor mentioned again after that.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: In "The Cure", instead of being deferential to Virdon as usual, Galen sharply dresses him down twice: first for opening up to a village girl about their real origins, then for having a guilt complex about a possible plague epidemic.