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I have only ever watched the first Planet Of The Apes movie starring the now gun-toting president of the NRA, Charleton Heston. From this standpoint, I acknowledge the importance of this seminal celluloid production with its multi-layered observations on bigotry and geological destruction to name but two. But I've chosen not to view the four movie sequels (yet) simply from the cringe-factor I endured when seeing the trailers, which would otherwise change my perception of the first movie's credibility to become just as damaged as what I experienced when seeing Blues Brothers 2000. Tim Burton's remake of POTA in 2001 (ironic year given the scale of Arthur C Clarke's work) is not nearly as bad as some purists slag it off to be. But again the storyline, if not the message itself, seems to get bogged down in exchange for some mind-blowing special effects work. When all is said and done though, what are the odds that humans, let alone Apes, will be speaking perfect English in the next millennium?

Planet Of The Apes: Complete TV Series
I had never seen the television series before as I was only just out of diapers at the time and there was little desire to search it out in the weekly video section later on. Now that this landmark mini-series has finally arrived on DVD I can view it with untainted eyes, even though the fashions of the day do little to smother the smirk factor within me. Whilst the production values are seriously diminished in that "plywood and desk lamp lighting" way in the cheapest of cheap TV shows, I still feel that the social message from the original movie lives on. The concept of one race (slash species) ruling over another, if not a country's own, through fear still has relevance today. One other such issue is when strongly-held beliefs are held by narrow-minded individuals that, when challenged, make them ignorant of any other possibilities even when the solution is evident from an alternative way of thinking.

One thing in particular that struck me with this show was the symmetry of today's knee-jerk reactionary policies carried through a thousand years from now. An example of this kind of extremity is where the Ape Head Council suppresses all knowledge of Man's destructive tendencies so that their descendants will not follow along the same path. The original intention of this course of action would initially be seen as a noble one since they only want to avoid the mistakes of the past, but if no one is privy to the real reason behind it then this would be regarded as something more sinister. But as we all know in today's world, the motives for hiding certain truths is indeed a lot less sincere than the apparent good-will gesture that is usually purported by the governing body. The populous as a result will either keep on believing these half-truths or hopefully start to question the accuracies of such historical acumen.

Spread over four DVDs in a nicely presented double-sized box cover, all fourteen episodes from the entire television series are here for you to enjoy. Here is the synopsis of each:

Disc 1
01. Escape From Tomorrow
Following from the events set in the first movie, astronauts Virdon (Ron Harper) and Burke (James Naughton) crash-land a thousand years into the future to find that Earth has been overtaken by an evolutionary race of apes. The well-meaning prefect Counsellor Zaius (Booth Colman) of Central City tells these humans that others previous to them were discovered, arrested and sentenced to death just as they soon will be. However, the ever-questioning ape named Galen (Roddy McDowall) helps save their lives so that they can attempt to return to their own time using the data recorded on their now defunct spaceship. The hateful ape General Urko (Mark Lenard) is now hot on their trail.

02. The Gladiators
The three fugitives find a village where humans fight each other in Gladiator events, run by the local ape population of course. Each is a battle to the death, but they soon turn this town's values into disarray when one does not kill another prized contestant. The astronauts are soon forced to fight each other.

03. The Trap
To read the data collected from their spaceship, the trio head for a forbidden ancient city that has earthquakes a-plenty and possibly a working computer. Burke and Urko (Bert and Ernie?) find themselves trapped as another earthquake hits home, whilst Virdon and Galen seek an amnesty with the other Ape soldiers to save each of their companions.

Planet Of The Apes: Complete TV Series
04. The Good Seeds
Galen does the typical 70s "trip and break ankle" routine, so the three friends approach a farm owned by an ape family. The astronauts teach them about the lost art of 20th century farming that in turn helps to boost their already fledging efficiency of resources, but the eldest son believes that their time-honoured traditions are being ignored simply in the name of greater output of yield.

Disc 2
05. The Legacy
Another village is discovered where the humans live like bums of the 20th century as they fight for what little scraps of food they can find on the street. The fugitives learn of a mythical spaceship that alleges to hold all recorded human knowledge, however Virdon is seized by the pursuing Urko and Zaius. Unfortunately, Galen and Burke must choose between saving this valuable information or their friend.

06. Tomorrow's Tide
The terrific trio help rescue an elderly man found on a raft washed up on shore. It is soon discovered that he comes from a village where the apes use humans as slaves to fish out at sea. But to avoid execution the astronauts must use their knowledge of a once-relaxing pastime to convince the ruling apes that they are the best at this craft.

07. The Surgeon
Virdon suffers a gunshot wound and they find themselves returning to Central City to seek out Galen's former flame who is also a surgeon. Galen gets himself into even hotter water by playing the role of a surgeon himself so that he can help Virdon be healed.

08. The Deception
In the tradition of To Kill A Mockingbird, humans are vilified by the ruling apes simply from the lack of hair on their bodies. However when an ape is allegedly murdered by a human, the society goes into "Rodney King Trial" mode, but not all is at it seems at first.

Disc 3
09. The Horse Race
Galen is stung by a scorpion. In order to save his life the son of a local human blacksmith retrieves the much-needed anti-venom, however he must ride a horse to the town to do this in the quickest time possible. The local laws state that this unauthorised to everyone except the ape constabulary, the sentence of such an outrageous crime is death. But the allure of money is still prevalent even today, so Virdon decides to partake in a fixed horse race to hopefully outwit the locals at their own game.

10. The Interrogation
At last, Burke has the honour of being detained by their pursuers, but this time he is to be tortured by his captors for information regarding brainwashing (which one Ape takes literally). Meanwhile, Galen and Virdon attempt to enter into Central City Judge Dredd style and seek the help of Galen's now-dishonoured father since his son first escaped with the humans.

Planet Of The Apes: Complete TV Series
11. The Tyrant
In the tradition of Sheriff Nottingham, the gorilla (guerrilla?) faction taxes the human population out of everything they own until there is no food or provisions left for them. Galen feels that he can talk to the local prefect that he once knew long ago to bear an amicable and peaceful settlement to this turmoil; however his act of selflessness makes things much more difficult for the astronauts.

12. The Cure
The three fugitives decide to take refuge with a family near a village where a plague has broken out, however there is no known cure. As Virdon develops an emotional bond with one of their daughters, they decide to break the quarantine and offer to help. The astronauts possess only limited medicinal knowledge, but are seen by some of the Apes as evil.

Disc 4
13. The Liberator
As occurs in Indiana Jones and The Temple Of Doom, a dishevelled and poorly looking human falls into the arms of the fugitives. They soon learn of a village that has enslaved the human population to work in the local mines and along the way offer the occasional sacrifice to their gods.

14. Up Above The World So High
The fugitives come across a relatively intelligent and inventive human who happens to have built a glider among other things. But since the apes have made themselves the rulers of this otherwise primitive existence, they threaten to kill him lest he makes the other humans realise that they may be smarter than their peers. But one of the domineering female apes seeks his scientific mind to learn more about the magical gift of flying, whilst Galen begins to fall in love with this female. It is soon discovered where her real motivations lie as they learn of another raging battle between the chimpanzees and gorillas.

When the credits roll on the first episode it is one of the apes that gets the first mention, which allegedly means that the astronauts are secondary to these stories. Also, looking at the number of directors involved in this fourteen-part mini-series, either the producers wanted a variety of talent to helm the chair or maybe everyone one of these guys felt that it wasn't worth their while to do any more than two of them. At least these episodes weren't as exploited as the (action) movie sequels became, which helps to deliver the moral message home to its TV audience (and drama is always cheaper than action, isn't it?). Also, the spaceship in the pilot episode is the same one that was seen in the first movie.

This is nothing to write home about and the only major improvement on what was broadcast back in 1974 would probably be the relative lack of NTSC-type video blooming of the analogue days. That said, this PAL rendering is obviously from an NTSC source with the typical judder inherent between alternate field lines. Any other faults remaining on this DVD incarnation are plainly the result of the film negatives rather than from the digital compression. In fact the DVD producers have had their work cut out for them on this now thirty year old production to retain as uniform a look to the (de-saturated) colour schemes and image as possible, although some inconsistencies are eventually unavoidable. The quality improves with each episode but you can always expect many film-related problems to crop up every couple of minutes or so.

Planet Of The Apes: Complete TV Series
There are film artefacts littering the landscape here especially in the genuine outdoor locations, although the indoor studio shots usually exhibit much less of this annoying crud. The studio built outdoor sets in particular look very much like reject settings from Gilligan's Island at times and are quite flat in appearance without any of the proper sunlight sourcing. A strict standard of black levels has been adhered to even when the shadow detail inevitably suffers from the poorly chosen lighting conditions during filming. This is actually much preferred than having to suffer with a poorly rendered greyed-out image even when some of the much needed detail on the darker Apes' faces is sorely missed. This problem doesn't occur to often though, so for the most part you are able to enjoy the many facial and bodily expressions emanated by the already accustomed cast in their Ape costumes and make-up.

The focus of these images range from surprisingly detailed to shooting through ten layers of pantyhose. The studio sequences are obviously the sharpest with the master shots and especially the close-ups benefiting from the skilled focus-pullers of the day. Outdoor scenarios are the next on this evolutionary ladder with finer detail such as trees suffering the most with only a slight but still prevalent MPEG blockiness in the leaves etc. Then there are the bridging landscape shots that show off the Ape villages and other such locales with an inexplicable blurry quality to them. Low-level video noise is virtually non-existent although the grain tends to show up especially in the night time (or studio low-lit) environments.

Finally the colours differ from outstanding to quite blasé depending on the particular location being shot. However there are some sequences where the skin tones for example can alter drastically when cutting between each angle and thence returning back to the supposedly same stretch of film. This can be annoying at times when you have tuned into one colour scheme only to be confronted by an off-putting variant of it in the next shot, but this doesn't happen too often.

I won't have to be nearly as descriptive here in evaluating the original English, French and Italian mono soundtracks on offer. Being a primarily dialogue driven movie, this is the most important aspect of conveying information and it is suitably satisfactory throughout. The English voices are mostly that of its on-location recordings whilst the French and Italian are obviously re-dubbed later in the studio. The quality of all parts of this mix from voice, music and sound effects is the absolute bare minimum expected for something of this age and production scale.

There is a continuously "scratchy" feel to the sound that is no doubt the same as that heard when first broadcast on television. The relatively undemanding tinny speakers hidden inside that idiot box of old are now faithfully reproduced on your relatively expensive home theatre setup. No surround or subwoofer usage was detected (or expected), so you can save yourself a few cents on your next electricity bill.

You'd be surprised to learn that there are only two movie Trailers available on these four DVDs? Actually, I expected to see nothing here. Jokes aside, there is a newly created trailer mixing elements of all the five original movies (which again contains the dreaded "spoiler" as was seen on the first DVD release cover) and another one for Tim Burton's remake, but nothing in the way of this TV series. There is also a Booklet that, again, is a missed opportunity as it only shows chapter stops and a couple of notable credits for each episode. The only interesting factoid to come out of this eight-page leaflet is that the thirteenth episode was never aired during the original run - can't say I'm thrown back by this bit of trivia. Oh, and a personal observation reveals all but three episodes contain the word "The", Hehe.

Planet Of The Apes: Complete TV Series
I don't know if there was any behind-the-scenes material filmed for this short-lived television production. However, there probably wouldn't be many of its original cast and crew left alive who would have much to say in regards to a retrospective look back at their experiences (even if the fans demanded it).

Unlike the post baby-boomers generation who grew up with the original Star Trek series, I can't see too many other people clambering to experience a piece of sci-fi nostalgia such as Planet Of The Apes. But the very attractive DVD discs and packaging might be enough to sway those who would like discover a hidden gem amongst the crud like Dragonball Z - don't flame me about my opinion of this show, I had to get psychological counselling after having satisfied my curiosity of it recently.

If you are like many of my friends you would hardly be interested in supplemental material, so this DVD box set would fit the bill perfectly. Then again, they wouldn't be all that interested in watching a television series of Planet Of The Apes anyway. At least give this one a rental so that you may experience more of the legacy that the original movie had inspired. Heck, I might even give the sequels a go if I'm drunk enough when next visiting my local video rental store.