Reviews & Columns
International DVDs
In Theaters
Reviews by Studio
Video Games

Collector Series DVDs
Easter Egg Database
DVD Talk Radio
Feature Articles

Anime Talk
DVD Savant
Horror DVDs
The M.O.D. Squad
Art House
HD Talk
Silent DVD

discussion forum
DVD Talk Forum

DVD Price Search
Customer Service #'s
RCE Info


Planet of the Apes TV series

Fox // Unrated // November 20, 2001
List Price: $49.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted November 25, 2001 | E-mail the Author
I'll admit that until the DVD boxed set came out, I didn't even know that there had been a TV series based on Planet of the Apes. In fact, I had only recently seen the first Planet of the Apes movie. Fans of the TV series may want to skip down and check out the video and audio ratings for Fox's DVD edition; for people who haven't seen the show before, or whose memories of it are fuzzy from the passage of nearly thirty years since its broadcast run, the question that the rest of this section will address is: is the Planet of the Apes TV show worth watching now?

My report is that it's actually quite fun, in a light, low-budget kind of way. The premise of the show, which appears to take place after the first movie, is that two astronauts from the year 1980 are caught in a "time warp" and end up (you guessed it!) far in the future, when apes dominate the planet and humans are an oppressed minority.

The first episode is the weakest of the bunch, because it has to carry the burden of setting the stage for the series, and in doing so, it invites direct comparison to the movie. The comparison is rather unflattering, since there are several things that the show doesn't carry off as well as the film. For one thing, the position of the humans in ape society has been watered down. While in the film they were considered mute, unreasoning animals who were hunted and killed indiscriminately, even stuffed for exhibition, in the show the humans can talk and are treated more like servants than animals, with a quality of life not far below that of the apes. They're second-class citizens, to be sure, but the drastic difference between humans and apes of the movie is gone, and with it, some of the dramatic tension. Similarly, the religion of the apes, which provided the movie with the opportunity for some biting social criticism, has been taken out, leaving the apes with mostly political or psychological reasons for viewing the astronauts as a threat. And the realistic use of time dilation in the movie has been replaced by the utterly implausible "time warp," thus missing out on the opportunity to use a bit of real science (however small!) in the science fiction.

Fortunately, subsequent episodes are much better than the first one. Once the story is free of the necessity of following the pattern of the movie, what we get is an entertaining adventure story in a far-future setting. The ape characters are handled quite well, being shown as individuals just like the humans, with individual differences in beliefs. While one contingent of the apes is dead-set on exterminating the astronauts, others are ambivalent about, indifferent to, or even supportive of the renegade humans. So the plot isn't just "the apes chase the humans," but "a specific political group of apes with a particular agenda persecutes the astronauts": which is both more believable and more interesting.

The episodes follow a typical adventure-story pattern, with the heroes getting into a scrape or having to solve a problem in each episode, as they try to work toward their larger goal of escape. What makes the episodes fun is that the heroes are really quite creative in the way that they get out of their predicaments. Instead of the standard ho-hum fare of shoot-outs and chases, we get solutions that use engineering, problem-solving, and cooperation, to use some examples from the first few episodes.

I also found it interesting, and pleasing, that the show is remarkably strong on non-violence. The heroes espouse principles of cooperation and peaceful coexistence between humans and apes, and, more importantly, put these principles into practice. While in the course of their adventures the astronauts do tend to get into plenty of fistfights, the worst consequences are a few bruises, and if they get the best of their enemies in a fight, they'll tie them up and leave them rather than killing them. Frankly, it's a pleasant experience to watch a show that doesn't treat death as a matter of course.

Ron Harper and James Naughton, the actors who portray the astronauts, were unfamiliar faces to me, but there are some better-known actors beneath the ape makeup. Roddy McDowall appears as Galen, the chimpanzee who befriends the humans. Additionally, their persecutor General Urko is played by Mark Lenard, who is notable for having played a variety of alien races in several Star Trek series and movies, including a Klingon, a Romulan, and the Vulcan Sarek, Spock's father.


Considering that it's a TV series from 1974, the transfer of the Planet of the Apes show is reasonably good, but not nearly as good as could be hoped for. During daylight scenes, the colors are bright and vivid, and the image is clear and reasonably sharp. Darker scenes show occasional grain, and the contrast is less than ideal in both brightly- and dimly-lit scenes. The main problem with the image quality is in the print itself: there are many noticeable print flaws, including scratches, flecks, and speckles, which appear constantly throughout the episodes. The transfer is also a bit irregular in terms of noise: there's none at all in most scenes, but other scenes do show some noise.

All in all, the transfer is watchable, and is even quite good at times... just not consistently so. The episodes appear in the original 1.33:1 ratio.


Planet of the Apes is presented in a reasonably satisfactory mono track that gets the job done. The sound has a very slight muffled quality to it, but the dialogue is still clear. When voices are raised, the sound does get a bit harsher, but it remains within acceptable limits.


Fox's packaging for this set is excellent, and I hope that it starts a trend. The series consists of fourteen episodes on four discs: four episodes each on the first three discs, and two on the last disc. The discs are packaged in an extra-wide plastic keepcase, which is about twice as wide as Fox's typical two-disc sets like Die Hard or Cleopatra. Each disc rests on its own spindle in the case, which protects the discs well and is easier to access than a fold-out cardboard case. The cover art is attractive as well, making for a satisfying package.

The menus are attractive, with artwork themed to the show, and are easy to navigate. Admittedly, the chapter stops are oddly placed, and generally don't coincide with the "commercial breaks" in the episodes, but the scene-selection index has thumbnail images and is easy to use.

The only real "special features" are two trailers on the fourth disc. We get a trailer for the new Tim Burton remake of Planet of the Apes, and a "combined" trailer for the Planet of the Apes boxed set of the original movies.

Final thoughts

Planet of the Apes isn't going to go into any books as one of the great TV series of all time, but it's fun, light entertainment for fans as well as non-fans. While I do wish that the print didn't have so many flaws in it, the quality of the DVD transfer is acceptable, and kudos should go to Fox for releasing the series as a single boxed set at a reasonable price.
Buy from







E - M A I L
this review to a friend
Popular Reviews

Sponsored Links
Sponsored Links