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Return To The Planet Of The Apes Season 1 Episode 1

Return to the Planet of the Apes is an animated series that spins off of the first two movies and ignores the latter three, sort of. We start with the familiar setup. A space capsule from Earth travels through time. This time the 3 astronauts are not in any kind of suspended animation or anything. They are awake and travelling through time due to the speed of their craft. They appear to hit some sort of phenomenon which shoots them much further ahead than they had been travelling before, about 2,000 years. They crash in the ocean and travel through the desert looking for food. Along the way a mysterious fire springs up and destroys their supplies. Then an earthquake hits and the female astronaut, Judy, is swallowed by the earth. The two remaining astronauts, Jeff and Bill, travel on and find the ape version of Mount Rushmore. They also discover a cave occupied by humans before passing out. 

The humans rescue the two time travelers and nurse them back to health. They discover that a female, Nova from the first two movies, has a set of dog tags around her neck. The dog tags are from the astronaut Brent from the second movie, who left Earth a couple of hundred years after Bill and Jeff. The apes show up to capture some humans after having a debate about whether or not to eradicate them. It had been decided not to kill them off yet, but to capture them, for sport and to use as slaves and pets and scientific study. It is made clear though that if it is ever discovered that humans can speak they will be destroyed. Jeff and Nova manage to get away, but Bill gets captured by the apes.

This show should have been a bigger hit. In some ways it is pretty standard 70's animation. The opening sequence with poppy jazz playing over a montage of still shots is similar to a dozen or more shows. If you watched any cartoons from the era from the Superfriends to the Laffalympics the voice cast is going to sound familiar. The animations uses a lot of still shots with lighting effects to convey what is happening, along with lots of figures animated in silhouette, but it's pretty effective in getting across what's happening and shows a surprising amount of confidence in the audience to be able to figure things out without being told.

There are some big differences from even the two movies that the show seems to use as canon. Charlton Heston's character isn't even referenced, though this may change in later episodes. The apes are much more technologically advanced here, driving jeeps and tanks and having a city with Roman looking architecture instead of adobe huts. Probably the biggest deviation from the movies is that at the end of the second movie Charlton Heston uses an old nuclear bomb to destroy the planet. This planet is definitely not destroyed. The show has an actual storyline that runs through the episodes, which is unheard of for a cartoon at that time. The animation and storytelling are no worse than any other cartoon or even live action show of the period, and in my opinion is somewhat better than most. I can't help but wonder if the reason for it's failure is that a post Star Wars generation wasn't interested in a show based on a decade old sci-fi movie. It's a shame, whatever the reason, because this show is pretty good so far. I'm looking forward to enjoying the next 12 episodes. 


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