Planet of the Apes

Planet of the Apes

Synopsis of TV Show

The summer of ’73 was a dark time for Planet of the Apes fans. Yes, 20th Century Fox had just treated us to Battle for the Planet of the Apes in theaters, but there was a problem. After five films, the series had looped in on itself. The cycle was complete. It looked like the Apes were done.

But then came the happy announcement: a Planet of the Apes TV series, set to arrive in time for the 1974 fall season. A five-film re-release in the summer of ’74 got the primate blood pumping again, and in September, Planet of the Apes hit the small screen.

The problem of that closed loop remained, but the show’s creators kind of sidestepped it by bringing a totally new pair of astronauts to visit the title planet. Americans Alan Virdon and Pete Burke slipped into a time warp in the not-too-distant future and ended up in the very distant future—about 2,000 years forward in time. In this bizarre new world, apes were the ruling class, and humans were their unwilling slaves.

As in the original film, the astronauts found a friendly ape-face among the crowd, this time in the form of the chimp Galen (played by Apes series veteran Roddy McDowall). Unfortunately for our man-creatures, Galen was about the only ape on their side. Ape leader Zaius saw the strangers as a threat to ape society and wanted them lobotomized, while the brutal gorilla Urko simply wanted them dead. Virdon, Burke and Galen fled Zaius and Urko’s pursuit, trying each week to unlock the secret of the Planet of the Apes and find a way home.

As a TV series, Planet of the Apes was short-lived, lasting only thirteen episodes on CBS. But despite the lack of commercial success, Apes fans embraced the TV adaptation. The show became a cult favorite, episodes were recut into TV movies like Back to the Planet of the Apes and Farewell to the Planet of the Apes, and the Apes were given one more TV try with the Saturday morning cartoon Return to the Planet of the Apes. The cartoon version was another one-season wonder, but with a new Planet of the Apes movie due out in 2001, the Apes may end up winning after all. Humans, watch your hairless backs…

Release History of Prime Time Show

9/13/74 - 12/27/74 - CBS

TV Sub Categories


Television Network


Television Studio

20th Century Fox Television

TV Cast

Galen Roddy McDowall
Alan Virdon Ron Harper
Pete Burke James Naughton
Zaius Booth Colman
Urko Mark Lenard

Other Prime Time Links