Ark II 1.3 – The Tank

Another big name guest star – for the time this was made – shows up in this episode of Ark II. Leading the band of farmers who hate machinery is an older man played by Marshall Thompson. He had starred in the film Clarence the Cross-Eyed Lion and its TV spinoff, Daktari, which aired for four seasons on CBS. We also noticed Christopher Stafford Nelson, who had earlier played one of the teens-in-trouble from the first season of Shazam!.

Since this was kind of a slow runaround of a story, I’d like to note how, once upon a time, information about Ark II was almost comically scarce. It was a show that VHS tape traders like I was in the 1980s were curious to see, but nobody had copies of it and, more importantly, nobody had any solid information about it.

Looking back from today’s world, this was a laughable situation. Today, not only can you easily order a DVD with all fifteen episodes – although, as it’s out of print, it won’t be cheap – but you can learn there are fifteen episodes. Wikipedia and IMDB have that covered, although the actual airdates remain in question, as is frequently the case for 1970s Saturday morning shows. But in the late 1980s, even knowing that there were fifteen episodes was difficult.

In the days before Wikipedia and IMDB, there were two primary sources for information about old shows with a small audience like this: terrible magazines printed on cheap newsprint, and terrible books published by McFarland & Company, which never seemed to employ editors. (As I mentioned last year, McFarland & Company once released a book which contained a listing for a totally fake TV show.)

So throughout the 1980s, people were self- or vanity- or McFarland-publishing magazines and books called The Best of Sci-Fi TV or The Complete Guide to Saturday Morning Programming in the 1970s or The Absolutely Complete Guide to Everything That Was Ever on TV, 1974-76, Honestly, Formatted on my Mom’s Typewriter, and you also had people putting out program guides for SF conventions – the best-remembered of these was the 1986 Baycon Viewer’s Guide to Japanese Animation which was written and compiled by Toren Smith and photocopied by a thousand people – and, lastly, you had people trying their hand at desktop publishing to make their tape trading lists look more professional. In that case, I often saw traders formatting their lists like this:

STAR TREK (79 episodes, CBS 1966-69)
…followed by a list of all 79 they had, plus an alternate version of the pilot, and blooper reel, and so on. Then at the back, they’d have their want list, and it would say:

ARK II (24 episodes, CBS 1976-77)
…but that couldn’t be right, because somebody else’s magazine said there were only thirteen episodes.

Then you’d check some book and it would claim there were 66 episodes of Ark II and it ran from 1976-79. So you’d actually mail the dude a letter to ask about it and he’d write back a month later to say that they made 22 episodes for each of three seasons: one on Saturday morning and two on Sunday morning. That made sense. I did remember that CBS continued to air it on Sundays. Of course, it turned out that the Sunday screenings were all repeats, but I didn’t learn that until long after some other book – definitely a McFarland – saw that one dude’s claim of 66 episodes and raised it to 88, to which I replied “How in the sam hill are there more episodes of Ark II than there are of Star Trek?!”

For a few years, my trade lists’s want section had the following entry:

ARK II (CBS, 1970s, 13/15/22/24/66/88 episodes, any wanted)

One day down the line, I finally got the opportunity to trade for some Ark II and did not bite. More on that another day.

Note: I’m absolutely certain that McFarland & Company, today, publishes only the finest and most accurate books, and none of them claim that Filmation made 88 episodes of something when they only made fifteen, and nor do they claim that Sid and Marty Krofft made a show called Cha-Ka and Wolf Boy when they did not.

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