Tag Archives: terry lester

Ark II 1.15 – Orkus

In the final episode of Ark II, the writers once again tackled a familiar ’70s sci-fi trope: the mysterious community of immortals. This time, the group is led by TV vet Geoffrey Lewis, who IMDB tells us racked up an amazing 222 credits before his death last year, his longest-running role being the bartender on CBS’s Flo in the early ’80s. We’ll see him again in this blog a few times in the future.

This was a very surprising episode; in fact the show as a whole surprised me several times. It’s a much better program than I ever knew, despite its considerable budget limitations. This time, just a basic familiarity with this trope ensures that the grown-ups watching will know that Orkus and his gang of selfish five hundred year-olds are up to no good, but not really sure exactly what they’re after and why. It’s a very well-directed and creepy little episode, and Daniel really enjoyed the destruction of Orkus’s zero-budget “controller.” He liked the show a lot, and is a little bummed that we’ve reached the end.

CBS didn’t renew any of the three live-action Filmation shows from the 1976 season, although their cartoon Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle was a hit and returned with new episodes for a few years. Ark II was repeated on Sunday mornings after this before mostly vanishing. Jean Marie Hon and Jose Flores worked here and there into the mid-eighties before leaving the business. Terry Lester became a regular on The Young and the Restless and, later, Santa Barbara before passing away in 2003.

One final note: If anybody checks out the DVD set from BCI/Entertainment Rights, whether at crazy aftermarket prices or if you find a good deal on it somewhere, there is a mostly terrific half-hour documentary on it with some great contributions by Jean Marie Hon Trager, now a pharmacist, and several people on the show’s staff. I do take some umbrage at the claim made – twice – that Saturday mornings were all about cartoons until this show came along. Some of the contributors treated this series as though it was the mammoth hit that changed everything and launched the idea of live-action adventure shows for kids. As I hope this blog has demonstrated, that’s really, really far from the truth!

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under ark II, filmation

Ark II 1.14 – Don Quixote

I have to say, I really prefer the episodes of Ark II that are built around the popular sci-fi tropes of the time, like evil supercomputers or telepathic teens, than the ones that do another version of some old bit of folklore, like Robin Hood or Don Quixote.

Don Quixote was played by Robert Ridgely, who worked principally as a voice artist. Among many, many other credits, he took the lead role in Filmation’s Tarzan, which started the next season and ran for a few years. The omnipresent Vito Scotti played Sancho Panza. Scotti was in everything back then, and he’s much more watchable than this script. Looking ahead, I notice that we’ll be seeing Scotti again for the blog in a month or so.

Leave a comment

Filed under ark II, filmation

Ark II 1.13 – The Cryogenic Man

I’m again impressed by the guest casting on this show, with actors you wouldn’t expect would show up on a kids’ sci-fi series. This time, it’s Jim Backus and John Fielder. Both men played dozens of roles in the seventies. Fielder, apart from everything else he did, was a regular patient on The Bob Newhart Show and had a recurring part as Gordy in Kolchak: The Night Stalker, but he’s probably best known as the voice of Piglet for Disney. Backus had also been in everything, and had worked for Filmation before on an episode of The Ghost Busters the previous season.

In this episode, they play men from the distant past of the 1980s who had been cryogenically frozen. Backus is, of course, the rich guy and Fielder his subordinate. Backus is unethical, doesn’t understand ecology, and thinks the Ark II crew are a bunch of bureaucrats.

2 Comments

Filed under ark II, filmation

Ark II 1.11 – Omega

I was all set to point out that a young Helen Hunt is the main guest star of this episode, and then the show pulled the rug out from under us and presented this big plot twist. The village in trouble this week is ruled by someone called Omega, and Omega turns out to be one of those evil supercomputers that were omnipresent from the late ’60s through the mid-’80s.

To modern adult eyes, it’s ridiculous, of course. You’ve got more power in your hip pocket than one of these things that can only be transported in an eighteen-wheeler. But it’s actually a pretty good example of the genre, as befits the Star Trek-lite nature of the show, since I think Trek had about six or seven evil supercomputers on that show. I actually really like the impractical and silly design of Omega. The grid in front is actually the shutoff circuit, which Jonah has to move across in a series of chess moves, and sure, this would be indefensibly ridiculous if it weren’t such a dramatic success.

And it absolutely was a success, because this had our son on the edge of his seat, extremely worried about Jonah and Samuel. Omega has mental powers as well, of course, because all evil supercomputers do. This was an extremely tense situation for him, and he handled it like a champ.

And yes, Helen Hunt is in it. She was about thirteen years old at the time.

Leave a comment

Filed under ark II, filmation

Ark II 1.10 – The Robot

In 2008, M. Night Shyamalan made a silly movie called The Happening about a gas that puts people into trances and makes them sleepwalk their way into certain death. Darned if the same sort of gas isn’t at play in this episode. Two people are in the process of walking straight off a cliff before our heroes jump them. And Len Janson and Chuck Menville’s story is much, much better than the later horror movie.

But nobody remembers this episode for that odd coincidence; if people remember it at all, it’s because Robby the Robot is in it. This was Daniel’s first time seeing the iconic costume, which was used as a prop in some show or other about twice a year for two decades. There’s a “do not be afraid, little girl, I will not harm you” scene that had him grumbling and hiding under his blanket for a minute, but otherwise he thought the robot was “pretty cool.”

I wonder how many Robby suits there were in the seventies. I guess every production company’s prop guy knew who to call if they needed a big robot suit; the costume had the same effect with some people in the audience as a beloved celebrity making a cute guest appearance. I remember when my dad was watching Wonder Woman with me when Robby showed up once, and he was really pleased to see him. Dad was one of the teenagers in 1956 who had made Forbidden Planet a hit in the first place.

Leave a comment

Filed under ark II, filmation

Ark II 1.9 – The Wild Boy

Resuming our visit to the 25th Century, we pick back up with the cast of Ark II with another Star Trek-lite outing that has a feral kid played by Mitch Vogel and some mysterious glowing rocks that pose a threat to everybody. We saw Vogel a couple of months ago in an episode of Isis that aired the previous season.

And speaking of seasons, we’ve now synched up our viewing so that we’re watching all three of Filmation’s live action shows that aired during the 1976-77 season on CBS. Unfortunately for the company and the network, the lineup was not a success. As I mentioned previously, writing about the final episode of Land of the Lost, ABC completely dominated Saturday mornings that season with Scooby Doo, Dynomutt, and The Krofft Supershow. NBC was a very, very distant third and CBS somewhere in between.

Watching them all together, Ark II is by leagues the best of the three, and it’s weird just how much better the special effects are. It’s tough to explain how, but it really looks like the flying effects in the superhero shows, which were never all that great in the first place, took a quantum leap backward. Meanwhile this show uses primitive-but-effective lasers and color negatives and simply looks like it just swallowed the budget of its predecessors. And while the stories are certainly not edge-of-your-seat thrilling, they are much more thoughtful and interesting than what I expected, and our son really is enjoying installments like tonight’s.

Leave a comment

Filed under ark II, filmation

Ark II 1.8 – The Drought

Here’s another surprise. Jonathan Harris also makes a return appearance as Fagin, whom we met in the first episode. Daniel was briefly alarmed by this episode; it has a primitive tribe run by a witch doctor worshiping a cloudbusting rainmaker device. The goofy ceremonial mask, and threats to send our heroes into a cave of no return, gave him some brief chills, but he got through just fine.

Harris’s portrayal of Fagin as a dirty-faced and disheveled yokel with a comedy “rural” voice reminds me of Jon Pertwee’s Worzel Gummidge, and that certainly takes me back to the old days of tape trading. In an earlier installment, I’d mentioned that Ark II had been the subject of some serious disinformation because of magazines and books that spewed out a lot of baloney and lies. This made me really curious about the show, which I only occasionally saw on Sunday mornings. In the late seventies, CBS briefly programmed some of their older Saturday morning shows really early on Sundays, where we could be counted on to watch them while playing with Mego dolls and Hot Wheels cars, because the only other things actually on at that hour in Atlanta were old men in suits behind podiums.

So as we moved into the nineties and nobody had published any clear information on exactly how many episodes of this show there were, I was also big into VHS tape trading, and I’d like to think, inasmuch as there are good guys and bad guys in this copyright-avoiding world, I was one of the good guys. If I worked out a deal with somebody and needed to get them four tapes worth of stuff, I’d go buy four new TDK E-HG tapes, copy on SP using the gold connector cables, write down the contents on a little card inside each tape, and mail them promptly in padded envelopes.

But a good friend of mine was friends with this one guy in North Carolina, and that guy knew another guy who had lots and lots of absurdly rare stuff on tape, like Worzel Gummidge. Most of the details are long forgotten, but dealing with the guy was an unbelievable headache. As befits somebody who didn’t care how watchable or not his collection was, I’d get tapes from this guy which were clearly recycled. Whatever he sent was recorded on EP on an old BASF tape crammed in a Panasonic box, and either he’d hand-write the labels, crossing out what was written on them already, or not include any identifiers and force me to guess. But because the guy was the only source I could find for some of this old stuff like Worzel Gummidge, I just kept biting my lips and dealing with it for the better part of a year. I’d ask for four episodes of Worzel on SP, and he’d send four episodes on EP, plus eight episodes of some show I’d never heard of before.

After a couple of swaps, he actually sent me three tapes of stuff that I did not even ask for or want, and had the cheek to request some stuff from me in exchange. That was pretty much the limit, and I let him know I wasn’t interested in further swaps.

The very next letter he sent me, he wrote that he had just got in four episodes of Ark II, and that he knew from my wants list that I wanted some, and could we work out a trade? The answer would be no. Flatly and firmly, no. I’d rather go without seeing the show than deal with any more of his nonsense.

About sixteen years later, those BCI/Entertainment Rights people put the fifteen episodes of the show out on DVD in a package called Sci-Fi Box Set along with all fifteen episodes of Space Academy and all twenty-eight episodes of Jason of Star Command. I picked that up for seven dollars at a Half-Price Books in Kentucky, and I didn’t have to deal with the guy to get them.

We don’t plan to watch Worzel Gummidge for the blog, as the available DVDs are said to be of very poor quality and I’d rather not pay for them. I hope somebody remasters and reissues it soon, because it’s a charming and ridiculous show, terrific for under-tens. And we’ll be taking a short break from Ark II for a couple of weeks but should be back in the future before the end of September. Stay tuned for more from this century!

4 Comments

Filed under ark II, filmation

Ark II 1.6 – The Mind Group

This was a nice surprise. I wasn’t expecting recurring enemies in Ark II, but here’s Malachi Throne again making a return appearance as Warlord Brack.

Psychic powers and ESP were really popular in the seventies. This story is about three telepathic and telekinetic children who have been captured by Brack. With this diverse group of longhaired kids telepathically talking to each other, it’s impossible to watch this without thinking of The Tomorrow People, which was being made at the same time in England. None of them bend spoons like Uri Geller, but the oldest one does move the Ark II across a field with the power of his mind, which seemed to impress our son somewhat.

It is kind of interesting that the “magic” powers displayed by the villain two episodes ago were exposed as a fraud, but psychic powers are not. It was the seventies, man. We’re just lucky they didn’t end up in the Bermuda Triangle like so many other lost souls in that decade.

Leave a comment

Filed under ark II, filmation