Tuesday, November 7, 2006

ARK II – THE COMPLETE SERIES

BCI Eclipse, having had some success with Filmation’s animated offerings, is starting to dip into the studio’s live action Saturday morning fare, beginning with the only-in-the-Seventies post-Apocalyptic actioner, ARK II – THE COMPLETE SERIES (1976).

Set in the 25th Century, after the world has been devastated by pollution and war, three multi-cultural young scientists (Terry Lester, Jean Marie Hon, and Jose Flores) and their talking chimp, Adam, roam the post-Apocalyptic wasteland in a super-advanced RV, bringing the benefits of science and good morals to the primitive remnants of humanity. That’s right – it’s DAMNATION ALLEY for adolescents!

Surprisingly, the show holds up pretty well. Despite the low budget, the production values are quite good, and the Ark and its accessories are pretty impressive gadgets, even today. The earnest young cast manages to play their underwritten roles with conviction, and, thankfully, the chimpanzee is never all that annoying. Scripts range from quite good to insultingly bad, but are usually somewhere in the middle, and despite the grim setting, the stories all offer hope and a solid moral lesson. Fortunately, these “lessons” are not as heavy handed as in later Filmation shows, and are delivered without the usual sledgehammer tactics. Guest stars include Jonathan Harris, Malachi Throne, Geoffrey Lewis, Jim Backus and a teenaged Helen Hunt.

BCI has placed all 15 episodes on 4 discs. Unfortunately, the transfers are not very impressive. Presented in their original full-screen TV aspect ratio, the source material is faded and grainy, although relatively free of damage or debris. Still, considering that the show is nearly 30 years old, and was probably shot on a budget of $100 bucks an episode, we’re probably lucky the episodes look as good as they do.

As with their animated Filmation releases, ARK II – THE COMPLETE SERIES, comes with an bunch of bonus features, including audio commentaries on two episodes, a full-length “Making Of” documentary, several photo and art galleries, and all 15 scripts, plus the series bible, on DVD-ROM.

Ultimately, ARK II is good kid’s show and a relatively decent example of 70’s TV sci-fi, and I really enjoyed watching these episodes again. If it’s a fond memory from your childhood, you may want to pick it up, despite the less-than-reference-quality transfers.

BUY: Ark II: The Complete Series