Friday, November 18, 2016

Ark II (1976)

Ark II
Stars: Terry Lester, Jean Marie Hon
15 episodes

In short: Post-apocalyptic teen stuff before it was cool.

Nowadays, you can't swing a cat (which you really shouldn't be doing, by the way) without hitting a bit of post-apocalyptic film or fiction focusing on the trials and tribulations of well-scrubbed young protagonists. I wouldn't swear to it but I seem to recall that this sort of thing was not so common in 1976, when Ark II debuted (and when it soon met with its demise).

By way of summarizing I'll regurgitate the voiceover intro the to the show: For millions of years, Earth was fertile and rich. Then pollution and waste began to take their toll. Civilization fell into ruin. This is the world of the 25th century. Only a handful of scientists remain, men who have vowed to rebuild what has been destroyed. This is their achievement: Ark II, a mobile storehouse of scientific knowledge, manned by a highly trained crew of young people. Their mission: to bring the hope of a new future to mankind.

Pollution somehow being different from waste, I suppose, but I quibble. The "highly trained crew of young people" are Joshua, Ruth and Samuel. The fourth member of the crew - inexplicably - is a chimp named Adam. An ark and a bunch of characters with names taken from the Bible - are you getting all of this?

The Ark II is a curious looking vehicle that's sort of like an offbeat cross between a Hummer and an RV. In this "mobile storehouse of scientific knowledge" the foursome experience adventures that are many and sort of varied...and sort of preachy, it must be said. Because kid's entertainment can't just be entertaining, after all.

Of Note:
Guests included Jonathan Harris, Jim Backus, Helen Hunt, and the hardest working robot in show business, Robby.
Terry Lester, who played the Ark II's commander, Jonah, went on to play Jack Abbott, a popular character on the soap opera, The Young and the Restless.
A Filmation production.
Post-apocalyptic or not, our protagonists sure manage to keep their white jumpsuits spotless, while everyone else onscreen looks distinctly unwashed.

Observed: "The Launch of Ark II" & "The Cryogenic Man"
"The Launch of Ark II" is a 30-minute documentary put together for the DVD release of the series. It features production staff and one of the actors (Hon) reminiscing about the show. Apparently the chimp was no picnic to work with and the tight bodysuits didn't breathe, which could be trying when filming in summer in southern California.

"The Cryogenic Man" 1/7
Jim Backus takes a guest spot here as a character who might rightly be described as Thurston Howell III Lite. He plays a slightly less blustering and buffoonish version of the Gilligan's Island millionaire, a businessman who has been cryogenically frozen - along with his assistant - and is roused from his slumbers by the Ark II gang. I'm not sure how the cryogenic thing might work but after about five centuries (the show takes place in 2476), the duo spring up from suspended animation with no more ill effects than if they'd just wakened from a catnap. Backus's character, in classic TH3 fashion, is clutching a briefcase full of cash.

Not long after waking Backus begins stirring up the natives and demonstrates a miracle fertilizer he devised five centuries earlier. It makes plants grow improbably (no, absurdly) fast. Turns out it that it's highly toxic and you remember that bit about the pollution and waste? There's a bit of conflict and some of the Ark II kids are tossed in the cryo tubes but in the end - and I don’t think this is much in the way of a spoiler - things work out for the best.

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