Return to the Planet of the Nerds

I will readily admit to being a nerd.  Always have been.  In fact, if they had ranks in Nerddom, I’m sure I’d be a commissioned officer in the regiment.

While my wife and I were perusing titles in the DVD section of the local WalMart a few days ago, I came upon a new release – all the shows of the short-lived TV series of Planet of the Apes (based on the movies) from 1974 are now on disc.  I grabbed the box as I oohhed and aahhed like a geek in front of a display of the latest pocket pen protectors.  You see, I have all the Ape movies on DVD, including the Tim Burton remake that appeared a few years ago.  Love ’em, love ’em.

Lieutenant Nerd reporting for duty, sir…

As a kid, I watched the Ape movies as they came out, and loved the TV series (starring Roddy McDowell as the lifelike nose-twitching Galen, a reprise of his similar simian role in the movies).  Unfortunately, only 13 episodes aired.  But in the DVD collection, included is a 14th episode that never aired – called “The Liberator.”

Oohh.  Aahh.  Captain Nerd at your service, sir.

But what I didn’t realize as a kid watching those movies and TV shows – hell, as a pre-teen I just enjoyed watching the monkeys talk and the gun-toting gorillas scaring the bejesus out of everyone – was that there was a social lesson in each one.  Until I got older, and watched them again, I wasn’t mature enought to see it.  It was that way with so many of those shows in the 70’s… you know them, like All in the Family, Happy Days, Good Times, etc.  The apes that took over the world after we humans blew it up were the metaphor for the underlying beast within us.  Suddenly we were subjugated to them, and they were the taskmasters.  The new world, obviously, wasn’t a place the astronauts from the past wanted to live.  There was no mention whether the spacemen would try to change the world they wanted to get back to, but getting back was all they thought of.

There were also poignant social lessons about descrimination, racism, violence, technological advances, and all sorts of parallels to the modern world.  In one of the TV episodes, in fact, was a Civil War connection.  A group of apes, blaming the death of an ape friend on humans, formed together and rode horseback through the countryside wearing hoods and killing humans for sport.  One of the astronauts remarked how something similar had happened back in his time, referencing the post-Civil War KKK and its resurgence in the 20th century.  Throughout the TV episodes and movies, of course, one can’t help but see the parallels to the problems between different segments of mankind and how they are reacted to.  Even the chimps, gorillas, and orangutans kept fighting amongst themselves.

Lots to learn from Nerddom.  One can only hope the monkeys learn to play nice, in this world or the next.

Major Nerd here, over and out.

Published in: on October 20, 2006 at 2:39 pm  Comments (10)  

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10 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. JD,

    My favourite bit of trivia surrounds the actress who played Dr Zia (sp?). It’s relevant you mention the social issues raised by the series, because she was the intellectual primate who displayed compassion when dealing with humans.

    If you remember, the actress was Kim Hunter and happened to be the co-star, with David Niven, in my favourite film ‘A Matter of Life and Death’. She was one of the victims of the McCarthy Trials, and had been unable to obtain work in Hollywood as a result. ‘Planet of the Apes’ was her first part since the 50s, and only happened as her face was covered by a mask. A great bit of casting …

    Best wishes,


  2. Indeed, Mark – that was Hunter as Dr. Zira. I remember the story of her casting from, I think, a show on the Planet of the Apes movie series on the AMC channel some years back.

    The social parallels are quite complex and amazing. For instance, one thing you wouldn’t call an ape was “monkey.” It was a derisive term, one that would get you a gorilla knuckle sandwich. I think the allusion is obvious.

    Great knowing that I have nerd company across the pond! 🙂


  3. I agree JD, I loved the Planet of the Apes TV show and had all the action figures as well.


  4. Oh my, the action figures too. You’ve been mustered in as Captain of the regiment, Mark…


  5. Hey Baby Brother Nerd, this is Big Sister Nerd. It’s a great blog and I’m pleased to see you following your instincts toward life, liberty & the pursuit of nerdly happiness. Go JD!

  6. LOL, Lisa, there’s no happier nerd than me 🙂 And I’m apparently not alone either!

  7. Just so there is no confusion, I must have been under 10 when I watched Planet of the Apes. However, the one episode I remember was the one J.D. mentioned, although I vaguely remember an episode that involved the construction of a raft. I have never bought any epsiode on DVD, and have never collected the “action figures”. J.D. and Maryland Mark are alone with their love of all things simian. I don’t want to be a conscripted nerd!

  8. The Internet is a beautiful thing. Where nerds from around the world can come together and discuss the Planet of the Apes and the American Civil War without ridicule.

    This just in from Washington: Mark Peters you have been drafted into the infamous Nerdwall Brigade. (I guess this is better than volunteering like J.D. and Maryland Reb).

  9. Right, Joshua. UK Mark has admitted his Nerdity, and there’s no way to resign from this army.

    It’s a beautiful thing 🙂


  10. Okay, it’s a ‘fair cop’ and ‘I’ve been caught bang to rights’. I’ll live with the stigma!

    Best wishes,


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