Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Star Trek 50th Anniversary Blogging: "Is There in Truth No Beauty?" (October 18, 1968)


Stardate 5630.7

The Enterprise is tasked with transporting Ambassador Kollos of Medusa to a Federation summit. Kollos, and all Medusans are non-corporeal life-forms who are renowned as the galaxy’s greatest navigators.

However, if a human should ever gaze upon a Medusan, he or she would be driven permanently insane. Fortunately, protective visors can prevent such happenstance, and allow the races to co-exist and cooperate.

Two other passengers beam aboard the Enterprise with Kollos.

The first is Dr. Miranda Jones (Diana Muldaur) an accomplished telepath who has been selected to undergo the first human/Medusan mind meld or link.

The second is Larry Marvick (David Frankham), one of the designers of the Enterprise. His job, if Dr. Jones is successful, is to incorporate instrumentation aboard starships for linked Humans/Medusans.

Captain Kirk (William Shatner) hosts Dr. Jones and Mr. Marvick at a dinner, but Miranda feels threatened by Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy), who was the first choice to undergo the mind-link process. He intends only to honor her at the affair by wearing the Vulcan IDIC medallion, but Miranda is defensive and suspicious.

Things go from bad to worse when Marvick -- in love with Miranda -- attempts to assassinate Ambassador Kollos. Instead of succeeding, he views the Medusan without protection, and goes insane. He visits Engineering and while there seizes the controls, trapping the Enterprise in a strange, distant void.

Mr. Spock realizes that only an expert navigator, like Kollos, can help the ship to return to its proper place in the universe. To accomplish this task, however, he must mind-link with the ambassador, and Dr. Jones will be quite unhappy at the prospect. 

Captain Kirk distracts Miranda with a walk in the ship’s arboretum, while Spock makes the link without her knowledge.

The ship is rescued, and returns to its original point in time and space, but an accident occurs after the transfer, which leaves a vulnerable Spock -- sans visor -- to view Kollos with his own eyes. Now Miranda, who has been deceived, must decide if she should help restore Spock’s mind.


“Is There in Truth No Beauty” is a good reminder of just how ahead of its time Star Trek (1966-1969) was when it first aired.

This story features a brilliant, complex female character, Dr. Miranda Jones (Diana Muldaur), who is dedicated to her own professional success and doesn’t require or want the permission of a man to pursue her goals. 


It’s true that Kirk, Bones and Marvick fall all over themselves discussing her “beauty,” but the episode’s teleplay is clear that Jones is an accomplished individual in her chosen field.  Sure, she possesses foibles; just as Kirk, Spock and McCoy do, but Miranda is a three-dimensional character, not merely “eye candy.”   The episode’s symbolism suggests that all roses possess thorns, and it’s easy to apply that ideal to Miranda and her fits of rage and jealously. But the intriguing there is that the comparison applies, in various ways, to Kollos, and even Marvick.

Kollos is a good soul, of course, not meaning to do harm. But his “thorn” is the damage his appearance can do to those around him.

Marvick is clearly a genius -- the man who designed the Enterprise and is working on instrumentation for Kollo -- but his thorn is also “jealousy.” He is in love with Miranda, and covets her.

Incidentally, Miranda is also blind, but she does not allow that so-called “disability” to stop her from achieving her ambitions.  And, the sensor-dress that Jones wears in this episode is clearly a precursor to Geordi’s visor in The Next Generation (1987-1994) as well as a prime example of Roddenberry’s “Technology Unchained” theorem; the idea that advances in technology will improve all facets of human life.

It is easy, in 2017, to look at this episode and find it in sexist since Kirk, McCoy and Marvick are so concerned with Miranda’s beauty, not her intellect, or even her prerogative to decide her life for herself. 

Marvick’s line to Miranda to be a “woman” for a change is absolutely sexist too (just as the term “mansplaining” or “man up” is also sexist, in today’s world), and Kirk and McCoy’s concern for Miranda’s happiness is a bit overwrought. I think that’s to be expected in the third season of Star Trek. Everyone seems to be falling in love, all the time, at a far greater rate than in the previous two seasons.

But right there, in the text of the episode, Miranda gives it right back to the men. When McCoy toasts Miranda, he asks if those attending the dinner will allow so beautiful a woman to be surrounded by ugliness her whole life. Miranda responds with a sharp toast of her own, noting that those in attendance should also not permit McCoy, so lively a personality, to surround himself by disease and death.

Touché!

Miranda reserves for herself only the privilege McCoy reserves for himself: the right to choose how she lives her life, and pursues her dreams. That is what equality is; and that is what “Is There in Truth No Beauty” is about.

The episode also presents, for the first time, the Vulcan concept of IDIC. The story of the IDIC pendant is legendary, of course, an opportunity for crass commercialism.


But the concept behind IDIC -- infinite diversity in infinite combinations -- is beautiful in its thinking. In fact, it was one of the key ideas that makes Star Trek so worthwhile: the concept of people of different backgrounds, cultures, genders, beliefs, and attitudes combining their efforts to do something great, or worthwhile, like explore the galaxy.  When one gazes at the various Star Trek crews from 1966 to 2005, we see the practicality, the necessity, and indeed, the beauty of the IDIC concept.


It is still amazing to me that this program that aired in the mid-1960s was so forward thinking about diversity, and its benefits to everyone. 

During the Civil Rights movement, it brought us an African-American female on the bridge of a starship. During the Cold War, it brought us a Russian to the same bridge. And, when those with a long memory still hated the United States’ previous enemy from another war, it also gave us a Japanese helmsman. “Is There in Truth No Beauty” reminds us, additionally, that those who face physical challenges (like blindness), can also be valuable, productive members of society. 

This was by no means a mainstream view in 1968-1969.

Even the idea that Kollos is accepted by Starfleet and the Federation -- while still considered “ugly” -- speaks well of Star Trek’s commitment to the concept of IDIC.  Kollos’ appearance causes madness and death in humans, and yet he is nonetheless considered a valuable ally, one who, with the right precautions, would also have a seat on the bridge of a starship.


This episode is nearly never referenced when discussing Star Trek’s finest episodes, and yet consider what it accomplishes. It sets out the foundation of a beloved Vulcan philosophy (IDIC), and it forecasts the future of the franchise, with the sensor web leading to La Forge’s visor in The Next Generation.

It’s true that some elements of the episode seem over-the-top -- each time Kirk and McCoy are in the presence of Miranda, for instance -- and yet some moments are quite beautiful too, particularly Leonard Nimoy’s performance as the Kollos/Spock union. Muldaur, once more, is extraordinary in terms of crafting a fully-realized character who seems to have a history and background beyond what we see on the screen.

So, I suppose we can remember the episode’s point: every rose has its thorns.



Despite those thorns, I would still count this as a top-tier third season episode of Star Trek.

Next week: "Spectre of the Gun."

The Films of 2017: The Void



[Beware of Spoilers. Swim at Your Own Risk]

The Void (2017), from directors Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski, is a new “homage”-styled horror film. That description means it derives much of its life-energy from a demonstration of reverence and appreciation for its beloved genre antecedents.

However, the directors here don’t merely pick a single film or a general cinematic style to honor or ape.  On the contrary, they have created with The Void a veritable homage to the entire career of one (beloved) artist: John Carpenter.

The idea of, basically, name-checking an entire career’s catalog of films is an ambitious and original one. To wit: The Void begins like Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) a siege-styled movie, features elements of The Thing (1982) in terms of practical effects and gore, and then leaps wholeheartedly in its last act into a late-era Carpenter homage featuring aspects of Prince of Darkness (1987) and In The Mouth of Madness (1994).

So, we get in The Void, clever allusions -- visual and thematic -- to seventies Carpenter, eighties Carpenter, and even nineties Carpenter.

To describe this film another way, it’s as though the filmmakers assiduously studied all epochs of John Carpenter’s film work, and decided to create a master’s thesis about that work in the form of an actual motion picture.

On that admittedly narrow basis, I admire and enjoy The Void very much. As other critics have noted, the film is a rip-roaring “throwback” to old-fashioned horror movies, both in terms of effects, and setting/characterization. Set in the 1980's The Void thus corners the market, one might conclude, on nostalgic, niche, horror filmmaking. 

And if any horror auteur is deserving of a film-long homage, today, it is certainly Carpenter, who still hasn’t gotten his due from mainstream Hollywood.

And yet, some aspects of the film are not entirely effective. 

The Void’s narrative is convoluted and confusing at times, and Gillespie and Kostanski don’t yet possess Carpenter’s visual chops. The movie often captures well the thematic and narrative aspects of the maestro’s canon, but few of the visuals achieve the same kind of energy as a legit Carpenter film, or manipulate the audience as effectively.

Of course, in the age of cookie-cutter, mega-million dollar blockbusters, a Carpenter-knock-off is the closest we are likely to get to the experience of a new Carpenter genre film. To its credit, The Void successfully feels very “eighties,” and is a lot of fun overall. But another recent film -- It Follows (2014) -- still feels more like an original Carpenter film, and less like a pastiche of the director’s personal obsessions or best moments.

I recommend The Void for your viewing if you consider yourself a fan of Carpenter’s oeuvre, and also if you just straight-up enjoy 1980’s styled horror films. 

If you’re seeking a horror film that is a bit more internally consistent, however, you may be disappointed by the film’s narrative problems and overall lack of visual distinction.


“You’d be surprised at the things you find when you go looking.”

A police officer, Daniel Carter (Aaron Poole) brings a wounded man he discovered on the outskirts of a dark forest to the nearest hospital, which is in the process of being closed down following a fire. Daniel is reluctant to visit that particular hospital because his estranged wife, Allison (Kathleen Munroe), works there. Not long ago, they lost a baby, and their relationship has since deteriorated.

Soon, the wounded mystery man becomes the quarry of a group of cultists, who surround the hospital, and turn off the power.  And the same man, James (Evan Stern) also becomes the prey of a father (Daniel Fathers) and son (Mik Byskov) team of hunters, who seem to hold a grudge against him.

While Daniel tries to process all that is going on, new crises quickly capture his attention in the hospital. One nurse, Beverly, seems to go crazy, killing a young patient, while a young pregnant woman, Maggie, goes into labor in the emergency room.

As Daniel and Allison are further endangered, they learn that the doctor at the hospital, Ricahrd Powell (Kenneth Walsh) has undertaken a dangerous line of research involving the afterlife.



“There are things much older than God.”

In Assault on Precinct 13 (1976), as you may recall, a police officer played by Austin Stoker was given command of a lonely police station on the night it was to be shut down. He had only a skeleton crew to assist him, and things spiraled quickly out-of0control when a stranger ran into the precinct, pursued by members of a vicious, bloody gang. 

By refusing to give up the prisoner, the police opened the door to an all-out attack by the gang Street Thunder.  The majority of this Carpenter film played out as a siege situation, with the precinct under a relentless, all-out attack by the gang, and the policeman forced to team with criminals in the station’s jail, to repel the enemy.

As the synopsis above hopefully makes plain, the initial set up of this film mirrors Assault on Precinct 13 very closely. Here, we have a hospital that is understaffed, and is about to be closed down. 


We also encounter another heroic police officer, Daniel, whose primary job becomes the protection of a stranger who is now in custody in an isolated location, in this case the hospital.  

Intriguingly, Night of the Living Dead (1968) from George A. Romero plays on a hospital room TV set at one point, early in the film, and it is the movie that Carpenter sometimes credits as the spiritual ancestor of Assault on Precinct 13.

So if Night of the Living Dead is referenced here, why is The Void pretty much a Carpenter riff?  

Well, consider that in addition to Assault on Precinct 13, Prince of Darkness and Ghosts of Mars are also siege movies.  Romero may have made the horror grand-daddy of the form, but Carpenter has exploited that format at least three times, at all stages of his career (1970’s, 1980’s, and early 2000’s).



In this section of the film, there are some nearly shot-for-shot translations. Assault on Precinct features several exterior night shots of the gang, standing outside the police station in a vacant parking lot, forming a menacing phalanx. 

Here, the cult-members in their white robes form a similar pattern, also standing in a dimly lit parking lot. One of the best scenes in the film sees the red and blue police lights of Daniel’s car, swirling over the non-moving cultists in white.  

At any minute, like a juggernaut, they could leap into murderous action.

John Carpenter’s The Thing is another, obvious source of inspiration for The Void.  The film starts with a variation of The Thing’s opening act narrative feint.  Consider that in The Thing, we see a lone dog being pursued across an ice cliff, by Norwegian helicopter and sniper. The opening moments of the film suggest that the Norwegians have gone mad. Why else waste resources of chasing down a dog?  

Of course, later on, we understand: the dog is a carrier of the alien virus of the thing. It is no longer a dog at all. It must be destroyed, even though that quest looks insane to an outsider.

The Void begins with a similar trick. At a lonely farmhouse in an isolated area (which reminded me, visually, of the farmhouse in the first act of John Carpenter’s Vampires [1998]), a man and woman escape out the front door. 

The man, James gets away. The woman falls, is pursued, and then, finally, burned alive by the father and son hunter combo.  The natural assumption here is that the woman is the victim of the father and son, attempting to break free from captivity. 

As is the case with the dog in The Thing, however, that assumption is quite incorrect. The woman “victim” is not a victim at all, but one of the monsters that Dr. Powell has experimented upon.

Another reference to The Thing involves the personification, or physical qualities of the “monsters” from the void. 

They are moist, spurting, tentacled, misshapen monstrosities, much like the thing in Carpenter’s masterpiece. In that film, the ever-transforming Thing -- always in a state of flux -- represented the frailty of human flesh; its capacity for damage by perforation, injection, burning, you name it. 

The same concept of frailty of the flesh gets play in The Void because so much of the film involves mortality; the weakness of the human form. There is not one, but two “monstrous” pregnancies in the film, and there are at least two instances of children who have died tragically, lost to their parents. 

Just as The Thing featured many close-up shots of mangled, violated skin (think of the close-up of stitches being sewed into the flesh of Bennings’ leg), The Void features shots of knives being slowly pressed down and through human flesh, or scissors penetrating human eyeballs.


The Void like The Thing, also concerns transformation: the transformation of grief into misguided action; and the transformation of human flesh into something…horrible, and monstrous (if not down-right demonic).

Early in the film, we also get a very clear visual reference to Prince of Darkness (1987). A female nurse, Beverly, cuts her face off with a pair of scissors, and murders a patient (puncturing his eye-socket with said scissors). 

She looks and acts very much like the pizza-faced Kelly (Susan Blanchard) in that film, attacking victims, and boasting a face that isn’t really hers.



Both Prince of Darkness and The Void climax in similar fashion as well: with a heroic self-sacrifice. 

Specifically, both films concern protagonist (Catherine or Daniel) pushing the antagonist (Kelly, or Powell) through a portal to another dimension/reality. After doing so, the protagonist is trapped there, left to contend with a brave (or horrific…) new world. 



Finally, of course, The Void features a strong Lovecraft influence. H.P. Lovecraft wrote frequently of the deities known as the “Outer Gods” or “The Old Ones,” horrible creatures such as Cthulhu or Shub-Niggurath. These are beings who once ruled Earth (and beyond), and still exist, just waiting to return.  

A key Lovecraftian theme then, is the non-importance, or non-centrality of mankind in the grand scheme of the universe. The Void features such creatures who inhabit (and re-shape) human form, and cross from “the other side” represented by the portal, where an imposing black pyramid stands.

But importantly, The Void is Lovecraft by way of Carpenter, and in particular, his too-often neglected masterpiece, In the Mouth of Madness. That film establishes the power of the “others” over our world, and an invasion of our world from the outer place. That’s exactly what happens here, although we can hope, at least, that the invasion in The Void is stopped.  

Basically, in In the Mouth of Madness, man’s propensity to seek terrible things (represented by the horror novels of Sutter Cane) is the thing which cracks open the portal to the dark place. In The Void, man’s inability to accept his own mortality, is the thing that props open the door to the Lovecraftian world. Dr. Powell is a Prometheus figure, not unlike Dr. Frankenstein, Dr. Channard, or even Nix in Lord of Illusions (1995). He is a man who goes in search of answers, and opens the portal to an evil realm.

I could argue that it is incumbent upon engaged audiences to recognize the allusions to Carpenter’s work here, and to movies, even, outside that canon, and then ask: what does it all mean? Why dramatize the story in this particular fashion?  

In other words, is a Carpenter-homage an intrinsically intriguing way of telling Daniel and Allison's story?

The answer is affirmative, though with caveats. Through the references to Carpenter’s work, The Void takes on, or transforms, if you will, into a film of deeper meaning and resonance. All the references within Carpenter’s work carry meaning, and The Void absorbs those meanings, and also mirrors them.  So the approach is not merely innovative, I would argue, but artistically valid. Daniel’s sacrifice, and final journey, for example, carries deeper emotional weight if we link it Catherine’s sacrifice, or compare the two.

However, The Void is not nearly as well-visualized as Carpenter’s films. Even lesser Carpenter films, like Village of the Damned (1995) manage to come off in a visual sense, capturing the imagination of the audience even when the narrative details prove disappointing. 

The Void is a low-budget production, of course, but its monster-attack-in-a-hospital hallway does not compare favorably to scenes created 36 years ago for The Thing.  Here, the lighting is dim, we get a lot of confusing close-ups, and there’s a dangling light panel flickering constantly, to assure we never get too good a look at the monster.

Similarly, there are moments of head-scratching character behavior in the film. At one point, Daniel exacts a promise from Allison that she will wait to visit a medical supply room until he comes back (from retrieving the shot-gun from his car.) 

She makes the promise, and then ignores that promise to go to the supply room anyway, an event that leads to her demise (and sets up the film’s final sacrifice). 

It also is not clear, at least to my eyes, why the cultists wait so long to invade the hospital after surrounding it and cutting off the power. The argument could be made that they are waiting for the birth of Maggie’s child, but it seems that the birth of the child (Powell’s girl, reborn) is such an important event that they would want to be in control of the hospital before it occurs.  

Similarly, if memory serves, Powell constantly refers to the portal as the abyss, not the void. So how come the movie is titled The Void?

These are not big things. These are not disqualifying factors in any way. But they add up, and grant the impression of a film that is incoherent at times, and simply convoluted at others. It is ambitious and quite remarkable that the film apes the canon of Carpenter, but The Void needs a clearer, sharper script, so that those amazing elements aren’t thrown, well, to the void.

A void might be defined as a “completely empty space,” and indeed that is not a good title for this intriguing horror movie. The Void fills up its empty spaces with a reverence and respect for the works of one of our greatest horror masters.  

It’s just that when these filmmakers have to paint in some of their own empty spaces (involving the narrative), they fall a bit short.

Movie Trailer: The Void (2017)

Monday, April 24, 2017

Ask JKM a Question: Who is the Most Important Cinematic James Bond?


A reader named Ben writes;

“Hello there. I am really enjoying your writing. I read your Bond movie review last week and wanted to ask you a question that you have not answered yet.

Historically, whose interpretation of 007 is the most important to the franchise’s longevity?”


Ben, thank you for the question. I actually have a stock answer for this question, which is the same one I have used before, in regards to the Doctor, on Doctor Who (1963-1969).

Before I get to that stock answer, I’ll give a few options.

I could write, quite persuasively, that the most important Bond interpretation is Sean Connery’s, because he was the first actor to take on the role for the movies. Had he not “clicked” as 007, the franchise would not have taken off.

So from one viewpoint, Connery’s interpretation of the James Bond role is certainly the most important, and the one most responsible for the film series’ longevity.

I could also make arguments for other Bond performances.

Timothy Dalton re-grounded the role, when audiences began to seek more realistic action, during the late 1980s.

Pierce Brosnan brought the character back to life after a six year absence from the screen, and thus is responsible for “reviving” the franchise. 

And Daniel Craig, of course, shepherded the film franchise “re-boot” of Bond to its most successful financial incarnation.

So you could probably make a plausible argument for any of those actors. Of course, those arguments may not be very strong, because by the time of Dalton, everyone was used to the idea of Bond changing actors.

But if you read my blog regularly, you know I prefer to think unconventionally, or at least outside conventional wisdom.

So here is my official answer: the most important Bond actor is Roger Moore.


Why?

Allow me to explain.

When people ask me who the most important Doctor on Doctor Who is, I always go with one answer: Patrick Troughton, the second doctor.

Had he not thoroughly made the role his own, Doctor Who -- while beloved during the William Hartnell Era -- would never have lived to see a second decade on air.


In other words, the era of greatest jeopardy for Doctor Who occurred when Hartnell, the First Doctor, wished to leave the role, and a new actor had to assume the mantle of the Time Lord.

If that actor had failed, we would likely have had no Doctor 3 – 12.

So, Troughton nailed the role at the time of greatest danger for the franchise, and the franchise endured.  Hence, his importance.

I would make the same argument for Roger Moore.  George Lazenby’s brief tenure as Bond -- just one film appearance in 1969 -- likewise hints at the importance of the second actor to catch-fire in a beloved role. 

After Lazenby’s only film (which I love, by the way), the producers went running back to Connery for Diamonds are Forever.  

It was not a certain thing, at all, at that point, that the James Bond movie series could endure in the seventies, and outlive Connery’s star presence.

But then along came Roger Moore, the Bond actor I grew up with, and one I think very highly of. His take on Bond -- while undeniably different from Connery’s -- re-popularized the character, and proved that the 007 film series could transcend one well-loved performer.

Like Patrick Troughton in Doctor Who, Moore came along at the time of greatest danger for the franchise, and gave it the second life 007 needed.  Moore was the first talent who proved that Bond could survive the passing of the torch in terms of actors.

If Moore had failed to catch fire, as Lazenby had failed, we would likely never have gotten the Dalton, Brosnan, or Craig eras.  James Bond in the cinema would have been remembered as a product of the 1960’s, not as an iconic character who has transcended his original cinematic context.

So I think you can clearly make a case for Connery as the most important 007. If he had failed to make Bond so appealing, the movie-going world might never have known the name Bond, James Bond. 

On the other hand, Moore came in after Lazenby’s failure to succeed -- at the point of greatest jeopardy for the franchise -- and had to deliver a popular interpretation of the role when everyone already pictured 007 as Sean Connery.

He did, and the rest is history.


Don’t forget to ask me your questions at Muirbusiness@yahoo.com

Cult-TV Theme Watch: Giant Hands


In cult-TV history, many great heroes have been grabbed and held by...giant hands. 

What does the symbol of a giant hand (or hands) mean? Well, typically when something is colossal in size, it represents some sort of insurmountable challenge.  And hands, of course, are used for grabbing, holding, and perhaps even restraining

So the giant hand trope probably involves our fear of being grabbed and held by something monstrous, or invincible.  When in the hand of a giant, we are helpless, at the whim of something that could mean us great harm.


Sometimes the giant hands that grab protagonists in cult-TV are gentle, and protective. Think about the Mighty Kong in The King Kong Show (1966), or Godzilla in the Hanna Barbera Godzilla cartoon (1978). Both of these over-sized beasts can unleash destruction, and yet they choose to (carefully) hold human beings in their over-sized hands.

Less friendly giant hands have appeared quite frequently however in TV history, however.  In The Twilight Zone (1959-1964) episode, "Stopover in a Quiet Town," for instance, a bickering couple finds itself in a toy town, victimized and "grabbed" by a giant child.  We see, mostly, that child's hand, reaching for them. The child is impulsive and dangerous, and the couple doesn't stand a chance.


In Star Trek (1966-1969), the U.S.S. Enterprise is stopped in space by a giant green space hand in the second season episode "Who Mourns for Adonais." In this case, the hand is made of energy, but belongs to the Greek God Apollo.

For some reason, viewers (or producers) are also fascinated with the idea of giant hands grabbing submarines at sea and shaking them.  The trope has appeared in both Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1964-1968) and SeaQuest DSV (1993-1996).


Finally, Irwin Allen's Land of the Giants (1968-1970) regularly featured stories in which giant hands darted into the frame, capturing and restraining the puny Earthlings.

The Cult-TV Faces of: Giant Hands

Identified by SGB: The Twilight Zone

Identified by Hugh: Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea

Identified by Hugh: The King Kong Show

Identified by Hugh: Star Trek: "Who Mourns for Adonais."

Identified by Hugh: Star Trek: The Animated Series: "The Infinite Vulcan."

Identified by Hugh: Doctor Who: "Robot."

Not Identified (Ultraman)

Identified by SGB: Land of the Giants.

Identified by Hugh: Godzilla.

Identified by Hugh: SeaQuest DSV

Identified by Hugh: Torchwood

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Advert Artwork: Planet of the Apes TV Series


Planet of the Apes TV Series Blogging: Introductory Sequence



The Planet of the Apes feature film franchise tackles a number of significant issues.  

The films gaze at the ways that theocratic states suppress the truth (Planet [1968], Beneath [1970]) and punish truth-sayers, for instance. They also look intently at race relations (Conquest [1972], Battle [1973]).

And virtually all of the films tackle an anti-nukes, anti-war theme.

The TV series -- which ran for just one season in 1974 -- perhaps wisely chose to narrow the franchise focus some.  

Planet of the Apes, the series, primarily concerns two human astronauts and their chimpanzee friend, Galen, interfacing with the Ape Society and contemplating, essentially, class or race differences.  

In this universe, humans are second-class citizens with no wealth, no rights, and no equality. The apes, by contrast, control all of the society's assets. The apes believe and disseminate propaganda about humans, and consider them an inferior species.

The introductory montage dynamically sets-up the premise for the series (astronauts traveling to a future Earth ruled by apes), but more than it, it dramatically visualizes the startling gap in power between races.  

In the opening montage, humans are on the run and constantly imperiled, and the Apes are un-moving avatars of force, power, and strength.

The Planet of the Apes montage commences with a view of a star in space.  We get some lens flare to suggest the impact or power of the star, and then find ourselves ensconced in a spaceship control room.


On the upper-right hand side of the screen, we get two legends.  

One marks Earth-time; the other ship-time.  

These two numbers will begin to diverge dramatically as the spaceship experiences turbulence (a result of its proximity to the star?), and the crew experiences a time warp.


As the astronauts grow concerned at the wild turbulence their ship experiences and as ship-time and Earth-time begin to diverge, we get a new legend on-screen in red: "Abort Mission."

The extreme close-ups of the astronauts, Alan Virdon (Ron Harper) and Peter Burke (James Naughton) signal the extreme danger.



The ship's (computer...) warnings grow more plaintive in the next series of shots, as the spaceship is flung through the time warp.  

Ship-time and Earth-time are continuing to diverge, but the "ABORT MISSION" red alert signal is larger in the frame.  The danger is growing exponentially.


The next several frames represent a light show of sorts, as the crew experiences the strobing, bright lights of the time warp.   Once more, the time differential grows.





At the outer edge of the time warp, the time differential is now huge. It is August 1980 by the astronauts' reckoning, but May 23, 3000 by Earth time.  

A ghost in space appears, shadowy and indistinct at first...




In the next shot, twin dangers are linked.  

The star we saw at the beginning of the montage appears again, but captured in its lens flare this time s the recognizable image of an intelligent ape.  

The time warp has brought these unlucky astronauts to the Age of the Ape...and accordingly, we get the series title over a view of beautiful Earth: Planet of the Apes.




The next shot reveals the spaceship's dizzying descent into Earth's atmosphere.  But Earth is a new world. It is now 3084.



To signify the "law" of that new world, we get an extreme close-up of a gorilla soldier.  

He is centered in the frame and un-moving, a position and pose suggesting unyielding, constant power.  From this angle, the ape is literally looking down his nose at us, as all apes look down at all humans in this world.


Next, we get a wider shot of the ape soldier.  He is seated on a horse, with one arm jutting up into the air in a pose of victory. He is holding a tool of power as well: a rifle.  

Once more, he does not move, but remains frozen in the frame.  Behind him -- in a double-exposure effect -- the sun seems to be going down.

The orange-colored sky suggests autumn, and the sunset suggests an end to the age of man.  This image means that ape is triumphant, and man is sinking...fast.  The ape has eclipsed man.



Next, we meet our heroes on the run.  In the first shot, Galen flees the ape regime.


The blocking is significant in the next few shots.  

Three apes sit perched atop a hill (another position of dominance), while the astronauts run for their lives.  

Again, the apes are perfectly still -- suggesting permanence -- while the humans are on the move, fleeing.  It is no accident that the apes don't move in this intro, but the fugitives, the humans, move constantly.  This is a metaphor for the power structure of Ape Society.




In the following frames, we meet our cast members.




Next, the real power on the Planet of the Apes comes into focus.  An ape rifle coalesces as, behind it, the day of humanity recedes.




The last several shots of the montage continue in the same vein. They reveal the gorilla soldier -- and his weaponry -- dominant in an orange, autumnal sky.  

The Age of Man has passed.  Welcome to the Planet of the Apes!




Below, the Planet of the Apes montage in living color: