Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Ark II The Complete Series|
Actors: Terry Lester, Jose Flores
Genres: Science Fiction & Fantasy, Television
The 1970s children's show ARK II reflected that decade's ecological concerns with the sci-fi adventures of three human scientists--leader Jonah (Terry Lester) medic Ruth (Jean Marie Hon) and tech genius Samuel (Jose Flores... more »
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Finally out on DVD.
SRFireside | Houston, TX United States | 09/29/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"For those of you who weren't kids during the late 70's Ark II was a live action Saturday Morning show that showed the lighter side of the post-apocalypse. Essentially the show is about a team of scientists who rove around in a high tech RV trying to help rebuild society by offering their assistance wherever needed. All things considered this was a pretty good show. It was one of those "message" shows that had a moral to every story, but unlike other shows of this type like Fat Albert and later on shows like He-Man and GI Joe (because knowing is half the battle) they didn't try to hammer the message home so blatantly. As a kid I could appreciate that, and as an adult I can look back fondly.
The show had a fair amount of cool gadgets for a low budget television program including that awesome RV I mentioned. Other cool tech include a working jet pack, a "futuristic" dune buggy, and a talking chimp among other things. Might not be groundbreaking as Star Trek was, but it's enough to keep a kid's sci-fi imagination moving. You even get some nifty guest stars like Jim Bakus (Gilligan's Island), Helen Hunt, Malachi Throne, and Jonathan Harris from Lost in Space even guest stars as a recurring character. Here's a quick rundown of the 15 episodes on this set:
1. The Flies - The crew find a group of kids lead by an elderly leader (Harris) in danger of cannisters containing a deadly gas.
2. The Rule - The crew find a community that forsakes their sick and elderly members, considering them useless to society.
3. The Tank - The crew have to help stop an old army tank that is causing trouble in the area.
4. The Robot - One of the crew builds a robot (the classic Robby the Robot if I remember correctly) to help the crew, but instead the robot has a mind of its own.
5. The Slaves - Jonah, leader of the crew, gets captured by a community that owns slaves as a way of life.
6. The Baloon - An isolated community is stricken with a mysterious disease and the crew tries to save them.
7. The Mind Group - Crew of the Ark versus a group of kids with mental powers.
8. The Lottery - Crew find a wealthy society that wastes their resources to the point of famine.
9. The Drought - The kids (and Harris) from The Flies return to steal the Ark in order to find a 20th century time capsule that can help make it rain.
10. The Wild Boy - The crew learn about area tribes hunting down a (you guessed it) wild boy like he was an animal.
11. Omega - A crewmember is overpowered by a computer that can control minds.
12. Robin Hood - The crew meet a young boy who runs off with a modern day (or rather post-war day) Robin Hood to settle a score.
13. The Cryogenic Man - a 10th century time capsule opens up to reveal a man out of touch with the current era.
14. Don Quixote - A Don Quixote-type character sees the Ark as a white dragon and sets out to slay it.
15. Orkus - The crew find a veritable paradise in a self contained community, only not everything is as it seems.
To be honest the show hasn't aged all that well. I don't know how well someone new to the show would take to a low budget 70's SciFi-ish kids program, especially in this day and age of high fidelity. Visually the DVDs are about as good as you can expect from a long neglected television series. While it is indeed cleaned up and remastered the source material didn't give them much to work with. The audio is in thin, gorious mono. That's just the way of things for shows back then. This DVD set is definitely for the fans of the show or die-hard sci-fi fans who are cool about the previously mentioned limitations.
You also get a host of extras that were a suprise for me when I found about them. Mainly because most television shows that get the DVD treatment tend to only give you the shows and nothing else. This DVD set gives you a wealth of extras compared:
The Launch of Ark II - a 30 minute documentary that talks about the how the show came from concept to reality and includes details on production and the actors. You mainly hear from the show's producers about not only the joys of making the show but also the headaches (the Ark vehicle had its quirks production-wise).
You also get commentary tracks on two episode featuring the producrs, director, writer and actress Jean Marie Hon (Ruth from the show). The DVD also includes photo galleries including conceptual art for a proposed animated Ark II series and a DVD-ROM section that has the episode scripts and the series bible (sweet). Another little extra that you hardly see on any DVD, movie or television show, is an actual box insert that isn't just advertisement for other products. This insert is practically a mini-book and gives you a quick synopsis of every episode as well as a few bits of trivia to top it off.
While this show is obviously a product of the 70's it's still a quality product. If any of you remember this show or the others that came from this studio (Jason of Star Command, Space Academy, Isis) then you should be dancing for joy on the treatment this DVD is getting, and be even happier to know those other shows are getting the same attention done on their releases. It looks like the entire Filmmation catalog is on DVD.
Raiders of Jonah's Lost Ark
Dave Cordes | Denver, CO | 11/12/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Discovering this DVD is like finding the lost Ark of the Covenant with my priceless childhood still perfectly preserved inside. The Saturday mornings of yesteryear never looked so good... and so dated. It's amazing how the passage of time has really dated this show, an inevitable by-product of the 1970's but I remember vividly when it was fresh and new and watching it through the innocent eyes of your 5-year-old former self will help you relive those fond Saturday morning memories once again. I always thought Jonah's jet pack was the coolest part of the show. Those gaudy polyester costumes looked like they had been "borrowed" from another of my favorite 70's sci-fi shows, Space:1999. The Ark II is a mobile storehouse of scientific knowledge patrolling the post-apocalyptic wastelands of 25th century Earth ravaged by ecological disasters, with scientists Jonah, Ruth, Samuel and the intelligent talking chimp Adam offering their generous assistance to help the surivors rebuild their communities and civilization in socially progressive ways. What is not explained, however, is how Jonah and his crew came into the possession of such technologically advanced vehicles and gadgets and became the dutiful inheiritors of humanity's legacy while the rest of humankind suffers from the adversities of being thrust back to a pre-industrial state and has to make-do with whatever remnants of former civilization has remained like the scavengers of a Mad Max apocalypse. Just what organization or governing entity do they represent and what kind of assumingly environmentally-safe fuels propel the Ark on its never-ending trek across the planet? Nevermind. It's best not to think about any kind of sensible plot logic and just go along for the ride.
This four disc DVD set is nicely packaged in retro seventies-style artwork and includes a complete episode guide booklet. The half-hour documentary "The Launch of Ark II" is a fascinating retrospective of the show but gets a little redundant as the interviews reiterate a lot of the same information but you can tell that everyone who worked on this show still cherish it as a highlight of their careers. There are commenatries with Filmation producer Lou Scheimer and several writers and directors of the series as well as extensive art galleries featuring promotional photos and concept art for the proposed animated series as well as DVD-ROM content including scripts of every episode and the series Bible. Ark II was the first live-action Saturday morning show that paved the way for subsequent Filmation live-action shows Isis, Space Academy and Jason of Star Command which are also being released on DVD from BCI Eclipse.
"Ark II log entry #1: I, Jonah, Ruth, Samuel and Adam are fully aware of the dangers we face as we venture into unknown, maybe even hostile areas, but we're determined to bring the promise of a new civilization to our people and our planet.""
Eu-Eco-tastrophe: Or The Superfund on Wheels
Kendal B. Hunter | Provo, UT United States | 02/18/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Although I just have vague 30-year-old memories of "Robin Hood"'s nail-biting near-miss, I was surprised how well this series stood up. The episodes were small morality plays geared toward teen and pre-teens. However, as a five year old, I just remember the excitement.
Of course the production values are dated--antique special effects, reel magnetic tapes, red LEDs--but the nostalgic charm is there, as it is for Classic Star Trek. For a kid's show, the writing was superb. It is as good as anything on TV right now, and a bit more intelligent. But what made this series stand out from the hazy crowd was the setting.
Indeed, "Ark II" is a wonderful blending of setting and theme, specifically "scientific redemption." It is set in an post-ecotastophe world, with the science of Ark II renewing the 25th century. For TCM aficionados, it reminds of the organization Wings Over the World in movie "Things to Come." Both rely upon "the freemasonry of efficiency-the brotherhood of science." Actually, it is not just science, but scientism: all problems solved by reason. The keystone is "Scientific optimism."
The series' one quirk was the Aesopian moralizing. I was not bothered by this, since a story without a moral component is not worth seeing. And Filmation never afraid to sermonize, as with other series: "Shazam!," "He-Man," and "Ghostbusters." Unlike the "GI Joe" cartoon where the moral was random sage advice, Filmation's morals flowed from the plot. This forced them to write better, which makes us better too.
I noted two flaws. First, there is the false assumption that science breeds peace. Pre-war Germany was one of the most scientifically advanced civilization, but also one of the most brutal.. Science not only gives us Newtons but also Dr. Germs and Chemical Aliis.
The second flaw (which "Star Trek: Enterprise" also made) is the motto: "Use your wits; not your six-shooter." The series started without weapons, just flash-mirrors. Later, the lasers were added, which added credibility to the series. You cannot hug a charging rhinoceros to submission.
Additionally, I would have liked to see more background, the subtle things that add to a series setting. For example, in Star Trek, we see other ships, star bases, and Kirk is frequently checking in with Star Fleet Command. Ark II is adrift in shallow waters; we never see her in contact with the scientocracy--although "The Robot" implies that there is only one Ark.. This breeches MST3K's admonition to not worry about these thing, but it would have rounded things out and added fodder for new episodes.
Overall, the best episode is "The Tank." Thematically, it is man against society, man against machine, war against peace, and the under-girding forbidden love story. Having a teenager as the center makes it more poignant.
I disagree with the shows politics, which means I disagree with their metaphysics. However, you cannot question the courage of Jonah and his crew. Compared to some of the missing links I have had to work with, they are people I would love to work with, support, and even die for.
Since the episodes are compact, I recommend watching one full disc in a sitting. Recommended episodes:
"The Slaves" Jonah becomes a slave, and therefore becomes a Christic figure. "But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant." (Philippians 2:5 - 9). It also focuses on the tension between science and superstition, with science winning.
"Omega" has a image that has stayed with me for three decades--the man playing chess with the black monolith that keeps zapping him. In one sense, the story is a rewrite of Star Trek:TOS's "And the Children Shall Lead," with the Angel being replaced by the computer from "Return of the Archons," and being given the attitude of Nomad. It also has a touch of "Logan's Run," to boot. However the end-credit sermonizing did not mesh with the story.
(PS-look for a 13 year old Helen Hunt in this episode!)
"Robin Hood" is not only a good example of a general Ark II episode, it is also an example of quintessential Filmation writing. Slapstick humor mixes with the moral choices of the lead and supporting charters, and the ensuing chaos of evil slowly going out of control.
In fact, it is the varied ethical choices define this episode. On one hand Lord Leslie uses stolen grain as fuel. Then you have Robin, who steals the grain back, because the townsfolk eat it. But is Robin Hood justified in stealing back? And is Alan moral when he leaves Jonah to join Robin? Sadly, this subtle ethical choice gets overshadowed by the next few minutes of drama.. This has another memory that has haunted me these three decades--the Ark II being driven by Adam, and it stopping inches from Jonah's face.
"Orkus" (Not Orko). This was almost a ST:TOS episode because Jonah develops a Kirk-like swagger, and the conflict revolves around Malevolent power that promises a boon in exchange for slavery. A great way to end the series.
"The Lottery," harkens back to the eerie play of the same name. When Ruth entered the Forbidden Zone, I genuinely felt both concern for her, and that I was watching New Testament Descensus literature. The condensed sermonizing was more shouting than solid logos (rational thought and discussion), akin to teenage girl putting everyone in their place.
"The Robot." I liked the crew getting R&R, but this episode has the most plot holes: Where did Robby come from? Where did Samuel's skills come from? Are there more robots? The religious townsfolk are cut out of the same flat cardboard used in "Bloom County" and "Inherit the Wind." Scientism again!
"The Cryogenic Man." A retelling of "Connecticut Yankee." However, the businessmen are burlesques of Burns and Smithers. The ending worked, but I would have preferred Jim Backus saving Jonah, thereby returning the life-debt."
How did this pass me by first time around?
BENJAMIN MILER | Veneta, Oregon | 01/12/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Ark II premiered in September 1976, when I was four years old (I was born in 1972), so I might have been a little young to pick up on the show, but it continued to air on CBS until 1979, and in syndication into the 1980s, so I should have picked up on it somewhere, but apparently didn't. When it first came out, me and my family had no television, and by that time, had moved out in the country. It also had to do with having no CBS affiliate where I lived (this time, back in the city) once my family had a television in 1978.
Strangely I didn't discover Ark II until 2004, when I was wanting to learn more on what Filmation had done besides the Star Trek animated series, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Ghostbusters (the '80s animated that forced the the cartoon adaptation of the movie franchise to be entitled "The Real Ghostbusters"), and Fat Albert. Ark II popped up and I liked the description, and the scenes included. I then discovered this series would be available on DVD, so a few years later I picked it up and was amazed! I was expecting to be embarrassed and feeling it would appeal only to '70s kids, but that wasn't the case at all. This is by Filmation, and I always dug that rotating "Lou Scheimer" and "Norm Prescott" banner that you see on all the Filmation productions from 1969 to the 1981-82 season (until the 1974-75 season, you'd see this on the closing credits, after you see it at the beginning credits, like you do Ark II). That was done so they received equal billing for production.
I can't help but think of Ark II as Damnation Alley for kids, although the movie adaptation of 1967 Roger Zelazny short story-turned-1969 full-blown novel did not hit the theaters until the following year, 1977, but there are similarities: a post apocalyptic theme, similar looking land vehicle (contrary to popular belief, the Ark II was not reused for the Damnation Alley film, they are different, despite their similarities), and the fact these land vehicles were used to help save civilization. Also the vehicle for Ark II was simply reused the following year for the spacecraft on Space Academy.
Ark II consists of Terry Lester as Jonah (he was 26), Jean Marie Hon as Ruth (she was 21), Jose Flores as Samuel (he was still a minor then, I doubt he was over 15), and a chimpanzee (that talks, with voice courtesy of Lou Scheimer himself) as Adam. As you guess, all the characters are Biblical, but the show itself isn't overly religious so anyone, regardless of religion or not should enjoy this. This is the world some 500 years later, pollution and wars taking its toll on the environment, causing civilization to revert back to the Stone Age. So it takes some highly trained young scientists to undo the wrong. You see civilizations with societies that justify slavery, who are unjust, who treat the poor and handicapped as outcasts, those who refuse to open up to the outside world regardless how much they outside help they need, and so on.
Guests include Jonathan Harris, who many of you know as Dr. Zachary Smith on Lost in Space, and a then-13 year old Helen Hunt. Even Robby the Robot makes an apperance he (first appeared on Forbidden Planet, and even appeared on an episode of Lost in Space). The two episodes with Jonathan Harris, I keep thinking that he'll state that his "delicate back is a disaster area", or "the pain, the pain", or calling the Robot names. That never happens, after all, this is not Lost in Space. Harris also appeared on another Filmation creation: Space Academy.
I have noticed recycled sound effects that I've heard on Star Trek (but then I also watched movies predating Star Trek using those same sounds, so obviously they came from a sound library), not to mention, some of the episodes using the same incidental music you hear on the Star Trek animated series (another Filmation creation).
I like the fact there's only 15 episodes, sometimes better one season, than a bunch. This DVD set also includes an episode listing, plus tons of bonus features, including the "Launch of Ark II", which is about the making of the Ark II with Jean Marie Hon, Lou Scheimer, and Richard A. Rosenbloom (Terry Lester was obviously not present due to his passing). Plus you get treated with opening themes to many other Filmation productions, such as He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, The Ghost Busters (the original 1975 live action, and the 1980s animated that forced the other Ghostbusters to be called "The Real Ghostbusters"), Space Academy, Flash Gordon, and more (no Fat Albert, no Archies, no Star Trek animated, probably because Entertainment Rights don't have legal propert of those shows).
Because Ark II was on a limited budget, don't expect much change in the scenery from one episode to the next, but it's still lovely scenery (it's semi-desert, it's all filmed in Southern California). The picture quality isn't digital DVD perfect, but you don't expect it to be for something dating back to 1976. But that's what I like about watching TV shows or movies from the 1970s: the technical limitations of the era (that's why I have a problem with the CGI updates on the original Star Trek series that I've been seeing on television of late, OK, so that's from the 1960s, but still). Ark II is quite dated, but in this case, "dated in a good way", meaning, "couldn't have came out from any era other than the 1970s", where they show the futuristic clothing and hairstyles that obviously look dated, but not in such a ridiculous way that I've often seen movies, TV programs and commercials from the 1980s (not to mention hairstyles and clothing from that era, that I, growing up in the 1980s, was embarrassed of even then).
I can't say I had fond childhood memories of Ark II as I don't recall seeing it the first time around (or in syndication in the 1980s), but I'm glad I discovered this TV series. But isn't it nice to watch something from that era that you don't recall seeing the first time around taking you back to that time? That's what Ark II does for me. It comes to show you great programming was had even on the short budget those folks at Filmation had."