Thursday, December 02, 2010


Back in the 1970's, science fiction was a hot entertainment trend on television. In 1976, a year before the release of the movie Star Wars, CBS TV premiered a children's television show called ARKII. ARKII told the story of a group of scientists who traveled about the devasted future world sharing knowledge with the remaining people of earth.

I recently blogged about the film Damnation Alley which featured a working all terrain vehicle called the Landmaster. ARKII featured a similar, albeit, more benign type vehicle which led me to research the program and find out more about it. The vehicles were not the same and were constructed by different people.

ARKII opened with the narrator describing a dark and ominous future Earth destroyed by waste and pollution (very early 1970's ecology movement inspired). Next, the opening showed people reduced to barbarian like existence living in rags and pushing around carts made from old car parts.

ARKII was the name of the futuristic RV/labratory crewed with three young scientists, Jonah, Ruth and Samuel. A fourth character, a talking (!) chimp named Adam rounded out the regular cast. (Adam had this funny deep dubbed voice and he seldom spoke more than a line or two per episode).

The ARK was inspired by Old Testament stories from the Bible as were the cast members' names. ARK=ARKII, Jonah, Ruth, Samuel, Adam - get it?

The series takes place in the 25th century and the scenes of the world all pretty much look the same - Southern California desert. The people all have long hair, are dirty and wear old worn out clothes. (Since this was the 1970's, they probably had no problem finding plenty of hippies to use as extras. Ha-ha).

The ARKII team ran around solving problems with people finding dangerous old things like poison and chemicals, children with ESP powers, strange settlements of people with minor mutations and an occasional bad guy who wants the ARK's technology.

There were only 14 episodes of ARKII produced. Apparently, children on Saturday morning were not up for post-apocalyptic tales yet and the stories were fairly watered down simple stuff where a problem arose and was solved in thirty minutes with three commercial breaks.

Having not seen the show in over thirty years, here are some highlights I remember.

- They had a jet pack which Jonah, the leader, used in several episodes. This was the same type of jet pack made famous by 1960's James Bond and Lost in Space. 

- They had a dune buggy which popped out of the back of the ARKII for jaunts around town.

- All of the crew members carried these mirrors which looked like makeup compacts. When they held them up to bad guys, it made this flashing and caused the bad guys to pass out.

- Jonah also had this laser gun which looked like a picture frame with six LED light bulbs. Since it was a children's show, he never used it on people but used it to blow up things like rocks and whatnot.

- Jim Bacchus, Mr. Howell of Gilligan's Island fame, appeared in one episode as a cryogenically frozen  businessman from our time. Needless to say, he played a greedy guy only concerned with rebuilding his financial empire. Blah blah blah.

I read a lot of science fiction at the time and I was facinated with the show. My sister of course, wanted to watch Josie and the Pussycats or Sigmund the Seamonster, so I often only got to see an episode every other week. Fortunately, the show ran in reruns for years so eventually, I got to see all of the series.

ARKII is out there on DVD, I think. It was a hug-a-tree post-apocalypse story, but still a fun view for kids and adults alike.


Mayberry said...

Hmmmm... I was only 3 when that came out. Never did catch any reruns, but looks interesting. Heh, "Land of the Lost" was my show back then. Sort of a "survival" show...

JD said...

Mayberry, Yep, it was a pretty weird show for the time. I think some "enviro types" came up with the idea and turned it into a show.

The way the world looked, I thought it was the result of a nuclear war, but they never said that on the show - only that pollution and waste caused the problems.

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