Okay, admittedly, I'm getting off to a bad start with the first Space: 1970 Theme Week: a day late and a re-post at that!, But... I actually intended to re-post some of the more relevant articles from the past year in addition to at least five new ones; I just didn't plan to start the week that way. Unfortunately, I haven't managed my time very well, so... here's my review of the Ark II DVD set from a few years ago, with a few minor revisions and some additional screen captures. With luck, I'll have a brand-new themed post up shortly.
Ark II was a surprisingly bleak and grim premise for a Saturday morning children’s television series. Of course, at the time, it all seemed like a very possible near-future; as a child of the Seventies, I was uncomfortably aware of (even if I didn't understand) the energy crisis, the conflict in Vietnam, and the omnipresent nuclear threat posed by the Cold War.
Damnation Alley for adolescents!
Planet Of the Apes features! And, as I mentioned in my Space Academy review, Bill Malone’s Robby the Robot guest starred in an episode, which is always a plus for me. The earnest young cast manages to play their underwritten roles with conviction, and, thankfully, the chatty chimpanzee (voiced by frugal Filmation head Lou Scheimer) is never all that annoying.
Ark II set contains all 15 episodes on 4 discs. Unfortunately, the transfers are not very impressive. Presented in their original full-screen TV aspect ratio, the source material, originally shot on inexpensive 16mm film stock, is faded and grainy, although relatively free of damage or debris. Still, considering that the show is nearly 30 years old, and was probably shot on a budget of $100 bucks an episode, we’re probably lucky the episodes look as good as they do.
Ark II – The Complete Series comes with an bunch of bonus features, including audio commentaries on two episodes, a full-length "Making Of" documentary, several photo and art galleries (including designs for a proposed animated version of the series), and all 15 scripts, plus the series bible, on DVD-ROM.
Ark II is good kid’s show with a still-timely environmental message and a relatively decent example of 70’s TV sci-fi, and I really enjoyed watching these episodes again. If it’s a fond memory from your childhood, you may want to pick it up, despite the less-than-reference-quality transfers.
Like the other Filmation live-action sci-fi kidvid series Space Academy and Jason of Star Command, Ark II was released a few years ago on DVD by BCI. That original set is out of print – and BCI is out of business – but just before the company closed shop, it released all three series in one box set. Both editions are still available if you look around for them; in fact, here's some links:
• Filmation Sci-Fi Box Set
• Ark II: The Complete Series