Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Back to the Planet of the Apes: ep 7 "The Surgeon"

 "The Surgeon"
Airdate: October 25, 1974
Written by Barry Orringer
Directed by Arnold Laven
Synopsis: When Virdon is shot, his friends make a desperate game and contact Galen's old girlfriend, Kira, who is now a talented surgeon. So that she can operate, Galen and Burke must steal a forbidden book on human anatomy from the very home of Dr. Zaius.

Trey: Apparently, our fugitive heroes are relatively close to Ape City again, as they get to the hospital on its outskirts fairly quickly. It's odd that they never get far from their given the dangers it poses. Perhaps (though it's never mentioned) they want to stay close to the ruins of the biggest cities as they stand the best chance of finding more old tech there? Not much for them in the ruins of Bakersfield, I guess.

Jason: They've got the map right there on the wall, but distance measurements must be one of those black boxes impenetrable to ape minds. Objects are closer than they appear.  Another instance where the assumption must have been "no one will care about continuity - they are lucky to be getting apes at all."

Trey: This episode was originally intended to reunite McDowell with Kim Hunter who had played his character's wife, Zira, in the feature films. Hunter was not up for the makeup ordeal, apparently, so the role of Kira went to Jacqueline Scott.

Jason: Scott's performance was a highlight of the episode. To my surprise, the whole ensemble seemed to step up their games for this episode. Maybe the script was better than average?

Trey: I think so. We've also got David McNaughton as Dr. Stole. He's the brother to James McNaughton, the actor playing Burke.

Jason: Dr. "Stole Your Girlfriend," I think you mean! (Sorry, I can't leave the obvious stuff alone in these ape reports!) Anyway, another refreshingly, um, human performance this episode. 

Trey: Well, Stole seems pretty cool with this strange doctor Kira brings in. He's got questions sure, but he doesn't get in a contest of egos with him. That--or jealousy--would have been an easy angle for them to go in.

Jason: Stole knows what he's bringing to the game and his supremely secure ego isn't threatened by the likes of Galen! A frequently irritating trait, it's one I don't mind so much in my surgeon!

Trey: Well, I wouldn't advise having this ape as your surgeon for reasons the episode makes clear! This is yet another episode with the astronauts bringing knowledge the apes don't have.

Jason: It's now officially the most handy plot device in the series.

Trey: In this case, though, it's more reasonable as it's about human physiology. Burke gets some of the facts he asserts about blood groupings wrong, though, but hey, he's going off stuff he learned in college, probably.

Jason: Burke is suspiciously well-versed in (fictional) blood typing for a wise-cracking astronaut, but that's exactly the kind of broad-spectrum, renaissance-person training a candidate for interplanetary exploration should have.  

Trey: I like that the B plot regarding Arna, the shunned girl, ties backs into the theme of ignorance, but also directly to blood types. A little contrived perhaps, but it works.

Jason: The genuine performances sell it. The seemingly arbitrary nature of human (and ape) ignorance is certainly convenient for the screenwriters, but Arna's redemption was as close to moving as anyone can reasonably expect from POTA series.

Trey: It's become a pattern than Urko and sometimes Zaius just show up pretty much to remind us that their menace is out there!

Jason: And I'm glad they do! An episode without Urko's maniacal devotion to Ape Cultural Security and his hateful dialogue would be a shame. There's also that Urko is still having trouble pronouncing "as-tro-nauts!" I love that. 

Trey: I like that Kira and Stole, when given irrefutable evidence that some of their beliefs are wrong, accept it pretty quickly as primates of science.

Jason: As any Urko worth his jackboots can tell you, that's why you have to round up the brainy apes first if you want to keep that oppressive fascist regime operating smoothly. 

Trey: The theme of ignorance is carried through nicely with the trick played on Urko to afford our heroes an escape.

Jason: Indeed, yes! I know I keep carrying on about that map on Urko's wall, but I couldn't help notice the resemblance between the portentous skulls and X's on that map and the symbols on the door to the hospital's precisely named "Room of Death!"

Despite the protestations of my inner 12 year old, who would complain about the lack of ape action in the episode, I found this to be one of my favorites. Good performances, some interesting world building (appreciated even as it increasingly seems unlikely to skew towards a coherent vision), a foolproof hospital drama, and some very mature handling of ape romance, this one has a lot going for it. What's your verdict, Trey?

Trey: I agree with both adult you and your inner 12 year-old. Not much action, but good classc TV drama.

No comments:


Related Posts with Thumbnails