Ark II (1976)
Ark II is an American live-action science fiction series, aimed at children, that aired on CBS, beginning on September 11, 1976, and ending on December 18, 1976.
The show’s opening monologue follows: “For millions of years, Earth was fertile and rich. Then pollution and waste began to take their toll. Civilization fell into ruin. This is the world of the 25th century. Only a handful of scientists remain. Men who have vowed to rebuild what has been destroyed. This is their achievement: Ark II, a mobile storehouse of scientific knowledge, manned by a highly trained crew of young people. Their mission: to bring the hope of a new future to mankind.”
The Ark II, which resembled a Space Shuttle type vehicle without wings or a tail served as a mobile laboratory, and crew quarters. The Ark II and it’s crew, Captain Jonah (Terry Lester), Ruth (Jean Marie Ho), Samuel (Jose Flores), and a chimpanzee (owned and trained by Darrell Keener) named Adam roam a post-apocalyptic 25th Century after Earth’s civilizations had been decimated by the effects of waste, pollution, and warfare, falling back to a level comparable to the Dark Ages.
The surviving scientists pooled their knowledge and resources, training three young people (and the chimp, who was capable of speech and abstract reasoning) to search for remnants of humanity, reintroducing lost ideas as they traveled the barren landscape in the high-tech Ark II.
In addition to the amazing looking Ark II, the series also featured a jetpack called the Jet Jumper, used by Jonah to seek out folks in need when the Ark II was just too clunky to use effectively. And the Ark Roamer, a smaller, 4-wheeled all-terrain vehicle. The Roamer was carried in the rear of the Ark II; a cool little vehicle every kid watching would have loved to drive around in.
Sadly, Ark II had a short run, with only 16 episodes. Many episodes featured very familiar faces from the ’60s and ’70s. The list includes Jonathan Harris, Malachi Throne, Jim Backus, Helen Hunt, and (would you believe it) Robby the Robot.
When I was pretty young, I remember watching several episodes of the show. I was amazed at the really cool technology, even if the classic spacey sound effects used for the gadgets matched the same used for Star Trek. All the characters seemed very real to me, including the fact that the chimp could talk.
The show, like the beloved television show Shazam, always had a hidden moral, which I always took to heart. Ark II didn’t slap you in the face with the morality, though, it was much more insinuated. Looking back on it now, the show pioneered an environmental message, which I think benefited the kids that noticed.
Watch the first episode of Ark II Online
Fun fact: The front end of the Ark II prop was later re-used as the nose portion of the Seeker spacecraft in the Filmation series Space Academy, and Jason of Star Command.