Saturday, November 30, 2013

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Return to the Planet of the Apes: "Screaming Wings" (October 10, 1975)

The 1975 animated series Return to the Planet of the Apes actually features a story arc of sorts, and this week’s episode, “Screaming Wings” provides the impetus for the next series of episodes.

Specifically, in “Screaming Wings,” General Urko makes his riskiest power-play yet.  He attempts to take power in Ape City away from Dr. Zaius by demonstrating his control over an ancient, World War II warplane.

Fortunately, the humanoids -- Bill, Jeff, and Judy – are able to steal the warplane and prevent Urko’s coup. 

The antique plane itself -- as well as the fall-out from Urko’s coup -- continue to play an important role in the series’ next several episodes.

It is impressive that a Saturday morning cartoon of the mid-1970s should attempt a story arc (which consists of this episode, “Trail to the Unknown” and “Attack from the Clouds”) of the complexity unveiled here.  

Too often in the past, Urko has brazenly crossed the line of disrespect with Dr. Zaius, and it is rewarding that the writers of the series should push past the status quo, and begin to examine what occurs when Zaius responds to the gorilla's outrageous betrayals.

The biggest problem with “Screaming Wings,” however, is the warplane itself. 

On one hand, it doesn’t seem probable that Urko would utilize a weapon that demonstrates to all ape-kind the superiority of the human race.  He would at least put on a show, it seems, that this is an APE weapon, newly developed.

On the other hand, it also seems entirely unlikely that  the ape civilization as dramatized in this animated series would not possess warplanes of its own at this juncture in its history.

Everything we have seen of the ape culture up to this episode points to a culture that is roughly equivalent to America in the 1940s – 1950s.  

The Apes have television broadcasts, hand-held walkie-talkies, machine guns, electricity, and even a burgeoning film culture (“The Apefather,” remember?)  

America developed flight in the early years of the twentieth century, and had warplanes like the one seen in “Screaming Wings” by the early 1940s.  So the apes -- at this point -- should certainly have at least begun to experiment with planes and flight.

Funnily, one future episode, “Attack from the Clouds” also shows that the apes have radar devices.  Why would they have radar if they don’t have planes to fly?!

In spite of such problems, “Screaming Winds” is worthwhile because Zaius -- finally -- is moved off his butt to combat the power-hungry Urko. He initiates an investigation of Urko’s competence to lead the Ape military, and such action is long overdue.

Next week: “Trail to the Unknown.”


  1. John, as you stated, since the culture is roughly equivalent to America in the 1940s – 1950s it would have made more sense that the Apes already had the WWII era propped airplanes and were now being introduced to a fighter jet.


  2. The Apes should already have propeller airplanes in their military and the new plane should have been a jet fighter.



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