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An Observer's Guide to Backpacking and Waistcoating on the Planet of the Apes
[This is dedicated to Gina and Jane, who said kind things
about the original version posted to “Friends and Fugitives”,
and who nagged…I mean, asked…for an illustrated edition.]
“Y’ see, when I was a boy, kids loved to have things like that pouch.
’Cos you could carry your things in it!”

Alan Virdon, “The Legacy”
It stands to reason.
You’re setting out on a quest.
One that involves exploring the thirty-first century, post-apocalyptic landscape of what was once the South Western United States of America.
Things are going to be a mite unpredictable.
You won’t know what is on the other side of a particular hill until you get there. There may be settlements of some kind… and there may not.
Even if you do find the area you’ve ventured into is populated, its inhabitants may be hospitable—but they may just as likely be hostile.
In fact, given that you’re a character in a weekly, episodic television series, the odds are more than likely that you’re going to encounter something untoward.
So, to ensure your survival, you’re going to need to carry the essentials of day-to-day living with you.
Stuff like food. Water. Extra clothing to protect yourself from any adverse weather conditions. Even something as simple as keeping yourself warm at night would be a challenge, and with that in mind it might be helpful to have instant access to materials that would enable you to start a fire.
You may even need somewhere to put a heavy, coarse-woven fawn-coloured waistcoat—after it proves to be too much of an encumberance when climbing up and down hills in the heat of a cloudless Californian day.
Yet you will also want to have your hands free, to help with all that climbing.
In order to be able to do all this, you are—in the words of Colonel Alan Virdon himself—going to need something to, “…carry your things in.”
It stands to reason.
You’re going to need what Virdon calls a “pouch,” but what I’d prefer to call a backpack. Or a rucksack. Or whatever you want to call it. Ed Lakso, in the script for “The Cure” uses the former—and that’s good enough for me. In any event, Virdon, Burke and Galen have them.
One apiece.
When I was watching “Planet of the Apes” for the first time—in what the passage of time is making the increasingly remote year of 1974—I was delighted to notice the subtle—but genuine—elements of continutity and cross-referencing that the Producers, Script Editors and Writers built into their stories (and which I intend to discuss elsewhere).
It helped to reinforce the notion that Virdon, Burke, and Galen’s adventures were really happening. Inevitably, this led me to look for clues that would help me determine the order in which the “events” on the Planet of the Apes were supposed to be taking place.
I was aware by this time that TV companies tended to screen the episodes of continuing drama series without any real concern for any inherent continuity they may possess. In the case of “Apes”, this had been emphasised by the fact that, when the series debuted, one British TV region—Yorkshire Television—had aired “The Cure” as the second story.
Reinforcing this belief was the fact I had noticed how, in some stories, Virdon, Burke and Galen had backpacks—and in others they did not. Similarly, it was conspicuous that Burke was sometimes sporting the aforementioned waistcoat—and sometimes he was not. I found myself wondering if there was any logic to this; if the intermittent appearances of the fugitives’ luggage and the variations in Burke’s wardrobe were clues to the sequence of events in my heroes lives—or just the result of inconsistent art direction.
Now, after hours of obsessive note-taking, I am proud—or, at least, moderately pleased—to present a “Guide to Backpacking and Waistcoating on the Planet of the Apes”, in which you will find an account of every appearance of both the fugitives’ hold-alls—and Burke’s fluctuating attire.
As you will see, while there may not be a logic to everything, there is at least some degree of structure that enables us to draw certain conclusions.
I have chosen to present the episodes in production order (based on the code numbers that appear on the end credits) because this is, for me, the order in which the stories “occurred,” and because—oh joy of joys—the show’s internal continuity supports this. The only exception to this is the opening tale, “Escape from Tomorrow”, which was the third episode to be filmed, but which I’ve chosen to place at the start of the run—for obvious reasons.
For the record, Burke’s waistcoat debuts in “Escape from Tomorrow”, and is never seen again after “The Trap”, while the backpacks arrive in “The Good Seeds”, and have their swansong in “The Surgeon”.
Finally, if the framing of some of the screen captures which follow seems a little odd, this is because they have been chosen because of what they show (or don’t show), rather than with the intention of satisfying any compositional aesthetics…
April 13th, 2005
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