For lovers of classic television, much progress has been made in getting most of the significant series from the 1960's released on DVD, particularly in the last decade. However, there remain some notable exceptions, particularly in the case of series involving animals. Some that come to mind are Lassie, and the Ivan Tors' productions Gentle Ben, Flipper (only Season One so far), and Daktari. Fortunately, this is about to change, as the first season of Daktari (1966-69), a series set in Africa is being released on DVD-R.
"Daktari" is Swahili for "doctor". This unique series has a memorable theme song that features the Swahili language, native instruments, and wild animal cries. The program centers on the adventures of veterinarian Marsh Tracy (Marshall Thompson), who along with his beautiful daughter Paula (Cheryl Miller) runs the Wameru Study Center for Animal Behavior, a research facility located in the east African bush. Daktari is adapted from the film Clarence, The Cross-Eyed Lion (1965), which also starred Thompson and Miller, as well as Judy, a super intelligent chimpanzee, and the aforementioned Clarence, who suffers from some vision problems.
Helping the Tracy's, are a pair of robust young men, Jack Dane (Yale Summers) and Mike Makula (Hari Rhodes). The Wameru facility, commonly referred to as "the compound", provides shelter and refuge from the dangers of the bush. The animals are threatened by things like disease, weather, predators, poachers, and thieves. The local law enforcement is represented by District Officer Hedley (Hedley Mattingley).
The episodes and broadcast dates from the first season are listed below.
1. The Elephant Thieves (1/11/1966)
2. Predator of Wameru (1/18/1966)
3. Killer Lion (1/25/1966)
4. Adventure of the Lion Cubs (2/1/1966)
5. Trail of the Cheetah (2/8/1966)
6. Leopard of Madla Gorge (2/15/1966)
7. The Diamond Smugglers (3/1/1966)
8. The Chimp Who Went Ape (3/8/1966)
9. The Killer Dog (3/15/1966)
10. Return of the Killer - Part 1 (3/22/1966)
11. Return of the Killer - Part 2 (3/29/1966)
12. The Maneater of Wameru (4/5/1966)
13. Crisis at the Compound (4/12/1966)
14. The Hostages (4/19/1966)
15. Judy and the Hyena (4/26/1966)
16. Wall of Flames - Part 1 (5/3/1966)
17. Wall of Flames - Part 2 (5/10/1966)
18. Judy and the Gunrunners (5/17/1966)
My childhood memories of Daktari are a little hazy, but I'm fairly certain that like Flipper, this was a very family friendly program, that advocated the humanitarian treatment of living things. I still have some Daktari bubble gum cards that I got way back then, and hope to revisit the series and learn what it was really about. My impression was that Dr. Marsh Tracy was a very dignified and resourceful man, while Officer Headley was a rather excitable chap, with a heavy British accent. Hari Rhodes, a fine actor also with a distinctive voice, joined other actors of African-American heritage, like Bill Cosby and Ivan Dixon, as a series regular on a prime time program, something that was still uncommon in 1966. The program's loudest performer, and active scene stealer was Judy the chimp, who is quite prone to throwing tantrums. As this release is on DVD-R, the five disc set might not contain any extras, but hopefully image quality will be good.