I am pleased to present a complete Episode Guide to all four seasons of Daktari, complete with commentary, contributed by our Australian friend and fan, Ken Lynch. A French fan and friend, Patrick Sansano, has generously allowed this site to post his numerous screen captures from each season. He has a very entertaining episode guide of his own (in French – Google will translate) which I encourage you to visit.
You, the readers, make this site possible, a central location where fans can come, reminisce and collect pictures for their own scrapbooks. My thanks to my readers from around the globe who have generously offered their time and talent to this site.
Background on Daktari
For background on how Daktari came to be, check out the post on the movie, Clarence The Cross-Eyed Lion which proved to be the pilot for the series.
The history of Daktari
Note: links for each season will appear as soon as they are posted on this site.
The series of 89 episodes that followed was screened over the following periods:
- Season One 11 Jan – 17 May 1966 (18 episodes)
- Season Two 13 Sept 1966 – 11 Apr 1967 (29 episodes)
- Season Three 5 Sept 1967 – 12 Mar 1968 (27 episodes)
- Season Four 25 Sept 1968 – 15 Jan 1969 (15 episodes)
After the success of Clarence the Cross-Eyed Lion Marshall Thompson continued his role as Dr. Marsh Tracy, the American working as a veterinarian and a conservationist at the Wameru Study Center for Animal Behaviour in Africa. Working with him at the centre was his daughter Paula (Cheryl Miller). In addition, Hari Rhodes came aboard as native animal scientist Mike Makula and Yale Summers was zoologist Jack Dane.
Together they constantly battled against the forces of nature which destroy wild life and against predatory men who kill for the delight of killing or to traffic in hide, ivory or captive animals.
When bringing poachers to justice, Marsh usually worked with Hedley (Hedley Mattingtly), a British game warden, who frequently asked for the doctor’s help. Jack left the show in 1968 and was replaced by Bart Jason (Ross Hagen), a camera-safari guide who was once a ranger. Another 1968 addition to the show was Jenny Jones (Erin Moran), a seven-year-old orphan taken in by Dr. Tracy.
Thompson worked closely with Ralph Helfer, the owner of Africa USA. Helfer was a highly skilled animal trainer and Thompson learned from him everything he could. All the animals used in the series and all the animals trained by Helfer were “love-schooled” from birth.
Daktari was ground-breaking in many ways. It was the first television series providing an ongoing platform of work for Black actors. It had wild animals as its stars, not horses and dogs. Ivan Tors was the show’s producer with a reputation for mass production of family fare. By the second season, Thompson insisted upon getting his hand in everything and the show improved in its reality and story lines. He also did his own stunts.
There was one incident that almost cost him his life. The scene called for him to be in a pit with a leopard. Shot in the San Fernando Valley near Ventura, the animals, actors and crew worked in very hot temperatures. This scene was shot in the late afternoon and the leopard was hot. Her front paws were de-clawed, but she had all of her teeth.
Like any performer after a long day at work in the heat, she got cranky and grabbed Thompson’s forearm with her mouth. Thompson did not react by pulling his arm away. He worked with the leopard’s movement until a sedative could be administered thus saving his arm. The cameras did not stop rolling during the incident and the scene was shown on air as it happened. The blood the audience saw was real and so were the 16 stitches it took to patch Marshall up. But he was back at work the next day.
When the audience saw what Clarence saw, it was in double vision. He was friendly and non-aggressive, purred when anyone rubbed his back and worked safely with children and other animals. Clarence’s temperament was so mild that he once “hatched” 12 ostrich chicks in one episode.
Clarence’s professionalism won him rave reviews on set – except for one incident that wasn’t really the lion’s fault. On the first day of shooting for Daktari, Clarence was waiting patiently for his scene when an unthinking production assistant clapped the scene marker. “He jumped 20 feet over the camera and disappeared up the mountain,” recalled Tors. “It took us an hour and a half to find him.”
Another not so friendly lion named Leo doubled for Clarence in some scenes. He was used only for the snarling scenes and general scenes which didn’t involve close proximity with humans.
Leo had come to Africa USA from a family in Utah. His ferocity was due in part to the mistreatment he received from former owners who reportedly beat him with a stick.
Both Clarence and Judy were distinguished in America with the animal OSCAR, the Patsy (standing for “Picture Animal Top Star of the Year”) Award for the movie – an award given by Hollywood’s office of the American Humane Association to trained animal performers.
The series was a world-wide success and is reportedly the first American series shown in the USSR at that time.
In July 1967, there were some concerns about the potential impact of the 1967-68 winter on locations throughout Africa USA. In March 1968, eleven inches of rain fell in one day, the normal rainfall for a whole year. The dam above the Daktari set burst and a ten-foot wave swept through the Soledad Canyon, carrying away the studio buildings, the Daktari sets, nine trucks, bulldozers and other vehicles.
Ivan Tors decided not to re-build and sold the property soon after.
Considering that the flood took place in March 1968 and Season Four did not screen until September 1968, it can be inferred that there was a six to nine-months gap between the production of episodes and their screening throughout the time of the series.