Edited by Paul A. Woods
Published to coincide with the release of Tim Burton’s remake of Planet of the Apes, The Planet of the Apes Chronicles recounts the entire history of the Apes saga via a wealth of interviews with cast and crew members of the original films, articles, story and screenplay development, essays and reviews of the five films, the TV series, comic books and animated cartoon series.
Featuring the definitive Planet of the Apes timeline, correlating narrative events from films, comics, books, and TV series. This will be the first book to examine every aspect of this pop-culture phenomenon, including the new Tim Burton Planet of the Apes film and the early draft screenplays that precipitated its production.
Early in 2001, I was given the opportunity to create a timeline detailing the films, television episodes, and comics stories that took place on the Planet of the Apes for a book that would dovetail with the release of the new film. Using an earlier version of such a timeline originally produced in 1975 as a starting point and dragging all of my old books, comics, and videotapes out for reference, I set about writing a new chronology from the ground up.
The result was “Planet of the Apes: An Annotated Chronology,” a linear history of the saga, with notes and commentary about various points of interest along the way. My original timeline came in at over 10,000 words, which had to be cut down for inclusion in this book. Additionally, some material from my timeline was used to annotate the episode guide sections of the book.
Here’s a sample of “Planet of the Apes: A Chronological History,” covering the earliest portions of the timeline up until the time most closely corresponding with “now.” I also have a much lengthier and detailed version of the chronology than was feasible to print in the book itself.
- Sebastian Thorne, a man deemed mentally unstable in his own time, is made the unwilling test subject for an experiment involving a “time machine” created by a scientist named Foucault. With Thorne strapped into the device, Dr. Foucault activates the mechanism and Thorne disappears, never to be seen again.
Urchak’s Folly (Adventure Comics 4-issue miniseries). Date of the experiment is conjecture. No information is given on the exact time frame of this experiment, so I opted to place it to coincide with a 200-year gap between these events and that of Urchak’s Folly. Judging from the renderings of the time period in which the experiment took place, it is very possible that the creators of this story were tipping their hat to H.G. Wells and his classic novel, The Time Machine.
Sometime Before 1972
- Amid the plethora of nuclear weapons constructed and deployed during the Cold
War, scientists working for the United States military create the Alpha-Omega bomb. Built primarily as a deterrent, the weapon is capable of destroying every living thing on the planet. Only one of the weapons is ever actually built, the common reasoning being that any more would be superfluous.
Beneath the Planet of the Apes. Derived from dialogue between Taylor and Brent.
- Astronauts Taylor, Dodge, Landon and Stewart depart Earth aboard the ANSA spacecraft Icarus on a deep space exploration mission. One of its tasks is to prove a theory postulated by a scientist named Hasslein that the passage of time is relative to an object when it travels at or near the speed of light. The spacecraft disappears from tracking scopes soon after launch, and many believe that it was destroyed under the stresses of acceleration.
Conjecture. The first Planet of the Apes film opens with the ship having already been away from Earth for six months. Dialogue between Taylor and Landon establishes “Hasslein’s Theory.” While it is not made clear onscreen, it is logical to presume that the “Hasslein” mentioned in Planet of the Apes is the same Otto Hasslein seen in Escape from the Planet of the Apes.
- A second spacecraft, carrying Astronaut Brent and another man who commands the mission, launches from Earth on a mission to determine what happened to the vessel carrying Taylor and his crew. Like the first ship, it also vanishes and is believed destroyed.
Beneath the Planet of the Apes. Though not directly stated in the film, it is assumed that this second flight left Earth only a short time after Taylor’s ship.
- Escape from the Planet of the Apes. Colonel Taylor’s spacecraft abruptly reappears in low Earth orbit, enters the atmosphere and crashes into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of southern California. Instead of the crew, three chimpanzees are found inside the craft: Dr. Cornelius, his wife Zira, and Dr. Milo. Before much can be made of this discovery, a primitive gorilla kills Milo while the three chimpanzees are interred at the Los Angeles zoo’s veterinary facility.
- Dr. Otto Hasslein, science advisor to the President of the United States, ultimately learns the eventual fate of the human race at the hands of the apes. He becomes obsessed with ensuring that Cornelius and Zira do not survive to help set events in motion to bring about that downfall. Hasslein eventually kills the chimpanzees, but not before Zira gives birth to a son, named Milo after their late friend.
In this film, the insignia for the space agency that appears on spacesuits is for “NASA,” as opposed to the “ANSA” seen in the first two films. This discrepancy is never explained, even though “ANSA” is used in the live-action television series while “NASA” appears again in the animated series.
- After his parents’ deaths, Milo remains in hiding with Armando, the owner of a circus, for the next eighteen years. Sometime during this period, the orphaned chimpanzee takes the name “Caesar.”
- From the time that the chimpanzees are placed in his care until an unknown point after their deaths, Dr. Lewis Dixon keeps a journal with press clippings as well as his own detailed notes and thoughts on what the apes’ coming will eventually mean for the future of Humanity.
Urchak’s Folly (Adventure Comics 4-issue miniseries). Dixon of course had no foreknowledge that his journal would weigh so heavily in events taking place long after his death.
- Derek Zane, a scientist who believes that the ship carrying Taylor and his crew has been propelled into the future, constructs a time machine with the intent of rescuing the astronauts. He activates the machine and is never seen again.
“Kingdom on an Island of the Apes” (Marvel Comics’ Planet of the Apes magazine #9). The story narrative indicates that Taylor and his crew are missing, but nothing is mentioned about Brent’s rescue mission. Also absent are indications that Zane knows anything about Cornelius and Zira or any of the events as chronicled in Escape from the Planet of the Apes. It is possible that he knew just enough of the story behind the chimpanzees’ arrival to formulate his theories and drive the construction of his time machine, but not the particulars, namely the knowledge of Earth’s and Humanity’s ultimate fate. Such knowledge was almost certainly classified, and this is supported in dialogue from Conquest of the Planet of the Apes.
- Astronauts Bill Hudson, Jeff Allen and Judy Franklin leave Earth aboard the spaceship Venturer. Their mission apparently includes the testing of a “time thrust” theory put forth by a scientist named Stanton. Shortly after their departure, their ship enters a mysterious vortex in space and disappears.
Date of departure from Earth taken from the opening scenes of the animated Return to the Planet of the Apes episode “Flames of Doom.” The mission to test Stanton’s theory taken from Hudson’s opening dialogue.
- Astronauts Virdon, Burke and Jones leave Earth on a deep space exploration mission, bound for Alpha Centauri. Their ship encounters an electrical storm en route that necessitates emergency action on the part of the crew. The ship’s automatic protocols for returning to Earth are activated, but it disappears instead.
Date of departure from Earth taken from the opening credits of each live-action Planet of the Apes episode. The electrical storm and its effects are established in dialogue between Virdon and Burke in “Escape from Tomorrow.”
- A mysterious plague is accidentally brought back to Earth by astronauts on a routine space mission. While it is initially believed to be harmless to humans and other higher orders of animal life, the plague proves especially virulent to cats and dogs. Within weeks, nearly the entire canine and feline population on Earth is destroyed.
Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. Eight years prior to the film. The nature of the space mission itself is never explained. Did astronauts bring the plague back from one of the solar system’s other planets, possibly Mars? Unknown.
Between 1983 and 1991
- Sometime during this period, humans on Earth begin to turn to small apes as replacement pets. Soon afterwards it is discovered that the domesticated apes are capable of performing simple tasks. As the years progress, the complexity level of these tasks continues to grow to the point that apes soon become a class of slave labor. Ape Management, a government-operated entity, forms the cornerstone of an entire industry developed to breed and condition the apes for their roles as Humankind’s servants.
Though no evidence is presented to support it, it seems reasonable to assume that the plague from 1983 had an additional, stimulating effect on the various simian species. This would go a long way toward explaining the startling advancement of ape intelligence in a span of barely twenty years.
- Armando, along with the child chimpanzee Caesar, continues to tour the country with his circus.
Conjecture. Armando and Caesar must be in New York in 1991, so this seemed the logical means to get them there. Please refer to the notes accompanying the entry for Conquest of the Planet of the Apes.
- Astronauts James Norvell, August Burrows, and Ken Flip launch from Earth on what is originally planned to be 16-month mission to Mars. During the return voyage to Earth, the ship disappears from tracking scopes.
“Countdown Zero.” (Adventure Comics’ Planet of the Apes #13-17). Date of departure is conjecture, though dialogue from the story indicates that the astronauts knew of the plague that attacked cats and dogs and that humans had slowly begun to domesticate apes.
- A book on human psychology is one of several items placed in a time capsule and buried at an undisclosed location in southwestern California. It will remain there, undisturbed, until the 31st century.
“The Interrogation” (Planet of the Apes television series). This is the book that Wanda, the ape doctor, uses in her attempts to brainwash Peter Burke.
- A group of renegade mercenaries calling themselves the Vindicators are launched from Earth on a top secret mission to travel into the future and wipe out the intelligent apes before they can cause Earth’s destruction. Among the group is Jo Taylor, the daughter of Colonel Taylor.
Ape City (Adventure Comics 4-issue miniseries). Date of departure is conjecture. Assumes that Jo Taylor is 24 years old, and was 6 years old at the time of her father’s space mission. My theory is that the government of the United States, concerned with the rapidly accelerating intelligence observed in the servant apes, reacts in a panic-stricken manner and authorizes this mission.
- Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. Caesar travels with Armando to New York and learns for himself that apes have been reduced to a slave subculture in service to humans. He nearly reveals his advanced intelligence when he yells at police mistreating a gorilla. He is forced into hiding among the primitive apes while Armando attempts to assure the city’s governor, Breck, that the chimpanzee is nothing more than he appears to be. Breck knows that the intelligence levels of many apes are on the rise, for reasons unknown, and is almost panic-stricken at the thought of an ape uprising.
During a ruthless round of interrogation, Armando attempts to flee and falls through a window to his death. Caesar learns of this and, knowing that his friend was killed as a result of the authorities searching for him, decides on a bold course of action. Slowly at first but with growing intensity, he begins to plant the seeds of rebellion in the clouded minds of the servant apes.
After being captured by Governor Breck’s people and tortured to reveal his ability to talk, Caesar escapes and leads a citywide uprising, resulting in the toppling of the government and the subjugation of the human populace. The fall of Humankind begins.
Name of the city is conjecture. It is never named in the film but Jim Whitmore’s timeline, published in Marvel Comics’ Planet of the Apes Magazine #11, postulated that the city could be San Francisco. I was happy to leave it there or possibly in Los Angeles, until Adventure Comics came along and set the location of Caesar’s village near the Forbidden Zone and the ruins of New York. Additionally, Adventure’s 4-issue miniseries The Forbidden Zone shows us descendants of Kolp and Mendez from Battle for the Planet of the Apes already in New York, barely 300 years after the events of that film.
Conquest of the Planet of the Apes also provides the first evidence that an alternate timeline may have been created, precipitated by the arrival of Cornelius and Zira in this time period. According to their testimony in Escape from the Planet of the Apes, the period of time between the Plague and the rise of the apes was measured in centuries, whereas the events play out here in less than a decade.
- “Quitting Time” (Adventure Comics’ Planet of the Apes #19). Carson McCormick, a lower level employee in Governor Breck’s administration, and his wife are killed by their ape servant as the revolt begins.
Between 1991 and 1993
- Caesar leads a group of former ape slaves from the city into the countryside and founds a new colony. There, he works to forge a new community with the aid of a handful of humans. Sometime during this period, Caesar marries Lisa, a female chimpanzee he befriended before the rebellion, and she gives birth to their son, Cornelius.
- In the Eastern Hemisphere, however, things are taking a radically different turn. Fearing ape revolts in the wake of the events orchestrated by Caesar in the United States, many European governments voluntarily grant freedom to their populations of servant apes. For a time, humans and apes live together in harmony under this new relationship.
Ape City (Adventure Comics 4-issue miniseries).
- Even as Caesar works with the aid of a handful of humans to build a better life for the apes in his charge, the world around them continues to plunge into chaos. It is assumed that across the planet, apes are rising up against their masters in a manner similar to that exhibited by the apes in New York. Across the Western Hemisphere, human governments are deteriorating in the face of ape rebellion.
- The plague which previously wiped out all cats and dogs seems to have had an additional, mentally stimulating effect on the simian species. Several of the apes involved in the revolt already display signs of an accelerated intelligence – most notably Lisa, the female chimp who becomes Caesar’s mate, when she pronounces the word ‘No’ to her human masters.
Conjecture based on events from Conquest of the Planet of the Apes.
- “Quest for the Planet of the Apes” (Marvel Comics’ Planet of the Apes #22). Caesar has succeeded in building his new community with those apes who followed him out of the city following their revolt. However, he has concerns that humans are being mistreated at the hands of apes still coming to grips with their newfound freedom and rapidly growing mental faculties. Amid this tension, former Governor Breck escapes from the captivity he’s been held in since his removal from power. His attempt to assassinate Caesar is thwarted and he flees into the Forbidden Zone, never to be seen again, alive at least.
Caesar also defeats the plans of General Aldo, leader of the gorilla army, to take control of the city and for a time there is peace between apes and humans, though Aldo continues to bide his time until another opportunity to challenge Caesar presents itself.
Between 1993 and 2001
- As the global situation continues to deteriorate, there are those who feel that a worldwide catastrophe is inevitable as humans and apes vie for control. Preparing for what they believe to be the downfall of Humanity, scientists all around the world establish special caches with the sum total of human knowledge stored within computers. The computers are secreted within bombproof shelters, many of which will remain undisturbed for centuries.
“The Legacy” (Planet of the Apes television series). Date is conjecture, but this period seems to be the logical place for it, given the rapid downfall of Humanity that is to come.
- At some point during this period, nuclear war erupts for reasons unknown. A range of theories are put forth, everything from an accidental launch by an American nuclear attack submarine to an innocent accident at a nuclear power plant in the Midwestern United States. Regardless, the consequences are quick and brutal, as the world’s superpowers unleash sizable portions of their nuclear arsenals. Large portions of the Earth’s surface are laid waste under the hellish fires of nuclear destruction, though many areas of the European regions remain unaffected.
Battle for the Planet of the Apes. Described by the Lawgiver in the film’s opening sequence.
- In the ruins of New York, human survivors band together in the city’s partially protected underground passages and chambers. They scour the city for anything that can be salvaged. Deep within the recesses of one military armory, they find the Alpha-Omega bomb. Oblivious to its destructive power, the humans retrieve the weapon and take it to their headquarters.
- Battle for the Planet of the Apes. Accompanied by his trusted advisor, Virgil, and a human assistant, MacDonald, Caesar travels from the village across the desert wasteland in order to return to the ruins of New York. They find the city bearing the brutal scars of nuclear destruction. They also discover archived tapes bearing the visual and audio testimony recorded from his parents, Cornelius and Zira, years before. Caesar learns of Humankind’s downfall and Earth’s eventual destruction.
Living beneath the city, Kolp, a former aide to Governor Breck before the ape uprising, decides to follow Caesar back to where he came from and to destroy the community they have established, his notion of vengeance for the suffering he has endured all these years.
Caesar informs his people that they must prepare for the day when they may have to defend the village against attack by the city dwellers. General Aldo seizes advantage of the situation and rallies his troops with a plan to defeat the human invaders and then to take over the village. He plans to install himself as ruler, wiping out the village’s human population and killing Caesar if necessary. His plans are overheard by Cornelius, Caesar’s son, and Aldo kills the young chimpanzee to protect his secret.
The humans from the city attack the village, but Caesar is able to rally his people and successfully beats back the attackers. Afterward, Caesar learns that Aldo murdered his son and in a final showdown, kills Aldo himself. With the threat of attack gone, temporarily at least, Caesar leads his people in a rebuilding effort to restore the peace and tranquillity they once enjoyed.
David Gerrold’s novelization of Battle for the Planet of the Apes, which follows the original draft of the screenplay and features scenes edited out of the final film, shows Mendez contemplating the use of the Alpha-Omega bomb on the ape city. He obviously decides against that action, and we see the first seeds of what will eventually become the all-encompassing religious cult surrounding the weapon.
And that’s nuthin’ compared to what you’ll find in the full Chronology! Get yer stinkin’ paws on that!