A Brief Timeline of the Original "Planet of the Apes" Movies

Didn't have much going on yesterday, so I watched a couple of the original Planet of the Apes movies, and skimmed the others. This prompted me to see if I could work out a coherent timeline for the events of these films.  If I make any egregious errors, I'm sure someone here will correct me, possibly someone rhyming with "Hef of Berth-A".  ;)

Sometime Before 1971:  This timeline starts out fairly similar to our own, except that it is more advanced scientifically, at least in certain areas, in particular spaceflight, suspended animation and genetic engineering. This last is represented by a secret government program which experiments on gorillas, chimpanzees and orangutans, with the goal of augmenting them for possible military use.(1)

Over Two Years Before 1971: A deep space mission is launched by the USA. Among the crew members is a man named Taylor. When the mission is lost, a rescue ship is sent out, one of whose crew members is a man called Brent. This mission also disappears.(2)

1971:  Taylor's ship returns to Earth, landing outside Los Angeles. It is found to be crewed by three chimpanzees, Cornelius, Zira and Milo. They are taken into custody and incarcerated in the Los Angeles Zoo, where Milo is killed by a gorilla.  Zira reveals their origins to the humans. They are initially treated as celebrities, but when the government begins to take the implications of their origins seriously, Cornelius and Zira become fugitives.While they are on the run, Zira gives birth to a son.  Cornelius and Zira are killed, but their son is hidden by Armando, a sympathetic circus owner.

Sometime Between 1971 and 1991: A mysterious plague wipes out the world's population of dogs and cats. The US government offers augmented apes as replacements for the lost pets. A forced breeding program creates a substantial  population of augmented apes who soon move from being pets to a de facto slave class. Apes soon become a presence all over the Earth.  Government in North America becomes authoritarian, especially in its treatment of the ape population.(3)

1991:  Caesar, the adult son of Cornelius and Zira, outraged at the humans' abuse of the ape population, leads an ape revolt.(4)

After 1991:  The ape revolt disrupts North American society, causing international tensions which lead to a nuclear war.  Caesar establishes Ape City somewhere outside of the destroyed New York City. There, apes live with humans as a barely-tolerated underclass.  Other humans, maimed survivors of the nuclear war living in the ruins of New York City, launch an attack against Ape City, but are repulsed. The mutants withdraw into New York, where they come to venerate the Alpha and Omega Bomb, an ultimate weapon.  Caesar vows to try to build a world where apes and humans can live together.(5)

2670:  Humans and apes live together in Ape city in relative harmony.  An orangutan Law-Giver lectures young children on history.(6)

After 2670:  At some point, the coexistence between apes and humans in ape City breaks down, and the humans are driven out. Forced to live in the wild, the humans revert to savagery, and eventually lose the power of speech. The apes come to view the humans as dangerous animals, and hunt them for sport.  Beneath New York City, the mutants have developed vast psychic powers, and venerate the Alpha and Omega Bomb as their Creator.

3978: Taylor's ship crashes on Earth, where he is captured and given over to Cornelius and Zira, who befriend him and help him escape. He discovers that he has arrived on his own world in the far future.  Taylor sets out with his mate, Nova, to find a new life.  Doctor Milo recovers Taylor's ship, and works out how to operate it.(7)  Taylor is captured by the Bomb Mutants, who hold him prisoner.  Brent's ship returns to Earth, as well.  He, too, encounters Cornelius and Zira, who help him escape Ape City. He seeks out Taylor, finding him in subterranean New York City, even as the gorillas launch an attack on the Bomb Mutants. Fearing the onslaught of war, Milo, Cornelius and and launch Taylor's ship. When the apes assault the Bomb Mutants' stronghold, Taylor detonates the Alpha and Omega Bomb. The three chimpanzees witness the Earth's destruction, and then pass through a timewarp back to 1971.

(1)The date comes from the release date of Escape From the Planet of the Apes. The rest is my speculation, to explain certain elements of the films.

(2)Info given in Escape From the Planet of the Apes.

(3)That the government, knowing what the do about the future, allows apes to become such an integral part of human society, strikes me as unlikely. I suppose that one could argue that, knowing what they know, they can make sure that tight controls are maintained over the apes. In Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, Caesar says that apes are on "all five continents."

(4)The date is given in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes.

(5)How the mutants got a hold of the Alpha and Omega Bomb is a mystery to me.. New York City seems like an unlikely place to store such a thing.

(6)The date is from Battle for the Planet of the Apes. (Side Note: I can no longer hear the term "Law-Giver" without thinking of Pearl Forrester.)

(7)This also strikes me as extremely improbable.

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It's hard to reconcile humanity's role from Battle to the first movie. Even being driven out of Ape City and ostracized by the simians shouldn't cause them to lose their intelligence and speech. Perhaps the radiation of the Forbidden Zone played a role.

One theory that I heard was that it was Caesar's birth that triggered the rise in intelligence among the Apes. As he grew older, his "Brain virus" affected the others around him and they began to speak.

Great Apes as pets? What happened to the ferrets, pigs, hamsters, parrots, etc? Why not use lemurs or squirrel monkeys or another primate that can't kill you?

I'm thinking testosterone probably had something to do with it.

It is clear, even in the original series of movies, that two timelines are involved. The following dates are gleaned from a timeline endorsed by 20th Century Fox. I’ll try to point out what’s canonical and what’s apocryphal as I go along.

ORIGINAL TIMELINE:

Early 1972: A spaceship launches from Earth with a four-person crew: Taylor, Landon, Dodge and Stewart.

Late 1972: The spaceship drops out of communication and an emergency search and rescue mission is scrambled. Two alternates to the initial mission are selected for the rescue operation: “Skipper” Maddox and Brent.

2050: A great plague is brought back from space which wipes out dogs and cats. Man begins to take apes as pets.

2200: Apes have grown in intelligence to the point of performing services such as cooking, cleaning and grocery shopping.

2500: Evolution renders apes capable of complex thought. Apes become aware of the concept of slavery.

2550: aware of their oppression, apes begin to form groups, learning the art of corporate and militant action. Apes begin to refuse their masters. Also is the first to say “no,” spurring the Ape Revolution.

3953: Ape archeologist Cornelius discovers a site in the forbidden Zone containing ancient fossils and artifacts of ape and man.

3954: The first spaceship launched in 1972 lands. The ship’s emergency back-up power activates its auto-repair function, the water is jettisoned and the ship eventually resurfaces. Chimpanzee Dr, Milo travels to the Forbidden Zone Zone and discovers Taylor’s ship resurfaced on the lake.

3955: Maddox and Brent crash-land. Ultimately, Taylor sets off the Alpha/Omega bomb destroying the Earth, but Cornelius, Zira and Milo, on a test flight of Taylor’s restored space craft, are hurled through a “Hasslein Curve” to 1973, thereby creating an…

ALTERNATE TIMELINE:

1973: Cornelius, Zira and Milo land. Zira gives birth but switches babies with an ape in Armando’s circus. Armando raises Caesar.

1983: Astronauts bring a virus back from space which kills all dogs and cats. Apes become popular pets.

1984: Increasing international hostilities cause an upset in the 1984 Presidential elections, resulting in regime change. Tensions mount, nuclear weapons production increases worldwide.

1985-1990: Apes begin taking on simple domestic tasks.

1991: Armando takes Caesar to the city for the first time. They become separated, Caesar is sold to Governor Breck and Armando dies in custody. Caesar sparks an ape revolt.

1992: Revolution spreads worldwide. In a last-ditch effort to stop the revolt, the government launches a nuclear attack. Caesar leads a group of apes and humans out of the city to start a new society.

2004: Battle for the Planet of the Apes

3085: Planet of the Apes TV series

Let’s examine some of these events more closely. First, many of the main characters names and ranks have been fleshed out by fans or in other media. These are the ones I accept although, like “Nyota” Uhura and “Hikaru” Sulu once were, they must be considered non-canonical.

Col. George Taylor
Lt. Maryann Stewart
Lt. Thomas Dodge
Lt. John Landon

Col. Donovan Maddox
Maj. John Brent

Col. Alan Virdon
Maj. Peter Burke

Marvel Comics once presented a timeline as well, incorporating all the movies and the TV show, as well as their own comics. The dates regarding the movies and TV are considered canonical, but the comics, of course, are not. More recent comics have added to and expanded the timeline also. Marvel also published a glossary which included, among other things, the names of the NYC mutants from Beneath the Planet of the Apes. These names were taken from the end credits, but were in some cases merely descriptions: “The Fat Man,” “The Negro,” and so on. Author James Gaaska has given then all actual names.

Caesar’s ability to spark rebellion was dealt with in slightly more detail in the novelization of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. (Basically, something about his presence, as the child of apes from the future, sparked the apes to evolve decades earlier than they otherwise would have.)

Regarding how the Alpha/Omega bomb made its way to NYC, Doug Moench wrote a two-part comic book story which bridged the gap between the movies Conquest and Battle. Essentially, Mendez and his followers hauled it across country (which is about as good of an explanation as we’re likely to receive).

I have previously discussed how utterly superior Marvel’s comic book adaptation of Battle is in comparison to the movie. It is very much more of an actual war than a gang skirmish with hopping apes and mutants on school busses.

I place the TV show in the “alternate” timeline, but that’s just me. Back in the ‘70s, there were at least four paperbacks adapting the TV episodes, two per book. Now that Titan Books has the “Apes” license, they have released eight stories in one thick paperback, Planet of the Apes Omnibus Vol. 3. That’s how I know there were “at least” four, because that’s how many Titan reprinted. There may have been more, but I haven’t researched it. (I know Marvel did reviews of the paperback adaptations, plus the information is probably available online.) Unfortunately, “Escape from Tomorrow” (the first episode) was either not adapted or not included in the collection. The stories are presented in neither production order nor airdate order. Whether or not any attempt was made to have them “flow” one into another (as with Alan Dean Foster’s Star Trek Log series) remains to be seen, for I have not read them.

Speaking of Alan Dean Foster’s Star Trek Logs (which adapted episode of Star Trek: The Animated Series), there was also an Planet of the Apes cartoon series. I was aware of it at the time, but had “outgrown” cartoons and didn’t see it for the first time until I bought it on DVD the summer before last. It really doesn’t fit in either of the previous timelines; it is standalone. The entire series relates a single arc, but it was cancelled with three episode left to go. A proposal was put forth to do a single long episode to resolve the storyline, but nothing ever came of it. These episodes, too, have been adapted into prose and collected in Planet of the Apes Omnibus vol. 4. As with the live action adaptations, these are presented out of broadcast order as well, nor do I know if anything has been done to give them a proper ending. I do plan to read them someday, but not any time real soon.

Regarding the Fox-endorsed timeline’s assertion that two alternates were selected for the rescue mission, other timelines concede that it was manned by “possibly four.” Taylor’s ship was manned by four, so perhaps the other two were killed in the crash. As James Gaaska has it, the Liberty 2 was manned by two, but fitted with four additional hibernation couches.

Regarding Milo’s recovery of Taylor’s spaceship (referred to by Gaaska as Liberty 1, although I don’t think that’s canon), I’m not sure where 20th Century Fox got that bit about “the ship’s emergency back-up power activat[ing] its auto-repair function” and the water being jettisoned. In his book Conspiracy on the Planet of the Apes (which relates the events of the movie largely from Landon’s POV), James Gaaska relates, in a believable way, how Dr. Milo recovered the ship using methods and means that would have been available to him. He doesn’t detail how Milo got the ship to actually fly again, but perhaps that aspect will be dealt with in Gaaska’s next book, Death of the Planet of the Apes (which relates the events of the movie <>largely from Landon’s POV) Beneath the Planet of the Apes from Taylor’s POV).

I’ll let you know.

I knew you would know a lot more than I did.

Yeah, but if we were talking about Doctor Who, our positions would be reversed, so it all balances out in the end.

Yesterday, in my post about Conspiracy on the Planet of the Apes, I mentioned that James Gaaska explained why/how Taylor’s ship ended up on Earth but I didn’t go into specifics. I’d like to go into more detail now.

First of all, the difference between a “Hasslien Curve” and Einsteinian physics is that (as I understand it), objects can travel in both directions in time. What happened to Taylor’s ship is that it was traveling at relativistic speeds when it collided with… something (or, rather, something collided with it). With the crew asleep and unable to deal with the situation, the default setting of the onboard flight computer was programmed, in the case of an emergency, to return to Earth. It was already traveling into the future due to Einstein’s general theory of relativity; the collision just redirected its course back to Earth.

So what did it collide with? It collided with itself, manned by Cornelius, Zira and Milo, travelling back along the Hasslien Curve!

Jeff - Are any of those Apes Omnibi worth a read? I've always been a PoTA fan, but more for the concept than the execution.

I can't say that the movie adaptations really add anything to the movies themselves (as novelizations sometimes do). I haven't yet read the ones adapting the TV shows or the cartoons, so I can't really say about those.

I think your time would be much better spent reading the two (so far) Ape novels by Andrew Gaska. (I typed his name wrong all day yesterday and can't go back and correct it now.) I made some other typos, too, so to reiterate, the ones I recommend are...

Conspiracy on the Planet of the Apes - first movie told from Landon's POV

Death of the Planet of the Apes - second movie told from Taylor's POV

Both add layers of behind-the-scenes details missing from the movie. For example, Conspiracy includes scenes with the mutants and with dr. Milo, which we know from the movie sequels must have been happening, plus adding new characters and developing existing ones.

I re-watched the first episode of the cartoon series last night.

Three astronauts, Bill, Jeff and Judy, leave earth in 1976 and return in 3979.

They meet Nova, who can speak, and is wearing the dog tags of astronaut Ronald Brent, who left from the year 2079.

The apes live in modern cities and drive gasoline-powered vehicles. They include Cornelius, Zira, Zaius and Urko.

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