Escape from the Planet of the Apes

“We think we’ve got all the time in the world,

but how much time has the world got?”


In the ocean off the coast of California, a battered spaceship is found floating by a Navy recovery team. The ship is brought ashore and its escape hatch prised open.

On the beach in front of the ship, a line of military dignitaries waits to greet the returning crew of astronauts. The three fully suited up figures emerge from the ship. The dignitaries salute them as the ‘spacemen’ take off their helmets, revealing themselves to be chimpanzees!

The apes are detained at the Los Angeles Zoo, in a cage next to a depressed gorilla. Their human captors are surprised when the chimps change out their spacesuits into clothing they have stored in a carpetbag.

The three are put under the care of animal psychologists Dr. Lewis Dixon and Dr. Stephanie ‘Stevie’ Branton who are to run intelligence tests on the trio. After completing one such test, the female chimp refuses to retrieve her ‘prize’, a banana. The two psychologists are puzzled until the chimp snorts: “I loathe bananas”. Dr. Dixon is open-mouthed, and Stevie faints – all three apes, Drs. Cornelius, Zira and Milo can talk!

The astounded psychologists leave the three chimps to report their discovery, while reproaching Zira; the gorilla in the next cage strangles Dr. Milo.

The two surviving chimps appear before a presidential commission, which is to probe into how the apes came to be in the spaceship, originally piloted by Colonel Taylor and his crew.

Chaperoned by Dixon and Branton, the two apes are asked questions about their culture, which Cornelius and Zira answer truthfully without giving the full details. Zira does let slip that she has only met two humans who could talk, but when asked about the identity of the two, Zira becomes upset and says that only Dr. Milo knew the precise details of their journey and the craft they made it in.

Impressing the assembled press corps at the hearing, the two chimps become media darlings and they are moved from the zoo to a luxury hotel on the orders of the President.

The apes are kitted out in the latest fashions and are invited to speak at various events, Zira develops a taste for champagne, which she calls ‘grape juice plus’, and Cornelius even attends a boxing match, much to his dismay.

Dr. Otto Hasslein, the President’s scientific advisor, and head of the apes’ commission is intrigued by the chimps’ story. While on a visit to a museum, with Zira, he becomes all too aware of the apes’ story. When Zira faints in front of a stuffed gorilla, Hasslein helps her up off the floor, she then lets slip she is pregnant!

Zira is escorted back to her hotel and plied with champagne by Hasslein.  Under the influence of the drink; Zira recounts the story of her and Cornelius’s escape from Ape City on the eve of war, fearing for the safety of their unborn child. Leaving the planet in the spaceship, the three apes saw the destruction of the entire Earth from space!

Hasslein reports back to the President about his findings, the good doctor reminding the Commander in Chief, that Zira’s baby will have the ability to speak, which will be propagated onwards until every ape on the planet can speak! Fearful of the damage killing the two apes and their unborn child will do to his standing, the President does agree to allow Hasslein to engage the CIA in questioning Cornelius and Zira.

At a military compound the two apes are questioned again and again until they reveal the full story of the descent of man and the rise of the apes. Zira is even questioned by being injected with a truth drug, and she lets slip that she was a vet who in her job dissected humans and experimented on them as a medical researcher. She also reveals that she and Cornelius knew Taylor and that he must be dead.

Reporting back to the commission, Hasslein is informed of its decision, that the apes be allowed to live but the baby terminated.

Back at the compound, an orderly brings the two apes some food, inadvertently insulting Zira, the orderly feels the full force of an on-the-edge Cornelius, the ape knocking the man to the ground in a rage and accidentally killing him. Horrified at what he has done, Cornelius escapes with Zira into the night, being picked up by Stevie Branton who, along with Lewis Dixon, hides the two fugitives at Señor Armando’s circus.

Armando is a kindly man, who loves all animals, and takes a shine to the ape couple. It is at the circus that Zira gives birth, while watched over by circus chimp Heloise and her newborn.

As the authorities close in, Cornelius and Zira bid goodbye to Armando, Lewis Dixon and Stevie. Cornelius asks for a gun from Lewis, stating he would rather end their own lives than being allowed to live under the conditions dictated by the commission.

The two apes hide in an abandoned oil freighter at the docks, but Hasslein has found them. Hasslein shoots the fleeing Zira in the back, mortally wounding her; he then empties his gun into the tiny bundle her baby is wrapped in. Cornelius witnesses the shooting of his wife and child from the bridge of the ship, distraught; he turns his gun on Hasslein, killing him. Sharpshooters in turn kill Cornelius, his body plunging to the deck of the freighter.

Lewis and Stevie watch helplessly as the dying Zira drops her baby over the side of the ship and then crawl over to the body of her husband, dying with her head buried in his chest.

Some months later, Armando’s circus is striking camp; the circus owner barks orders as he wanders over to a baby chimp in a cage, talking affectionately to the baby. He then moves off leaving the chimp alone.

The chimp looks out from behind the bars innocently as it intones: “Ma-ma! Ma-ma!”

– written by Peter Noble