Monday, April 28, 2014

Ape of the Geek: Dr. Zaius (Original)

Zaius_1Species: Evolved Orangutang

First Appearance: Planet of the Apes (1968), 20th Century-Fox

Other Appearances: Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970), 20th Century-Fox (see Miscellaneous)

Merchandising: Dr. Zaius was produced as an 8” action figure by Mego. AHI produced at least three Dr. Zaius toys, a parachutist, figural water pistol, and a horseback rider. Other Zaius merchandise included a Halloween costume for kids, a plush doll, and numerous other items. Most Planet of the Apes toys featured Zaius one way or another. A more recent figure was produced by Kenner.

Biography: Dr. Zaius is a statesman in Ape City during the latter half of the 40th century. He's a leading member of the Ape National Assembly, and holds the dual roles as Minister of Science and Chief Defender of the Faith (although he holds more with the latter role than the former). He appears more or less to be the leader of Ape City, and thus holds a lot of power. He'd always made a great effort to hold back the human-curious studies proposed by the chimpanzee scientists (particularly Cornelius and Zira). He is fond of quoting the Articles of Faith set down by the Lawgiver, and believed that anything counter to the Sacred Scrolls was heresy. One of the few apes to know the actual origins of simian culture, Zaius always feared that one day humans might regain their former intelligence and overthrow the apes, as the apes did before him.

Zaius' fears were brought to life when George Taylor, an astronaut from 20th Century Earth, was captured with his fellow astronauts after crash-landing on the planet. One of Taylor's crewmates were shot and killed by gorillas, while another one was given a lobotomy. Taylor survived only because a gunshot wound to his throat made him unable to speak for some time. Thanks to the efforts of Zira, the chimpanzee veterinarian, Taylor recovered and provided evidence of his intelligence, especially when he regained the power to speak. Zaius ordered Taylor's death, but Zira and Cornelius helped him to escape the city and flee to Cornelius' archaeological site in the Forbidden Zone. Accompanied by gorilla soldiers, Zaius followed them there, but he was ambushed by Taylor. Zaius was shown artifacts Cornelius found that proved intelligent humans preceded apes, and Taylor forced Zaius to admit he knew about the previous human culture all the time. Taylor and Nova, a mute human he'd fallen in love with, left the camp to find “his destiny,” in Zaius' words (he'd learn that this was the future Earth, of course). Zaius had agreed to drop the charges against Cornelius and Zira, but as soon as Taylor was gone, he ordered them arrested, and the archaeological site blown up.

Zaius might have believed that Taylor would be gone forever and no longer a threat, that wouldn't be the case. Zaius did bring Cornelius and Zira to trial, but moved for clemency on their behalf (probably figuring they'd be cowed into obedience from that point onward). When gorilla General Ursus proposed leading his army into the Forbidden Zone to wipe out the last of the humans there and claim the land for the apes, Zaius supported him and agreed to come along, unaware that a second 20th century astronaut, Brent, had arrived (he'd been seeking Taylor). Brent had met up with Nova (who was separated from Taylor thanks to the mutant humans of the Forbidden Zone's ability to create illusions), and later met Cornelius and Zira, and eventually followed Taylor to the Forbidden Zone, where he was captured and found Taylor a prisoner also. The underground headquarters of the mutants was attacked by the apes, and in the fighting, Brent was killed, as was Nova, by the gorillas. The mutants had a doomsday bomb which they intended to use that would destroy the entire world, but were prevented from doing so by the attack. Nova's death and Taylor being wounded led Taylor to ask Zaius to help him stop the bomb from going off, but when Zaius refused, Taylor deliberately set off the bomb, destroying the future Earth and killing everyone.

Powers: None, so far as super abilities go, unless you count his evolved state, although that's no different from the other apes in his culture.

Miscellaneous: Other versions of Zaius include the original one in Pierre Boule's novel, the TV series Planet of the Apes also had a Zaius, as did the animated Return to the Planet of the Apes. I plan to deal with each of these separately, as they appear to be different characters, or at least alternate reality versions.

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