In the X-Files episode, War of the Coprophages, Scully and Mulder engage in typical conversation:
Mulder, I think the only thing more fortuitous than the emergence of life on this planet is, that through purely random laws of biological evolution, an intelligence as complex as ours ever emanated from it. The very idea of intelligent alien life is not only astronomically improbable, but at its most basic level, downright anti-Darwinian.
. . . I understand what you're saying, but I just need to keep looking.
Yeah, well don't look too hard, you might not like what you'll find.
Isn't that what Dr. Zaius said to Charlton Heston at the end of Planet of the Apes?
And look what happened.
The 1968 film, Planet of the Apes, written by Michael Wilson and Rod Serling (based on the novel Monkey Planet by Pierre Boulle) and directed by Franklin J. Schaffner, is a significant work of science fiction in that, not only does it offer "fantastic story" but it "plays with the idea of time warps as a chance for allegory. People struggle through time only to learn that the conclusion of past (objective story benchmark; os signpost 4) events is inescapable, no matter how they may sidestep the time slots when those events occurred. . . . This sort of story was designed to draw parallels to the modern day; through showing a transfigured future (os signpost 1), a lesson about the present was intended" (Donaldson 1355).
The objective story is the situation (os domain-universe) of astronauts who, having completed their time travel mission, crash land (story driver-action) on an unknown planet before they can return to Earth. Taylor (Charlton Heston) is the main character and leader of the expedition (mc domain-physics). To his two other crew members, Landon and Dodge (the fourth crew member, Stewart, has expired), he announces: "Okay. We're here to stay" (mc solution-inaction). For at least rs signpost 1-subconscious, the relationship story is examined through Taylor and Landon's conflicting viewpoints. Landon is prepared to die for his idealism; Taylor states definitely: "I'm not prepared to die . . . I'm a seeker too (mc concern-learning). But my dreams aren't like yours. I can't help thinking somewhere in the universe there has to be something better than man. Has to be." Each holds a fixed state of mind (rs domain) regarding what kind of man they are, particularly exemplified in an unwillingness to reevaluate (rs symptom) their respective opinions of each other.
Chancing upon mute caveman-like creatures foraging for food, Taylor, in his arrogance (a marked characteristic that alienates him from others--mc growth-stop), remarks: "If this is the best that they've got around here, in six months we'll be running this planet." Ape Alert! Taylor, et al are soon ensnared by the real rulers of the planet--monkeys. "Rod Serling's script presents the "Planet" as a looking-glass world where men are apes and apes are men" (Donaldson 1355).
As the astronauts are intelligent and articulate humans--they are a direct threat to the Simian society's status quo (story goal-present). Shot in the vocal cords, it is some time later before Taylor can utter his first words "Take your stinking paws off me you damn dirty ape!" (mc symptom-reaction) Dr. Zira, a psychologist chimpanzee, and her fiancé, Dr. Cornelius, however, take an interest in the human. It is their protection (os problem) of Taylor that brings him to the negative attention of Dr. Zaius (hand-off influence character) and jeopardizes their respective careers (os thematic counterpoint-work). Dr. Zaius is a politician, an orangutan expert at manipulating (ic domain-psychology) the populace. He monitors the scientists' ideas (ic concern-conceiving):
I wonder how he'd score on a Hopkins' manual dexterity test?
. . . Dr. Zira, I must caution you. Experimental brain surgery on these creatures is one thing . . . but your behavioral studies are something else again. To suggest that we can learn anything about the Simian nature from the study of man is sheer nonsense! . . . Man is a nuisance. He eats up his food supplies in the forest, then migrates to our green belts and ravages our crops. The sooner he is exterminated the better. It's a question of Simian survival.
Undeterred, Zira introduces into Taylor's cage the beautiful Nova, a mute cavewoman (and "the only girl in town"), in the hopes they will mate. Frustrated by his inability to speak, Taylor takes every opportunity to prove he can write (mc response-proaction), and when Nova unwittingly interferes, he hurls her, and anyone else who gets in his way, aside (mc approach-doer).
Zira believes Taylor is an exceptional case, and asks Cornelius and the others to reevaluate (os symptom) the man. Taylor's need (mc critical flaw) to escape undermines his efforts to effectively communicate--he breaks free only to be seized and brought before a tribunal. To verify his assertions, and to ostensibly treat the hearing with fairness, the tribunal sets out to evaluate (os response) the rest of Taylor's crew--to no avail. Dodge is a stuffed curiosity on museum display; Landon is lobotomized.
Taylor acts out again, and yet again is captured:
Now the tribunal has placed you in my custody for final disposition. You realize what that means? . . . Emasculation . . . experimental surgery on the speech centers, on the brain . . . however, I have it in my power to grant you a reprieve. . . . Tell me who and what you really are and where you came from and no veterinary shall touch you.
Dr. Zaius is aware of the possibility (ic problem) of men such as Taylor threatening society, and in anticipation of a humankind proliferation (rs problem-production) queries (rs thematic counterpoint-investigation) the prisoner: "Where is your tribe? Where were you nurtured? Where are your women?" Taylor's answers are unsatisfactory--Dr. Zaius gives him six hours to think about it (rs concern-conscious) and orders him back to his cage.
Zira and Cornelius spring the prisoner. Taylor's insistence that Nova go with him, despite the fact it will hinder escape, indicates his eventual change (mc resolve)--underscored later when he affectionately kisses Zira good-bye. The fugitives head for the "forbidden zone" where Taylor (with Nova) will strategize (mc thematic issue) his next move, and Zira and Cornelius intend to dig up evidence to acquit them from heresy charges.
Much to their chagrin, Dr. Zaius has followed with troops. With Taylor's gun trained on him, however, Dr. Zaius considers (rs concern-conscious) the man's proposal to examine Cornelius' evidence of a culture that has existed before the Simians' (os signpost 4-past):
When were those sacred scrolls of yours written?
1200 years ago.
. . . If they [Cornelius and Zira] can prove those scrolls don't tell the whole truth of your history, if they can find some real evidence of another culture, from some remote past, will you let them off?
Taylor finds meaning in the artifacts (male mental sex) to convince Dr. Zaius:
What are you doing?
Reconstructing a past life. . . . Whoever owned them must have been in pretty bad shape, he wore false teeth, and eyeglasses, and a . . . failing heart . . . towards the end with this prefabricated valve . . . I don't say he was the same man like I knew at home, but he must have been a close relative because he had all the same weaknesses. He was a weak, fragile animal, but he was here before you. And he was better than you are!
. . . I can offer alternate descriptions for every one of those articles!
A skirmish caused by the gorilla thugs breaks out, and in the confusion Taylor takes Dr. Zaius hostage. At this time Dr. Zaius admits to Zira and Cornelius he has always known man existed before apes--and that man is a "natural born killer" who must be shunned: "I found nothing in that cave to alter that conception of man and I still live by its injunction" (ic resolve-steadfast).
Dr. Zaius adheres to Taylor's demands for supplies and freedom. As Minister of Science and Chief Defender of the Faith (a dual position he does not consider as conflict of interest), using expediency (ic thematic counterpoint; oc unique ability) is necessary (ic thematic issue) for eliminating Taylor. It reduces (rs solution) the chances of his kind destroying Simian society. His release of Taylor (os solution-inaction) to his destiny is a calculated risk (ic solution-probability), and along with his command to seal off the cave (story limit-optionlock), the story results in an outcome of success:
What will he find out there, Dr.?
"Taylor runs off . . . across a wasteland to discover the Statue of Liberty, dramatically buried up to its neck in sand. . . . His world . . . has been destroyed; an atomic war left only the apes to evolve in a new world filled with literally bestial humans" (Donaldson 1356) (mc benchmark-understanding). Anguished, Taylor sinks to his knees "You maniacs! You blew it up! Damn you! God damn you all to hell! (judgment-bad).
Paying homage to the sociological implications of the Planet of the Apes, the War of the Coprophages posits more questions than provides answers:
May I borrow this [cockroach exoskeleton], Agent Mulder, for further study?
I've already had a similar sample analyzed, it's nothing but common metals. What do you hope to find from it?
Isn't that what Dr. Zaius said to Zira at the end of the Planet of the Apes?
It's one of my favorite movies.
Mine too. I love science fiction.
Aside from quotes taken from the Planet of the Apes film, others are: X-Files--War of the Coprophages Written by Darin Morgan Air Date 1/5/96; Planet of the Apes in Magill's Survey of Cinema Written by Leslie Donaldson 1980.
An alternative storyform determined by the Dramatica Users Group (DUG) is also available to examine. To understand the differences between the two interpretations of the film, read the DUG Minutes for July 1998.