Dr. Zaius is a fictional character in the Pierre Boulle novel Planet of the Apes, and the film series and television series based upon it. (In Boulle's novel, his honorific was "Mi", a term in the Ape language.) He is an orangutan and although given a minor role devoid of dialogue in the novel, he becomes the main antagonist of the story in the subsequent film adaptation. Zaius was portrayed in the first and second films of the series by actor Maurice Evans, in the later television series by Booth Colman, and voiced in the animated series by Richard Blackburn.

Film History Edit

Planet of the Apes Edit

Zaius serves a dual role in Ape society, as Minister of Science in charge of advancing ape knowledge, and also as Chief Defender of the Faith. In the latter role, he has access to ancient scrolls and other information not given to the ape masses. Zaius knows much about the origins of the ape society, and how mankind fell as the dominant species, and the reasons why the Forbidden Zone is so regarded, and he blames human nature for it all. Zaius prefers a stagnant, imperfect, faith-based ape culture that keeps humans in check, to the open, scientific, human-curious one proposed by Cornelius and Zira's generation. The idea of an intelligent human (such as Taylor) threatening the balance of things frightens him deeply. Knowing the destruction that humanity (with the aid of technology) caused in its downfall, he doesn't want even the possibility of a human resurgence. At the end of Planet of the Apes, Zaius has Cornelius's archaeological findings (human artifacts, predating the Ape society) destroyed, and Cornelius and Zira arrested on heresy charges.

But not before he gives gives a haunting statement:

"I have always known about man. From the evidence, I believe his wisdom must walk hand and hand with his idiocy. His emotions must rule his brain. He must be a warlike creature who gives battle to everything around him, even himself....The Forbidden Zone was once a paradise. Your breed made a desert of it".

Although cast as the antagonist in the film, Zaius's actions are nonetheless driven by his zealous belief that he is protecting his ape civilization (at whatever cost) from the "walking pestilence" of man; even if his actions cause undue harm to his ape brethren. And despite his animosity towards Taylor, Zaius nevertheless demonstrates a grudging respect for his adversary, calling him by his proper name, and even advising Taylor near the end of the film against delving into the mystery as to how the apes evolved from humans because as he cryptically warns the marooned astronaut: "you may not like what you find." The film's final startling image can be seen as a vindication of Zaius's views as to the destructive, genocidal nature of mankind and the means by which he is compelled to employ, even against his own colleagues, from the existential threat of a resurgent human race.

Beneath the Planet of the Apes Edit

By the second movie Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Cornelius recalls how Zaius brought them to trial, but then moved for on their behalf. When Zaius leaves on a military expedition with General Ursus (Planet of the Apes). To explore the Forbidden Zone, Zaius trusts them both to continue his work. (In the novelization of Beneath, they instead begin a revolt, once the gorilla army is gone.) Zaius meets Taylor once more, in a showdown between the gorillas and a mutant human race living underground in the Zone. Taylor was trying to keep the mutant humans from activating a doomsday bomb, and was shot several times in the process by gorilla troops. Wounded and dying, Taylor begs Zaius to help him stop the bomb; when Zaius refuses (declaring "Man is evil - capable of nothing but destruction!"), Taylor deliberately activates the bomb in his last moments, ironically realizing Zaius's worst fears, as the Earth is destroyed. His hatred towards the human race became his demise.

Escape from the Planet of the Apes Edit

During the third movie (Escape from the Planet of the Apes) Cornelius relates how he learned the truth about humans and apes from reading secret scrolls. Cornelius presumably had access to these while working for Dr. Zaius (or after his departure), or perhaps was granted access by Zaius as a consolation for the loss of his archaeological work.

Television history Edit

In the television series, Councillor Zaius serves as a government official, with authority over all the humans in his district. The young chimpanzee Galen becomes his new assistant, but becomes a fugitive with two human astronauts Virdon and Burke, fleeing from Zaius and his enforcer, General Urko.

In the animated series, Zaius again serves as a government official, who holds influence within the Ape Senate, and has authority over both Cornelius and Zira, and their scientific enterprises, as well as General Urko and his military.

Cultural references Edit

  • In Reality Bites, TV producer Michael Grates (Ben Stiller) keeps a statuette of Dr. Zaius in his office, which Lelaina (Winona Ryder) damages during a visit.
  • In The Simpsons episode 3F15, A Fish Called Selma, Dr. Zaius was featured prominently in a song in a musical version of Planet of the Apes. The song is a parody of Rock Me Amadeus by Falco.
  • In the Seinfeld episode "The Reverse Peephole", as Elaine and Puddy (who is wearing a large fur coat) enter Joe Mayo's apartment, Elaine introduces Puddy with the words "I think you know Dr. Zaius." She later throws the coat out a window saying, "Goodbye, Dr. Zaius."
  • The engineering security network at Boston University is named Zaius after Dr. Zaius. The Zaius security system is the "defender of all things engineering."
  • In the 1997 cult classic RocketMan, astronaut Fred Z. Randall refers affectionately to Ulysses, the chimpanzee who accompanies the crew to Mars, as "Little Doctor Zaius."
  • In a segment of the February 14, 2008 episode of Late Show with David Letterman, Lyle the Intern says to David Letterman, "Your loss, Dr. Zaius." [1]
  • In The Amazing Johnathan's comedy special Wrong On Every Level, Johnathan makes a shadow puppet ape mouth with his fist and thumb and says, "Dr. Zaius, Dr. Zaius! They've gone into the Forbidden Zone!"

References Edit