The Story of Rod Serling’s Original Ape Planet
In 1964, Rod Serling, creator of The Twilight Zone, penned the first script for his adaptation of Pierre Boulle’s novel Planet of the Apes. Serling envisioned a grand science fiction spectacle, following an astronaut from Earth who becomes stranded on a planet where humans are little more than wild animals amidst a futuristic society of intellectually and technologically superior Apes. But because estimated production costs meant the script would have been impossible to produce in its own time, Serling’s initial vision of the Ape Planet was revised and eventually rewritten by Michael Wilson, to become Planet of the Apes (1968) as we know it today. Serling’s original script has remained unproduced in any format—until now.
BOOM! Studios enlisted the talents of writer Dana Gould and artist Chad Lewis to adapt Serling’s original script into a graphic novel as Planet of the Apes: Visionaries. An all-new, fully realized version of Serling’s story that takes advantage of the flexibility of the comic book genre, without the limits of a production budget. The result? A living, breathing Apes story fans will feel right at home in. But rest assured. This is not the Ape Planet we know. This is Planet of the Apes: Visionaries.
THE MODERN APE
Where original producers were unable to accommodate the scope of the sets Serling’s script would have required, Visionaries takes on the challenge of Serling’s original vision for a distantly advanced Ape society. In the 1968 film, the Apes first appear on horseback, armed with rifles, hunting humans through cornfields.
Seeing Serling’s Apes swoop down on scattering humans in helicopters is a far cry from the iconic first appearance of the Apes in 1968:
As a whole, Ape society in Visionaries is much closer to contemporary human life altogether—check out the page below when compared to the film, when the story’s protagonist, Thomas, escapes captivity:
Serling’s script, and then Visionaries, ask us to imagine a society of Apes that live just like many of us do: they wear fashionable clothing, they go to movie theaters, and they live in a city with towering skyscrapers. Aside from the fact that they’re not human, Serling’s Apes certainly (and uncannily) resembled us, making the humans of their world seem even more primitive by comparison.
In the 1968 film, both the Apes and the savage humans are just as much foreign concepts to us as they are to Taylor—both aliens from another planet. Thomas’ view of the Apes in Visionaries rings much closer to home.
THE PASSAGE OF TIME
The Apes of Serling’s script are also a few shades kinder to their human counterparts than those in the 1968 film. In the movie, Taylor remains in captivity even after he reveals himself as a speaking, civilized being, but in the original script, Thomas is allowed to join Ape society, and becomes something of a celebrity.
Thomas speaks with news reporters, goes to museums, and even moves into his own apartment. He seems to spend a lot more time actually living on the Ape Planet than his counterpart, Taylor, does in the film. We follow Taylor moment to moment in a constant struggle to escape and survive, while the Serling’s script shows Thomas acclimating—or failing to acclimate—to a life in Ape society over a longer period of weeks or months.
Visionaries, as a graphic novel, takes advantage of a narrative structure that is unavailable to movies: comic panels. Graphic novels don’t present their action in real time. A character that was standing still in one panel may have run thirty feet by the next panel—the reader often has to fill in gaps on their own. In this way, the comic medium may be uniquely suited for adapting Serling’s script. While we might demand more connective tissue watching a movie, the reader’s imagination can more readily fill in the blanks between panels and follow the story at their own pace.
THE TWO APE PLANETS
There is no mistaking the 1968 film for anything other than what it is: a sci-fi staple film that spawned fifty years of sequels, spin-off stories, and a world of passionate fans. But Serling’s original vision, now realized in Visionaries, celebrates the origins of the franchise from an Ape Planet fans haven’t visited before, in a medium that has been expanding on the film universes for decades. While fans have definitely seen Planet of the Apes comics, they’ve never seen anything like Planet of the Apes: Visionaries.
For fans who are unfamiliar with the ending of Serling’s script, we won’t spoil it for you here, but it isn’t the world-shattering twist Taylor encountered in 1968. Find out for yourself how Thomas’ story ends when Visionaries releases next month.
But just in case you can’t wait for a peek now, visit Boom!Studios!