Rod Serling’s involvement with the Planet Of The Apes screenplay is widely known. Several other connections link the work of Serling to those Apes.
by Spencer Lloyd Peet
After the success of the first film a sequel was inevitable. But before Paul Dehn’s screenplay was accepted, Rod was asked to submit a script. His vision of the future for mankind was auspicious, as Taylor becomes Humanity’s defender. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to happen.
Planet Of The Apes became a weekly series on CBS (Air Date: September 13, 1974), lasting 14 episodes. Again, Rod was the first writer approached. The idea he offered was to show humans in different stages of development, from primitive man to highly-evolved humans, with the ape being the dominant figure. It would have been interesting to see what the outcome would have been but once again, it was not to be.
Other connections between Rod Serling and Planet Of The Apes are links between him and the actors. The wonderful Roddy McDowall was transformed into Cornelius in the first and third installments of the Apes saga. He would go on to play Caesar in the fourth and fifth, and of course Galen the compassionate chimp in the TV series.
Serling and McDowall worked together on the Twilight Zone episode “People Area Alike All Over” (Air Date: March 25 1960). He played Conrad, a biologist who finds out that people on Mars are just like us. He was then superbly cast as the wicked Jeremy Evens in “Cemetery,” the first segment of the Night Gallery pilot (Air Date: November 8, 1969).
Then there’s the lovely Kim Hunter, who played Zira in the first three ape films. She worked with Rod on Playhouse 90 when she played a social worker in the highly acclaimed “Requiem For A Heavyweight” (Air Date: 6th Nov 1957). She also starred alongside Mickey Rooney in another Serling-scripted Playhouse 90 production called “The Comedian” (Air Date: February 14, 1957), playing his wife, Julie.
Last is James Gregory. He played General Ursus in Beneath The Planet Of The Apes. He first appeared as The Sergeant in the TZ episode “The Passerby” (Air Date: October 6, 1961), which was penned by Serling. He then went on to play another sergeant by the name of Bevelow, in the Rod Serling’s Night Gallery episode “Stop Killing Me” (Air Date: February 9, 1972)