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. Prior to that, acting legend Edward G. Robinson also gave life to the character in a short film used to pitch the story´s concept to executives at 20th Century Fox.
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 the true origins of the ape society, how humanity fell as the dominant species, and the reasons why theForbidden Zone is so regarded, and he blames human nature for it all. Zaius seems to prefer an imperfect, ignorant ape culture that keeps humans in check, to the open, scientific, human-curious one posed by Cornelius and Zira's generation (this is due to his fear of a war of self-destruction). 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.
Although cast as the antagonist in the film, Zaius's actions are nonetheless driven by his deep belief that he is protecting the world (at whatever cost) from the "walking pestilence" of humanity, 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'sfinal startling image can be seen as a vindication of Zaius's views as to the destructive, genocidal nature of humanity and the means which Zaius is compelled to employ, even against his own colleagues, from the existential threat of a resurgent human race.
Only once near the end does Zaius truly make what he knows and thinks known:
"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. [Man] made a desert of it"
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 acted on their behalf. When Zaius leaves on a military expedition with General Ursus to invade 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 isevil - 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.
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.
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.