I was reflecting today on the horror and science fiction films I saw over Halloween, including a weekend long running of the Planet of the Apes franchise films and some of the 1970s television program. I also reflected on the usual news of a nuclear North Korea, Iran moving toward nuclear weapons, Muslim on Muslim violence in Pakistan, and the rest of the all too common inhumanity to humanity that takes place each day.
I find it interesting that Planet of the Apes came out at the end of the 1960s, around the same time as the Star Trek television series aired, yet both portray dramatically different assessments of the human condition, and the potential to transcend it. In Star Trek we have a humanistic optimism where Gene Roddenberry portrayed a twenty-third century humanity that moved beyond human depravity through education and technology. On the other hand we have a more pessimistic view of human nature through post-apocalyptic self-destruction in Planet of the Apes as portrayed in its screenplay through the imagination of Rod Serling and his fellow scriptwriters. In light of human history, including that which has unfolded since the 1960s and into the present, I think Serling and Planet of the Apes had it right. Perhaps this is best summarized in a scene near the conclusion of Planet of the Apes where Cornelius reads from the sacred scrolls of the apes with the Lawgiver’s denunciation of man. I think the scroll might be on to something in its indictment of humanity.