Charlton Heston didn’t want to return for a sequel beyond a cameo—considering anything beyond the first film to just be more “adventures among the monkeys”—so James Franciscus is astronaut James Brent, who follows Taylor’s trajectory and ends up crashing on this planet of apes. He meets Nova, Cornelius (David Watson this time out — hard to tell with the monkey make-up), Zira and Zaius. After going through similar escape adventures that Taylor did, he and Nova find themselves in the Forbidden Zone, actually the remains of New York City following a nuclear holocaust. Beneath the streets they encounter mutant telepathic humans who pray to an Alpha-Omega bomb as well as the captured Taylor (Heston appears at the beginning and the end). The gorillas (representing the military) invade and the mutants, whose powers of illusion aren’t enough to protect them from bullets, are being slaughtered. Throughout all the chaos, Taylor is the guy who, although wounded, is able to launch the Alpha-Omega bomb, not only destroying both sides but the entire planet itself. The idea was actually Heston’s.
Charlton Heston (actor, “George Taylor”): “I thought I’d been very clever, because as we were working on the last scene, I sold the director and the producer on the idea of having Taylor, as he’s dying, hit the bomb. And they agreed that that would be very good, so we did that and I thought, ‘That finishes the series. You’ve blown up the world, and that’s the end of it.’”