Movie made: 1968 | Set in: 3978
|Apes become the dominant species on Earth||very low||500,000+|
|Large-scale nuclear war||low||2020+|
Scenario as parable
By the year 3978, when George Taylor (Charlton Heston) crash-lands, apes are the dominant species. Chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans can speak, and have technologies including writing, firearms, and photography. They reject the scandalous idea that they might share a common ancestor with savage humans.
Their rapid evolution seems to have resulted from the near-elimination of people, combined with an infusion of advanced ape genes from Cornelius and Zira, chimpanzees who travel back in time in Escape from the Planet of the Apes.
If humans disappeared, and apes then evolved naturally, it is unlikely that they might become highly intelligent in even 500,000 years. Two thousand years is far too little time, even with time travel intervention.
On the other hand, if people sought to create intelligent apes with biotechnology, we could have highly advanced apes by 2150. The 2001 remake Planet of the Apes picked up on this, though its apes still seem to have evolved the ability to speak—and speak English, no less.
Taylor’s ship seems to have begun its mission in the late 20th century—the dates are unclear—but is capable of faster-than-light travel. It has traveled 320 light years from Earth in 18 months or less, but due to relativistic time dilation 2,031 years have passed on Earth.
If such high-speed travel becomes possible, we will face this kind of frustrating time problem. Our earliest explorers may be fated to return to Earth centuries after they left.
This will not happen soon. Radical breakthroughs in physics are necessary before we can propel large ships at meaningful fractions of the speed of light.
Societal collapse / nuclear war:
Two thousand years before Taylor’s arrival, around our time, humans obliterated themselves in a nuclear war.
Despite the end of the Cold War, this is still possible. The U.S. and Russia each have thousands of nuclear weapons, and could devastate large areas of the Earth’s surface. If some of the predictions about nuclear winter proved true, humanity as a whole might be endangered.
Global nuclear war is unlikely, however. India and Pakistan may fight a local nuclear war, and North Korea or Iraq might launch weapons, but the effects will not be planet-wide.
Humankind is still not safe. Bioweapons could kill more widely than nuclear war, and terrorist groups and even individuals may be able to create them.