Robert J. Sawyer

Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer

The bottom of Taylor’s starship revealed (Planet of the Apes)

by Rob - December 22nd, 2006.
Filed under: Uncategorized.

There’s a lot of discussion in Planet of the Apes fandom about what the back end of Colonel Taylor’s ANSA spaceship looked like. The ship is only ever seen partially submerged in water in the film (at Lake Powell), so the details of the rear end have been left mostly to the imagination. William Creber, the gifted art director who designed it (he also designed the original miniature of the spaceship from Lost in Space, another of my favorite ships) has said in interviews that not a lot of thought was given to the back end because it wasn’t going to be shown on screen.

I’ve never seen the image above anywhere else, and so I thought I’d share it here. Where’s it from, you ask? Actor Roddy McDowall’s home movies of the making of the original Planet of the Apes, from 1967, included on disk number two of the Ultimate Planet of the Apes collection Fox released in an ape-head case earlier this year. Not that the spaceship — which fans have dubbed Icarus, although that name isn’t canonical — is pointed out in the home movies; it isn’t and McDowall doesn’t seem to notice it himself.

The above is a detail of some footage, at about the 9-minute, 10-seconds mark into the home movies, of a helicopter flight from the Fox studios that McDowall was on; the ship, seen standing on its end outside a building labeled “20” is visible for just a few seconds in a small part of the movie frame. Note the white car just to the right of the ship for scale.

I captured this from the DVD, cropped it, and offer it here as my little contribution to the ongoing discussion of what the back end of the ship looked like before it was re-configured to be Brent’s ship in Beneath the Planet of the Apes or truncated, with the rear end shortened and a rounded heat shield added, in Escape from the Planet of the Apes.

As you can see, each of the big fins has what appears to be an engine nozzle sticking out of it, very near the tips of the fins. We know from the final film that the nose cone (the tip at the top) is gold in color; it looks like the engine cones are about the same color here.

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