Monday, April 29, 2013

Ask JKM a Question: Where did the Moon Go in Planet of the Apes (1968)?

A regular reader, Steven writes about Planet of the Apes (1968):

Like you John, I think this is one of the greatest science-fiction films ever made, and which still holds up today.”

“In Planet of the Apes (1968) after the astronauts splashdown in and abandon their A.N.S.A. spaceship we see a clear blue sky as Taylor wanders with the others, speculating about what this planet is and stating "...there is no moon...". We know there was a nuclear war that devastated the surface of the Earth, but what happened to the Moon? It is a clear blue sky and no moon at all. What do you think?

I know the answer that it blasted out of Earth orbit on September 13th, 1999 will be very tempting...”

Steven, you read my mind about the Space: 1999 solution. 

It’s clear to me that Moonbase Alpha and the 311 scientists and astronauts stationed there escaped the rise of the planet of the apes when the moon was blasted out of orbit…

But seriously, I think the most likely answer is that Taylor (Charlton Heston) is simply mistaken about the presence of a moon. 

He doesn’t see a moon, but the moon is still there, obscured, perhaps, by the thick clouds we see “glowing” later that night. 

Another possible answer is that the moon is itself destroyed.  Since the film takes place nearly 2,000 years from now, we could speculate about a cosmic collision of some type, or perhaps even the moon crashing into the Earth, a catastrophe which I suppose could account for some of the desolate, inhospitable terrain of the Forbidden Zone and other areas.

If there were one line of dialogue I would remove from Planet of the Apes, this “there is no moon” line would be a prime candidate, because in retrospect is seems put there just to throw audiences off the track. 

We believe that this strange world can’t be Earth in part because Taylor has established there is no moon.  

It’s one of the few facts we get during the course of the film that leads us to believe we actually are on a faraway world.  And of course, we’re not.  Taylor has come home.

Planet of the Apes features so many virtues, and yes, it is my favorite science fiction film of all time.  But if it came out today with this line of dialogue intact, I might point it out in my review as a kind of cheap way to maintain secrecy for the surprise ending.  The funny thing is that the film could have probably gotten away with not mentioning the moon at all. But then I guess nitpickers would ask why Taylor doesn’t just look up at the moon and realize he has come home to Earth…

Very interesting question, my friend!

Don’t forget to ask me your questions at


  1. Anonymous3:28 PM

    John thank you for answering this question with good insight. “There is no moon” is a line early in the film that does well at misleading the audience. If they had not said that then the audience would have said was the Moon in the sky? They are astronauts and should know it on sight. I think if the film was made today they probably would have CG added a weird thick cloud cover in the blue sky and still said “there is no moon”...after the Statue of Liberty scene the clouds clear the reveal the Moon.
    However, I think your theory of the Moon destroyed is correct as it was in the Time Machine(2002). Albeit, the Space:1999 answer is good too.

    Thanks again for answering my question.


    1. Hi SGB,

      I loved your's a good one. I like the Space:1999 answer too... :)

  2. Anonymous3:37 PM

    As if the fact that the apes speak English wasn't a giveaway.

    1. Anonymous,

      Wow! You must have never seen a science fiction movie.

      Do denizens of other planets speak English in Star Wars? Star Trek? Etc?

      English-speaking Apes is not a giveaway in POTA and you know it. Try not to leave snide comments, all right. Or if you do, be a grown-up and leave your initials or name.


  3. Anonymous4:15 PM

    There's a ongoing POTA comic book series from Boom! Studios called Planet of the Apes: Cataclysm which answers what happened to the moon.

    1. Anonymous5:59 PM

      What was the explanation in POTA:Cataclysm?


    2. Read it and find out ;)

      Basically there was a war during the 2000 years that included a rocket being pointed at the moon

      The apes figure this out and launch that nuclear missle

  4. Anonymous2:27 PM

    interesting thoughts regarding no moon:


  5. Anonymous11:06 AM

    John, I had totally forgotten about that "no moon" comment by Dodge, when I was re watching POTA again last year. It inspired me to spew forth a fanfic/ crossover. Posted on Ariane's sight, with illustrations courtesy of my daughter. Naturally I'd be interested in your review/ critique, if you have the time.

    Regds, John M.

  6. The Space 1999 solution..some very intriguing, high quality fan fic.


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