Colonel George Taylor, played by leading man Charlton Heston, is an American astronaut, and the leader of a space expedition, in the 1968 movie Planet of the Apes. Taylor's first name is never spoken in dialog; the sources for it are the closing credits of the film and the 1998 documentary Behind the Planet of the Apes.
Planet of the ApesEdit
In the opening minutes of the movie, Taylor is watching his crew-mates enter a state of hibernation aboard their ship (known non-canonically as the Icarus), which is accelerating to nearly the speed of light, as he records his final report before joining them. Taylor muses about the fact that hundreds of years have already passed on Earth, in the six months the ship's clock has recorded, and hopes that whoever is receiving his report on Earth belongs to a better breed than they left behind, when their ship launched in 1972. He then climbs into his bunk, passing into hibernation, as the ship continues on auto-pilot to a faraway star.
When Taylor and two of his crewmates awake (discovering that a fourth, a woman named Stewart, died from an air leak while they were hibernating), the ship has crash-landed in a lake, on what they take to be an Earth-like, but largely barren, planet orbiting a Sun-like star in the constellation Orion. The ship begins to take on water, then sinks rapidly, barely leaving the three astronauts time to break out survival kits and a life raft, and take an Earth-time reading: The year is 3978, leaving them just over two thousand years away from their starting point.
Rowing the raft to dry land, Taylor assumes command of what they now know will be a no-return mission, but it pulls him and his companions, Dodge and Landon, together and they begin a search for life on this new planet. They also discuss their motivations for joining the mission; Taylor's is his quest to find someone or something wiser than humanity. As they leave their crash site behind, the astronauts first find a flowering plant, then a row of what appear to be scarecrows or a boundary line, then finally a lush valley with a waterfall and pool, where they peel off their uniforms and go swimming.
Noticing their equipment and clothing has vanished, and finding footprints leading away from where they'd left them, Taylor and his crewmates next discover primitive, mute humans destroying everything the astronauts brought with them. Assessing their chances of taking over, if this is the brightest the planet has to offer, they learn to the sound of gunfire and traps being sprung, that this planet has another dominant species; evolved apes. All three try to run, but Dodge is killed outright, Landon suffers a head wound, and Taylor receives a bullet wound in his throat, preventing him from speaking.
Taken to Ape City and caged, Taylor and a female mute (whom he later calls Nova) share a laboratory cell, and chimpanzee psychologist Dr. Zira hopes the two will mate. When Zira discovers that Taylor has intelligence beyond any human she has ever seen, writing a message on her notepad, she takes him out of the laboratory to meet her future husband, Dr. Cornelius. Both disbelieve Taylor's assertion that he's actually a visitor from a faraway planet, but think he might be living proof of human intelligence – if not a missing link between humans and their "evolved superiors", the apes.
Learning also of Taylor's intelligence, and of his ability to speak as his throat recovers, Dr. Zaius wants Taylor first gelded, then put to death – but first he wants to know where Taylor "really comes from" in the Forbidden Zone, and information about his "tribe". Taylor of course can't tell Zaius anything he wants to know, and blames Zaius for what happened to Landon – who is brought to Taylor in a lobotomised, animal-like state. When Zira's nephew Lucius breaks Taylor out of the laboratory, and he joins Cornelius and Zira as they flee to the Forbidden Zone (under charges of heresy brought by Zaius), Taylor deliberately takes a rifle for himself, and declares nobody else is in charge of him, from here on. He also brings Nova, despite the apes' objections.
Dr. Zaius tracks the fleeing party down, but Taylor captures him, forcing Zaius to promise both to let him and Nova escape, and to drop the charges he's made against Zira and Cornelius. Zaius agrees, but nonetheless condemns Taylor and all humans as doomed to folly. After Taylor and Nova depart, Zaius destroys the cave holding the evidence that would exonerate Cornelius and Zira, and takes them back to Ape City under escort.
Finally free of the apes, Taylor discovers that he hasn't been on a faraway planet at all, but has returned to Earth in its distant future, as he and Nova encounter the ruins of the Statue of Liberty along the shoreline. He was devastated to learn that humanity indeed had destroyed themselves, as Zaius asserted.
Beneath the Planet of the ApesEdit
Heston returned as Taylor for a brief appearance in the second Apes movie, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, as he and Nova encounter strange sights and sounds in what should be an empty landscape. When Taylor discovers a wall where there was none before, he tries to tear into it – and disappears, leaving the horrified Nova alone on their horse.
Later in the movie, another astronaut named Brent, sent on a doomed mission to rescue Taylor and his companions, is fleeing with Nova from a squad of gorilla soldiers into the Forbidden Zone, when they come upon an entryway to the underground remains of New York City, and its mutant human inhabitants, whom as it turns out led them in deliberately – as they earlier had Taylor, through the illusory wall. After probing both Taylor and Brent for what they know about the apes and their intentions, they force the two men to fight to the death, but Nova's sudden reappearance breaks their jailer's control. All three nearly escape, when Nova is shot and dies as the apes attack the underground city. Taylor loses hope, but he and Brent each grab weapons and fight against the apes.
Taylor is shot trying to reach the console that controls the Alpha-Omega (ΑΩ) missile the mutants worship. Rising, he attempts to dismantle its nuclear warhead before either the mutants can trigger it, and destroy the whole planet, or the apes can set it off by their carelessness. Desperate, he calls out to Dr. Zaius for help, who flatly refuses him on the grounds that man is "capable of nothing but destruction". Taylor falls for the last time, his hand plunging the trigger mechanism with his last breath, and the Earth is destroyed.
Escape from the Planet of the ApesEdit
Taylor appears in references during the third Apes movie, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, and a few times in flashbacks, but his (and Heston's) role in the series was complete after the first two installments. Heston hadn't wanted to come back, but the studio held him to his contract; he agreed to appear if his salary were donated to charity, and if the original storyline (which had Taylor and Nova surviving, to found a new human breed) were changed to keep him from having to return for another sequel.