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Dr. Zira is one of the main protagonists in the Planet of the Apes franchise.

She is a chimpanzee psychologist and veterinarian, who specializes in the study of humans. Zira was played in the first three Apes movies by actress Kim Hunter.

Biography

Planet of the Apes (1968)

Zira is the fiancée (later wife) of Dr. Cornelius, and both are ultimately responsible to the Minister of Science, Dr. Zaius. Zira's character and role are essentially the same in both the novel and the movies, though some story details differ. Her work in each involves both working with humans under laboratory conditions (e.g. learning and behavioral experiments), and working on them physically (lobotomy and other brain surgeries, vivisection, physical endurance and tolerance experiments, and subsequent autopsies). Zira is an outspoken liberal by nature, deploring war and militancy (and despising the gorillas, who seem to make both a way of life), and eager to seek and develop intelligence anywhere it can be found. Zira literally stands for her principles - or refuses to stand, as the case may be. In the original novel, Zira discovers that her charge Ulysse Mérou (caged in the laboratory where she works) isn't a native-born, mute human of her planet, but a space traveler capable of speech, and she secretly teaches him the language of the apes, in hopes of eventually making a public demonstration, with Mérou's consent. Cornelius also becomes involved, helping prepare Mérou to meet ape society, and vice versa. In the first movie, Zira meets American astronaut George Taylor, who was shot in the throat when he was captured by gorillas, and cannot speak, as the native humans of her world cannot. She tends to his throat wound, discovers Taylor has intelligence beyond any human she's seen, and pairs him with Nova, also intelligent, hoping the two will breed. When Taylor steals Zira's notepad and writes his own name on it, Zira abruptly drops the nickname "Bright Eyes" she'd given him, and takes Taylor to meet Cornelius. Both disbelieve Taylor's story that he's from another planet, but suppose that he might be a missing link, to explain the similarities between ape and human behavior and anatomy... and the strange artifacts Cornelius found at an archaeological dig the year before. She seems to be fond of the humans that she works with and gives them nicknames, such as an old one she named "Old Timer". In both novel and movie, Zira ultimately helps Mérou/Taylor and Nova to escape the world of the apes, coming to appreciate each as thinking creatures like herself, as well as having a plain fondness for them. In the movie, she and Taylor kiss goodbye – even though, as she tells him, "You're so damned ugly."

Beneath the Planet of the Apes

Zira and Cornelius married and at home (after Zira makes a political spectacle of herself at an ape gathering), when another human enters their lives; the astronaut Brent, sent to rescue Taylor but now needing help himself. Zira treats a bullet wound Brent sustained, and she and Cornelius send him and Nova (who met Brent when she sought Zira, after Taylor vanished) back out of the city, to spare them from the latest human roundup. When Dr. Zaius visits, he tells Cornelius and Zira he plans to appoint them as his proxies, while he is away on a military campaign with General Ursus. (Zira left her medical gear in sight; covering part of her face, she pretends to Zaius that Cornelius hit her for upsetting the ape council.) Zaius admonishes them both to maintain the status quo, and keep their controversial values in check. Zira and Cornelius promise to do so, and Zaius departs. In the novel adaptation of the movie, they subsequently begin a chimpanzee revolt, with Zaius and the gorilla army gone.

Escape from the Planet of the Apes

Zira (with Cornelius and their friend Dr. Milo) making a different kind of experiment – this time space flight, in Taylor's restored craft the Icarus, when they realize their world is doomed. In a reverse of Taylor's experience, the spaceship travels back in time to a few months after his mission began, splashing down off the California coast. The movie follows Zira and Cornelius (after the accidental death of Dr. Milo) through their discovery, and eventual rejection, by and of human society. A large portion of the rejection comes from Zira's drugged confessions of the details of her human experiments, to the shock of the reactionary Presidential Commission, who declare them atrocities since they were done to humans. Zira was glad she told the truth and understands why Taylor called them savages when Taylor was treated badly. Zira's and Cornelius's account of their origins, and of humanity's coming downfall, further stigmatizes the couple. Their baby is born (named Milo after their friend, but later called Caesar), but Zira and Cornelius are murdered a few days afterward. (Circus owner Armando took them in when the baby came; Zira switched her newborn baby with a circus chimp when she and Cornelius had to go into hiding, leaving Armando a clue in case they didn't return.) Zira makes no further appearances in the Apes movies, although she is mentioned by name in the following sequels, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes and Battle for the Planet of the Apes and appears in video stills (while her recorded voice tells the story of their space flight, and of the Earth's destruction) the adult Caesar plays back, to learn more about his parents, in Battle for the Planet of the Apes.

Trivia

  • Unique among the Apes characters, Zira has blue eyes.

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See Also
Alien vs Predator Heroes | American Dad! Heroes | American Crime Story Heroes | American Horror Story Heroes | Blue Sky Heroes | Bob's Burgers Heroes | Die Hard Heroes | Family Guy Heroes | Ferdinand Heroes | Free Guy Heroes | Futurama Heroes | Garfield Heroes | Ice Age Heroes | Isle of Dogs Heroes | Kingsman Heroes | Narnia Heroes | Planet of the Apes Heroes | Rick Riordan Heroes | Rio Heroes | Star Wars Heroes | The French Dispatch Heroes | The Grand Budapest Hotel Heroes | The Simpsons Heroes | X-Men Movie Heroes | X-Men Heroes

           PlanetOfTheApesTitle.png Heroes

Planet of the Apes (1968)
Colonel George Taylor | Nova | Dr. Zira | Dr. Cornelius

Beneath the Planet of the Apes
Dr. Zira | Dr. Cornelius | Colonel George Taylor | Nova

Escape from the Planet of the Apes
Dr. Zira | Dr. Cornelius | Caesar

Conquest of the Planet of the Apes
Caesar

Battle for the Planet of the Apes
Caesar

Planet of the Apes (2001)
Captain Leo Davidson | Krull

Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Caesar | Rocket | Maurice | Cornelia | Buck | Andy | Bright Eyes | Will Rodman | Caroline Aranha | Charles Rodman

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Caesar | Maurice | Rocket | Blue Eyes | Cornelius | Luca | Ash | Malcolm | Ellie | Alexander | Kemp | Foster

War for the Planet of the Apes
Caesar | Maurice | Rocket | Luca | Bad Ape | Lake | Nova

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