PROG: 56 – MONKEY
Script: Alan Hebden
Letters: Peter Knight
Plot: Jim and Frank are chosen to test Prof. Zimmerman’s ‘Time Phaser’ time machine, donning full spacesuits replete with life support and tinted visors. Under strict instructions not to interfere with anything they are sent ’10 million years into the past’ and told to observe and await the return to be activated. After successfully transporting, Frank decides they should seek higher ground and, while climbing, he callously sends a monkey to its death while ignoring Jim’s warnings about non-interference. After an hour they are taken back to their future era.
Shock: On their return the two time-travellers discover Prof Zimmerman and the rest of humanity has been replaced by intelligent simians; the death of the monkey on the rock has led to apes evolving to be the dominant intelligent species. Then Joe realises he is still behind a tinted visor, he turns to the mirror not knowing what it will reveal when the helmet comes off…
Thoughts: For the third time in their short publication life we have a Future Shock with yet another test-run for a time machine and yet another decision to go back to prehistoric times; although on this occasion wisely pitching up after the dinosaurs have exited the scene. There isn’t anything remarkable about crossing interfering with the past, Chaos Theory and time travel to produce a ‘Return to the Planet of the Apes’ but this Shock is lifted into a superior category by one fact – the decision to write the tale in the first person and thus add the additional shock of neither the narrator nor the reader knowing whether he too has become an ape. This produces a great final panel where our time traveller turns to a mirror and prepares to find out his fate. Following the logic of the script there is no doubt he would have been altered every bit as much as those ‘back’ in his original time but the strip’s constancy of voice, the fact he notices no change while in the past, means the reader hasn’t considered this possibility until that final panel. Alan Hebden, a key early writer for 2000AD and one still producing great work for Commando some thirty years later, should take great credit for this ‘double’ shock. Mystery artist Malgullanes does fine work in bringing the story to life with clear composition and some nice breakout panels. Having also worked on Starlord this was his only appearance in 2000AD.
Shock’d?: Yes. An excellent shock with the issue of whether Jim, our narrator, has also turned into an ape. While not totally logical this serves up an additional shock to the reader who could have guessed the Planet of the Apes was coming the minute the poor monkey was despatched by Frank.