Cornelius and Hasslein

Dr. Otto Hasslein: ‘Escape from the Planet of the Apes’ Character Profile

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Some time ago, Blog of the Planet of the Apes ran an interview with actor Eric Braeden, best known by mainstream audiences from his role on the soap opera The Young and the Restless. Sci-fi genre fans know him as Dr. Charles Forbin in 1970’s Colossus: The Forbin Project and as Doctor Otto Hasslein in 1971’s Escape from the Planet of the Apes. He was also part of a video called “The Villains of the Planet of the Apes Were Right.”

What follows is a breakdown of the Hasslein character, his biographical details coming from various film and fiction sources.

A scientist and university professor who served as the chief science advisor to the U.S. president in 1973, as part of the Presidential Science Council. Among his protégés were Doctor Karl Reich (a future advisor to U.S. President Arthur Trundy) and fellow physicist Doctor Ernest Stanton.

Hailed by the press as “the human computer” for his brilliant mind and cold demeanor, Hasslein didn’t mind the moniker since he’d enjoyed reading stories about computers conquering the world when he was a child, which led to his majoring in computers and solid-state physics.

Hasslein was widely considered the world’s top physicist, his theories regarding time, dimensional matrices and infinite regression deemed revolutionary. He believed a ship moving fast enough would experience time more slowly than on Earth—effectively, traveling through time. This concept he non-humbly dubbed a Hasslein Curve. To that end, he conceived the American National Space Administration (ANSA), a branch of the U.S. space program established as a conglomerate of knowledge and vision, and served as the organization’s chairman. This culminated in the development of Project Liberty and the launch of its first spaceship, the Liberty 1.

An amateur poet, Hasslein wrote a verse expressing his feelings regarding the Liberty 1’s mission. His poem became a motto and prayer for Project Liberty’s explorers: “To the distant reaches, climb / far beyond space / far beyond time.”

A week before Liberty 1’s launch, Hasslein attended a celebration for the crew, along with many top brass from both ANSA and NASA. Astronaut John Landon accidentally spilled a drink on his jacket at the party, but Hasslein graciously excused the incident, preferring instead to honor those making a huge sacrifice to prove his theories. Commanded by George Taylor, Liberty 1 ultimately did just that, when the vessel seemingly vanished into the future due to the effects of time dilation.

In 1973, Hasslein was assigned to a presidential commission of inquiry established to decide official policy regarding Ape- onauts Zira and Cornelius, who’d journeyed back in time aboard the Liberty 1. Discerning hesitations in their statements, he decided they were hiding something and urged the president and the commission to render them sterile in order to stop the world from becoming ape-controlled. The couple, however, escaped before this could be carried out.

Realizing the apes had to die if humanity was to be saved, Hasslein wrote the president a letter justifying his impending actions, then tracked the chimp family to a derelict oil rig, where he shot Zira and her newborn infant. Cornelius killed the man in retaliation, then was himself gunned down as well. Hasslein was survived by a wife and three children, one of whom had Down Syndrome. The scientist had been known to be as nurturing toward the afflicted child, whose name was Eric, as he’d been toward the Liberty project.

Eric Braeden as Dr. Otto Hasslein
Eric Braeden as Dr. Otto Hasslein (courtesy Mark Talbot-Buter/

The following year, inventor Derek Zane, building on Hasslein’s theories, created the first of several time machines, or Temporal Displacement Modules, to rescue Taylor’s crew. When Zane disappeared as well, NASA’s Dr. Krigstein continued the inventor’s work, creating the Chronos I to rescue him.

Some time after the scientist’s death, the U.S. government and military created a shadow program known as Operation: Hasslein, developing a time-travel device so an assassin could visit the future and prevent Taylor’s actions from causing Earth’s destruction. Hasslein Air Force Base—a U.S. military facility at Area 51, at which apes’ intelligence was surgically

increased so they could be trained as fighter pilots—was also named in his honor.

NOTE: Hasslein was given the first name Otto in Escape, but Victor in the film’s novelization. In Ubisoft’s Planet of the Apes GameBoy videogame, his name was misspelled as Hesline.

The Blu-ray of Escape contained an odd subtitle, indicating a reporter addressed the scientist as Paul—that, however, does not appear to be what the man actually said. In Power Records’ comic book adaptation of Escape, Hasslein looked significantly older than he did onscreen.

Doctor Stanton, according to Conspiracy of the Planet of the Apes co-author Andrew E.C. Gaska, is the same scientist mentioned in the POTA cartoon series. A future novel in the series, to be co-written by Gaska and Rich Handley, will shed light on the connection between the two physicists.

The TV series writer’s bible noted that as of Alan Virdon’s and Peter Burke’s era (the 1980s), “Dr. Hasslein’s theory of time change in space while traveling beyond the speed of light has long been accepted.”

This is an entry from From Aldo to Zira: Lexicon of the Planet of the Apes: The Comprehensive Encyclopedia, available from Amazon

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