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The third Planet of the Apes film amazingly takes place after the Earth was destroyed by a nuclear missile in the second movie.  This movie begins with three ape-o-nauts traveling back in time and arriving in the United States in the later part of the 20th century. This seemed to be the only story premise that would save the valuable Planet of the Apes franchise since the Earth was actually destroyed in the previous film.

Corneilus and Zira as well as a third chimpanzee are the three ape astronauts. They are at first treated like royalty by popular culture and society. They can talk and walk and it is a cool novelty for people at first. As they tell the story of their origin it soon becomes apparent to the United States government that their existence would pose a continual threat to humanity. When Zira the female chimp is discovered to be pregnant the President of the United States orders an immediate abortion as well as sterilization for Zira. This order was to combat the possibility that Apes may rule man in the future.

If these apes would just live and die off quietly the problem would seem to be solved. Cornelius and Zira resist however and ultimately are killed. They do have an offspring and this offspring is kept in secret by a human named Armando. This ape child is to become Ceasar the leader of the Great Ape revolution in the coming future.