- "Because your kind were once our ancestors. Because man was born of apes, and there's still an ape curled up inside of every man. You're the beast in us that we have to whip into submission. You're the savage that we need to shackle in chains. You taint us, Caesar. You poison our guts. When we hate you, we're hating the dark side of ourselves."
Governor Breck was the authoritarian, cold-hearted leader of Central City. He has overseen the creation of a class of ape slaves to serve the human population, torturing those who refuse to obey until they do. Breck also served as the primary antagonist of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes.
In 1991, the United States has gone from its original form of government to a system headed by governors, whose word is basically law. North America has become nearly totalitarian, with many curfews and restrictions imposed, and surveillance an everyday event. Protests and demonstrations are discouraged, or given time limits.
After the death of Earth's dogs and cats (caused by a plague brought back by a space probe), monkeys and apes took their place as pets. The intelligence of the apes and their similarity to human behavior made them subject to genetic engineering to increase their intelligence, but this promotion for the apes came at a heavy cost. Progressing from performing tricks to doing household chores, apes have now become humanity's slaves. The apes are brutally tortured into submission. The government supports this occurrence, since ape servants seem to lessen public discontent. Nobody considers the apes' feelings or best interests, though, and tension is brewing.
Breck witnesses an ape auction one day, and on a whim bids on a young chimpanzee (through his assistant Mr. MacDonald). His bid wins, and he decides to use an old family method for naming him, whereby he produces a book of baby names and allows the ape to select whatever name he wants. The name he chooses is "Caesar", pretending to just point randomly. Breck is mildly impressed with the ape's choice, remarking how Caesar means "king". While he is bright, and everyone suspects he was previously "conditioned" and not a wild ape, he makes a mistake in the chore given him (mixing a cocktail for the governor).
What Breck doesn't know, but comes to suspect, is that Caesar is actually an evolved ape, whose parents Cornelius and Zira came from Earth's future, when apes are the dominant species. Caesar was brought up by Armando, a human circus owner, who taught him all about humanity, and how to be a leader.
Armando dies in police custody, to protect Caesar's secret. Angry and mournful, Caesar begins to set up an ape revolt, using his job at the command post to stay one step ahead of Breck, and his attempts to control the apes. Another assistant, Kolp, double-checks on recent ape shipments to Ape Management, and discovers that Caesar was the lone chimpanzee in a shipment from Borneo – where chimps are not native. He reports this to Breck, who now wants to know exactly what Caesar knows. He also wonders if Caesar can tell him by speaking.
Breck orders MacDonald to turn Caesar over the minute he returns from an errand, but instead MacDonald, who learns Caesar can indeed speak, gives him the chance to escape. Caesar is captured by police, taken to Ape Management, and brought to an interrogation room resembling a torture chamber. Strapped to an electroshock table, Caesar is jolted with higher and higher amounts of electricity, while Breck commands him again and again, "Talk!" In agony, Caesar gasps "Have pity!" and slumps back on the table, exhausted. MacDonald leaves, showing no stomach for what Breck is doing.
Satisfied, Breck departs, and Kolp orders Caesar to be electrocuted immediately. MacDonald finds the room's breaker box, and cuts off the electrical flow to the table. Caesar pretends to die, and everyone else leaves. Killing the handler sent to dispose of his body, Caesar decides the time has come to begin the revolt.
Caesar sets the Ape Management building on fire, then seizes the intercom system and pretends to be the governor's spokesman, ordering the guards to release all the apes in custody – even the dangerous ones. With the apes loose, panic begins to spread, and apes around the Ape Management complex begin to riot. More and more fires begin to break out, all over the city.
From his command post, Breck declares martial law, and issues one simple order concerning the rioting apes: "Shoot to kill!" His troops are overwhelmed by the hundreds of apes they find in the streets, though, and nobody can believe the apes have acquired weapons – and the skills to use them, or at least try them out. The apes smash the command post as they take control of Ape Management, seizing Breck, MacDonald and others.
Aldo, a gorilla leader, handles Breck as he was once handled by Breck's policemen, as Caesar asks him the final question: Why was Breck so hateful toward apes, and toward himself most of all? With nothing left to lose, Breck admits to Caesar that enslaving wild apes was a way of dealing with his own human impulses, and so with other humans, due to apes being the ancestors of the human race. Breck is taken away, presumably to be imprisoned by the apes.
"Because your kind were once our ancestors. Man was born with the ape, and there's still an ape curled up inside of every man. The beast that must be whipped into submission, the savage has to be shackled in chains. You are that beast Caesar, you taint us, you poison our guts. When, when we hate you, we're hating the dark side of ourselves."
In the fifth and final film, it is revealed that Breck died from radiation poisoning in the aftermath of a nuclear war. Breck's underling Kolp is the new Governor (more specifically, of the underground ruins, after the nuclear war destroyed most of human civilization). Mr. MacDonald also presumably died in the nuclear war or its aftermath. However, his younger brother was spared from the same fate by being rescued by Caesar, and became his human adviser in the new peaceful ape society.
- In an early story outline for Conquest, it was explained that Breck's wife had been killed by an ape and he thus took delight in extracting revenge by mistreating Caesar.
- Breck tells MacDonald that he can trace his family back to Breckland in Suffolk, England, where they were slaves to the French.
- The original ending of Conquest was altered after it was judged too gruesome by test audiences. The key difference was that in the first version, Breck was killed by the vengeful apes. In the released version with newly-filmed ending, Caesar spares the life of the Governor to show the compassion that the humans lacked. The original ending was finally restored in the 2008 Blu-Ray release of the movie. While it doesn't actually show Governor Breck's corpse, he is shown receiving a beating that he was unlikely to have survived. Obviously the different endings represent significantly different fates for Breck, more than anyone else.
- The novelization of Conquest was based on the script of the movie, and consequently saw Governor Breck killed at the end of Caesar's revolution.
- Early scripts for Battle for the Planet of the Apes again featured Governor Breck, but actor Don Murray wasn't interested in returning to the role. Instead, the part was reworked to allow Breck's security chief, Kolp, to become the new Governor of the mutant city after Breck had died off-screen (from radiation poisoning rather than at the hands of the apes).
- Those early scripts for Battle all use the name 'Modern City' for the city in which the events take place. They also refer to Breck as having been 'City Governor', rather than the Governor of a state.
- Marvel Comics' adaptation of Battle for the Planet of the Apes was based on the early scripts of that movie (writer Doug Moench claimed to have not seen the later Apes movies that he adapted to comic format), and consequently featured Governor Breck as the mutant leader. At the end of that version, Breck is shot dead by Aldo after the Ape-Mutant battle. Uniquely, Marvel also published an original story set between Conquest and Battle which detailed how Breck, Mendez and Alma managed to escape from Caesar's Ape settlement after some years, and returned to the radioactive city (one year after the great mushroom cloud had destroyed it) where by the time of Marvel's Battle adaptation, they had become severly disfigured.
- Malibu Graphics/Adventure Comics' original Planet of the Apes comics had the spirit of Governor Breck somehow revived by the surviving mutant humans of the city, through an occult ritual. On seeing the mutants who brought him back into existence, Breck slaughtered them as impure examples of humanity. He then went on a rampage through the Forbidden Zone, killing any apes and unsuitable humans he found via his magical powers. Among his victims were the Forgotten Apes, the Swamp Apes and General Ollo. Ultimately, the only thing able to stop Breck was the revived spirit of Caesar, who devoured Breck's evil presence.
- MR Comics' Revolution on the Planet of the Apes comics details the aftermath of the events of Conquest. Here, Breck is a prisoner of the apes in the days after his capture. Kolp and his associates Mendez and Alma launch a rescue operation to free Breck but in the ensuing battle, Breck is crushed beneath a massive bomb.
- An early draft of the film's script names him 'Harvey Breck III', though in that version, the character is very different than how Breck is portrayed onscreen.
- In the novelization of Conquest, John Jakes gives the name 'Jason Breck', and establishes his age to be 33.
- The comic book miniseries Revolution on the Planet of the Apes, from Mr. Comics, calls him 'Arnold Breck'.
- As with Dr. Otto Hasslein in Escape from the Planet of the Apes, there are strong parallels between Governor Breck and Dr. Zaius.
- Conquest of the Planet of the Apes
- Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (novel)
- Planet of the Apes Magazine: Conquest of the Planet of the Apes
- Planet of the Apes Magazine: Quest for the Planet of the Apes
- Planet of the Apes Magazine: Battle for the Planet of the Apes
- Planet of the Apes (Malibu Graphics)
- Revolution on the Planet of the Apes
- Planet of the Apes: 40 Year Evolution, by Lee Pfeiffer & Dave Worrall (June 2008)
- Conquest of the Planet of the Apes Final Shooting Script at Hunter's Planet of the Apes Scripts Archive