Nova was a beautiful (and ultimately tragic) primitive and mute human girl, who became the companion and love interest of George Taylor, an astronaut stranded in a post-apocalyptic Earth that has become a Planet of Apes.
Planet of the Apes
Nova was one of the first inhabitants of the new planet that the astronauts encountered, but was captured by the apes as her tribe was raiding their crops. Astronaut George Taylor was also captured. They were taken to Ape City where she was used by Dr. Galen for a blood transfusion to Taylor after he had been shot. Dr. Zira noticed the attraction between the two and permitted them to share a cell, desiring for the pair to mate.
He became attracted to Nova, and was pleased that he taught her how to smile after she was taken from him. When Lucius eventually organized Taylor's escape, Taylor insisted on Nova coming with them to the Forbidden Zone where Taylor learned the truth about the planet.
In her contact with rational humans, Nova made tremendous learning progress.
Beneath the Planet of Apes
In the sequel, Nova and Taylor journeyed through the Forbidden Zone where Taylor mysteriously disappeared and was captured by mutants. Nova wandered the Forbidden Zone until she fortuitously found the wreckage of Brent's ship; Brent had arrived on the planet in search of Taylor. Nova brought Brent to Zira and Cornelius in Ape City, but they were captured and held prisoner. Escaping, they headed for the Forbidden Zone where they discovered that beneath the surface of the planet was a forgotten city, inhabited by mutants who worshipped a massive nuclear bomb. Under the mutant's mind control, Brent attempted to drown Nova. Later, as Brent and Taylor stood in a cell, she watched in horror as the two men, under the mutant's control, tried to kill each other. Fearing for the lives of her friend and the man she loves, she spoke for the first time, crying out Taylor's name. The sound of her voice broke the mutant's mind control and freed Brent and Taylor. As she was reunited with Taylor and the three broke out, the forces of Ursus stormed the cathedral, killing any mutants on sight. One particular gorilla soldier ambushed the trio and managed to fatally shoot Nova in the back before Taylor and Brent killed the gorilla in return, avenging Nova's death. A devastated Taylor held Nova in his hands until Brent convinced him they must continue.
The film ended with Brent killed after killing Ursus and a mortally wounded Taylor detonating the bomb, destroying the planet and all it's inhabitants, ape and human alike.
- According to The Ape promotional newspaper distributed to moviegoers during the theatrical release of the first film in 1968, Nova was aged about 22 when captured. Linda Harrison was 22 when the film was produced.
- Rod Serling's earlier scripts had vacillated on Nova's ultimate fate: after living with Thomas (Taylor) for a time among the apes, she was at first to escape back to Earth with him, but in Serling's numerous later revisions she was usually left behind when Thomas escaped, with Zira releasing her back to the relative safety of her jungle home.
- At one point, Nova was to mirror her namesake from the original novel by being pregnant with Taylor's child, with the scene remaining in Michael Wilson's final shooting script as late as 15 June 1967: Wilson recalled, "In the penultimate drafts of Planet of the Apes, Nova (Linda Harrison) was pregnant With Taylor's (Charlton Heston) child. In this version, Taylor was killed by the bullet of an ape sniper just after he sees the Statue of Liberty. But Nova escapes, vanishing into the Forbidden Zone beyond the Statue of Liberty. The meaning is clear: if her unborn child is a male and grows to manhood, the species will survive. If not, modern man becomes extinct. Such an ending left open the possibility of a sequel long before sequels were discussed. Nova's pregnancy was deleted from the film, I'm told, at the insistence of a high-echelon Fox executive who found it distasteful. I suppose that if one defines the mute Nova as merely "humanoid" and not actually human, it would mean that Taylor had committed sodomy." Associate producer Mort Abrahams also suggested that it would lessen the stark impact of the Statue of Liberty ending: "if she's pregnant that becomes an element of the story... and now we're off to something else entirely." Linda Harrison adds, "I remember that we were all set up to do the scene. It was the scene where we say good-bye to Cornelius and Zira, and Taylor asks for the gun. That was the scene where Zira was going to tell Taylor that Nova was expecting. But then the brass huddled in a quick little meeting and they decided that it wasn't the right course to take." Harrison elaborated in another interview that the scene was 'staged' and about to be shot when Charlton Heston, Franklin Schaffner and Mort Abrahams made the decision to cancel. The scene was included when Marvel Comics adapted the movie from that script, but had the dialogue altered just before publication. However, the following year the strips were re-printed in colour in Marvel's Adventures on the Planet of the Apes comics with the original "pregnancy" dialogue restored, probably by mistake.
- The storyline for a second Apes movie went through an even more radical evolution than that of the first. The first story, written by Rod Serling, had Taylor and Nova go into the dark, unexplored part of the planet. A second spacecraft containing human astronauts from the past arrives and Taylor chooses a woman astronaut from the ship’s crew as his mate and decides to stay behind in order to rebuild humanity. In two alternative concepts, Taylor and Nova discover another spaceship intact and travel either forward or backwards in time, or to another planet also populated by civilized apes.
- Pierre Boulle next prepared a treatment titled Planet of the Men which follows Taylor and Nova (and their son, Sirius) as they encounter the primitive humans and re-educate them over the course of many years. A village is constructed, led by Taylor and Nova ("Mrs Taylor"). Sirius leads the more impetuous younger humans against the apes, killing most. Taylor is killed by a young human while trying to help Zira. Nova grieves as the destructive nature of humanity has resurfaced.
- In The Dark Side of the Earth, by an unknown author, Taylor and Nova find the remains of a town inhabited by thinking, talking humans. They join them, but another U.S. spaceship crashes, with one astronaut surviving. In time, this astronaut leads the humans on an attack against the apes. Taylor, disgusted by the carnage and remembering a bomb he found in the humans’ arsenal, decides to destroy everything so that God can start all over again. He crashes the ship into the city, igniting a nuclear holocaust which leaves nothing.
- In the earliest treatments by Paul Dehn, Taylor and Nova ride into the Forbidden Zone and encounter a race of mutated humans who ask Taylor to spy on their behalf. He and Nova return to the Ape City, where Nova gives birth to a son, Sirius, who is cared for by Zira. While making their way back to the mutants, Nova is shot dead by a gorilla guard. The gorilla army marches into the Forbidden Zone and in response, the mutants detonate their bomb, destroying the mutant city and the gorilla army. Taylor and his chimpanzee allies return to Ape City with a new era dawning between man and ape.
- Dehn's original storyline was then adapted for a second astronaut character, John Brent, to take the place of Taylor for the bulk of the film. Initially Taylor would die in a mutant trap, and Brent and Nova would encounter the mutant humans. Things were soon amended again so that Taylor would appear briefly at the beginning of the movie, vanish in the mutant trap, and show up again at the end of the film for the movie's climax, in which Brent, Taylor and Nova - now surviving - escape and decide not to return to their own time in Brent's spacecraft, but to stay and bring peace and harmony to the survivors. The final version had the missile destroy the entire planet rather than just the mutant city, leaving no survivors. Nova had already been shot by gorillas invading the mutant city, perhaps prompting Taylor to complete the task of launching the Alpha-Omega Bomb.
- In 1988, Adam Rifkin wrote "an alternate sequel to the first film". In Rifkin's Return to the Planet of the Apes, Nova has died but left Taylor a son named Duke. Taylor is later killed by a ruthless gorilla leader, and Cornelius promises to raise Duke amongst the community of humans Taylor had founded in the Forbidden Zone. Ultimately, Duke helps overthrow the gorilla tyrant. However, Rifkin's project was abandoned. In 1992, Peter Jackson pitched a treatment, with "a storyline that continued the ape’s saga from where it left off in the fifth movie", but the project never got any further. Between 1993 and 1995, Oliver Stone tried to develop a film titled Return of the Apes, involving time travel back to the Palaeolithic era where humans were at war for the future of the planet with highly-evolved apes. Again, the project stalled. Chris Columbus' efforts during 1995 similarly aimed to relaunch the concept without reference to the original films. His Planet of the Apes involved travel to an alien ape planet intent on wiping out humanity.
- James Cameron was rumored to be planning a picture to fit in with the existing continuity of the original Apes movies, with Taylor's crew crash-landing again but finding a planet much altered by the actions of Caesar. The story shifts to thirty years later, when five more time-travelling astronauts from the 1990's arrive. Taylor has kept busy with the local women and has sired a large brood of intelligent humans. Roddy McDowall supported the idea that any new movie should pick up from the originals rather than try to reinvent the franchise, while Linda Harrison said, "I think you have a perfect place to start with the way they took off together. It's saying they're going to go find their life, and develop their colony, and their own culture. Taylor and Nova mating are going to produce an unusual offspring. So, that's where they need to start. It would be good to see them thirty years later and actually see their children grown, and Taylor is really in charge of this development." However, Cameron quit the project at the end of 1998 and the emphasis switched back to an original take on the franchise, leading to Tim Burton's 2001 re-imagined Planet of the Apes movie, which included both an ape named "Nova" and actress Linda Harrison, but with no reference to the original character.
- In the 2017 movie War for the Planet of the Apes, a mute, unnamed girl found in a deserted human village was revealed to have a part of the mutated Simian Flu, that turned her into a primitive being. She was later named Nova by Maurice, in a direct tribute to the character from the original film.
- "Bond girl" Ursula Andress was apparently considered for the role, although Linda Harrison believes "they always had me in mind for Nova".
- Charlton Heston noted in his diary on April 17, 1967 that, "The casting problem's really Nova: who will do it, and how naked can she be". According to Harrison, the costume "was something they mulled over and discussed for a long time. They were thinking, "What could she make herself?" It had to be something that looked like she had just punctured holes through it and created for herself. Basically, the costume had a rubber form and then the bark was pasted onto that. Then we just put some holes in it. I think I tore a few myself because they used to kid me about it. I had to show the costume several times to the producer and director, until they thought it was right. Maybe to the viewer it looks like they just stuck something on me, but it had to be constantly inspected for authenticity. That was important."
- Paul Dehn suggested that Nova's only utterance should sound like a deaf child talking, adding "there are very moving examples in 'Mandy' and Lindsay Anderson's documentary 'Thursday's Children'".
- Planet of the Apes
- Beneath the Planet of the Apes
- Beneath the Planet of the Apes (Comic Book)
- Beneath the Planet of the Apes (Novelization)
- Planet of the Apes (Power Records)
- Beneath the Planet of the Apes (Power Records)
- Planet of the Apes Magazine: Planet of the Apes
- Planet of the Apes Magazine: Beneath the Planet of the Apes
- Adventures on the Planet of the Apes: Planet of the Apes
- Adventures on the Planet of the Apes: Beneath the Planet of the Apes
- Star Trek/Planet of the Apes: The Primate Directive (comic book)
- Death of the Planet of the Apes
- Nova (La Planète des singes), for the version of the character in the original novel.
- Nova (Visionaries), for the analog in Planet of the Apes: Visionaries, based on Rod Serling's first script draft.
- 'Planet of the Apes' promotional material
- Brent's chronometer read 3955
- Final Shooting Script at Hunter's Planet of the Apes Archive
- Marvel's Planet of the Apes, USA Issue 2 (October 1974)
- Mort Abrahams Interview, by Dean Preston - 'Simian Scrolls' #13 (Winter 2007)
- Behind the Planet of the Apes
- Linda Harrison Interview - The Forbidden Zone (about 1998)
- Interview with Linda Harrison 9/8/98, by Marshall Terrill - 'Ape Chronicles' #34 (1998) at Hunter's Planet of the Apes Archive
- Linda Harrison Interview, by Dean Preston - 'Simian Scrolls' #11 (Summer 2005)
- Planet of the Apes Revisited, by Joe Russo & Larry Landsman with Edward Gross - 'Starlog' #105 (April 1986)
- Planet of the Men, by Pierre Boulle (22 July 1968)
- Planet of the Apes As American Myth: Race, Politics, and Popular Culture, by Eric Greene (1996)
- Woman of the Apes 'Starlog' - (April 1995)
- The Actor's Life: Journals 1956-1976 by Charlton Heston (1978)
- Planet of the Apes Revisited First Draft Screenplay at Hunter's Planet of the Apes Scripts Archive