- "He's not a monkey, he's an ape!"
- ―Robert Franklin
Working at Gen-Sys
Robert Franklin was an employee at Gen-Sys Laboratories who worked as an ape handler under Will Rodman, who had created ALZ-112, a revolutionary trial drug that could potentially cure Alzheimer's disease. After the 112 project was shut down due to one of the chimp test subjects, Bright Eyes, going berserk. Franklin was ordered to euthanize all chimpanzees exposed to the potentially dangerous drug, Franklin discovered a new-born baby chimpanzee who he could not bring himself to euthanize. Unable to rescue the chimpanzee himself, due to his brother-in-law working in security, Franklin asked Will to raise the chimpanzee, who was later named Caesar.
Eight years later, chimpanzee testing resumed at Gen-Sys and Franklin returned to his former role. While the refined ALZ-113 drug was tested on a bonobo named Koba, the ape had a strong shake in his restraints and Franklin was kicked in the face by Koba's wandering hand and exposed him to the 113 by pulling the formula's feed tube out, and even though he quickly put his mask back on properly, he was infected with the virus. Realizing his mistake, Franklin tried to get Will to tell him that he had been infected, but instead encountered Will's ill-tempered neighbor, Douglas Hunsiker who demanded to know who Franklin was and why he was in the neighborhood. A startled Franklin accidentally sneezed up blood on Hunsiker, passing the virus on to him, after which Hunsiker aggressively ordered him to leave. This act would cause the Simian Flu outbreak that would result in the near extinction of humanity.
Death and Legacy
Soon after, Franklin's body was discovered in his apartment by his neighbor, Dottie, his body still bleeding after he had died. Linda Andersen phoned Jacobs to tell him about Franklin but was too late and ignored her due to Caesar's revolution inside the Gen-Sys building. The same fate would happen to Hunsiker and billions of humans worldwide. In the coming years after his death, Franklin was labeled as "Patient Zero", a lab technician who was the first to be exposed to ALZ-113, later dubbed the "Simian Flu".
Robert Franklin was distinguished as being one of the only characters to care for the apes' well-being, at one point standing up to his unethical boss and proudly correcting Will's presumption of Caesar being a "monkey". He was also kind and was willing to take the infant Caesar if his brother-in-law hadn't worked in security. He was also known to have been clumsy as seen when he knocked his mask off his face, hence exposing him to the lethal ALZ-113 virus.
- Franklin's name is taken from Franklin J. Schaffner, director of the first Planet of the Apes movie.
- An earlier version of the script differed in the details of Franklin's fate. Instead of Franklin, it was a chimpanzee handler named Evans (perhaps in reference to Maurice Evans) who was infected with the ALZ-113 virus in the operating theatre and died as a result. Caesar and Rocket escaped from their facility and broke into the lab in search of Caesar's mother. In return for a bracelet, Rocket freed the sinister Koba, who then killed Franklin before returning to his cage, effectively framing Caesar for the murder. Later, Koba deliberately infected Steven Jacobs with the fatal virus, who in turn infected Hunsiker.
- Despite his kind nature, Franklin's actions with Hunsiker ended up being a cause of humanity's fall, as it would later turn out that Hunsiker was an airplane pilot and he would spread the disease across the entire world.
- The top quote references that apes in the Planet of the Apes franchise regard the name "monkey" as a serious derogatory offence.