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Auto Pilot: Captain Simian and the Space Monkeys

By Zach

While Caesar and Woody Harrelson go to war this weekend in War for the Planet of the Apes, a different war involving monkeys was waged in 1997 with the animated series Captain Simian and the Space Monkeys.

Episode Title: Yes, We Have No Bananas and Yes, We Still Have No Bananas

Original Air Date: September 7th, 1997

Did I Know Anything Going In?:  I think this show might have aired on one of the local stations, but at a bizarre time so I may have only seen the very tail end of it but never watched it regularly.


Captain Simian and the Space Monkeys was a syndicated cartoon that lasted for 26 episodes in 1997 and also had a toy line that consisted of 9 figures and 4 big vehicles.  It was sold to local network affiliates as part of a block of shows that also included things like the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, Street Sharks, Mummies Alive! and more.  The premise of the show is that Captain Chuck Simian was a NASA test monkey whose spaceship goes off course and, due to the extreme cold, he’s cryogenically frozen for decades but found by a mysterious alien race, whose name is unpronounceable and unable to be written, who decide he will take their place as the savior of the universe and give him enhanced intelligence along with genetically enhancing his body.  They explain that he has to prevent Nebula, a former humanoid who has now become a living black hole, who wants something called the “anti-force” that will allow him to destroy the entire universe and rebuild it in his own image. The mysterious aliens leave for another dimension as Nebula attacks their planet, leaving the rest of the explanations to Orbitron, a snarky AI orb who helps recruit the rest of Simian’s crew which consists of Spider, a sneaky thief and former organ grinder monkey, Shao Lin, a monkey worshipped as a goddess in a Buddhist temple, Dr. Splitz, an orangutan who has a split personality of a brilliant scientist and dopey mechanic named Splitzy and Gor-illa, a docile gorilla who does not get a full upgrade in intelligence and who hulks out when angry or threatened.  Some top level talent was on-board to voice all the characters, including Star Trek’s Michael Dorn, Maurice LaMarche, James Avery, Jerry Doyle and Malcolm McDowell, who voices Nebula’s psychotic henchman Rhesus-2, who is the group’s first test when he attacks them while they are readying to leave on their ship, the Primate Avenger.  McDowell seems to have a blast voicing Rhesus-2, whose constantly making brain/mind puns and has a slew of interchangeable brains that he’s constantly switching out and even his laser pistols are powered by brains.

The group blasts off into space but they are able to temporarily disable Rhesus but Nebula’s warship damages the Avenger and they crash back onto the planet.  Simian sends everyone back to Earth via space/time warping wormhole while he takes the Anti-force in a different fighter ship and lead the villains away.  His ship is damaged and he crashes on another, desolate planet and is seemingly doomed until the Primate Avenger reappears and rescues him.  The crew reveals that the wormhole actually cast them and the ship around space for years, even sending them back to the 70’s at one point, and they had time to gel as a crew and remodel it to suit their primate bodies.  Using a disco ball they got from the 70’s as a decoy Anti-force, the group uses the Avenger’s distinct feature of being able to split into five different ships for a final battle against Rhesus and a squad of robot monkey warriors and Simian tricks Rhesus into grabbing the disco ball, bringing it back to Nebula, who absorbs it but it drains his energy instead and turns him back into a humanoid before he disappears and his ship explodes.  He is not defeated however and Simian and the crew vow to remain in space and defend the universe.

Captain Simian is a very solid and fun 90’s cartoon that features a bunch of pop culture references and a fast pace that kicks things off and running right from the start.  The voice cast is fun and the characters fall into archetypes but put their own spin on those tropes and there’s some solid sci-fi/space opera action. The show doesn’t seem to be officially released on DVD but a bunch of the episodes are up in full on youtube if you want to check it out.

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