Saturday, June 30, 2012
Saturday Morning Cult TV Blogging: "The Drought" (November 13, 1976)
In “The Drought,” the Ark II goes in search of a time capsule containing a pre-apocalypse “cloud seeder” to help avert a deadly drought in the nearby desert. During the mission, Samuel programs the Ark II to run on voice control. This proves a poor selection when the crew’s old nemesis, the scoundrel Fagon (Jonathan Harris) stages a trap for Jonah and steals the vehicle.
It turns out that Fagon and his gang of young “Flies” want the cloud seeder as well, and now, with Ark II, have the means to get it. Unfortunately, Adam, Samuel and Ruth are all captured in the village of the time capsule by a primitive witch doctor who believes that the Rain God is angry with them. He orders them to be sacrificed in “The Cave of No Return.”
The young Flies want to help the kindly crew members, but Fagon refuses to join them. Meanwhile, Jonah attempts to convince Fagon to give up possession of the high tech vehicle because “you can have everything in the world, but without anyone to share it with, you have nothing.”
Fagon helps to free the trapped crew members and show the witch-doctor the error of his ignorant ways. The Ark II continues on its mission, and this time, Samuel programs the vehicle to respond only to the voice commands of the vehicle’s crew.
Jonathan Harris guest stars here as the Ark II equivalent of Harry Mudd, a selfish, roguish man who proves a constant foil for the good-intentioned Ark II team. What remains a little baffling about this episode is that Jonah and the others allow Fagon to attain a position of authority in the witch doctor’s community. He promises to teach the villagers “irrigation” methods, but this is a variation of what he promised in “The Flies.” There, he assured Jonah he would educate the wayward youngsters, but we see in this episode that he did no such thing.
So why would Jonah trust him again now?
There’s an old saying: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. There’s every reason to suspect that Fagon will remain just as foolish and selfish in the future as he has been in the past. This is hardly “mission accomplished” and the unsatisfactory conclusion of “The Drought” only points out again the kind of amorphous missions that the Ark II conducts. The crew’s goals and rules are not always clear or carefully established. Accordingly, it hardly seems like good procedure to leave the untrustworthy Fagon in charge of an important project.
In terms of Ark II technology, this episode introduces the “magnetic force beam” – a kind of tractor beam – that Fagon utilizes in order to steal the cloud seeder. He gains the knowledge by using the Ark II’s technical manual…which looks a lot like a script book.
Next week: “The Wild Boy.”