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In “The Liberator,” the fugitives come across a village of enslaved humans who, every so often, must provide to the ape prefect workers in a dangerous mine.
Unfortunately, the humans selected by the apes die in short-order, apparently because of contamination to some toxic gas or substance.
The fugitives -- Galen (Roddy McDowall), Alan (Ron Harper) and Pete (James Naughton) -- get captured by the villagers, and are to be offered up to the apes as fodder for the mines.
They learn, however, that the toxicity is a result of toxic gas canisters from the twentieth century, stored in a temple. The leader of the human village, Brun (John Ireland) plans to make gas bombs to kill the apes, and free his people.
The fugitives must dissuade him from this genocidal plan, as it could kill everyone -- human and ape -- in the vicinity.
“The Liberator” is a bit of a change of pace for Planet of the Apes (1974), the short-lived CBS series. In this installment, the devastating, high-tech weaponry of the 20th century is resurrected to be a tool of mass destruction in the distant future, and Alan and Burke must contend with mankind’s history and legacy.
This is the kind of story I had hoped to see more of on the series. Virdon and Burke must stop a fellow human, Brun, from his murderous plan, even though this rebel leader possesses valid reasons for hating apes. In particular, Brun has seen his people enslaved by them. Not just enslaved, actually. He has seen his people die from that enslavement.
Our protagonists face a difficult choice here, forced to consider what the “greater good” really is. Since they are people of the 20th century, they are, in a sense, responsible for the existence of the nerve gas weaponry, and this fact makes the human insurrection (and plans) their problem.
I also enjoy the subplot here involving the treatment of the devices of the 20th century. The weapons, and the gas mask which protects people from the deadly gas, are all perceived by this futuristic “Dark Age” society as supernatural relics of the Gods. The astronauts understand that “mumbo jumbo doesn’t kill men,” but to the apes and humans of the era, this is a realization they are not able to make. Brun figures out the truth, but doesn’t tell his people. Instead, he creates a cult or religion, to make them fear and obey him.
“The Liberator” -- even down to its title -- also suggests a core conflict of all those societies in which some denizens possess more freedom than others. The human leader sees himself as a liberator of his people, but we would, today, classify anyone who kills an innocent population as a terrorist. The difference between liberator and terrorist is a difference of viewpoint. The oppressed see a liberator. Those in power see a criminal, a murderer.
I enjoy the fact that our heroic triumvirate is landed smack down in the middle of this difficult scenario, and forced to act for the good of all. Again, the fact that the toxic nerve gas is a product of their time makes Burke and Virdon feel a vested interest in the outcome.
Next week, the final episode of Planet of the Apes: “Up Above the World So High.”