In the second episode of Ark II, entitled “The Rule,” Captain Jonah (Terry Lester) makes log entry 1441, which puts this episode ahead of last week’s “The Flies” in terms of internal continuity.
Making the entry as the Ark II patrols “Area 32, Sector 16” Jonah notes the presence in the area of “primitive cave dwellers.”
As the scavengers hurl rocks at the advanced vehicle, the force fields repel them, sending the stones back in the air. This effect is achieved by reversing the film, a cheap technique but one that still looks stunning.
When Ruth is injured in a Roamer crash and Adam goes to look for help, a young man named Jeff (David Abbott) rescues her and takes her back to his village. Unfortunately, Jeff’s father is the ruler of the village and he imposes a draconian “rule” upon all citizens. Anyone who cannot work to support the village must be “cast out” into the wilderness. On this day, the ruler plans to exile a blind man and an old woman for their inability to toil in the fields.
Soon, scavengers steal the livestock and food from the village, leaving it without supplies to survive the coming winter. Ruth, Jeff and the other exiles team with Jonah, Adam and Samuel to set a trap for the scavengers and recover the stolen supplies. When the cast-out members return to the village with the missing resources, the ruler finally recognizes their worth -- and the error of his ways -- and promise to abolish “the rule” from this day forward.
Although aired over forty years ago, “The Rule” grapples with ideas that are still important in contemporary American society. Do we live by the law of the jungle, or the laws of humanity? Even in times of austerity and want, can mankind still be civilized and care for those who can’t care for themselves? Some people see that kind of “care” is actually a hand-out to be disdained, while others view it as a sacred duty. “The Rule” also suggests that some “laws” must be applied flexibly, or human society could lose its sense of compassion and devolve into cruelty.
Probably the big question in this week’s episode involves Adam. In case you forgot, he’s the super-evolved chimpanzee, the one with the capacity to speak. Oddly, when Ruth is knocked unconscious in the Roamer accident, Adam does not choose to verbally respond as Samuel attempts to contact the vehicle. Doesn’t he know how to use the radio? Why does Adam leave Ruth alone and go in search of Ark II, when he could open a channel to the vehicle and report, verbally, what occurred? That’s something of an inconsistency. We’re not meant to view the character as an uncommunicative animal but as an intelligent character. He plays chess, after all, as we saw in “The Flies.”