Blake’s 7 series 3 episode 5 – The Harvest Of Kairos

Some brachial posturing signals a perhaps unintentionally hilarious entry for season 3…

Blake's 7 series 3 episode 5 - The Harvest Of Kairos

THE PLOT Tarrant and Dayna have picked up two ships sent by Servalan on the scanners, and with another one out there, Tarrant decides to fight back. Servalan is aiming to plan ahead and get the attack formation right, but her lackey-of-the-week Dastor (Frank Gatliff) urges her to attack now, if only for the sake of her own position. One man, in particular, is claiming that Servalan is too afraid to take on Tarrant, and that any fool could take the Liberator with three pursuit ships – a construction worker called Jarvik (Andrew Burt). Servalan demands that Jarvik be brought before her.

Tarrant, Cally and Dayna are preparing for battle, as Avon and Vila teleport up from their destination. Avon has visited the planet for a lump of Sopron rock, which Zen says is a capacity-charged brain. Tarrant prepares to break orbit, while at the same time, Servalan meets Jarvik, who wastes no time in kissing the president. Jarvik manages to convince Servalan to disregard the computer reports, and follow Tarrant where he is making for The Harvest Of Kairos.

Tarrant is explaining about the harvest, which yields the highly prized crystal of Kairopan in the first week following the planet’s vernal equinox. Zen speculates that apart from this week, something in the environment on Kairos is deadly to all inhabitants for the rest of the month. Instead, Tarrant proposes to hijack the space transporter containing the accumulated Kairopan.

Jarvik explains why he left the Federation Space Academy for a life in construction, simply because he is a ‘human being’. Having known Tarrant when he served as lieutenant on a Kairopan escort shuttle, he plans to intercept the Liberator with three of the newest pursuit ships, Mark 10s.

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Zen reports this to Tarrant, who proposes to counter-attack through the force wall. The Liberator manages to destroy all three pursuit ships, to the delight of the crew. Jarvik is apparently not too bothered as the Liberator moves in on the transporter. Tarrant, Vila, Cally and Dayna start to move the crates of Kairopan onto the Liberator, but are stopped by hiding guards. Luckily, Avon fells them all with his blaster, but the danger isn’t over as the crates contain more guards…

Having apparently failed in his mission, Jarvik is to stand trial – that is until Captain Shad (Anthony Gardner) teleports onto Servalan’s ship, announcing that the Liberator is hers for the taking. A gloating Servalan teleports across where she orders that Zen recognises her voice pattern. Avon reluctantly agrees but on one condition – that himself and his friends are to be transported safely to the nearest Earth-like planet. Unfortunately, the nearest planet of that kind happens to be Kairos.

Teleporting down to Kairos, the crew split up to work out what the threat is on the planet. Vila and Dayna find a small piece of Kairopan, while Cally and Tarrant find dead men wrapped in a cobweb-type substance. Avon, on the other hand, has discovered a hangar that contains an ancient proto space age landing module. Avon instructs Tarrant to attempt to get it into orbit and make contact with an unidentified vessel in orbit above the planet – using the Sopron rock as bargaining power.

Jarvik is challenged by Servalan to also teleport down to Kairos to recover the other bracelets from the Liberator crew. Jarvik accepts the challenge, and while he saves Dayna from the threat of Kairos – a giant, ant-type creature that attacks anything that has been in contact with Kairopan, he challenges Tarrant to a duel with the Liberator bracelets as the prize. Jarvik wins and demands the bracelets, but Dayna refuses to hand hers over, as both are teleported back up to the Liberator.

Tarrant manages to launch the landing module into space – just as Servalan instructs Zen to destroy the immediate surface below on Kairos. Avon, in the meantime, has built an artificial Sopron – a distorting mirror that reflects a slightly greater image of whatever it is scanning. As a result, Zen tells Servalan that they are facing a high technology space cruiser. Jarvik laughs and urges Servalan to believe her own eyes – but after Tarrant threatens to blast the Liberator into tiny pieces, she loses her nerve and prepares to evacuate. She orders Shad to shoot Dayna, but a still protesting Jarvik accidentally gets in the way, and is killed.

With Servalan and her troops gone, Avon and the others return to the Liberator bridge where they discover Jarvik’s corpse. Tarrant laments the dead man, but Avon dismisses him as a Federation thug. Avon instructs Zen to erase Servalan’s voice pattern as the crew leave for a new destination.

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ANALYSIS I swear that my MP3 player is psychic. While typing up this latest load of gibberish on Blake’s 7, my MP3 player threw up in succession: Girls And Boys by Blur; Real Man by Todd Rundgren; and Sgt Rock by XTC, in which the singer wails about his own small battle of the sexes. All appropriate, given that The Harvest Of Kairos is the first of three scripts by Ben Steed, a writer who’s delivered some entertaining episodes but has a tendency to waffle on too much about the complicated relationships between men and women.

Kairos, the first of these, revolves around the character of Jarvik, a Federation lackey that takes a particular shine to Servalan which, amazingly, seems to be reciprocated. Jarvik is the sort of bonehead that probably drowns himself in Brut, keeps a ready supply of chest wigs and medallions handy, and has mirrors everywhere in his bedroom. Just in case you didn’t realise, Jarvik is a MAN. We know he’s a MAN because he keeps bellowing about how he’s a MAN at the top of his voice every few seconds.

And every other MAN that Jarvik has met is a MAN – and that includes Tarrant, even though he looks like he’s just discovered how to use a razor for the first time in his life. When he’s not going on about being a MAN, Jarvik goes through every MAN cliché in the book, including diatribes on HONOUR and a RESPECT FOR LIFE.

Jarvik also thinks he’s living in the days of Tarzan, given that he hates computers and technology. Jarvik wouldn’t use an MP3 player, for example – he’d probably lug around a whopping great turntable round his shoulders with great big Cyberman headphones down the street just to prove a point.

As with his other two episodes, it’s difficult to work out what sort of message Steed is sending out here. You could argue that Steed is arguing the case for Jarvik and saying that all women like a bit of rough that growl: “Woman! You are beautiful!” and then proceed to snog the girl like a drunken chimp in a nightclub. Jarvik always seems to gain the upper hand, whether it’s his ultimate success in winning the Liberator or in his fight against Tarrant. Tarrant also pays tribute to him at the end by saying that he was ‘special’.

Or on the other hand, it could all be one massive piss take. Jarvik’s character is so over the top, it’s not quite credible – much like rubbish 1990’s ITV series Man O Man, in which a load of preening imbeciles were pushed into a swimming pool one by one by a load of equally gormless bimbos, until only one man won.

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And in the end, it’s actually Avon’s brain that saves the day rather than Jarvik’s brawn. Avon’s apparently pointless obsession with the Sopron rock turns into a significant Get Out Of Jail Free card when the Liberator crew attempt to trick Servalan with nothing but a rickety spaceship, which she still sees as a significant threat. Avon also later dismisses Jarvik as nothing more than a Federation thug. All of which adds up to some serious mixed messages about both Jarvik and how Steed regards a man’s place in society.

The Harvest Of Kairos is unfortunate in that it seems as if it was originally written with Blake still at the helm – and then had to be rewritten to accommodate Tarrant. Unfortunately, the casting of Steven Pacey backfired in this case, since Tarrant is too young and inexperienced to pose a credible threat to Servalan.

Avon is surprisingly delegated to comic relief for this story, too busy faffing around with his beloved Sopron rock for the most part. But it’s telling that he’s still the unofficial leader when he manages to outwit Tarrant more than once. After Tarrant falls for the initial trick of smuggled Federation guards, Avon manages to shoot them with a weary “They were an obvious possibility, Tarrant”. And, as mentioned, he also manages to win the Federation back by constructing an artificial Sopron.

And as for the giant ant, well, apparently, the local school was missing two kids with their crappy ant costume for their Year Five play. About giant ants.

Despite these many problems, The Harvest Of Kairos is actually enjoyable. It’s certainly a step in the right direction after the previous two episodes. For all the laughable macho clichés, Ben Steed’s script is well thought out with many twists and turns. I liked the sequence in which the smug Federation officer left the workers to die on Kairos, and after smiling at their predicament, gets himself burned up in the blast from the departing rocket.

Gerald Blake directs the story with much style, in particular, the battle sequences between the two ships. The regulars are generally on good form, although Jacqueline Pearce’s performance threatens to tip over into camp kitsch, especially the cringe-inducing bit in which she keeps her arms open in a pose for about 10 long seconds after asking if anyone will obey her. Andrew Burt, however, does the unthinkable, and rise above the awful dialogue he’s given, to make Jarvik a half believable character – a considerable achievement.

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It’s a shame that the many macho clichés mar The Harvest Of Kairos, since in that respect, it has dated terribly. If the BBC were to have carried on showing those repeats on BBC2 in 2000, this one would certainly have got reactions of incredulous laughter. If you can somehow get past all of the OTT claptrap though, then Season Three does manage to get a foot back on track, and pave the way for some first class episodes to come.

Check out our review of season 3 episode 4 here.

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