The Harvest of Kairos has a feel of a hastily rewritten S2 episode. Otherwise, how do you explain that Tarrant seems to have become Enemy Number One in Servalan’s eyes? She spends the opening few minutes musing about what he’s going to do next, whilst her cringing subordinate Dastor (Frank Gatliff) hesitatingly breaks the bad news that there’s dissent among her crew.
Some believe that she’s too afraid to attack Tarrant(!). Chief amongst the dissenters is a worker from the construction grades, Jarvik (Andrew Burt). Since he’s clearly designed to be an alpha-male, Burt’s casting is eccentric (to put it mildly). Burt, the original Joe Sugden from Emmerdale Farm, also has to battle with Ben Stead’s script and his first line to Servalan sets the tone. “Woman, you’re beautiful” he says, before grasping her for a quick snog. There’s always the possibility that Stead had his tongue in his cheek, but I’m not so sure (there’s the evidence of his subsequent B7 scripts for example). The sexual politics are skewered towards the dominance of men, with even Servalan seeming to melt under Jarvik’s winning ways (“But first, there is the question of that degrading and primitive act to which I was subjected in the control room. I should like you to do it again”).
Jarvik also attempts to humanise the very inhuman Servalan. “When was the last time you felt the warmth of the Earth’s sun on your naked back? Or lifted your face to the heavens, and laughed with the joy of being alive? How long since you wept at the death of a friend?” It’s a decent enough line and if delivered well it could have some impact (it brings to mind similar comments from Kasabi during Pressure Point) but Burt rather torpedoes it. He’s a good actor, just hopelessly miscast.
Meanwhile, onboard the Liberator Tarrant is being his usual annoying self. He intends to steal a cargo of Kairopan (a highly valuable crystal found on the planet Kairos). Kairos is a dangerous planet, so Tarrant plans to hijack the freighter after it’s left the planet.
As the Liberator comes under attack from Federation ships commanded by Jarvik (he’s been given a chance by the clearly impressed Servalan) Avon is strangely distracted. Maybe this is as scripted, or possibly Paul Darrow simply wasn’t interested that week. Avon’s absorbed with a mysterious crystal called sophron – it’s no ordinary rock, as it seems to have a capacity for reasoning that slightly exceeds Orac’s (and many other qualities as well). No surprises that we never hear of it again, so its only function is to operate as a get out of jail free card. After Jarvik’s plan to capture the Liberator succeeds, the crew are exiled to the definitely unfriendly Kairos. Escape seems impossible, until Avon’s magic rock saves the day.
It’s jarring to see Servalan in control of the Liberator (a warm up for the apocalyptic events of Terminal) and once Avon and the others have been exiled to Kairos her victory seems complete. We then lurch into the next unexpected event – Servalan is so taken with Jarvik that she’s keen to make him co-ruler, but first he has to prove himself. And how does she decide to test him? He has to take on Tarrant, man-to-man, and defeat him. Yes, okay then.
Just when you think you’ve seen everything, up pops the silliest looking giant insect …..
The Harvest of Kairos is dumb fun. It’s never less than entertaining (if you can stomach all the “ah well, he’s a man” talk) but it doesn’t fit as an early series three episode (had it come towards the end of the third series then Tarrant’s status would have been more credible). Chris Boucher seems to have taken his eye off the ball, script-editing wise, but luckily he’d also been penning a number of decent stories and the next episode will see a marked upswing in quality.