The Harvest Of Kairos

Written by:
Ben Steed
Directed by: Gerald Blake
Episode Length: 51'26
Original UK Transmission Date: 4/2/1980
Original UK Ratings: 9.4m
Original UK Chart Position: 31

DVD Availability: Try
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Starring: Paul Darrow (Avon), Jan Chappell (Cally), Michael Keating (Vila), Steven Pacey (Tarrant), Josette Simon (Dayna) and Peter Tuddenham (Orac/Zen).

Guest-Starring: Jacqueline Pearce (Servalan), Andrew Burt (Jarvik), Frank Gatliff (Dastor), Anthony Gardner (Shad), Sam Davies (Carlon) and Charles Jamieson (Guard).

Crew: Stuart Fell (Stunt Co-Ordinator), Michael Owen Morris (Production Assistant), Sheelagh Rees (Production Unit Manager), Christine Fawcett (Director's Assistant), Riita Lynn (Assistant Floor Manager), Peter Chapman (Film Cameraman), Ian Sansom (Film Recordist), Sheila S. Tomlinson (Film Editor), Steve Drewett/Jim Francis (Visual Effects Designers), A.J. Mitchell (Electronic Effects), Doug Burd (Graphic Designer), Peter Valentine (Technical Manager), Dave White (Senior Cameraman), Shirley Coward (Vision Mixer), Brian Clemett (Studio Lighting), Malcolm Johnson (Studio Sound), Elizabeth Parker (Special Sound), Nicholas Rocker (Costume Designer), Sheelagh J. Wells (Make-Up Artist), Dudley Simpson (Music), Terry Nation (Series Deviser), Chris Boucher (Script Editor), Ken Ledsham (Designer) and David Maloney (Producer).

Trivia: Avon's line (starting at 20'46m) of "I understand that this ship is the most powerful in the galaxy, and you are the most astute space warfare commander" is dubbed, with the word "astute" replacing whatever was originally said. Any lip-readers out there?

There are rumours that Jan Chappell made her decision to leave at the end of the season after seeing the giant ant in this story.

Story: Tarrant suggests the crew indulge in a little piracy. They orbit the planet of Kairos, the fourth planet of the star Zimini, in the constellation Lipterion. The orbital revolution of Kairos is 15 Earth years, while Chiropan is a highly prized crystal that is gathered during the first week following the Kairol Equinox, known as "The Harvest of Kairos". The Harvest lasts only one week, after which Tarrant suggests they attack one of the space transporters and steal its cargo of Chiropan.
Servalan, meanwhile, has discovered a manual worker was once the captain of a Chiropan transport shuttle, where Tarrant served under him as a Lieutenant. She instructs the worker, Jarvik, to capture the Liberator after he's boasted he could do it better than the Federation's battle computers, and makes him Acting Major. He does so by sending in three inexperienced ships armed with Mutoids to put Tarrant off the scent, then places armed guards in the Chiropan packing crates. They take over the Liberator, with Avon giving Servalan authority to command Zen, providing she lets the crew live. She agrees, and deposits them on Kairos. Attracted to Jarvik, who has forced a kiss upon her, Servalan offers him co-rulership providing he can beat Tarrant and remove the crews' teleport bracelets. He beams down and does so, and is beamed back up with an attacking Dayna attached to him. Meanwhile, Avon finds an old space shuttle and launches it with Tarrant's help, using a sophisticated lifeform, a Sopron, in the form of a rock, to convince Zen's scanners that the shuttle is a highly powered battlecruiser. Servalan flees, and, in the midst of a heated discussion with Dayna, Jarvik is accidentally killed by a Federation guard.
Returning to the Liberator, Avon erases Servalan's voice recognition from Zen's memory banks, while Tarrant plots a course out of the system.

Tarrant: Tarrant further angers his own team mates, with Avon noting that he's the most astute space warfare commander, "or so you tell us, often enough." After demonstrating his vast Federation/ship knowledge, Vila snides "Bit of a know-all, aren't you?"

Cally: Cally talks about her deceased parents, while this is also the first definite sign of an Avon/Cally attraction.

Vila: Vila fantasises about settling down and having children on the "Lakeside of Gardinos", where there are three moons.

The Liberator: The Liberator can fire through its own defence shields.

The Federation: The Federation has Mark Tens, which are described by Servalan as "the newest, fastest, most powerful" ships in their fleet. Jarvik also references the grades system, citing the Guards as "Security Grades".

"Madam, in aincent times they read the future from the torn-out guts of small animals. Two millennia later it was in the remnant leaves of a herb, in a drinking cup. Ask me and I'd say that civilisation has learnt a lot, to little positive advantage."

The authors of the book Classic British Television criticised the Avon/Tarrant relationship by saying Tarrant gave the orders despite Avon clearly being in charge.

I disagree. Avon is in command, but allows the headstrong Tarrant to think he is, as he needs him. They're both competing to be the alpha male, but Avon is assured of his own superiority. That's clever commanding. He also knows that one day a confrontation is inevitable, and does cause Tarrant to back down if he compromises Avon's own plans. And you suspect Avon knows that in a fair fight Tarrant would possibly win, so their real clashes are usually done with a gun in Avon's hand. (See Terminal for the clearest example of this).

The reason why I bring it up is because this is the only episode where this theory falls down. I suspect the story was probably written with Blake in mind, and that virtually only the names were changed to keep the script usable. Though Servalan could be identifying Tarrant as the leader ("your crew") for one of two reasons: She acknowledges his authority as he was a Federation Officer; or she just says it to wind up Avon. I admit, it doesn't really wash, but one scripting mistake in 24 Tarrant-as-crew-member episodes ain't so bad. Is it?

The first of three Ben Steed scripts, he is - Power aside - a much better writer than he's given credit for. Okay, the whole set-up of a chance remark leading to Servalan acquiring a tactical genius is contrived, but works reasonably well. However, why she then decides Jarvik was to go after Tarrant after he's already been defeated is beyond me. It's just a corny plot device and there to satisfy her libido. See No.1 below, because it's the bad things about The Harvest of Kairos list:

1. The sexism. Ben Steed is notorious for his chauvinistic attitude, and having a bit of rough force himself onto Servalan with a "Woman… you're beautiful" and a stolen snog is right up his street. The fact that she says, "I should like you to do it again" is the icing on the sexist pig cake.

2. The giant ant. Yes, this episode features a giant ant. It's as bad as it sounds, the most ludicrous scene in the entire series. It's a shame, because as shallow as it seems, it really does have a hugely detrimental affect on the episode. Even taking away the title sequences, the ant still appears for less than 2% of the running time (or 1.54674% anorak fans, with 46 seconds out of 49'34m of footage), yet the damage is done. Credibility rating: minus ten million.

3. The plot contrivances. Apart from the ones already mentioned, Avon convincing Zen that an old shuttle is a highly sophisticated spacecraft is funny yet stupid. There are too many "they wouldn't really logically do that" instances in this episode, and it does start to wear at the fabric of the narrative after a time. In particular, as she's in control of Zen, why didn't Servalan at least instruct him to not respond to Avon and co.? Okay, she couldn't have the Liberator, but she could at least have ensured that they didn't, either. Yet it's convenient, so it stays in.

Yet despite all these moans - and they are big 'uns, especially the giant ant - The Harvest of Kairos has a reasonably diverting and intriguing plot. It's certainly better than the previous two weeks and worthy of an average: