Blake’s 7: The Harvest of Kairos (1980)

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Spoiler warning: these reviews reveal plot twists.

Tarrant comes up with a plan to steal some valuable crystals, but Servalan is hunting the Liberator…

Series C, episode 5. Written by: Ben Steed. Directed by: Gerald Blake. Originally broadcast: 4 February 1980, BBC1.

Regulars (with running total of appearances):
* Dayna (5) – looking sexy in a blue jumpsuit – spots a space craft near the Liberator. This eventually leads to Servalan taking control of the ship, and when aboard the president orders an underling to kill Dayna but our heroine just fronts up and refuses to be scared. Later, on the planet Kairos, actress Josette Simon has to put herself through the indignity of acting opposite, and taking seriously, a large, cockroach-like monster that spins cobwebs. She also gets some fight scenes with the episode’s main guest star.
* When Dayna spots that ship, Tarrant (5) deduces there’s more than one – and he recognises the tactics: the Liberator is being shadowed by Federation forces. Having escaped them, Tarrant then convinces his colleagues that they should head for the planet Kairos and steal its valuable harvest of crystals. They ambush a ship leaving Kairos and nab its cargo, but it’s actually a trap – the crates are full of enemy soldiers! Later, having lost the Liberator and been stranded on Kairos, Tarrant finds an ancient and basic space craft and gets it working. With help from Avon, he’s able to bluff that it’s more powerful than it really is and the gang take the Liberator back from Servalan.
* Zen (27) provides some important information about Kairos, then is forced to accept commands from Servalan after she takes control of the ship.
* Cally (28) helps Avon investigate a rock he’s found. It reminds her of her parents. No, seriously. More on the rock in a moment…
* Servalan (16) is initially bemused by Tarrant’s response to her ships stalking the Liberator. (And she does just assume that Tarrant, a man she’s barely met, will be in command.) Why doesn’t he run or attack? She’s then shocked to hear that a low-grade worker has openly criticised her strategic decisions, so she demands that he come to see her… Jarvik (Andrew Burt, giving a hands-on-hips performance of virility and confidence) reacts by grabbing hold of her and kissing her. It turns out he used to be a Federation officer but gave it all up to lead a simpler life. Intrigued by his sheer arrogance, Servalan dares him to do better than her and ensnare the Liberator. He uses a Trojan-horse trick and smuggles some soldiers aboard. After they’ve taken control, Servalan teleports over and swaggers around her new domain. She wants Jarvik to be her consort, but he’s later killed by accident when a soldier nervously opens fire.
* Avon (30) is off-ship as the episode begins, then returns with a rock he’s found on a nearby planet. It’s some sopron, a mineral that is – in a rather vaguely defined way – alive and capable of reasoning. He seems disinterested in the Liberator’s plight, leaving Tarrant to deal with the situation while he obsesses over the rock. Nevertheless, he’s still on hand to save his colleagues’ skins when Tarrant naively allows some Federation soldiers aboard; then later, Avon’s able to use the sopron to trick Servalan into thinking she’s outgunned. (It has the ability to reflect someone’s thoughts back at them, you see. Or something.)
* Vila (31) gets to run the flight deck while Tarrant leaves to look for Avon, and he has some success. Later, when the team decide to steal the Kairos crystals, Vila says he’ll use his cut of the booty to start a family.
* Orac (15) has to grudgingly admit that Avon’s rock has a bigger capacity for reason than he does.

Best bit: Servalan addresses the fact that Jarvik grabbed her roughly and kissed her: “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.”

Worst bit: The monster. Obviously.

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Review: The episode is especially interesting because of two men. The intriguing Jarvik is a rarity in Blake’s 7 – a doesn’t-give-a-fuck, isn’t-trying-to-prove-anything scoundrel who cuts through the other characters’ bravado. Matching him with Servalan makes her more interesting and shakes things up. You can see her develop more in this one episode than the first two seasons put together. (Jarvik disrespects computers, though, so can’t change her that much – she still trusts a digital readout when her eyes and common sense are telling her something different. It’s her downfall; it’s why she loses the Liberator.) Meanwhile, Tarrant – in only his fourth full-length episode – has quickly become a vital part of the show. He’s moved into Blake’s position as the nominal team leader very smoothly, and has also taken over the role of butting heads entertainingly with Avon. The episode as a whole is fun, for the most part. Sadly, though, towards the end the wheels start to fall off one by one. There’s the monster, perhaps the most embarrassingly awful visual we’ve had so far (and that’s saying something). There’s the dreary deux ex machina of Avon’s conveniently helpful rock. And there’s the fact Cally and Vila are reduced to little more than glorified extras.

Seven weeks following the vernal equinox out of 10

Next episode: City at the Edge of the World

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