Blakewatch - Week 31: The Harvest of Kairos

Season Three Episode 5- The Harvest of Kairos(1980)
Writer: Ben Steed / Director: Gerald Blake
After failing again to catch the Liberator Servalan entrusts the task to a former commander Jarvik whose unique approach and knowledge of Tarrant leads to success. Meanwhile, Avon’s seems preoccupied with a living rock.
`Harvest of Kairos` has a reputation of being one of the worst episodes of all four seasons and it’s not difficult to see why. Ben Steed seems to have had several ideas, none of them particularly complementary, which he has shoved together in an ill fitting manner. The result is a wayward tone, some strange acting choices and amusing plot jumps. You can at least say it is entertaining to watch how bad it is!

"Guys, come back..." Nobody was interested in Dayna's new scooter
In no particular order then we start with Avon and his piece of living rock. Steed’s idea is clearly to have Avon so distracted by this that he appears to inhabit a different episode. Like most of the ideas it is a decent enough one taken alone, especially when the rock’s properties are revealed, but ends up being used solely as a plot device. Avon takes it with him when he later rescues the stranded crew and- you guessed it- the rock helps them escape at the end of the episode. And you can bet we’ll never see it again however useful it is. Paul Darrow does a nice line in distraction and gets one of Avon’s increasingly frequent one man rescues.

Then we have Kairos itself, the source of a rare mineral you can only harvest for a couple of weeks a year, like asparagus. The limitations of locations are highlighted when we see the planet house an undisguised aircraft hangar sitting in the middle of a field and it starts to look rather too much like the Home Counties. That isn’t the planet’s worst feature though because shuffling towards us at the pace of a snail is a sort of bright orange spider / insect thingy with a vacuum bag stuck to it. Pity Josette Simon who has to pretend to get her foot stuck in a tiny bit of web as this menace moves towards her and the others watch, presumably stifling their laughter.

Placing such a dodgy looking monster costume in broad daylight is asking for trouble but director Gerald Blake makes no attempt to shoot it close up hence its cheap origins are fully exposed. In fact he is so keen to shoot as wide as possible that you can see buildings and roads in the distance of this supposedly inhospitable planet. It is said that Jan Chappell decided during this episode that she was leaving the series and I think we have found the very moment.

The third aspect of the story is Jarvik and if you thought the Kairos beast was the funniest thing in the episode you’d be wrong. From his arrival to his final fight, Jarvik is an embarrassing example of poor writing and an actor struggling to convince. You have to feel sorry for Andrew Burt, a well known TV actor of the day who had been the lead in the series Warship, but who here has to deliver some of the corniest, misogynistic, silly dialogue. Steed’s script appears to be attempting some sort of battle of the sexes in which Servalan’s computerised strategy is challenged by Jarvik’s male instinct. Both Burt and Jacqueline Pearce play their scenes together as low camp (the worst kind) and at times we could be in a sitcom.

"...and strangely I've never worked since"
Worse still, Jarvik’s much heralded free thinking strategies would surely have been tried by all the experienced captains Servalan mentions and are hardly ground breaking. Using the worst kind of plot development – in which ideas pop unprompted into character’s heads to push the story on- Steed implies Jarvik knows what Tarrant will do and builds up the enmity between them. However, when they finally re-encounter each other it is such an anticlimax. Blake doesn’t fare much better with a fight between them which is about as gritty as the Teletubbies. I really thought it would suit the tone of the episode more if they actually ended up kissing rather than fighting!
Steed tangles himself up in knots so much that his way of escape turns out to be an old Apollo style landing craft that happens to be sitting in that aircraft hangar and with which Avon uses the thinking rock to fool Servalan into thinking it is actually a super powerful craft! Yes, that really is the plot. So she abandons the Liberator she has recently captured. Not that she does much with it, except stroke the consoles. Then Jarvik is killed in a clumsily staged accident. These final scenes confirm what a mess the episode is but do you know what- it is actually quite fun to watch. I wonder what Servalan’s computers might make of that.


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