“I did wonder what would happen if this was the penultimate episode of season C. It felt like a late series episode. A coda. A summing up of the characters. An end point. By shuffling the episode order around, I imagined how the later half of the series could focus on the emotional disintegration of the crew – leading to the events of ‘Terminal’. By this point all the characters would have had bad things happen to them. I like the idea that the characters are lost. Cally has already died – take her attitude in her cabin following the loss of her entire world, compared to her attitude when she had lost almost everything on Saurian Major. Vila and Dayna are bored, and have lost people close to them. Tarrant is simply trying to keep himself occupied in the light of the death of his brother, but failing, so he challenges Avon further. And Avon is not so much lost, but simply stuck on his own, as Avon usually is. This decay could have nicely led into the events of ‘Terminal.’”
I was intrigued by this idea and started thinking how I would rearrange the episode order to give Series C a new emphasis. The more I thought about several episodes, I realised how many of them depicted various types of loss and we start to see how each of the crew impacted. I wanted to use this to gradually build up the intensity throughout the series and climax with the unravelling of the characters in Sarcophagus followed by Terminal.
As far as I’m concerned, the opening three episodes need to be fixed in their original positions. Aftermath and Powerplay run on continuously, while Volcano is the Liberator crew’s last grasp at hunting Blake before he’s quietly forgotten for most of the series. But the loss theme is already there: Avon, Vila and Cally lose Blake and Jenna, while, much more significantly, Dayna suffers the loss of her father and de facto adopted sister.
One last fight
With Servalan having been nearby in Volcano, the Liberator wouldn’t have had to look far before they started tracking her ship to Sardos. She’s gone out of her way to a dodgy part of the galaxy to get hold of some ships in Moloch. I prefer to bring this further up the series to enable it to sit shortly after the Federation has been hammered in the Battle of Star One – when the President should be more desperate. It will also mark the last story for a while in which the Liberator crew are actively fighting the Federation.
City at the Edge of the World works as a contrast after Moloch. We see Vila’s brief but tender relationship with Kerril after he had had to listen to Doran’s views on women and the audience saw how Ben Steed’s other female characters were treated. Additionally, my standout memories from both stories include Tarrant’s treatment of Vila. In Moloch, he threatens to shoot him, and he intimidates Vila again at the start of City at the Edge of the World, so having the latter follow would demonstrate why Vila felt compelled into going down to Keezarn and perhaps place a bigger will-he-won’t-he-stay question in the audience’s head – maybe the Liberator is less attractive with a bully like Tarrant there and no Blake.
I really enjoyed discovering more about Cally’s world before we visited Auron and I do want a buffer before Death-Watch, where we are going to need some sympathy for Tarrant. He’s only a bit of a twat in Dawn of the Gods but has been fairly aggressive and impatient up to this point, so it would be interesting for that to serve as the lead-in to Death-Watch.
The losses in those first two stories might seem relatively minor, but they are there. Vila gives up not just his new love but a new life, and it’s noticeable in the episode’s final scene that he isn’t entirely sure it was the right choice. It’s a smaller loss next yet I find it interesting that at the end of the episode Avon decides they should travel to tell Groff’s family about his death – it’s all contributing to his own thoughts about long-gone loved ones. Midway through Series C, we will have built up to a more meaningful loss for Tarrant with Death-Watch.
In addition, placed here, Death-Watch would be the first reunion of Avon and Servalan since Aftermath and it seems right that the sexual tension is highly charged so soon afterwards with another snog. Also, in this story Dayna is highly hostile towards Servalan and this seemed strange right at the end of the series when we had seen nothing like this from her throughout other episodes. Again, as their first meeting following on from Aftermath, I think this vengeful anger works better with the story here.
Our heroes spend much of Series C wandering space: in City at the Edge of the World they need some crystals for the Liberator, in Dawn of the Gods the ship is pulled into a black hole, then they stumble across the games in Death-Watch and Tarrant has pretty good reasons to get involved.
In Ultraworld Cally is drawn to the planet, leaving the crew little choice but to investigate. I place the episode here because I like us having a gradual build-up of Cally’s powers being exercised immediately before we head to Auron, but also because Tarrant references Servalan’s growing empire so this story can’t reasonably come any earlier. The theme of loss continues as the Ultras own home collapses, although admittedly as an audience we aren’t made moved by it like the crew’s losses.
Avon’s comments about Shrinker in Children of Auron will lead us onto the events of Rumours of Death and I’d find it hard to justify putting any episode between them. Avon is already reluctant to divert his plans and Dawn of the Gods is the only other story I could consider sandwiching between these two; there, the crew have no control over their circumstances.
Having had Death-Watch earlier in the series, watching Tarrant attempt revenge may have inspired Avon, or at least spurred him into actions that could have already been on his mind.
I am purposefully pummelling my audience with this. We’ve gone from the loss of strangers to siblings to entire worlds, but Avon’s journey in Rumours of Death feels the most brutal.
Despite choosing to emotionally batter the audience with this ‘loss’ theme, I’m benevolent enough to still maintain a lengthy gap between Ben Steed’s two stories. But my main reason for putting The Harvest of Kairos right here is because I thought Avon’s obsession with the story’s mysterious rock was never explained – what had driven such a consuming interest? Well, with the episode inserted after Rumours of Death we can see his new interest as a worthy distraction from his emotional turmoil and a suitable reason to hide away from the rest of the crew for a while.
Unlike earlier ‘aimlessly drifting’ stories in Series C, in which the crew are drawn into situations because events are beyond their control, the asteroid in Sarcophagus is something they could have ignored. But they are all lost or alone, looking for something. The episode provides marvellous moments for all the characters and I adore how we get to see the Liberator sets depicted differently with Fiona Cummings superb direction, which feels all the more poignant just before we say goodbye to the ship and Zen. We are suitably set up for Terminal.
Thanks for the idea, Tim – this was a lot of fun.