Avon and Tarrant

By Marian de Haan

"Harvest", "Dawn" and "City" were the first S3 episodes I saw. They left me with a poor opinion of Del Tarrant and when I came to see "Powerplay", I failed to understand why Avon not only accepts Tarrant into his crew but even gives him access to Zen. Tarrant's self-conceit, impetuousness and rashness as expressed in the above-mentioned episodes didn't seem to make him an asset to the crew. So, even taking into consideration that Tarrant was already there and the only way to get rid of him would have been to shoot him, that doesn't explain Avon's willingness to give him access to Zen.

Having watched all B7 episodes in chronological order, for my reviews, has led me to a re-appreciation of Tarrant. I can now come up with some sound motivations for Avon to put up with him. For this, we have to concentrate on the Tarrant we see in "Powerplay" and forget all that follows. "Powerplay" shows Tarrant as a ruthless but competent and very clever man, who is even able to outwit Avon. He seems also very practical, and not someone who lets his judgement be clouded by sentimentality. In Avon's view, this would make him a useful counterbalance against Blake's idealism.

Moreover, Tarrant is a pilot and a mercenary with, probably, useful contacts in smuggling circles. This could serve to strengthen Avon's position against Jenna. For we must not forget that at this stage Avon has no indication that Blake and Jenna will stay lost. Although Blake did promise Liberator to Avon - blatantly ignoring the rights of the rest of his crew - Jenna made it clear that she wasn't prepared to go along with that. Even if by now Avon feels more confident about being able to beat her than he was in "Cygnus Alpha", his cautious nature would still make him consider her a force to be reckoned with.

Also, Avon may feel less than certain about Blake wanting to keep his promise. In the zeal of pursuing his Cause, Blake tends to forget promises, like in "Time Squad" when, against the agreement, he refused his crew a thorough discussion before embarking on a mission. (If one is prepared to take Avon's assertion about always keeping his word seriously, it could also be argued that, since he failed to keep his side of the bargain and bring Blake to Earth, Avon would consider the agreement about Liberator's ownership void.)

If Blake does return to reclaim the ship, Avon can now present his own crew. With Jenna and Cally sticking with Blake and the newcomers supporting Avon, the numbers are even. (Vila will meander between the two sides as the opportunity presents itself, although he is bound to be more sympathetic to Avon's aim of acquiring wealth than Blake's of bringing down the Federation.)

If Blake does not return, Tarrant - whose most noticeable trait in "Powerplay" is his competence - can deal with the planning, logistics and what else it needs to keep the ship going and the crew entertained, leaving Avon free to pursue his own interests.

So Avon can come up with more than one good reason for accepting Tarrant into the crew and at first there is no indication that he will come to regret his decision. In "Volcano" the relationship between them seems relaxed. We don't see much of them together, but apparently the mission to Obsidian has Avon's blessing and Tarrant is participating wholeheartedly.

I could never figure out why either of them would want a base (Judith: possibly a safe place to be able to spend time off the ship and relax once in a while.), but it makes sense if we regard it as a provision for Blake. We can assume that the Liberator crew has spent some time looking for him and by now it must be clear that wherever Blake is, he isn't leading the resistance on Earth. Although Avon seems to consider the chance of finding him becoming increasingly slim, it's still possible that he'll turn up again, wanting to continue his fight. Now Blake has lost his chance to return to Earth, Avon may reason that the next best thing is to present him with a base in exchange for Liberator.

So, from the little that we see in "Volcano", Avon and Tarrant do seem to get along fine. A nice moment of their interaction is when Avon leaves the choice to go to Cally's rescue to Tarrant, who seems surprised. Considering his military background, he probably expects a clear order like: "Get Orac and Cally back, at the double!"

In the next episode, the notorious "Dawn of the Gods", the relationship starts to go sour, for no apparent reason. Tarrant's distrust of Cally seems unwarranted and he is suddenly very hostile to Avon. His threat to kill Avon seems ill advised. One would expect Avon to want to throw him out of the airlock after that, but apparently he doesn't take the threat seriously. (Gorgeous similarity with Blake always refusing to take Avon's threats seriously.)

Tarrant's changed attitude must have taken Avon by surprise, although he is quick to adapt. But why this sudden change? Maybe it is the loss of aim, now they've given up the search for Blake, that has caused Tarrant's mood change? (Like a stressed manager who flips as soon as he takes that long overdue holiday.) Tarrant - young, active, vigorous - needs something to do. (As does Dayna, but she can direct her youthful energy on her weapon designing work.) Avon and Cally seem tired and battle-fatigued while Vila, although occasionally complaining about getting bored, overall prefers a life of sweet idleness. One can imagine Tarrant becoming frustrated with the lack of purpose. Except for "Rumours" and "Terminal", Avon doesn't come up with any plans. Like with Blake, he leaves the initiative to Tarrant, then expertly picks holes in any plan Tarrant puts forward.

"Harvest of Kairos" shows that it is Avon's intention to leave the running of the ship to Tarrant. Unfortunately Tarrant doesn't make a success of his first command. He earns points for his tactical skills in space battle, but blunders badly in his failure to check the transporter for guards. Avon gets him out of that one, but their combined wits are no match for the cunning of a *real* man. :-) It's interesting that, when the chips are down and Avon decides to take over, Tarrant immediately cedes command to him.

Having alienated Avon and Cally, Tarrant now proceeds to antagonise the last member of Liberator's original crew, proving that Vila's distrust and misgivings about him (as expressed in "Volcano") were right. His bullying of Vila in "City at the End of the World" is unforgivable. Yes, they're all forcing Vila into action at times, but what makes Tarrant's deed so odious is that he makes Vila go *alone*! Avon and Cally don't get points either - they should have stopped Tarrant. But at least Avon offers Vila a kind of protection in the form of that tracer (and he seems very upset on finding that Vila didn't take it). Tarrant's threat to throw Vila off the ship is utterly mean and unforgivable, especially his "The others won't stop me." (This line is open for interpretation but I read it to mean that he can haul Vila to the airlock *now* and dump him before the others can prevent it.) (Judith: there's a big difference between "won't" and "can't". Mind you, just because Tarrant said it doesn't mean that it was true.)

By this time Tarrant seems to have lost most of the acumen he showed in "Powerplay" - the naivety with which he trusts the "poor, unaggressive people" of Keezarn almost defies belief. Two things must be clear to Avon by now. Firstly, that the organising of missions can't be left to Tarrant. Secondly, that for all his faults, Tarrant is able to recognise his mistakes and has the guts to admit them (although that would have been of no avail to Vila if he had died on the mission Tarrant forced him into).

At this point Avon may well have been regretting his decision to enlist Tarrant. But he's there to stay, and apparently Avon decides that the best way to handle him is to force his trust upon him (much like Blake did to *him*). He presents his plan to revenge his lover's death, a big gamble since there's nothing to prevent Tarrant to take Liberator and run, leaving Avon stranded in jail.

In "Children of Auron" we see a new character trait in Tarrant: loyalty to his crewmates. He's all for a gung-ho rescue action for Cally's people, to the displeasure of Avon. (And yes, Avon is right: it IS a trap.) Apparently Avon thinks it prudent to keep an eye on Tarrant by accompanying him and Cally, probably not so much out of distrust but because he expects Tarrant to make a hash of it. :-)

In "Rumours of Death" Tarrant has regained much of his former abilities in his brisk (if not compassionate) dealing with the Major to get the required information from him. We don't see who took the initiative in deciding to accompany Avon on his quest for Bartholomew but it may well have been Tarrant. It's worth noticing that Tarrant seems to be slightly more cautious and inclined to think before acting on those occasions when Avon isn't available to get him out of the mess.

Tarrant has never lacked self-esteem. In "Sarcophagus" he tells Avon exactly what he thinks of him, revealing his own inflated self-image. (Yes, he's under the influence of that alien device, but I don't doubt that what he says comes from the depth of his heart.) Avon isn't surprised, nor does he seem to be very hurt. Tarrant's self-deception is astounding: if he has made a huge success of his life while Avon's is a total failure, how come they ended up in exactly the same position? If nothing else, this argument shows Tarrant's inability for logical reasoning. He also fails to take decisive action when Orac asks to be switched off, his distrust of Avon apparently being extended to Avon's computer.

"Ultraworld" shows a reversal of attitudes, with Avon all gung-ho for investigating the man-made planet and Tarrant advising caution. When Cally disappears they immediately revert to their original character traits, Tarrant loyally wanting to rush to her rescue and Avon pointing out the foolishness of that action. Realising there's no alternative, Avon takes remarkably little time to let himself be talked into it - one feels he's almost grateful that he can be seen to be doing this against his better judgement. (This confirms my conviction that Avon doesn't *mind* doing stupid things as long as he can blame someone else for making him do them. In that respect Tarrant is every bit as useful to him as Blake was.)

"Moloch" proves that neither Tarrant nor Avon has learnt anything from "City". The former again presses Vila into a dangerous mission (albeit that this time he does go with him) and the latter stands by (although he shows regret about that later). Once on the planet, and having found a new friend, Vila's had enough and stands up to his tormentor. Even Tarrant pulling a gun on him can't intimidate Vila this time. Once again, Avon has to risk his life to get his companions out of the mess. It's ironic how, with Blake no longer there, Avon still (and more than ever) ends up with jeopardising his life for the sake of others.

In "Death Watch" Tarrant's reluctance to chase the ore carriers without a certainty of catching them reveals a caution in tactical battle which he lacks in other things. Tarrant's reaction to his brother's death is interesting, indicating a stiff-upper-lip background. Avon's question whether he has scruples about cheating and lying shows that at this stage he isn't entirely sure how to read Tarrant.

"Terminal" shows the depth of stupidity to which lack of sleep can drive Avon. He's rushing into a trap in the best Tarrant tradition. And this time he isn't prepared to argue. Tarrant gets a gun pointing at his guts. (And it feels good to see him get a dose of his own medicine. :-) ) After the destruction of Liberator, Tarrant is the one who recovers first. At this point, judging from the dirty looks the others cast in Avon's direction, they seem prepared to accept Tarrant as leader. They follow him out, leaving Avon alone to smile at fate's cruel sense of humour.

Yet in "Rescue" Avon seems to have taken command again. It is he, rather than Tarrant, who goes to check on Servalan's wrecked spacecraft. Interestingly, Tarrant doesn't seem to have noticed yet that Avon is often far less callous in deeds than in words. His comment about having expected Avon to leave him proves that he is still taking Avon at face value. This episode shows a new and unexpected trait of Tarrant: self-pity. It sounds strange to hear a man in his twenties complain about feeling old. Maybe we should blame it on him not having yet recovered from being hurt in the explosion of Servalan's base on Terminal. Or maybe the creature in Dorian's cellar is influencing him.

Avon instructing Orac to give a false entry code for Scorpio's landing silo in "Power" is probably more a general precaution than directed especially against Tarrant. This episode sees little interaction between Avon and Tarrant, but in the next one their working relationship improves considerably. Tarrant seems to have accepted Avon's leadership by now, only in "Assassin" will we see a spark of the old rivalry flare up again.

In "Traitor" Tarrant trusts Avon not to abandon him. The fact that he bows to Avon's decision - against his better judgement - about how near to go to the asteroid in "Stardrive", proves that Tarrant now unconditionally recognises Avon as leader. "Animals" too, shows him obeying Avon's command to bring back Scorpio, effectively abandoning Dayna. (Yes, under the circumstances it is the rational thing to do, but in S3 Tarrant wasn't always open to reason. :-) )

In "Headhunter" Tarrant proves that he has learned from "Sarcophagus". This time he is prepared to listen to Orac and take his advice to destroy the android. Predictably, Avon isn't amused, especially after his trouble to get the android's head in place. This is the only occasion when he seems to get truly mad at Tarrant, and he is blistering in his rage.

Maybe Avon's abuse at the end of "Headhunter" is the reason for Tarrant's old resentment resurfacing in "Assassin". This episode brings up yet another new trait, Tarrant's gallantry to maidens in distress. Contrary to what Servalan thinks, it's Tarrant who is taken in by Piri's alleged helplessness and pretty face; Avon is merely deceived by her acting talent. Having already managed to antagonise Avon, Cally and Vila in S3, Tarrant here makes a thorough job of antagonising Soolin. One can only hope that he later made her his apologies - gallantly.

In "Games" the animosity seems forgotten. Avon letting Tarrant take the risks is nothing new. Tarrant walks rather ignominiously into Belkov's trap and has to be rescued by Vila, of all people. The vampire sand in "Sand" causes Tarrant to make love with his deadliest enemy, a deed that leaves Avon amused rather than jealous but certainly doesn't amuse Dayna. It's difficult to gauge Tarrant's reaction to Avon and Soolin's alleged death in "Gold".

Considering his behaviour in "City", I can't help feeling that, had it been Tarrant in the shuttle with Vila in "Orbit", he would have chucked Vila out without compunction. "Warlord" sees Tarrant again falling for a woman, the third time in S4. Vila gets a last piece of abuse from Tarrant, when the latter can't appreciate Vila blaming his new found love for the mess her father had brought them into.

In the last episode Tarrant gets to meet Blake, making for interesting speculation about how they would have got on if things had gone differently in the tracking gallery. Tarrant doesn't seem very impressed with the man who takes him prisoner. Although he seems to guess Blake's identity pretty quickly (in "Powerplay" he is certain that he would recognise him), a lingering doubt remains. One can imagine Tarrant having trouble reconciling the legendary Blake with this louche, callous, scruffy bounty-hunter. Even if Blake had got the time to reveal his true intention, I doubt that Tarrant would have wanted to join him. First impressions can be difficult to overcome, and Tarrant's of Blake certainly weren't favourable.

In the tense atmosphere of the tracking gallery, Avon puts his trust in Tarrant's accusation rather than in Blake's denial. Not altogether surprising, as the man who confronts him is scarcely recognisable as the person he knew on Liberator. This can't have been the welcome Avon expected. Klyn's calling for security and the flashing alarms seem to confirm Tarrant's assertion of betrayal and Avon reacts accordingly.

Earlier in the episode, Avon and Tarrant have their best moment together. With Scorpio about to crash, Avon - that arch survivor - hesitates to leave Tarrant behind, while the latter abandons his We-all-die-together principle, urging Avon to get out. This is an indication of the measure in which they both have changed. They may not have liked each other but they did find a way of working together and grew to rely on, and trust, each other - a thing sorely needed in the dire circumstances of Season 4.

Back up to Essay index

Back up to Blakes 7

Last changed on 30th of July 2001