Wednesday, August 31, 2016

MacGyver Script Analysis: Target MacGyver

Target MacGyver is a notable episode for its many MacGyverisms and for the introduction of MacGyver's Grandpa Harry.  I recently read a 2nd draft of the episode, and here are my observations on the differences between the script and the final product (the bolded, italic parts below come directly from the script).  The episode is credited to Mike Marvin, Stephen Kandel, and James Schmerer (with Marvin getting the story credit), so I'm guessing that Marvin came up with the original idea and then Kandel and Schmerer added to it or did rewrites.

Also I should mention that the Opening Gambit (featuring MacGyver rescuing the "lady General" from the beach house) was written by Terry Nation as a separate entity and is not included in my script.
  • At the nuclear installation, MacGyver triggers an alarm causing guards to run away. Everybody's cleared out of the your tail, bro...I'm gonna blow it!  It's not clear who the "bro" is that MacGyver is talking to, but at least in the script there are some guards (whereas in the episode there is no one in sight).
  • Back in Venice Beach, MacGyver passes the "Coney Island USA" cafe which is underneath his loft.  That name appears in the episode though I had never noticed it before.

  • Working the counter at the Coney Island USA is Suzanne Kovacs, MacGyver's landlady.  There is no Suzanne in the final episode, but we do meet his landlady "Susan" in Flame's End and see her again in Countdown.  In the script they have three pages worth of friendly banter -- nothing really worth mentioning other than when Suzanne asks MacGyver what he was up to and he says, Oh, I dropped in on some nasty souls who were setting up shop to build nuclear bombs... I blew away their facility.  So much for "need to know."
  • If that's not enough, he then tells Suzanne that he's going to see his grandfather. Loose lips sink ships, MacGyver.
  • Axminster is described as large, powerful, dapper in a suit.  Eyes obscured behind dark glasses.  Face hawklike, masklike, carved, immobile.  Black. Immensely assured.  It doesn't say anything about a hairpiece.  Stephen Kandel told me he got the name Axminster from Axminster, England which is famous for producing a type of carpet, and he picked that name because the actor wore a rug on his head.  I'm not sure exactly what to make of that since the actor was likely not cast before this script was written and even then the actor was mostly bald.
  • MacGyver hooks up a phone gizmo so that anyone who calls him will reach Suzanne instead. A little later Grandpa Harry calls and talks to Suzanne (and is overheard by Axminster's men).  
  • Say "Family" and I get this picture: A mother, father, bunch of kids... uncles and aunts and cousins...all in the family picnic... I guess I get that picture the way fish dream of flying... or hunger dreams of food.   ~MacGyver, the poet. 
  • The script mentions Grandpa Harry as somewhere in his mid-sixties.  Wiry, tough, weathered. Stetson pushed back.  Jeans, shirt, vest. Rolling a cigarette expertly.
  • After Harry tells MacGyver about how he found work in Alaska after running out on the family, MacGyver also talks about visiting The Last Frontier.  After Mom died, I --- packed things up.  Sold off what there was.  And took off, headed north.  Alaska. I think maybe you laid down some trail for me.  And it's come up in interviews before how Richard Dean Anderson took a bike trip from Minnesota to Alaska when he was 17.
  • That's a lot of work, just to lose your breath.  ~Harry after MacGyver returns from a jog.
  • Turns out Ouray, Colorado (where Harry lives) is a real place.  It's mentioned in the episode too but I never caught the name before.
  • Blew up a nuclear fuel refining installation.  ~MacGyver when asked by Harry what this is all about.  A little more specific than his answer in the episode, "It has to do with freedom and peace, Harry, and some people who don't like either."
  • After Harry gets shot, MacGyver spots some jimsonweed, stops Harry, bends to pick some.  He then gives it to Harry to chew on.  Jimson.  it contains a mild narcotic -- a painkiller... come on... it'll help.  ~MacGyver
  • Damn you, Axminster... damn you.  An extra "damn you" in the script.
  • While they're hanging out in the abandoned Evermore saloon, MacGyver finds a guitar and starts to play:
    • I had to be about three when you first taught me the G chord.  ~MacGyver
    • Yep. Drove us crazy... playing that one chord over and over.  ~Harry
    • Harry laughs as MacGyver tunes the guitar.  It doesn't sound great but it does carry a tune.  MacGyver starts to play a round that he was taught as a child.  Harry listens for a long beat, then joins in.


  1. As usual, some things I liked in the script draft and some things I didn't. Tipping off the girl behind the counter about his top-secret mission as a way of flirting was definitely a "didn't like", and the poetic narration was a little clunky. Some of the extra banter with Harry about jogging and even the implausible random guitar scene in Ebermore would have been interesting. I'd also have preferred if MacGyver had told Harry the real story of his pursuers rather than the BS about "freedom and peace..and some people who don't like either".

    I've never been to the real Ouray, Colorado, but I'm pretty knowledgeable about the landscape in various parts of the country and I'm pretty sure they correctly captured the remote mountain setting of Harry's place by setting it in Ouray which is deep in the Rocky Mountains. Of course they didn't capture it nearly as well in season 2 when Harry told MacGyver he's been "farming the same patch of land" in Minnesota for years.

    Any more "MacGyver" scripts on the horizon? Sounds like this one wasn't too far from the ultimate episode produced, whereas my "Nightmares" script different substantially (and not for the better) to what aired. I should get a to "Quantum Leap" viewing tonight. It's been a crazy week.

    1. I thought it was interesting that Suzanne the landlady appeared in the script and then they used her a few episodes later (as Susan). I agree regarding the "freedom and peace" line. And no more scripts on the horizon but that could change.

  2. So - I leave for my Gatecon adventure next week - any burning questions I should ask of The Man when I go? (B/c while, yes, I am working the convention, I am going to be at the RDA panels. *g*)

    1. Have fun! The two that come to mind are:
      1. Where did it come from to shake his hand after punching bad guys, was that his idea?
      2. Does he remember anything about the greatest moment in world history (i.e. the gauntlet opening gambit map balloon over the desert)?