Monday, May 15, 2017

MacGyver Script Analysis: The Challenge

Welcome to the 7th edition of my 139 part Script Analysis series where I compare an original script with the final episode.  Today I'll be covering my 6th least favorite episode, The Challenge. Let the fun begin!

My script copy, written by Chris Haddock, is a first draft dated 1/19/89 (the episode debuted on 2/27). Despite it being only a first draft, most of the dialogue in the script matched word for word with what appeared in the final episode.  So there aren't too many differences to highlight, but I'll cover a few of them below.
  • A few naming differences:
    • Challenge Center (instead of Challengers Club).
    • Booker and Cynthia Williams (instead of Wilson).
    • Karl Erickson as the villain (instead of Larson).
  • 8:17 mark -- a quote in the episode (and script) that I must have missed in previous viewings: MacGyver's qualified. He used to work full time at the Challengers Club.  ~Booker.  Full time? I guess we can add this to MacGyver's pre-series timeline right between timber logging, car racing in Europe, and defusing bombs in Vietnam.
  • The script has a scene where MacGyver, Ray, Cynthia, and the Detective examine Booker's rear-ended car and discuss the crack packet found in the front seat. Surprisingly Erickson does not yet come to mind as prime suspect #1.
  • In the script, Ray and Rico help MacGyver look for Booker.  As in the episode, MacGyver is the one to find his body:
    • His jaw clenched, eyes shut tight to shut out the sight he's seen.  His head sinks to his chest.  He sucks in some air, raises his head up, eyes closed, tears streaking his cheeks.  His fist explodes into the wall.  He slumps down the wall to his knees.
  • MacGyver tells Ray to contact the police.  "Just tell 'em they better make it fast." Then when Smiley (one of Erickson's goons) approaches a garbage bin outside the print shop, MacGyver punches him out with the voiceover, "Time to take out the garbage," before dumping him in the bin.
  • At the climax of the episode, MacGyver flips the gun into his grip, and trembling with rage, aims it at Erickson.
    • "MacGyver -- wait!"  ~Ray
    • "You don't wanna see this Ray."  ~MacGyver
    • "Hate's gotta stop somewhere.  That's what you said!  It's the truth, isn't it?  The hate's gotta stop."  ~Ray
    • MacGyver keeps the gun aimed steady at Erickson.  The Detective moves in behind Ray.  Freezes.
    • Slowly, he lowers the gun to rest it on the desk.  MacGyver and Ray stay in position as the Detective takes Erickson and removes him, going past Ray.
    • Paul Margolis said that during the filming of Black Rhino, RDA vetoed the idea of having MacGyver shoot the rhino because of the character's anti-gun stance.  I wonder if the same thing happened here, because in the final episode MacGyver never points the gun at Larson -- instead he intends to strike him with it. I guess by the time he got to Trail of Doomsday (where he actually fires a gun near someone as part of his undercover act), RDA's "give a @#$% meter" had run out of coins.
  • In the script, MacGyver gets Ray a fishing rod (instead of a pool table).  The pool table makes a lot more sense.
The last three scripts I've reviewed have been toward the bottom of the barrel, but coming up next in Part 8, I'm happy to say that it's a top 20 episode!


  1. Pretty amazing that you got a script for one of your least favorite episodes. Is that one that came in that bundle of scripts I believe you mentioned before? Also coincidental because "The Challenge" is airing tonight (as I write this actually!) on MeTV...two weeks before they cancel it and replace it with "ALF"....I can't even....

    Anyway, interesting that the script matched so closely with the eventual episode, but I'm certainly glad they made the changes you noted. It made zero sense for MacGyver to give Ray a fishing rod....the pool table was an obvious choice so I wonder what led the writer to go with the out-of-nowhere fishing rod originally. Whatever the case, MacGyver's "time to take out the garbage" pun was cringeworthy and hilariously out of place for the context of that part of the story. And as powerful as the episode's final scene was for me, it's crazy that they were pondering taking it even further and MacGyver calculatedly plotting to kill Larson in cold blood, only to get talked down by Ray. Clearly the new writer (Haddock) wasn't full checked in with the character to think he'd be capable of that....certainly glad they didn't go that route because it would definitely not be a good fit for MacGyver. As for the "Doomsday" incident you reference where MacGyver shoots the gun as part of his cover, I'm guessing the reason the gun was fired on that was the absence of Stephen Downing in the production crew of the movies. The anti-gun posture seemed to be very central to Downing's interpretation of the character, and if he had been working on "Doomsday", I bet that gunfire incident wouldn't have happened either.

    You mentioned before that you usually skipped "The Challenge" in the rerun rotation. I bet that's how you missed that MacGyver "used to work full-time at the Challenger's Club". Not sure exactly what "working full-time at Challenger's" would entail though as opposed to simply fixing a few things around the place as he does present-tense....perhaps mentoring the young people there.

    1. Yeah, this was part of the bundle with To Be a Man, Blood Brothers and the top 20 episode that I alluded to.

      I'm surprised that they are replacing MacGyver with ALF because it seemed like it was doing well and that people were talking about the episodes on twitter. I'm not a fanfiction guy but I'm half tempted to write a little story where MacGyver meets up with his old nemesis ALF, and MacGyver unexpectedly abandons his principles and puts ALF out of his misery.

  2. All I can figure is the ratings on MeTV haven't been good as it's gone from two airings a day with heavy promotion to zero. There was some speculation it may be back in the fall and that MeTV is just changing things up for their "Summer of ME". I e-mailed them to ask but they haven't bothered writing me back. I like your fan fic idea. Pretty bad when I support MacGyver pulling the trigger on ALF in your fan fic but can't bring myself to supporting him doing the same to the white supremacist killer Booker!

    1. Hm... there were a lot of tweets recently stating that this was just the summer schedule and that MacGyver would come back, but I don't know where they got that info.

      It would seem like a good move, though since Season 2 of the reboot will start in September and Twitter will be buzzing with the MacGyver Hashtag again.