Interlude: On the couch

I switched off the television.

“Well, there it is,” I said. “Seven seasons, the cycle of MacGyver is once again complete. Arguably the last and greatest of the TV series from the non-ironic joke-freezeframe-rollcredits endings era. There may be a dénouement of direct-to-TV movies, but the story is told.”

“It was a very touching and well-done final episode,” Creepy allowed.

“It was, wasn’t it?”

“Yeah.”

“Hm,” I sipped my coke, and we sat in contemplative silence for a time.

“Pity there was one more episode after it, really,” Creepy went on.

“True.”

“An episode about the fountain of youth.”

“Yeah,” I admitted, “but you know, it was an airdate thing – the show got cancelled in weird circumstances and Richard Dean Anderson was worn out. Seven seasons was a lot for a non-soap, back in the early ’90s.”

“True,” Creepy admitted. “He needed a break for a few years before all that Osiris stuff came back to bite him when the Phoenix Foundation rose from the proverbial ashes to become the Stargate Program.”

“I keep telling you, the shows aren’t linked.”

“Oh come on,” Creepy snorted. “How can it be a coincidence that all of the watershed episodes of the entire MacGyver series revolved around Egyptian artefacts? All that happened was, by the late ’90s the plausible-deniability requirement of the Phoenix Foundation being a civilian organisation had gone away, and they were free to be up-front about their absorption into the US Air Force. Tell me the espionage and special ops stuff MacGyver did was something the US military would have outsourced,” he waved his coke, splashing it on the carpet in a caffeiney benediction. “The Stargate teams even refer to the practice of cobbling together solutions from available materials as ‘MacGyvering’, establishing not only that this is the same universe, but that they’re familiar with his work. And when they make the reference, O’Neill does this twitchy double-take, because he thinks they’re about to give away the fact that he’s returned to active duty under a false name.”

“I-”

“Just look at how MacGyver ends and Stargate SG-1 begins. In the former, MacGyver and his son retire and go off on adventures. In the latter, O’Neill is retired and traumatised because his son died. Oh, they fub it a bit with O’Neill’s son being a kid who dies accidentally because of a gun … but don’t you see, Hatboy? That’s just MacGyver’s interpretation of events. He projects his regrets over missing his son’s whole childhood, and therefore remembers his adult son as a child. Relatively speaking, he only spent a couple of years with his son either way, his time as a father was what counted. And so as far as he was concerned, his son was just that kid he’d never gotten to know. Even the inclusion of an estranged Mrs. O’Neill, when in fact the mother died years before – also by the gun – is so much window-dressing.”

“The sons had different names – Sam, and Charlie.”

“Pshaw,” Creepy responded. “The son was called Tyler in the Stargate film. The name isn’t important, what matters is how MacGyver / O’Neill felt about him. Heck, it was so powerful that later on, when the son reappears in various forms, it’s as the kid O’Neill has reconstructed in his head.”

“O’Neill doesn’t have much of a problem with guns,” I pointed out.

“True, although he prefers C-4 and claymores. And his acceptance of the gun as part of his new life is actually evidence in favour. It’s a powerful symbol of how the death of his son affected him. After losing a childhood friend to accidental gun death, and the only woman he would ever love to a shooting, and then living his entire adult life without using a gun-”

“Except for the pilot episode-”

“Right, and the one where he gets amnesia, but even then he just picks it up and then uses the cartridges instead – after all that, it comes full-circle and his son dies in the same way, even after they have that talk about guns. And so MacGyver gets closure on the three-act tragic ballad of the gun, and O’Neill takes up the weapon with a vengeance.”

“But-”

“Also, Teal’c was a high school jock in that episode where MacGyver is trying to help kids from dropping out of school. Either because of an untold time-travel incident, or because he was transplanted there somehow as a pre-symbiote Jaffa, thus explaining his immediate and surprising trust and respect for O’Neill, when so many others had tried to stand up to the Goa’uld and failed. Why else would Teal’c tell them right at the start that he had no information to give them, only to then eke out his near-encyclopaedic knowledge of the wider galaxy over the next ten years? He was obviously playing a deeper game than anyone suspected, and didn’t want to contaminate the timelines. Just look at how he smirked in that episode in the school. No wonder he took to his Earthly life and assumed human identities so readily. He was previously-experienced.”

I gave up. “They also managed to make a story with a long-lost son who turns out to be a chip off the old block that avoided any terrible Crystal Skullism,” I noted, “despite being overall a pretty similar idea and dealing with a character of similar notoriety and cultural popularity.”

Crystal Skull was all a projection fantasy too. Henry Jones Junior died horribly in a fused-shut refrigerator, and the entire story was nothing more than a desperate attempt on his brain’s part to escape what was happening to his body in its final moments.”

I considered it.

“Actually, you may have a point with that one.”

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10 Responses to Interlude: On the couch

  1. stchucky says:

    This started out as an adaptation of a conversation between Mrs. Hatboy and myself as we finished watching the full series of MacGyver. But then Creepy hijacked the conversation and this happened. And sort of blew my mind a little.

    I was amused to find, after doing a little idle research, that the idea of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull all being the final heartbreaking delusion of a man dying of internal injuries, severe burns and radiation poisoning in a half-melted fridge is actually something of a fan favourite (http://www.cracked.com/article/18367_6-insane-fan-theories-that-actually-make-great-movies-better_p2/). And it does sort of make the film more powerful and forgivable. Although as previously mentioned, I sort of liked it already.

    • dreameling says:

      What I’d love to know is how did MacGyver hold up? (I’m assuming you watched it when it originally aired way back in the 80’s and early 90’s. It was one of my favorite shows back then, but I’ve never re-watched it.)

      Also, in Creepy’s MG + SG theory, where does Kurt Russell fit in?

      • stchucky says:

        It held up okay! The attitudes and morals were heartbreaking in how badly things have gone wrong in the past 20 years, and the plots and inventions got steadily more laughable, but still awesome. Mac is the man.

        And also, Atlantis and Merlin and all sorts. What are the odds of two such disparate shows having Atlantis and Merlin? There’s even a questionable UFO episode. I’m beginning to believe this theory has legs.

        And Kurt Russell fits in just like the Stargate movie fits into SG1 continuity: you just have to sort of pretend the broad strokes happened and involved the same characters, but it was all just a bit skewed.

        Think of it as a pilot episode. Things can be screwy in the pilot. Like Mac using a gun.

      • stchucky says:

        I didn’t watch much of it as a kid/teenager, though. Just the odd episode.

  2. dreameling says:

    I vaguely recall the early seasons being more globe-trotty and adventuresque and the later seasons more US-based, urban-focused, and message-y. I also remember Angus’s mullet and blue jeans combo starting to feel really old toward the end. How off is my memory?

    And also, Atlantis and Merlin and all sorts. What are the odds of two such disparate shows having Atlantis and Merlin?

    Wasn’t Atlantis only in that one TV movie, and Merlin only showed up in the hit-in-the-head-did-I-dream-this episode?

    So, what was the best episode? (For whatever reason, the one that really stands out for me is the killer ants episode. Dat was scary shit.)

    • stchucky says:

      Yeah, they got more enviro-social-preachy as they went. One of the saddest ones was about the Western Black rhino, which MacGyver said would be extinct by the year 2000 if we don’t do something about it soon. Well, guess what? It lasted until 2012. And is now extinct.

      Wasn’t Atlantis only in that one TV movie, and Merlin only showed up in the hit-in-the-head-did-I-dream-this episode?

      Yes. In fact, there were several dream-flashback episodes, including a Western where he lived in a town called Serenity. Mind blown.

      But then, he woke up from these dreams and he had relics from the dreams in his pockets. So they were actually real. Or were they? Sort of thing.

      But the whole dream-sequence thing raises another interesting possibility, which I may have to get down.

      The mullet never seemed terribly offensive, given that this is something people really seem to fixate on. He just had slightly collar-brushing hair, that was shorter at the front so it wouldn’t get in his face. Leave the guy alone!

      So, what was the best episode? (For whatever reason, the one that really stands out for me is the killer ants episode. Dat was scary shit.)

      Mrs. Hatboy remembered that one too.

      I actually really rather liked the “final” episode, with his son. And episodes with Mac’s grandfather were also nice. And the Murdoc episodes were always good for a laugh, the ludicrous ways he kept “dying”. Favourite? Can’t say. Maybe the episode with the Colton bounty hunter family reunion, which featured Cuba Gooding Jr. and Sherriff Bart from Blazing Saddles.

  3. dreameling says:

    But then, he woke up from these dreams and he had relics from the dreams in his pockets. So they were actually real. Or were they? Sort of thing.

    I recall never liking these in the MacGyver context. First, not a fantasy show, and second, a cheap way to leave the fantastic unresolved. (I don’t generally like liminal stuff that leaves shit unresolved or hesitates between the real and the fantastic.)

    He just had slightly collar-brushing hair, that was shorter at the front so it wouldn’t get in his face. Leave the guy alone!

    Leave mullets alone? Never, my friend, never.

    Mrs. Hatboy remembered that one too.

    Maybe we were both traumatized in the 80s when that episode aired for the first time.

    I actually really rather liked the “final” episode, with his son. And episodes with Mac’s grandfather were also nice. And the Murdoc episodes were always good for a laugh, the ludicrous ways he kept “dying”. Favourite? Can’t say. Maybe the episode with the Colton bounty hunter family reunion, which featured Cuba Gooding Jr. and Sherriff Bart from Blazing Saddles.

    I remember Murdoc, of course, although I think I got a bit tired of the man never fucking dying for reals, but Mac’s son, grandfather, and the Coltons ring zero bells. Now, I have no intention of rewatching seven seasons of yet another TV show, but I’m thinking I should do some sampling for old times’ sake. MacGyver was mostly episodic, right, like most shows at the time? There was some recurring stuff, like Murdoc and Dalton, but it never really went serial? (I’m just wondering if “sampling” will work.)

    Sidebar: I remember being really fed up with the episodic nature of 80’s and early 90’s TV shows. Whenever a character or storyline was brought back, or when something we had already seen in an earlier episode was referenced in some manner — even if only in passing — everything became so much more interesting and the story world became so much more real. I cannot tell you how happy I was when TV shows started going more serial. The X-Files may have been my first big serially oriented show. Or maybe it was Twin Peaks. Buffy was probably the first show that really blew my mind with its season-long story arc approach.

    • stchucky says:

      I’m thinking I should do some sampling for old times’ sake. MacGyver was mostly episodic, right, like most shows at the time? There was some recurring stuff, like Murdoc and Dalton, but it never really went serial?

      I think there was only one “To be continued” in the whole set, but there were a few recurring characters and places, like the Challengers Club for street kids. Not much in the way of story arcs, except for Pete getting glaucoma at the end of season 6 and being basically blind through season 7.

      I approve of story arcs in a series, myself. Some of the best Deep Space Nine episodes were the later series with the Dominion War, which was basically a running story.

      • dreameling says:

        For me, the Dominion War is the single best (and most ambitious) story arc in DS9. Probably the best story arc in any ST show, come to think of it. (But that’s not really a fair comparison, since TOS and TNG are not that serial, and I haven’t seen a single episode of Enterprise [1], although I’m gonna wager it’s got nothing on DS9.)

        [1] I tried, man, I tried, but the opening titles were so awful I thought screw this.

        Hey, all this reminds me that I need to order the remastered TNG Season 5 BD release. Thanks!

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