The Catacombs Catacombs Credits Guide
Johnny Byrne

End Of Eternity

It's not one of my favorite stories. It started off with a very good idea. First the discovery of finding a creature entombed in a rock, then discovering that the guy has powers of regeneration which means that he's immortal, and then discovering that he's a psychopath. How do you kill an immortal killer? That was really what got me going on it. In the playing of it, in the confines of Main Mission and the other places, it should have been a story in many ways that required opening out onto another landscape. I felt it was too claustrophobic and too confined.

The idea of the confrontation between it and Koenig, it's like Jack and the Bean Stalk and the Giant, you know, trying to outwit the Giant. It all worked, I think it all hung together very well. But for some reason it's not one of the ones that I like. I felt that I'd just turned out a decent story for that slot which was number six or number seven. I didn't feel inspired writing it, I Just felt it was a writing job and I tackled it the best way I could. I think it had to do with the nature of Balor, he was very one-dimensional. He was a psychopath and the moment you say that to yourself you make people very single-minded. All they want to do is to destroy. He never had any real reasons to do so. That, to me is not good drama. I don't know how it came about, a host of reasons why he simply came out like that. It had all the potential for action, for movement, for pace and things like that. But on reflection, if I had looked and tried to work harder at that I think I could have made him a much more interesting and subtle destroyer, and at the end of the day, a more effective and permanent one.

Some of the scenes where he tells them what a hard time he has, some of that was okay, but then when he turned nasty there seemed to be a fairly arbitrary decision and there was no real build-up, I think, to his unmasking. And he should have had another purpose, a higher purpose, than simply the urge to indulge in mindless killing. That, I think, was the weakness of it. Other than that it worked as a sort of action-adventure story because of the way it was shot, the acting, the production values and the dramatic elements in the story.

It seemed too was too unmotivated in terms of his motives for being like that. For instance, it's not enough to tell people, you know, "He's a watch him lift up the axe and start going for it." There has to be some connection between cause and effect. We have to get a sense of what it is that's driving this person for us to be other than simply shocked or taken aback by his activities. It was interesting the way that we found this character, the way that we realised this character, the way that we built up a sense that something was not right about this character. I think at that point the story started to go wrong because, quite out of the blue and for no reason, other than the fact that he was a psychopath, he started laying about him.

I can't remember the circumstances, but there was a problem that perhaps the story was too large to contain within the framework of a fifty minute episode. Stories have their natural breathing space and this concept was, possibly, too contained: it was missing a middle act in order for us to really get into the heart and mind of this character or to give a different take on it that, I think, would have given us a greater degree of involvement. In the end, of course, Koenig found a way to deal with him, and it was one that was very similar in its context to Alien which came along a few years later: in essence, it was somehow contriving to get this guy within range of an airlock to get him out of Alpha...the vacuum of space being the only thing that would kill him.

Many of these solutions would flow from a sense of cause and effect...not just in this story but in others too...and that's why one tried to find the natural progression of how our people would deal with these kind of things. They had lasers that could stun and could kill (I never quite believed that, but they were there and were just another form of hand gun) but they was completely useless in this situation. I would like to have seen, as I say, much more interplay and much more cat and mouse in this whole situation. It lost a suspenseful middle element and that, for me, somewhat spoiled it.

My reservations at the time about End Of Eternity had to do with own perhaps overly ambitious hopes for the story. I felt constrained by the episode length when writing it. However, since it had play within 50 minutes, I concentrated much more closely on how scenes played than was usual. Instead of unravelling the historical and cultural reasons why Balor behaved as he did, the emphasis hinged more on the psychological. The circumstances of his discovery suggested the outcast, an outsider consumed with a lust to dominate for its own sake - in essence a power freak. He was less interested in the exercise of that power than a total abasing acceptance of it by those he'd left behind, and even more so the Alphans, given their relative powerlessness. Everything he did on Alpha after his release was motivated by that psychopathic compulsion. It was Koenig's understanding of this, certainly as originally written, which enabled Koenig, in forelock tugging mode, to lure Balor to his expulsion into Space.

My natural instinct was to dramatically find the light in the near universal darkness of the character. But another thought was tugging away - the character was not just evil, he was also profoundly alien.

It's arguable that nobility of spirit is universal, not purely human. That being said, this seemed an opportunity to put an alien beyond reach of anything remotely human in his interior make-up. In the event, I went for an irredeemable form of personalised evil, but one which had an impact on humans.

That's why I called him Balor, after a vengeful celtic god of darkness, also Baal, the related Phoenician god. Human sacrifice was offered up to Baal, especially first born children who were burnt alive while encased within his statue. The Phoenicians were a cultured and very powerful nation, yet this most primitive form of superstitious evil flourished among them. If there is a weakness in Balor's portrayal, it's that I failed to adequately clarify the nature of the civilisation that produced him. On screen this showed up as fudged motivation for his apparently motiveless need to kill.

Balor is on a par with the being which infiltrates Alpha in Force Of Life. Both were meant to portray an observable, but incomprehensible alien imperative at work. In FOL it was sensed rather than seen and generally speaking it worked. In EOE the imperative was seen but not sensed strongly enough. I think Balor needed a stronger cultural context for his actions.

I smiled when I later saw how Sigourney disposed of the Alien in Alien...

To mortal Koenig and the others, life on Alpha is a functioning, controllable entity. To Balor, immortal, all powerful, it represents a power vacuum and nature, even to an immortal, abhors a vacuum. Even a 'good' Balor would have been severely tempted to take control. It could be said that Balor was not so much psychopathic, but completely amoral. With no comprehension of death, for him the taking of life was divested of its profound finality, and the dreadful taboos mortals assign to it. In this context, absolute power was the motivating force for Balor, not sadism. But as we know, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Comments by Johnny Byrne, abridged from an interview with Tim Mallett and Glenn Pearce and a 1982 interview with Carsten Andresen.