The Catacombs Catacombs Credits Guide
Johnny Byrne

Matter Of Life And Death

I came into Space when the first episode called "Breakaway" was just about to go onto the floor. It had a 14 day schedule and Lee Katzin was going to direct it and I was brought in because they hadn't really got any follow-up scripts prepared. The next script to go on the floor was meant to be something written by Art Wallace. It was unsuitable because, you know, to be fair to the writer, he had written it in isolation long before the thing had become a reality. Writing for a series is a very precise art that has to be geared to the actual conditions existing at the time. I was brought in 14 days before the shooting began on "Breakaway" on a kind of six weeks trial basis to get the second script into operation. My brief was to act as a story editor. The first job I was faced with was a complete rewrite, a complete restructure 'coz I don't like messing up people's work, but the requirements were quite severe.

We had great trouble with the first script "Matter of Life and Death." I can't quite remember what Art Wallace's script was like, I think it was called "The Breath of Life" or something. I was working under great pressure. Two weeks to get this thing ready and I was pitched in, as they say, into the deep end.

There were various meetings to decide upon the quickest way to turn this into a useable script, and one of them was to deal with it on the basis of someone who was trapped in a kind of matter anti-matter existence.

The script that was shot bore no resemblance whatsoever to Art Wallace's script. It was a hybrid and I still think it looks that way...that there were two things pulling away from each other. This is what always happens when you start off with what is basically an unworkable idea and you try to remain faithful to it. You develop it, but no matter how far down the line you go, there's always a hang-over that's pulling it back to what it should be and it's usually discovered at the end that it would have been much better to start with something completely new than to take something that's old but seems to be workable. At the end of the day, it's a quicker job to start with something new and I wish that I had done that, but they wanted, I think, to get some value from these scripts that had already been written.

Richard Johnson was the guest star and it was directed by Charles Crichton. It was the first time that I'd worked with Charles and, of course, it was wonderful. So I put up with whatever aggravations that I had at re-writing someone else's script out of existence...which was the only way to make it work in the Space: 1999 context...and I shared the credit with Art Wallace, because the basic idea, no matter how far we had departed from it, was his. I could have taken the full credit but I was happy to take a shared credit.

"Matter of Life and Death" had been written too hazily and could've done with a lot more rethinking about it, but it had to be done.

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