The Catacombs Catacombs Credits Guide
Johnny Byrne

Mission Of The Darians

I think it is probably the one I like best. It is perhaps the most serious of all the stories I wrote. It has the cruel, inescapable things that life sometimes forces upon us. If you remember there was a crash in the Andes and that people in order to survive had to eat their fellow passengers. I don't think that book had been published when I wrote this story. This is a theme that I dealt with in one or two respects before but not in any sort of developed or finished way.

There were two aspects to the story: the first, was that we all know that under difficult circumstances people will do virtually anything to survive; the second was that even the most severe taboos that we have in our society...and cannibalism is certainly one of those...can be raised to a level of cultural importance in other societies. Now, given the circumstances, at any time in any culture, the need to live will always overcome, and all taboos will break down in the face of that primary need.

First of all I was excited by the thought of a 50-mile long spaceship. Secondly, my mind harked back to a wonderful story that I had read by Brian Aldiss many, many years ago. I think it was called "Non Stop," and that always set up an echo in my mind and, while not sort of plagiarizing Brian, you can't help dealing with a theme of people cut off, you know, sort of drifting and the mystery about them.

So here they are in this wonderful spaceship. They discover that thousands of years ago the original people who owned the ship, who had taken the ship and who were on their way to a new world, had a huge accident and now there was a small group of the original aliens plus the atomic survivors, the mutants of their own people. The Darians...and it's not a mistake that they are called was meant to equate with Arians, the life theme from the Arian race, the sort of proto-Nazi thing,not fascism and not Nazism but the kind of primal, racial instinct. A kind of superior beings. Knowing that they've got to keep a residue of those people alive so that they can survive and, once there, they would be disposed of but here in the gene bank is all they require to remanufacture the race again. The thing was, and I thought it was well worked out in the sense that if any of them were born mutant a kind of religion was built around a sort of disfigurement and the things which would obviously weigh large in people's minds in a post-atomic situation, and lots of still births and horrific mutants and things like this would appear. The structure of social groups would be incredibly rigid and they would try to eliminate, in the way the Spartans would dispose of daughters or deformed children to keep the purity going. And of course they would feed these into the food chain, and that was what was keeping the good Darians alive....The name of the game is survival and that's what they were doing.

. The two groups have got to be connected so that by the time you land you will have your own people, not the same, but you will have people. So they basically need each other. Again there were no heroes and villains, but things that people had to do.

(Of killing the guard) But it was important to show, I think, this whole obsession they had with mutancy. It's important to have one there who could be disposed of to show how deeply rooted this tradition was, basically how ignorant, how clueless they had become about the real world. And how they were simply acting on a kind of ritual memory rather than common sense. We did actually have two dwarfs in it which I thought added immensely to the value. And there were some magnificent glass shots in it. We didn't do many. By that I mean, there was a view when you came in through a door and you saw the entire, huge bay of the spaceship. We didn't do many glass shots but that was one and it really added immensely. The sight of that massive ship moving through frame in the first shots was excellent. Ray Austin did a marvelous job of directing this and the two previous episodes.

It probably helped that we had Joan Collins, the perfect example of the imperishable survivor. Sometimes I think that she probably fed on too many spare parts in that particular episode, because she seems to be surviving, unchanged, 20-odd years later! I think, in that sense, Joan Collins was the perfect choice for this Darian super goddess. I quite enjoyed working with her and being there when they were shooting it.

A name that I keep using and forgetting that I have used is Neman and Hadin. Hadin comes from the Icelandic Sagas which have been the great source of my inspiration where Hadin comes from one of the most famous, the Njal Saga, and one of the sons of Njal was Skarp-Hedin, the ferocious man, and I was so impressed by that character that whenever possible I try to use his name 'coz it gives me a sort of fix on the character. Both these names, Hadin and Neman are in "Mission of the Darians." It was originally called "Mission of the Darya" and this was more sort of genetically Nazi-like where they were going to turn out endless warriors and they were in a big ship full of tanked sperm or something. But it was completely different to what turned out ultimately

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