Original Background Bible

This document has circulated on the internet and been sold on Ebay in past years. We can’t prove that it’s authentic, but it seems reasonable that this could have been a first draft for the show. One copy seen on Ebay had an issue date of April 1986, which would have been around the time season 2 was in planning.



Born and raised in rural Minnesota. Learned survival, woods lore; expert fisherman and lure maker. Amateur botanist and zoologist.

Father: James MacGyver.
Mother: Ellen Jackson MacGyver.
Maternal grandparents: Harry and Celia Jackson.

When MacGyver was 10 years old, his father and his grandmother died in a tragic accident. After a year, his grandfather, Harry Jackson, who had been very close to the boy, left abruptly. It was a shattering blow to the ten-year-old MacGyver; he was suddenly the male of the house. His mother returned to school teaching; they continued with life, while Grandfather Harry worked in Alaska, sent money regularly; sent letters almost never. When MacGyver was nineteen, his mother died after a brief illness. Left alone, isolated, his only living relative a remote and alienated grandfather, MacGyver sold what was saleable, discarded the rest-and took off. He was a junior in college, majoring in Physics at the time-and already possessed of a nomad’s itch to travel, to see, to sample, to taste the world.

There was an additional incentive. MacGyver had had a serious love affair with a fellow-student, Amy Austen. It broke up over his desire to take a year off from school, and work/travel. The pain of loss seemed to symbolize the end of a period of his life-he left.

And drifted. Armed with protean mechanical and scientific skills, cursed or blessed with a mind that could never pass a puzzle by, he worked, traveled, paused here and there-accumulated experience, and began to know himself.

He learned petroleum engineering, geology, worked as a roughneck in Sumatra, Aden, off Malmo. He fought oil-well fires in the middle east; did gold mining in Africa, was Third Mate on a coastal freighter in the Adriatic, worked roustabout in a small traveling circus through Spain and France. And through it all, he kept studying and learning. Not always the same thing. He’s a passable jack-physicist, a good kitchen chemist, knows a scattered lot about a number of scientific disciplines. More important-he has a genius for using whatever’s to hand-and creating whatever he needs. Turning a road map into a sled, using an aspirin tablet as an explosives timer, making a prison cage out of two bushes; combining a magnesium bicycle strut and a rusty can into a thermite torch. MacGyver, in other words, changes the ordinary into the mildly miraculous.

In North Africa he met PETER THORNTON, then a field operative for a somewhat obscure US Intelligence Agency, the DXS: Dept. of External Service. The meeting was accidental-MacGyver was flat broke, scratching along cheerfully by driving a battered taxicab-he’d gotten the job by repairing the cab. Thornton hailed him-got in-and MacGyver instantly found himself the co-object of a pursuit. He got them away but was marked as Thornton’s man-and had to hang in with Pete Thornton until the mission was over.

He did more than hang in. He joined in, and when it was over, MacGyver and Thornton made a very personal deal. MacGyver would stay in touch-maybe do an occasional job for Thornton. But not too officially, and always at his own discretion.

The agreement was born out of an and sealed by a strong friendship-a permanent thing for both men. It’s still there-modified now that Thornton is out of the Government…of which, more later.


Early fifties. Widowed. One child, a daughter, Laura-now a hospital administrator in San Francisco. 
Colonel, US Army, Special Forces.

Seconded to the State Department, in charge of a group of special couriers, three years.

Retired and became Operations Director of DXS, western group, operating out of Los Angeles.

An excellent chess player, a good poker player, and a terrible tennis player. Hates cold weather-baffled by MacGyver’s love of winter sports.

An expert shot, pistol or rifle.

Often lonely, an isolated man. MacGyver may be his best friend; certainly, the friend who knows him best-something like a younger brother. 

Left the DXS last year to become:
Director of Operations for the Tine Corporation.
Offices: Santa Monica, California.



Established in the early 1960s with considerable US Government connivance-a think-tank, specializing in practical problem-solving. Works as a private corporation funds a good deal of pure research-supported by the for-hire assignments, which include:

Work for the US Government. Such as testing new weapon-in battlefield situations.
Auditing the security arrangements for a US Embassy abroad.
Tracing a missing load of toxic waste.
Intercepting a deep mole emerging.
Testing the claims of a scientist who has possibly invented a vest-pocket H-bomb.
Arbitrating the conflicting claims of two Service branches.
Designing an escape-proof jail.
Escaping from that jail.

Doing similar tasks for foreign governments. Private corporations. Local governments. Wealthy individuals. Universities. Scientific associations. School districts. Or anybody else with an intriguing problem and the ability to either (a) pay the bill, or (b) justify a pro-bono effort.

Pete Thornton is loosely in charge of field operations-oversees a corps of scientists and technicians-and-when needed…MacGyver, who is paid a modest retainer for standby and run-of-the-mill tasks. But, when there’s a special mission, MacGyver’s arrangement with the Tine Corporation includes a “special bonus.”

The “bonus” is provided at MacGyver’s request and may include fulfillment of his own wish list, such as a one-on-one game of ice hockey with Wayne Gretzky; or a special gift for someone he cares about, such as a college education for an underprivileged youth or a summer with the Cousteau Expedition in the Galapagos Islands.


He lives in a smallish loft over a small complex of neighborhood stores in a pleasantly ethnic, tucked-away part of Los Angeles. Not far from the beach. Not far from the mountains.

The loft is spacious and unusually decorated. A nerf-ball basketball hoop at one end. A hockey goal at the other-with an electronic goalie ready to defend it. A radio-controlled miniature racing car. A table-hockey game.
Handy gadgets are spotted all over the apartment. A kitchen corner operates by microchip out of Rube Goldberg. A small astronomy lab sits on an iron spiral staircase on the roof. A terrific music system plays a range of tastes from Twisted Sister through electronic harmonies to Mozart. A small chem lab, close by the kitchen-thereby making dinner guests nervous.

Downstairs: a ma-and-pa deli, operated by an Italian family. Ma clucks over MacGyver because she likes him and because she is a mother.

In return, MacGyver repairs their freezer, adjusts their machinery, fine tunes a world-class music system for Bel Canto opera…and is generally part of the family, which includes a mixed breed dog, originally intended to handle security-but a hopeless failure. He has only one discernible talent: evoking love.

When MacGyver is off somewhere-Mama and Papa will look after his place, pick up mail, keep an eye on things…worry about him a lot when he’s gone…and welcome him back like a returning hero. 

They know he works on a loose consultancy basis for the Tine Corporation-is often away-has some very odd visitors-could be involved in some intriguing affairs…but they don’t pry, don’t tattle. He’s family; they trust him implicitly-they’d defend him to the death.


The Background Bible also includes synopses for 6 stories:

Blood Money (never made)

Fire Mountain (made as Final Approach, but modified)

Labyrinth (made as The Human Factor)

The Cure (never made)

The Eraser (made, but modified)

The Hard Way (never made)


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