This review contains spoilers.
As reflected (hundreds of times(!)) in my previous episode reviews for the series, I'm ashamed to admit I'm a bit of a newbie to 'MacGyver', it being one of the very few US action-adventure series of the era that I wasn't into "first time 'round". But despite my relatively newbie status, I can still see that 'Nightmares' is surely a series classic.
The "being injected with lethal injection and having just hours to find the antidote" plot idea had been done many times before this (see the popular 'Starsky & Hutch' first season episode 'A Coffin for Starsky' for just one of many examples), but seldom has a regular hour-long TV episode given the premise such a well-handled, exhilarating treatment.
Of note of this episode is that it is the first to feature Dana Elcar as Pete Thornton, MacGyver's boss-of-sorts. Elcar had played a different character in the series Pilot, and Thornton would go on to be a heavily recurring character throughout the show's life.
Anyway, Mac's whole predicament is executed really well, making you feel as if he is in real danger and must desperately find the antidote before it is too late. When he was first injected, for a few moments I feared that things would descend into either a "clip show", or a "dream sequence" episode – thankfully, we got neither, and instead were into an outstanding story.
Robert O'Reilly is perfect as evil agent Curt Neilson, who has his henchmen inject MacGyver with the potentially fatal poison. In an already strong story, it is bolstered up even more by feeling that Neilson is a real threat.
Tammy Lauren does well in the role of young runaway Lisa. Of course, after she has taken Mac back to the (temporary) safety of her shelter in the abandoned building, we get the rather obligatory sob story of her life; However, I found it to be reasonably well acted, did not go on for too long, and found it nowhere as much of a weak point as one or two other viewers seem to have done.
Richard Dean Anderson gives a very good performance of the heavily drugged, hallucinating Mac. One slight niggle I did feel, was that Mac's condition came and went as the plot dictated – in the "quieter moments" of the tale, he was really tripping out and could hardly stand; yet when he was required to take care of Neilson and his thugs, he was suddenly back on form. This is only a very minor point though, and was probably necessary for sake of plot development, and I don't hold it against the overall episode at all.
The climax, complete with Neilson throwing the tube with the antidote in down the drain, is both exciting and satisfying. Although they would have had to have come up with some top notch stories to equal this one, in many ways it is a shame that Robert O'Reilly never returned as the character, as he would surely have made a great recurring nemesis, as Neilson feels to be such a genuine threat to MacGyver.
The episode is executed very slickly, far superior to a couple of those dodgy very early episodes, and special mention must go to the in-episode musical score. As commented on a couple of my previous reviews, some of the early in-episode scores sounded horribly cheap and synthesised, but (as reflected in my review for the previous broadcast episode, 'Target MacGyver'), the quality of the musical score was steadily improving, and in 'Nightmares', it almost sounds movie-like at many points.
All-in-all, this is quite probably the best 'MacGyver' episode thus far, and although I've yet to see all of the episodes, I quite expect it to stand as a classic of the series. It also has definite "watch again" value, to relive Mac's grave predicament. I give 'Nightmares' a solid 10/10.
(By the way, although I generally try not to criticize other's reviews, surely the review who points out all the episode's strong points, then knocks the episode down by calling it a weak "issues" storyline and gives it a 4.4 rating ... rather harsh, surely?)