Knight Rider “Knight of the Phoenix” (part 4 of 4)

Post-race, Knight meets with Tanya and Wilson, implying that he’s willing to sell KITT. How could a gang of industrial spies resist? Well, they can’t, so they arrange to meet Knight later at the same bar where Maggie used to work.

After dropping Maggie and Buddy off at their place, Knight finds another phone booth to ring up Devon again. This time, he leaves the driver side door open, and guess who happens by? It’s comic relief time again! The guys just leave their car on the street, hop into KITT, and commit Grand Theft Auto. Knight drops the phone and rushes out, but to no avail. They get away.

The Comic Relief dudes go out on a bit of a rampage, weaving in and out of traffic, doing donuts in intersections, and generally drawing all kinds of attention to themselves. KITT takes over, rendering the Comic Relief dudes helpless passengers. KITT outdoes the Comic Relief dudes in terms of illegal, reckless driving, jumping over a group of cars blocking the road, going over 100 MPH on city streets, and doing his own donuts in an intersection. During the donuts, black Comic Relief dude’s stunt double is clearly driving the car, even though KITT is supposed to be doing that. If you want to really nitpick, the steering wheel in the car is a real steering wheel, instead of the yoke KITT usually sports.

Ultimately, KITT pulls up to a parked cop car, opens his totally bitchin’ T-top roof, and uses the ejector seats to sproing the Comic Relief dudes onto the hood of the cop car. Complete with a cheesy slide-whistle sound effect.

Knight Rider "Knight of the Phoenix" (part 4 of 4)

Pretty neat setup, since the seats don’t actually come out, just the occupants. How does that work, exactly? The Comic Relief dudes crash through the window of the cop car, but somehow that doesn’t actually come through to the inside of the car. The cops just look at each other with a “whaa?” look on their faces.

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After the commercial, KITT returns, driverless, to Knight. He cusses Knight out for being so irresponsible—you know, leaving the car door open and the keys inside. During this scene, there’s an amusing practical special effect. In some of the scenes where KITT is driving himself, the effect is accomplished via a stunt driver wearing a seat costume! You can see the seat/driver take his costumed hands off the steering yoke as the car pulls up. Makes me wonder what the poor guy is sitting on, since the driver’s seat is gone. It’s pretty awesome, though, because it looks like an escapee from The Muppet Show boosted the car.

Later, Knight heads to the bar to keep his appointment with Tanya. She’s not there, but the hick drivers he just bested in the demolition derby are. Turns out they’re all COMTRON employees, and they aren’t happy, so they pick a fight with Knight. Knight says that he’s “heavily trained in martial arts,” which the hicks find more than a little amusing. Punching and kicking sounds ensue, and the hicks go flying, but the scene is clearly shot for yuks. Knight is never shown actually hitting anyone. The hicks end up in a pile in front of the bar, and the cops show up just in time to take them in.

Knight Rider "Knight of the Phoenix" (part 4 of 4)

But, oh, no! KITT is being towed away by COMTRON! And Knight has been taken to jail, too, along with the hicks at the bar. Knight uses his one phone call to ring up Devon, who after insulting Knight some more, agrees to head to Silicon Valley.

Inside the COMTRON HQ, Wilson and Tanya’s goons are having no luck getting inside KITT with their drills and saws. Tanya and Wilson are both starting to get worried, feeling the heat, even though they don’t know who’s putting it on them. Tanya says she has the access code to the new COMTRON bubble memory chip, and so she plans to steal it before they scram. Tanya decides that they’ll fly out of town that night, after she gets the plans and Wilson kills Knight.

After the COMTRON goons give up and turn in, KITT stirs to life and crashes out of the building, and then drives straight to the jail. At the front desk, Wilson is using a forged or bribed court order for Knight’s release, with the intent of offing Knight once he’s out of jail. Just in time, KITT crashes right through the wall of the jail, straight into Knight’s cell.! Pretty cool trick, knowing exactly where Michael’s cell was from the outside of the building. Knight and KITT drive away, and Wilson hops into his COMTRON security car with Gray to give pursuit.

Knight and KITT arrive back at COMTRON, and Knight uses KITT’s ejection seat to send him shooting up 100 feet to the roof of the building. A random security guard notices the car outside, and uses his walkie-talkie to alert Tanya and the rest of the COMTRON security forces.

Knight makes it inside, and finds his way to the CEO’s office, somehow intuiting that Tanya will also be heading there. He hears a noise before he gets whatever it is he’s looking for—because, realistically, he has no way of knowing what Tanya is trying to steal. So he hides. Tanya enters, gun drawn (and sans bra, just couldn’t help but notice). She sets down her gun and takes the bubble memory plans, saved on a 5 1/4” floppy disc [!]. So the bubble memory plans must be less than 360 KB, unless they notched the disc with a hole punch and saved information on both sides.

Knight uses her gun to stop her, at least momentarily. Tanya promises to pay him more than whoever he’s working for, but Knight is interested in revenge, not money. He threatens to shoot her, saying that “it’s not a starry night in Nevada, but it will hurt just as much!” Tanya puts two and two together, and figures out that Michael Knight is really Michael Long.

Just in time, another security guard comes in, and he shoots Knight in the left shoulder. The guard gets the worst part of the deal, though, because he catches a slug in the chest for his troubles—at least I think he does. Then again, Knight wasn’t known for killing people in the series. In any case, he’s just gone suddenly, and Knight is able to walk, er, stumble, out of the room without any problems.

Security is alerted by the gunshots, so Knight incapacitates another guard and steals his uniform, figuring he can sneak out of the building that way. Meanwhile, Tanya has left the building. She hops in her car and heads for the airfield.

Out in the parking lot, Knight, in his guard costume, encounters the guard that originally discovered KITT in the parking lot. Unfortunately, the guards inside have figured out that Knight is wearing one of their uniforms, and they announce that fact over their walkie-talkies. The outside guard stops Knight at gunpoint, and radios in that he’s captured the fugitive.

Knight uses the old “don’t look behind you” ploy, and KITT comes to life and charges toward the guard. The seat-suit Muppet driver is really apparent in this scene, if you know what to look for. The guard gives up, Knight gets in KITT, and they drive off.

Knight Rider "Knight of the Phoenix" (part 4 of 4)

More guards with cars try to block the entrance to the COMTRON facility. The guards shoot like crazy at KITT, to no effect, and then KITT drives right through one of the cars! A big, pretty explosion results.

Back on the highway, Knight’s shoulder wound has switched to his right shoulder for some reason. (Actually, the reason is that this scene was shot before the rest of the pilot, as part of the pitch for the network. So it’s not quite as bad a goof as you might think.) Knight tells KITT he’s sorry for the way he’s treated him so far, since he’s figuring on dying from his wound pretty soon. KITT is scanning his vitals and more or less agrees, saying Knight should get to a hospital ASAP. Knight refuses to go, wanting to finish the job. KITT contacts Devon, who’s in the private jet en route to Millston, via the “microwave mobile line”. See, I knew KITT had a phone! Maybe Knight was using the pay phone before to avoid those 1982 roaming charges.

Once Devon answers the phone, Knight’s wound changes back to the left shoulder. Knight fills Devon in on the espionage case, and asks Devon to call in the state police and FBI to apprehend Wilson and Tanya. KITT tells Devon about Knight’s condition, but as unlikely as it is for him to be able to finish his mission, Knight refuses to let KITT take over.

Wilson is now in a helicopter, directing goons from the air. He gets all the COMTRON trucks out on the roads ready to help him out. Turns out another one of the hick drivers from the demolition derby is driving one of the trucks, too. He’s only too happy to try to smash Knight and his stupid indestructible car. What a coincidence.

Hick driver pulls his semi across the road to try to block Knight’s way, but of course Knight just guns it right at the truck. KITT is worried about this for a while, which doesn’t make too much sense for a car that just smashed through cement walls at the jail. KITT engages the “turbo boost”, and they blast right through the trailer and continue on. Good thing the truck was carrying boxes of Styrofoam peanuts.

Knight Rider "Knight of the Phoenix" (part 4 of 4)

Knight’s wound switches back to the right shoulder, and KITT is mad at him for the whole driving-through-the-truck thing. Then there’s a tender moment where Knight admits that he really cares for KITT. Yuck.

Now Wilson orders another truck to ram Knight head on, with a bounty of $15,000 for the deed. Another hick driver bargains it up to $25,000, and agrees to try. Gray, in the helicopter with Wilson, hands him a shotgun to use just in case the ramming doesn’t work out.

Left shoulder.

KITT wants to take over, since Knight is starting to fade out due to the injury, but can’t as long as Knight is conscious and in the driver’s seat. Asking KITT for any last words, Knight drives right at the truck, floors it, and jumps right over the top of the truck!

Finally, Gray lowers the helicopter and Wilson takes a shot at KITT. The shotgun blast ricochets off KITT, bounces back, and damages the helicopter! Gray refuses to come in for another shot, and instead heads for the airport. That’s where Tanya was heading, and KITT/Knight head for there as well.

Gray manages to land the smoking helicopter, and all the bad guys get ready to hop on a waiting private jet. Knight pursues the jet down the runway in KITT, and plays chicken with the jet! He clips the wing, causing the jet to catch on fire and explode. The three principle baddies make it out of the jet in time, but are thrown to the tarmac when the jet goes up.

As Knight pulls up, Tanya runs over with her gun and tries to pull off a KITT-jacking. She forgets that the windows are bulletproof, and ends up shooting herself with the ricochet. KITT takes Knight off to the hospital, just as the police show up to take in the surviving criminals.

Knight Rider "Knight of the Phoenix" (part 4 of 4)

Later, Knight is getting out of the hospital, and Maggie is in the room with him. They’re doing the “parting is sweet sorrow” thing, which ends with a tender hug and a promise to come back and visit someday.

Later on, Knight and Devon are in KITT, which is being towed away. Apparently, Knight managed to actually dent the car! Knight and Devon get on the Knight private jet, and finally fully discuss the mission that Knight was intended for: being a vigilante in an indestructible car, roaming the country, righting wrongs, etc. Devon plays it a little coy, as if he doesn’t want Knight to agree to the job, but ultimately, they toast to the beginning of their partnership.

Knight Rider "Knight of the Phoenix" (part 4 of 4)

And, in fact, it was a pretty good partnership at that. The pilot episode was accepted by the network, and the first regular episode of the series aired on October 1st, 1982. The series ran for four years, 84 episodes, with the last regular episode airing in April of 1986. There was a TV movie in 1991 (which was included on the season one DVD set), a sort-of in-name-only reboot TV movie in 1994 and a follow-on one-season series in 1997. Most people are probably aware of the re-revived 2008 series. And now there’s another movie in development. Clearly, something about the idea of a lone crime fighter, partnered with a talking, indestructible car, strikes a chord with the American public.

In any event, the pilot from way back in 1982 was certainly some goofy fun. Maybe as we work our way through the series, we’ll get a better idea about what makes the premise so attractive to the folks in Hollywood. Or maybe we’ll just have some more fun spotting Muppet stunt drivers. Who knows? Next up, the first regular episode, “Deadly Maneuvers”!

Mark M. Meysenburg

Mark teaches at Doane College, a liberal arts college in Crete, Nebraska. Most of his teaching involves computer science, but Mark also occasionally teaches mathematics and the history of science; he has also been known to offer three week courses on the worst movies ever made.

Mark’s bad movie obsession was kindled in the early 1980s by the Medved brothers, then fanned to full flame by late-night showings of Plan 9 from Outer Space. Who could have predicted the long term effects of satin-pajama-clad, mincing alien menace?

Mark’s other interests include homebrew beer and wine, and practicing and teaching martial arts.

Multi-Part Article: Knight Rider "Knight of the Phoenix"
TV Show: Knight Rider

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  • OKR Fan

    There is a missing scene in the second part. I recall seeing KITT put into a truck to be taken back to the foundation yet this appears nowhere in the pilot episode.

  • Casandro

    Well 2 little Nitpicks. First of all those red lights were made to look like light-bulbs, LEDs wouldn’t have faded that nicely. Back then LEDs stood for quick digital displays without delays.

    Then microprocessors are still used today. The CPU inside your computer is a microprocessor just like the ones in your C64… just a considerably larger one since 30 years have passed and microprocessors are now developed with much greater resources. The term was used to differentiate micro-computers (which were just a few boards) from mini-computers (which occupied a whole rack and had the microprocessor spread out to multiple chips).

    BTW Hasselhoff recently talked about a few women in east Berlin in the late 1980s (when the wall fell) and they didn’t know Knight Rider. I did some research and the reason why that is is simple and astounding. Knight Rider didn’t air on West German television until the 1990s, and most places in East Germany only got West German TV. (It neither aired on East German TV, but that was communistic anyhow) If you wanted to see that show in West Germany, you had to turn to a Luxembourgian channel called RTLplus which aired a German dub, or if you lived in the Southern half and were lucky, you could watch it on Austrian television.

    • CaptainCalvinCat

      Erm – not that correct. Knight Rider was aired in Germany mid-80s (1985 to be exact) via RTL-plus, which later became just “RTL”.