Knight Rider “Knight of the Phoenix” (part 2 of 4)

More unobserved time passes. We learn a little more backstory about Wilton and Devon: They stole a body from a medical school morgue to plant in the location where Long’s body should have been. Later on, Wilton and Devon will mention that Long was specially chosen as just the right kind of man. So, again: Wilton was planning for quite a while to snatch Long and use him in his supercar scheme. Did Long have to be blasted in the face for this to work, though? How could you plan on that? Would Devon have been called on in a pinch to be the trigger man? Yikes!

I suppose the alternative theory, which makes even less sense, is that Wilton is the ultimate opportunist, who’s able to work really, really fast. Once he found out that Long had been shot—how, exactly?—he pounced like a puma. He was able to find someone—a locally available, dead someone—who generally matched Long’s build. And did the police worry about fingerprints? Nah! Why would they use those to ID a guy who had his face blown off?

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An indeterminate amount of time later, Long sneaks into a big warehouse or hangar on the property. The hangar has been hiding something, judging by the uniformed and hard-hatted workers mulling around the doors all the time. Once inside the cavernous, pitch-black space, Long is helpfully lit by a spotlight. Convenient! One of the employees must be on call at all times to run the spot, just in case one of the house guests wanders inside after dark.

Knight Rider "Knight of the Phoenix" (part 2 of 4)

Before Long can make the spotlight handler work too hard by wandering around in the hangar, the now-familiar bank of LEDs suddenly starts swooshing back and forth. Then, the pop-up headlights swing open, and a Batman-like turbine whine begins. The car lurches forward, stopping mere inches from Long’s kneecaps. It’s a good thing the car’s driver is on the ball, because Long clearly doesn’t understand the game of “chicken” very well. He doesn’t move an inch as the car rushes toward him!

Lucky for him, the car screeches to a halt just before it would have run him over. Wilton makes his entrance and turns on the lights. Man, Wilton always knows where Long is, at any given moment, huh? Did he have a tracking chip implanted under Long’s scalp or something? Devon, who was in the car, gets out and chides Long for sneaking around the place uninvited. He has a point.

On the other hand, Devon and Long seem to be having a “who can be the biggest jerk” competition going on here. Long is bitter, arrogant, and disrespectful, while Devon is constantly irritated by Long’s brashness and dangerous impulsive streak. Other than slowly succumbing to his TV disease, Wilton Knight’s principle job is to make peace between the two, like a parent mediating between squabbling siblings.

By now, though, Wilton’s TV disease is apparently at an advanced stage. So, he begins to sketch out the details about his plans for Long. Wilton wants Long to be a crime fighter, taking revenge on criminals too big for the law to handle. Long, who was previously very keen on the idea of taking revenge on Tanya and her crew, drops that idea like a brick and wants to leave. Wilton is clearly disappointed, so he retires to his bed so he can commence to die some more. Before leaving, Wilton instructs Devon to give Long the rundown on the car.

Long recognizes the car as his, although how he’s so sure escapes me. In Vegas, Long’s Trans Am was, naturally, stock, with gold trim paint and decals. This car is a Trans Am, but it’s clearly not stock; it has extra bits that weren’t there beforehand. Also, this car is all black. Even the taillights have been covered with black-smoked plastic lens covers. Maybe Long figures that since Wilton gave him a new face, the car must be the new, improved version of his old car as well?

So, the car. It’s called the “Knight 2000”. Remember when tacking the number “2000” on the end of a product name made it sound oh-so futuristic? And then the folks at Best Brains made sure that we won’t be able to tack “3000” onto anything in any serious manner, so what’s left for us? We’ll just have to come up with some other suffix to indicate futuristic stuff. Or we could go retro! We could just put the word “space” before the words we want to modify! Devon shows Long the space car.

I like it.

No? Well, bah. I’ll just keep using Knight 2000, you old stick in the mud.

The car, then. It’s not made of metal, nor of fiberglass, but of some other, unspecified, nigh-indestructible material. Maybe it’s unobtainium. To begin to give Long an understanding of the capabilities of the car, Devon gives it a good whack with a huge ball-peen hammer, and there’s not a scratch on it afterwards. Intrigued, Long gets in the driver’s seat, and Devon climbs into the passenger side. Once inside, Long is a little puzzled by the new dashboard. “What’s all this? Looks like Darth Vader’s bathroom!”

Knight Rider "Knight of the Phoenix" (part 2 of 4)

Devon gives Long more information about the new, improved car. It’s completely fuel efficient! That would be really amazing, and a blatant violation of the second law of thermodynamics to boot. But sure! Why not? The car is also operated entirely by—can you stand it?—microprocessors! Yeah, that would be awesome! An indestructible Trans Am controlled by the brains of a Commodore-64 or a TRS-80!

As Devon continues, it becomes obvious that Wilton’s engineers could do a lot more with a 6510 and 64K of RAM than I ever believed possible. The car is not only controlled by a computer. It’s controlled by a thinking computer! The car won’t let itself become involved in a collision with anything else. Unless the driver asks it to, of course.

That’ll never happen.

Long acts condescending towards Devon when he tries to explain more about how to drive the car. Snarkily telling Devon that the knows how the accelerator works, he floors it and the Knight 2000 hurtles forward, right towards the doors of the hangar. The car blasts through the doors, completely unscathed. The car, that is. The doors are pretty messed up.

Turns out the fancy-pants “never allow a collision” system was turned off. Doh! But come to think of it, how would the car know if the driver meant to hit something or not? Does this mean it can read minds, too? Aieeeee! Devil car! Burn it!

Not that fire would do any good.

Long takes the car out on the highways, speeding the whole time. While watching the car, you may notice that during this episode, the front of the car changes appearance frequently. Sometimes the LEDs are on, sometimes off; sometimes the car has a bank of fog lights, sometimes it doesn’t. During the filming of the pilot, they were still trying to figure out the final configuration of the car.

As Long rushes up behind a semi, a light on the dash shows that the car has switched to “Auto Cruise” mode, which means that the computer has taken over. Long and Devon are helpless passengers as the car pushes up to 150 mph and passes the truck. After passing the semi, control is returned to Long, and he pulls over. He’s not happy with the car, saying that he likes to make his own decisions. Devon explains that the car deduced an unsafe situation (running into the back of a truck), and took over to protect them.

When Long asks why the car passed the truck instead of slowing down, Devon says he thinks the car was showing off for them! Marvelous. An indestructible, sentient, mind-reading, exhibitionist car. This car is only a step or two away from becoming Skynet.

Back at the estate, Wilton Knight is finally succumbing to his TV disease. He’s all dewy and stuff! Yuk! Long, not exactly grasping the situation, says that Wilton should put the car on the market, in order to save thousands of lives. You really think so? I think cars would be offing pedestrians for fun within a month.

Wilton is bitter, however, because once upon a time somebody stole some of his inventions. Much like Tanya and Wilson stole computer chip plans from Acton, the owner of Consolidated Chemical. Remember that plot? We’ll rejoin Tanya and Wilson eventually, but we still have an elderly industrialist to kill off first.

Wilton gives Long his great commission, charging Long to be an agent of good in the car. “One man can make a difference!” Well, one man plus a supercar, that’s for sure. Wilton reaches out a shaking hand, and dies. Bye, Richard Basehart!

Knight Rider "Knight of the Phoenix" (part 2 of 4)

After another indeterminate amount of time, but at least long enough for a change of clothes, Long bursts back in to the hangar. Now that he’s seen the car, he’s back on track for revenge against Tanya and Wilson. Devon follows, letting Long know that Tanya is working in a place called—air quotes, please—“Silicon Valley”.

Devon pretends he wants to stop Long from leaving, but the facade doesn’t last long. He provides Long with a new identity: Michael Knight. Michael Long is officially dead, thanks to the replacement body. Knight hops in the car and heads out, and presumably he raises the hangar door beforehand this time. Or he just drives through the existing hole. Whatever.

Once he’s gone, Devon looks up to the sky, and intones that Wilton knew all of this would happen. “Oh, Wilton, what have you gotten me into?” Again, it’s apparent that Long/Knight was specifically chosen by Wilton, precisely because he’s sort of a jerk with a huge independent streak. So why is Devon constantly surprised when everything goes as planned? Whiner.

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"

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