The 1994 made-for-television movie Knight Rider 2010 was part of the Universal Action Pack, a weekend edition of two-hour backdoor pilots for potential weekly series in syndication filled with adventure, fantasy, romance, humor, handsome heroes, and strong and feminine heroines. Knight Rider 2010 was the second attempt of continuing the Knight Rider legacy following 1991’s Knight Rider 2000.
Set in a deserted future, the movie followed smuggler Jake McQueen (Richard Joseph Paul) and his Marshal brother Will (Michael Beach, ER, Third Watch) seeking revenge against the man (Mark Pellegrino, Supernatural, Lost) that murdered their father. Knight Rider 2010 was also an unique love story between Jake and Hannah (Hudson Leick, Xena: Warrior Princess), who becomes a phoenix in a different way — guiding her love to champion the cause of the innocent, the helpless, the powerless.
Like Knight Rider 2000, Knight Rider 2010 did well the ratings, but the majority didn’t like this new version, and it wasn’t picked up as a series. However, Michael P. Owen is one of the few that liked this new twist into the Knight Rider legacy.
Were your a fan of Knight Rider before this film?
Michael P. Owen: Yes. I watched Knight Rider since its two-hour pilot movie aired in 1982. I purchased the novelization of the pilot movie right before or right after the movie aired. I still have the book.
Knight Rider 2010 has been criticized heavily by KR fans for not having any connection to the original — except the title, “a young loner on a crusade”, and “One man can make a difference”. So, why are you one of the only few that loved this movie?
Michael P. Owen: I enjoyed automotive combat movies and television shows for many years, whether collision-only battles, low-tech combat as in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior or fully-armed combat such shown in Damnation Alley, MegaForce, Street Hawk and the James Bond movie series.
I started playing the automotive combat board game Car Wars in 1986. Since that time, I have been a devoted fan of all types of automotive combat media. Many Car Wars fans enjoyed the Knight Rider series because the vehicles had many of the features in the game they played (weapons, armor and exotic gadgets on vehicles).
I still have the 1993 article from TV Guide about the production of Knight Rider 2010. Rob Cohen had two comments about Knight Rider 2010 in the article:
“It will be an unrequited love story between a man and his machine,” says Rob Cohen. “We’re reinventing the show, just as (director) Tim Burton reinvented the classic Batman character for his movie.”
The schematic of the new car shown in the article suggested the car was armed and armored. Because I was a long-time fan of the automotive combat genre, I was looking forward to the Knight Rider 2010 pilot movie.
Two attributes of Knight Rider 2010 are the reasons why I enjoy the movie very much. First, watching fully-armed and armored cars in automotive combat on a television screen was an enjoyable experience. Second, the show was about the love between a father and son. Zeke built a beautiful engine for his son even when he was dying. Jake was distant from his adoptive father but had deep love for him because of the anger he showed when Zeke passed away during his battles with Robert Lee and Jared.
Knight Rider 2010 did have two connections of the original series. Knight Rider featured a armored, high-performance car that had an artificial intelligence who could talk. Knight Rider 2010 also had an armored, high-performance car that had a voice. The difference was the source of the voice was an actual person inside a computer. Jake followed a one-man crusade to take down a organ theft operation from a powerful corporation. Law enforcement did not exist in Zion and on the border. Jake stepped into the role of a lone defender.
The film premiered the same year that Viper debuted on NBC, about a Viper sports car that turns into the Defender to fight crime. Knight Rider 2010‘s Jake McQueen and Viper‘s Michael Payton/Joe Astor started out as criminals who are the best on four wheels, but switched sides as lone crusaders for justice. Which one would you prefer and why?
Michael P. Owen: I would say Viper is only slight better than Knight Rider 2010 because the computer concepts presented in Viper were more realistic than Knight Rider 2010. At the time of Knight Rider 2010, the Web was in its early years. Cyberspace and cyberpunk concepts such as black ICE and “ghostcomps” (a consciousness inside a computer) were not well known outside the science fiction community. If Knight Rider 2010 were to be made today, the way how Hannah becomes a ghostcomp would probably be better described than a crystal. Knight Rider 2010 is better than Viper because it has more of a Mad Max feel with lower technology on the cars.
Knight Rider 2010 didn’t make the cut with TekWar, Vanishing Son, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, and Xena: Warrior Princess as a weekly syndicated series for the Universal Action Pack. Had it been picked up as a series, what do you think that Knight Rider 2010 the two-hour pilot and Knight Rider 2010 the series would be about?
Michael P. Owen: The answer to this question may have been answered three years after the airing of the Knight Rider 2010 television movie. The automotive combat computer game Interstate ’76 was released by Activision in 1997. In the U.S. Southwest, law enforcement was corrupt. Ordinary citizens armed and armored their cars to fight criminals who terrorized the region.
A Knight Rider 2010 television series would probably be like Interstate ’76 or The A-Team. Jake would be frequently evading law enforcement while trying to fight criminals on the border. Clues to plots would be found in cyberspace where Hannah could help Jake navigate. Jake’s brother would “officially” have to attempt to fight Jake but would covertly provide assistance.
Will McQueen stated at the end of the movie Jake would be arrested if he entered The Dome again. Will and Hannah (in cyberspace) could help find information in The Dome for Jake. Jake might have to return to smuggling occasionally to financially support his crusade of justice. Use of offensive and defensive weapons during smuggling runs was a concept presented years later in the Smuggler’s Run console and computer games.
In your opinion, what would the writers and producers should have done to improve Knight Rider 2010? In other words, what ties should the movie had to the mythology?
Michael P. Owen: I understand the deep passion of Knight Rider fans towards the original series. I still enjoy the original Knight Rider. However, I liked the attempt to create a new approach to a show featuring a talking car that is armed and armored.
The presentation of computers and cyberspace needed to have been improved in Knight Rider 2010. How these ideas were presented was understandable because of Internet use by the general public was in its early years.
The four TekWar television movies, the Johnny Mnemonic movie and the William Gibson novels Neuromancer and Burning Chrome have better representations of cyberspace than in Knight Rider 2010 (Knight Rider may also find the roleplaying game books GURPS Cyberpunk and OGL Cybernet useful for reading about cyberpunk ideas.).
Making a direct connection between the original Knight Rider series and Knight Rider 2010 would have been difficult. I liked Knight Rider 2010 was inspired by the original series, but was not a sequel to it.
Why do you think the world still loves Knight Rider after almost three decades?
Michael P. Owen: Knight Rider had a fast car with heavy armor, James Bond-style gadgets, a talking computer who was often smarter than its impulsive driver and a mobile repair shop (the Foundation for Law & Government semi). How could this combination not be timeless? I wish multiple KARRs and Goliaths would have been created to give KITT and Michael serious challenges more often.
In recent years, Knight Rider 2010 hasn’t been re-broadcast or released on DVD, but it can be found at the channel of YouTube user bunciaknconquer’s.
You can also read my article about it at either Newsblaze (NB) or The Student Operated Press (SOP).