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Published:March 3rd, 2006 12:03 EST
Viper TV Show History

Viper TV Show History

By Garrett Godwin

One of my favorite cars in the world is a Dodge Viper. My two favorite Vipers are a red RT/10 Roadster and a blue GTS Coupe. What interests me in a Viper sports car is the series tentatively titled Viper.

The series debuted in NBC in January 1994 about a Viper sports car that fights crime in the future. The first series was about Michael Payton, top driver for crime organization "The Outfit." After an accident from a high-speed chase with Metro City Police, doctors put a chip in his brain, erasing memories of his past. Payton was reborn as police officer Joe Astor, the only man capable of handling the Viper and its systems.

To some, the Viper was nothing but a hot rod, but with the flick of a button, it morphs into an silver vehicle known as the Defender. But Astor's past came back to haunt him when his Outfit associates asked to steal the Viper, but he refused, and his girlfriend ends paying the price. When the Viper Project was terminated due to corruption, Joe sets out to steal the Viper and uses it for his fight against the Outfit. With the aid of the car's designer Julian Wilkers and Metro City police mechanic Franklin "Frankie" X. Waters, they set out to clean up the streets of Metro while Joe digs deeper into his past.

The 1994 series revolve around the trio's war against the Outfit, Joe investigating his past, and dodging the police after them. Airing on Friday nights-- where Knight Rider was in the 80s -- Viper had everything. It had a comic-book feeling. Metro City was Gotham City; Joe was Batman, and the Viper/Defender the Batmobile. The Power Station was the Batcave. Viper was sort of like Knight Rider-- except the car didn't talk and the protagonist was a bad guy. Still, the main character was given a new identity, new life, and new mission-- champion of the innocent. Joe, Julian, and Frankie were the main heroes while The Outfit-- headed by powerful businessman Lane Cassidy -- was the main villian. The transformation from Viper to Defender was cool. However, despite amazing special effects and character-driven storylines, Viper was cancelled in April 1994 after 12 episodes.

But the series was revived in syndication in the fall of 1996. The concept was the same, but there were new characters, new stories, and a new team. Thomas Cole was both new driver and leader of the Viper team. Cameron Westlake was the police liason on the project. Dr. Allie Farrow was the systems designer, and Frankie joined the new team. Julian Wilkes took a post in Washington, D.C. and Astor left because he couldn't play by the rules. There was a new Viper with new weapons such as .50 caliber machine guns. Allie left the team a year later and to work for a government think-tank organization in Portugal, and was replaced by FBI Agent Sherman Catlett, who worked with them on several cases. A year later, the Viper was blown up, leading Cole to reassigned from the Viper team.

Julian, the original Viper designer, returned and created an even better Viper-- a blue GTS Coupe. The original Viper driver and leader, Joe Astor, returned to head the team and drive the new Viper. Both Astor and Westlake develop romantic feelings for one another later on the series. In the finale, an electric shock turns Astor back into his former criminal self Payton. But the shock caused an malfunction in the chip in the brain, so it had to be removed or Astor will die. And it was removed by the people turning Michael Payton into Joe Astor. After the surgery, Astor has memories of both his lives. But our hero not only ends up with Westlake, he decided to become Joe Astor-- the man he was always meant to be.

After finally ending in 1999, Viper was aired on USA Network and then the SCIFI Channel for a short time.

What is interesting about the series is due to two things-- the Vipers and the Defender. It is hard to decide if I like the RT/10 Roadster or the GTS Coupe better. They're both great Vipers, not to mention the Defender because it is a sweet and hot ride! Someday, I want to have a Viper, but I can dream, can I?

Thomas Cole was okay, but Joe Astor was the best driver on Viper. I love the 1994 series better because Joe, Julian, and Frankie played by no one's rules but their own, willing to do whatever it takes to bring the bad guys to justice. The syndication show was okay, but the NBC series I'd prefer because every episode was good from beginning to end. They are, according to fans, "classic".

What makes Viper great is because of the story, the characters, and special effects-- not to mention the Defender. It is one of the best action/car shows since Knight Rider (which I like), but even cooler. Viper is a very great show that will be missed, and it is indeed an "classic."