Dalton's Code Of Vengeance and Knight Rider

Dalton's Code Of Vengeance (1986)
Knight Rider (1982-1986)
Type: Spin Off

    Didn't know there was a Knight Rider spin off that didn't involve a talking car, didja? Okay, those two guys in the back knew. And yet do you two feel shame or pride over that? A little of both I'd guess. Rare knowledge brings pride but if you know about THIS... well I'm guessing there is shame and pain too.

    So. Knight Rider. David Hasselhoff in all his 80s hoary glory. Black pants, black shirt way too open showing way too much chesty Hasselhair, black leather jacket, too big 80s shades, a permy curly head of hair... all too familiar all too... Hasselhoff. The Hoff plays Michael Knight, a man who fights evil with the help of his indestructible, artificially intelligent Trans Am named KITT. So, you know, a critically acclaimed classic that was the public didn't exactly warm too. Wait. Strike that, reverse it.

    In a two episode extravaganza... wait... let me check on the meaning of extrava... no wait... I meant debacle. In a two episode debacle, Knight Rider introduced the character of David Dalton who wanted to spin off into his own show very badly... and did so a little too literally. The story starts as all good adventure stories do, confusing and ahot in almost total darkness. At the start we see a guy we don't know sneaking onto a ship in the middle of the night to try to loot a safe for God knows what. Later we find out this is Dalton but at the start, not so much. Then we cut from that to another guy spying on trucks apparently sneaking something over the border from Mexico. He gets killed. What is it all about? We dunno. And even when we do know it doesn't feel like we do... doesn't feel worth the bother.

    Okay. Let me try to sum the basic plot up. The guy spying? He is... was a reporter. His widow, Joanna St. John, asks Michael Knight to help find out why her husband was killed. The bad guys it turns out are smuggling gold, people, weapons and Virgin Mary chachkis into the US. Okay, the Mary statues are used to HIDE some of the stuff being smuggled. (Based on TV apparently all smuggled items are hidden in Virgin Mary statues.) The plan is to dig a tunnel into a military base so they can steal new tech weapons. Not that it really matters. At least it doesn't seem to from the flow of the episode.

    Okay. Michael starts investigating the case and starts running into the mysterious David Dalton. We really don't know anything about him at the start of the story... or in the middle... or at the end. We know he is seemingly super human. He can jump off of the roof of a two story building and land on the ground without injury. He can leap from one side to another over a car. And I don't mean jump over and his heels scuff the roof a bit. Noooo. He gets serious air. At some points he needs the help of bouncy mini-trampolines to leap up to a second story window. At other points unaided he can leap over a one story tall fence. How can he DO those things? What is his secret? Hell if I can tell you. Michael finally confronts Dalton and we get a little info. Dalton is working with someone in the government as a secret agent taking down creeps. So... sort of like Michael. Michael realizes they are on the same side, both going after the same bad guy and so recommends they team up. Dalton refuses. He works alone! Then in the very next scene Dalton utterly changes his mind for no real reason.

    What else do we learn about the new guy? Well, everything else we learn is more implied stuff. He seems to be a health nut, working out and not allowing any food with preservatives into his body. He also generally doesn't drink. Joanna also guesses that he was in a foreign prison and that his government friend saved him. That's a weird moment too. It is clear to us that she is making an educated guess based on some things he is saying. But he freaks out asking if she has seen his files or something. Calm down, nutbar, she GUESSED. Genius, ever hear of a poker face? Get one. It also seems that Dalton is not good with computers. He says so a number of times. Then he does things with computers that aren't possible. Like he somehow gets a crappy 80s computer to instantly transmit all of its data to KITT. That seems unlikely enough but even more amazing he does it by hitting a single key! Seems pretty damn good with computers if you ask me.

    These episodes are just weird. It feels halfway like a backdoor pilot for a new spin off show and halfway feels like a crossover with a show already on the air. With a backdoor pilot, usually the show will introduce us to a brand new character. Not only that, the story will usually really tell us a lot about the character, demonstrate what sort of stories he's involved in. The idea is this is a new character we don't know so they really have to establish him so we know who he is, what he's about and will follow him to the new show. And usually the main characters of the original show almost entirely disappear so that the new character can take center stage. That is who they are trying to sell after all. On the other hand with a crossover things run differently. The point isn't about introducing a new character. It's about us getting to see two established characters from different shows working closely together. Since both characters are known elements there's no big need to explain them to us too much. They just need to sketch in the basics of who they are. We want to see a lot of both of them as a team. And with action shows, since they are supposedly bringing together two really powerful heroes the threat they are facing should be BIG. It has to be something worthy of the heroes teaming up. And, actually, even with the spin off setup the villain should be really major too. I mean, you're selling us on the hero so the villain should be impressive.

    This story though seems to pick bits from the crossover and the spin off setup in a bad way. We are being introduced to a new character we need to get to know so we will follow him to the new show. But they give us the crossover-style minimum back story, as if we should know the details of who he is. Only we don't know this yahoo. And then they make a lot of noise about our heroes teaming up. Only when the plot really gets going that teaming up ends up with them splitting up and each doing something different. We don't get to see them work together almost at all. This is partly because they are doing the spin off thing of minimizing Michael Knight to give David Dalton more of the spotlight. Michael Knight gets to do crap. He is sent off to tail some of the bad guys trucks. And he does. For two days and the better part of two episodes. He doesn't confront or fight them. He just tails them. Whoopee. And then when he does return they have to break into the bad guy's house, get to his computer. Because Dalton is bad with computers they decide he should be the one to break in and... work with the computer. See, the idea is he is going to transmit the data to KITT, like I mentioned earlier. KITT is a more complicated computer so he wants Michael to handle the more complicated computer... that is super smart and doesn't need a human to work it. It makes no sense but it provides an excuse to show Dalton in action and for Michael to sit in a car.

    Speaking of action, there is also very little of that in this story. Not good when you are selling a new action hero. At the start there's some. And at the end too. I mean, you kind of have to have action at the end. But the middle... 70 minutes? Not much action. A lot of talking. How not-action-packed is it? You can SEE them trying to do things to make the show seem more action packed. Their main trick? Whenever possible, add running. There is a scene where Michael and Dalton are breaking into a warehouse. They have some dialogue as they are breaking in. Normally you might show the heroes sneaking up all stealthy to the door with them talking while sneaking and opening the lock on the door. Here they have Michael and Dalton run up to the warehouse from a good distance away, run all the way up to the door, shouting dialogue AS they run. Oookay. Then later there is a scene where the main villain gets into Dalton's hotel room. They keep crosscutting between the bad guy and Dalton supposedly to build tension. Every time they cut to Dalton? He's out running. You know, just for the sake of exercise. Again and again they cut to looong shots of Dalton slowly but surely running down the beach, across the street and, finally, back to the hotel. I can't explain how much running there was. Really. Dalton is a runner and jumper more than a fighter.

    Another bad sign? The commercial breaks. The rule of thumb with action shows is you want to go to the commercial break on a moment of tension. Some exciting moment where you have to come back to see what happens next. What moments do they go to commercial on here? Dalton says he doesn't want to team up and Michael sort of stands there going, "Huh," as KITT tells Michael, with no sense of urgency, they should leave because the police will be arriving shortly. Michael and Dalton hide in a warehouse and see bad things happening but are in no apparent danger of being caught. After the commercial they're not even at the warehouse anymore. Next, Dalton breaks into the bad guy's office and searches his computer (which he has no skills at) and we go to break on him writing down some notes with no threat that he's in any danger of being caught. Just go to break with him scribbling on a post-it. Then the first episode ends. This should be a CLIFFHANGER! Instead it is Dalton saying how they need to get the combination to that safe he tried to break into and Joanna implying she could get it. WOW! How can I NOT tune back in? Then in part two we have Michael watching as illegal Mexican's are threatened. He remains safe as he hides cowering under a truck but in no real danger. But wait! The next one is actually what an act break should be! Dalton and Joanna are caught by the bad guys! And yet... they still blow it. They could end on the villain saying something threatening. But do they? Nope. Joanna is schmoozing the villain, then he turns her around to see that Dalton has been caught and that the villains know she's in on what is going on. Then they stand around in awkward silence for 5 seconds while any dramatic tension seeps away aaaaand... go to commercial! Finally they go to the last break on Michael driving KITT to stop the bad guys who are about to bomb a military instillation but... they really haven't gotten going on that yet.

    The episode ends with us finally getting to meet Dalton's boss Archibald and getting a final twist to supposedly lead us into the spin off. Archibald talks with Joanna and convinces her to become the new member of the team. So much for working alone! And I have to say, Joanna's a weird one too. Her husband is killed. Then in the course of the show she has to seriously flirt with and date the bad guy who caused her husband's death. She also flirts up a storm with Dalton. From the time her husband dies to the end of the episode is about four days! What the hell? I might not have noticed it but for the fact that they point it out! I'm not sure why. Dalton makes a comment about her flirting with her husband's killer and she starts crying. Then he tells her he didn't mean to insult her but that it must be tough to do. Only, aside from that moment when she breaks down... she seems to be pretty good okay with flirting with two men while her husband's body is still warm.

    As I've said repeatedly, they really are very vague in the episodes about David Dalton. Why does he have apparent super powers? What is his story? Well, I think I might know why. I think there was a writer who created the character of David Dalton with very specific ideas of who he was and a desire to get a show about him on the air. And he gets the chance to debut the character on Knight Rider, maybe get him a series. My guess though would be that other people in power behind the scenes had other ideas about who David Dalton should be and likely pushed those ideas on David's creator. So now he's in a fix. If he doesn't play along and do what they want he might not get a chance to get his character on the air at all. So he hedges his bets. He makes David sort almost a super hero in his abilities but he doesn't really acknowledge them in any dialogue. He leaves his past fuzzy. In other words, he leaves himself a lot of room to remake the character the way HE wants him later on. Of course he also left him a vague mystery without much of a hook to want to see him again. The reason I feel this is what might have happened is because of the direction the spin off show went in.

    Dalton returned to TV in two TV movies (two more pilot attempts?) and then finally in a very short lived series called Dalton's Code Of Vengeance (Or just Code Of Vengeance). How short was the series? So short that the first film cut in half represented about haolf of the whole series. And things were a lot different than what we saw on Knight Rider. Joanna? Gone. Archibald? Goodbye. He was now a Vietnam vet who had honed his body into the peak of physical condition who wandered the country helping people in the tradition of The Hulk, Route 66... I haven't been able to see enough of Code Of Vengeance to know whether his "peak physical condition" still meant he had crazy impossible physical abilities. But one scene viewable on You Tube suggests they were maybe trying to cut the connection of the new David Dalton to the version of the character who appeared on Knight Rider. One scene on Code Of Vengeance featured a character watching an episode of Knight Rider on TV. Now there are many cases of shows crossing over and then having one show acknowledge the other as fictional. Just one of those things. Normally I just chalk them up as a small inconsistency that you have to ignore. But in this case it could be a small gesture to say, okay, this is not the same universe as Knight Rider and this is not the same David Dalton from that show.

    Wow. All that writing about a show most people aren't even aware of. This article might actually be longer than the whole of the Code Of Vengeance series!

Other Knight Rider Crossover Links
Knight Rider and Knight Rider (2008)
Knight Rider and Las Vegas
Knight Rider and Team Knight Rider

Click here to return to main Crossover List

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