“Knight Rider…a shadowy flight into the dangerous world of a man who does not exist. Michael Knight, a young loner on a crusade to champion the cause of the innocent, the helpless, the powerless, in a world of criminals who operate above the law.”
-Knight Rider’s opening narration.
In Knight Rider’s (1982 – 1986) two-part episode, “Goliath,” Michael Knight (David Hasselhoff) challenges a villain who has the same face: Garthe Knight (also played Hasselhoff).
The evil Knight, is son of the Knight Foundation’s philanthropist, Wilton, and in cahoots with his mother, Elizabeth (Barbara Rush) on a secret mission.
Specifically, Garthe and Elizabeth hope to steal the plans for K.I.T.T.’s “molecular bonded shell plating,” the very aspect of the advanced car that makes him so impervious to damage and attack.
The evil duo plots to build a new vehicle, a giant, 22 ton semi-truck called “Goliath,” and -- once it is equipped with the shell plating -- penetrate a top secret base in the desert, one that possess dangerous missiles.
Michael and K.I.T.T. attempt to stop Garthe and his plans, but Garthe feels that Michael is a “living, breathing insult” to his existence, and plots to destroy him.
K.I.T.T. battles Goliath in a dangerous and ill-fated first engagement, but comes back strong for a second time…even as Garthe and Michael go head to head…
You just have to love a series in which cars and people alike possess evil doppelgangers or twins.
Earlier in the week, I reviewed one of the episodes featuring K.I.T.T.'s nasty twin, K.A.R.R., but today I remember this epic two-parter, which establishes the goatee-wearing Garthe Knight as Michael’s “antithesis,” his twisted, evil reflection.
In the case of “Goliath,” there’s actually a good reason why Michael so closely resembles Garthe. Garthe is the son of Wilton Knight and has been spending time in prison…three life sentences to be precise. Michael’s face, you my recall, was reconstructed by the Knight Foundation in the pilot episode. We learn in this episode that the model for that surgery was…Garthe.
That’s a good explanation, and it doesn’t rate as terribly unbelievable. Since Michael has Wilton’s last name, it makes sense, in some way, that he would also have the face of his benefactor’s beloved (if wayward…) son too. Michael is the son that Wilton wanted; Garthe is the one that he ended up with.
“Goliath” is structured so that a major battle recurs.
At the end of part one, K.I.T.T. and Goliath play chicken, headed straight for one another on a desert road. K.I.T.T. gets struck by heavily armored truck, and is damaged badly. “I’m afraid we zigged when we should have zagged,” he reports to Michael.
Echoing the earlier confrontation, the finale of the second part features a rematch between the two vehicles (and their crack’d mirror drivers). In this case, of course, K.I.T.T. is triumphant, utilizing a laser to pinpoint Goliath’s weak spot. The results of the duels (in both cases) are not unexpected, and yet they are well-orchestrated, and surprisingly suspenseful. I remember film and critics of the 1970s and 1980s complaining endlessly about the ubiquitous nature of car chases and car crashes back in the day, but today these clashes are welcome. For one thing, there's no C.G.I. And for another the stunts are beautifully executed and filmed.
Rationally, of course, the audience knows Michael and K.I.T.T. will eventually carry the day, and yet when K.I.T.T. is knocked over on his side and left for dead in the desert, you feel it in your gut.
Just a car? No…he’s a driver (and a kid’s…) best friend.
The most intriguing moment of the whole two-part episode occurs following K.I.T.T.’s injury. He makes a heart-felt query to Michael: “Do you think it is possible I could cease to exist?”
We thus see the self-aware vehicle (personality) reckoning with the idea of his own mortality, and what that could mean.
The Garthe vs. Michael rivalry in "Goliath" is handled with flair, and good stunt doubles for the most part. As Garthe, Hasselhoff actually seems to stand taller, and similarly, is a snazzier dresser. Perhaps it’s just that director Winrich Kolbe picks good angles to show-case the villain, often featuring him in motion, or capturing his action from a slightly lowered (and therefore more imposing) angle.
I watched Knight Rider regularly when I was twelve and thirteen years old, so my affection for it is nostalgic (it brings back good memories), but also technical: I love K.I.T.T. The best stories, I always felt, where those in which K.I.T.T. and Michael had to go up against a vehicle that rival ed K.I.T.T.’s strength. Hence my focus this week on K.A.R.R. and Goliath.
I’m pleased to say that today, “Goliath” retains its entertainment value, and comes off as…very well-assembled.