Knight Rider writer and co-executive producer Matt Pyken is this week’s contributor to NBC’s Knight Writers Blog. The focus is last night’s episode Knight Fever, which he describes as “easily the most frustrating episode of the season”… which goes some way to explain why the second episode filmed — originally scheduled to air in early October — has been delayed and delayed until it finally saw the light of day on New Year’s Eve.
“The idea was to have Kitt contract a tech-eating virus (think Ebola for machines) and nearly die,” Pyken says. “Well, that’s what we shot and planned to put on screen -– the special effects were another matter entirely. Turns out it’s harder to make a virus look cool on screen than we ever expected. Two special effects teams and seven months later, we sort of realized that less is more. The virus you see now is the result.”
The original series had its share of episodes that were filmed early on and delayed until later in their respective seasons (Inside Out, A Plush Ride, Big Iron, Out of the Woods), but episodic TV in the mid-1980s didn’t develop characters from episode to episode in the same way as shows do today. How would this episode, written and filmed when the production team — and actors — were new to the characters slot in to the present continuity? It turns out that this was one of the major obstacles they had to overcome, and it involved extensive rewriting.
“We shot this episode way back in July, well before Kitt developed his current ‘personality,'” Pyken explains. “He was supposed to be a little more robotic and so Mike’s and Sarah’s responses to him in the original script were more like that of a big brother or big sister talking to their much younger, far less experienced sibling. But now the episode airs as number ten, and Kitt’s AI is much more developed. The solution? Re-write all of Kitt’s dialogue to fit. Easy, right? Think again. Imagine you were having a conversation with your seven year-old brother, then you have exactly the same conversation six months later –- except the seven year-old is now eighteen. I doubt the answers would be the same, (though I gotta admit, I’m still kinda the same dude I was when I was seven). Anyway, we’ve already shot both Mike’s and Sarah’s sides of the conversations -– way back in July. But now we have to change Kitt’s entire attitude — his point of view, his ‘feelings’ about what’s taking place. All new dialogue. It took some doing.”
The question is, did it work?
“In the end, I think turning episode 2 into episode 10 ended up falling under the banner of the ‘law of unintended consequences’ — meaning it turns out it makes more sense in the new slot than the old,” Pyken says. “We know Kitt really well by now, and we understand how much he means to Mike and Sarah and vice-versa. And despite Mike and Sarah’s relative coolness toward one another lately, it’s clear their love and friendship is still rock solid.”
If you missed last (K)night’s show because of New Year commitments, be sure to check it out at NBC.com. Big changes next week as the series moves into the business-end of the season and hits the highly-publicised ‘reboot’ button.