Knight Rider At 30: First Impressions

by Wyatt Bloom
“Knight Rider. A shadowy flight into the dangerous world of 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.”

It has been 30 years since we first heard those words dictated over the synthesizers, bass guitars, electric guitars, and a turbine-enhanced engine. Three decades ago, we were introduced to a man who lost his identity and was given a new lease on life. This new opportunity of a lifetime also introduced us to the world’s strongest, safest, most efficient car.

Racing upon Michael Knight with its hypnotizing red sensor light, the children of the 80s were introduced to what looked like “Darth Vader’s bathroom.” Filled with lights, buttons, and two monitor screens, we were captivated and salivating over the complexity and sheer genius of K.I.T.T. the talking car.

In the first episode, we learned that a 1982 Pontiac Trans Am was able to drive itself.  This car did not merely chauffeur Michael Knight from point A to B, rather it had a human personality that was able to feel offended and defending itself. An example of the latter, after taking car thieves on a rather interesting and comical ride, this intriguing personality was only a glimpse of what this car was capable of doing.

As the episode unfolds, we learn that the car can actually speak! Startling Michael Knight, we hear those unforgettable and unmistakable words, “I am the voice of the Knight Industries Two Thousand’s microprocessor.  K-I-T-T for easy reference.  KITT if you prefer.”  And if this wasn't the icing on the proverbial cake, we later discover that KITT has another impressive feature… Turbo Boost! How amazing and how captivated were you when you saw that jet black T-top jettison over the entire length of the Comtron tractor-trailer?

The complexity that was written into this two hour premiere was sheer genius. Coupled with a vehicle that was equally (if not more so) complex and a multi-million dollar man and his foundation whose sole purpose is to help people fight against those that worked the system and  you have the ingredients for a captivating show.

Knight Rider aired for four seasons before riding off the screen in 1986. Michael Knight and K.I.T.T. faced many devious foes, hair raising obstacles, and several upgrades in those seasons. As we watched, week after week, we began to learn more about K.I.T.T.'s features and even watched the car mature throughout the series. I encourage you to go here to see a complete list of all of K.I.T.T.’s capabilities.

When Knight Rider was canceled, many children including myself were very disappointed that we would never see that sweeping red light appear on screen again. Though many Knight Rider features and attempted reboots have popped up since, none of them have compared to the original. As I watch the DVDs of one of my favorite shows, I am still impressed over how much technology was placed into the Knight Industries Two Thousand. With that, I find myself comparing our modern vehicle electronics to K.I.T.T. and even comment to many friends and family members about how GPS, computer controlled engines,  transmissions, monitors, and powered doors all are derived from K.I.T.T. in one way or another. Just take a look at the Ford products with the Sync technology, the self-parking vehicles, and the continued quest to have an autonomously controlled vehicle through the DARPA Grand and Urban Challenges.

In our 1980s hearts, Knight Rider will continue to live and thrive on for many years to come.

Happy 30th Birthday Knight Rider!

What were your first impressions of the show and how has that lived on 30 years later?
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