Season 1 Episode 1

Shadow of the Hawke (1)

Aired Unknown Jan 22, 1984 on CBS
out of 10
User Rating
86 votes

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Episode Summary

Shadow of the Hawke (1)

A top-secret division of the CIA known as 'The Firm' has built a hi-tech, weapons-laden new helicopter called 'Airwolf', but after the chopper's test flight, the craft's twisted creator, Dr. Moffet, turns the lethal firepower onto the flight tower, before taking off in the chopper with his two co-pilots to Libya. Archangel, the head of the division who built Airwolf, is badly wounded in the assault but not out of the game, and calls upon ace combat pilot Stringfellow Hawke to take the task of bringing back Airwolf from Libya, where Moffet is using it to destroy for his own sadistic pleasure.


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  • Twisted genius Dr. Moffet turns his powerful super-chopper 'Airwolf', on the secret Government division that commissioned it built, and heads off to Libya in the machine. Archangel approaches reclusive Stringfellow Hawke to retrieve it. A mixed Pilot...moreless

    I can't think of any such show from the era that changed more than 'Airwolf' did. From its dark, moody (and ahead of it's time) first season, changes were forced in the second, still watchable season, but by the third season had very much become a much more generic action-adventure show. But that's nothing due to the infamously bad fourth season... but I'll save that for future reviews!!

    When I was growing up, 'The A-Team', 'The Dukes of Hazzard' and 'Knight Rider' were my three favourite TV shows, but when it came along in 1984, 'Airwolf' wasn't far behind in that ranking, and usually held fourth place in my favourites. (BTW, I still love all of those shows; I even run my own detailed 'A-Team' fan-site, check my profile for more!).

    'Airwolf' was first shown here in the U.K. on ITV in a Friday evening slot, but from it's second season moved to a Saturday lunchtime slot (my local region, London Weekend Television, rotated it with runs of "CHiPs"); for some years, I only had a couple of odd late recorded episodes to remember the series by (not realising it wouldn't be repeated for almost a decade).

    In the early 1990s, the Pilot was released on video, with a couple of other hotchpotch releases, in a heavily rejigged form, re-editing the entire film, substituting many shots and sound effects, eliminating many scenes - and dubbing profanity IN! (This re-edited Pilot was re-released in the U.K. on DVD a couple of years ago along with a few other seemingly random selected and poorly presented episodes, by which point I was holding out for season-by-season box sets).

    ITV re-acquired the rights to show 'Airwolf' in September 1995, and I managed to record the entire run. However, in the 1990s LWT were very shoddy and would often happily lop five or six minutes run-time out of episodes (for no apparent reason), often leaving them impossible to watch as a result. I could also receive adjoining region Meridian, who were generally much more reasonable with what they did(nt) cut out, though it was swings and roundabouts as my reception wasn't as good. Either way, the Pilot has many more adult sequences which most regions removed for their daytime broadcast, so it wasn't until the Season One DVD box set that I finally got a copy of the complete original version of the Pilot.

    Although I love all old 1980's action-adventure shows (as my other reviews reflect!), and I have a definite fondness for 'Airwolf', I've actually had mixed feelings about it for the past few years. Part of this is due to the "chequered" personal life of Jan-Michael Vincent (some of the other cast and crew have tactfully said that he wasn't exactly the easiest person to work with) which has maybe made the series a bit hard for me to watch - though in a way, maybe this lends itself to Vincent playing such a troubled character as Stringfellow Hawke! But I also associate those 1990s re-runs with a fairly unhappy period in my life (an association that I hope this re-viewing on the series on DVD will finally erase), and the chopped up nature of the episodes as they were shown certainly didn't help this.

    Anyway, this Pilot itself... I've always had very mixed feelings about it. Stephen J. Cannell ('The A-Team', etc.) would typically go for the wise-cracking knockabout stories; Glen A. Larson ('Knight Rider') would go for the more fantastical-driven family show, and Donald P. Bellisario (also behind another of my favourites, the classic 'Magnum, p.i.') would go for something deeper, often with darker undertones. And deeper and darker is certainly what we get here. And heavy religious infleunce, too.

    The story opens spectacularly, with Moffet giving Airwolf a test-flight, as Archangel and Marella show it off to an uninterested senator (played by Eugene Roche, who played the recurring gumshoe Luther H. Gillis in 'Magnum'), before Moffet turns the chopper on them and blows everyone (bar Archangel and Marella, miraculously) away. It's a very impressive start.

    After that, as we are introduced to Hawke and see his interaction with Gabrielle, things slow down a bit. These scenes are undoubtedly well written and well executed, and wonderful vignettes in themselves, but, I can't help but feel we get a few *too many* of these, and they start to really slow the story down after a while; there is a definite patch where – as clever as these scenes are, very little happens plot-wise.

    The production is cast well; Vincent, who I've covered above, has what it takes to bring to life the deeply troubled Hawke, and Ernest Borgnine adds just the right level of relief as the ever-cheery Dominic (after Borgnine came to Bellisario's attention after appearing as an ageing wrestler in the third season 'Magnum' episode 'Mr. White Death'). Alex Cord is also just right as the mysterious Archangel, and as a guest star, Belinda Bauer makes an impact as the doomed Gabrielle. But I must mention the late David Hemmings, who cheerfully parades around carrying out his various sadistic pass-times, as the warped genius Dr. Moffet.

    My favourite scene in this half comes as Moffet demonstrates Airwolf's one vulnerability (a bullet in the fuel intake) as he pretty much plays Russian roulette with the chopper (by the way, this is the one scene that I feel plays better on the hacked up video version, as Moffet's theme plays away, almost cheerfully, in the background).

    It's certainly a well-written, very thoughtful Pilot, but as I say, I feel there are one (or two..) to many slow wordy scenes that start to take their toll. Summing up the pros and cons, I give this half 8.5/10.

    (Review continued in Part 2...)moreless
  • I really injoyed the story line with the aloofness of Hawkes character, it added a dark side to him. I wish they would not have killed Gabriels character off, who knows she might have made a wonderful co-spy with him flying Airwolf. then they should havemoreless

    I like the way they introduced Airwolf the big top secret heliocopter, capable of flying faster than most jets, with anough firepower to destroy most countries, they shoud have explained more about Archangel's character explaing how he came into power with Firm. What was that other side to his real conection with Hawke
  • A superb pilot episode!

    Je me souviens très bien de cet épisode, passé en France un réveillon de Noël et je n'ai, ensuite, jamais raté un seul épisode. Je n'ai cessé de regarder cette serie que lorsque l'équipe a été complètement changée car j'étais très attachée aux personnages et à leurs interactions personnelles. Cette série a "bercé" toute mon adolescence et j'en ai gardé un excellent souvenir, car, pour une fois, le héros n'est pas visceralement "bon" et garde une part d'ombre, très bien entretenue par Jan Michael Vincent qui ne livre pas totalement son personnage et lui conserve une bonne part de mystère.moreless
  • A cool episode.

    Airwolf is a classic show. It's got action adventure and drama. This episode starts off setting up the story for the whole show. The airwolf gets stolen by it's sadistic creator and sells it to Libya. Hawke is sent to retrieve the airwolf from Libya. The final showdown is awesome, the drama is high. when hawke finally starts up the airwolf and flies it, the tension rises, and the action becomes relentless. I really love watching airwolf going on a dogfight with enemy fighters, but the show don't focus on the technology, there are really good characters that play out of the show as well.moreless
  • One of the few shows where the "Pilot" episode was actually the pinnacle of the series.

    AIRWOLF has one of the greatest, if not 'the' greatest pilot episodes ever for a TV show. It originally aired in January of 1984 as a two-hour CBS movie-of-the-week, before launching into regular series' episodes. The pilot for AIRWOLF, renamed "Shadow of the Hawke (Parts 1 & 2)" for syndication, is not only probably the best pilot i've ever seen for a TV show, but one of the best action movies, albeit made-for-TV, that i've ever seen. The production values are through the roof, and much higher than normal TV shows, although I will say other sister shows to AIRWOLF of the time, such as THE A-TEAM, KNIGHT RIDER & MIAMI VICE also had high-budgeted pilot movies.

    The story is pretty strong, and very well written by Bellisario. It's too bad AIRWOLF was plauged with production problems & actor problems, otherwise it could've possibly last a couple more seasons longer on CBS than it did (possibly a 4th & 5th network season), and had it, I think it would easily be considered among Bellisario's elite with MAGNUM, P.I. & J.A.G. Everybody puts in a great performance in the "Pilot", and it's sad, but I don't think AIRWOLF actually ever topped it's "Pilot" episode. Although the series definitely saw other 'keepers', I don't know if the quality was ever as well blended in any episode after the first. Although Season 1 continued on with the foreign intrigue, gradually in Season 2, the spy stuff was being phased out for more 'domestic' storylines, and by the time Season 3 rolled around, the show had become a KNIGHT RIDER-clone simply targeting family audiences, and having the 'bad guy of the week'. And the final season of the show, the revived season on USA is a whole 'nother story.

    Overall, this is stellar TV here, at least the "Pilot". It's obvious watching this that this was the precursor to show's like VIPER & 24 which came later down the pike, but it's so sad to know that AIRWOLF also never quite reached this level again.moreless
Jan-Michael Vincent

Jan-Michael Vincent

Stringfellow Hawke

Alex Cord

Alex Cord

Michael 'Archangel' Coldsmith-Briggs III

Ernest Borgnine

Ernest Borgnine

Dominic Santini

Belinda Bauer

Belinda Bauer

Gabrielle Ademaur

Guest Star

Eugene Roche

Eugene Roche

William Dietz

Guest Star

John Calvin

John Calvin


Guest Star

Deborah Pratt

Deborah Pratt


Recurring Role

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Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (7)

    • TRIVIA: Dr. Moffet's full name is not confirmed as Dr. Charles Henry Moffett until the second season episode 'Moffett's Ghost' (where, note, "Moffet" mysteriously gains an extra "t"). The Star novelisation of this Pilot story gave Moffet's full name as Dr. George Moffet.

    • GOOF: After Moffet steals Airwolf, the story jumps to Stringfellow Hawke's cabin and says "3 Months Later". As Gabrielle Ademaur explains to Hawke what happened to Airwolf she says that it was stolen 5 weeks ago.

    • GOOF: The computer shows a Mig 23 instead of a Mirage Fighter.

    • GOOF: Three of the production crew-members are visible in the end of the episode when Hawke first takes off in Airwolf from the Libyan summer palace. They weren't a part of the cast, they were there by a mistake.

    • GOOF: When Archangel is talking to Senator William Dietz at the Red Star Control, you can see apart of the microphone by the boom.

    • GOOF: While Moffet tortures Gabrielle next to the jeep, she has her shoes on. However, later, when Hawke finds her, she appears to be barefoot.

    • TRIVIA: A general note for bloopers and nitpicks in this guide: In countless episodes throughout the series, there are countless stock footage shots of Airwolf in flight, and numerous minor continuity errors regarding Airwolf (such as shots of the chain-guns and cannon already being released before Hawke has called for them to be released) and so on (often relating to the stock footage). Whilst this guide attempts to be a detailed list of bloopers & nitpicks, it generally concentrates more on the glaringly obvious bloopers and less common errors.

  • QUOTES (1)

    • String: Dom, I need your help.
      Dominic: Doing what?
      String: Well, for starters, you need to get to Libya.
      Dominic: Well, sure, I'll just, uh... (pauses) Libya?!

  • NOTES (11)

    • By a stroke of coincidence, Jan Michael Vincent once played a role in a low budget Canadian made thriller movie called "Shadow of the Hawk" in 1976. In it he played the grandson of a Native Indian medicine man "Old Man Hawk". His character's name was Mike, a.k.a. "Little Hawk".

    • The show's main theme is a slower tempo, altered version of the "Hawkman Battle Theme" from the Flash Gordon (1980) film soundtrack, music by Queen.

    • The show's sound editing team won an Emmy for Outstanding Film Sound Editing for a Series in 1984.

    • The movie version of the pilot runs about 85 minutes.

    • Recurring actress Deborah Pratt married the series' creator Donald P. Bellisario in 2003.

    • This episode was aired on a Sunday, while the rest of the season was aired on Saturday.

    • Although aired as a two-hour movie, this episode was later aired as a two-part episode.

    • The exterior of Stringfellow Hawke's mountain home is actually a cabin on Lake Tahoe which belongs to series creator/producer Donald Bellisario. Although the interior (and part of the exterior) was recreated on a soundstage, the exteriors were all filmed at Bellisario's own weekend getaway. The helicopter landing pad is actually just a boat dock redressed for the series.

    • This Pilot has been released on video (in the UK and elsewhere), with a significant number of changes made to it from the original TV version. Most notably, alternative recorded dialogue has been dubbed in many places, including some very strong language (it has an 18 certificate in the UK).

      A large number of scenes are shuffled in order, and many scenes are re-edited. A significant portion of scenes and dialogue is removed, mostly to do with threads that run on into the series (finding a place to hide Airwolf, Hawke refusing to return the machine until his Missing In Action brother St. John is found, etc.)

      The version finishes after Hawke has blown Moffet up, completely eliminating the last few minutes of the original version where Hawke refuses to return Airwolf to Archangel unless significant information on St. John is found.

    • Rather unusually for a feature-length Pilot, the original TV version of this story has a pre-credits opening trailer (as is standard with the rest of the episodes in the series).

    • Although this story does have the (sub)title 'Shadow Of The Hawke', it is quite often billed as simply 'Pilot'.