Night Stalker

Season 1 Episode 1


Aired Thursday 9:00 PM Sep 29, 2005 on ABC
out of 10
User Rating
134 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

Carl Kolchak takes a job at the L.A. Beacon as a crime reporter and begins investigating a strange case in which a pregnant woman has gone missing. When her body is found fingers point to the woman's husband, but Kolchak believes in the man's innocence, believing that there is a supernatural angle to the story. His investigations are frustrated when Perri Reed, the newspaper's senior crime reporter, digs into Kolchak's mysterious past.moreless

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  • What do I think…

    I thought I’d try to put together my thoughts on the premiere episode.

    I’ve avoided the downloading, the previews, and the advanced spoilers – not that there have been many. I wanted to go into the new series “cold,” so to speak. Especially given that from past experience with pilots I know that what gets put out initially isn’t necessarily what ends up going to air.

    So basically, what do I think? Night Stalker is the best of the new batch of network fantasy/s.f. genre.

    But wait. Don’t get too excited. Primarily, I’m not too impressed with all the network genre stuff right now. I’m not going to count cable stuff like 4400 and Stargate and Battlestar here, however – different type of beast.

    But right now, Threshold and Surface hold no interest for me. More alien invasion/secret-conspiracy stuff. Secret creepy invaders-among-us type stuff. Invasion, I’m kinda plodding along with but ironically it’s probably the most x-File-ish like of the current batch of shows, Night Stalker included. And Ghost Whisperer – eh. Medium with obnoxious ghosts and heart-warming messages and JLH’s breasts.

    The only real competition is Supernatural, which is sometimes entertaining. Even reminiscent of 70’s Kolchak. Monster of the Week, find its weakness and kill it. But it seems a bit…dated. It’s hard to care about the brothers, or the quest for their father, and they don’t seem to be very good at what they do. Like passing themselves off (badly) as park rangers…

    Of the older stuff, Lost continues to descend into an increasing series of time-bending flash-forwards and flash-backs and other narrative tricks to tell us the back story on an increasingly unlikable group of characters. Smallville…who knows what’s going on there. The characters change every other week. Only Medium, which is taking some honest chances and seems to have a sense of humor about itself, seems a viable property.

    So the new Night Stalker is the best of a mostly bad lot. Faint praise, as it were.

    So now we have three questions: Is NS good “Kolchak”? Is it good X-Files? And is it _good_?


    First, is it 70’s “Kolchak”? Not really. I won’t bore you with all the tedious legal reasons why it can’t be “our” Kolchak, but ABC is bound and determined to call it Kolchak and use what they’ve got legal-rights-wise. And you can find all the interviews out there with Spotnitz where he states why it shouldn’t be 70’s Kolchak. What didn’t work as an ongoing series in the 70s wasn’t going to work in 2005 either.

    The character here feels like a possible young Kolchak. He doesn’t look like a young Darren McGavin, clearly. But I could see this as a “Kolchak in his early days,” once you bend your mind around the idea of his having younger days in 2005 and his older days occurring in 1974. :)

    Now, is it the way _I_ would do a “younger Kolchak”? No, not entirely. And pretty obviously it’s not how most of the original fans would exactly do it if they could do it their way. But I can see it as _a_ way to do it, and one that comes across as a valid approach to the character.

    I get the impression most folks would have rather seen either an exact duplicate of ’74 Kolchak, or a youthful clone of the same. But Kolchak in his 30s _should_ be different than Kolchak in his 50s. This is Kolchak at the top of his game, just as the weirdness gets hold. The original series, for all its high quality, basically gives us a Kolchak that goes from skeptic to true believer in about ten minutes in the original movie, and then he’s the frantic wide-eyed ranter for the next movie and series. The new Kolchak is a guy in transition, as it were. In fact, to some degree he’s the sober one and Perri is the wide-eyed “original” Kolchak (more on this below).

    The new Kolchak is a guy who isn’t going to just put out a bunch of stories about weird supernatural stuff even though the evidence is gone, knowing his editor is going to crush the story. He’s going to wait until he does have the evidence and then release one helluva story. Which makes more sense as a reporter?

    The new Kolchak is the one that ironically, we do kinda of see in one old episode - “Horror in the Heights.” For whatever reason, in that episode they did Kolchak as a more down-to-earth guy. He shows up, he’s not looking for a supernatural story, it’s not the first thing he latches on to, he’s practically bored, and he investigates until he eliminates everything else. He’s a lot more blasé and a lot less wide-eyed “You’ve got to believe me!” than usual in “Horror.”

    Does this mean the new Kolchak is better than the old because it’s more “realistic”? No. Part of the fun of the original Kolchak is its sheer unbelievability. In the 70s, that worked – the audience didn’t really want “believability” the way today’s audience does. Viewing tastes are different. The “new” Kolchak is aimed at a different audience, and it does present a different Kolchak. Which seems like a better choice then simply trying to rehash “old” Kolchak, something no producer could do and please the old-school fans anyway.


    Is it X-Files?

    Clearly Spotnitz and Sackheim and other folks down the road were involved with X-Files, and X-Files has had some influence on them.

    But X-Files has had an effect on the viewing audience too, and it’s kind of embedded in the subconscious now, particularly among genre fans. It’s what everything gets compared to. It’s what most producers model to appeal to that audience, but it’s also how TV in general does it.

    Male and female partner as the primarily characters? Check. Different personalities so one is A and the other is A-opposite? Check. Dark horrific stuff that happens in the dark. Check again. The other basic model is “team ensemble” which seems to be where Invasion and Threshold and Surface and Lost and 4400 and Stargate are all going. So it seems like the “style” of Night Stalker is really an attempt do differentiate itself from the competition.

    The other model is “lone protagonist” which is what essentially old Kolchak was. But that model seems to have died a slow death since the 70s.

    So either “new” Kolchak goes with the team-ensemble and blends in with the current crowd, or the partner-opposites approach seen in x-Files. They went with the latter.

    Also like X-Files, there’s a secret conspiracy story-arc where the protagonists are battling someone or another, but then again…aren’t almost all plot-driven story-arcs conspiracies of some sort, or involve battles, or both?

    So new Stalker basically does what X-file did years back, but not what other such shows are doing now. The question is then how is Night Stalker _different_ then X-Files?

    First of all, there’s the dynamic between the male and female leads. It’s a lot more…varied than X-Files, and rather simplistic to say that Kolchak is Mulder and Perri is Scully. By the end of the first episode, Perri _believes_. She’s seen it, she’s got photos, she’s been chased down and hunted. There’s none of this “two seasons and I’ve seen frickin’ spaceships and levitating Romanian mystics and I still don’t believe” nonsense.

    Also by the end of the pilot, she’s in the “old” Kolchak role. She wants to get the story out there whether they have evidence or not. It’s Kolchak that is holding her back and advising caution. How often did Mulder tell Scully that in X-Files?

    Does that mean Perri isn’t going to play the voice of the skeptic? Yes she is, but for different reasons then Scully, if the pilot is anything to go by. Perri’s a skeptic because she isn’t as steeped in the whole supernatural aspect as Kolchak is, so it’s not the first thing she looks for. But she clearly has no problem accepting it once she does see it. In X-Files, the argument between the partners even at the end was “Was it or wasn’t it?” Here, it seems it’ll be the initial debate, but by the end of any given episode it’ll be more “Yeah, it is – now what do we do about it?”

    Interestingly, the personality-dynamic is a bit different. Scully is a doctor and a scientific type, while Mulder is a believer and FBI investigator who operates primarily on hunches and profiling – not what you’d necessarily call an exact science. But here, Perri and Kolchak are both crime reporters. This gives them a similarity of viewpoint that Mulder and Scully could never have.

    Another difference is that Perri distrusts Kolchak to some degree, keeping him at arms’ length. That might fade after time (as it did on X-Files after…oh, 2, 3 episodes). But this isn’t a totally trustworthy Kolchak – it’s a guy you’re kinda stuck with because your boss says so, who is angling for your job, and who just might have killed his wife in a fit of insanity. I’m pretty sure they didn’t have that on X-Files.

    Then there’s the conspiracy angle. Like I said above, Night Stalker’s story arc is actually a pleasant change from X-Files. If there’s any show that’s ripping off the “hidden aliens that lurk among us as humans and have some vague indecipherable goal other then getting more power, while some turncoat humans help them,” it’s Invasion.

    Clearly there’s some secret group at work. But they’re supernatural, not alien, and they have a varied approach, and not everything ties in. in this regard, yes, it’s like X-Files – there’s room for other types of stories that have nothing to do with the arc. It’s also like Justice League Unlimited, a show I’d recommend if you’re not watching it already.

    But again, while this type of approach is very X-Files-ish, it’s very different from the _current_ crop of shows. On Invasion it’s _always_ going to be the aliens. On Lost it’s always going to be the Others and the mysterious island going-ons of whoever controls it. On Surface you’re not going to have a one-off story where they deal with some menace other than the aquatic life forms.

    So again, the choice was looking like X-Files…or looking like most other shows on TV here and now. Spotnitz & Co. opted for standing out from other shows it’s up against rather then one that was on a few years back.

    Now, is that the “right” decision? Only time will tell on that one. But looking like all the other network genre shows doesn’t seem like a good idea any way you cut it.

    I also get the impression they _know_ what they have planned for the story-arc, rather then X-Files-style making it up as you go along. Nor does it look to be as complicated as that series.


    Finally…is it _good_?

    Well, you already know I like it better than the other network genre stuff. But that’s by comparison – how does it stand up on its own?

    Average, a B-, with the conditional that it’s a pilot. I thought Stuart Townsend was pretty well cast. Yes, the looks are initially distracting, but I soon found that I wasn’t seeing him as much as getting the vibes he was projecting. I wasn’t distracted from the story or his character thinking, “Wow, he looks and acts nothing like a reporter.” He does “I’m a smug jerk” pretty well, which I think works well for a young top-of-the-world Kolchak. On the other hand, I wasn’t sitting there watching a guy try to be Darren McGavin, which would have taken me right out of the story. I don’t think he’s the best choice possible (but I’m not sure who would be for the character we see here), but Townsend gets the job done and makes Kolchak an interesting yet imperfect character.

    Gabrielle Union – wasn’t buying her so much. While I could accept her as a young corporate type that is partly what the role called for, as a reporter she didn’t do very well, lacking either the gravitas or the bulldog quality of latching onto a story and not letting go. Part of that is because it’s a pilot, since she has to be the “rival that Kolchak outsmarts.” She seems kind of…passive. She also turns Kolchak in and she doesn’t really come across as conflicted over that initially or regretful later, as she probably should have. And she’s saddled with a third of the expositional duties, and gets to be rescued and screams a lot. Some of this is supposed to change down the road, so we’ll see what happens. I noted above that a difference from the X-File dynamic is that both partners are in the same profession, but with that comes the fact need to make sure she stands out as an equal, rather than “The one who Kolchak is always better than.”

    Eric McManus probably does best here – he’s not really tied into the plot or exposition so he’s free to play the role of Jimmy Olsen. He gets the funniest lines, what few there are, and a few odd quirks like his “Hell is filled…” bit to Perri. At least the actor seems to be having fun, even if his character is a tad extraneous. He reminds me of the male companions on Doctor Who – if the Doctor isn’t elderly or fairly passive, there’s not much for the male companion to do. McManus’ character doesn’t seem to add much to the proceedings plot-wise, but he’s fun enough now as an assistant.

    Cotter Smith, a terminally underrated actor typically if unfortunately cast as authority figures or bad guys, has had better and his role here in the pilot is pretty inconsequential. The actor doesn’t have much to do here and he’s definitely odd-man out in the pilot. Hopefully he’ll get more to do. Again, this is a _different_ Vincenzo, but in this case I’m not sure I’m big on the difference. His relationship with Kolchak doesn’t seem as complex as the one in the old series. But it was complex due to how the actors played it rather then plot, so there seemed little chance it was going anywhere in the old series. Here it looks to have some room for development and expansion. Also, the fact that Carl has the reporter’s sense not to publish stories if he doesn’t have the evidence also eliminates one reason for the Vincenzo character. Hopefully they’ll do something with the character without necessarily giving him a “very special episode.”

    John Pyper-Ferguson is pretty much wasted as Fan. Give him some motivation and personality other then Evil Lt. Gerard, quick.

    The story of the week? Serviceable but basic. People get killed, girl gets kidnapped, girl gets rescued. More time is spent establishing the basics so the story is kinda peripheral.

    Yes, the fact the two protagonists live in expensive houses is irritating.

    Yes, Darren McGavin and old Kolchak’s bird-feeder making brief cameos are kind of fun.

    It does have an open-ended X-files kinda ending…which they sorta gotta from 70’s Kolchak open-ended stuff like “Mr. R.i.N.G.” and “They Have Been…”

    The whole thing is very much a pilot-type “we have to sell the show” episode rather than a premiere where the producers know they have at least a one-season contract.


    So overall, what’s it add up to?

    A show that I plan on watching at least for a little while. It beats trying to slog through the other new shows, at any rate, and there’s enough of a supernatural angle to keep me interested. It has some potential. But it’s definitely not 70’s Kolchak. Then again, I can’t say I went in expecting it to be, or that I’ve expected “old” Kolchak make some kind of triumphant return to network TV as a regular series, either.moreless
  • This first episode of Night Stalker

    This episode was on a whole very good, i enjoyed to suppense and the writing. Kolchak is a very interesting charactor i really liked the mark on his rist as this opens up possible stories for further along in the series. Perri Kolchak's parter is similar to that of agent Scully from the X Files, it is likely as the creator Frank Spotnitz wrote on the X Files so he may be trying to re-create the partership Mulder and Scully had during the X Files. Overall the episode was good, i am nw intreged to watch on. I hope that the stories will stary sharp and unpredictable. Ans the thing that really got me was what actually Kolchaks wife?moreless
  • Erm, I believe the music IS Philip Glass, not Philip Glass-inspired. Derp. See his CV at

    Erm, I believe the music IS Philip Glass, not Philip Glass-inspired. Derp. See his CV at

    Next, this was a fantastic series. The female lead, though super annoying and overly full of herself, was even palatable over cancellation of the series altogether. Superbly stylized--how many series can you think of that have opening credits that change with every episode--and You Can\'t Beat Stuart Townsend. That was a ding-dang casting coup. I think if you just had him run for five minutes once a week, well, I\'d watch it. I can\'t understand how 3 million+ viewers is not enough to justify airing a show. That\'s at least a couple of small countries, isn\'t it?moreless

    Bring back NIGHT STALKER what in the world was the network thinking????? With only a few winners left on TV (i.e. House MD; Prison Break; Invasion), we lose one of the best? Night Stalker in the 70\'s with Darren McGavin was absolutely OUTSTANDING!!! I really think all the fans of this show need to unite and get this show back on the air!!!
  • It may not be the best genre pilot ever, but it does show promise and isn't as bad as the critics say.

    Here's a pretty long account of how I've come to feel about "Night Stalker"...

    I happen to be a huge fan of genre. I will give any science-fiction or fantasy series a chance. So, naturually, when all the networks announced their lineups and I saw that there were six new genre shows premiering, I was thrilled. I was already watching "Lost" and "Medium". "Point Pleasant" and "Revelations" were canceled. I had plenty of room for everything.

    I was most excited for The WB's "Supernatural", which has many similarities with a show called "So Weird", which was one of the first "monster of the week" shows I really loved. I was also excited about ABC's "Night Stalker", which I knew was getting a lot of heat from the critics who were so offended that this show dare call itself a "reimagining" of the short-lived 70's series. This worried me for a little while, but the series still sounded really good, and the story arc that ABC talked about in the press releases grabbed my attention.

    Over the summer, I got the oppurtunity to see all six genre pilots. I thought all of them showed a lot of potential, but the weakest one, in my opinion, was "Surface". I was impressed with "Invasion" and thought that it seemed very different from the typical alien invasion series somehow. "Threshold" was great for the action and thrills, and provided a new spin on the usual sci-fi government conspiracy story - only we see the conspiracy from the INSIDE. I was pleasantly surprised with "Ghost Whisperer" and didn't think it was bad at all, and sure enough, I now like it better than "Medium". And then came "Supernatural". The pilot absolutely blew me away. I wasn't expecting all THAT much, I figured it would be more light-hearted and try to be quirky like the other shows on The WB, like "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", or the awful "Charmed". With the high budget and writing skills, and the great acting on "Supernatural", I was instantly in love and didn't think "Night Stalker" would impress me.

    I finally got my hands on the "Night Stalker" pilot and found it to be enjoyable, but nothing too special. It was good enough for me to watch the series. A few weeks later, I decided to watch the pilot again. The second time around was better and I enjoyed it more, although it still had its issues. Then I heard that there were going to be reshoots to make the pilot better, and I was intrigued.

    On the night of the premiere I watched the pilot. Again. And found it to be even better, and it DID benifet from the rewrites and new scenes.

    I won't lie. This show could've been better. It seemed like it was struggling to establish itself, yet it relied too much on "The X-Files", hoping to grab the audience of that show. Still, something about it makes me like it a lot anyway.

    I think the cast is great. Stuart Townsend is an underrated actor, and his "pretty boy" looks didn't really phase me at all, and I don't understand why so many people have a problem against him. He plays tortured soul very well. And he brought unique feel to the new Carl Kolchak that made him different from Fox Mulder, and I personally liked this Kolchak better than Mulder.

    Gabrielle Union was also enjoyable. She's a very attractive woman and cinched the role. However, the character itself seems quite underdeveloped and needs to DO more. But I found myself enjoying Perri Reed much more than Dana Scully. Perri can accept the supernatural when she has proof. She is much more realistic than the skeptics we saw on "The X-Files". In real life, most people will question otherworldy interference, but if you get chased by supernatural wolf beings, you'll start to accept it.

    I don't have much to say for McManus and Vincenzo, since they're roles were so small, although McManus is an enjoyable, albeit minor, character, and his light-heartedness was welcome and balanced out Kolchak and Reed.

    As for the story, the pilot was a bit confusing. It sets up the entire arc for the series. ABC wanted Frank Spotnitz to raise all questions in the pilot and only have those arcs throughout the series, so it wouldn't turn into the endless guessing game that was "The X-Files". We don't get an answer as to what the wolf-things are exactly, or how they pick their victims. We don't know why some victims have the snake-like marks on their wrist and others don't. We learn that Carl has the mark. He's hunting for supernatural deaths to understand the connection.

    Despite the confusion the pilot provides, it's well-written and creepy. The show's purpose is to disturb us and freak us out, and it probably did scare a lot of people. As for me, there were scenes that made me tense, but it wasn't terrifying. Unfortantely I've become somewhat immune to that after all of the horror movies and shows I've watched. Disturbing, the show achieves more. Women being brutally mutilated and having fetuses ripped out their body is fairly disturbing. And the visuals that we see when Carl is telling Perri about other supernatural cases he's encountered are freaky and violent as well.

    But disturbing and violent isn't necessarily bad. "Night Stalker" has guts and shows more than "The X-Files" did in its early years, and think had "Night Stalker" gone on it would've gotten even better and scaring us.

    I'd also like to comment on the look of the show. It's REALLY great. The show uses a new type of camera that doesn't use film. The show looks so clear it's almost real and everything looks really sharp and clear. The show is a visual feast, basically. Also, there are some very realistic bodies in the show, too, which makes it all the more convincing.

    So, all in all, while "Night Stalker" was by no means perfect, in some ways it was better than the other genre offerings out there, and deserved a long life. I'll miss it.moreless
John Pyper-Ferguson

John Pyper-Ferguson

Agent Bernie Fain

Guest Star

David Denman

David Denman

Henry Gale

Guest Star

Ele Keats

Ele Keats

Emily Gale

Guest Star

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (1)

    • The police would never let reporters -- press pass or not -- on the actual crime scene, taking photographs and trampling on evidence.

  • QUOTES (8)

    • Perri: Oh that reminds me. I've been covering crime for four years. How long have you?
      Kolchak: Five.
      Perri: That's what I thought.

    • Vioncenzo: You know, most people come in the office, meet their colleagues, get a desk, before they start snagging stories.

    • Kolchak: All these strange deaths, like…pieces in a puzzle, a puzzle I'm trying to put together. Something terrible is happening. (pauses) But no one sees it 'cause no one wants to.

    • Kolchak: Have you ever used a gun before?
      Jain: No.
      Kolchak: That's what I thought.
      Jain: I've never used a cattle prod before, either.

    • Perri: What's this prove?
      Jain:That these things Kolchak's looking for were here.
      Perri: Or wolves, or coyotes, or armadillos, for all I know.
      Jain: Armadillos?!?

    • Jain: The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in times of moral crisis remain neutral.

    • Kolchak: (closing monologue) As a reporter I seek answers to the questions that haunt me. But the stories, the real stories, you won't find printed in any newspaper. Stories of strange deaths, endless suffering, horrors we can only pretend to explain, and the hidden threats that connect them all. These are the stories I live to write, driven by the faith that one day people will read them and understand, haunted by the fear that the answers I seek lie not in the darkness without but the darkness within.

    • Kolchak: (opening monologue) I drive at night, a police radio as my compass, looking for answers to questions I'm only learning how to ask. About things adults dismiss...but children are right to fear. Shapes that lurk in the darkness, nightmares that intrude from another realm, forces that spring not from the imagination but live amongst us, unseen. These forces have taken something from me, something I can never recover. So I stalk the night, looking...and knowing our fear of the dark never really goes away. We just learn to pretend it's not there.

  • NOTES (7)

    • A deleted scene on the DVD includes an extended version of the escape from the caves. Two hellhounds attack the car: they are much more visible. One of them bites Perri but is scraped off the side of the car by the rocks. When the car pulls out into the sunlight, the second hellhound retreats back into the caves.

    • The Beacon office building is in real-life found at 1000 Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles. It was previously used in Robbery Homicide Division.

    • Music featured in this episode included:
      "Dragonfly" by M. Craft.

    • As with most pilots, there are no opening credits but the regular actors' names are simply flashed on screen, followed by the guest stars.

    • Stuart Townsend takes on the role of Carl Kolchak, played by Darren McGavin in the original movies and series. Cotter Smith takes on the role of Antonio Vincenzo, played by Simon Oakland in the original movies and series. John Pyper-Ferguson plays the role of Agent Bernie Fain, which was the original name of the character Bernie Jenks that was played by Ralph Meeker in the original TV movie The Night Stalker.

    • Perri uses a fictional web search engine (SpyderFinder) to look up information on Kolchak.

    • The premiere featured a 3-second digitally-inserted clip of Darren McGavin, taken from the TV movie The Night Stalker. He can be seen on the right side as Kolchak enters the newsroom, right after Perri is at home looking up Kolchak on the Internet. The newsroom itself is a modern-day set - it is only McGavin himself who is added. The footage is taken from a scene in the movie where Carl is loading up his bag with a stake and hammer.


    • License Plate
      Kolchak's license plate number, 197DMG2, is yet another intentional allusion to the original series. 197_2 (1972) is the year the original Night Stalker TV movie aired. And DMG is the initials of Darren McGavin, who played the original Kolchak.

    • Kolchak's Wife
      Carl's wife is named "Irene" - an in-joke homage to the original series. In the last episode of the series, "The Sentry," Kolchak deals with police official of the week Lt. Irene Lamont. Lamont is played by...Darren McGavin's real-life wife, the late Kathie Browne.

    • Hat and Hatrack
      At Kolchak's house in the study, a hatrack is present and an old straw hat is on it. This is a deliberate allusion/homage to the hat that Darren McGavin wore in the original Night Stalker movies and series.

    • Las Vegas and Seattle
      Both of these cities are mentioned, Las Vegas extensively. These were the cities where ABC's two TV Kolchak movies were set in.

    • Jain: Do you even work for the Beacon, Mr. Horshack?
      Referencing the character Arnold Horshack from the TV series Welcome Back, Kotter.

    • Perri: You can ride home with Elmer Fudd - I've had enough.
      When Kolchak says he's going "hunting," Perri refers to him as Elmer Fudd, a character from The Looney Toons, who often goes hunting for Bugs Bunny. The daughter is also watching similar cartoons at the hotel earlier.