This review contains spoilers.
"Haunted Highway" was originally due to air earlier in the run, between the episodes "Till Death Duel Us Part" and "Summer of 45", but was postponed, eventually being broadcast on 6th May 1988, making it the last first-run episode of the series to be broadcast in the US before the show was cancelled.
Either way, it is a really enjoyable episode. I love the reservation setting; the show, from the Pilot and the regular series' opening credits, hinted at a lot of desert setting (being filmed in Arizona), but many episodes didn't really capitalise on this. Well, there's a LOT of it in this one, so that's a plus for me for a start.
The plot itself is also really interesting, concerning the mysterious happenings at a local mine, and rumours of a possible "curse". It turns out that much of the mysterious happenings are actually due to the mine, supposedly digging for gold, actually to be mining for radioactive materials, which a crooked businessman has capitalised on.
It was fun to see Marla Heasley, who played Tawnia Baker in the latter second season of 'The A-Team', appearing as Liz Redstone (though I never understood if the character was supposed to be Native American or not). In fact, much of the guest cast has 'A-Team' connections (from guest starring in that series); being an 'A-Team' nerd (see profile), I loved picking these out!
As I say, I really like the storyline, though did find certain details of it to be slightly blurry in places, and by the end did leave one or two unanswered questions (though maybe this was what the writers were going for?).
The only part of the episode that doesn't really work for me is Highway's ghostly dream sequence (after drinking a mixture from a Native Elder); I didn't mind it as being part the plot, and starts off quite intriguing but I found it to be far too long and unclear. The final explanations are fun though, almost feeling like a more mature version of a 'Scooby Doo' episode!
I didn't have a surviving recording of this from when the series was shown on ITV regions here in the U.K.; when I finally got a private set of episodes from an American collector, this episode was very blurry quality and sound somewhat muffled, which stopped me from really enjoying it. (It was also interrupted at one point by on-screen captions and alert noises for Hurricane Florence!). I later got a more watchable copy (though still with Hurricane warning), and watching it today to review, I think this may actually now be one of my favourite episodes from the show's short run. (BTW, I'm not complaining about the Hurricane warnings of course, people's safety comes first; I just mean that it's a shame the series has never been repeated or officially released on DVD so we can enjoy the story uninterrupted).
All-in-all, this is a really enjoyable episode, and a(nother) example of what the show could have been capable of if it had been allowed to continue for longer. It has a really likeable plot, some terrific action sequences, and – although not shown in its originally intended position – makes for a nice final hurrah for the series. The over-long dream hallucination sequence and slightly unclear plot in places nudges my rating down from a perfect 10, but I still give "Haunted Highway" a very strong 9.5.
Well, I've said it in just about each review I've done for the series, but it is such a shame that this series was criminally short-lived, as I loved each episode, and think the show could have gone on to even bigger and better things had it been allowed to continue.
After the 1987 Pilot film (a.k.a. "Terror on the Blacktop"), the concept was heavily reworked for the series. Some liked this, some didn't; personally, I prefer the regular series incarnation better (though some episodes, such as "Dawn through the Night" on Highway's radio in the Pilot, were interesting), and as I've said on some of my previous episode reviews, some of the episodes almost feel like a more action-orientated pre-'X-Files' fare.
Although we never really meet Ms. Winthrop or D.C. Montana in any great depth, all four of the main characters feel to have mileage. Both my father (who discovered the series) and my own favourite character of the series by far is Jetto. Seemingly put in as a result of the Australian boom in the late 1980s (resulting from '"Crocodile" Dundee' et al), I feel that some American viewers didn't take to him, but as a Brit, a nation whose humour is arguably closer to Australians, I totally love the character. In fact, Jetto would have to be amongst my very favourite characters from any of the many wonderful action-adventure shows we were treated to during the 1980s.
My favourite episode, for sheer scope of plot (as well as personal nostalgic reasons – see my review of that episode for more) is definitely "Summer of 45". This is the one single episode that just about anyone who saw the show will remember, and, despite slightly limited finale probably due to budget, just has such a great feel to it.
Second place would probably have to be "Send in the Clones", another terrific adventure (rumoured to be a back-door Pilot for a spin-off series), again a very strong entry.
The third place in my personal 'Top 3' I can't decide on; I like many elements from both "Road Lord" and the above episode, "Haunted Highway". "Warzone" was also very good.
Only a couple of episodes, "Billionaire Body Club" and maybe "The Hitchhiker", did feel to be not quite on form, but it is interesting to note that these were the first regular episodes to be produced, so can very much excused for the show "finding it's footing", and even so, they are perfectly decent stories in themselves.
One can only wonder why such a show wasn't allowed to flourish further before the axe fell; certainly, tweaks could have been made, but I feel the show had so much further potential. As I understand it, the show wasn't a disaster, but the high production costs (vehicles, stunts, explosions, futuristic gadgets, etc.) couldn't justify the lower than wanted viewing figures. It did also mark the end of an era, when (to quote myself from Wikipedia) the comic-book action-adventure shows of the 1980s started drifting into the more series, PC-driven offerings of the 1990s.
Either way, I for one feel lucky that I know of this brief, little-known gem. We can only hope that it gets some kind of official DVD release one day soon. Thanks for reading.