The Highwayman

Season 1 Episode 1

Road Lord

Aired Friday 8:00 PM Mar 04, 1988 on NBC

Episode Fan Reviews (1)

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out of 10
5 votes
  • When a fellow Highwayman is murdered, Highway investigates, and discovers that people from a quiet desert town who have been killed are seemingly returning from the grave – and a local lab holds a sinister secret. Excellent introduction to the series...

    This review contains spoilers.

    After the 1987 Pilot film (also known as "Terror on the Blacktop" for syndication), 'The Highwayman' was heavily reworked, into a concept which personally I feel is much better (and I am frankly amazed at the low scoring the episodes currently hold on this site).

    The Pilot very much appeared to feature futuristic technology set in the (then) present day, much like Glen A. Larson's previous show, 'Knight Rider' (of which I am also a huge fan). But here with this reworking for the regular series, things seem to be set sometime in the (then) near future, backed up by the (great) ..."world just beyond now... where the laws of today collide with the crimes of tomorrow" opening spiel for each episode (it is not until the later episode "Warzone" where the definite date of 1992 is given.
    As I've noted on the show's Wikipedia entry, to which I heavily contributed (including listing all guest casts, and tracking down character names, from watching and re-watching episodes, and various TV listings from the time), with it's near-future setting, lone desert locations, suggestions of society breaking down and various other factors, the series sometimes had an almost post-apocalyptic feel, reminding me greatly of the first (and to an extent second) 'Mad Max' films.
    With the reworking of the format for the series, things drift towards a more sci-fi mystery vibe, playing in some ways almost as a pre-'X-Files' type of affair.

    Only Sam Jones and the truck return from the Pilot (thankfully, minus the ability to turn invisible); and added to the cast are three new characters.

    The most notable of these is Australian footballer turned TV personality and actor Mark "Jacko" Jackson as the loud, brash Jetto. There seems to be a section of the audience who don't like him, which I'm surprised at –I love him; he is both my father (who originally recorded the series back in the 1980) and my favourite character in the show. (His inclusion came at a time for the love of "all things Australian", surely influenced by '"Crocodile" Dundee', one of my favourite 1980s films). Of note is that his first ever on-screen line as Jetto is "Oi!", a probable nod to the Energizer battery commercials he fronted in the US; the writers / producers also seemed to be trying to make "Baad luuck" one of his catchphrases, as he says it several times during this story.

    The other two cast additions have less to do, in this one at least – Jane Badler (from "V") as Highway's by-the-book boss, who, naturally, he doesn't like (hauling her out from a ballet concert to dump her in a fountain in this one), and future 'Star Trek: Voyager' star Tim Russ as truck maintainer D.C. Montana (coincidentally, a play on the name of 'Star Trek' writer D.C. Fontana).

    The organisation that they Highwaymen works for is never really delved into at all in either this or any of the stories in any great depth; I like the ambiguity surrounding the organisation, and one can only wonder if they would have slowly panned this out had the show continued for longer.

    As is common with such US shows, particularly of the era, the episodes were not filmed in the order they were broadcast, and "Road Lord" actually the third episode produced for the series (after "Billionaire Body Club" and the next broadcast episode, "The Hitchhiker"). But it is clear that "Road Lord" was intended as the first broadcast continuity-wise, as Jetto's truck (identical to Highway's) is destroyed in this story, before D.C. Montana presents him with his own unique truck.

    Guest star Kent McCord (from Larson's original version of 'Battlestar: Galactica') receives Special Guest Star billing for his role as fellow Highwayman, Steve, but he's given so little to do in the bulk of the story that I kinda wonder why they bothered bringing him in especially.

    I love the show's punchy, futuristic theme tune (which actually doesn't feel to have dated too much at all), and the in-episode score for this and the rest of the series is perfect, sounding for the most part mysterious, performed using a mixture of synthesisers with some "live" instruments; and not sounding as horribly "plasticy" as some of the other TV shows from the same period. (Jetto's theme, used several times in this story, also suits the character perfectly; I actually have this as one of the ringtones on my mobile phone!).

    I really like "Road Lord", it gets the reworked series off to a fantastic start. The plot plays out very well, and I love the climatic shootout with the horde of robot clones, in what is the goriest and most gun-happy sequence in the show's short life. It's really the sort of episode that makes me sad to think that such a great series didn't continue for longer. I like this one enough to give it a top scoring 10/10.