This review contains minor spoilers.
"Summer of '45" (sometimes billed as simply "1945") may well be the single best episode of 'The Highwayman's short run. This seems to be the episode that just about everyone who ever saw the series, remembers. It has a very engaging storyline, and, coming from such a short-lived show, left me desperately wanting more.
A couple of production notes: This is the only episode of the regular run not to feature Tim Russ as D.C. Montana (making it the only episode where one of the four main cast members does not appear at any point). It is also the only episode not to feature Highwayman's truck, as Jetto's truck is used throughout.
The episode is executed very well, and has a great atmosphere (complete with some suitably mysterious, enigmatic in-episode musical score). I did feel that at some points, particularly later on in the story, maybe the budget of a fledgling future-set (or in this case, past-set!) TV series kicked in slightly, and as a result maybe the final act, with the ballroom dance, does seem a bit basic; but it doesn't matter too much, and doesn't spoil the story in any way.
One thing that always did niggle me, even as a youngster, was how Highway, Jetto and Ms. Winthrop return to the present at the end. Presumably, they just used the same stretch of road, affected by the atomic explosion, that had carried them back in time in the first place. This element is glossed over and never touched upon, but again, it doesn't really matter too much to me.
I love the final scene, where, in the present day, Highway is reunited with a now elderly Leslie, the aspiring singer waitress who develops a crush on him in 1945. The scene plays out perfectly, and I think they were right to only show her from the rear, leaving what she looks like now up to our imagination.
This episode is also very special to me personally. As covered on some of my previous episode reviews for the series, the series was shown here late at night here in the U.K. (Saturdays in my local ITV region), when I was still young and long after my bedtime(!). My Dad recorded every episode, but not "to keep", as we didn't realise the series would be so short-lived and never repeated, so recorded over most of them. "Summer of '45" was one of the few that survived (I think because my Dad really likes the story; plus maybe also feeling that, as it was less violent than some episodes, it was more appropriate for my young age). As such, long before I obtained an unofficial private copy of the series on DVD, this was one of the only complete episodes that I had for MANY years, and watched this one over and over and OVER again.
As a child, I loved movies such as 'Back to the Future' (which still generally ranks as my favourite film of all time), so this story appealed to me even more.
Although I gather that some don't like him, Jetto is both my father and mine's favourite character in the series. I remember when I came downstairs the next morning after this episode aired in my ITV region – the first thing my Dad told me was "They went back in time. And the Australian rang his Mum up!". Indeed, Jetto phoning his Mum in Australia (she died giving birth to him) is one of my favourite moments from the whole short run.
All-in-all... for a very short-lived (and little known) series, this episode to me stands as a classic. It is most probably the single best episode to come from 'The Highwayman's short run (rivalled only by the next episode, "Send in the Clones"). The show really felt to have found this footing at around this point, and one can only ponder and speculate on how this would have continued if it had been allowed to run for longer. I never tire of this episode; I give it a top scoring 10/10.