This opening episode quickly gets to the point of the whole series; after a few stylish shots of the desert landscape, we immediately witness an ambush set up by the Rat Patrol to interdict one of Hauptmann Dietrich's convoys. This ongoing personal battle between Sgt. Troy and Hauptmann Dietrich is the thread that runs the entire series, so it is a very fitting scene to start the action.
The concept of the show is a strange brew of heroic adventure and mid-20th century military action, taking place in the Western Desert campaign of World War Two. Alhough occurring in roughly the same era as the Combat! series, the Rat Patrol universe is much different than the more realistic and complex series that took place in Europe. This is a 30 minute show, compared to Combat!'s 60 minute time frame, so there is much less time for subplots and character development. This emphasis here is action--driving fast, having a brief confrontation with the enemy, and blowing things up. If the viewer can accept this, then the series is a very enjoyable way to spend a bit of time in front of the tube..
The ambush-the-German-convoy scene is used in many episodes, but in this one a member of the Rat Patrol is seriously injured or killed. We never find out his name (until the end credits--he didn't have a speaking part) and the other members of the team seem to be unconcerned with the loss of the man (and Sgt. Troy's superiors seemed equally unconcerned about his tactic of using the machinegun-outfitted jeeps to attack enemy armor columns!) Anyway, this loss of a crew member is just a plot device to bring the new member into the team, Sgt. Jack Moffitt.
The race to find the hidden depot is well done, full of interesting camera work as both the Rat Patrol and Dietrich rush across the sands, at times reminiscent of the style later used in movies such as The Road Warrior. The German airplane flying by was a nice feature too, as it would have eased the budget to not have it (though I must say, the Germans are using a LOT of captured equipment!)
Overall, this is a very good, straight-forward establishes the characters and the setting for the series, but also works plenty of action into the story as well. There are a few technical issues caused by the fact that some parts were filmed in Spain, some in California, and some in causes continuity issues throughout the whole series and must have been a nightmare to work with. The scene where the depot blows up is very poorly edited, but this is unusual for the thing that always stands out about the series as a whole is that it is very well done from a technical standpointt, and often very stylish too.
A good beginning for an under-appreciated televison series.