The S1 and S2 bumper card.
Viper was an action-adventure TV series about a secretive task force set up by the federal government to fight crime in the fictional city of Metro City, California, that is perpetually under siege from one crime wave after another. The weapon used by this task force is an urban assault vehicle that is disguised as a Flame Red 1994 Dodge Viper RT/10 Roadster and later, a 1996 Cobalt Blue Metallic Dodge Viper GTS Coupe (which replaced the Roadster convertible). The series takes place in "the near future". The primary brand of vehicles driven in the show were Chrysler or their subsidiary companies.
The armored assault vehicle known as the Viper Defender was designed by Unique Movie Cars engineers (unlike most Hollywood film/TV cars that are usually customized by film picture designers like George Barris). The exterior design of the car was executively designed by Mike Sciortino, though to few people's actual knowledge. Most fans believe that the Chrysler company built the Defender concept.
The show was canceled after 13 episodes of its original run on NBC but revamped and revived two years later on different networks for three more seasons in syndication.
Viper was first released on DVD in German by Kinowelt Home Entertainment, starting with Season 1 on May 5, 2011. Season 2 followed on June 7, 2012; Season 3 on March 21, 2013 and Season 4 on September 19, 2013. An English-language version of full Viper series was released on DVD by Visual Entertainment in December 2017.
The first season of Viper began filming in early 1993. It was slated to premier on CBS as part of Fall 1993 season. However, it was first deferred due to Stephen J. Cannell naming his new TV series "Viper". Due to a lawsuit by Chrysler Corporation, Cannell renamed his series to "Cobra". Secondly, CBS deemed Viper to be too violent and decided to bury it.
Due to these issues, the Viper 2-hour Pilot movie originally aired on NBC on Sunday, January 2, 1994, as "Sunday Night Movie". The series itself originally aired in its Prime-Time slot at 8 p.m. on Fridays in early 1994.
Starring James McCaffrey, Dorian Harewood and Joe Nipote. Metro City Police Dept., MetroPol, creates the Viper Project, a special top secret task force created by the federal government to fight the wave of violence sweeping the city. After a highly skilled getaway driver, Michael Payton was injured during a car chase, he was declared dead on the scene, and after a cosmetic fine-tuning and memory wipe was reborn as Joe Astor. The task force, consisting of Joe; Julian Wilkes, the car's designer; and Franklin X. "Frankie" Waters, a MetroPol Motorpool mechanic, used a modified 1994 Dodge Viper RT/10 Roadster that could, at the flip of a secret switch, transform from a luxurious sports car into an armored machine known as the "Defender."
Commonly dubbed "The Classic NBC Season," this series began with a 2-hour movie pilot which should count or double as two separate episodes, therefore leading to the usual first half-season number of 13 total episodes. However, most fans count the Pilot as a movie separate from the series, and the actual season having 11 episodes. The season was canceled after the episode "Wheels of Fire," but continued on for two more episodes to end with "Crown of Thorns." A proposed following episode was in the works, and half of the footage was shot, but due to descending ratings, the network pulled the plug on the show early. The special effect "hex snake skin" transformation for the pilot and the first season were done by Metrolight Studios. Sources indicate that it cost $50,000 for each transformation scene in the NBC season.
The season 1 intro, featuring soundtrack from Eddie Jobsen, was:
"The day after tomorrow: a time when criminals rule the city. The only weapon that can stop them needs a driver. The most wanted man on wheels is about to change sides. Now, against a corrupt system... a lone fight for justice. Viper is taking back the streets."
German intro: "Wir befinden uns in einer nicht alzufernen Zukunft. In einer Zeit in der sich die Stadt in der Hand von Kriminellen befindet. Es gibt eine Waffe die sie aufhalten kann. Doch nur ein einziger Mann ist in der lage sie zu beherschen. Der meistgesuchte Gangster der gleichzeitig der beste Fahrer ist, wechselt die Seiten. Er nimmt den Kampf gegen ein korruptes System auf und stellt sich in den Dienst der Gerechtigkeit. Mit der Viper erobert er die Strassen zurück." ("We are in a not too far away future. The city is in the hands of criminals. There is a weapon that can spot them. But only one man is able to handle it. The most wanted gangster, who is the best driver, is about th change sides. He takes up the fight against a corrupt system and puts himself in the fight for justice. With the Viper, he takes back the streets.)
Between August to November 1994, DC Comics published a tetralogy of comic books of Viper.
The first season was shown on NBC from January 2 to April 1, 1994. In Germany, it premiered on ProSieben on February 2, 1995 and concluded on April 23, 1995.
The show is revamped by Paramount Studios for a second continuation series, and brought into first-run syndication, meaning it can be broadcast over selective networks and not tied down to one. Paramount had just launched the UPN channel, and sat the series there for local cable television, while others got undesired time slots, sometimes very late or very early in the mornings. Because of the major funding backings by Chrysler Corporation, the series was able to survive cancellation by NBC and be retooled into a cop drama for local networks, which came out two years later in 1996. The show got a new cast, new episodic format (22 episodes), and new upgrades to the star of the series, the Viper Defender, including mounted machine guns located inside the pulse cannons (a feature that the car's designer, Julian Wilkes, was against installing - due to a shootout between police and criminals that caused his paralysis). Season 2 aired during 1996-1997.
MetroPol has taken over the Viper Project and a new team has been assembled under the Special Projects Division. Frankie Waters is the only one to return and has been retrieved from Metro MotorPool Dept. He is now, officially, the team's mechanic. Astor has left for Thailand due to the fact that MetroPol has taken the Viper back, and Julian takes a job with the government. Shortly after, another massive crime wave sweeps Metro City. After a redesign by MetroPol and systems specialist Allie Farrow, CIA agent Thomas Cole drives the prototype back to the new Viper Complex until things smooth over with the city, in which time the city plants a detective on the team. Starring Jeff Kaake, Heather Medway, Dawn Stern and Joe Nipote, with special guest appearances by J. Downing.
The season 2 intro featured the Season 1 theme tune, slightly edited by Jay Ferguson. The narration was changed:
"It prowls the streets in the pursuit of justice. Its origins are secret, its technology 21st century, its existence officially disavowed, but its presence undeniable. The perfect weapon for an imperfect future - Viper!"
The German intro narration for Season 2 was a direct translation, as opposed to Season 1:
"Er patrulliert auf dem Straßen im Dienst für der Gerichtigkeit. Seine Herkunft ist geheim, seine Technologie ist aus dem 21. Jahrhundert, seine Existenz wird offiziell geleugnet, doch seine Präsenz ist unübersehbar. Die perfekte Waffe in einer unsicheren Zukunft - Viper."
The 2nd season premiered on NBC on September 27, 1996, and concluded on May 12, 1997. In Germany, it first ran on ProSieben between March 12 and September 12, 1998.
1996 Viper RT/10Edit
At the start of Season 2, the show unveiled a new Viper for its standby mode: a second generation Flame Red 1996 Dodge Viper RT/10, complete with optional rooftop scoop, windows, and slightly extended grille pattern, different from Season 1's first-gen convertible-only Roadster. This is confirmed by the rooftop scoop seen in Seasons 2 and 3 but not in Season 1, as well as the grille. In the Season 2 premiere episode "Winner Take All," the 1996 vehicle is even directly described by Cameron Westlake's captain as "the latest prototype" based on the then-rumored 1994 car. When Season 4 premiered, this was suddenly changed so that the 1994 Viper and the 1996 Viper are assumed to be the same vehicle. Joe Astor references the change in Season 4's premiere episode, "The Return," by asking "Who blew up my old Viper?"
"Flip-Panel" Transformation MorphEdit
In 1994 during the NBC run of "Viper" Season 1, the computer-generated graphic effects for the "hex snake-skin" transformation morphs were created by MetroLight Studios, a company that supposedly charged $50,000 a shot. Due to this, the creators Danny Bilson and Paul DeMeo sometimes utilized shots where the morph happened off-screen, such as in a dark alley or a shadow of the morph on a wall, and the car only morphed back into the RT/10 once during the season.
When it came time to revive the series for syndication beginning with Season 2, a new transformation was unveiled with the premiere, "Winner Take All." This morphing sequence featured panels and covers that flipped and rotated 180 degrees all around the car, revealing the armored plates of the Defender and thereby transforming the vehicle. Some of the covers would slide over the top of the existing RT/10 frame, though most would "flip" and the RT/10 frame would reside underneath the armor panels to the Defender, and the process would reverse when morphing back into the Viper's "Standby Mode," which have led many Viper fans to dub this version the "flip-panel" morph.
It is never explained in the series or even acknowledged that this is a completely different type of morph sequence. One theory is when MetroPol took the project and the car back from Wilkes and Astor, Allie Farrow was assigned as Systems Specialist, and redesigned it for two years, even continuing the redesigns into the S2 pilot episode "Winner Take All," and the morph was one of the redesigns. Another was the addition of the new onboard weapons systems.
Viper continues on with a third season in 1997-1998. After serving as the team's systems specialist for several months, Allie Farrow has taken a permanent military job (explained at the end of the previous season), which leaves Frankie to take a promotion as the Viper Team's system specialist / technical mechanic. A continuation of Season Two with the mainstay addition of liaison Special Agent Catlett in place of Allie's departure, the show succeeded to thrive in first-run syndication. The most shocking event comes in the form of Season Three's surprise cliffhanger ending. Starring Jeff Kaake, Heather Medway, Joe Nipote, and J. Downing.
For Season 3, the intro theme and narration were not changed.
The season premiered on NBC on September 23, 1997 and ran until May 11, 1998. In Germany, it ran on ProSieben from September 26, 1998 to March 13, 1999.
The fourth and final season of Viper airs during 1998-1999, and finds the return of the Defender's original driver, Joe Astor, a new Viper, and a new team. In the aftermath of the Viper's destruction, Thomas Cole is permanently transferred to undercover work in his employment with the CIA. Julian Wilkes, original designer of The Viper Project, has agreed to come back on behalf of the FBI and design one last project for MetroPol: a new, advanced Viper Defender. This time the sports car is a modified Cobalt Blue Metallic 1998 Dodge Viper GTS Coupe. With the return of Wilkes' and Waters' old friend Joe Astor, Catlett attempts to convince him to be the new driver for the team. Westlake likes him, too. However, Astor would be haunted by his old Payton identity once more. Starring James McCaffrey, Heather Medway, Joe Nipote, and J. Downing. Also featuring Dorian Harewood as "Special Guest Star" in three episodes.
Season 4 featured a new intro. The narration was removed, and Season 2-3 theme was replaced by a whole new theme, again composed by Jay Ferguson.
The season premiered on NBC on September 22, 1998 and concluded on May 22, 1999. In Germany, it ran on ProSieben from May 7 to October 8, 2000.
In Season 4, there were attempts to reconnect the dots from Season 1 due to James McCaffrey returning to the show. His character's return meant that his former life in the form of his alter ego would have to be addressed again. This meant flashbacks to Season 1, since his character experienced a memory-wipe during the first episode of that season - the pilot to the entire series. During the first-run syndication of the revamped series beginning with Season 2 in 1996, the show barely referenced the first season aired on NBC in 1994. In fact, the only connection may have been mainstay cast member Joe Nipote, who played Franklin X. Waters ("Frankie") in every season. The biggest retcons referenced the switch between the first generation 1994 Dodge Viper RT/10 Roadster and later second generation 1996 Dodge Viper RT/10 between Seasons 1 and 2-3, and flashbacks to the pilot episodes from 1994 in the series finale 2-parter, "Split Decision," in 1999.