Cult TV Essentials

Cult TV Essentials: Viper

Viper was an American action-adventure TV series about a special 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. It ran for four seasons, 78 episodes in total.

The weapon used by this task force is an assault vehicle that masquerades as a Dodge Viper RT/10 roadster and coupe (later, the Viper GTS replaced the RT/10). The series takes place in “the near future”. The primary brand of vehicles driven in the show were Chrysler or subsidiary companies.

The Viper Defender “star car” was designed by Chrysler Corporation engineers unlike most Hollywood Film/TV cars that are usually customized by film picture designers. The exterior design of the car was produced by Chrysler stylist Steve Ferrerio.

Metro City was under siege from the crime wave that was begun by “The Outfit”, a crime group led in the pilot by a man known only as Mr. Townsend (played by William Russ), and later led by Lane Cassidy (played by Richard Burgi). The Metro City Police Department, or MetroPol, was unable to get a handle on the situation. This led to the creation of the Viper Project, a special top secret task force created by the federal government to fight the wave of violence sweeping Metro City.

This task force used a modified 1994 Flame Red Dodge Viper RT/10 Roadster sports car that could, at the flip of a secret switch, transform from a muscle car into an armoured machine known as “Defender”. The “Defender” was an invention of technological specialist Julian Wilkes (played by Dorian Harewood), who was paralyzed during a shootout between police and criminals. The project was delayed by numerous setbacks, mainly because regular drivers were unable to handle this deadly machine. A precision driver was needed for this car.

Michael Payton (played by James McCaffrey), a top driver for “The Outfit”, was leading his team from their latest heist when he got caught in an accident and was injured. Captured, Payton’s memory was erased and he was reborn as Joe Astor, an officer for Metropol. Astor proves to be the only one capable of handling the Defender.

Since the Viper Project successfully made a dent into the profits made by The Outfit, they kidnap Astor and demand that he steal the Defender. He agrees to do so, but changes his mind. In retaliation, The Outfit murders his girlfriend, Elizabeth Houston. As for the Viper Project itself, The Outfit bribes Councilman Strand (played by Jon Polito), the man who approved the Viper Project and orchestrated the erasure of Payton’s memory, to help them discredit the Viper Project, leading to its cancellation.[2] However, Astor and Wilkes, with the help of mechanic Franklin Waters (played by Joe Nipote), steal the Viper and gain access to Payton’s bank account, using both in a private war against crime.[1] Astor runs the operation for several months before he is sent to Europe to handle deep cover operations for the U.S. Government, leading to the end of the Viper Team’s war on crime.

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