November 12, 2011

Street Hawk, episode 1 - The Alternate Cut and Novelization

Tony - The Alternate Cut
Included as a bonus on the DVD set is the unaired, but not unseen (more on that below), alternate version of the Street Hawk pilot. I was hoping for something entirely new, but it’s basically the same as the broadcast pilot with a few f/x and musical changes and some incidental additional footage.

Let me just note that I didn’t have the time or inclination to re-watch the original broadcast pilot again, so I watched the unaired pilot, noted what struck me as different from memory, and then re-watched those scenes again to confirm. If any of you Street Hawk aficionados out there - and you know who you are - know of anything I missed, please let us know.


There are two notable changes in the f/x department, one being the laser that Street Hawk fires. In the broadcast pilot, it’s your standard red, sci-fi laser beam. In the unaired version, the laser is a wild blue, arching energy that envelops its targets, something more reminiscent of Sith lightning or the beams fired from the Ghostbusters’ proton packs.

The other difference is that anytime Street Hawk uses its Vertical lift function, the real jumps of the broadcast pilot are replaced by matte f/x shots. The shots aren’t bad by mid 80s TV standards, but they pale in comparison to the real thing. The use of the shots vs. the actual jump results in a few small changes in the way the scenes are edited.

The only other thing I picked up on was a streak effect, similar to the Enterprise going to warp, added when Street Hawk ignites Hyperthrust.


I previously mentioned the absence of licensed pop music in the pilot, but there were two scenes where the music sounded as if it had been replaced from the original broadcast: an instrumental version of “Footloose” near the beginning and a generic synth track used during a workout montage. Sure enough, the tracks are different in the unaired version. Instead of the instrumental “Footloose”, they use Van Halen’s “Jump”, and during the workout montage, they use Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit”.

The use of “Jump” is not only a better thematic fit, coming as it does as Norman watches a video of Jesse jumping over a row of cars Evel Knievel style, it’s also just a better song than the bad karaoke version of “Footloose” used in the broadcast pilot. Proving once again the power of music, it really affects the mood of the scene. “Rockit”, on the other hand, is an odd choice for the workout scene, but it does create a similar mood to the generic song that replaced it.


The unaired pilot runs almost exactly three minutes longer than the broadcast version. Most of this must be padding because I didn’t notice anything substantially different. The aforementioned scene where “Jump” is used to transition a scene between Norman watching a video of Jesse to a scene where Jesse comes riding into a dusty little desert town on his dirt bike has a few seconds of additional footage that I noticed. If it’s a microcosm of the additional footage, it’s just a bit a fat that was trimmed.

Other than the poor audio and video quality, those are the only differences I noticed.

But wait!


Doing some research, I discovered that a few different versions of the pilot were released on home video around the world over the years. The unaired version on the disc - sans the licensed music, from what I read - was actually released as a stand alone movie on VHS in Canada. Due to its differences from the US broadcast pilot, it came to be known as the “Canadian pilot” amongst Street Hawk fans.


The unaired/Canadian pilot has its pluses and minuses. On the plus side, the two pop tracks add a bit of juice to their scenes. On the minus, the matted-in jumps aren’t nearly as exciting as the real thing. The laser is shaping up to be a push in either cut. The blue version is more visually dynamic, but there’s something to be said for the efficiency of the red beam.

Noel - The Novelization
I'm not quite sure what to say about the novelization. As with the Automan adaptation, it was published by Target, the UK company known for novelizing almost the entire original Doctor Who series. Beyond the next novelization in the series, I can't pin down additional work by Jack Roberts, a name generic enough that it's possibly a pseudonym.

I don't have much to say because what we saw on screen is pretty much what we get here. There's no big revelations, no extra bits the author threw in, no backstory beyond what we already know, no descent into the characters' thoughts aside from what we could already read off the actors. There's a few extra moments here and there - extra dialogue at the begining and end of scenes, dialogue filling in the workout and auto body shop montages, Jesse sneaking around guards at the impound lot, Mach talking with a few old cop buddies, the Commissioner trying to get his hands on the incriminating evidence Corrido has on him - but it all breezes by quick and doesn't leave much of an impression beyond padding to smooth out the differences in medium.

Don't get me wrong, none of it is bad. Roberts' prose is a tad dry, but flows nicely as he gives all of the characters distinction and envelops me with his descriptions of the speed and action. It just doesn't add anything or really have a voice of its own away from the pilot itself. And there's nothing wrong with that. This was nearing the end of the era where novelizations had long been a substitute for films and TV shows that couldn't easily be experienced through other means. While video had come into existence by 1985, not everything was available, and the things that were could be quite pricey. The easiest way for a Street Hawk fan to re-experience the thrill of the show they loved was by picking up this novelization for the easy price of £1.95 (according to the cover, $4.95 in Canada, $5.95 in Australia, and the ridiculous price of $6.95 for New Zealand). So, yeah, it's a good thing that the book perfectly captures the pilot so faithfully. The problem is us looking at it from modern eyes, where novelizations (the good ones, at least) are often crafted to be a unique experience entirely unto themselves.

I should also point out that this seems to follow the alternate/"Canadian" pilot that Tony covered above. The particle beam is the wild arcs of blue energy Tony describes, and I'll bet some of the extra incidental dialogue I came across is present in this cut and is responsible for the extra couple minutes of running time.

Oh, there is one little change. Following the accident, when Norman approaches Jesse for a second attempt at pitching the project, Jesse floors him with a sock to the jaw. It's random and there's no real reason for it, but it is amusing.

Tune in next Saturday Morning for another Street Hawk adventure in "A Second Self".

If you'd like to watch along with us, the entire series is available in a DVD set which can be purchased through Amazon US, Amazon CA, or Amazon UK.

1 comment:

Tony Williams said...

You deserve combat pay for having to read the author's description of Christopher Lloyd in a Speedo :p.