Viper (1994–1999)


Viper (TV Series 1994–1999)

In the near future, an organized crime group known as the "Outfit" has become a major force in America. Engineer Julian Wilkes develops a high-tech crime-fighting vehicle called the Viper, which is intended to be a "flagship" in a new crackdown on crime. The Viper needs a driver, so when Outfit driver Michael Payton is injured and captured, his memory is erased, and he is given a new identity as Joe Astor, MetroPol employee. The Outfit discredits the Viper project, but when it is canceled, Joe and Julian steal the Viper and strike out on their own private war against crime.
IMDb   5.9 /10
TheMovieDb    6.1 /10
FilmAffinity   4.2 /10
Creator Danny Bilson
Creator Paul De Meo
Release Date1994-01-01
GenreAction, Adventure, Crime
Content Rating
CompanyMEC Viper Productions, Paramount Television, Pet Fly Productions
CountryUSA, Canada
Frankie Watersas Frankie Waters…
Det. Cameron Westlakeas Det. Cameron Westlake…
Sherman Catlettas Sherman Catlett…
Agent Thomas Coleas Agent Thomas Cole…
Joe Astoras Joe Astor…
Allie Farrowas Allie Farrow
Julian Wilkesas Julian Wilkes
Mara Wilkesas Mara Wilkes
Commander Delia Thorneas Commander Delia Thorne
Lane Cassidyas Lane Cassidy
Ronnie Wilkesas Ronnie Wilkes
Lucy Wilkesas Lucy Wilkes
Neil Fifer
Neil Fifer
Copas Cop…
Jerome Midlandas Jerome Midland…
Alec Connoras Alec Connor
Jack Surberas Jack Surber…
Agent Harperas Agent Harper…
Robert Kerbeck
Robert Kerbeck
Ben Sakmaras Ben Sakmar…

Viper (TV series)

Viper is an American action-adventure television series about a special United States task force set up by the federal government to fighting 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 masquerades as a Dodge Viper RT/10 roadster and coupe (later, the Viper GTS). The series takes place in "the near future". The primary brand of vehicles driven in the show were Chrysler or subsidiary companies. The series ran on NBC for one season in 1994 before being revived two years later for three more seasons of first-run syndication. Reruns of the series have appeared on Sci-Fi Channel and USA Network.

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

NBC run

The original series began filming in Los Angeles Area in early 1993 and was planned to debut on CBS in Fall 1993. However, it was first delayed when Stephen J. Cannell also named his new TV show Viper. After a lawsuit by Chrysler Corporation, Cannell renamed his show to Cobra. After that, the premiere was delayed further when CBS deemed the series to be too violent and decided to bury it. However, due to Chrysler's backing, the show proceeded on, and was picked up by NBC.

The series originally aired on NBC during the 1993–1994 season, debuting on January 2, 1994 with a two-hour pilot movie, as a mid-season replacement for Against the Grain in NBC's Friday Night 8PM slot. After falling ratings, the series was canceled in April 1994.

The music for the pilot and opening theme for season 1 was composed by Eddie Jobson. Jay Ferguson took over music composition for the rest of the seasons. He composed a remixed theme of the original season-1 opening and the brand new season-4 opening theme.

The Dodge Viper RT/10 Roadsters used in seasons 1–3 were actually not production models. Instead, Chrysler supplied various leftover engineering mules and prototypes of the Viper (still visually the same). Many other cars in season 1 were leftover prototypes, as well. For example, in the pilot movie, the Eagle Premier sedans with yellow vinyl stripes were drivetrain engineering mules for the LH cars (Dodge Intrepid/Chrysler Concorde).

The special effect "hex snakeskin" transformation for the pilot and the first season was done by Metrolight Studios. Tim Claycomb and Tim Eilers took over the transformation sequence after the first season. Sources indicate that it cost $50,000 for each transformation scene in the NBC season.

First-run syndication version

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After NBC canceled the series, production company Paramount Television decided to rework Viper for first-run syndication. With the company's syndication unit as distributor, Viper began airing on weekends in September 1996. The only actor to return for season 2 was Joe Nipote in his role as Frankie "X" Waters, and he would remain until the end of the series. James McCaffrey, who played Joe Astor, the Viper's driver in season 1, returned in season 4. Heather Medway, who played Det. Cameron Westlake, was the only new cast member from the show's revival to stay on the entire three syndicated seasons (from 1996 to 1999).

Season 2 was filmed predominantly in Calgary, Alberta. The series was then moved for filming in Vancouver, British Columbia, during seasons 3 and 4. The Cobalt Blue Metallic color on the Viper GTS in season 4 was not an optional color for the production Viper GTS; it was specifically for the show only.

Viper came to an end in May 1999.


Season 1 (1994)

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 armored 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 in 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 project, leading to its cancellation. 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. 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.

Season 2 (1996–1997)

Shortly after Astor's departure, Metro City was hit by a second crime wave, this time in the form of a team of renegade ex-commandos led by Col. Hanson Dekker (played by Tim Thomerson), a former U.S. Army Special Forces officer, who served combat tours in Iraq, Bosnia, and Cuba. Against this backdrop, Thomas Cole (played by Jeff Kaake), a CIA agent with evasive driving experience, was selected to head a new Viper Team. He was delivering the new Viper to Metro City when he was pulled over for speeding by two MetroPol officers, Cameron Westlake (played by Heather Medway) and her partner, an officer named Carpenter (played by Roger R. Cross). During this traffic stop, Dekker and his commandos hit the Metro City Bank.

Upon hearing of the bank heist on their radio, Carpenter and Westlake left Cole behind to join their fellow officers at the bank to confront Dekker and his commandos. Officer Carpenter saved Westlake's life by knocking her to the ground when the International Transtar 4300 tractor Dekker was driving smashed through the Metropol roadblock, only to die when he was shot by Dekker's second-in-command, Lee Cyrus (played by Dean Wray). Because of the bank heist, the Viper Project was reborn, with a Metropol liaison to ride shotgun. For this assignment, Westlake's superior, Capt. Harold Benning (played by Mike Genovese), promoted her to detective and sent her to the meeting place, where she found herself meeting Thomas Cole, the very man Carpenter and she pulled over for speeding. She also met Waters, the original mechanic from the first Viper Project, and Allie Farrow (played by Dawn Stern), Viper's systems specialist.

Despite a systems glitch and the kidnapping of Waters by Dekker and his men, the Viper Team defeated them and rescued Waters. Dekker was killed when his Transtar 4300 was blown up by the team to keep it from crashing into Metro Hospital.

After this victory, the Viper Team carried on its crusade against evil, overcoming such obstacles as interference by Special Agent Sherman Catlett (played by J. Downing), a by-the-book bureaucrat from the FBI, to the team being discredited again, this time by Lee Cyrus, the man who murdered Westlake's partner, Officer Carpenter.

Cyrus' scheme to discredit the team involved a replica of the Viper in the Defender configuration, which his men and he used to commit vicious crimes, including a murder. This led Cole's superior, the Administrator (played by Bruce A. Young), to shut down the team. In defiance of orders to stand down, the team cleared their name and Westlake avenged Carpenter's death.

Season 3 (1997–1998)

After serving as the team's systems specialist for several months, Allie Farrow was reassigned to another post, which left Waters to take care of the Defender's systems and mechanical needs by himself. During this period, the team had to contend with new enemies, including Lena Weisinger (played by Stephanie Niznik), a former Stasi agent turned freelance mercenary, who had a personal vendetta against Westlake for killing her lover, Emil Rurik (played by Mike Dopud), during a shootout.

However, after years of successful operation, the team suffered a tragic loss ... not of one of their people, but the car. A notorious criminal named Giles Seaton (played by Peter Wingfield) concocted a plot to steal the Defender by using a criminal named Terry Hawkes (Jeff Kaake in a dual role), who was turned into a Thomas Cole look-alike with plastic surgery. As Cole, Hawkes successfully penetrated the team's headquarters, and despite being exposed by the real Cole, made off with the Viper. To prevent Hawkes from escaping, the team blew up the Viper, keeping its secrets from falling into enemy hands.

Season 4 (1998–1999)

In the aftermath of the Viper's destruction, Cole was permanently reassigned to undercover work on other fronts. With the team gone, Metro City was again gripped by an enormous crime wave, forcing the feds to restart the Viper Team a third time. This time, the car they used was a 1996 Cobalt Blue Metallic Dodge Viper GTS Coupe, which, due to Wilkes, had the equipment of the original Defender, along with some new equipment, most notably the hovercraft mode. Since Cole had been reassigned, Joe Astor, the original driver, was called back to service. However, Astor was haunted by his old Payton identity once more.

Cast and characters

  • James McCaffrey as Michael Payton / Joe Astor (seasons 1,4)
  • Joe Nipote as Frankie Xavier Waters
  • Dorian Harewood as Julian Wilkes (seasons 1,4)
  • Jeff Kaake as Thomas Cole / as Terry Hawkes (seasons 2–3)
  • Heather Medway as Cameron Westlake (seasons 2-4)
  • J. Downing as Agent Sherman Catlett
  • Dawn Stern as Allie Farrow (season2)


Season 1 (1994)

No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
"Pilot"Danny BilsonPaul De Meo & Danny BilsonJanuary 2, 1994
33"Once a Thief"Danny BilsonDarrell FettyJanuary 7, 1994
44"Ghost"Bruce BilsonStory by : Danny Bilson
Teleplay by : David Newman
January 14, 1994
55"Safe as Houses"Bruce BilsonDarrell FettyJanuary 21, 1994
66"Firehawk"Mario AzzopardiJohn Francis MooreJanuary 28, 1994
77"Mind Games"Mario AzzopardiStory by : Jim Trombetta & Andrew W. Marlowe
Teleplay by : Andrew W. Marlowe
February 11, 1994
88"The Face"Gus TrikonisTommy ThompsonFebruary 18, 1994
99"Wheels of Fire"Bruce BilsonStory by : Don Kurt
Teleplay by : Bruce Kalish
February 25, 1994
1010"Past Tense"Danny BilsonStory by : Ann Powell & Rose Schacht
Teleplay by : Paul De Meo
March 4, 1994
1111"The Scoop"Mike VejarStory by : Andrew W. Marlowe
Teleplay by : Howard Chaykin & Andrew W. Marlowe
March 11, 1994
1212"Thief of Hearts"Danny BilsonHoward ChaykinMarch 18, 1994
1313"Crown of Thorns"James QuinnMitch BrianApril 1, 1994

Season 2 (1996–97)

No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
141"Winner Take All"Danny BilsonTommy ThompsonSeptember 28, 1996
152"MIG-89"Joe NapolitanoHoward ChaykinOctober 5, 1996
163"Condor"Danny BilsonStory by : Juan Carlos Coto
Teleplay by : Randy Holland & David Newman
October 12, 1996
174"Talk is Cheap"Don KurtDavid NewmanOctober 19, 1996
185"Diamond in the Rough"Oscar CostoJohn VorhausOctober 26, 1996
196"Standoff"Steve StaffordHoward ChaykinNovember 2, 1996
207"White Fire"Vern GillumBen Schwartz & Howard ChaykinNovember 9, 1996
218"Die Laughing"Jim JohnstonRobert BrennanNovember 16, 1996
229"On a Roll"Georg Stanford BrownStory by : Terry Curtis Fox
Teleplay by : Sonny Gordon
November 23, 1996
2310"Street Pirates"Bruce BilsonSusan Hamilton BrinNovember 30, 1996
2411"Breakdown on Thunder Road"William GereghtyDarrell FettyJanuary 11, 1997
2512"Manhunt"Reza BadiyiHoward ChaykinJanuary 18, 1997
2613"Turf Wars"William GereghtyStory by : Darrell Fetty
Teleplay by : Sonny Gordon
February 1, 1997
2714"Forget-Me-Not"David LivingstonSusan Hamilton BrinFebruary 8, 1997
2815"Wheelman"Danny BilsonGary GlasbergFebruary 15, 1997
2916"Shutdown"Danny BilsonDavid NewmanFebruary 22, 1997
3017"Echo of Murder"Allan KroekerRobert BrennanMarch 1, 1997
3118"Thieves Like Us"John T. KretchmerStory by : Darrell Fetty
Teleplay by : Gary Glasberg & Darrell Fetty
March 22, 1997
3219"Cold Storage"Jefferson KibbeeDarrell FettyApril 26, 1997
3320"Whistle Blower"James MarshallDarrell FettyMay 3, 1997
3421"Black Box"Robert D. BaileyHoward ChaykinMay 10, 1997
3522"The List"Mick MacKayDavid NewmanMay 17, 1997

Season 3 (1997–98)

No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
361"Triple Cross"Danny BilsonMark LissonSeptember 27, 1997
372"Cat and Mouse"James MarshallSusan Hamilton BrinOctober 4, 1997
383"The Best Couple"Bruce BilsonDavid NewmanOctober 11, 1997
394"Hidden Agenda"Mick MacKayHoward ChaykinOctober 18, 1997
405"Out from Oblivion"Paul AbascalDarrell FettyOctober 25, 1997
416"Storm Watch"James MarshallTom Fudge & Joe JohnsonNovember 1, 1997
427"Cold Warriors"William GereghtyHoward ChaykinNovember 8, 1997
438"First Mob Wives Club"Gus TrikonisDeborah Baron & Daryl G. NickensNovember 15, 1997
449"Getting MADD"James MarshallDavid NewmanNovember 22, 1997
4510"Wilderness Run"Mick MacKayTerry D. NelsonNovember 29, 1997
4611"Breakout"Minor MustainSusan Hamilton BrinJanuary 3, 1998
4712"The Getaway"Paul LynchHarry Cason & Darrell FettyJanuary 24, 1998
4813"What Makes Sammy Chun"Scott WilliamsDarrell FettyJanuary 31, 1998
4914"Paper Trail"Paul AbascalHoward ChaykinFebruary 7, 1998
5015"Regarding Catlett"Jeff SteinTom FudgeFebruary 14, 1998
5116"Trust No More"Gus TrikonisSusan Hamilton BrinFebruary 21, 1998
5217"Double Team"Clay SassoneStory by : Terry D. Nelson
Teleplay by : Tom Fudge
February 28, 1998
5318"Hot Potato"Lee KnippelbergStory by : Steven Kriozere
Teleplay by : Terry D. Nelson
March 14, 1998
5419"Homecoming"James MarshallDarrell FettyApril 18, 1998
5520"Old Acquaintance"David NewmanDavid NewmanApril 25, 1998
5621"Internal Affair"Scott WilliamsHoward ChaykinMay 2, 1998
5722"About Face"Bruce BilsonDarrell Fetty & Mark LissonMay 9, 1998

Season 4 (1998–99)

No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
581"The Return"Danny BilsonMark Lisson1998
592"Once a Con"Scott WilliamsSusan Hamilton Brin1998
603"Wisegal"Bruce BilsonDarrell FettyOctober 3, 1998
614"Holy Matrimony"James MarshallTerry D. NelsonOctober 10, 1998
625"Wanted: Fred or Alive"Gus TrikonisDavid Tischman & Richard AlexanderOctober 17, 1998
636"The Full Frankie"Robert D. BaileyDavid NewmanOctober 24, 1998
647"Honest Abe"Gus TrikonisSteve Mitchell & Dan LichtensteinOctober 31, 1998
658"Aftermath"Lee KnippelbergHoward ChaykinNovember 7, 1998
669"Family Matters"James MarshallJoe JohnsonNovember 14, 1998
6710"The Really Real Reenactment"Gus TrikonisTom FudgeDecember 5, 1998
6811"Best Seller"Bruce BilsonStory by : Howard Chaykin & Joe Johnson
Teleplay by : Joe Johnson
January 2, 1999
6912"Seminar from Hell"Scott WilliamsStory by : Mark Lisson & Howard Chaykin
Teleplay by : David Newman & Darrell Fetty
February 6, 1999
7013"People Like Us"Don KurtTerry D. NelsonFebruary 13, 1999
7114"My Fair Hoodlums"Gus TrikonisDarrell FettyFebruary 20, 1999
7215"Safe House"James MarshallHoward Chaykin & David NewmanFebruary 27, 1999
7316"Tiny Bubbles"Robert LeeSusan Hamilton BrinMarch 20, 1999
7417"Of Course, It's a Miracle"Scott WilliamsHoward ChaykinMarch 27, 1999
7518"Holy Terror"David NewmanDavid NewmanApril 17, 1999
7619"Hell Hath No Fury"Gus TrikonisDavid H. BalkanMay 1, 1999
7720"Attack of the Teki-Ya"Bruce BilsonTom FudgeMay 8, 1999
7821"Split Decision: Part 1"Danny BilsonJoe JohnsonMay 15, 1999
7922"Split Decision: Part 2"Danny BilsonHoward Chaykin & Darrell FettyMay 22, 1999

Home media

The first season of Viper was released by Kinowelt on German-language DVD in Europe in early 2011. The pilot movie and all 12 episodes are included in the Region 2 PAL Release. They subsequently released the remaining syndicated seasons thereafter.

In 2015, Visual Entertainment (VEI) picked up the DVD rights for The Sentinel, which was produced for UPN by the same production team that was responsible for Viper. TVShowsOnDVD announced on November 11, 2015 that VEI listed Viper on their website's coming soon section. The website stated "complete collection" meaning the NBC and syndicated seasons will launch simultaneously. In March 2017, in a response to a Facebook post about the series' DVD release, VEI announced that it is "coming this summer". In early-November 2017, VEI released a teaser of its release on their YouTube channel. On November 20, 2017, 18 years after the show's finale aired, VEI announced that Viper's English-language DVD release was available for pre-order, along with releasing a high-resolution image of the DVD Box set which confirmed that all 4 seasons (including the 2 hour pilot) will be included. Shipping officially started on December 8, 2017