starring Barry Van Dyke, Geraint Wyn Davies, Michele Scarabelli, and Anthony Sherwood
In the corner of a bar, a small television set is broadcasting a basketball game. All eyes are fixed on the game save those of two men – Saint John Hawke and Mike Rivers. Saint John is preoccupied as he considers his future with the Company. He has come to the conclusion that he has risked his life too many times and now, enough is enough. Mike isn’t convinced that this is what St John really wants but listens to his friend anyway.
It’s late in the evening but work is continuing at the Santini Air hangar. Jo Santini is working hard to repair one of her helicopters. The job she is working on isn’t difficult to someone with her skills and so she, too, has a television set switched on and is half-watching the same basketball game – offering her own opinions of how to play the game as she does so.
Also working late, Jason Locke is at Company Headquarters as he whiles away the evening sorting through piles of paperwork. His television set, though switched to the same basketball game is all but ignored until Locke looks up from his work and idly flicks through the TV stations with his remote control. As he pauses upon finding a station broadcasting a programme featuring a girl in a bikini, Jason is disturbed when static overtakes his TV screen. Shortly, a distinguished white-haired man appears on the screen offering his apologies for interrupting the broadcast.
The man begins reciting a message for all to hear as the basketball game at the bar has also been interrupted. Mike draws St John‘s attention to the screen.
The television at Santini Air now occupies 100% of Jo‘s attention as she, too, listens to the enforced message. The man talks of a great peril to Mankind. That peril is disease – contagious afflictions of the body. He tells how absurd it is that a perfectly healthy man should have to isolate himself away from the diseases of the world when it would be more right to isolate the diseased people away. He goes on to make his demands – that all of the nations of the world should establish isolated communities in which they should lock away people with any type of disease. They have 48-hours to begin such a task and, by way of underlining his directive, the man – who calls himself ‘Malduke‘ – shows them a freighter in the middle of the ocean occupied only by dead people. Shortly, the basketball game continues but Jo, St John and Mike have somewhere to go…
Later, at Company Headquarters, Jason is showing the team the broadcast again from a recording. He tells them that the same broadcast was transmitted over every single television signal in the world – a feat only able to be achieved with the most sophisticated satellite technology in the world. A satellite capable of very advanced surveillance techniques – to which Mike Rivers coins the phrase “A spy in the sky.”.
Jo asks about the freighter and Jason reveals that it is a Liberian freighter – “The Trident Queen” and, for some reason, the Japanese are very concerned about what has happened to it. They have requested assistance from the USA to locate it. This task is to involve Airwolf.
As the team move to the Lair of The Wolf, an American jet-fighter is already searching for the freighter. “Search One” locates the freighter but as it approaches it, the pilot is alerted to a tracer-system that is targeting his plane. Within moments, multiple laser blasts fire out from an orbiting satellite. The pilot avoids many such blasts but the sky is filled with them and, eventually, one hits. An explosion is the final indication of the jet-fighter’s location.
Many miles away, Malduke is hidden away in his laboratory. The laboratory is secreted beneath a pyramid and, inside the laboratory, is an advanced oxygen-tent. Within the oxygen-tent sits the isolated madman, Malduke. Malduke‘s personal physician is preparing plans to do a full blood transfusion for Malduke as information is fed to them from Malduke‘s assistant who has been watching the destruction of the jet-fighter. As Malduke listens to the report of the destroyed ‘plane, he calmly plays a game of chess by means of a robotic arm outside the oxygen-tent.
Meanwhile, Airwolf is in the skies with St John and Mike flying it. Mike can’t detect any signs of the tracer device and so St John asks Jason if he has any more information about it. Back at the lair, Jason suggests that it could be radar controlled and so advises caution.
It doesn’t take long for the laser to begin illuminating the skies again. Disoriented, St John tells Mike to jam the source of the laser but Mike is unable to do so. Exhausting all options, Mike suggests that it is targeting them by means of sound – St John puts Airwolf into “Whisper Mode”. Within seconds, the laser beam stops.
Back at his base, Malduke is not pleased with the latest news. He commands his assistant to target the satellite’s camera onto the offending aircraft. He assumes that the helicopter must be a new top secret weapon of the government’s. His assistant warns him that the helicopter is getting closer to the freighter. Quickly, Malduke commands him to scan for the correct radio frequency and to put him in contact with the pilot. He warns Hawke that if he approaches the freighter, explosives will detonate it.
While Hawke speaks with Malduke, Mike opens up a second radio frequency back to the lair so that Locke can track down the transmission. St John bluffs Malduke by telling him that as the freighter is only occupied by dead people, he may blow it up before Malduke gets the chance. Malduke then reveals that the freighter contains atomic waste from Japanese Nuclear Power Plants and, should it be blown up, the waste will pollute the entire Pacific Basin – killing all life therein. Under Mike‘s controls, the Airwolf computers confirm the atomic waste. Jason gives them more information as he tells them that the Pacific Basin supplies a major portion of the world’s oxygen supply so such a disaster would be far reaching.
Saint John asks if Jason‘s had any luck in tracking down the transmission but even with the sophisticated computers at his disposal, Locke reveals that Malduke is relaying his signal via the satellite and could be anywhere on the globe.
In the meantime, Jo has been running a program of her own and has come to some disturbing conclusions. The printout tells her that the satellite will be able to track Airwolf to the lair if they return. She suggests that they go into a holding-pattern until the satellite is out of range which Locke calculates will be in about twenty minutes. Hawke takes Airwolf through a unique pattern of manoeuvres as he bides his time. When Airwolf‘s computer’s show the satellite to be out of range, they return to the Lair.
Once in the Lair, Hawke listens as Jason confirms the cargo of the freighter. However, some countries have agreed to give the impression that they are carrying out Malduke‘s orders – just to buy the Airwolf team some more time. Having no other leads, Hawke and the team wait in the Lair as they try and track down more information. During this time, Malduke transmits footage showing the fates of three world leaders who refused to meet his demands – none survived.
Jo picks up another transmission from Malduke as he continues his rantings on his view of the future. Even without the aid of the computers, Jo realises that this time the message isn’t being relayed by the satellite. She has its source pinpointed within seconds. Hawke and Mike race towards Airwolf…
Approaching the source of the broadcast in Airwolf, Mike detects the transmission as originating in a small wooden hut. Hawke moves closer for a better scan. The message from Malduke turns out to be a recording set to lure Airwolf into a trap. The first part of the trap is to get Airwolf close enough for a large amount of explosives to be set off. Mike detects the explosives – but it’s too late!
Airwolf gets caught in the blast but, thanks to Saint John‘s swift motions, Airwolf remains in the sky. Malduke‘s plan doesn’t end there because he predicted that Airwolf might survive and so prepared a contingency tactic.
Three helicopter gunships fly out from behind a hilltop. Hawke tries to evade them but Airwolf‘s armament has been damaged so he can’t fire back. While they’re under attack Mike attempts to lash-up a repair to the weapons system.
The gunships increase their attack – just as Mike brings the weapons back on-line. Hawke activates Airwolf‘s A.D.F.-pod and swings back behind the first two attackers. He polishes them off with ease and then prepares to take the final gunship. This he does…
Malduke realises that his plan to destroy Airwolf didn’t work. His assistant sets up a visual link to Airwolf. Hawke tells Malduke that he is the next on Airwolf‘s list. Malduke, however, returns the threat. He tells Hawke that if he sees Airwolf in the skies one more time he will detonate the freighter!
Later, at the Lair, Jason returns from an emergency session with the National Security Council. They have decided that an attempt must be made to board the freighter and disarm the bomb and the job has been given to the Airwolf team. Locke presents them with a CD-ROM containing information on all known electrical triggering devices which he instructs Jo to load into Airwolf‘s computers. The information will supplement what Saint John already knows about such devices.
Jo checks the weather report which reveals a heavy cloud cover moving in. Saint John and Mike are to use this to prevent Malduke‘s satellite from detecting Airwolf. However, they will only have this protection for a limited time – thirty minutes.
Jo loads the information from the CD into Airwolf as Saint John and Mike carry out more permanent repairs to Airwolf‘s weapons systems.
Back at his base, Malduke is becoming insistent on knowing the location of Airwolf‘s base but his assistant cannot find any information on the helicopter.
In the Lair, Jo and Jason are bidding farewell to their friends. As the guys project false-confidence, the tearful Jo is clearly concerned for their safety. Soon, Airwolf is rising up through the volcano and is back in the skies once more…
With Airwolf out on the mission, Jason and Jo are startled when Malduke‘s urgent voice comes over the radio insisting on talking to Saint John Hawke. However, in order to keep from being detected, Airwolf is maintaining radio-silence so Locke bluffs for time. He tells Malduke that Hawke is in hospital recovering from injuries sustained during the battle against the gunships. Malduke gives Jason just twenty minutes to get Hawke to a radio.
Back at the freighter, Airwolf is in whisper-mode to prevent the laser from targeting them once more. Saint John lowers himself to the ground as Mike puts the CD-ROM into the computer. On the deck, Saint John wears special glasses to determine where the booby traps are placed. He locates explosives secreted all over the deck. By tracing the wiring he discovers the triggering device and begins to dismantle it.
As the twenty minutes counts down, Jason knows he has to buy his team more time. He contacts Malduke and tells him that they need more time for Hawke‘s ambulance to arrive. Malduke becomes suspicious that they didn’t just take a radio to Hawke‘s hospital bed. As Jason continues to bluff, Malduke‘s assistant reports that he has traced the transmission signal to Airwolf‘s base. Malduke realises that Locke wouldn’t have kept the transmission going unless he had a very good reason… He commands that the freighter be exploded..!
Hawke has a mass of wires in his hands and he cuts the live wire just as the signal is sent to activate the triggering device. The force of the shock throws Hawke across the deck… But he survives.
Once in the skies, Saint John reports back to base that the mission was a success. Relieved, Jason and Jo await their arrival.
A few hours later and dawn is beginning to break. Airwolf hasn’t yet returned buy the Lair receives unexpected visitors by way of Malduke and many armed men. Jason and Jo are tied up and gagged as Malduke‘s men prepare an electrified net at the base of the volcano. Malduke‘s plan is that Airwolf and its base will be destroyed when the net is tripped. He sends his men away but elects to stay as he no longer has a wish to stay in a world populated by “diseased people”.
A short time later they hear the rotor blades of Airwolf approaching. However, Malduke didn’t bank on the tenacity of Locke who had opened the radio transmitter as soon as Malduke‘s men had entered. As such, Saint John and Mike race in with guns raised like trained soldiers.
With his gun aimed at Jo‘s neck, Malduke commands them to lay down their weapons. They begin to do this but Hawke throws his machine-gun onto the computer surface which sparks wildly. The distraction interrupts Malduke‘s concentration as Hawke leaps forward to knock the gun from his hand. Mike dives in and pulls Jo out of danger as one blow from Malduke sends Hawke spinning over another computer console. A vice-like grip relieves Mike of his gun but Hawke is soon on the attack again. With one hand, Malduke grasps Saint John‘s neck and begins to choke the life out of him. Mike recovers his gun and fires. Three shots hit Malduke but he hardly notices. He throws Hawke to the ground as the back of one hand casts Mike across the metal railings as though he weighed nothing. Using all of his strength, Saint John propels Malduke into the huge bank of computers on the far wall. Electricity arcs around Malduke as his body falls to the ground where his head rolls to one side revealing a robotic interior.
The robotic head of Malduke sits on the floor and as its last vestiges of energy dies away its eyes move to follow the Airwolf team across the Lair. The team believe Malduke to be dead but on the other end of the robot’s eyes, the real Malduke watches them walk away…
THE MICHELE SCARABELLI FACTOR
“Malduke” is played by Dick Van Dyke (father of Barry) and he’s clearly having fun as the madman. If he ever got out of that oxygen-tent you could be sure we’d have had a riot of an episode!
As an episode Malduke is uncharacteristically slow. The story is in the traditional mould of “madman threatens the world so send for Airwolf!” and is played well enough on the drama side. However, one can’t help but feel that there isn’t sufficient story to warrant a full episode. For instance, the “farewell” scene when Saint John and Mike prepare to leave to disarm the bomb feels like padding – just how long does it take St John to get into Airwolf? (Nice though it is to see Michele Scarabelli having an emotionally-charged tearful scene once more.)
This lack of sufficient story does have some plus points, however, for we are allowed the chance to see what our heroes do during their “off-time”. St John and Mike hang out at a local bar; Jason is forever occupied with paperwork; while Jo is living her dream of working on her helicopters.
There are a number of flaws in this episode, presumably the fault of time constraints, but probably the worst is when Airwolf first returns to the Lair after Saint John has been warned away from the freighter by Malduke. Airwolf returns to the Lair in its usual manner but, as it descends the volcano, we get a pilot’s-eye-view of Jo and Jason waiting for them. This is clearly a reverse shot from the later scene when Saint John and Mike leave to begin their daredevil mission. The obvious point of note is that Jo and Jason are leaning on the railing when actually they are sitting further away by the computers as you discover when Airwolf has “landed” a few seconds later. This is forgiveable until you watch Michele. For Michele is portraying Jo Santini in a grief-stricken mode (which was showing Jo‘s fear that her friends may not return). Seeing Jo Santini crying in reverse confuses the atmosphere that the scene had set up.
Another flaw comes by way of the CD-ROM containing data on all known triggering devices. While in the Lair, Jason passes this to Jo instructing her to load it into Airwolf. She climbs into Airwolf to do this. However, during the death-defying mission of Hawke‘s, we see Mike sliding the CD-ROM into the appropriate draw and the computer monitor displaying the word “Loading…” – so, therefore, Jo obviously DIDN’T do as she was instructed.
Fortunately, for an ostensibly non-action oriented episode, Malduke has many great moments such as the wonderful fight against the Malduke-robot at the end – with some outstanding special effects as the robot is electrocuted. There’s nothing more eerie than seeing the Malduke-head sitting motionless on the ground with its eyes still moving. In all, this is mostly a Dick Van Dyke episode and so is not necessarily the finest example of Airwolf but, if you watch it in genial spirit, there are some great moments to be had.
One of the most reliable aspects of episodes from this season of Airwolf is the excellent use of its fine music. Most notable is the music first used to perfection in the Jo Santini spy-mission scene of the episode Escape. This time the music is used as Airwolf is lured into the trap by Malduke‘s recording.
One question remains unanswered, though. If Jo Santini really does occasionally sleep in the Lair – how is it that she’s able to wake-up looking so cute?