Not Too Distant

Maybe it was the threat of fuel shortages earlier in the year.

Or possibly the image of tumbleweeds on a deserted highway that under normal circumstances would have been noisy with traffic.

Whatever the initiate, something got me to thinking back to a short-lived show that screened on late night television when I was a kid starring Mark ‘Jacko’ Jackson.

Former VFL footballer, Jackson, whose main acting credit to that point was flogging Energizer batteries had, with the clout of an influential agent, landed on a post-apocalyptic action-adventure series as a sidekick to a US Marshall (Sam J Jones of Flash Gordon) who drove a souped-up semi.

It was called The Highwayman, a kind of hybrid between Mad Max and Knight Rider for the Airwolf crowd.

Which is to say, given my young age at the time, me.

The premise of the show was sketchy. Future knight errants roam the outlands solving mysteries and salvaging the misfortunes of wayfaring strangers while armed with outlandish shotguns and driving diesel guzzling trucks fitted out with all manner of gimmickry.

Although set in the not-too-distant-future there was nary a mention of hydrogen fuel cell technology.

Actual real world application in the design of the vehicles was scarce despite the trailers housing sports cars if memory serves me.

For the eponymous hero’s vehicle a nose of a five seat French helicopter had been retrofitted where the bonnet should have been.

Quite the view should you need to land an 18-wheeler from a great height without warning.

The original truck, at least in the movie length pilot, was supposedly enhanced by stealth capability in which it could simply disappear.

After nine episodes the show eventually did.

No doubt the showrunner had a bold imagination that could not be reconciled by budgetary limitations — a problem of differing magnitude for everyone from Elon Musk to the US Military.

A real stealth vessel, the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit, to look at, is something akin to a tool found in Batman’s utility belt.

It’s hardly a thing of beauty. As it eschews the traditional jet design of fuselage, wings and three rear stabilisers, the Stealth Bomber has reduced the total force of air resistance acting on the plane to eliminate drag.

As its purpose is to avoid detection while travelling great distances in short periods of time it can cover, without refuelling, 11,000 kilometres.

Here, form and function are one. Tesla’s Cybertruck further blurs this line, in which the eyesore of its aesthetics belie a design that screams built-for-purpose if that purpose is the coming apocalypse.

The hopeful rhetoric of modernism to borrow a phrase from Robert Hughes was that big government would latch onto what big business would not.

Yet here we are.

For anyone who has seen images of Walmart’s concept truck the similarities with the crude design of the vehicle in The Highwayman are not easy to shake.

“There is a world just beyond now where reality rides a razor-thin seam between fact and possibility, where the laws of the present collide with the crimes of tomorrow,” intones the unnamed narrator at the commencement of each episode of The Highwayman.

Maybe he was onto something.

Leave a Reply

Send this to a friend