40th anniversary of Hawaii Five-O’s Nine Dragons

Wo Fat triumphs (for a while) over McGarrett in Nine Dragons

Wo Fat triumphs (for a while) over McGarrett in Nine Dragons

This year marks the 40th anniversary of one of the best episodes of the original Hawaii Five-O series, the two-hour Nine Dragons.

The first episode of the 1976-77 season was one of the best encounters between the original Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord) and the original Wo Fat (Khigh Dhiegh).

The episode also featured the most James Bond-like plot of the original 1968-80 series. Wo Fat intends to lead a coup of China, then launch a preemptive nuclear attack on the United States.

To ensure no other nations retaliate, Wo Fat abducts McGarrett. The lawman, under torture, is recorded as saying the U.S. was responsible for the deaths of Chinese leadership (that Wo Fat plans to accomplish). The film will be broadcast as the attack against the U.S. takes place, causing other countries to not attack China.

All of this, of course, is rather fantastic. Nevertheless, it features one of the best performances by Khigh Diegh as Wo Fat. The actor (1910-1991) essentially gets a chance to meld his two best-known characters: Wo Fat and the Chinese brain washing expert in the 1962 version of The Manchurian Candidate.

What’s more, Jack Lord’s McGarrett, for once in the series, is utterly defeated, at least for a time. Despite McGarrett’s resistance, he eventually gives in. McGarrett, naturally, rallies and escapes. McGarrett has no memory of the defeat until he gets a chance to view the film shortly before Wo Fat intends to use it.

Nine Dragons included contributions from one of Five-O’s best writers (Jerome Coopersmith, his next-to-last script) and directors (Michael O’Herlihy, his final effort for the series). Above all, it features one of the best scores for the show by Morton Stevens, who composed the classic Five-O theme.

Finally, the episode includes on-location filming in Hong Kong, a first for the show. To defray the cost, CBS struck a deal with Air Siam (everybody in the epiosde who takes a flight flies on Air Siam).

Five-O would not have such on-location filming until the end of the 11th season, where a two-hour episode was filmed in Singapore (The Year of the Horse), that included one-time 007 George Lazenby.

Case study: rebooting an arch foe (non-007 spoiler)

The original Wo Fat (Khigh Dhiegh) gloats when he momentarily has an advantage over Steve McGarrett

The original Wo Fat (Khigh Dhiegh) gloats when he momentarily has an advantage over Steve McGarrett

James Bond fans are debating whether it’s a good idea or not for a rebooted Ernst Stavro Blofeld to be part of Bond 24. What spurred the discussion was A REPORT IN THE MAIL ON SUNDAY saying such a move would occur.

At this point, it’s not known whether that’s really happening or not. Even if it is, fans might know it for sure until Bond 24 comes out in the fall of 2015, similar to how Agent Eve in Skyfall turned out to be a rebooted Moneypenny.

That hasn’t stopped fan debates concerning a 21st century version of Blofeld. Some think it’d be great, especially if a new Blofeld were closer to the character depicted in Ian Fleming’s novels. Others say it’s best to leave Blofeld in the past.

A similar rebooting of an arch foe has been done, and completed, on the rebooted Hawaii Five-0. That series debuted in 2010 on CBS and its 100th episode was telecast Nov. 7. We’re talking about, of course, Wo Fat, who was Steve McGarrett’s greatest enemy in the original 1968-80 Hawaii Five-O.

This post is simply a look at the choices the new series made in rebooting Wo Fat. It’s not meant as predicting or advocating how Blofeld should be rebooted (if he is at all) in Bond 24.

The original Wo Fat (Khigh Dhiegh) was very much the mastermind, manipulating events and spinning schemes. He left the rough stuff up to his flunkies. At times, he even displayed a sarcastic sense of humor.

Initially, Wo Fat worked for China. At the time the original series debuted, the United States didn’t have diplomatic relations with China. In the second half of the series, Wo Fat went independent and in one seventh season episode says the current Chinese government is too soft. In a two-hour episode in the ninth season, he plans to stage a coup, seize power and launch nuclear missiles at the U.S. Wo Fat thought big.

This version of the character didn’t show up all that often and there were some seasons where he didn’t appear at all. Each encounter between Wo Fat and McGarrett seemed more special (excluding a second-season episode where Wo Fat only made a cameo appearance.) Wo Fat gets captured in the final episode. There was no personal connection between Wo Fat and McGarrett (Jack Lord), although the villain came to despise his adversary.

Mark Cacascos, Wo Fat 2.0.

Mark Cacascos, Wo Fat 2.0.

For the new series, there’s a new mean, lean Wo Fat (Dacascos). This Wo Fat is an independent terrorist, though he appears to be welcome in North Korea, which he uses as his base of operations for one episode. He plots, engages in his own fighting and brutally kills people on his own. He also shows up a lot more often — 15 of the first 100 episodes. Wo Fat and the new McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) have a number of intense fights over those episodes.

And, it turns out, Wo Fat’s hatred of McGarrett turns out to be personal from the start, although this wasn’t revealed initially.

This McGarrett has a mother who is a U.S. spy. She had been assigned to kill Wo Fat’s father but killed his mother instead. Mom McGarrett initially tried to raise Wo Fat as her own but her U.S. intelligence bosses said that was a bad idea. As a result, Wo Fat has a big hatred of the McGarrett clan from the start.

For his final appearance, Wo Fat 2.0 tortured McGarrett (and not for the first time on the series). Eventually, McGarrett got free and the two had one last all-out fight. They’re laying on the floor, exhausted, each holding a gun on the other. Wo Fat sarcastically calls McGarrett brother. “You’re not my brother,” McG replies. No more Wo Fat.

Peter Lenkov, the show’s executive producer who also wrote the episode, TOLD TV GUIDE he didn’t initially plan to kill off Wo Fat but, “If he had gotten away at the end, I think it may have seemed ridiculous.”

Wo Fat: classic vs. reboot (spoiler)

Hawaii-five-O-original

Stop reading if spoilers give you anguish. (Although the episode has been out since Nov. 7.)

So, Wo Fat 2.0 met his demise in the 100th episode of the rebooted Hawaii Five-0.

Executive producer Peter Lenkov TOLD TV GUIDE:

When I wrote the outline [for the episode], he wasn’t dead in the outline. And when I started writing the script, it really felt like a natural end to the episode. I had always envisioned following the pattern of the original show, with the last show that we ever do being the capture of Wo Fat. But I felt, when I was writing it, that that felt a little predictable for people who watch the show and know the original one…I felt like if I was going to surprise the audience at any point, this would be it.

In the rebooted show, which debuted in the fall of 2010, Wo Fat 2.0 (Mark Dacascos) was used a lot more than the original Wo Fat (Khigh Dhiegh). Rebooted Wo Fat appeared in 15 episodes in less than five full seasons. By comparison, original Wo Fat appeared 13 times in 12 full seasons of Hawaii Five-O (which was how the original show was spelled). This counts his appearance in the pilot as only one appearance (even though the pilot was later re-edited as a two-part episode). We’re counting all other two-part episodes as one appearance for for each part. The original Wo Fat didn’t appear at all in seasons 6, 10 and 11.

Rebooted Wo Fat was supposed to be mastermind *and* terrific fighter. Thus, he was lean, mean and a master of martial arts. Portly original Wo Fat was content to be a mastermind who let others do the violence and generally manipulated events. It should be noted that Wo Fat 2.0 had virtual control of Hawaii (at the end of season 1 it was revealed the governor was under his control) but nobody knew it.

Richard Matheson and his (unlikely) contribution to spy TV

Richard Matheson

Richard Matheson

Author Richard Matheson died this week at the age of 87. Obituaries, SUCH AS THIS ONE ON NPR quite rightly detailed work such as I Am Legend, classic episodes of The Twilight Zone and the early 1970s television movie Duel, starring Dennis Weaver, which was one of Steven Spielberg’s early directing credits.

He also made an unlikely contribution to 1960s spy television. It wasn’t on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. or Mission: Impossible or Get Smart or The Wild, Wild West. Instead, it was the script for an installment of The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., the spinoff that only lasted one season.

The specific episode was THE ATLANTIS AFFAIR, the ninth episode of the series. While it suffers some of the same campiness that crimped the entire Girl series, it is one of the better entries for the show. With Matheson scripting, April Dancer (Stefanie Powers) and Mark Slate (Noel Harrison) come across as more than competent, which wasn’t always the case in a show that too often played it for laughs while falling short.

Matheson’s script even introduces some science fiction elements. The villain in the episode is even played by Khigh Dhiegh, two years before his debut as Wo Fat, the arch-foe of Steve McGarrett in Hawaii Five-O.

Hawaii Five-O season 12 out on DVD in January

Season 12 of Hawaii Five-O, the last campaign of the 1968-80 show, is scheduled to come out on DVD on Jan. 10, according to the TV Shows on DVD Web site.

By this time, star Jack Lord as lawman Steve McGarrett was the only remaining member of the original cast still present. James MacArthur departed at the end of the 11th season. A new supporting cast was recruited, led by veteran character actor William Smith as James Carew, a cop looking for the men who killed his wife. Also on board was Sharon Farrell as Lori, the first Five-O woman officer. Prior to this, Five-O occasionally utilized policewomen working for the Hololulu P.D.

But there were notable returns. Composer Morton Stevens, who wrote the Five-O theme, was back scoring episodes after skipping the 11th season. Ross Martin, who had appeared in three season 11 episodes as a Hawaiian crime boss, was back in the role for two episodes in season 12. And Khigh Dhiegh as archvillain Wo Fat reprised the role one more time. The back of Five-O Season 12 box has at least three images from the episode, titled “Woe to Wo Fat.”

Most season 12 episodes don’t receive good reviews on the Web site of Five-O expert Mike Quigley. Hard-core Five-O fans, we suspect, will still seek out the DVD set.

Here’s the final scenes of the series, with Morton Stevens supplying the music.

Meet the new Wo Fat

Actor Mark Cacascos has assumed the role of Steve McGarrett’s arch-nemesis, originated by Khigh Dhiegh in the original Hawaii Five-O series.

The new Wo Fat surfaced at the end of the Dec. 13 episode, which you can watch BY CLICKING HERE. It features the return of the man who killed the father of McGarrett 2.0, as seen in the pilot of the new series. It’s revealed that the killer is in the employ of Wo Fat at the very end of the episode.

The last time original Wo Fat appeared? April 1980 when the last episode of the original series ended. Here’s the final faceoff:

Wo Fat 2.0 makes his appearance in the new Hawaii Five-0 show

Younger, thinner. no longer bald and with no facial hair, the new version of Wo Fat made his debut in the Dec. 13 oif the new Hawaii Five-O (or Hawaii Five-0, as the new series is officially spelled) series on Dec. 13. The revamped version of Steve McGarrett’s arch foe appeared at the very end of the show so we’ll have to see what develops (and whether he’ll come close to matching Khigh Dhiegh’s portrayal in the original series).

However it turns out, we’re pleased CBS opted to bring back the arch-villain. Wo Fat was to Steve McGarrett as Ernst Stavro Blofeld was to James Bond or Professor Moriatry was to Sherlock Holmes.