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The Six Million Dollar Man

The Six Million Dollar Man was an American television series about a cyborg working for a U.S. secret service called OSI. The show was based on the book Cyborg from Martin Caidin, and aired on the ABC network from 1973 to 1978.

Table of contents

Overview

The background story of the show is the crash of astronaut Steve Austin in an M2-F2 "lifting body", shown in the opening credits of the show (with NASA footage of Bruce Peterson's 1967 real-life accident [1]. The aircraft was actually referred to as being an "HL-10" in the series, and the real HL-10 was used in a later episode.) Austin is severely injured in the crash and is "rebuilt" in a title-giving operation that costs six million dollars. His right arm, both legs and the left eye are replaced by bionic (cybernetic) implants that enhance his strength, speed and vision far above human norm. He uses his enhanced abilities to work for the OSI (Office of Scientific Intelligence) as a secret agent (and as a guinea pig for bionics).

The show was very popular during its run and introduced many pop culture elements of the 1970s, such as the shows opening catch phrase and the slow motion action sequences and the accompaning "electronic" sound effects. The title role was played by Lee Majors and made him a pop culture icon.

For many years, attempts have been made to bring the story of Steve Austin to the movie screen. In the mid-1990s, noted director Kevin Smith wrote a screenplay, and there were reports later that comedian Chris Rock was being considered for the role. Most recently, plans were made to film the story as a full-out comedy starring Jim Carrey, much to the dismay of longtime fans of the show; as of March 2005 reports differ as to whether this film will actually be made.

Opening narration

The opening narration for each episode has become part of American pop culture. After a couple of early versions were broadcast, the most famous version of the narration was introduced when The Six Million Dollar Man became a weekly series:

Narrator: "Steve Austin, astronaut. A man barely alive." Oscar Goldman: "Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to build the world's first bionic man. Steve Austin will be that man. Better than he was before. Better, stronger, faster."

The Cantonese-dubbed version (aired on TVB) has the following opening narration: (English translation)

"Astronaut – Steve Austin, critically injured after the accident. After doctors' diagnoses, in their opinion that they can modify him... into a man whose left eye, right hand, both legs that are unlike anyone else's. This modification finally suceeded. Steve Austin is now strong, agile, wise and brave combined."

Main characters

  • Steve Austin, the title character (played by Lee Majors)
  • Oscar Goldman, the Director of the OSI (played by Richard Anderson)
  • Dr. Rudy Wells, Austin's physician (played by Martin Balsam (pilot film only)/Alan Oppenheimer/Martin E. Brooks)
  • Jaime Sommers, the Bionic Woman, played by Lindsay Wagner – recurring
  • Oliver Spencer, Director of the OSI in the original pilot film only (played by Darren McGavin)

Parts

  • A 20.1:1 zoom lens along with a nightvision function in the left eye.
  • Bionic legs allowing him to run at more than 156 km/h (97 mph aprox.) and make great leaps.
  • A Bionic right arm with the equivalent strength of a bulldozer

Note: The original literary version of the character had a number of different bionic parts. See Trivia, below, for details.

Episode list

TV movies

Episode # Original Air Date Episode Title
M-1 7 March1973 The Six Million Dollar Man (a/k/a The Moon and the Desert)
M-2 20 October1973 Wine, Women and War
M-3 17 November1973 The Solid Gold Kidnapping

Some sources consider these movies to be part of Season 1 of the series, particularly the second and third films which aired only a couple of months before the weekly series began. All three films were later re-edited into two-part episodes of the regular series, with additional footage added, for the purposes of network reruns and later syndication.

Season 1

Episode # Production # Original Air Date Episode Title
1–01 40013 18 January1974 Population: Zero
1–02 40007 25 January1974 Survival of the Fittest
1–03 40016 1 February1974 Operation Firefly
1–04 40012 8 February1974 Day of the Robot
1–05 40014 22 February1974 Little Orphan Airplane
1–06 40005 1 March1974 Doomsday, and Counting
1–07 40023 8 March1974 Eyewitness to Murder
1–08 40024 15 March1974 The Rescue of Athena One
1–09 40021 29 March1974 Dr. Wells is Missing
1–10 40022 5 April1974 The Last of the Fourth of Julys
1–11 40020 12 April1974 Burning Bright
1–12 40015 19 April1974 The Coward
1–13 40025 26 April1974 Run, Steve, Run

Season 2

Episode # Production # Original Air Date Episode Title
2–01 41201 13 September1974 Nuclear Alert
2–02 41204 20 September1974 The Pioneers
2–03 41206 27 September1974 Pilot Error
2–04 41208 4 October1974 The Pal-Mir Escort
2–05 41224 1 November1974 The Seven Million Dollar Man
2–06 41214 8 November1974 Straight on 'til Morning
2–07 41220 15 November1974 The Midas Touch
2–08 41223 22 November1974 The Deadly Replay
2–09 41213 29 November1974 Act of Piracy
2–10 41227 13 December1974 Stranger in Broken Fork
2–11 41228 20 December1974 The Peeping Blonde
2–12 41210 10 January1975 The Cross-Country Kidnap
2–13 41233 17 January1975 Lost Love
2–14 41216 19 January1975 The Last Kamikaze
2–15 41207 26 January1975 Return of the Robot Maker
2–16 41212 2 February1975 Taneha
2–17 41230 23 February1975 Look Alike
2–18 41226 2 March1975 The E.S.P. Spy
2–19 41244 16 March1975 The Bionic Woman (1)
2–20 41245 23 March1975 The Bionic Woman (2)
2–21 41231 20 April1975 Outrage in Balinderry
2–22 41229 27 April1975 Steve Austin, Fugitive

Season 3

Episode # Production # Original Air Date Episode Title
3–01 43020 14 September1975 The Return of the Bionic Woman (1)
3–02 43029 21 September1975 The Return of the Bionic Woman (2)
3–03 43018 28 September1975 The Price of Liberty
3–04 43024 5 October1975 The Song and Dance Spy
3–05 43010 12 October1975 The Wolf Boy
3–06 43017 19 October1975 The Deadly Test
3–07 43003 26 October1975 Target in the Sky
3–08 43001 2 November1975 One of Our Running Backs is Missing
3–09 43012 9 November1975 The Bionic Criminal
3–10 43006 16 November1975 The Blue Flash
3–11 43021 23 November1975 The White Lightning War
3–12 43019 30 November1975 Divided Loyalty
3–13 43026 14 December1975 Clark Templeton O'Flaherty
3–14 43022 21 December1975 The Winning Smile
3–15 1 11 January1976 Welcome Home, Jaime (1)
3–16 43033 18 January1976 Hocus-Pocus
3–17 43027 1 February1976 The Secret of Bigfoot (1)
3–18 43028 4 February1976 The Secret of Bigfoot (2)
3–19 43007 8 February1976 The Golden Pharaoh
3–20 43008 15 February1976 Love Song for Tanya
3–21 43032 22 February1976 The Bionic Badge
3–22 43031 7 March1976 Big Brother
  1. The episode "Welcome Home Jaime (1)" was the first part of a two-chapter story, the second episode airing as the premiere episode of The Bionic Woman. It is usually syndicated as a Bionic Woman episode.

Season 4

Episode #Prod #Original
Air Date
Episode Title
58. 4–14512419-Sep-76The Return of Bigfoot (1)
59. 4–24510826-Sep-76Nightmare in the Sky
60. 4–34512103-Oct-76Double Trouble
61. 4–44510517-Oct-76The Most Dangerous Enemy
62. 4–54510224-Oct-76H+2+O = Death
63. 4–64512031-Oct-76Kill Oscar (2)
64. 4–74519607-Nov-76The Bionic Boy
65. 4–84511421-Nov-76Vulture of the Andes
66. 4–94519428-Nov-76The Thunderbird Conection
67. 4–104512612-Dec-76A Bionic Christmas Carol
68. 4–114511519-Dec-76Task Force
69. 4–124512502-Jan-77The Ultimate Imposter
70. 4–134512209-Jan-77Death Probe (1)
71. 4–144512316-Jan-77Death Probe (2)
72. 4–154510623-Jan-77Danny's Inferno
73. 4–164510730-Jan-77Fires of Hell
74. 4–174511306-Feb-77The Infiltrators
75. 4–184510113-Feb-77Carnival of Spies
76. 4–194510920-Feb-77U-509
77. 4–204511027-Feb-77The Privacy of the Mind
78. 4–214511606-Mar-77To Catch the Eagle
79. 4–224512815-May-77The Ghostly Teletype

The episode "Kill Oscar (2)" was the middle chapter of a trilogy with the other two episodes aired as part of The Bionic Woman. "Kill Oscar (2)" is usually syndicated as a Bionic Woman episode.

Season 5

Episode #Prod #Original
Air Date
Episode Title
80. 5–14730611-Sep-77Sharks (1)
81. 5–24730718-Sep-77Sharks (2)
82. 5–34732225-Sep-77Deadly Countdown (1)
83. 5–44732302-Oct-77Deadly Countdown (2)
84. 5–54731109-Oct-77Bigfoot V
85. 5–64732616-Oct-77Killer Wind
86. 5–74731530-Oct-77Rollback
87. 5–84730306-Nov-77Dark Side of the Moon (1)
88. 5–94730413-Nov-77Dark Side of the Moon (2)
89. 5–104730927-Nov-77Target: Steve Austin
90. 5–114731318-Dec-77The Cheshire Project
91. 5–124731901-Jan-78Walk a Deadly Wing
92. 5–134731408-Jan-78Just a Matter of Time
93. 5–144730122-Jan-78Return of the Deathprobe (1)
94. 5–154730229-Jan-78Return of the Deathprobe (2)
95. 5–164739730-Jan-78The Lost Island
96. 5–174732806-Feb-78The Madonna Caper
97. 5–184733413-Feb-78Dead Ringer
98. 5–194731720-Feb-78Date With Danger (1)
99. 5–204732027-Feb-78Date With Danger (2)
100. 5–214733206-Mar-78The Moving Mountain

Later TV movies

Episode #Original
Air Date
Film Title
M-417-May-87The Return of the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman
M-530-Apr-89Bionic Showdown: The Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman
M-629-Nov-94Bionic Ever After?

Trivia

  • The aircraft seen crashing in the opening sequence of the show is real and the dialogue spoken by actor Lee Majors during the opening credits is reportedly based upon communication prior to the crash that occurred on May 10, 1967: ("I can't hold her, she's breaking up! She's breaking--"). Test pilot Bruce Peterson lost an eye in the crash, but likewise also miraculously survived what appeared to be a fatal accident even though his lifting body aircraft hit the ground at approximately 250 mph (400 km/h) and tumbled six times.
  • A number of changes had to be made to Caidin's version of the character to make him work for television. In the original novels, Austin was a cold-blooded killer, while the TV version rarely killed after his status as a childhood hero had been realized. A number of changes to Austin's bionics were also made. In the novel, Austin's left arm, not his right, was the bionic one. Also, the arm was little more than a superpowered battering ram and not as complex as the TV version. Austin was blind in his bionic eye in the books, which was simply used as alternately a camera or a laser, and was removeable (!). The book version of Steve Austin had some abilities the TV version lacked, such as a radio transmitter contained within a rib, a steel-reinforced skull that made it impossible for him to be knocked out with a blow to the head, and a CO2-powered poison dart gun in one of his bionic fingers which the literary version of Austin often used to eliminate bad guys. Another minor change was a matter of spelling: in the original novels, the term "bionics" was always used in its plural form, i.e. "bionics limbs". Perhaps to make it easier to say in dialogue, this was changed to "bionic limbs" et al for the television series.
  • Caidin's original novel, Cyborg was not his first work to make mention of bionics. His 1968 novel The God Machine also made reference to this science, and his later work Buck Rogers: A Life in the Future had the titular character given bionic body parts in an intentional nod to Steve Austin.
  • One of the show's most famous set pieces was a rotating ice tunnel that appeared in several episodes featuring Bigfoot (who, in this series, was the guardian for a group of aliens observing earth; the tunnel was a line of defence intended to disorient and knock out intruders). This tunnel was for many years a popular part of the Universal Studios Tour, and tourists still pass through the tunnel today on the tour, though as of 2003 it had been redesigned to resemble the entrance to The Mummy's Tomb (look for the rotating wall).
  • One Christmas-themed episode of the series demonstrated an unexpected bit of product placement when Austin visits a toy store where Six Million Dollar Man action figures are visible in the background.
  • During filming of the 1977 episode "Carnival of Spies", which was shot at a real-life carnival, a crewmember was moving what was thought to be a wax mannequin. When the mannequin's arm broke, it was discovered that it was in fact the mummified remains of a man. Researchers discovered that the body was that of one Elmer McCurdy, an outlaw who had died in a gunfight in 1911.
  • DVD release of the series has been delayed for unconfirmed reasons (it is rumored a royalties issue might be the cause of the delay; it has also been suggested that the studio is waiting for production of a new Six Million Dollar Man movie to be confirmed). However, in November 2004, Universal Studios announced that it will release both series to DVD in North America in 2005. As of April 2005, however, no release dates had been announced.

Novels

Martin Caidin wrote four novels featuring his original version of Steve Austin beginning in 1972. Although several other writers such as Mike Jahn would later write a number of novelizations based upon the TV series, in most cases these writers chose to base their character upon the literary version of Austin rather than the TV show version. As a result, several of the novelizations have entire scenes and in one case an ending that differed than the original episodes, as the cold-blooded killer of Caidin's novels handled things somewhat differently than his watered-down TV counterpart.

Original Novels

(all by Martin Caidin)

  • Cyborg
  • Operation Nuke
  • High Crystal
  • Cyborg IV

(of the above, only Cyborg was adapted for television.)

Novelizations

  • Wine, Women and War – Mike Jahn
  • Solid Gold Kidnapping – Evan Richards
  • Pilot Error – Jay Barbree
  • The Rescue of Athena One – Jahn
  • The Secret of Bigfoot Pass – Jahn
  • International Incidents – Jahn (this volume adapted several episodes into one long storyline.)

Other adaptations

Charlton Comics published both a color comic book and a black and white, illustrated magazine, both featuring original adventures. While the comic book was closely based upon the series, the magazine was darker and more violent and seemed to be based more upon the literary version of the character. Both magazines were cancelled around the same time the TV series ended.

Peter Pan Records and its sister company Power Records published several record albums featuring original dramatized stories, several of which were also adapted as comic books designed to be read along with the recording.

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