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The Wayback Machine: Six Million Dollar Man (1974)

Posted By: Wonder Worlock
Mon, 01/20/2014 - 22:11




As discussed in Cosmic Book News’ exclusive interview with writer Jim Kuhoric, Steve Austin (bionic, not Stone Cold) will be returning for a “Season 6” in a new ongoing featuring continuity from the regular TV show.

Since Dynamite Entertainment is dusting off the expensive man with a mission, we thought we should too. So let’s dial up the ol’ Wayback to 1974, and away we goooooooo …

The Six Million Dollar Man was a TV show about a former astronaut with bionic implants working for a fictional government office known as OSI. The series is based on the Martin Caidin novel, Cyborg, which was the series' proposed title during pre-production.

Following three television movies aired in 1973, The Six Million Dollar Man aired on ABC as a regular series for five seasons from 1974 to 1978. The title role of Steve Austin was famously played by Kentucky’s own Lee Majors, who subsequently became a pop icon of the 1970s. A spin-off series, The Bionic Woman, ran from 1976-78 (and, in turn, was the subject of a remake in 2007). Several television movies featuring both characters were also produced between 1987 and 1994.

The series set-up: When Austin is severely injured in the crash of an experimental aircraft, he is “rebuilt” in an operation that costs $6 million. His right arm, both legs and the left eye are replaced with bionic implants that enhance his strength, speed and vision far above human norms: he can run at speeds of 60 mph (but in slo-mo, of course, lol), and his eye has a 20:1 zoom lens and infrared capabilities, while his limbs all have the equivalent power of a bulldozer. He uses his enhanced abilities to work for the OSI as a secret agent, man.

In March 1973, Cyborg was loosely adapted as a made-for-TV movie titled The Six Million Dollar Man starring Majors as Austin. The adaptation was done by writer Howard Rodman working under the pseudonym of Henri Simoun. The film, which was nominated for a Hugo Award, modified Caidin's plot, and notably made Austina civilian astronaut rather than a colonel in the U.S. Air Force.

Absent then were some of the standard features of the later series: the electronic sound effects, the slow-mo running, and the character of Oscar Goldman (who will be seen in the coming comic). Instead, another character named Oliver Spencer was Austin's supervisor, of an organization here called the OSO. The lead scientist involved in implanting Austin's bionic hardware, Dr. Rudy Wells, was played in the pilot by Martin Balsam, then on an occasional basis in the series by Alan Oppenheimer, and, finally, as a series regular, by Martin E. Brooks. (Hard to find a good scientist back then.)

The first movie was a major ratings success and the regular show that eventually followed was very popular during its run, introducing several pop culture elements of the 1970s, such as the show’s opening catch-phrase ("We can rebuild him...we have the technology," provided by Richard Anderson as Oscar), the slow-mo action sequences, and the accompanying “electronic” sound effects. The slow-mo action sequences were originally referred to as "Kung Fu slow motion" in popular culture (due to its usage in the 1970s martial arts TV series). Early episodes, as well as the TV movies, were not consistent in how the bionics effects were presented; such consistency did not begin until the second season.

In 1975, a two-part episode entitled “The Bionic Woman” introduced the character of Jaime Sommers (played by Lindsay Wagner), a professional tennis player who rekindled an old romance with Austin, only to experience a parachuting accident that resulted in her being given bionic parts similar to Austin. Ultimately, her body "rejected" her bionic hardware and she died.

The character was so popular, however, the following season it was revealed that she had actually survived, having been saved by an experimental cryogenic procedure, and she was given her own spin-off series, The Bionic Woman, which lasted until 1978 when both it and The Six Million Dollar Man were simultaneously cancelled (even though by the time their final seasons aired, the series were on different networks, lol).

Dem's da breaks!

The Six Million Dollar Man: Season Six #1 will hit stores March 12.