“Mom! Instead of a face, it was just wires and metal stuff!”
The Six Million Dollar Man‘s first recurring villain is introduced in this episode. Steve and Oscar don’t meet him yet, but he’s a guy called Dr. Chester Dolenz, played by Henry Jones, and he makes robots. Dolenz appears three times in the first two seasons. This time out, he builds a robot duplicate of Steve’s pal Major Fred Sloan in order to steal an anti-missile guidance system. Our son was very worried when the villains abducted Sloan, and a strange and unlikely little coda that reveals the villains later dumped Sloan in a Washington park with some of his memories erased, rather than killing him outright, went some way toward reassuring him. I thought it would have been a better and more bleak end had Sloan never been found, but this is a kids’ show.
John Saxon plays Sloan and the robot, and it’s interesting how he plays him, with stiff body language and cheerful line delivery. Structurally, it’s pretty unsophisticated from a contemporary perspective. Del Reisman’s script shows us the robot in the pre-credit scene and then leaves Steve wondering for half the episode what’s going wrong with his buddy.
This leads to a very, very long fight scene that ends with the robot being unmasked, naturally, and then impaled by Steve. For its time, though, this was pretty entertaining. John Saxon and Lee Majors have good chemistry together, and the fight does have an interesting angle. This is the first time that Steve fights a superpowered opponent. He can’t use his left arm against the robot, and he can slug the villain in the head all he wants and just hope for the best. But if the robot catches Steve in the head or chest, he’ll be in serious trouble. Eventually he does take a blow on his left arm and can’t use it again after that.
The robot would be the inspiration for a doll in the Six Million Dollar Man toy line called Maskatron. It wasn’t a very extensive line. These were twelve-inch tall action/fashion dolls with different outfits, and I think there were only six dolls in the line: Steve, Oscar, Jaime, Maskatron, Bigfoot, and a Fembot. I had Steve – all children did – and I wanted a Maskatron very badly because several friends had one. I didn’t start watching this show or The Bionic Woman until I was around five years old, after season four had started. I’ll probably come back to this when we get to “Kill Oscar” in the fall, but I thought that Fembots were related to Maskatron, and waited patiently through the end of both series hoping for Maskatron to appear, not knowing that the robot that inspired the doll had already come and gone.