The Six Million Dollar Man 1.8 – The Rescue of Athena One

Of course I picked this episode for us to watch because of the impressive and very busy mission control set. Nah, it’s because Farrah Fawcett, who was then married to Lee Majors, plays Major Kelly Wood, America’s first woman astronaut. An accident in space cripples her ship, Athena One, and seriously injures her co-pilot, so Steve flies up to meet them at Skylab – remember Skylab?! – to perform surgery. But then Major Wood has to fly everyone home because Steve’s bionics start to fail.

The episode was written by D.C. Fontana, and we were very impressed with the attention to detail and accuracy in this rescue mission. The only fanciful part of the story concerns the bionics and their failure, which is because they aren’t shielded against the radiation in space. Everything else is very slow and laborious, including space walks and long, deliberate movements in zero-gravity, as indeed a rescue in space would certainly be in 1974. We enjoyed comparing the events of this episode with some of the installments of the original Thunderbirds, such as “Sun Probe.”

Another thing we talked about was a little wordplay that confused our son. To nobody’s surprise, Steve rescues Major Wood from a near-miss accident and reveals his super powers early on. Steve does that a lot with pretty ladies. Later, when Athena One has docked with Skylab and Wood learns that she cannot open her hatch, she and Steve, talking over the radio, land on the words “can opener” to describe his bionics. The flashbacks didn’t clarify to our overly literal kid why they would say that. We had to pause the episode to explain in more detail because he was so baffled.

Honestly this was an entertaining little hour. It’s certainly slow, but I think that’s an honest and fair trade for a story that really shouldn’t have been told at breakneck speed. Dr. Science was pleased, which doesn’t often happen when we’re watching silly sci-fi teevee.

Looking ahead, I see that Major Wood will be back in season four of this series, but before we get to that episode, we’ll see Farrah Fawcett in a couple of other roles later this month. She was kind of in demand in the mid-seventies.

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