The Six Million Dollar Man 3.9 – The Bionic Criminal

Monte Markham returned for a second outing as the other bionic man, now renamed Barney Hiller without in-story comment, in this pretty entertaining story by Peter Allan Fields and Richard Carr. This was the fourth of seven episodes of The Six Million Dollar Man that Carr wrote or co-wrote; he’d been writing for westerns and other dramas since the early 1950s. Among his credits is a first season Batman story for the Riddler.

Our son enjoyed this one more than Barney’s original appearance, which surprised me. It is a good story: Barney agrees to be reactivated for 48 hours in an experiment to see whether bionic powers can be turned off and on again in case of national emergencies, but is blackmailed by a former OSI scientist, played by Donald Moffat, into robbing banks. We know Moffat as Rem in Logan’s Run already, and I am pleasantly amused that we got to see one of his bionic appearances alongside our screenings of Run.

But while this episode does have another slow-motion bionic fistfight, which pleased our son, it’s nowhere as destructive and entertaining as the one in Barney’s first appearance. The deciding factor, it turns out, is a long scene where Barney tries to resume his career as a race car driver. A fast car put this one over the top. Six year-olds!

Two other thoughts strike me: there’s an incredibly long flashback with several clips to Barney’s initial outing. It seems really strange to devote almost four minutes to an in-story memory. This episode is one of the few we’ve seen that does not have a pre-title sequence at all, where a “Previously on…” recap might normally go. I wonder why they decided to build a nearly four minute flashback into the narrative instead of just cutting something shorter together before the opening credits.

But the really unusual surprise is that Alan Openheimer returns in this story as Dr. Wells. By chance, this morning’s viewing comes just as a couple of Doctor Who fans – there will always be a couple of Doctor Who fans to make you roll your eyes and sadly say “there are these couple of Doctor Who fans…” – are outraged and upset that the powers that be have recast the role of the First Doctor for a team-up episode. Apparently, every other recasting in all of television and film is acceptable, but because each Doctor is special and magical and sacred, and the show invented the concept of regeneration, then if any Doctor now or in the future were to meet an old version in a team-up, then they should only use one of the last few Doctors, and honorably retire the ones played by actors who have died.

So in The Six Million Dollar Man, we’ve got a character who’s been played by Martin Balsam, then Alan Oppenheimer, then Martin E. Brooks, then Oppenheimer again, and Brooks will take back over the next time Dr. Wells is seen. The world kept turning. But David Bradley playing the First Doctor is some kind of sacrilege despite William Hartnell being dead since 1975. It’s a fictional character in a popular drama, not a blessed holy relic, you know.

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