Category Archives: six million dollar man

The Six Million Dollar Man 5.5 – Bigfoot V

This was an odd little hour. It’s almost entirely on location, filmed in summer but pretending to be the chilly high mountain elevations with patches of fake snow on the ground and the actors dressed in jackets and parkas. Apparently, Steve’s alien buddies have gone home but left the sasquatch behind for a very lengthy regeneration process that will remove all of his bionic circuitry and eventually leave him a simple Earth animal again. But this gets interrupted by some humans, some of whom, like a character played by Geoffrey Lewis, are up to no good. This leaves Bigfoot maddened and confused, and Steve only has a short time to return his old sparring partner to hibernation before he short-circuits and dies.

Ted Cassidy’s back as Bigfoot in this one, which would prove to be the last outing for the character. I think the producers must have realized that there’s not a lot you can do with this character without the secret space aliens, and everything you can do with him gets done in this episode. It’s perfectly entertaining, and pleased our son greatly. He said that the first part was very surprising, and then it gets very exciting, and it finished up both surprising and exciting.

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The Six Million Dollar Man 5.2 – Sharks (part two)

Between the sharks and the stock footage of depth charges exploding, there’s certainly enough in part two of this story to keep kids entertained. I wasn’t as keen on it myself, since Steve spends almost the entire story a prisoner and doesn’t get much of a chance to be active, but our son liked it, with one qualification. He said it was mostly good and partly bad because he was very worried that Rudy Wells would have to stay forever at the bottom of the ocean.

I was right last time, by the way: the mercenaries end up taking over the piracy of the submarine. I did kind of love the casual way that the FBI let everybody know in part one that some nuclear missiles were stolen from Boston like the thieves had helped themselves to them along with some rims and subwoofers. I missed how silly that was last night, but the recap this time had me giggling.

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The Six Million Dollar Man 5.1 – Sharks (part one)

So into the 1977-78 season and the final batch of The Six Million Dollar Man, still on ABC, and The Bionic Woman, now moved to NBC. I’ve picked thirteen episodes from the final runs of the shows, and we’ll see what surprises are in store.

One surprise for me: seeing Fred Freiberger’s name in the credits as a new producer for the show. I’d known this before, but forgot about it. Freiberger has a horrible reputation among sci-fi teevee fans-slash-loudmouths for the apparently subpar third and final season of Star Trek (I really have no idea whether it’s any worse than the other two and don’t care), and for the definitely inferior second season of Space: 1999 (the first season was grim and boring and the second was bombastic and stupid). So it used to be, among the sci-fi teevee fans-slash-loudmouths of the 1980s, Freiberger was associated with making beloved shows stupid before getting them cancelled, and here he is on Six. So is this going to be appreciably worse than what came before?

Honestly, not so far, and besides, I like the idea of challenging reputations and expectations. Using remote controlled sharks as part of a scheme to hijack a decommissioned nuclear sub is a little silly – and a little bit of a cash-in on mid-seventies Jaws mania – but it’s no sillier than many of the other far-fetched plots in this show. The villains are a disgraced US Navy captain (Stephen Elliott) and his marine biologist daughter (Pamela Hensley, possibly getting this role as a consolation prize since “The Ultimate Imposter” didn’t get picked up as a series), but they’ve hired some mercenary types to assist them, led by a guy played by Greg Walcott, and they kind of have the look of baddies who are going to take control of the situation. Walcott, incidentally, had been in the final episode of Land of the Lost about nine months before this, but he’s best known for being the square-jawed hero of Plan Nine From Outer Space. Also in the cast: John De Lancie in another small part, but at least this time, unlike part one of “Death Probe,” he warranted a screen credit.

Our son is at the age where the animal kingdom is incredibly fascinating. Of course, if you’re in your forties like me, you remember those How and Why Wonder Books on every subject from your elementary school library. He’s currently loving the modern equivalent series, called Everything You Need to Know about bugs, snakes, and dinosaurs. Sharks haven’t quite made the rounds yet, but that might be changing with this episode. He really enjoyed it. The underwater material is quite well done, although the nitpicker in me remembers from one of the initial movies-of-the-week that Steve can swim at super speed as well as run real fast, and probably could have left that last “guard dog” shark in the dust and made for the surface. Couldn’t he?

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The Six Million Dollar Man 4.16 – Fires of Hell

I picked this episode because Heather Menzies, who would begin filming Logan’s Run a few months after this one wrapped, is in it. It’s a counterfeiters in turtlenecks episode. This time, Steve goes undercover as an oil rigger. It also features Bruce Glover (Mr. Wint from Diamonds are Forever) as a crooked sheriff, and Steve wears one of those late seventies coat-vest things that is identical to one that I had when I was ten.

The most interesting thing about this episode to me is a curious inversion of a very similar situation in a 1973 Doctor Who story called “The Green Death,” but I’ll wait until we get to that episode in a couple of months to discuss the strange similarity. But the most interesting thing for our son was the sudden realization that Oscar Goldman must be rich.

“How do you figure that,” I asked.

“Steve cost six million dollars to make bionic, so Oscar must be rich.”

“Well, Oscar didn’t pay for that himself. The OSI would have a very large budget which is paid for by taxes…” We sometimes pause the program that we’re watching for a little backstory, but this time it went off on a few tangents!

Anyway, The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman continued their seasons for a couple more months, and then Universal got the wild surprise that ABC wasn’t going to renew both of them. Apparently, after suggesting and championing the spinoff in the first place, ABC’s head, Fred Silverman, decided that the network didn’t need so many superhero shows and didn’t need three different action-adventure series with female leads, so Wonder Woman and The Bionic Woman were both axed, while Charlie’s Angels continued into the 1977 season. At the same time, ABC also wanted to cut costs, and popular sitcoms like Three’s Company were a whole lot cheaper than Wonder Woman was.

NBC picked up The Bionic Woman pretty quickly, but sadly the two networks couldn’t agree to work together and do any more crossover adventures. But it looks like each show had a few promising tricks up their sleeve, which we’ll look at down the line.

That’s all the Bionic action for now, but stay tuned! Steve and Jaime will be back for more bionic blogging in November!

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The Six Million Dollar Man 4.14 – Death Probe (part two)

I sincerely didn’t think that we’d ever watch anything stupider than the Medusa episode of Land of the Lost, but friends, this was it.

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The Six Million Dollar Man 4.13 – Death Probe (part one)

There’s a lovely bit toward the beginning of this adventure where a farmer in a lonely corner of northern Wyoming, his horse and dog freaking out over some strange noise or other, is suddenly confronted with a Russian-made space probe that thinks it has landed on the planet Venus. The silent machine, looking like the bastard offspring of a Dalek and the tank-thing from Damnation Alley, sends the farmer scurrying to his pickup truck to get away, and the old codger takes a moment to roll up his truck’s window before starting the engine.

So the Death Probe is the last great recurring nemesis for the bionic heroes. The big machine kind of takes a back seat to the story of all the Soviet sleeper agents that are trying to track it down. The group is led by Major Popov, played by Nehemiah Persoff, and it was designed by a scientist named Irina, played by Jane Merrow. Irina had actually been introduced in a season one episode that we skipped, “Doomsday and Counting.” Merrow did quite a lot of American television in the seventies. Earlier in her career, she had been frequently cast as a guest star in many of the ITC adventure shows, and had been considered for the role of Tara King in The Avengers. And there in a single scene and not credited, you can’t miss John de Lancie as an army medic.

This two-parter was written by Steven E. de Souza. It was one of his earliest credits; he’d later find fame and fortune writing hugely successful films like 48 Hours, Die Hard, and, err… that crappy Judge Dredd movie with Sylvester Stallone and Rob Schneider. Honestly, I was pretty underwhelmed by this one. There isn’t nearly enough mayhem with the Death Probe smashing its way through farms and cars and houses, and far too much of Soviet sleeper agents running rings around hick sheriffs. On the other hand, our son was positively freaked out by the machine and was so excited – slash – worried by Steve looking like he wouldn’t be able to stop it that he missed the cliffhanger entirely from behind the sofa!

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The Six Million Dollar Man 4.12 – The Ultimate Imposter

Flush with the success of their two bionic shows, the producers made two attempts in the fourth season of Six to expand the OSI’s roster with another spinoff. First up was “The Bionic Boy,” in which Vincent Van Patten became a teen bionic hero, and in January, they tried a backdoor pilot, with Steve Austin taking a two scene back seat to Joe Patten, a schoolteacher played by Stephen Macht, whose brain can be programmed for secret missions.

Using superspeed computer-learning that’s quite a lot like Gerry Anderson’s Joe 90, Patten can be primed with all the background, languages, chemistry, or blueprints necessary to complete any mission. When his girlfriend, an OSI agent played by Pamela Hensley, is captured on an undercover assignment, Joe gets to learn all about the world of counterfeiting to rescue her.

My son was a little disappointed with this one, because Joe’s chemistry wizardry is no match for bionic thrills. It’s not bad for what it is, and probably a shame that Joe was never seen again. Even without his own show, he could have been an interesting recurring character to provide some in-the-field help for Steve and Jaime. But another bionic action show certainly wasn’t in ABC’s plans, as I’ll mention in a couple of weeks.

The writers, Lionel E. Siegel and William Zacha, kept their programmed agent concept alive for one more try. After the bionic shows had ended, they wrote a movie-of-the-week for Universal, also called The Ultimate Imposter, in 1979, starring Joseph Hacker as the agent.

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The Bionic Woman 2.6 – Kill Oscar (part three)

Happily, our son came around for the memorable conclusion of this story. He thought Steve and Jaime fighting the Fembots amid the forces of a hurricane was incredibly exciting, and he’s right. Taken as a whole, this three-parter is a master class in plotting, moving through the creepy, conspiratorial Body Snatchers business of people you can’t trust, to some good action sequences, to a tremendously busy hour with our heroes storming the island in the middle of a… well, a storm.

And since the Fembots have remained hugely troubling for him, he got to punch the air when lightning fells three of them. He was also really taken with Jaime finally getting practical with her power and doing something deadly against an implacable enemy. She uses a rock as a weapon and throws it at 60 mph into one Fembot’s back, instantly smashing it.

I was a little worried, as this episode does have a fair amount of old men – generals and admirals – sitting around a big table grumbling while the weather forces stock footage of jets and aircraft carriers to turn back. Fortunately, one of the admirals is played by Sam Jaffe with a twinkle in his eye, which more than excuses the story regularly returning to the war room.

This story marked the end of an era. This was the last time the two bionic series crossed over, and in fact they apparently barely mentioned each other going forward. In part that’s because ABC canceled The Bionic Woman at the end of this season, and NBC picked it up with the understanding that there wouldn’t be any more crossovers. I may have given my son a somewhat flawed presentation of the programs, since we’ve watched all of the crossover stories, even the ones with very small appearances, but only a few of the many “counterfeiters in turtlenecks” that really dominated the actual schedule. But in our memories, Steve and Jaime were always teaming up anyway. That’s maybe the way it should have been.

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