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The Six Million Dollar Man 2.15 – Return of the Robot Maker

You’ve heard of Chekhov’s gun, right? Well, there’s a horrible missed opportunity in this story by Del Reisman and Mark Frost. It’s the third, and, I think, final outing for Steve Austin’s recurring arch-villain Dr. Dolenz, played by Henry Jones, meaning the least I can do is actually include a photo of the actor. This time, he has a robot duplicate of Oscar, meaning this episode is probably the specific inspiration for that Maskatron toy we talked about alongside “Day of the Robot” back in April.

Well, comic relief is provided by a field agent who’d like to be an inventor instead, and he tries to get Oscar – replaced by a robot – to approve some supplies for Steve. Watching this from his base, Dr. Dolenz gets the robot to approve by pressing a button marked “agreeable” to change the robot’s personality circuits.

At the climax, Steve is having the inevitable slow-motion super-strength battle with the Oscar robot, while the real Oscar has got hold of Dr. Dolenz. Yes, our son adored this fight. He said that he liked it even more than the brawl with the John Saxon robot in season one. It’s certainly shorter, for what it’s worth. That first fight went on forever.

Yeah, I know Oscar wasn’t about to let Dr. Dolenz get away for a third time, but what he probably should have done was gone back in the base to screw with all the robot’s programming and give Steve some help. At first I figured he should have smashed all the computers with a chair, and then I remembered that button marked “agreeable.” He should have hit that a dozen times so the Oscar robot would have stopped scrapping and said “I don’t know why I’m fighting… you seem like a really reasonable fellow…”

But then I suppose we’d have been robbed of the real ending, when Steve knocks this robot’s head off. Never mind me and never mind Chekhov, I can assure you the six year-olds in the audience really, really preferred things the way they originally did it. I guess that’s why they make TV and not me.

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The Six Million Dollar Man 1.13 – Run, Steve, Run

Dr. Dolenz, the robot maker from “Day of the Robot,” returned in this end-of-season cheapie written by Lionel E. Siegel and mostly set on a Utah horse ranch. There are few speaking parts, and while Noah Beery Jr. – Jim Rockford’s dad! – enlivened things a little bit as an old pal of Steve’s, this is a dull story padded out with clips from previous episodes as Steve tries to figure out who is after him. Dr. Dolenz doesn’t have a robot this time out; he’s trying to engineer accidents so he can observe Steve’s bionic powers from a distance.

I thought this was as dull as could be, but perhaps because westerns are not part of any modern kid’s television diet, our son was surprisingly pleased by the bits with runaway horses and bucking broncos which I found tedious. He was really talkative this evening, but genuinely curious about how fast horses can run, and why Steve and his girlfriend-of-the-week had lassos with them while riding around the ranch.

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The Six Million Dollar Man 1.4 – Day of the Robot

“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.

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