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The Six Million Dollar Man 5.18 – Dead Ringer

For our final episode of The Six Million Dollar Man, I’m afraid that I picked another turkey. Linda Dano, who would later star in more than 1000 episodes of the soap opera Another World, plays a parapsychologist who helps Steve investigate the possibility of his spirit finally coming to kill him after those 52 seconds that he spent clinically dead in the accident that launched the series. This spirit is, of course, a Scooby Doo hoax by enemy agents. This isn’t merely telegraphed in the first scene after the opening credits, it’s skywritten in neon pink.

So while our favorite six year-old critic was taking this creepy-to-the-young story at face value and worrying about spirits and psychic phenomena, the grownups were questioning each new addition to the story. How’d the bad guys arrange this, and that? It’s all very straightforward until we get to the doctor’s apartment and she becomes possessed by the spirit and tries to kill Steve. Good grief, I wondered. How on earth will they explain that?

They don’t.

I was pretty amazed. In the traditional “here’s how the baddies did it” scene at the end, they explained the this and the that, but they don’t even mention the elephant in the room! That’s one heck of a plot hole.

ABC showed three more episodes of The Six Million Dollar Man and canceled the program, too late for the producers to consider making a final episode. That was very rarely done in the seventies, of course, but by chance, Universal was pretty sure that NBC was going to ax The Bionic Woman, and so they did give that one a proper sendoff. More on that one day next week.

As for Six, I think that overall I enjoyed this more than I thought I might. I certainly picked some turkeys, like this one, the second half of that first Death Probe story, and “The Deadly Test,” but most of what we watched was reasonably entertaining and I enjoyed seeing some good guest stars. The nicest revelation was learning that Lee Majors is actually a much better actor than I had credited him. His performances in the first Bionic Woman adventures, and in “The Seven Million Dollar Man,” were all really good.

Earlier in this blog, I compared him favorably to David Janssen, and I stand by that. Like Janssen, Majors seems more expressive and natural in the television medium than on film. Majors made some features after Six, but his next big success was in another action series, The Fall Guy, which, like this series, ran for five years. He was still believably an action star in CBS’s 1990s series Raven, and more recently he’s had recurring roles in Dallas and Ash vs. Evil Dead.

Steve Austin and Jaime Sommers were revived for three reunion TV movies in 1987, 1989, and 1994, the first two of which were positioned as pilots for new series with younger bionic characters. I’m not planning to track these down for the blog, but if I run across inexpensive copies of them one of these days… who knows?

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