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The Six Million Dollar Man 5.9 – Dark Side of the Moon (part two)

Overall, the main problem with this story is that it’s one missed opportunity after another. It all climaxes with yet another very boring “time is running out to do something about the bomb” situation, and what they do about the bomb is so amazingly improbable that Dr. Science’s acid reflux started acting up again. Jack Colvin’s flunkies are operating under the delusion that their crimes on the moon will work wonders for their careers. Steve never thinks to tell them that they have already killed hundreds of people and will probably end up killing millions before they’re done. There may not be a United States to come back to, and they’ll certainly never see the money Colvin promised them.

But if we must have this nonsense of a megaton bomb that can’t be moved because of a fluid motion sensor, Marie spotted the obvious solution. They’ve gone on and on about the dark side of the moon being at absolute zero and punched a hole from the surface into the mine shaft to freeze Steve’s bionics via a long steel rod. (That’s ten shades of Dr. Science having a headache, so we won’t go into how they’re keeping their artificial underground environment stable with an open borehole to the surface…) Why didn’t they just freeze the fluid in the sensor when they had a hole to the freezing surface right there?

I’d like to not be too critical, because this is for kids, and there’s some science that children can use and bring back to school Monday morning, but the rest of this is just painfully silly! Ah, well, Colvin does a good job playing the calculating and emotionless villain… even if he is pretty blasted wrong to calculate that he’ll return to Earth a rich scientific hero, he comes pretty close to getting away with it.

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The Six Million Dollar Man 5.8 – Dark Side of the Moon (part one)

Afraid it’s been an unhappy Thanksgiving around the Secret Fire-Breathing Headquarters. Our son is down with a stomach bug – on all the days! – and so he was curled up under a quilt for tonight’s episode. He didn’t enjoy it a whole lot, but we have to grade on a curve because he doesn’t feel all that well.

It’s commonly understood that Star Wars killed Six and all the super-agent shows of the seventies, but they went down fighting against the space invaders with some more overt sci-fi storylines. Wonder Woman, for example, had its celebrated and ridiculous “Mind Stealers From Outer Space” story, and then there’s John Meredyth Lucas’s two-part episode “Dark Side of the Moon” from November 1977, which blows kisses of plausibility at Dr. Science and then runs off and elopes with Dr. Whatever, Man, Anything Can Happen in Science Fiction.

The villain is played by Jack Colvin, who, like the other main guest star Simone Griffeth, was a Universal regular at the time. He’s a scientist with apparent access to many millions of dollars and he secretly redirects a mission to mine some Unobtanium from an asteroid to the dark side of the moon, where he’s convinced that it can be found in abundance. His whole plan reeks of being a cover story for something more sinister because, of course, there isn’t any unobtanium to be found and he says to keep blasting, but he never even blinks to say “that’s odd.” Colvin plays the character as though he’s looking for something else, which is very strange.

So Steve has to go to the moon to find out what’s going on, because Colvin’s blasting has knocked the moon slightly out of its orbit and the weather has gone haywire. In the universe of Six, Apollo rockets are ready to go at a moment’s notice, and the landers can fly around from asteroids to the moon and back without adaptation or detection from Earth. Sometimes when a show like this, which pretends to be “the real world” with just a few changes, goes off into fantasyland it can’t help but grate a little. Lee Majors is the best thing about this hour by miles. When he picks up a frisbee left behind on a previous moon mission and tosses it into the horizon, he looks like he’s having a blast.

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The Bionic Woman 3.7 – Motorcycle Boogie

Bigfoot wasn’t the only major seventies icon to appear on the bionic shows. Evel Knievel, the idol of every under-twelve in that decade who ever aspired to pop a wheelie on their bike, got to play himself and brought along some 16mm stunt footage of him jumping thirty-odd junk cars. He gets to dodge bullets and rockets, although the great big super-jump in the end is done with edits and trick photography, sadly. For those of you who like other familiar faces and places from the seventies, Spencer Milligan plays an East German agent and the Rose Bowl pretends to be a stadium in West Berlin.

Our son tried to be all cool and say that this was only kind of exciting and kind of weird, but we know better. He was in seventh heaven, of course, incredibly thrilled and happy with the story. There were motorcycles and explosions and a very straightforward, simple, and easy-to-follow story by James D. Parriott and Kenneth Johnson. It’s a light and silly adventure, along the comedic lines of the previous year’s “Black Magic.”

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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 Bionic Woman 3.4 – Fembots in Las Vegas (part two)

This story ends with a pretty run-of-the-mill episode, with a big climax built around getting out of the big enemy base before it blows up. It’s the sort of story the Bionic shows had done several times before. On the other hand, this does have some pretty interesting visuals. I love this shot of three Fembots confronting Jaime outside Carl Franklin’s secret base, and there’s a too-short nightmare sequence where Jaime is dreaming about unmasked Fembot showgirls.

Well, I say that it’s too short, but given the reality of this basic adventure plot, I don’t know that they could have really done much with a plot that ran in that direction instead. Nevertheless, while the images in the show are blurry and fleeting, NBC used several black and white photos of the Fembot showgirls in promoting their new acquisition. I was kind of disappointed that there was so little to the actual presentation in the episode!

Anyway, everything’s neatly tidied up at the end, with the Fembots all destroyed and no chance that their new controller will bother the heroes again. Even the Howard Hughes type we met in part one has a new miracle cure and a reunion with his girlfriend. On the other hand, our son enjoyed it quite a lot and told us that he liked all the big explosions. It’s a shame they didn’t bring back these villains for one last go-around before the end, though. I would’ve liked to have seen one more story with them.

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The Bionic Woman 3.3 – Fembots in Las Vegas (part one)

The NBC year of The Bionic Woman started with a two-part story that introduced Jaime’s bionic dog, Max, but we skipped that for the exciting return of the Fembots in an adventure written by Arthur Rowe. It’s silly and full of coincidence – I loved Jaime learning that they’d rebuilt the Callahan Fembot about four minutes before her new controller reactivates her – but it’s got some great fight scenes and footage of Las Vegas’s neon at night, although not as much as the Bond movie Diamonds are Forever did.

Like Diamonds, the story even includes a Howard Hughes analogue, living in isolation in a Vegas penthouse while directing research into big important-to-the-plot stuff. This guy’s a lot younger than Hughes was in his Vegas days, and is played by James Olson, who we saw in the Wonder Woman story “Last of the $2 Bills.” Melinda Fee, who had co-starred in NBC’s Six Million Dollar clone The Invisible Man, is one of the Fembots.

With this season, there was a new change initiated by NBC: one of those “here are some scenes from the episode you’re about to watch” montages before the credits. Since this spoiled both the return of the Fembots and that they’re being controlled by the mad Dr. Franklin’s previously unmentioned son, I skipped over those, but forgot that the Callahan ‘bot is reintroduced in literally the very first scene. I see why they wanted to make it this way, but it honestly would have been much more effective had we not known the robots were back until a little later. I was pleased that our son was happy to see these baddies return, but his favorite part was when Jaime and the Hughes character escaped from a trio of Fembots in a helicopter. There’s really good stunt work throughout this hour (although, sadly, Lindsay Wagner’s stunt double’s face is right in the center of the screen for a bit during her fight with the Melinda Fee Fembot) but I was probably also most pleased with the helicopter escape myself!

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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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