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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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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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