“We can rebuild him. We have the technology.
We have the capability to make the world’s first Bionic man.
Steve Austin will be that man. Better than he was before.
Better . . . stronger . . . faster…”
If anyone had any doubts that science fiction could be an enormous success in prime time, those doubts were put to rest with The Six Million Dollar Man. The story of a man who, as a result of a devastating crash in the line of duty, is put back together with advanced technology, then goes on to work as a secret agent, kept viewers (mostly young ones) riveted to their television sets for four years.
Steve Austin was a former astronaut who, as mentioned above, got some highly advanced implants from the feds to save his life. Dr. Rudy Wells successfully performed the operation and, as a result, both of his legs and his right arm were replaced with bionic limbs, which provided him with extraordinary strength and speed, giving him the ability to lift cars (and other cumbersome items) and run at 60 MPH. His left eye was replaced as well, with one that could act as a telescopic (and infrared) lens and allow him to see at great distances. The cost of all of these upgrades – a cool six-million dollars.
Once he was rebuilt, Steve was put to work by his pal Oscar Goldman at the covert “Office of Scientific Intelligence” (or Office of Scientific Investigation, or Office of Strategic Intelligence – continuity wasn’t always a strong point of the show.) Steve would need to utilize all of his newfound abilities to stop all sorts of nefarious plots against the government, and even a few non-human creatures, such as his celebrated battles with everyone’s favorite camera-shy celebrity, Bigfoot.
Of course, what Steve really needed was a lady friend, and producers obliged by giving him a bionic female cohort – tennis star Jamie Summers, aka: The Bionic Woman (played by Lindsey Wagner.) And just as the happy couple started to get cozy, she was killed off by the show’s producers. But this is television, and viewer reaction was so strong to her death that she was promptly returned and given her own show, The Bionic Woman, as well as a canine cohort who had some bionic abilities as well.
The Six Million Dollar Man was a ratings winner for ABC and spawned numerous merchandise items, such as lunchboxes, board games, bedsheets and a line of nifty and memorable toys. Also, three made-for-television were broadcast, long after the series ended its four year run in 1978. They included The Return of the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman in 1987, Bionic Showdown in 1989, and Bionic Ever After in 1994. To date, the first two seasons have also been released on DVD.
There isn’t a kid from the 70s that doesn’t vividly remember The Six Million Dollar Man. He was a superhero anyone could look up to, but he was also human and, therefore, not indestructible by any means. No cape, no silly costume, just a rugged, macho dude that was half-robot and could run really fast – and he took out bad guys right and left. What’s not to love about that?
If you have fond memories of watching the weekly adventures of Steve Austin on television as a kid, we welcome your recollections in our comments section, as we pay tribute to our bionic buddy here at Retroland.