Six Million Dollar Man: Season 3
The mid seventies was a very patriotic time, the two hundredth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence with jingoistic entertainment at an all-time high. It was also a point in the world of television and movies where spies were at the apex of their dominance in the minds of the audience. With the Cold War still in the headlines espionage was critical to screenwriters everywhere. Critical to this genre was the fantastic gadgets given to the field agents in order to expedite his mission to preserve our American way of life. Science was of interest to many viewers which coincided nicely with modern espionage. In short this was a perfect combination of factors for a science fiction twist on the covert agent to take hold. Enter ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’. This cybernetic secret agent had one thing up on spies like James Bond; he had his gadgets surgically implanted in his body. This was the ultimate in technology, embedding it in the human body making him biter; faster, stronger. The recipient of this technological boon was Col. Steve Austin (Lee Majors); astronaut, military test pilot and certifiable American Hero. When his experimental jet crashed Austin was left a broken man barely alive. His missing limbs and eye were replaced by cutting edge bionic devices vastly superior to his flesh and blood body parts. This has been one of the most sought after television series fans wanted released on DVD. For a couple of years Universal has been going through the five season run currently at the third DVD set. This was a season packed with returns and visits of popular villains and heroes each one memorable to fans in their own fashion. With his bionic legs that can out pace a cheetah right arm as powerful as a folk lift and left eye providing a zooming optical system able to discern minute details from unimaginable distance, Steven Austin was more than human, he was the bionic man.
The third season starts off with a return visit of one Steve’s former finance, Jaime Sommers (Lindsay Wagner). Just before the nuptials Jamie had a near fatal sky diving accident. Beset with grief Steve employs his boss at the Office of Special Operations, Oscar Goldman (Richard Anderson) to arrange for similar bionic replacements are installed to save her life. He reluctantly agrees and Dr. Rudy Wells (Martin E. Brooks) performs the surgery turning her into the Bionic Woman. At the end of the mission assigned by Oscar Jamie was presumed dead. Thanks to exceedingly great ratings, the positive reception of the fans and the network considering a spin-off, Jamie appears alive and well here, saved in a cryogenic coma. In a plot device straight out of most soap operas Jamie has amnesia and cannot recall her relationship with Steve. This would help distance the characters to expedite the individual identity of the spin-off. This served as a pilot testing the waters.
Another return visit is found in an episode were Steve is assigned the investigation of a supposed feral wolf boy. This brings back Kuroda, a former Japanese pilot isolated long after the conclusion of the war. The last of the major returns is that of Barney Hiller, the Seven Million Dollar Man (Monte Markham). At the end of his season two episode Barney has his criminal rampage was stopped and his super human bionic abilities turned off leaving his limbs mundane in strength. Murder is just part of his revenge and quest to reactivate his full bionic potential. Of course not every episode contained retread characters. Steve had his share of eclectic assignments on behalf of the OSO. Some were in keeping with the espionage motif that remains at the core of the series’ premise. When Steve’s college roommate, now a rock star, is suspected of selling government secrets the Bionic man is more interested exonerating his friend that proving his guilt. Then there is the undercover work that broadens the story lines such as Steve becoming a lumberjack to investigate a cache of missiles near a remote lumber camp. His bionic abilities naturally are of a considerable assistance in the ruse. Even the Middle East is brought in when the plane of a prince goes down in a hostile country. Steve must make certain peace is retained.
Not every mission involved international intrigue. A football player is kidnapped in order to throw a big game and our intrepid cyborg has to rescue him and save the day. He also gets to investigate a backwoods moonshine operation that involves a government agent. This season included the Bicentennial, a yearlong jingoistic celebration. That popular mood insinuated itself into this series with an episode concerning a disgruntled former government employee, fired due to cutbacks, seeks his revenge by threatening to explode the Liberty Bell, on a special tour around the country. Cryptozoology is used as a plot device when one episode features Wrestler Andre the Giant as the Sasquatch in a Big Foot mission. It’s high tech versus enormous creature in this forest free for all.
This series remains a part of our popular culture, ionic with its slow motion bionic effects and readily recognizable audio cue indicating something cybernetic was happening. Now some forty years afterwards the effects retain their recognizable factor still in use in popular entertainment. The series just seem to click with the audience of the day. The young people enjoyed the science fiction components placing the show on the forefront of a technological revolution that was just a few years away. The older members of the viewership could easily get into the action adventure aspects played out against a background of patriot pride. This was still within the Vietnam era; a time that divided a nation along generational lines. In some small way this series breached that divide creating a series that might be noticeably dated but still a whole lot of fun to watch.
Audio Commentaries On Selected Episodes From Writer/Producer Kenneth Johnson
And Director Cliff Bole