The Six Million Dollar Man

Season 1 Episode 1

The Six Million Dollar Man (a/k/a The Moon and the Desert)

Aired Friday 8:30 PM Mar 07, 1973 on ABC
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Episode Summary

The Six Million Dollar Man (a/k/a The Moon and the Desert)
When Colonel Steve Austin tests a new government plane, he is nearly killed after it malfunctions and crashes. To save him he is rebuilt using bionic parts. Having a hard time making the psychological adjustment and feeling depressed, Steve is given a government assignment in the Middle East.moreless

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  • The birth of a very unique , reluctant, and real action hero.

    ..Real, you say? How real can a character be when he's powered

    with nuclear power packs, circuits, wires, and motors? Ah, well that

    all depends on your definition of real. When it came to Steve Austin,

    what made the character so different was not his abilities, but his

    self respect, and his determination not to loose himself, his values,

    and his humanity in spite of his classification as a much needed

    "weapon". The story was first published in a novel called " Cyborg" by

    Dr Martin Cadin. It was first broadcast as one of ABC's weekly

    Suspense Movies. Steve Austin was an American astronaut in our space

    program. Even before the first moon landing, our goverment (and the

    Soviets), were developing the new technology of reusable space ships,

    re-entry vehicles, they were called. This is what resulted in the now

    common space shuttle. To say that this technology was shaky at best in

    the beginning would a vast understatement. Test pilots were seen as

    daredevils for risking their lives to test these planes with the

    odds.. most of the time, against them. The planes themselves were

    called " Lifting Bodies " for more than one reason. Crashes,

    unfortunately, were quite common, as was death. ( Such a real crash

    could be seen on a weekly basis every week on the show's credits. It

    happened in '67, and the pilot did survive, maimed.) Training former

    astronauts was the most cost effective and speedy way to go, and so

    Steve Austin is picked for testing a new lifting body, the M3-F5. His

    best friend is the head of the program's medical devision , Dr. Rudy

    Wells ( played sensitively by veteran actor Martin Balsam). From the

    beginning, we can see that Austin is a very simple, very likable man,

    with a sly evil streak about him. Before a flight he likes to walk out

    into a deep field to watch the sun come up, and he takes great delight

    in ruffling the feathers of an impatient general. As Austin prepares

    for his ill-fated flight, a group in the headquarters of an

    intelligence agency, the OSO ( changed in the series to OSI ),

    discussing the costliness of the cold war, and how dangerous it is and

    how close they have come to starting a world war with their

    intelligence projects. The honcho at the meeting, Oliver Spencer

    (played with cool remorselessness by Darin McGavin), is pitching a

    plan to develop a new weapon which will only cost.. oh, say..six

    million dollars. " Accidents happen all the time, ", he tells them.

    "We'll just start with scrap." Some hours later, as Rudy Wells laments

    over the half-missing figure of his best friend, Spencer propositions

    the doctor. Wells had petitioned for goverment funding for his new

    Bionic technology, on the condition that it had some practical warfare

    use to the country. Spencer tells Rudy he can have the money, and use

    it to re-build Austin. And while Rudy is excited for the opportunity,

    he knows Steve does not want to live as he is, but he won't want to

    live like a freak, either. And indeed, Steve does try suicide.

    Nonethless, he gets Steve's reluctant consent, and Rudy's

    nurse tries to prepare Steve mentally, but to no avail. She is,

    however falling in love. Steve does not like the technology, and likes

    it even less that his best friend is keeping him in the dark as to why

    he's worth the Six Million, and what he has to do for it. On a well

    meant R+R, Austin rescues a boy pinned in a van that is ready to

    explode. In the process, he tears the skin from his hand, exposing

    circuitry to the mother of the boy, causing a freakout. This sends

    Austin into an emotional catatonia. Spencer tries to convince Austin,

    through love of his country, to go on a mission. He refuses at first,

    because he doesn't want to kill, but Spencer retorts.. " That depends

    upon your ingenuity." Austin listens, and agrees, even though he knows

    Spencer doesn't expect him to survive. What he doesn't know, is what

    Rudy finds out.. that the man Austin has sent to rescue has been dead

    for weeks. It's just a test to see if the will to survive is there.

    Rudy explodes at Spencer about the deception. Spencer is unrepentant,

    they must know Austin's reliability factor.

    Steve is captured, and there is a fellow prisoner and he is

    an Isreali. This man tells Austin of his targets demise. Austin

    decides right away on escape, and the man watches wide eyed as Austin

    tears their chains apart like paper. " How are you able to do that?"

    he cries. " Vitamins.", Steve replies. Steve takes on an entire small

    army while his fellow captive fires up a nearby plane (this is

    the only time I remember him firing a gun at anybody. I don't know

    about the next two movies, (Wine, Women and War/ The Solid Gold

    Kidnapping. But I know in the series, the most I've seen him do is

    fire into the air, I think once. He didn't even like holding guns.)

    The plane starts rolling, it's pilot waving at Steve franticly to

    come. As Steve makes a run for it, he is shot, and falls to the

    ground. But his new legs allow him to get right back up, and grab hold

    of the plane just as it takes off. And he comes back, in spite of

    Spencer. " Fooled ya.", he grins to Spencer, as he curses him out.

    That's real.

    Steve was written in Cadin's books as an anti-hero. Pretty

    much likable, but could be a cold blooded killer as well. This aspect

    was wiped in the tv production, and Lee Major's portrayal of Austin is

    pretty much the same as in the series, and he really conveys the inner

    torment of his transformation, and the self-pity that follows. The

    attempted suicide scene ( before the operation)is particularly

    shocking and emotional. With the Roger Moore era of the James Bond

    saga exploding, in the next two films, the producers try to make Steve

    a Bond like character. Uh- uh. Balsam is awesome as the first of 3

    actors to play Rudy Wells. No doubt, McGavin plays Spencer with almost

    villainous perfection, but, with McGavin getting the beloved role of

    Kolchack in the Night Stalker sequel, (then the series), the Character

    had to be changed. Our beloved Richard Anderson, playing the new Oscar

    Goldman in the next movie, is very similar. But that didn't last, did it?

    The only thing I hated about the whole thing was the score.

    One wonders what kind of score Oliver nelson would have written for

    it. All I know is, for the next 3 years, this man was my hero.moreless
  • The introduction of Steve Austin, astronaut, who becomes the bionic man.

    This 1st pilot is great television from the 70's.

    The approach of the film is almost like a documentary from the time humans went to the moon.

    By todays standards the rythm is very slow. The (fake) trip to the moon, the testflight and accident, the countless operations and presentation of his bionic parts are well rendered to fill up the most part of the film. Surprisingly, the first mission he reluctantly accepts is over in a blink of an eye...

    Lee Majors is the perfect choice for the role of Colonel Austin and the only cast member who returns in the rest of the series.

    All about this pilot is dated, but nostalgia has no price.moreless
Lee Majors

Lee Majors

Colonel Steve Austin

Martin Balsam

Martin Balsam

Dr. Rudy Wells (1st Pilot)

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