|Bionic brilliance with THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN -THE COMPLETE COLLECTION, from the UK's FABULOUS FILMS. All series images: FABULOUS FILMS/UNIVERSAL.|
THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN - THE COMPLETE COLLECTION DVD BOX SET
Starring Lee Majors
Released in the UK by FABULOUS FILMS
Reviewed by Scott Weller
Steve Austin. Astronaut. A man barely alive.
“Gentleman, 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…”
The opening, now classic, main title words that would launch a five season running worldwide TV phenomenon and further cement Lee Majors name as an international star with his now iconic portrayal of the amiable and heroic former astronaut turned superman, Steve Austin, known by his series moniker as THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN! Quickly breaking new ground, the series and Steve Austin made their spectacular bionic debut in 1973 and delivered an impact with viewers right up to 1978. Now, as the series celebrates its Fortieth Anniversary, the reconstructed man gets a well deserved box set release of all his classic adventures, equally getting a lovingly restored digital makeover, alongside various TV movies, spinoffs and an incredible array of special features, in this very desirable UK box set release from those fabulous people at FABULOUS FILMS.
FABULOUS FILMS promo for the series release: http://vimeo.com/42303667
Though best known via the world of first run and repeat TV episode screenings, Steve Austin’s adventuresome roots would, in actual fact, not come from the thoughts of a UNIVERSAL STUDIOS executive showing a sudden Eureka! moment, but from the talented imagination of prolific novelist/futurist Martin Caidin, and his now classic best-selling book from 1972, Cyborg- a fusion of sci-fi and modern technology that immediately caught the film studios attention and led to their quick purchase of the adaptation rights for the tale as an exciting TV movie of the week, making its debut in March 1973- the primer for all the incredible things to come…
|A matter of life and death for Colonel Steve Austin in the pilot episode.|
Written/adapted by Henri Simoun, with additional "ghost written" material by HILL STREET BLUES acclaimed creator/writer Steven Bochco, the pilot episode, later titled The Moon and the Desert, is a well made, often gripping start to the series, with brisk and efficient direction from its producer, Richard Irving. Taking its cues from Caidin’s book, Moon very closely follows it in its first half- actually quite a dark, somber and adult piece for its time, as Lee Majors character of top NASA pilot Steve Austin is crippled, almost killed, in a space shuttle test vehicle crash, and has to come to terms psychologically and emotionally with the loss of his left eye, right arm and legs, before the amazing technological marvels of bionic surgery give him life and confidence anew, leading to his becoming the first of his kind as a hybrid of biology and technology: a superhuman test subject soon activated for employment to his country by the shady boss of the eventually named OSI (Office of Scientific Intelligence to you and me!)- a pre-KOLCHAK Darren McGavin, showing steel but also wily persuasiveness as one of its top bosses, Oliver Spencer.
|A man barely alive, but soon reborn...|
Adding additional guest star power, Martin Balsam is Austin’s friend, doctor and master bionics surgeon, Rudy Wells, who goes on to perform the overall critical cyber surgery, whilst lovely Barbara Anderson is Nurse Manners, the important woman in Steve’s life who helps him build his confidence and helps him retain his humanity in the build up to his first all-important assignment. Love soon blossoms between them, despite Steve’s early period of near suicidal despair…
|Back in action- Steve Austin is the world's first bionic man!|
On the abilities front, the nearby OSI test field is certainly kept busy as Steve fires up his new skill-sets: the far seeing bionic eye, a nuclear powered right arm that can stop huge shards of falling metal and masonry, capable of delivering mighty blows to equally formidable enemies (which can also act as a built-in Geiger counter (a handy plot element that the writers occasionally forgot about as time went on)), and the supreme ability to run up to 60 mph, as well as making leaps to great heights that would make Superman jealous! Beyond his obvious talents as a spy and solider, he’d also be a housewives dream!
Training formalities over, it isn’t long before bigger, better and more dangerous events thrust Austin into the OSI limelight, as he becomes their bionic man in Havana, undertaking special missions with his abilities that other people just wouldn’t be able to do or live long enough to fulfill. Through it all, and even with the machinations of his technological saviours, the real dramatic thrust of the pilot is whether Majors will come through it all mentally and emotionally intact, though the second half also shows the action adventure potential of a possible series- Steve’s resourcefulness is tested to its fullest when he’s sent into the deserts of Saudi Arabia to rescue a peacemaker captured by terrorists, in what proves to be a very satisfying closing sequence of tank bashing.
|Steve goes into battle in The Moon and the Desert.|
The Moon and the Desert is in many ways a genuine triumph over adversity story of the kind that all American and worldwide audiences like. If made now as a movie, with a quality team behind it, it would work extremely well, and, you never know, might even get a few Oscar nods!
|The original 1973 promo for the pilot in the US TV GUIDE magazine.|
At Moon’s conclusion, an injured Austin is successful, but his future as a spy and as a man is kept on ice, ready for the time when his unique superhuman talents will be needed again. Quickly catching TV audiences’ attention and imagination, that time wasn’t too long coming after the first movie scored such huge ratings and an overwhelmingly positive critical reception. By the end of the year, two further feature length episodes followed, which even quicker launched a weekly series. With such success, I was always surprised that UNIVERSAL never did an original theatrical movie or TV movie compilation for overseas markets.
|Steve's next TV movie adventures see him become a more James Bond-esque figure.|
The studios trusted long-term production veteran Glen A. Larson, with Michael Gleason, to take the creative reins for the next two movie of the week adventures, much less cerebral in their adult sensibilities than the original but certainly bigger in scale, and with lots more overall action/adventure. Wine, Women and War has Steve trying to stop a nuclear arms dealer from capturing a submarine full of Polaris missiles, whilst Solid Gold Kidnap sees him travel the world to rescue a kidnapped military man who holds the skills to bringing world peace with the Chinese and a billion dollar ransom!
|Swedish sex symbol Britt Ekland appears in Wine, Women and War.|
In a tone clearly requested by ABC television, the films were very much in the early seventies James Bond style seen with the late Sean Connery/early Roger Moore-esque eras- lots of world hopping, bed jumping, bad puns, world dominating baddies and beautiful women, of which two previous BOND ladies make their welcome appearance: The Man with the Golden Gun’s Britt Ekland in Wine and Thunderball’s wicked Italian sex goddess Luciana Paluzzi, in Solid Gold. There’d even be a Bondian flavoured title theme music provided by British pop legend Dusty Springfield! (titles: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=03V1qxAjIlA&noredirect=1)
|A great duo: Steve and Oscar Goldman (Richard Anderson).|
Larson would also initiate further positive casting changes across the films. The role of Steve’s OSI boss would be re-imagined and recast-Oscar Goldman (who was originally in Caidin’s CYBORG novel) would take over from the now not available McGavin- played by stalwart TV and film player, and a huge supporter and enthusiast to the series as it went on, Richard Anderson, whose character would operate from his offices in Washington D.C. Not replaced, the character of Rudy Wells would instead be recast when Balsam was also not available, played by another popular TV veteran, Alan Oppenheimer, who would go on to appear in the a select number of episodes throughout the shows eventual first three seasons, before ultimately being recast again for full time appearances across SIX MILLION and the later THE BIONIC WOMAN spin-off by a more accessible and friendly portrayal courtesy of Martin E. Brooks. Also along for the ride in the TV movies would be several other notable guest stars, including cult film and TV favourites like David McCallum, Terry Carter, and Maurice Evans.
Overall, Solid Gold is the better-made and more substantial adventure of the two, written by Larry Alexander, whilst Wine has dated badly in places. Lee Majors himself looks a little uncomfortable as a wannabe James Bond- American style, as do the holding the world to ransom villains he takes on within a format not yet honed down. On the plus side, though, Richard Anderson adds a bit more humanity and friendly authority as Oscar-at first there’s some friction between the two lead characters, but it soon mellows into the believable friendship that lasts across five seasons and beyond.
|Majors and guest star Elizabeth Ashley in Solid Gold Kidnapping.|
They may not have had the same kind of intriguing drama and sci-fi fusion of the original pilot, but Wine and Solid were successful enough for UNIVERSAL to rapidly commission a series for January 1974, and with only six weeks to get it all going, new Executive Producer Harve Bennett, later a force to be reckoned with as writer/producer on the eighties STAR TREK movies, quickly assembled a strong creative team knowing how and where to take Steve on his next adventures…
|A revised characterisation awaits Steve Austin in the weekly series.|
Bennett recognized that the James Bond-esque elements that Larson had given Austin hadn’t quite worked, and that the series should lesson the sardonic quips and testosterone, instead ultimately playing more to the strengths of the shows star-his amiable personality and subdued heroic confidence and humanity. Majors, already a known TV commodity from his stint on the Barbara Stanwyck western series THE BIG VALLEY, was a charismatic actor that Bennett would get to like and admire for his dedication and hard work to the series. Seen as a Gary Cooper type figure, Majors also possessed a chiseled face perfect for transfer to comic book magazines and millions of action figures that were such a hit with boys and girls growing up in the mid to late seventies (a true merchandise phenomenon on the scale of other film/TV ventures of the time like STAR TREK and PLANET OF THE APES), though wearing the kind of hideous clothes then that only Ron Burgundy could get away with now!
As well as re-invigorating our hero and giving him more character purpose, the shows once overblown antagonists toward him would also be modified, coming in all shapes and sizes from across the globe- from mad scientists with a grudge, to robot makers and technology companies out to steal technology, to Cold War adversaries and mobsters. On the other side of the scale, in later more confident years, there’s even some encounters with being from other universes!
Classic guest stars making a splash early on would include Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner, in a career standout role, and memorable baddies played by the likes of Gary Lockwood, John Saxon, John Houseman, Lloyd Bochner, Alfred Ryder, Alex Cord, John Colicos, Robert Loggia and many others-the majority of them coming back as their characters several times over the years or playing additional new baddies. Further supporting guests would include Greg Morris, Erik Estrada, Pat Hingle, Severn Dearden, Mike Farrell and Clifton James. Female stars catching Steve’s eye, and his subtle libido, would includes star power the likes of Jane Merrow and Stefanie Powers (both returning twice), Elke Sommers, Jenny Agutter, Yvonne Craig, Joan Van Ark, Meg Foster, Donna Mills, Heather Menzies, Susan Sommers and others. And watch out for rising stars like Kim Basinger, John de Lancie and future GALACTICA lovely Laurette Spang.
As was the way in many well-known series of the seventies, the area of sports would also see some of its big names make an appearance into drama or comedy, most notably with George Foreman in one boxing themed episode.
|Lee Majors then wife, Farrah Fawcett, made four memorable guest stars visits to the series.|
But the most well remembered guest star of them all had to be the lovely Farah Fawcett, then wife to Majors, appearing in several well-written and respectable episodes over the first four seasons, nicely paired with her husband as former astronaut turned test pilot, Major Kelly Wood, in two episodes: her first, The Rescue of Athena One (written by lady TREK icon D.C. Fontana), being the best, showing her as a rookie space pilot caught in a dangerous situation whilst docking with Skylab. As her flight trainer, Austin comes to her rescue only to then need rescuing himself. At the height of their popularity by the mid-seventies, Mr. and Mrs. Majors were such an attractive couple, and a vital part of TV Hollywood at that time.
|Steve strides though the wilderness in The Pioneers.|
Even with the star power, no SIX MILLION episode would be the same without its interludes of audience enjoying bionic action, though the series makers always trod very carefully in how much violence was shown on screen and not upsetting/offending the TV censors or family audiences, at a time in America where such levels were being carefully monitered. SIX MILLION delivered the goods on the adrenaline front, but was never overtly violent. Fisticuffs and kicks were the order of the day for the weekly series, with Steve taking prisoners, subduing with force and never doing anything with lethal intent (though, in Martin Caidin’s first book, Steve had no hesitation about killing his enemies!). Adding much believability and kudos to the series, Majors, having done stunt work early on in his acting career, partakes in an incredible amount of dangerous looking action in the weekly series, some of which would probably not be allowed with today’s TV health and safety requirements (season four sees him hanging from a helicopter without a safety line, while another season five episode has him perilously hanging 250 feet up a cable car!). Special mention should go to Stunt coordinator and Majors double Vince Deadrick (who almost died in his dedication during the filming of Season Three episode The Wolf Boy), and son Vince Deadrick Jr., both of them handling shots requiring Austin making very tricky jumps or maneuvers (some shots jumping with their back to ground and reverse forwarded on screen), as well as the many top uncredited stuntmen that worked on the series playing intimidating heaves that got the crud kicked out of them by our bionic hero, further helping to make the star look great to the audiences, including Lou Elias, Dick Durock, and Indiana Jones veterans Glenn Randall and Terry Leonard.
|Steve would continue working with NASA throughout the series.|
In between the action/adventure, the writers would also find some time for character building and personal drama: we got to see Steve’s mother and stepfather in Ojai, and there was lots of opportunities for light humour mined from his relationship with sometimes testy boss Oscar. Plus, there was his background in the military and as an astronaut with NASA, giving the space exploration organization (which loved the series) some positive and inspiring publicity.
|Using his bionic skills in an early episode.|
Back to the technology, more drama would be mined from Steve’s bionic implants as the series evolved. In the series weekly episode opener, Steve is deliberately frozen into non-operation, having to gradually regain his strength before he can win the day and save Oscar. Later on, the bionics malfunction in the distant environs of radiation filled outer space, whilst Season Four sees his powers further weakened during an underwater test of fusion technology. Rudy Wells certainly keeps busy patching Steve up, especially when he has memorable bouts with the fearsome Sasquatch beast, Fembots and the out of control Deathprobe (more on them later…)
Regular series directors would include Jerry London, Cliff Bole, Richard Moder, Rod Holcomb and Alan J. Levi, bringing to life stories vividly scripted by a veritable troop of respected writers: newcomers (recommended by Steven Bochco) including Mark Frost and James Parriott, and old guard best known over the years for their previous work on the original classic STAR TREK, including the aforementioned legendary D.C. Fontana, Stephen Kandel, Peter Allen Fields (who became a story executive for SIX MILLION in its second season), Margaret Armen, and Judy Burns. Year Three includes original BATTLESTAR GALACTICA series scribes Jim Carlson and Terence McDonnell, whilst Season Four makes fine use of another fine TREKster: writer and director John Meredyth Lucas, who provides some high concept ideas.
|Steve must save a last of its kind leopard in Taneha.|
As was the norm with seventies and eighties US prime-time TV series, many episodes would show strong family values and deliver subtle moral messages, others would go on to make viewers aware of modern day problems going on in their world, like conservationism, and even tackling the odd thorny subject like mental health in one bold, if not totally successful, Season Two episode.
Looking back at some of the early ambitious episodes, I'm simply amazed that they could be shot in the relatively short time span of six days each, thanks primarily to Bennett and his well-oiled team making the most of UNIVERSAL’s strong production base. Film-making-wise, SIX was, in many ways, a natural continuance to the then recently ended MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, whose stories, since the late sixties, had made considerable use of stock footage galore, lots of studio backlot facilities and nearby locations representing foreign climes.
|The iconic title sequence and logo for the series.|
Other vital contributors to the series long-term who should be particularly praised are Jack Cole for the main title sequence (behind the scenes clip: http://vimeo.com/40316124) and its accompanying theme/incidental music by Oliver Nelson, truly one of the unsung heroes of the series behind the scenes- and a vital element adding to the shows success, giving us music containing subtlety, emotion and stirring action cues (aided in later seasons by other composers coming in on a regular basis, notably J.J. Johnson, carrying on his fine musical blueprint). The sound design of the bionic action sequences also proves crucial, as does the ingenious way the producers came up with showing Steve in fast bionic motion, by literally slowing down the film sequences, and making both Majors and the character look more impressive on screen. Alongside the stars considerable charisma, it would be these ingredients that would cement themselves on viewers the most as ratings remained consistently impressive.
|Lee Majors becomes an iconic hero in 1973.|
Shades of the classic sci-fi movie THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN would get the first weekly episode of the series off to a fine start. Population: Zero has Steve investigating a small town of his youth seeming knocked out by a mysterious force. From the get-go, Harve Bennett shows his grasp of what makes the series format work, one which felt much more like a natural progression from the pilot than the previous two TV films, with Majors looking more placed and comfortable in his surroundings, and building that memorable relationship between Steve and Oscar- much less brusque and more friendly. Intriguingly, later on in the series, despite his friendship and overall loyalty to Steve, Oscar can sometimes be quite ruthless, too, and not quite trustworthy, occasionally conspiring with Rudy in not telling his “pal” things if he thinks its against his or the country’s best interests.
Alongside Bennett, Sam Strangis, Donald R. Boyle and Lionel E. Siegel handle the producing duties with clarity early on, whilst further tone setting is shown by future movie director Jeannot Swarzc. A hit series and a world-wide phenomenon had burst free.
|Steve infiltrates the country of Santa Ventura in Act of Piracy.|
Always intelligently produced and written, the first two seasons of the show prove the best in their storytelling consistency, as the series finds its identity and popularity with viewers. Ambitions happily build by later seasons, as the series writers gave Austin more to do than just chasing and fighting baddies, often going undercover in his assignments, becoming everything from a police officer, boxer, lumberjack, scientist, oil rigger, steel technician, hang glider pilot, to a magician and even aerial carnival wing walker!
|Introducing the lovely Lindsay Wagner as Jaime Sommers.|
Year Two would also be when the show hit the stratosphere, thanks to the arrival of bright and breezy new writer/producer Kenneth Johnson, bringing humanity, romance and a new twist to the series with the inspired introduction of a new romantic interest to Steve, and one that would become a fellow bionic adventurer: tennis pro Jaime Sommers, as played by the charming Lindsay Wagner. Jaime and Steve, rekindling their love in Ojai, California-their home town- prepare to get married and celebrate with a parachute jump that goes horrifically wrong-Jaime being critically injured and a devastated Steve pleading with Oscar to make her Bionic. Oscar agrees, but there’s a price-she’ll have to join the OSI. The surgery seems a success, and their first mission together, though fraught, shows promise. But emotionally, the ending follows the pattern of tragedy so prevalent in early seventies films and TV series. Suffering malfunctions, and her body seemingly rejecting the bionics, Jaime dies, with Steve and the audience genuinely heartbroken…
|Jaime is back from the dead in The Return of the Bionic Woman.|
Viewers watched The Bionic Woman two-parter in higher numbers than ever before and truly responded to the character/actress and the relationships. Despite Kenneth Johnson’s earlier recognizing the potential of Jaime and the spin-off possibilities, he was made to kill her off. But that wasn’t to last long, not if you have a success in Hollywood, as UNIVERSAL and ABC, overwhelmed by the response from viewers, quickly initiated her return from the dead for season three and a separate spin-off, to be called THE BIONIC WOMAN, produced by Johnson and Executive Produced by Harve Bennett.
|Martin E. Brooks joins the series in Season Three as the new incarnation of Dr. Rudy Wells.|
With Jaime’s resurrection being the core of its opening two-parter, Season Three proved a critical and commercial triumph- now at the very peak of its audience appreciation and becoming a little more humorous and often more fantastical, with lots of additional action and sci-fi elements adding to the pie (the latter to mixed results, working at its best with the arrival of the alien robot Bigfoot in an acclaimed and exciting adventure). It’s also very much the season of sequels of sorts, what with the return of Season Two’s bionic rival to Steve: the seven million dollar man.
|Wagner and Majors have fun with Ted Cassidy as Bigfoot.|
Keeping general viewer interest, Steve Austin gets a bionic “family” of sorts from here on in, what with Oscar and Rudy gaining more screen time, Jaime making occasional important ratings crossover episodes, and even a Bionic Boy (played by Vince Van Patten) in one later interesting, if not totally successful, two hour episode the following year.
Concurrently with Season Two of SIX MILLION and going into THE BIONIC WOMAN, a new semi-regular character joins the ranks: Jennifer Darling as Oscar’s dizzy but efficient secretary, Peggy Callahan,who helps the team out and even see some occasional spying work. Callahan is ultimately there to add some additional light humour to the series.
With both bionic series garnering strong ratings, one sometimes higher than the other in varying weeks, Season Four of SIX MILLION continues to be confident and exciting, especially with the arrival of a deadly new menace for our hero in the shape of the out of control Russian space vehicle called Deathprobe. Majors is clearly still enjoying the role, though bearing a moustache that makes him look like someone out of a seventies porno movie- thankfully it disappears by the time of new producer Allan Balter’s arrival later in the season!
|Hugely popular in the UK, the bionic stars would often grace the cover of LOOK-IN magazine.|
By Season Five, Harve Bennett would sadly leave his Exec Producing SIX MILLION duties, due to his commitments to the third and final season of THE BIONIC WOMAN, now on a rival channel to ABC, replaced by long-term producing veterans Lionel E. Siegel then Allan Balter. Other producers seemingly alternating duties on SIX MILLION would include Richard Landau then Fred Freiberger, well known by sci-fi and fantasy TV fans of the time as the so-called “kiss of death” for genre series, having been declared responsible for the demise of the original STAR TREK at the end of its third 1969 season, the conclusion of western adventure THE WILD, WILD WEST, and the UK intergalactic odyssey that was SPACE: 1999 with its too heavily revised second season.
This fifth year of SIX would ultimately prove the last for our Bionic hero, too, but this is not something that Freiberger should be held responsible for. The series had come to the end of its natural lifespan, though remaining entertaining and well made to the end. Frustratingly, because of the network changes, Jaime Sommers was no longer able to appear in crossover episodes with Steve, and fans missed them together, though the producers tried to compensate for this with numerous ambitious two-parters, which helped to spread out the production budgets and make the big stories look even bigger-scale. Plus, there was the return of old favourite Sasquatch and a run-in with an all-new Deathprobe…
|Friends and lovers: Steve and Jaime are reunited in three successful TV movies of the eighties and nineties.|
The series may have ended by the seventies, but the eighties would see our bionic heroes return, swapping wide shirt lapels and flairs for shoulder pads and mullets, in a succession of highly successful reunion TV movies, shepherded by star Richard Anderson (knowing how popular the series was continuing to be with audiences), and popular eighties TV whizz Michael Sloan, then a power player from his previous success resurrecting Robert Vaughn and David McCallum for a ratings winning THE MAN FROM UNCLE reunion. THE RETURN OF THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN AND THE BIONIC WOMAN TV movie would be another successful quality production for fans to enjoy, which would see in two further adventures before the franchise’s end in November 1994.
|A young Sandra Bullock is the next bionic woman in Bionic Showdown.|
Still a merchandising success today on DVD, and with a recent popular comics resurrection, a BIONIC WOMAN re-imagining, starring British actress Michelle Ryan, was a mild hit mid-2000’s that sadly never lived up to the promise of its predecessor. There’s also been talk for years at UNIVERSAL of a new, re-imagined film version of THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN, and rumours persist that it will eventually happen. So far, nothing has come to light bar one potential project idea being a comedy vehicle for Jim Carrey- thankfully that never happening. The idea of someone like Christopher Nolan handling an adult, big budget, big screen return would be incredible. We can but hope...
|Steve has swamp problems in an early episode of Season One.|
Overall, seen today, the majority of the series episodes in this incredible new box set release hold up very well - the plots are well constructed under Harve Bennett’s firm guidance, making sure they meld action and character well, despite some now quite basic looking production values. Certain episodes also require the occasional suspension of disbelief and engender a few clichés- there’s one episode set in the Florida everglades where Steve wrestles a clearly rubber alligator, whilst some of the reuse of the now familiar UNIVERSAL STUDIOS backlot doubling for foreign locations are all too obvious. Plus, there’s the odd guest star desperate to appear in the series whether they really need him/her or not (though valuable to the shows then ratings). But the overall high quality of the series is strong forty years on. Consistently excellent throughout the five year run, Lee Majors shines as Steve Austin- an amiable, attractive, true American TV hero and an all-round nice guy, both on-screen and off.
The complete series episodes, including the various BIONIC WOMAN crossovers, extended two-part versions of all the 1973 pilot episodes, and the eighties TV movies, are all presented uncut. One or two even have the original pre-titles teaser snippets of what's to come in them.
|Prepare to get bionic all over again with these new releases.|
Intriguing to see it included for completism in the box set is the controversial Season Two Ireland/IRA-inspired episode not shown on UK TV back in 1975- Outrage in Balinderry. At the time, and into the eighties, both the UK and Ireland were being hit by waves of horrific IRA terrorist activity, and it was thought by the powers that be in the British Government and by television chiefs that any drama that glorified the terrorist organization and their cause, as well as the then current state of the English/ Irish situation, would be unsuitable for prime time audiences. Though not specifically referencing the group, writer Paul Schnedier, presumably wanting to do a tougher edged and time relevant story, shifts the dramatic emphasis of his episode to a specific part of Ireland-the fictitious Balinderry- and a splinter group of another fictitious but similar terror organization at work, whose battles against the British, namely through the kidnapping of an American dignitary’s wife, are being manipulated by one of its disgruntled members. Seeing it all these years on, I kind of understand why it wasn’t shown, but I also have to say that, despite a solid guest star cast including a wasted Gavan O’Herlihy and another JAMES BOND lady, Martine Beswick, its ultimately one of the poorest episodes of the entire run, weakly conceived with stereotyped acting failing to impress, poor backlot filming and a dodgy mix of stock footage material. Ultimately, its worth seeing only as a curio.
Remastered to the best quality possible, there’s the occasional with age slight soundtrack hiss, and a few film print scratches here and there, but this is a minor niggle when the vast majority of the presented episodes look so good. As I said before, today's modern adult audiences must suspend their disbelief a little, but I'm sure imaginative fantasy and action/adventure loving children will enjoy it and want to become bionic just as much as their parents did when there were their ages...
|One of the great documentary graphics in the DVD set.|
Beyond the episodes there’s also a wealth of lovingly produced and exciting extras to delve into: each season set has a lovely episode guide booklet, photo galleries, selected audio commentaries from key behind the scenes personnel (including Harve Bennett, Kenneth Johnson and director Cliff Bole). There’s also separate fascinating featurettes that look at the shows top guest stars and action sequences, the making of the shows iconic title sequence, sound design, stunt work, real bionics, the classic Bigfoot episodes, the series incredibly loyal fan base and the superb merchandise (notably the KENNER toy figure range), plus a look at the later eighties TV movie revivals. Even better, there’s revealing and enjoyable interviews with stars Majors, Wagner, Richard Anderson and Martin E. Brooks, as well as important series creative icons Harve Bennett and Kenneth Johnson.
It’s a package that truly is everything a bionic series fan could ever wish for on DVD, and one of the greatest TV box sets ever released.
KOOL TV RATING: Relive your childhood fun with this truly phenomenal seventies series, available in a truly phenomenal modern-day collectors edition. Prime nostalgia in a top-class package. An unmissable 5 out of 5
Here’s a look at some of the shows best and memorable episodes across its five seasons:
POPULATION: ZERO (Series launch- first episode)
Steve returns to the small town of his youth to discover why it's populace has been seemingly wiped out by an unknown force…
An excellent start to the full-time series, and a great showcase for Steve Austin’s revised characterization, as well as the show’s overall format. Possibly my favourite episode of the entire run.
|Steve takes on the duplicate Fred Sloane (John Saxon) in Day of the Robot.|
DAY OF THE ROBOT (Season One)
On a mission with his old friend, Fred Sloane (John Saxon), Steve discovers that he has been replaced with a robot, controlled by the mysterious Doctor Dolenz (Henry Jones), out for some revolutionary weapons circuitry.
The first real dip into fantasy for the series, as Steve takes on the robot double in an enjoyable and lengthy fight sequence. Doctor Dolenz escapes but will be back for revenge…
DR. WELLS IS MISSING (Season One)
Rudy is kidnapped in the snowcapped hills of Austria by some European baddies, who want him to build a bionic man for them. Steve comes to the rescue and soon has to fight for his life against some formidable stuntmen opponents and their ambitious technology-acquiring employers.
EYEWITNESS TO MURDER (Season One)
With his bionic eyesight, Steve sees a hitman (Gary Lockwood) at work and partakes in his arrest. Incredulously, however, the man has an alibi that checks out and the police have no choice but to release him. Putting his detective skills to work, Steve must get to the truth of how one person can astonishingly be in two places at the same time, before his opponent completes his murder contract…
A well-made and satisfying episode, with a strong performance from Lockwood, always playing great villains in popular US TV series.
|Back to earth for William Shatner in Burning Brightly.|
BURNING BRIGHTLY (Season One)
William Shatner seemingly becomes “the transformed man” for real when his routine space mission sees him hit by a lightning field that super charges his brain, making him either a genius or dangerous madman upon his return to Earth. It’s a crucial life-changing factor that his friend Steve must decide a course of action upon quickly…
Beyond his iconic Captain Kirk persona, Shatner easily gives one of his best TV series performances as tortured soul Josh Lang, combining confidence, madness, tragedy and anguish in equal measure, and working very well in his scenes with Majors. It may be low on action but this episode boasts a fine script from Del Reisman, full of characterization alongside tone perfect direction from series regular Jerry London. The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long as the story ends on a sad and genuinely moving note. One of the series all-time great episodes, and a favourite of many of the series behind the scenes team (including Executive Producer Harve Bennett).
Intriguingly, the story shows shades of a possible genesis to one of the STAR TREK movie franchise’s most successful entries, also helmed by Harve Bennett: THE VOYAGE HOME, what with its links to underwater life being used in outer space communication.
|Steve undertakes a personal quest in The Coward.|
THE COWARD (Season One)
Some action and personal drama for Steve whilst on a dangerous mission to the Chinese border, taking on some mean Mongolians to recover vital, long-lost documents, important to the looming peace process, from a wrecked plane atop a perilous mountain. Of equal priority, Steve has the chance to discover what happened to his late father, Carl-one of the two pilots involved in that fateful crash, whose skills and competence have been questioned by history…
Guest starring another STAR TREK star, veteran George Takei, and George Montgomery as American guide, Garth.
|Steve helps Dr. Simmons (Joan Darling) look for her missing partner in The Pioneers.|
THE PIONEERS (Season Two)
Steve and Rudy enter the wilderness in the hunt for a crashed NASA capsule containing two scientists whose scientific research into cryosleep has gone horribly wrong, turning one of them- David Tate-into a deranged superhuman, who’s now at loose within the general forest populace!
M.A.S.H. veteran Mike Farrell has fun as the ape-like/Frankenstein's Monster-esque David Tate, and there’s some great bionic action for viewers to enjoy.
|Steve takes on The Seven Million Dollar Man (Monte Markham).|
THE SEVEN MILLION DOLLAR MAN (Season Two)
Steve is shocked to discover that Oscar and Rudy, with the success of their friends implants, have now gone on to create a second bionic man: Barney (an edgy performance from Monte Markham), a former racing car driver almost killed in a car crash. This new seven million dollar man may be more advanced, but the psychological trauma from the human/bionic conversion has made him dangerously unstable, leading Steve into a deadly confrontation with the superior figure, who wants to stay unique and with no rivals to stand in his way.
Another iconic, well-realized episode with some effective action moments. Intriguingly, Monte Markham was the original first choice for Steve Austin, but was ruled out for having a too sinister look to him.
|Steve makes First Contact with an alien (Meg Foster) in Straight on 'til Morning.|
STRAIGHT ON ‘TIL MORNING (Season Two)
E.T.s need to phone home, as Steve, always the romantic when it comes to space and possible extraterrestrial contact, befriends a family of stranded aliens with powerful telekinetic abilities, now dying from exposure to humanity and desperate to escape Earth.
The intriguing Meg Foster makes for an impressive alien in a story more subtly effective than it sounds, with a respectable and not OTT screenplay from STAR TREK writing legend D.C. Fontana. Watch out for the eerie electronic alien score from Oliver Nelson, more Gil-Melle sounding than anything we’ve seen before in the series…
THE DEADLY REPLAY (Season Two)
Steve’s past comes back to haunt him when the spacecraft he crashlanded in is resurrected, of which its builders want Steve back in the test pilot seat. For our hero, this is a chance to exorcise past emotional and psychological demons, but Oscar Goldman suspects that the ship, whose destiny originally made his friend bionic, was initially sabotaged, and that the same culprit behind that effort might strike again…
Solid, well thought out episode with some great links to the original series pilot, plus further positive promotion for NASA’s continued space exploration agenda…
THE LAST KAMIKAZE (Season Two)
Steve undertakes a perilous mission to a remote pacific island to retrieve a plane crashed nuclear bomb, now in the hands of an aged Japanese kamikaze pilot who thinks that World War II is still going on! Adding further complications, a rival party is also after the bomb for themselves.
A solid script from STAR TREK writer Judy Burns (one of this series best contributors), some good interaction between Majors and star John Fujioka, and well staged action and direction from Richard Moder. One of the series best.
|Doctor Chester Dolenz (Henry Jones) causes more chaos in The Return of the Robot Maker.|
THE RETURN OF THE ROBOT MAKER (Season Two)
The wily and clever robot maker Doctor Chester Dolenz (Henry Jones) returns, kidnapping Oscar and replacing him with a robot double in order to penetrate a top secret research establishment. Steve soon becomes a cannon fire decoy in the process, caught on the base’s weapons packed grounds.
A fine sequel for the Dolenz character, there’s solid scripting here from HILL STREET BLUES and TWIN PEAKS writer-to-be Mark Frost. The action scenes also prove memorable, and there’s a great finale where Steve has to work out which is the real Oscar and which is his double- clichéd in these story-telling days but fun nonetheless.
Steve versus robot Oscar clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X4-P1coGbWk
|Steve helps Jaime get used to her new powers.|
THE BIONIC WOMAN (Two parter – Season Two)
A true turning point for the series as Steve returns to his hometown of Ojai and soon rekindles his love affair with ex-girlfriend now Tennis pro Jaime Sommers. On the eve of their marriage, the pair goes celebratory skydiving and tragedy strikes when she is critically injured. At the point of death, a distraught Steve begs Oscar to make her bionic. Oscar agrees to do it, but warns him that they’ll soon be a price to pay emotionally and physically for Jamie, as the bionic partnership go on a dangerous assignment to reacquire stolen dollar currency making plates from Malachi Throne’s wealthy super baddie, already setting his plan of revenge against Steve into motion…
A genuinely affecting and emotional story written by series newcomer Kenneth Johnson, quickly putting himself on the creative map for the series in combining action and character for Lee Majors to shine in, and, even more importantly, creating Jaime Sommers-the next evolution in bionics, and a heroine for women to enjoy and young girls to have a role model to root for. Lindsay Wagner makes a warm and engaging entrance into the series, working extremely well with Majors-their scenes in bionic training and action now amongst the shows finest moments, and perfect for children to imitate and recreate in school playgrounds or read about in the teenage magazines of the period.
Despite the passing of time, it’s no surprise to me at all why this story was so successful and struck a chord with the public and the behind the scenes team. Despite the genuinely sad ending to the tale, there had to be a sequel, and there was most definitely going to be a spin-off series. That little matter of Jaime dying wasn’t going to stop anything. This is Hollywood after all…
The only very mild damper to the story is Lee Majors insistence in singing a little narrative love ballad for Steve and Jaime over certain scenes. It worked for John Barry’s music score in ON HER MAJESTY’s SECRET SERVICE, but it certainly doesn’t here!
The bionic phenomena was now well and truly cemented with this story…
STEVE AUSTIN, FUGITIVE (Season Two)
Wanting revenge for the death of his brother, scheming criminal twin Hopper (Gary Lockwood, previously seen in Season One) returns to frame Steve for the murder of an OSI bionic technician. Our hero then has to evade the police and prove his innocence. Also guest starring STARSKY AND HUTCH’s fearsome boss Captain Dobey (aka Bernie Hamilton), and featuring the first appearance of Oscar’s new secretary, the slightly in over her head Peggy Callahan (Jennifer Darling).
Mark Frost adds some clever ideas and quirky humour into the script, though one comedic scene where Lee Majors plays another character-a bumbling spare parts dealer- falls pretty flat. Other than that, this is a successful end to Season Two.
|Steve and Jaime begin a new mission in The Return of the Bionic Woman.|
THE RETURN OF THE BIONIC WOMAN(Two-part opener- Season Three)
The third and most popular season of the series sees Kenneth Johnson return to write and solely produce the two-part adventure launching the new season, in between his busy duties setting up Jaime Sommers’ own series vehicle. In a nutshell, Steve had lost the girl, now he wins her back, then he loses her all over again!
His legs critically injured on a mission, Steve recovers to discover that Jaime is alive and well thanks to the wonders of cryogenics and further brain surgery. Unfortunately, she no longer remembers Steve or their love for each other, which leads to emotional discomfort for our hero as Jaime has to be reeducated and trained anew in the use of her bionics skills, leading up to her important first mission against a South African power baron. Despite his unease, Steve is the perfect tutor. With his guidance, there’s also the chance that her cognitive memory might come back and restore their affections for each other, though there’s also the danger that such reawakened feelings could lead to a severe and dangerous trauma...
Resurrected because audiences demanded it, the bionic woman cheats death thanks to some clever writing from Johnson. Within the storytelling there’s nice, often bittersweet, character moments for Majors and Wagner to play –they even get to have a bionic pillow fight at one point! - before the finale action. Like the previous two-parter, composer Oliver Nelson delivers a sympathetic and touching score for the duo, especially for the heartbroken Steve when he discovers that his love for Jaime may ultimately not be rekindled.
THE WOLF BOY (Season Three)
Steve travels to Japan and is re-united with former kamikaze solider Kuroda, now a firm friend, as they search for the mysterious “wolf boy” roaming one of the remote islands, possibly the orphaned child of a murdered American envoy and his wife.
A solid story from The Last Kamikaze’s Judy Burns, returning to previous themes having scored such a hit with her previous adventure, with the popular pairing of Majors with Fujioka, whose character, since the events of the previous story, has now been trying to get used to his new life in the modern world. Solid direction from a returned Jerry London also makes this a notable entry with fans.
|Barney (Monte Markham) returns to cause more problems in The Bionic Criminal.|
THE BIONIC CRIMINAL (Season Three)
Under orders from higher military powers, Oscar and Rudy are forced to reactivate the powers of the seven million dollar man (once more played by Monte Markham) for a series of additional tests linked to power and control, much to the worry of Steve, who fears that Barney’s abilities and mental state might get out of control once again. Such fears are soon proved correct, as a set of unfortunate events lead Barney into the criminal arms of an ambitious scientist (Donald Moffatt).
Another very enjoyable sequel, well told.
|Steve encounters the mysterious and powerful Bigfoot (Andre the Giant) in The Secret of Bigfoot.|
THE SECRET OF BIGFOOT (Two parter- Season Three)
Searching for two missing friends out on a seismic activity survey for the OSI in the Californian mountains, Steve encounters the legendary Sasquatch beast (also known as Bigfoot) and discovers it to be a sentinel/ guardian for a hidden alien race monitoring humanity from its secret mountain base.
One of the most memorable two-part episodes of the series, Kenneth Johnson strikes viewing gold yet again for the series, with part one of the story being an excellent atmosphere builder (special credit to director Alan Crossland), leading up to Steve’s first battle in the woods with the equally bionic creature (played with menace and power by Andre the Giant), in a suitably epic, excellently choreographed sequence (clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QWccQa7fI0g). After that, part two’s look at the humanoid aliens controlling Sasquatch proves intelligent if a little routine, perhaps now seen as mildly cheesy sci-fi, helped along by a very sexy performance from HART TO HART’s Stefanie Powers and, against screen type, a friendly performance from Severn Dearden.
Lindsay Wagner also makes a cameo appearance as Jaime in part one.
|Jaime takes on Bigfoot (Ted Cassidy) in The Return of Bigfoot.|
THE RETURN OF BIGFOOT
(Two-part crossover linked to Season Four of THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN and the Season Two opener of THE BIONIC WOMAN)
Kenneth Johnson brings Bigfoot back, this time in the possession of renegade aliens who want to take over the Earth -a splinter group from the benign observers hidden away in the Californian mountains. Seriously injured a the end of part one, Steve’s out for the count by the start of part two, and its up to Jaime Sommers to step in and get help from the remaining friendly aliens…
Stefanie Powers and Severn Dearden return in their roles as aliens, though the storyline has a new, dominant baddie in John Saxon. This sequel, again written by Johnson, is enjoyable, but not quite as satisfying as the earlier story. Part two (on THE BIONIC WOMAN) sees the story set back in the wilderness rather than in the city environs of SIX MILLION’s part one, and it’s all the better for the switchback- Jaime even has a quirkier early encounter/ fight against Sasquatch (now played by sci-fi TV series icon Ted Cassidy, who, though enormous, looks a little less intimidating physically than Andre the Giant).
|Steve and Kelly (Farrah Fawcett) search for a missing plane in Nightmare in the Sky.|
NIGHTMARE IN THE SKY (Season Four)
Former astronaut now test pilot Kelly Wood returns to the series, though her new career is threatened when her top secret plane is lost in the air after finding herself in a dogfight with an ancient Japanese fighter which no one else can see. Steve is the only person to believe Kelly's bizarre story, and the pair head off into the desert to find the plane. Suffice to say that what they’ll soon be encountering is no illusion…
Jim Carlson and Terrence McDonnell’s adventurous script has a couple of implausible moments but it's all very enjoyable and makes the most of its impressive outdoor location filming, achieved through a nice combination of specially shot aerial footage and stock material.
Equally important, the episode gives the then Mr. and Mrs. Majors one last lively vehicle together.
Donald Moffat returns as renegade scientist Doctor Davis, alongside an appearance from guest star Dana Elcar.
|Rudy (Martin E. Brooks) traps Steve in The Most Dangerous Enemy.|
THE MOST DANGEROUS ENEMY (Season Four)
Travelling to a remote island to investigate the disappearance of one of his scientist friends, Cheryl (Ina Balin), working to find a unique and revolutionary Super Intelligence Drug, Rudy is bitten by one of her rabid test chimps and undergoes a dangerous transformation- acquiring super strength and super paranoia against Steve. A variant on the classic THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU and its notions of the survival of the fittest, this is another interesting change of pace adventure from the reliable Judy Burns, which also gives Martin E. Brooks’ Rudy a lot more to do beyond his lab.
|Oscar is held captive by a deadly Fembot. Kill Oscar!|
(Three-part adventure across Season Two of THE BIONIC WOMAN and THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN Season Four)
Steve has had various memorable baddies to face these past four seasons, and now Jaime gets her own formidable foes in the shapely forms of the fearsome Fembots, created by the renegade former OSI scientist Doctor Franklin (a fine performance from the late John Houseman), used in revenge against Oscar Goldman, and also to take control of a machine complex facility capable of manipulating the world’s weather...
|Steve takes on two deadly Fembots in part two of Kill Oscar!|
Kill Oscar! is the pinnacle of both bionic series in terms of storytelling, the use of the show’s “family” of characters and its ambitious action- an exciting three-part epic concluding on a remote jungle island death trap, of which Lindsay Wagner ultimately gets the majority of the best scenes (especially her tense, almost life ending episode one showdown with the automatons-special mention must go to her excellent stunt double here: Rita Egleston), though Steve Austin’s middle entry episode has its moments, too, including some deft metal pole swordplay with two female imposters, and another fight with a robot impersonating Oscar.
More fine guest star support includes THE A-TEAM’s Jack Ging and THE INCREDIBLE HULK’s Jack Colvin.
Part Three clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3ON4dh2fwQ
|The out of control Deathprobe is on the loose...|
DEATHPROBE (Two parter – Season Four)
Alien invasion in Wyoming!
Well, hardly, but it's something just as lethal, as a Russian probe designed for the exploration of Venus crashes back on Earth out of control, heading on a path of destruction unless Steve Austin can stop it. But it's not going to be easy, what with the runaway berserker being armed to the teeth with a variety of technological weaponry and a super-strong skin designed to endure the hostile climate of an alien atmosphere!
Looking like a cross between a pincered crab and a Dalek built into a tank, the Deathprobe of the title is a well conceived and realized enemy for Steve to face, certainly alongside the first Sasquatch tale as the SIX MILLION story I remembered the most from my seventies childhood. Its conceived in a strong two-part script-
certainly one of the very best of the series-by top Hollywood action movie scripter-to-be Steven E. de Souza, who also delivers an additional equally solid subplot involving Russian “sleeper” agents being reactivated to recover the device, including the return of an old friend from Steve’s Season One past, in the form of Irina Leonova (once more played by Jane Merrow).
The stunt work of the episode is very impressive, not only in Steve’s confrontations with the probe but also in a capably handled, quite hairy, and genuinely memorable finale set on a helicopter that, for the most part, clearly shows the lead actor doing his own action.
If THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN was ever remade as a series or a feature film, this story should be a prime candidate for an excellent re-make.
U-509 (Season Four)
Steve dons the flippers to board an ancient, previously believed sunk German U-boat, whose retired British commander, Bulman, is holding the US to ransom for 20 million dollars, threatening to poison it with lethal nerve gas.
Used to aquatic action playing an enemy to James Bond in THUNDERBALL, British actor Guy Doleman is fine as the ruthless Bulman, aided by Steve Sander and later STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS vocal veteran Ian Abercrombie.
Altogether, a respectable tale making fine use of Steve’s abilities and the overall submarine setting, from rising star writer Michael Wagner, later bringing his talents to two other iconic shows: HILL STREET BLUES and STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION.
THE GHOSTLY TELETYPE (Season Four finale)
Steve finds himself under suspicion of stealing vital scientific documents, which he says disappeared into thin air before his eyes! On the run, and with the help of a magician friend and an extravagant psychic, he discovers two dangerously clever twins with unique psychic powers are the true culprits- possessing dangerous plans for the genetic manipulation of humanity.
It’s low on action, but The Ghostly Teletype is an interesting, subtly paced season ender- think of VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED, and its strange advanced children, and you’ll get the idea. It also has a final sting in the tale that proves interesting…
Moral of this episode: never trust a granny holding a garden spade!
|Watery danger for Steve in Sharks.|
SHARKS (Season Five opening two-parter)
Fishy things are going on when a sabotaged submarine propels Steve into dark waters and the discovery of a disgruntled military man and his daughter using specially controlled sharks as part of their modern day piracy plans against the US. Unfortunately, their mercenary cohorts have their own ideas for the sub, along with some recently captured nuclear missiles…
Fred Freiberger co-writes a solid season starter with some great underwater footage specially shot for the episode by Tom Connors III and Jordan Klein, plus Paul Stader (part two’s submersed highlights incuse Steve bionic “pushing” a sub, then knocking the living daylights out of a killer shark!). The story is briskly directed from stalwart Alan J. Levi, with some good performances from guest stars Stephen Elliott, William Sylvester, Gregory Walcott, Marc Alaimo, and a young, pre-BUCK ROGERS Pamela Hensley, looking wet and wild in her red diving suit!
DEADLY COUNTDOWN (Season Five two-parter)
Surviving two murder attempts and the sabotage of his rocket at Cape Kennedy, Steve takes on a group of technology acquiring criminals out to capture a failing orbital military defense system crucial to America.
Set to some excellent location filming/ cinematography in Florida and the use of the real-life NASA space centre, the story sustains its two-part duration well, with fine guest starring support from sexy English rose Jenny Agutter as Steve’s space technician partner, Dr. Leah Russell, and Lloyd Bochner as the villainous Shanks. And watch out for a guest appearance from Cyborgcreator Martin Caidin as one of his henchmen!
|Ted Cassidy returns one last time in Bigfoot V.|
BIGFOOT V (Season Five)
A more recognizable Ted Cassidy returns in a small scale but enjoyable showcase adventure, as the now technologically schizophrenic Sasquatch, accidentally reactivated and on the rampage in his local forest, needs Steve’s help to keep him away from the clutches of some deadly big-game hunters.
Guest starring Geoffrey Lewis, this is a well-directed episode by the series from then Assistant Producer Rod Holcomb, with solidly staged action between Steve and Bigfoot.
THE CHESHIRE PROJECT (Season Five)
Suzanne Somers makes a strong guest star turn as an old flame of Steve’s- a top test pilot taking to the skies in a one-of-a-kind radar shielded plane which suddenly goes missing. Steve goes out to find her, but all is not what it seems…
Some nice twists and turns in an efficient script by John Meredyth Lucas, capably directed by Richard Moder.
JUST A MATTER OF TIME (Season Five)
Returning from a space orbit that’s testing a new type of revolutionary rocket fuel, Steve’s re-entry goes wrong, forcing him to land on a remote island, where he discovers he's arrived six years into the future. In contact with the OSI he is then arrested on charges of treason and defection to the West!
This solid episode, if a little signposted as to where it’s eventually going, has another exciting helicopter related stunt, as Majors holds on to its bars in order to stop it escaping. It looks very dangerous on-screen, and I'm surprised the producers let him do this after his Deathprobe antics.
The impressive guest cast includes Paul Carr, Charles Cioffi and John de Lancie.
|Steve and Bess (Simone Griffeth) have to stop a dangerous scientist in Dark Side of the Moon.|
DARK SIDE OF THE MOON (Season Five two-parter)
An illegal mining operation on the Moon for a rare mineral puts the Earth in environmental catastrophe, and sends Steve back into space for a confrontation with his ambitious, cold-hearted antagonist, Doctor Leith (Jack Colvin), with his bionic existence soon hanging in the balance...
Part two feels a little slower paced than its opening, but this is another worthy and enjoyably bonkers adventure beyond Earth, written by John Meredyth Lucas and Richard Landau, with efficient direction from Cliff Bole. Jack Colvin is well cast as a strong calculating baddie, plus fine support earth-side from Skip Homeier, whilst guest NASA scientist babe Simone Griffeth provides the required seventies sex appeal.
DATE WITH DANGER (Season Five two-parter)
It’s a technological labyrinth of danger and circuitry as Steve discovers that the OSI’s top computers have been hacked by the mysterious Cloche (the always unnerving Robert Walker, Jr.), on course for an even greater crime caper unless he can be stopped. But how do you fight an enemy that can do so much with just one press of a cursor key? And what happens when that supercomputer gets a mind of its own?
An interesting and intelligent premise for the show from Wilton Schiller and John Meredyth Lucas, at a time when real-life computer advancement and ideas of artificial intelligence were just must coming into their own.
Efficiently directed by Rod Holcomb, Majors has fiery guest support from Elaine Giftos as a computer dating agency programmer caught in the danger. Watch out, too, for some nice location filming inside the famous Bradbury Building, used in many famous movies and TV series including cult classic movie BLADE RUNNER.
|Back in action: Lee Majors and Lindsay Wagner in 1987.|
THE RETURN OF THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN AND BIONIC WOMAN (TV movie- 1987)
There’s a lot to like and dislike about this first movie bringing back our iconic bionic heroes. Primarily, though, it's nice to have the entire bionic family back, all of whom settle comfortably into their roles after years away, especially Lindsay Wagner as Jaime (who has now recovered her memories and love for Steve), and Brooks as Rudy, who looks and acts just the same as he did in his last series appearance!
Recognizing the potential of the characters resurrection, writers and producers Michael Sloan and Bruce Lansbury clearly have a lot of affection for the series, and the use of continuity is excellent (they even reference Max the bionic dog at one point!). There’s also the return of a classic series guest actor Gary Lockwood, which is great to see, and the always watchable Martin Landau, doing his best in an underwritten role, as an old foe from Steve and Jamie’s past, planning to re-launch his criminal empire, Fortress, and wanting their bionic abilities.
Though competently directed by UK TV fantasy series veteran Ray Austin (nice to see him reunited with Landau after their SPACE: 1999 days!), the negative side to the reunion is that the story’s pacing feels unusually off- there’s just too many characters vying for screen time and too much going on in an hour and a half. The filmmakers also have to shoehorn in the potential for a new series spin-off, a next generation passing of the torch which is reasonably successful, as Steve’s hitherto unknown to the audience young son (played by Tom Schanley), a hot shot pilot soon becoming critically injured himself and getting a bionic makeover - even more superior to Steve and Jaime in their abilities!
Watch out for a brief appearance from BREAKING BAD’s Bryan Cranston as an ER doctor!
Nice fan compilation for the bionic couple: A Bionic Love Story - YouTube
|Steve and Jaime make a break for freedom in Bionic Showdown.|
BIONIC SHOWDOWN: THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN AND THE BIONIC WOMAN
(Second reunion TV movie- 1989)
Amongst the emerging spirit of Detente, The World Unity Games are in danger from a group of radical powerbrokers across both sides of the east and west, possessing a bionic agent with powers greater than Steve and Jaime.
Suspecting a traitor in the OSI, Oscar is soon kidnapped, resulting in the mature bionic duo being no longer trusted by their new superiors in the organization. With new bionic recruit Kate Mason and her boyfriend, nephew to Oscar Goldman, the quartet head to Toronto to unravel the truth and prevent a catastrophe.
Guest starring THE EQUALIZER’s Robert Lansing as Oscar’s military antagonist, General McAllister, Josef Sommer and FOREVER KNIGHT’s Geraint Wyn Davies, BIONIC SHOWDOWN is a better made, more focused second film, co-produced by Lee Majors and Richard Anderson (who also gets a bit more to do this time round as Oscar), co-written by Michael Sloan. It’s also better directed, too, by the more experienced SIX MILLION veteran Alan J. Levi. Film-star-to-be Sandra Bullock makes for a likable addition to the bionic team, with new technology from Rudy Wells. V’s Jeff Yagher starts off annoying as Jim Goldman but gets better as the film goes along. Sadly, our main bionic heroes Steve and Jaime get sidelined into the second half as the younger heroes get the limelight.
Note: Lee Majors son, Lee Majors II, appears in all three TV films as OSI agent Jim Castillian ("with two l's!”)
|Finally saying "I do"!, Steve and Jaime wed in Bionic Ever After?|
BIONIC EVER AFTER? (Third and final TV movie 1994)
Steve and Jaime’s long overdue wedding is temporarily put on hold when the latter’s bionics suddenly go into life threatening malfunction mode, whilst the former is soon caught up in an American embassy siege by a deranged terrorist in the Bahamas, ready to launch a stolen missile. The two incidents at first seem unrelated, but a deadly plan of revenge is being initiated against them and the OSI.
Originally to have been called Bionic Breakdown, this is an enjoyable finale to our heroes and their TV legend, directed with confidence by Lee Majors ex-assistant Steve Stafford. The plot runs out of juice pretty quickly into its second half, and the villain is noticeable pretty early on, but at least this time around our bionic couple are more centered in the story, and its proceedings, with no spin-off characters or further newbies introduced.
It’s nice to see Steve and Jaime finally married and the whole bionic era satisfyingly concluded.
Get THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN-THE COMPLETE COLLECTION here: The Six Million Dollar Man - The Complete Collection DVD 2012: Amazon.co.uk: Lee Majors, Richard Anderson, Lindsay Wagner, Farrah Fawcett: Film & TV
FABULOUS FILMS have also just released the first two seasons of the show separately. Get them here:
The Six Million Dollar Man: Series 1 [DVD]: Amazon.co.uk: Lee Majors, Richard Anderson, Jennifer Darling, Alan Oppenheimer, Lindsay Wagner, Michael Santiago, Paul Carr, Farrah Fawcett, Jack Colvin, Fred Lerner, Henry Jones, William Sylvester: Film & TV
The Six Million Dollar Man: Series 2 [DVD]: Amazon.co.uk: Lee Majors, Richard Anderson, Jennifer Darling, Alan Oppenheimer, Lindsay Wagner, Michael Santiago, Paul Carr, Farrah Fawcett, Jack Colvin, Fred Lerner, Henry Jones, William Sylvester: Film & TV
Don't forget, the entire THE BIONIC WOMAN collection is also available on DVD here:
Bionic Woman - Complete [DVD]: Amazon.co.uk: Lindsay Wagner, Richard Anderson, Martin E. Brooks: Film & TV
Look for a review/overview of THE BIONIC WOMAN on the KOOL TV site in the not too distant future..
And don't forget to visit these great SIX MILLION/BIONIC WOMAN sites:
Welcome to Bionic Blonde. A no-nonsense blog site for people who *heart* Jaime Sommers, the original Bionic Woman