In 1975, I was in kindergarten and all I wanted for my birthday was a Six Million Dollar Man action figure. Colonel Steve Austin (Lee Majors) was my hero at the time. And I was shocked and amazed when I not only received a 12-inch action figure with the “bionic eye” you could see through, but a rocket that transformed into a repair bay when he was injured.
If you don’t remember, the Six Million Dollar Man was the story of Steve Austin, a NASA pilot who nearly died while testing an experimental space plane. Oscar Goldman (Richard Anderson), head of the OSI (the Office of Scientific Intelligence, the Office of Scientific Investigation or the Office of Strategic Intelligence depending on who you listened to), decided that Austin would be a good candidate for an experimental procedure to rebuild his body using cybernetic parts. As a result, he become the world’s first bionic man. He, Oscar, and Dr. Rudy Wells (Martin Balsam in the pilot, Alan Oppenheimer in seasons 1 and 2, and Martin E. Brooks in the remaining seasons as well as The Bionic Woman and three movies) worked at OSI to protect the United States from the threats of the day – from straight up terrorism to threats in space, these were the guys you wanted on your side.
Every episode, I was firmly set in front of our old black and white television set. I still fondly remember the episodes with Bigfoot, the evil android who had a removable face, and Lindsay Wagner as the Bionic Woman.
So when I learned that Six Million Dollar Man: The Complete Collection was coming out on DVD, my inner geek screamed with joy. All 100 episodes from all five seasons, plus all the made-for-TV movies and more than 17 hours of bonus features. And all of the episodes have been digitally restored and cleaned up. All of this is included in a huge box containing six cases and 40 DVDs. To top it off is a beautiful lenticular cover that shows Steve Austin running just like at the beginning of every episode. It has to be one of the best lenticular pictures I’ve ever seen.
When I first heard about the release, I was “geeked up,” but I have to admit I had some doubts. Not all of these early cult favorites have had a clean transition to DVD. Whether it’s the picture or sound, typically something gets lost in translation. But it seems that Time Life did a great job converting this series and I shouldn’t have been worried. The film taken back in the ’70s looks beautiful on my HD television.
This lovely trip back through time iss not without its risks. The teletype machines, corduroy, and 1970s clothing styles appear a bit ridiculous now. But even after 35 years, the series holds up for me. Terrorism, crime, and natural disasters never go out of style. And in a post-9/11 world with technology approaching the level of cybernetics and nanotech hinted at back then, I wouldn’t be surprised if something similar exists. Probably not with a “bionic” man or woman as such, but cybernetic enhancements aren’t that far in the future.
It was also fun to see all the guest stars who took a turn on the show over the years. I saw Laurette Sprang who played Cassiopeia on the original Battlestar Galactica on an early episode in season one. Other guest stars included Farrah Fawcett-Majors (Lee Majors’ wife at the time), Andre the Giant (as Bigfoot!), Kim Basinger, Sonny Bono, Lou Gossett, Erik Estrada, Stefanie Powers, John Saxon, Cathy Rigby, William Shatner, Suzanne Somers and many more.
Beyond the nostalgia of all the episodes, the original movies, and the movies that followed the series, it’s the features and extras that make this a special collection. From the advent of “Real Bionics: How Science Fiction is Becoming Science Fact” to “The Search for Bigfoot” to “The Pop Culture Effect,” each feature reveals a bit of the lasting effect science fiction and the 6MDM has had through the years.
I was especially interested in the interviews with Lee Majors, Richard Anderson, Martin E. Brooks, executive producer Harve Bennett and writer/producer Kenneth Johnson. It’s great to see that all the major players in the original series are still high on the experience. Majors’ 90 minute interview covered everything from getting into acting and his early career with shows like Big Valley (another guilty favorite from my youth) to today. Just last year he guest starred on FOX’s Human Target with Mark Valley and he mentions in the interview an upcoming Big Valley movie.
If you’re a fan of the series from the 1970s or just interested in a piece of classic television history, I’d invest in the Six Million Dollar Man: The Complete Collection set from Time Life. For more information, check out 6MDM.com.
This review first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.
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