Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Six Million Dollar Man

I worked late into the night last night, researching the practical aspects of transhumanism.

Not really. I was watching season 3 of the classic science fiction TV series, The Six Million Dollar Man. Yes, I've written about the show before, specifically the episodes featuring the bionic Bigfoot. But believe it or not, those were the only episodes I had watched in the collection. The rest remained unseen to me since the age of five. I remembered the cryptozoological Bigfoot episodes right away and I'm still tracking down the Venus "death probe" episodes. I think there might also have been a few with a bad guy that produces robotic/bionic duplicates or something. But I digress...

So did the show hold up from childhood memory? Wellllll...let's just say that being nostalgic can oftentimes be a detriment. Let's take a look from the beginning, shall we? For the benefit of the uninitiated, I mean.

The show's intro does an excellent job of setting up the viewer with everything that she or he needs to know from the start. We see and hear an astronaut on a training mission in the upper atmosphere as he communicates back and forth with Houston. Something goes awry in his trainer craft and we hear him cry, "I can't hold her...she's breaking up...she's breaking up..." Then static. After that comes what is...for me of the most memorable narrations in TV history:

"Steve Austin, astronaut. A man barely alive.
"Gentlemen, 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 voiceover was done in character by Richard Anderson. He would play Oscar Goldman of the Office of Strategic Intelligence. This of course correctly implies that once Steve Austin (played by Lee Majors) is put back together, he will be an agent of the US government. This was initially meant to give a sort of James Bond sensibility to the character, but thankfully, Majors played Steve Austin as a reluctant and rather down to earth spy.

Bionics specialist Dr. Rudy Wells is the one responsible for rebuilding Austin into the Bionic Man. Austin got two new legs that allowed him to run at speeds in excess of 60 mph. He got one new arm, one as "strong as a bulldozer." Additionally, he was implanted with a new eye, one with infrared capabilities and a 20:1 zoom. Of course with the 1970s limited budget and capabilities for special effects, any time these bionic abilities were put into action, the show used the now famous slow motion accompanied by the "ba-na-na-na" sounds. What else were they going to do?

As I mentioned previously, I had not yet re-watched any of the episodes other than the Bigfoot ones, so I picked a show at random. "The Bionic Criminal" was its title. It was about a man named Barney Miller (no, really) who was a precursor to Steve Austin in the bionic program. The bionics messed with Miller's head and helped give him a hairtrigger temper. He made bad decisions and ended up in a reluctant life of crime. That and the descriptions of most of the other episodes make Six Million Dollar Man sound basically like a weekly cop show only with occasional bionics. Plus standard motifs of the 1970s, such as bongo and bass music beds, wide lapels, and leisure suits. I sort of remember having a brown, sort of denim, pants and jacket set as a kindergartner. I called it my "Six Million Dollar Man" suit, running in slow motion and hoping to get in a car accident so they could make me bionic for real (always hated being human, it seems.)

So will I watch the other episodes? I don't know. Don't think I can do it alone. Maybe I'll see if Amrando or Bernard or Jason or anybody else are down for it.

Sounds like there will be a motion picture update/reboot of it starring Mark Wahlberg. Why not? They remake everything else it seems. It will be called Six Billion Dollar Man.

Inflation, y'know.

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