The Six Million Dollar Man

The Six Million Dollar Man Information

The Six Million Dollar Man is an American television series about a former astronaut with bionic implants working for the OSI government office. The series is based on the novel Cyborg by Martin Caidin, and during pre-production, that was its proposed title. Following three television movies aired in 1973, The Six Million Dollar Man aired on the ABC network as a regular series for five seasons from 1974 to 1978. The title role of Steve Austin was played by Lee Majors, who subsequently became a pop culture icon of the 1970s. A spin-off of the show was produced, The Bionic Woman, as well as several television movies featuring both eponymous characters.


The background story of the original novel and the later series is the crash of former astronaut Steve Austin in a "lifting body" craft, shown in the opening credits of the show. (The lifting body craft mostly shown was a Northrop M2-F2; however, in the episode "The Deadly Replay", a Northrop HL-10, identified as such in dialog, was used.) Austin is severely injured in the crash and is "rebuilt" in a title-giving operation that costs at least six million dollars ($6 million in 1973 adjusted for inflation in 2012 using Bureau of Labor Statistics would be $31 million). His right arm, both legs and the left eye are replaced by "bionic" implants that enhance his strength, speed and vision far above human norms: he can run at speeds of , and his eye has a 20:1 zoom lens (In the novel it is a camera) and infrared capabilities while his limbs all have the equivalent power of a bulldozer. He uses his enhanced abilities to work for the OSI (Office of Scientific Intelligence) as a secret agent.

Caidin's novel Cyborg was a best-seller when it was published in 1972. He followed it up with three sequels, Cyborg II: Operation Nuke, Cyborg III: High Crystal, and Cyborg IV (with no subtitle), respectively about a black market in nuclear weapons, a Chariots of the Gods scenario, and fusing Austin's bionic hardware to a spaceplane. None of these plotlines were utilized in the TV series.

In March 1973, Cyborg was loosely adapted as a made-for-TV movie titled "The Six Million Dollar Man" starring Majors as Austin. The adaptation was done by writer Howard Rodman working under the pseudonym of Henri Simoun. The film, which was nominated for a Hugo Award, modified Caidin's plot, and notably made Austin a civilian astronaut rather than a colonel in the United States Air Force. Absent were some of the standard features of the later series: the electronic sound effects, the slow-motion running, and the character of Oscar Goldman. (Instead, another character named Oliver Spencer, played by Darren McGavin, was Austin's supervisor, of an organization here called the OSO. In the novels, "OSO" stood for Office of Special Operations. (Interestingly, the CIA did have an actual Office of Scientific Intelligence in the 1970s.) The lead scientist involved in implanting Austin's bionic hardware, Dr. Rudy Wells, was played in the pilot by Martin Balsam, then on an occasional basis in the series by Alan Oppenheimer, and, finally, as a series regular, by Martin E. Brooks. Austin does not use the enhanced capabilities of his bionic eye at any time during the film.

The first film was a major ratings success and was followed by two more made-for-TV films in October and November 1973. The first was titled The Six Million Dollar Man: "Wine, Women and War" and the second was titled The Six Million Dollar Man: "The Solid Gold Kidnapping". (The first of these two bore strong resemblances to Caidin's second Cyborg novel, Operation Nuke; the second, however, was an original story.) This was followed by the debut, in January 1974, of The Six Million Dollar Man as a weekly hour-long series. The last two movies, produced by Glen A. Larson, notably introduced a James Bond flavor to the series and reinstated Austin's status from the novels as an Air Force colonel; the hour-long series, produced by Harve Bennett, dispensed with the James Bond-gloss of the movies, and portrayed a more down-to-earth Austin.

The show was very popular during its run and introduced several pop culture elements of the 1970s, such as the show's opening catch-phrase ("We can rebuild him...we have the technology," provided by Richard Anderson in his Oscar Goldman character), the slow-motion action sequences, and the accompanying "electronic" sound effects. The slow-motion action sequences were originally referred to as "Kung Fu slow motion" in popular culture (due to its usage in the 1970s martial arts television series), but it became far more noteworthy in The Six Million Dollar Man. (Early episodes, as well as the TV movies, were not consistent in how the bionics effects were presented; such consistency did not begin until the second season.)

In 1975, a two-part episode entitled The Six Million Dollar Man: "The Bionic Woman", written for television by Kenneth Johnson, introduced the character of Jaime Sommers (Lindsay Wagner), a professional tennis player who rekindled an old romance with Austin, only to experience a parachuting accident that resulted in her being given bionic parts similar to Austin. Ultimately, however, her body "rejected" her bionic hardware and she died. The character was very popular, however, and the following season it was revealed that she had barely survived, having been saved by an experimental cryogenic procedure, and she was given her own spin-off series, The Bionic Woman, which lasted until 1978 when both it and The Six Million Dollar Man were simultaneously cancelled (even though by the time their final seasons aired, the series were on different networks).

Made for television movie reunions

Steve Austin and Jaime Sommers returned in three subsequent made-for-television movies: The Return of the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman (1987), Bionic Showdown (1989) "? which featured Sandra Bullock in an early role as a new bionic woman; and Bionic Ever After? (1994) in which Austin and Sommers finally marry. Majors reprised the role of Steve Austin in all three productions, which also featured Richard Anderson and Martin E. Brooks, and Lindsay Wagner reprising the role of Jaime Sommers. The reunion films addressed the partial amnesia Sommers had suffered during the original series, and all three featured Majors's son, Lee Majors II, as OSI agent Jim Castillian. The first two movies were written in the anticipation of creating new bionic characters in their own series, but nothing further was seen of the new characters introduced in those produced. The third TV movie was intended as a finale.

Feature film adaptation attempts

For many years, attempts have been made to bring the story of Steve Austin to the movie screen. In the mid-1990s, director Kevin Smith wrote a screenplay (which he talks about on the DVD "An Evening with Kevin Smith 2: Evening Harder" from 2006), and there were reports later that comedian Chris Rock was being considered for the role. In 2003, an announcement was made to film the story as a full-out comedy starring Jim Carrey, but that project appears to be on hold. In a July 2006 interview at Comic Con, Richard Anderson (who played Oscar Goldman in the series) stated that he was involved with producing a movie of the series, but the rights were at the time in litigation between Miramax and Universal.

Smith's screenplay was later adapted for The Bionic Man, an ongoing comic book series launched in 2011 by Dynamite Comics.

Opening sequence

The lifting body seen crashing in the opening sequence of the show is real footage of the crash of the Northrop M2-F2, though the sequence is misleading in that it shows both the M2-F2 crash and images of a different model, the Northrop HL-10, being released from its B-52 mothership. This continuity error is notable by the presence of the central fin and dihedral of the outer fins of the HL-10 at one point followed by the lack of a central fin and presence of the vertical outer fins indicative of the M2-F2 on the crash footage a few seconds later. The dialogue spoken by actor Lee Majors during the opening credits is reportedly based upon communication prior to the M2-F2 crash that occurred on May 10, 1967: ("Flight com, I can't hold her! She's breaking up! She's breaking—"). Test pilot Bruce Peterson lost an eye due to infection following the crash, but likewise also miraculously survived what appeared to be a fatal accident even though his lifting body aircraft hit the ground at approximately and tumbled six times. In the episode The Deadly Replay, Oscar Goldman refers to the lifting body aircraft in which Austin crashed as the "HL-10," stating "We've rebuilt the HL-10." In the 1987 TV film The Return of the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman, Austin refers to the craft as the "M3-F5," which was the name used for the aircraft that crashed in the original Cyborg novel.)

In the opening sequence, a narrator (series producer Harve Bennett) identifies the protagonist, "Steve Austin, astronaut. A man barely alive." Richard Anderson, in character as Oscar Goldman, then intones off-camera, "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." During the first season, beginning with The Six Million Dollar Man: "Population Zero", Anderson, as Goldman, intoned more simply, "We can rebuild him. We have the technology. We can make him better than he was. Better...stronger...faster." During the operation, when he is having his bionics fitted, a list of items and numbers is displayed and lists his powerplant as "atomic".

Theme music

Dusty Springfield, backed by Ron "Escalade" Piscina, sang the theme song written by Glen A. Larson and Stu Phillips, which was used in the opening and closing credits for the Wine, Women & War and The Solid Gold Kidnapping telefilms. The song was also used in the promotion of the series, but when the weekly series began the song was replaced by the instrumental theme. This was by Oliver Nelson. The first regular episode, "Population Zero", introduced a new element to the opening sequence: a voiceover of Oscar Goldman stating the rationale behind creating a bionic man. The first season narration was shorter than that used in the second and subsequent seasons.


  • Steve Austin, the title character (played by Lee Majors)
  • Oscar Goldman, the Director of the OSI (played by Richard Anderson). In British paperback novelizations of the TV series, Oscar Goldman is named Oscar Gold.
  • Dr. Rudy Wells, Austin's physician and primary overseer of the medical aspects of bionic technology (played by Martin Balsam (pilot only) / Alan Oppenheimer (seasons 1 and 2) / Martin E. Brooks (seasons 3-5, as well as on The Bionic Woman and in three movies). Due to the change in actor, in the 3rd Season premier, "The Return of the Bionic Woman", Wells undergoes an appearance change between Jaime Sommers' death and a desperate plea for revival only minutes later.
  • Jaime Sommers played by Lindsay Wagner"?recurring
  • Peggy Callahan, secretary to Oscar Goldman"?recurring (played by Jennifer Darling)
  • Oliver Spencer, Director of the OSO; in the pilot only (played by Darren McGavin)

Steve Austin's bionic hardware

  • A bionic left eye with a 20.2:1 zoom lens along with a night vision function (as well as the restoration of normal vision). The figure of 20.2:1 is taken from the faux computer graphics in the opening credits; the only figure actually mentioned in the series, by Austin himself, is 20:1, in the episode "Population: Zero". Austin's bionic eye also has other features, such as an infrared filter used frequently to see in the dark and also to detect heat (as in the episode "The Pioneers"), and the ability to view humanoid beings moving too fast for a normal eye to see (as in the story arc "The Secret of Bigfoot"). One early episode shows the eye as a deadly accurate targeting device for his throwing arm.
In Caidin's original novels, Austin's eye was depicted as simply a camera (which had to be physically removed after use) and Austin remained blind in the eye. Later, Austin gained the ability to shoot a laser from the eye. The Charlton Comics comic book spin-off from the series also established that Austin's bionic eye could shoot a laser beam (as demonstrated in the first issues of the color comic), but neither function was shown on television.
  • Bionic legs allowing him to run at tremendous speed and make great leaps. Austin's upper speed limit was never firmly established, although a speed of is commonly quoted since this figure is shown on a speed gauge during the opening credits. The highest speed ever shown in the series on a speed gauge is ; however, the later revival films suggested that he could run approximately . A faster top speed is possible, as an episode of the Bionic Woman spin-off entitled "Winning is Everything" shows female cyborg Jaime Sommers outrunning a race car going
  • A bionic right arm with the equivalent strength of a bulldozer; that the arm contains a Geiger counter was established in "Doomsday and Counting", the sixth episode of the first season.
The implants have a major flaw in that extreme cold interferes with their functions and can disable them given sufficient exposure. However, when Austin returns to a warmer temperature, the implants quickly regain full functionality. The first season also established that Austin's bionics malfunction in the zero gravity of space, though Austin's bionics are later modified to rectify this. Although his arm and legs have extraordinary strength for lifting massive weights, the series does not explain how the rest of his non-bionic body can support these high stresses.

The series became known for how Austin's bionic abilities were presented. When running or using his bionic arm, Austin was usually presented in slow-motion, accompanied by an electronic grinding-like sound effect. (This characteristic sound effect was actually first used in season 1 episode 4, "Day of the Robot", not during use of Austin's bionics but with the robotic clone of Major Fred Sloan, played by actor John Saxon, during the final fight scene.) When the bionic eye was used, the camera would zoom in on Austin's face, followed by an extreme close-up of his eye; his point-of-view usually included a crosshair motif accompanied by a beeping sound-effect. In early episodes, different ways of presenting Austin's powers were tested, including a heartbeat sound effect that predated the electronic sound, and in the three original made-for-TV movies, no sound effects or slow-motion were used, with Austin's actions shown at normal speed (except for his running, which utilized trick photography); the slow-motion portrayal was introduced with the first hour-long episode, "Population: Zero".

Changes for television

A number of changes had to be made to Caidin's version of the character to make him work for television. In the original novels Austin was an Air Force officer, but also a cold-blooded killer, while the TV version rarely killed after his status as a childhood hero had been realized. In fact, Austin explicitly states his opposition to killing in a discussion with Oliver Spencer in the pilot film.

A number of changes to Austin's bionics were also made. In the novel, Austin's left arm, not his right, is the bionic one. Austin remains blind in his bionic eye in the books, which is simply used as alternately a camera or a laser, and is removable. The literary version of Steve Austin has some abilities the TV version lacks, such as a radio transmitter contained within a rib, a steel-reinforced skull that makes it impossible for him to be knocked out with a blow to the head, and a CO2-powered poison dart gun in one of his bionic fingers which the literary version of Austin often uses to kill enemy targets.

Another minor change was a matter of spelling: in the original novels, the term "bionics" is always used in its pure Greek form, such as, for example "bionics limbs," rather than the backformed adjective "bionic" (a formation based on the incorrect perception, which Caidin points out in the first novel, that the Greek "-ics" suffix is plural). Despite Caidin's assertions of being incorrect, the term "bionic limbs" et al. is used consistency in the television series. The word "bionics" is never actually uttered during the first pilot film.

One character name was also initially changed. In the original novel, Austin's superior is Oscar Goldman, as he is in the TV series; however, in the pilot film the name is changed to Oliver Spencer. The opening credits of the second pilot film, Wine, Women and War, performs retconning to eliminate Spencer and reinstate Goldman as the government chief who authorizes Austin's conversion; Goldman is also portrayed as a friendlier and more sympathetic character than Spencer, whom Austin accuses of being little more than a robot. In Caidin's novel, Austin is recruited by the Office of Strategic Operations (OSO). In the TV pilot, it is still referred to verbally as the OSO (a later reedited version created for syndication utilized footage from later episodes, including shots using the OSI abbreviation). Later TV episodes completed the change to OSI, and the first season episode "Operation Firefly" identified this as the Office of Scientific Intelligence, shown on Steve Austin's ID card (spin-off fiction such as the Charlton Comics comic book series, offered different names for the OSI. (The CIA did have an actual Office of Scientific Intelligence in the 1970s.)

The pilot film changed Austin's character, making him a civilian member of NASA, rather than the Air Force colonel he is in the original novel; his military rank and background were restored for the TV series and no further reference was made to him being a civilian astronaut.

When the show aired in Israel, its original title was considered inappropriate because the arbitrary number in the title, "Six Million", had in Israel the negative connotation of being the number of Jews murdered in the holocaust. Instead, the title was generalized to "Steve Austin, The Man Worth Millions", and this was often further shortened into just "Steve Austin".


See List of The Six Million Dollar Man episodes for more information


Martin Caidin wrote four novels featuring his original version of Steve Austin beginning in 1972 with Cyborg. Although several other writers such as Mike Jahn would later write a number of novelizations based upon the TV series, in most cases these writers chose to base their character upon the literary version of Austin rather than the TV show version. As a result, several of the novelizations have entire scenes and in one case an ending that differed from the original episodes, as the cold-blooded killer of Caidin's novels handled things somewhat differently than his watered-down TV counterpart. For example, the Jahn book International Incidents, an adaptation of the episode "Love Song for Tanya", ends with Austin using the poison dart gun in his bionic hand to kill an enemy agent; since the TV version of the character lacked this weapon, the villain was simply captured in the episode as broadcast.

Original novels

(all by Martin Caidin)

  • Cyborg (1972)
  • Operation Nuke (1973)
  • High Crystal (1974)
  • Cyborg IV (1975)
(Of the above, only Cyborg was adapted for television.)


  • Wine, Women and War " Mike Jahn
  • Solid Gold Kidnapping " Evan Richards
  • Pilot Error " Jay Barbree
  • The Rescue of Athena One " Jahn
  • The Secret of Bigfoot Pass (UK title, The Secret of Bigfoot) " Jahn
  • International Incidents " Jahn (this volume adapted several episodes into one interconnected storyline)

Other adaptations

Charlton Comics published both a color comic book and a black and white, illustrated magazine, featuring original adventures as well as differing adaptations of the original TV movie. While the comic book was closely based upon the series, the magazine was darker and more violent and seemed to be based more upon the literary version of the character. Both magazines were cancelled around the same time the TV series ended. Artists Howard Chaykin and Neal Adams were frequent contributors to both publications.

A British comic strip version was also produced, written by Angus P. Allan, drawn by Martin Asbury and printed in TV comic Look-In. A series of standalone comic strips was printed on the packaging of a series of model kits by Fundimensions based upon the series. In Colombia, a black and white comic book series was published in the late 70s, with art and stories by Jorge Peña. This series was licensed by Universal studios to Greco (Grupo Editorial Colombiano), then known as Editora Cinco, now part of Grupo Editorial Televisa. In France, Télé-Junior, a magazine devoted to comic book adaptations of all sorts of TV series and cartoons also featured a Six Million Dollar Man comic (under its French title, L'Homme qui valait trois milliards) with art by Pierre Le Goff and stories by P. Tabet and Bodis. A tradepaperback reprinting several episodes from the magazine was released in October, 1980.

Peter Pan Records and its sister company Power Records published several record albums featuring original dramatized stories (including an adaptation of the pilot film), several of which were also adapted as comic books designed to be read along with the recording. Three albums' worth of stories were released, one of which featured Christmas-themed stories. Individual stories were also released in other formats, including singles.

In 1996, a new comic book series entitled Bionix was announced, to be published by Maximum Press. The comic was to have been an updated version of both the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman and feature new renditions of the two characters. Although the magazine was advertised in comic book trade publications, it was ultimately never published.

The 2007 reimagining of The Bionic Woman, entitled simply Bionic Woman, while not acknowledged as being based upon The Six Million Dollar Man nonetheless contained an element of Steve Austin's character"?the reimagined Jamie Sommers possessed a bionic left eye along with her other enhancements.

On August 24, 2011, Dynamite Comics published the first issue of The Bionic Man, an adaptation written by Kevin Smith based upon a screenplay he'd written for a never-produced 1990s motion picture version of The Six Million Dollar Man. After concluding the adaptation in the spring of 2012 the comic series moved on to original stories, as well as a reimagining of the original TV series' Secret of Bigfoot storyline. A spin-off comic reimagining The Bionic Woman followed a few months later, and in January 2013 Dynamite launched a crossover mini-series, The Bionic Man vs. The Bionic Woman. The artwork in these series, covers and interiors, varies between Austin being rendered in the likeness of Lee Majors and not.


The Six Million Dollar Man spawned a number of toys, Two Parker Brothers boardgames,("The Six Million Dollar Man", "Bionic Crisis") and other licensed merchandise. Everything from lunch boxes and running shoes to children's eyeglasses and bedsheets all carried images of Steve Austin. The tall Steve Austin action figure marketed by Kenner in the mid-1970s was particularly popular and intact Six Million Dollar Man and Bionic Woman toys continue to attract premium prices on the collector's market. Besides the lead characters, scale action figures were also produced of Oscar Goldman, equipped with an "exploding" briefcase similar to the type used by James Bond in From Russia with Love, "Maskatron", an android character based upon a robot duplicate of one of Austin's friends, Major Fred Sloan (both Sloan and his robot double were played by John Saxon in the first-season episode "Day Of The Robot"), a Fembot (from a Bionic Woman episode) and the recurring character of Bigfoot (the Bigfoot doll was more than high). Associated merchandise for use with the action figures included a rocketship that could transform into a bionic repair station, an inflatable command base, auxiliary bionic arms (critical assignment arms) with different features (such as one that included a flashlight), auxiliary bionic legs (critical assignment legs) with different features.

Fully intact Steve Austin action figures are rare. The bionic right arms of the dolls/action figures were covered in an elastic, skin-like material that was intended to be rolled back to reveal bionic modules underneath, and this material tended to deteriorate over time. Early versions of the arms also included removable bionic modules that could be easily lost; later versions of the action figured included modules that could not be removed.

Hasbro, makers of G.I. Joe, produced a G.I. Joe Adventure Team figure called "Mike Power, The Atomic Man" that was very similar to the Six Million Dollar Man figure, presumably to try and cash in on the success of the Kenner toy.

Cultural influence

In Brazil, under the military dictatorship, some important government officials " previously elected by direct suffrage " were appointed by the President, or elected indirectly, out of a shortlist picked by the President. These politicians were called "bionic" (biônicos), due to the series' popularity, and the association with the perceived extraordinary power and influence held by the appointed officials. Between 1964 and 1985, Brazil came to have "bionic" senators, governors and mayors. With the 1988 Constitution of Brazil, all "bionic" appointments were abolished.

DVD releases

Universal Playback released the first 2 Seasons of The Six Million Dollar Man on DVD in Region 2 and Region 4 in 2005"2006. The first three seasons were also released on the Italian market (Region 2) in late 2008. The Season 1 release also features the three pilot movies that preceded the weekly series.

The Region 1 (North America) release, along with that of The Bionic Woman was one of the most eagerly awaited; its release had been withheld for many years due to copyright issues regarding the original novel. In fact, with the exception of a few episodes released in the DiscoVision format in the early 1980s and a single VHS release of the two-part The Bionic Woman storyline that same decade, the series as a whole had never been released in North America in any home video format.

On July 21, 2010 however, Time"Life (under license from Universal) announced the release of a complete series box set of The Six Million Dollar Man on DVD in Region 1 for the first time on November 23, 2010. The 40-disc set features all 99 episodes of the series as well as the three pilot films and the three reunion TV-movies which also feature Jaime Sommers, along with several episodes of The Bionic Woman that were part of inter-series crossovers (i.e. part one aired on one series, and part two on another) in order to include complete storylines. In addition, the set features extensive bonus features including interviews and featurettes with all major cast members and the set comes encased in collectible packaging that includes a sound chip, activated when the box is opened, that plays back part of the first season opening credits dialogue. The release is available directly through Time-Life's "6mdm" website as well a through several third-party on-line vendors.

In November 2011, Universal Studios Home Entertainment began releasing individual season sets of the series on DVD, available in retail stores. Season 1 was released on November 29, 2011. Season 2 was released on October 2, 2012.

Several episodes of The Six Million Dollar Man actually saw their North American DVD debut several weeks in advance of the box set, as Universal Home Video included the three "crossover" episodes that helped launch The Bionic Woman as bonuses on the October 19, 2010 DVD release of Season 1 of The Bionic Woman.

DVD NameEp # Release dates
Region 1 Region 2 Region 4
The Complete Season One 16 November 29, 2011 September 26, 2005 August 15, 2006
The Complete Season Two 22 October 2, 2012 October 23, 2006 October 24, 2006
The Complete Season Three 21 February 19, 2013 N/A N/A
The Complete Series 99 November 23, 2010 March 26, 2012 TBA

See also


References and notes

Further reading

  • Pilato, Herbie J. The Bionic Book: The Six Million Dollar Man and Bionic Woman Reconstructed. (2007) (BearManor Media) ISBN 978-1-59393-083-7

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