|The Return of Bigfoot also sees the debut of Steve Austin's|
There is one new development in season four, though, which makes its presence immediately apparent and certainly caused some degree of consternation when, as a Steve Austin obsessed eight-year-old, I first sat down to watch the opening episode, The Return of Bigfoot (a two-part story where the second instalment also acted as season opener for the second series of The Bionic Woman): the imperturbably cool bionic hero was now seen proudly sporting, without anyone ever commenting upon it's incongruous presence, a distracting piece of facial ornamentation on his upper lip! I remember being horrified by Steve Austin’s moustache at the time, although it seems a trivial matter to get so worked up over now. It's just that Majors’ new look somehow didn’t feel right for the character of Steve Austin as far as my former eight-year-old self was concerned; and there does seem a vaguely defined sense in which this small detail of recalcitrance in the facial grooming department also becomes a symbol for how Majors was possibly starting to act bigger than the show and throwing his 'star' weight around behind the scenes. It always feels to me, even now, as though it is Lee Majors to whom this on-screen moustache truly belongs, and not Steve Austin! The actor apparently grew the offending article without first okaying it with the show’s producers, who were none too pleased when they found out about it (after belatedly reviewing the dailies for the first episodes of that coming season) because it meant that episodes from across different season batches could no longer now be as seamlessly mixed & matched when it came to the running of repeats.
|The only person with more hair than either Steve Austin or|
John Saxon in The Return of Bigfoot: Ted Cassidy is the new,
even more powerful Sasquatch.
|Pixieish alien Gillian (Sandy Duncan) arrives to seek Steve's|
help in the battle against Nedlick.
|John Saxon plots world domination in The Return of|
|Jaime Sommers (Lindsay Wagner) pleads with aliens Shalon |
(Stephanie Powers) and Gillian (Sandy Duncan) for help in
saving the dying Steve Austin in The Return of Bigfoot.
A Bionic Christmas Carol is essentially just what its title suggests it is: a spoof re-telling of the Charles Dickens Christmas classic, but acted with tongue firmly in cheek. It starts with a deadpan scene set in Oscar’s office, during which you can almost see Lee Majors and Richard Anderson struggling to keep straight faces as Steve hands his boss a Christmas gift and is crestfallen when Oscar sheepishly reveals he’s forgotten to get his pal anything in return (Steve then grumpily bends the table lamp that Oscar has just unwrapped as a present from him, and claims its a piece of modern art!). Even worse, Steve’s planned Christmas holiday with his parents at home in Ojai has now had to be cancelled; instead, he’s given a last-minute assignment: to get to the bottom of some production problems concerning the work being done at the factory of one of the OSI's major suppliers, after it was commissioned to develop components for a life support system that's to be used on an important mission to Mars. At first surprised that the factory would even still be in operation over the Christmas period, Steve soon discovers why in fact it is: penny pinching boss Horton Budge (Ray Walston) is making his dispirited workforce graft right the way through most of the Christmas period, and as well as indulging in classic Scrooge-like behaviour such as forcing Christmas carollers to be removed from the site for interrupting his workers, he’s also been cutting costs by making sure the components the factory is making for the OSI mission only comply with the barest minimum legal standards of workmanship!
|Capitalist miser Horton Budge (Ray Walston) is shown the|
error of his ways by a heavily disguised bionic man, in A Bionic
|Steve tries to make carnival worker Kim (Cheryl Miller)|
believe the crazy plot of Carnival of Spies - but with little
|A typical, not-in-the-least-stereotypical representation of a |
teenager who is interested in science. Lanny Horn as Danny
Lasswell in Danny's Inferno.
|"Have you heard the one about how my act, thirty-five years |
from now, will come to symbolise everything that's unacceptable,
outdated and reactionary about 1970s comic mores?" Flip Wilson
as Billy Parker in the episode Double Trouble.
Still, the one story this season that combines off-beat humour, a certain knowing campiness and the series' taste for bizarre sci-fi tinged storylines to best effect, is the three-part crossover adventure that actually starts off as an episode on The Bionic Woman: Kill Oscar. A number of elements come together to produce a much broader style of action adventure here, laced with a certain comic-book appeal. Each episode has its own unique focus. The first one has a certain satirical feminist take, and looks as though it may have been inspired by the 1972 film of Ira Levin’s novel “The Stepford Wives”, although the unconventional path it takes also went on to influence the Austin Powers movies. The set-up instantly announces this particular story’s heightened sense of unreality: ex OSI employee Dr Franklin (John Houseman) has been employed by Russian agents to steal a brand new top secret weather controlling device that’s been under development at OSI headquarters for some time, and which Franklin himself actually initially developed before being sacked for seeking to use the device as a weapon rather than for humanitarian purposes. Concerned about the amount of extra funding Franklin is now requesting for his plot to steal back the device he once created, the Soviets send the flamboyantly white suited money man Baron Constantine (Jack Colvin) over to check on his progress. Colvin plays this Soviet paymaster with an exaggerated accent and a menacing swagger -- a typical comic book villain. Houseman’s performance as the disgruntled ex OSI scientist is equally over-the-top and produces perhaps the most memorable (and curiously likable) villains in the shows entire history. The British-born actor and theatre producer (he co-founded the Mercury Theatre company with Orson Welles, which later staged that infamous radio adaptation of H. G. Wells’ “The War of the Worlds”) who played a key role in Citizen Kane, is perfect as the rotund, fey and Hitchcock-like mastermind of a most fiendish plot to destroy the OSI from within by replacing all its female secretaries with robot replicas obedient only to him!
|Dr Franklin (John Houseman) demonstates what makes the|
perfect woman tick, in a scene from Kill Oscar.
|The team assembles: from left to right Lynda Wilson (Corinne|
Michaels), Jaime Sommers (Lindsay Wagner), Callahan (Jennifer
Darling), Dr Rudy Wells (Martin E Brooks) and Jack Hanson
(Jack L Gling)
|A perfect replica yes, but Dr Franklin still hasn't mastered the|
art of making robots whose faces don't come off when they fall
|A soggy Jaime Sommers (Lindsay Wagner) about to show |
sexist criminal mastermind Dr Franklin (John Houseman)
whose really the boss.
|Steve's about to cop it, and only Jaime can save him in The |
Return of Bigfoot.
These cross-over stories need to be able to find reasons for each of their bionic protagonists to, at some point, drop out of the story in order to make room for the other. In The Return of Bigfoot for instance, Steve gets severely beaten up by an extra-strong Sasquatch and ends up at the finish of the first episode languishing at death’s door after his bionic legs are crushed, a lethal dose of radiation from their power packs having poisoned his system. The Bionic Woman then continues the story with Jaime Sommers charged with tracking down a supply of the alien wonder drug Neotraxin – the only thing that can save him. In Kill Oscar it is Jaime’s turn to find herself (once again) faced with the possibility of her system rejecting her bionics, after she’s forced to make a jump from the top floor of a tenement building while escaping from Franklin’s Fembot replica of Callahan. Her legs are critically damaged by the jump, and Steve has to take over the ensuing attempt to rescue Oscar, before both are teamed up again for the final episode of the three-part adventure. Both of these stories are forced, out of necessity, to introduce this baton-relaying plot construction, but the possibility of certain kinds of damage interfering with a bionic protagonist's ability to complete their mission actually results in a whole new source of suspense which this series of The Six Million Dollar Man goes on to exploit on several other occasions during its run as well.
|Rudy Wells fixes up Steve's damaged arm in Vulture of the|
Andes. One of several bionic injuries sustained during the
course of the season.
|Mad Rudy, infected by a chimp bite, leaves his bionic friend |
hanging around in The Most Dangerous Enemy.
|It may look more like a garbage disposal unit but this is actually|
an unstoppable Soviet-made killing machine!
|Steve lets Kelly know how special she is to him. Farrah Fawcett-|
Majors -- making her final guest appearance on the show.
|Steve gets sporty ... in a cow field? A scene from The Bionic|
Boy, starring Vincent Van Patten (right) and football star Frank
|Stephen Macht takes the lead role as re-programmable|
OSI agent Joe Patton in the episode The Ultimate Impostor.