Before Star Wars, little boys and girls in America played with an array of fantastic toys and gadgets from The Six Million Dollar Man, a TV series that began airing in 1974 on ABC. The series starred stolid Lee Majors as Colonel Steve Austin, an astronaut injured during a dangerous spacecraft test. At the behest of Oscar Goldman at OSI, and harnessing the breakthroughs of Dr. Rudy Wells, Steve Austin became "Better. Stronger. Faster." For the (now cheap...) price of six million dollars, Colonel Austin became the world's first bionic man. What a bargain!
Going back over thirty years, I remember that The Six Million Dollar Man was absolutely appointment television for every kid in America. Every week, my sister and I waited on pins and needles to see his new adventures (and those of his spin-off, The Bionic Woman). In particular, we loved the episodes (almost always two-parters...) that saw Steve Austin facing off against an alien robot "Sasquatch." Yep...a Bionic Bigfoot (played by Ted Cassidy!)
Another amazing episode saw Steve Austin battling a probe from outer space. And who can forget the episode that featured William Shatner as a fellow astronaut who came back from space with unusual mental powers...and needed a smackdown from the 6 Mill Man. Steve Austin vs. Captain Kirk!!!!
Before Star Wars (and Kenner) revolutionized the action-figure industry with its line of small-sized (3 inch) action figures, most television and movie related figures were quite large (in the mold of G.I. Joe, a classic), and the impressive Six Million Dollar Man collection was no exception. Steve stood a whopping 12 inches tall, and came with all sorts of bionic accessories. As you can see from the photo of my Six Million Dollar Man, Steve is wearing the trademark red jogging suit he became famous for in the series' opening credits (which showed him running far faster than non-bionic men...), and he has a "scope" in his eye to simulate his bionic orb. You can peer through the back of his skull and see into the distance, as if you are seeing through his mechanical eye. Nice!
My Six Million Dollar Man is resting inside the 20 inch Bionic Transport and Repair Station (sold separately). This is where Steve goes for a tune-up, I presume. It is sort of like a rocket ship and a surgical theater all in one. Today, I can only wish that I had taken far better care of my Bionic buddy and his toys. At one point, I had his boss, Oscar Goldman (who was sold in a checkered 1970s jacket and with an unusual accoutrement: an exploding briefcase), Jaime Sommers, Big Foot and the villainous Maskatron (who could look like Steve or Oscar...). I had Steve's "Critical Assignment Legs" and "Critical Assignment Arms" which were special bionic limbs ("Neutralizer Arm!") for different missions. But the toy I wish I still owned today was Steve's Bionic Mission vehicle, a sort of rocket ship and car combo that the figure could drive. These are rare and expensive on E-Bay today. I loved that toy.
Looking back across Kenner's impressive collection, there were Six Million Dollar Man clothes accessories (space suits and more), a back-pack radio, Jaime Sommers' sports car, and a plastic playset of OSI HQ. Of all the many, many toys, boy do I wish I had kept these. D'oh!