Friday, October 19, 2007

RETRO TOY FLASHBACK # 66: The Six Million Dollar Man (1975)

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!


  1. Anonymous6:15 PM

    I've always said that the scariest thing EVER when I was a kid was that damned Venus probe.....I loved watching the episodes, but later that night, I swore I could hear the beeps and whirs in the distance as it was coming for me. And if Steve Austin couldn't beat it, what could like a 6 or 7 year old kid do?!?!?!?

  2. I still have my Steve Austin figure. It shows the wear and tear of being played with, of course, but it's in pretty great condition.

    I love that thing.

    As for the show. I adore it. The Death Probe two-parter is awesome. Scary as all get up. I have the sequel on tape, too, but I've held off on watching it for a few years.

    Just to savour it, I guess.

  3. I had a 12 inch Steve Austin and Bigfoot when I was a kid. It's weird to call him Steve Austin now though because that name is so synonomus with Stone Cold now! Lee majors was cool, but he was never cool enough to drink a beer and open up a can of whoop ass on someone! Austin 3:16

  4. Anonymous6:47 PM

    I don't know how, but my Oscar Goldman, Jamie Sommers and Steve Austin figures survived all complete and intact after 30 years of being carted all over the place. They are now on display in my 70s room. Yes, even the mission purse and exploding briefcase are all complete. I love them and would can't imagine ever parting with them.


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