"Deadly Countdown" Part 1

(Original air date 09/25/77)


Steve helps a friend clear his name after a crooked organisation
impels him to sabotage a rocket launch


Writer: Gregory S. Dinallo

Director: Cliff Bole

At Kennedy Space Center, Oscar is up in arms at the rumour running rampant of a threat against Steve’s next orbital mission during which he is to replace the old the electronic brain inside a Missile Defense System satellite. As a precautionary measure, Oscar suggests to mission director David McGrath (Phillip Abbott) moving up the launch of Saturn B-1 by four days. McGrath reluctantly accedes to Oscar’s demands and gathers his team of engineers.


At Gordon Shanks’s (Lloyd Bochner) own small mission control, he meets with his top aerospace engineer G.H. Beck (Martin Caidin) to oversee the last details of their plan to take control of Saturn B-1 in order to appropriate themselves the valuable electronic brain to be sold to a foreign power. Their triumph is short-lived when their associate Edgar Webster (Mills Watson) reports that the launch has just been moved up. Beck is worried that the amplifier might not be ready in six days, thus forcing Shanks to impose a delay on the launch by all means conceivable.

Webster meets with Julian Richman (Crofton Hardester), a former NASA engineer seeking to exact revenge on Steve for sending him to jail. After providing Richman with an alluring sum of money and a fake NASA security clearance, Webster warns him that it’s imperative to make Austin’s death look like an accident.


In a steamy sauna, Steve is somewhat embarrassed to be meeting with his co-pilot, Dr. Leah Russell (Jenny Agutter), the engineer who designed the new electronic brain. After the initial shock of meeting a woman in a sauna wears off, Steve tries his best to ease her own qualms about her first orbital mission.

Later, both undergo a series of tests at Rudy’s lab during which a mischievous Leah decides to play a trick on Steve by tampering with the treadmill.


The jokes on her when the wicked bionic man winds up running some sixty miles per hour.


Next is the High Altitude Chamber Space Suit test. Richman tampers with the control circuitry to ensure a pressurization accident. During the test the oxygen pressure drops dramatically, suffocating Steve. He nevertheless succeeds in kicking the airtight door open.

Webster informs Shanks of Richman’s failure. Shanks is restless; they need to delay the launch by putting Austin out of commission once and for all. He therefore doubles the money to have Richman get another shot at Austin.


Oscar suspects Steve’s accident was deliberate; that someone is out to sabotage the mission. This turn of events puts emphasis on his urge to proceed with the arrangements for the new launch date.

At Shanks’s lab, Beck adjusts his amplifier to NASA’s frequency during a routine check of the capsule’s instrument panel. Unbeknownst to Beck, the electromagnetic emission interferes with the mechanism in Steve’s bionic eye.

Rudy can’t detect any anomaly with Steve’s eye but does ask to be kept abreast of any new disturbance and should it spread to his arm and legs.


Steve and Leah indulge in fun activities to dispel some of their anxiety at tomorrow’s mission. During an intimate moment, Steve excuses himself to go on his ritual of checking the rocket before it is hauled to the launching pad in the morning.


There in the hangar Richman makes one last attempt at Steve’s life but once again fails. Steve catches up with him and brings him to the authorities.


As a last-ditch effort to delay the launch, Shanks resorts to kidnapping McGrath’s daughter Melissa (Sherry Hursey). He threatens to kill her if he doesn’t sabotage the mission.

McGrath has no other alternative but to accede to their wishes. Hours before the launch he goes to the rocket’s hydrogen pressure panel and tampers with the circuitry.


All systems are go. Once the astronauts are aboard the capsule, the countdown starts. When Steve reports a malfunction with the hydrogen pressure, McGrath has a change of heart and aborts the mission.


Leah and Steve hurry down the launch pad before the imminent explosion but unfortunately for Steve, the blast occurs before he can close the door to a safety chamber and knocks himself unconscious.


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