"The Six Million Dollar Man"
(Original air date 3/7/73)


After barely surviving a plane crash, astronaut and test pilot Steve Austin is fitted
with bionic prosthetics


90-minute TV movie

Teleplay by: Henri Simoun

Based on a novel by: Martin Caidin

Director: Richard Irving

Steve Austin is called to test a new experimental aircraft, the Delta Wing HL-10.  Following a cleansing walk, he gets ready for his flight.

In a conference, Oliver Spencer (Darren McGavin), head of a top secret intelligence organization, the Office of Strategic Operation (OSO, exposes to his colleagues that in the past few months they have had projects that cost too many lives. He proposes the use of a single force, a man equipped with electronic parts who would be able to accomplish incredible feats and take on the job of ten agents.  An efficient weapon who would be able to reprogram itself on the field...superior in strength. Cost: six million dollar.

In his NASA space suit, Steve is escorted from his trailer to the aircraft.  All systems are go and the test flight proceeds accordingly until a mechanical malfunction causes his instruments to go awry. Steve attempts to land the plane safely on the ground but in vain. It crashes.


After the accident, Spencer arrives at the hospital where Dr. Rudy Wells (Martin Balsam) informs him of Steve's critical condition.  Barely clinging onto life, hooked on an iron lung and kept unconscious on a Russian process called "electro sleep" , Dr. Wells explains that Steve lost his right arm in the crash, and that he had to amputate his two legs for they were too badly crushed.  Also blinded in one eye, and possible spinal cord injuries that may deny him the use of his left arm. Spencer orders Rudy to kept Steve alive at all cost.  The good doctor, however, is inclined to let the poor man die.


Later, Spencer meets with Rudy in the hospital cafeteria and offers him the opportunity to fit the dying man with his revolutionary bionic prosthetics. Rudy is reticent since the project is merely dots and numbers and is basically theoretical. And what if it fails, what would he tell Steve? Knowing the astronaut for many years, he knows he wouldn't want to live the way he is now.

The funds already available to realize the project, Spencer bluntly tells Rudy to handle the situation however it needs to be. Rudy is dubious as to Spencer's true designs.  He's intent on using Steve as a special agent for the government, to send him on missions of espionage, sabotage and assassination where regular agents would be ineffective.  Being part machine, Steve would be more durable and they would be able to easily replace the broken pieces.  Rudy is reluctant to go ahead with the procedure, but Spender adamantly orders him to prep Steve for the surgery once out of the coma.

After several weeks of being kept in an electro-induced regenerative coma, Rudy brings Steve out of unconsciousness and fills him in on his condition.


At night, confined to his hospital bed and swaddled in bandages, Steve ponders his present condition and decides to commit suicide.  He manages to slide his left arm out of his restraint and knocks the instruments down, removing his IV line and other tubes.  Nurse Jean Manners (Barbara Anderson) arrives in the nick of time to prevent Steve from going any further with his attempt.  He beseeches her to let him die.   Instead, she puts him back into electro sleep.


Four months later, Steve is awake but remains catatonic.   Nurse Manners visits him and is happy to hear him say that he'll make an effort to deal with the fact that he is alive.

Rudy gives Steve a sense of the bionics basic structure by showing him the eye, then the artificial arm.  Steve pushes it back in disgust and refuses to look at it.  Rudy explains that once fitted with the parts (same color of skin, same texture, same body temperature, down to the finger prints and number of hair) and after learning how to use them like a baby has to learn how to walk, Steve will be able to hold a woman in his arms and even dance with her and in no way will she be able to tell the difference between the real and the artificial limbs.


Days later, following the gruellingly exhaustive surgical process, members of the medical team gather in Steve's room to witness his first movements.  He wiggles his toes and lifts his arm.


In the following days, Steve begins his physical therapy.  Incensed, he asks Rudy how much all this apparatus is going to cost him.  The government doesn't cough up six million dollars to just help a man, there's usually a condition attached.  Rudy refuses to say anything to the stubborn man until he simmers down.


Jean Manners becomes instrumental in helping Steve regain his emotional stability.  Smitten with the astronaut, she invites him to a picnic during which things become somewhat romantic, but Steve is still sensitive about his condition and refuses to let her touch him.


Driving back, they encounter a frantic woman (Norma Storch) who says her son, Charlie, is trapped in their car down a ditch. Steve rushes to save the boy before the wrecked vehicle explodes, using his newly-acquired powers.  As he hands the boy back to his mother, she is stricken with fear when she notices the wires sticking out of Steve's ripped arm.


Steve lapses back into a depression. However Spencer is not about to let him sulk and sends him on his first mission. Steve is fiercely against it but Spenser insists. It'll be good therapy to work out his demons and feelings for Nurse Manners who professes her love for him.


After being briefed on his mission, Steve travels to the Middle East to free a captured Arab-Israeli leader. He parachutes down to the Saudi Arabian desert and proceeds to the terrorists' hideout.  There, he learns from another prisoner (Charles Knox Robinson) that the man he's looking for was shot five months ago when he tried to escape. Steve is spotted by the terrorists and apprehended.


With his new powers, Steve manages to escape with his cellmate.


He is shot in the side as he attempts to run toward the plane piloted by his new ally. He manages to get on board just as the aircraft takes off.


Back in the hospital, Steve confesses to Jean that his perilous mission made him reflect on his life. That back in the desert, he didn't want to die...he wanted to make it back.

Spencer suggests the unthinkable of putting Steve into electro sleep indefinitely.  Keep him under between assignments and wake him up only when he needs him.  Rudy spurns this idea

Rudy puts Steve back into electro sleep to allow his body to heal while he sleeps.


Return to Episode Guide     Return to Homepage