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“Population: Zero”

S1 E1

Production 40013
Original Airdate: January 18, 1974
SMDM101Main
Steve ventures into Norris.
Produced by
Sam Strangis
Donald R. Boyle
Written by
Elroy Schwartz
Directed by
Jeannot Szwarc
Guest Cast
Guest Star(s)
Penny Fuller as Chris Forbes
Special Guest Star(s)
Don Porter as Stanley Bacon
Co-starring
Paul Carr as Paul Cord
Paul Fix as Joe Taylor
Walter Brooke as General Harland Tate
Morgan Jones as Major Phillips
and
Colby Chester as Joe Hollister
With
John Elerick as Corporal Ed Presby
Virginia Gregg as Mrs. Nelson
Stuart Nisbet as Harry Johnson
Bob Delegall as 1st Technician
David Valentine as Teletype Operator
Mike Santiago as Frank
Broadcast Order
Season 1
← Previous Next →
"The Solid Gold Kidnapping" ""Survival of the Fittest""

Summary[]

When all 23 residents of the small town of Norris appear to have died simultaneously from an unknown cause, Steve Austin dons a spacesuit and ventures into the town to investigate. He soon discovers that everyone is only unconscious. Dr. Chris Forbes utilizes narcosynthesis in order to elict the memory of what occurred from the residents.

The cause is eventually identified as being high frequency sound waves. The source of these is soon revealed: deranged former OSI employee Dr. Stanley Bacon is embittered that the OSI failed to continue his work into the military benefits of using high frequency sound waves to immobilize enemy forces. He demands a $10 million ransom and threatens to use his technology to kill people if his terms are not met. The government refuses to pay up believing that the sound waves cannot be fatal.

However, anticipating that this will not be the case – as is soon confirmed – Steve defies the orders of Oscar Goldman and surrenders himself empty handed to Dr. Bacon and his men. Imprisoned in -20°C conditions in a walk-in freezer, Steve has precious little time to escape and stop Bacon from carrying out his murderous intentions. The cold conditions severely impair Steve’s Bionics but by severing a gas pipe and igniting it in order to gain a blowtorch effect, he eventually succeeds in escaping.

As he runs towards the location of Dr. Bacon’s control van, his bionics slowly regain their full functionality. The high frequency sound waves are on the verge of causing death - in the temporary camp set up to deal with Bacon - when Steve destroys the van by launching a large metal fence post at it.


Memorable Quotes[]

Oscar: What are you doing, what is this?
Steve: It's a roll bar for my dune buggy. I figured if you ever run out of things for me to do, I'll open a machine shop.


Steve: Well what's the name of the town?
Oscar: A place called Norris.
Steve: Norris? I went to high school 20 miles from there.
Oscar: Steve, will you stay out of this, please.
Steve: But Oscar, I know those people.
Oscar: You're too valuable for this job, besides I've got another assignment for you. If I need you, I'll let you know.
Steve: Well fine Oscar, you do that. You can reach me at Army headquarters in Norris.


Dr. Forbes: Well, thanks for saving my life, but would you mind telling me how you did it?
Steve: Did what?
Forbes: Jumped across the room like that.
Steve: I eat a lot of jumping beans.


Forbes: Oscar Goldman has a reputation for getting things done. Have you known him long?
Steve: About a year.
Forbes: Is he your boss?
Steve: He thinks so. No, that's not fair. I like Oscar. He's bright, straight, and underneath that shell of red tape, he's even got a heart.


Forbes: (re: his bionics) Steve, how has it affected you? What does it feel like?
Steve: (annoyed) It feels just peachy, Doctor!


Bacon: (to Steve) I will reduce you to a six million dollar pile of junk.


Oscar: How do you tell a man who saved your life that he disobeyed an order?
Steve: You don't.
Oscar: I agree with you.

Trivia[]

  • Steve says he has known Oscar for about a year.
  • Oscar has a framed photo of the Steve near his desk.
  • The Russell Senate Office Building appears as OSI headquarters for the first time.
  • Steve's past is explored for the first time. Other episodes like The Coward" and "The Bionic Woman" will do the same.
  • Steve says he went to high school 20 miles from Norris. Later, in "The Bionic Woman," Steve's hometown is established as Ojai, California.
  • As Steve runs at the end, his left side is covered in sweat, while his bionic right arm is dry, an attention to detail that won't always be adhered to in future episodes.
  • Elements of this story are similar to the 1971 Universal Studios film, The Andromeda Strain. Both feature a small town whose entire population has apparently died, the cause initially unknown. Both also feature someone investigating the town while wearing an isolation suit to protect against any undiscovered hazard. The aerial pictures shown to Steve by Dr. Forbes are still frames taken directly from the reconnaissance aircraft footage from that movie. None of the structures visible in the photos (church, school, store and corral) are actually in the episode.
  • The story for The Bionic Woman episode "The Deadly Missiles" shares some similarities with this episode. Both episodes feature an electronic device used for ill. Both feature the protagonist's bionics not working correctly for a time. And both show the protagonist ripping a metal pole out of the ground, and flinging it at said device. In fact, some of the footage of the metal pole being ripped from the ground and thrown is reused.
  • Both Paul Carr and Paul Fix appeared as crew members of the U.S.S. Enterprise in the second Star Trek pilot episode "Where No Man Has Gone Before." Carr's character was killed off and Fix, playing the ship's doctor, was later written out in favor of DeForest Kelley. (Carr and Fix also appear together in an episode of The Time Tunnel, and Carr also guests on The F.B.I., a series in which Fix was a regular.)
Bionics[]
  • This episode marks the first consistent use of slow-motion to indicate Steve Austin is moving at Bionic speed. The slow-motion effect becomes a series trademark from this point forward. However the sound effect associated with Bionics is not yet in place; instead, Steve's Bionic running is punctuated by the sound of a heartbeat.
  • This episode establishes that Bionics don't work in extreme cold. Dr. Bacon says that basic Bionic research concludes that "Bionic limbs deteriorate in sub-zero extremes." Indeed, Steve's Bionics begin to fail when locked in freezer set at -20°. This is supported by a scene in The Bionic Woman where Jaime Sommers loses her powers while locked in a freezer with a temperature approaching -10° ("The Martians Are Coming, the Martians Are Coming"). Conversely, both Steve and Jaime have employed their Bionics without incident in cold weather scenes, presumably because temperatures were not extreme ("Dr. Wells is Missing" and "On the Run."
  • This episode establishes that Steve's Bionics can be detected by Geiger counter when directed his limbs and eye.
  • Steve tells Bacon that he's hit 60mph while running. This is consistent with the treadmill speedometer reading of 60mph in Wine, Women and War and Rudy Wells' exclaimation of same. This speedometer reading is shown in the new main title starting with this episode.
  • Steve tells Bacon that his Bionic eye has 20:1 zoom capability. Previously his eye has only been shown providing night vision along with general restoration of sight.
  • Early in the episode, we see Steve working on a dune buggy, bending a roll bar using his Bionic arm. This is the first example of what would come to be known as "pocket bionics," a term used by Kenneth Johnson as he referred to the non-mission-based use of Bionics in everyday situations. As for the dune buggy, Steve will be seen working on it again in the season two episodes "The Midas Touch" and "The Peeping Blonde"
Main Title[]
SMDM-popzero seriestitle

Series title card, "Population: Zero"

Jack Cole's title design for the television series begins with suspense similar to Wayne Fitzgerald's titles for Wine, Women and War and The Solid Gold Kidnapping. But where Fitzgerald transitioned from Stu Phillips' dramatic brass and drums to a jazzy Dusty Springfield song under a montage of Steve's exploits, Cole instead maintains the harrowing story of Steve's accident and reconstruction.
New series composer Oliver Nelson provides urgent percussion under a stark and notable change from the previous main title: the communications between Steve Austin and ground controllers before the crash has, once again, been retconned and differs completely from Wine, Women and War and the pilot film:
Flight Com: It looks good at NASA One.
B-52 Pilot: Roger. BPS arm switch is on.
Flight Com: Okay, Victor.
B-52 Pilot: Landing rocket arm switch is on, here comes the throttle, circuit breakers in.
Steve: We have separation.
B-52 Pilot: Roger. Inboards and outboards are on. I'm coming forward with the sidestick.
Flight Com: Looks good.
B-52 Pilot: Ah, Roger.
Steve: I've got a blowout in damper three!
SR-71 Pilot: Get your pitch to zero.
Steve: Pitch is out! I can't hold altitude!
B-52 Pilot: Correction: Alpha-hold is off. Threat selector is emergency.
Steve: Flight-com, I can't hold it! She's breaking up! She's break—
Followed by new narration from executive producer Harve Bennett and Richard Anderson as Oscar Goldman...
Steve Austin. Astronaught. A man barely alive.
We can rebuild him. We have the technology.
We can make him better than he was.
Better. Stronger. Faster.
New footage filmed exclusively for the main title showed a Bionics-exposed arm and leg being handled and operated on, driving home Steve's cyborg transformation. It is a main title intended to serve as an origin story every week.
Music[]
  • Oliver Nelson's familiar theme music makes its debut in the new main title — but only as brief "sting" at the end during the freeze frame. The full melody is heard for the first time over the episode act one supers as Steve drives towards the military road block and in various arrangements throughout the episode. The full theme is heard again over the tail credits. Leading up to the premiere the theme was featured prominently in network promos.

Gallery[]

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