Original Airdate: 15 March, 1974
Steve trains Kelly Woods
Sam Strangis and Donald R. Boyle
D. C. Fontana
Farrah Fawcett Majors as Kelly Woods
Paul Kent as Flight Surgeon Wolf
John S. Ragin as Flight Director
Quinn Redeker as Capcom
Dean Smith as Major Osterman
Jules Bergman as Himself
Patsy Sabline as 1st Secretary
Toni Jannotta as 2nd Secretary
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Nightmare in the Sky
Steve trains the first American woman astronaut, who along with another injured astronaut, becomes stranded at the Skylab space station. Steve returns to space to lead the rescue, only to have his bionics malfunction.
Steve Austin is posted to NASA where he is tasked with training America's first woman astronaut – Major Kelly Woods. Despite initial problems, Major Woods completes her training and is launched into Earth orbit in Athena One with fellow Astronaut Osterman on a mission to discover new sources of energy. Shortly afterwards, Athena One is rocked by an explosion which seriously injures Osterman. Fortunately, Major Woods is able to dock the crippled space capsule with the orbiting Skylab space station, where it is intended she will await the arrival of a rescue team and doctor. However, the explosion has jammed the capsule’s hatch, trapping Woods and Osterman inside.
Steve is launched into space alongside Flight Surgeon Wolf to treat and rescue the trapped astronauts. Upon docking with Skylab, Steve manages to force the trapped hatch open, giving Woods and the still unconscious Osterman access to the space station. Flight Surgeon Wolf subsequently carries out a surgical procedure to remove shrapnel from Osterman. However, during a spacewalk to carry out repairs to Athena One, Steve’s bionics begin to malfunction due to the higher levels of radiation present. As a result, Major Woods has to command the Athena One Rescue capsule, containing all four astronauts inside, successfully back to Earth.
"The Rescue of Athena One" is one of a handful of Six Million Dollar Man episodes to be adapted as a novel. The novelization was written by Mike Jahn, who combined the storyline of this episode with that of "Straight On 'Til Morning" for his book. See The Rescue of Athena One (novel).
Steve: Where do you think you're going, Major?
Woods: Out, Colonel Sir!
Steve: Look, you run into trouble up there, you can't walk away from it. Now get back in that capsule and we'll run it again.
Woods: We've been at this for six hours!
Steve: Look, I don't make up the program lady; I've just been asked to help you - and I didn't want to do that. Now, if you don't mind, we'll get back in that capsule and we'll work on it again.
Woods: Yes, sir...
Capcom: Steve, you got a problem?
Steve: Yeah, how do I get fired off this job?
(Steve catches a falling studio light)
Woods: Steve, those lights weigh a ton.
Steve: Oh, they do?
Woods: And you caught it with one arm; how?
Steve: Well, two hands are for beginners.
Oscar: How will they get down?
Steve: Don't be such a ray of sunshine, Oscar; your microphone's still on.
Oscar: The bookmakers are having a field day down here.
Steve: Yeah, well, don't tell me; big numbers with lots of zeros make me dizzy. Oscar: You'll beat the odds; don't worry.
Steve: Did you try to blow the hatch with the emergency system?
Woods: I've tried everything but a can opener. Want to bring me one?
Woods: Steve, I can't let you go outside.
Steve: Kelly, me Colonel, you Major, remember?
Steve: Space... it is the final frontier. I can't go.
Woods: How are you?
Steve: (pause) I'm fine.
Woods: Lying to a nurse and a fellow pilot is a violation of the rules.
But when you are fine, I know a place in Houston that serves a really fantastic dinner. Reasonable too.
Steve: Where is this restaurant?
Woods: My place.
- Farrah Fawcett — or as she was credited in this episode, Farrah Fawcett-Majors, as she was at the time the real-life wife of Lee Majors — would make a couple of other appearances as different characters in "The Peeping Blonde" (as Victoria Webster) and "The Golden Pharaoh" (as Trish Hollander).
- Star Trek Hat Trick: This is the third episode in a row with a connection to Star Trek. 1) In "Doomsday, and Counting," General Koslenko is played by William Smithers who starred as Captain R.M. Merik in "Bread and Circuses", 2) In "Eyewitness to Murder," John Hopper is played by Gary Lockwood who starred as Lt. Commander Gary Mitchell in "Where No Man Has Gone Before," 3) this episode of SMDM was penned by D.C. Fontana who wrote no less than ten episodes of the original Star Trek.
- Fontana seems to have snuck in an Easter Egg reference to Star Trek. In the final segment, Steve says to Oscar: "Space . . . it is the final frontier."
- A semi-sequel to this episode occurs in the fourth season when Major Kelly Woods returns in SMDM: "
- Explaining his show of super-human strength, Steve tells Woods that following his accident, Rudy made him better than before.
- For the first time we get an indication of how Austin's crash was presented to the public. Steve tells Woods and the accident was worse than the press releases led the public to believe. (This establishes that the accident was public knowledge.)
- A later episode, "Burning Bright", suggests Austin might have had more problems to deal with during his spacewalk than a malfunctioning bionic eye.
- This episode establishes that Austin was the last American to walk on the moon (a fact also indicated in the novels). It also establishes that Austin's spaceflight took place in January 1972. However, the real-life Apollo 17 - the final American moon landing - took place in December of 1972, suggesting that in the Steve Austin universe the manned moon landings ended earlier than they did in real life (unless, as noted below, it was an error).
- A nervous Oscar Goldman smokes while waiting for Steve's safe return. The Bionic Book erroneously states that this is the only time he is ever seen smoking, when in fact he also smokes in an earlier episode, "Doomsday, and Counting".
- When exiting the ABC studio, Steve throws open a big metal door harder than intended; this is a rare post-TV movie occurrence of Austin misjudging his strength.
- Jules Bergman, who appears as himself in this episode, served as Science Editor for ABC News from 1961 until his premature death in 1987. He is best remembered for his expert coverage of the American space program.
- The footage used for the scene where Steve investigates Athena 1’s damage is a shot of Apollo 13’s service module.
- The real-life ABC logo is featured during the Bergman interview.
- The NASA transmissions heard during the launch of Athena One, and later replayed for the launch of the rescue ship, come from a well-used set of stock recordings that often appeared in TV and film during this era. One of the most recognizable aspects is the sound of a controller shouting out the words "Main stage!" (this is heard both in this episode and the later "Straight On 'Til Morning").
- Kelly utters the phrase "We've had a problem" after the explosion on board her capsule. These were the same words uttered by Jim Lovell after the explosion that crippled Apollo 13.
- Steve's orange jumpsuit displays a patch for Apollo 13. This establishes that the Apollo 13 mission,and very likely the accident as well,still occurred in the SMDM continuity. Other patches on Steve’s suit include Apollo and Skylab program patches,Apollo 11,Apollo 8,Apollo 16,Skylab 3,and Skylab 4. This may indicate that the episode takes place after Skylab 4, thusly spring 1974.
- It appears,judging by the prop models, that the majority of the crew’s time on Skylab is spent on the lower of the two floors of the Orbital Workshop (OWS) section of the station. This floor housed the “wardroom” section of Skylab,including the food preparation stations.sleep stations,and onboard bathroom.
- On Austin’s Office wall can be seen four pieces of concept art. From left to right they depict a Space Shuttle on landing approach,a close-up of an Apollo in low Earth orbit.a Shuttle deploying a payload,and the Apollo-Soyuz mission. Later,as Steve and Kelly walk through the MSC corridors,a model of a Shuttle in launch configuration is visible.
- At 40:21 into the episode, the aircraft carrier is shown. However, the anchor chain is deployed, which means the ship is not underway.
- When the rescue helicopter appears immediately after splashdown, the outline of a city can be seen in the lower half of the screen. A splashdown would never take place this close to a populated area. However,NASA’s priority was merely to return the crew to Earth as soon as possible so Osterman could get to hospital. Normal landing site protocols might not necessarily apply in this case.
- In the stock footage used for the space walk scenes, one of the astronauts is seen wearing a red helmet. However, in the episode, both Austin and Woods are clearly seen to be wearing standard white NASA helmets.
- 'External' shots continue to show only one spacecraft docked at Skylab when two should be visible, after Steve and the doctor have arrived at the space station.
- All external views of Skylab are pre-launch artist's renderings, as any stock footage from NASA from the actual mission would have shown only the Starboard solar panel (as the Port one had ripped off during launch) and the parasol thermal shield (installed by the 1st Skylab crew). However,this could indicate an alternative universe where the launch was completely successful and the solar array wasn’t lost.
- Steve's command of Rescue One is described by Jules Bergman as Austin's first return to space for the first time since he walked on the moon in January 1972. This seems to contradict the Moon and the Desert version of the original TV Movie, where Rudy states Steve had two more moonshots after the one depicted at the top of that episode. While the original Movie does not provide these details, the Lifting Body flight included a burn that lifted Steve into the upper stratosphere at max altitude. Depending on one's definition, that flight constituted a "return to space" for Steve, and therefore contradicted the commentary here as well. However, the name "Moonshot XYZ" was only ever used in "The Moon and the Desert", and so it's very possible Bergman is not referring to that mission, but rather the third mission implied by Rudy.
- Mission Control refers to Steve's flight as Athena 1 rather than Athena Rescue during his launch. This doesn't make sense because Woods' spacecraft is Athena 1.
- Despite several episodes prior to this establishing that Steve's bionics are to be kept to secret to anyone without a Level 6 security clearance, Steve wastes no time in telling Woods about them after he catches the spotlight.
- In a similar vein, Oscar is very concerned about the potential for Steve's bionic abilities to be made public during the mission. He must not be aware of Steve's run through the streets of L.A. in "Eyewitness to Murder", then.
- Nonetheless, someone at NASA must have been made aware of his bionics (besides Woods) given that mission control is able to monitor his vital signs, yet any sensors related to this that might have been placed on his right arm or legs would not have worked. And, in addition, based upon dialogue in the pilot film, Steve's vital signs should be abnormal given his heart needs to only supply one arm, his brain and his torso - if anything, this should register as low blood pressure.
- Steve's NASA patch-covered jacket makes its first appearance since "The Solid Gold Kidnapping".
- On Kelly Woods' boots in the Apollo Command Module, when she is standing up to try to open the jammed hatch, you can see a green/yellow large flower on the side of her boots.
- The episode plays fast and loose with the concept of zero-G, as at times the astronauts look like they're walking normally, and other times we see, for example, one of them sleeping in a zero-gravity hammock. No mention is made of any of them having "magnetic boots".
Possible factual error
- In announcing Steve's return to space, Jules Bergman says he walked on the moon in January 1972, after earlier calling Steve the last American man to do so. However the final American moon landing, Apollo 17, took place in December of 1972. Perhaps Bergman meant to say January 1973?