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The Six Million Dollar Man
known episodically as
"The Moon and the Desert"
Steve's first Bionic run
Telefilm production number: 35125
Telefilm Airdate: 7 March 1973
Episodic production number: 45185 & 45185
Episodic Airdate:
Produced by
Richard Irving
Teleplay by
Henri Simoun (Howard Rodman) and
Steven Bochco (uncredited)[1]
Story by
Martin Caidin
(based on the novel Cyborg)
Directed by
Richard Irving
Lee Majors as Steve Austin
Barbara Anderson as Jean Manners
Special Guest Star(s)
Martin Balsam as Rudy Wells
Darren McGavin as Oliver Spencer
Dorothy Green as Mrs. McKay
Anne Whitefield as Young Woman
George Wallace as General
Robert Cornthwaite as Dr. Ashburn
Olan Soule as Saltillo
Norma Storch as Woman
John Mark Robinson as Aide
1973 TV Movies
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"Wine, Women and War"
Related episodes
The Deadly Replay

The Six Million Dollar Man — known in episodic format as "The Moon and the Desert" — was the first televised adventure of Steve Austin. It detailed the crash which rendered Austin's legs, arms and eye useless, and showed at length the operation which restored them. It also explored the psychological ramifications of his being fitted with mechanical implants, issues that would later be echoed in "The Bionic Woman". It concluded with Steve's first mission for the organization which authorized his revolutionary surgery.

In its original broadcast, The Six Million Dollar Man was a one-off telefilm, produced in late 1972 and early 1973 — about a year prior to the start of the series proper. It was run under the banner of The ABC Wednesday Movie of the Week, more than six months prior to the release of the follow-up, Wine, Women and War.

Due to its unique spin on the world of Steve Austin, its fairly extensive re-editing into episodic format, and the general lack of reference to its events by subsequent episodes, it is problematic to place within the continuity of the series.



Austin prepares for takeoff

Pilot hl10

Austin's lifting body (the Northrop HL-10 as shown) detaches from its Boeing B-52 Stratofortress mother-craft.

Steve Austin, a civilian member of NASA's space program and moon-walk veteran, loses control during a test flight of a new aircraft and crashes. Both his legs are crushed, his right arm is sheared off, and his left eye is irreversibly injured when his experimental aircraft crash-lands on the runway. (He sustains other injuries that are not specified in the story itself, and these, compounding those the story does specify, bring him to the brink of death.)

Meanwhile, the Office of Scientific Operations (OSO) holds a secret meeting overseen by an unidentified woman and a man named Oliver Spencer. Spencer indicates that the OSO has lost too many agents on recent missions, and that a new approach, a new type of agent is needed. Ideally preferring a robot, Spencer says the next best thing - a cyborg - is within the realm of current technological ability. When asked if he will seek a volunteer, Spencer replies that all they need to do is wait for an accident to occur, so that they can "work with scrap." A budget is set for the project: an initial $6 million for set up costs, and about a million a year after that for maintaining it.

Later, Spencer views the initial life-saving operations on Austin and learns from Dr. Rudy Wells the extent of the pilot's injuries. Spencer confronts Wells, whose research into the field of bionics has interested the OSO greatly. Spencer offers Wells money and support, and a facility in Colorado, in order for him to perform the first bionic transplant surgery on Austin.

But before the operation can be undertaken, the issue of Austin's mental well-being must be addressed. Upon waking from electrosleep and learning of his injuries, Austin attempts suicide, but is saved by Nurse Jean Manners, although he is initially resentful of her intervention. Soon after, Wells discusses the bionic surgery with Austin, showing him the bionic eye that will restore his sight, and also the work-in-progress bionic arm. Austin refuses to look at it, but Wells tells Austin there is nothing to be frightened of. "This is your arm," he says, soothingly, adding that Austin will also be given two new legs and that, with the new arm and legs, Austin will be able to hold a woman in his arms again. He adds, "If it's what you want, you'll be able to dance with her." What Wells does not tell Austin (but tells us, in narration) is that the new limbs will have great strength compared to human limbs, and that the eye has the potential to "transcend normal vision."

During an epic operation (overseen by Spencer), Dr Wells and his team successfully fit Steve with the replacement bionic legs, right arm and left eye. Later, Austin awakens, surrounded by Wells and his team. His first words are, "Dr. Frankenstein, I presume?" He then proceeds to move his bionic arm and make a fist with it. However, Steve struggles to come to terms with the seriousness — and particularly the cost — of his "resurrection," and demands to know, "When does the bill come due?" He is really wondering what will be required of him once he has fully recovered. One unwitting victim of his initial cynicism is Jean Manners, who has fallen in love with Austin. Meanwhile, Austin begins learning to use his limbs, at first taking literal baby steps, and soon he is running at blurring speed, followed by closed circuit cameras. Spencer declares Austin ready. First, though, Austin is given a chance for some RnR and goes in a picnic with Jean. On the way back to the lab, they find a car that has gone down a ditch, and a frantic mother trying to get her child out. Austin uses his bionic arm to rescue the boy, but the mother treats him like a monster when she sees electronics poking out of a damaged portion of Austin's arm. "What are you?"

Depressed, Austin returns to the lab where he speaks to no one while his arm is repaired. Finally, Spencer meets Austin and finally reveals to Austin what the astronaut has known all along - that the price for his rebirth is service to the OSO. "I don't want to kill people," Austin says. "You don't have to," Spencer reassures him. Austin reluctantly agrees to undertake his first mission: to rescue a diplomat from a terrorist camp in Saudi Arabia's "Empty Quarter". In return he requests that Jean be reassigned as he does not want to get too close to anybody. Jean, who overhears this, confronts Austin and tells him she loves him.

Austin parachutes down many miles from the camp and proceeds to run the distance, his newfound stamina sustaining him through the heat.

However, when Steve reaches his destination, he learns that the hostage he had been assigned to rescue has, in reality, been dead for several weeks. He begins to work out an escape plan with another hostage after he himself is taken prisoner. Back home, Spencer confirms to Wells that Austin has been sent on a combined test/suicide mission to see if he is capable of work as an agent. If he fails, Spencer says, then they can always build a new bionic man.

Austin and the second hostage manage to escape the camp (although Austin is unable to avoid killing at least one of the terrorists) by stealing an aircraft. Having sustained damage, he is reunited with Jean before being put into electrosleep once again in order for Wells to repair the damage to his bionics. Spencer asks Wells if it would be feasible to keep Austin asleep indefinitely until he's needed again. "Over my dead body," replies Wells. "It was just an idea - not a bad one at that, eh?" says Spencer with a smile.

Naming controversy[]

Smdm pilot titleframe

Original Title


Publicity still from the original telefilm


Majors and Balsam on the set

Steve hl10

Publicity still


Alternate title used in ABC promo

The fact that it was an adaptation of Cyborg created some controversy about the film's proper title over the years. It has often been called, Cyborg: The Six Million Dollar Man,[1] in part due to the connection to the novel, but also because the initial image in the telefilm was of a computer screen, defining the term cyborg. Hence, "cyborg" was the first word seen in the film, which some viewers interpreted as the "title". Contemporary evidence from newspapers and a Universal press release firmly establish the title as The Six Million Dollar Man. While some marketing on television and in print used "Cyborg," this has been attributed variously to attempts to tie the production to the bestselling novel for marketing purposes, and a last minute decision to change the title before its airing. The DiscoVision cover label was late enough (1979) that it is more likely a symptom of the title confusion rather than a primary cause.

However, an ABC promotional advertisement for the 1973 broadcast of the movie does indeed gives it the title Cyborg: The 6 Million Dollar Man (with "6" and not "Six").[2]

The original film vs. the series[]

The film remains notable for a number of unique attributes which made it distinct from the rest of the televised adventures of Steve Austin. Unlike either the novel or all that followed, it didn't feature Oscar Goldman, nor did the word "bionics" appear at all. Rudy Wells, though present, is portrayed as a much closer friend to Steve than he ever was in the series, or the other telefilms. Author Martin Caidin would be involved more directly than at any later time. Not only was the film the only formally credited adaptation of one of his novels, but it also uniquely provided him acknowledgement as technical advisor. The entire cast and crew, with the exception of Lee Majors, were unique to the film. In narrative terms, there are several aspects of the original cut of the film that did not carry over into the series:

  • The organization that funds Steve Austin's bionic surgery is referred to as the OSO or Office of Strategic Operations. In the subsequent telefilms as well as The Six Million Dollar Man series the acronym OSI is used, which is nearly always expanded to the Office of Scientific Intelligence although the names Office of Scientific Information and Office of Scientific Investigation are also occasionally used on TV, while in some spin-off media including comics and novelizations "Strategic Intelligence" is used. OSO keeps the pilot more in-line with Martin's Caidin's Cyborg novel than later films and shows. The OSO is also depicted in the film as a darker, more "black ops"-style organization than the OSI, as illustrated by Austin's initial reaction to the OSO's intentions for him and his new abilities. Oliver Spencer, Steve's OSO handler, risks Steve's life just to test him, something that would never happen in the series. His suggestion at the end of the telefilm that Austin be kept sedated until needed is unique to the film and does not reflect any similar attitude in the novels or series.
  • Oliver Spencer is Austin's superior, here. This character did not exist in Cyborg, but could be an amalgam of the Jackson McKay and Oscar Goldman literary personalities. McKay's profile and lines are reduced in the film, giving Spencer more prominence. In the next movie, Wine, Women and War, Oscar Goldman begins active oversight of Steve Austin. The opening credits of Wine, Women and War, however, actively contradict the existence of Spencer by placing Goldman not only in communication with Austin in the moments prior to the crash, but also having Goldman, not Spencer, be the man who convinces Rudy Wells to do the bionic operation on Austin. This "retconning" would become the de facto official history of the series, although Goldman's presence in the series intro is less assertive in suggesting his direct involvement than the telefilm intro was. All dialog in the series indicates Austin's Bionic surgery was Goldman's baby from the beginning, and Spencer is never mentioned again. In 2014, the comic book The Six Million Dollar Man Series Six, intended to be a direct continuation of the TV series, reintroduced Spencer and attempted to reconcile his existence with established continuity.
  • Despite the fact that Spencer is portrayed as Austin's superior, he is not necessarily purely an equivalent to Oscar Goldman. Indeed, the presence of Mrs. McKay, Goldman's superior from the novel, seems to confirm this. She, and not Spencer, is at the head of the table during which the bionics program is ostensibly under authorization review. Later, after Steve's operation, it is she who conducts the mission briefing. Thus, like the novel, a character named McKay is apparently in a position of high authority. Though a common reading of events is that Oscar Goldman replaced Oliver Spencer — which he clearly did, in terms of on-screen time and narrative importance — in fact it seems more likely that both McKay and Spencer were both dropped in favor of Oscar.
  • Actor Martin Balsam portrayed Dr. Rudy Wells here, creating the role for television. He did not return to the role onscreen, however, replaced by Alan Oppenheimer in the next movie, who would himself be replaced in the third season by Martin E. Brooks (despite this, footage of Balsam as Rudy would still be glimpsed in opening credits and flashback sequences). Balsam did, however, return years later to record voiceovers for the extended, two-part edit of the film: The Moon and the Desert.
  • The pilot actually strays from the novel by having Austin be a civilian member of NASA. In the subsequent series, he is an Air Force reserve Colonel attached to NASA, as in the novel. Neither the telefilm nor the series make any reference to Austin serving in Vietnam, which was part of Caidin's backstory for the character.

Parallel Speculation[]

  • It is thus quite easy to believe that Goldman was employed by the OSI at the time of the surgery, with his absence in the pilot explained by the events of Pilot Error. There, it is revealed that he personally got the emergency funding for Steve's operation by lobbying Senator Ed Hill. We can assume this is where he was during the first days following the accident, and that subsequent to the accident the OSO's sepearate identity was lost as it merged into the OSI.
  • Another possibility is that both agencies were competing, and OSI took over the Bionic project when OSO's tough approach alienated Steve and Rudy. Afterwards, the events "never happened," and the OSO's involvement was redacted from all records. Including the show.

The Moon and the Desert[]

In syndication, the movie was used as the basis for a two-part adventure called The Moon and the Desert. In this later form, about 30 minutes of extra footage — drawn from subsequent episodes of the series proper as well as stock footage — were edited into the production, creating numerous continuity problems.

As a mixture of the work of two different production teams, "The Moon and the Desert" does not simply contain "extra" material that wasn't in the original cut. It contains material not ever intended to be a part of the original film. Specifically, "Moon" has footage taken from "The Bionic Woman (episode)", "The Bionic Boy", and "Dark Side of the Moon".

Some of the issues which flow from this re-editing include:

  • The two-part version begins with an extended prologue in which Dr. Wells, in voiceover, discusses the Moonshot XYZ mission which took Austin to the moon, and his role in helping keep Austin fit for the mission. Neither the original edit nor the later series make any reference to a Moonshot XYZ, instead indicating that Austin worked on the Apollo program with Apollo 17 and the fictiious Apollo 19 mentioned at various times. However, it is stated that Austin went to the moon two more times after the XYZ mission, so this doesn't necessarily break continuity.
  • When Wells speaks to a semi-conscious Austin on board a plane, on the way to the Colorado Springs research facility, the scene is actually taken from an later point where Austin is in Colorado. This replaces a brief montage in the original edit which shows the new mountain locale with some music to generate "mystique." This is one of the only places in which the longer cut actually removes original footage rather than adding.
  • A few cut lines are added, some serving to fix problems, as with Steve inside the HL-10 on the ground preflight waving thank you, cut off in the original, heard clearly in the longer cut. Others serve to change the meaning, as when Oliver Spencer says "he's ready for us" and Mrs. McKay (possibly Jackson McKay from the novel) says in the original telefilm "a little R&R, as it were." whereas in TMATD she counters "I'm not quite sure, Oliver. I think perhaps a few days off, a little… R&R as it were." In the original McKay seems to conspire with Spencer, implying that the R&R may be a setup to test Steve, in the re-edit, she simply pushes for Steve to get a break. The longer version also serves to enhance McKay's character. To add to the confusion, this line is in at least the Mexican version of the telefilm edit.
  • "The Moon and the Desert" uses a title sequence from the latter half of the series' run. Thus, it proclaims that Richard Anderson and Martin E. Brooks are "also starring". This is not entirely untrue, however, as the newly-added scenes from "The Bionic Woman" and both Bionic shows' intro sequences, are inserted into the production in such a way that Martin Balsam's Rudy watches Brooks' Rudy perform the immediate post-crash operation. Later, when the actual bionic operation is performed, footage of part of Jaime Sommers' bionic ear being prepared. We see Steve's arm and leg with exposed parts, footage shot for The Six Million Dollar Man show intro due to the lack of reveals in the original surgery sequence.
  • Footage from "The Deadly Replay" is inserted into the accident footage, bringing the flight stick footage in, doubtless to reduce inconsistency with the later episode. This has the effect of "retconning" how the accident occured. (Among the most notable change is the re-edited version suggests that Austin is nearly able to bring his craft in for a smooth landing - one shot shows the craft lowering its landing gear - but loses control just above the ground and crashes.)
  • The music editing is substantially different (though still drawn entirely from Gil Mellé's score), with some cues removed and replaced by others, and many cues repositioned. This has the subtle effect of underscoring the drama in a different fashion, as when Steve makes his first Bionic fist.
  • The syndicated version features additional narration by Martin Balsam as Rudy Wells not included in the original telefilm. Balsam recorded new voiceover material, and, as this was done after the series had finished production and gone off the air, its canonicity is debatable. At the end Balsam/Wells states that three years have passed since the events of the telefilm. Although the narration's reference to Moonshot XYZ is suspect, it is actually possible to reconcile aspects of the pilot -- specifically the existence of Oliver Spencer and the references to OSO -- with the continuity of the television series if one considers that Wells' might be altering the facts in his narration to mask certain secret information.
  • Just before the OSO meeting we're shown a doorway indicating the name OSI. This might serve to indicate that the OSO might have been part of the OSI, or vice versa.
  • A continuity error occurs during the re-created moon landing sequence. Austin is clearly shown making a solo flight to the moon, but just prior to his LEM module taking off, a second, unidentified astronaut is shown on the surface with him. This shot of the two astronauts not only does not match the footage of Austin on the moon from a few moments earlier, but set rigging and studio lights are also clearly visible along the top of the image.
  • Finally, the computer screen text that gives the definition of "cyborg" and begins the telefilm is moved to the end of Part 1 in the syndicated version.

The aircraft[]

Main article: Lifting Body

Although one would think Steve Austin was shown flying and crashing only one aircraft, in fact several different craft were involved in producing the sequence.

The aircraft that Steve Austin crashes in and that is subsequently featured in the opening credits of The Six Million Dollar Man series was the M2-F2, a lifting body test craft built by the Northrop Corporation for NASA. The crash scene footage is a genuine incident which occurred on Wednesday May 10, 1967 at Edwards Air Force Base in California. The test pilot, Bruce Peterson, was seriously injured in the crash losing the use of his right eye, which ended his flying career. Peterson reportedly hit the ground at approximately 250mph, rolling the aircraft six times. He is on record as saying that he hated reliving his accident, week after week, courtesy of The Six Million Dollar Man.[citation needed]

Although the crash sequence uses footage of the M2-F2 accident, Steve is shown boarding a different aircraft on the ground - the Northrop HL-10. The HL-10 is distinguishable from the M2-F2 by its glazed nose. It is considered the most successful of the experimental 'lifting body' aircraft.[3]

In the later episode, "The Deadly Replay", it is stated in dialog that Austin's accident occurred while he was flying the HL-10.

However, Martin Caidin's original novel identifies the ill-fated aircraft as the M3F5, a fictional craft that did not exist in real life. In the 1987 reunion telefilm, Return of the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman, Austin refers to the M3F5 crash by name, supporting the novel but conflicting with "The Deadly Replay" and, to a degree, this original telefilm. The M3F5 is also mentioned in several of the episode novelizations.


Steve: Yes sir?
General: Have you any idea what time it is?
Steve: (looks up at the sky) About five to seven?

Rudy: Steve, you got a positive genius for antagonizing the wrong people.
Steve: I know, it's story of my life.

Steve: (to Rudy) Dr. Frankenstein, I presume?

Rudy: We've given you an eye for an eye, haven't we? An arm for an arm?
Steve: My arm didn't come packed in a wooden box!

Steve: When I was up there on the moon, doc, about a quarter of a million miles away from the real world, I felt a lot closer to it then, than I do now.

Mrs. McKay: (watching Steve Austin run on a monitor) He's not even breathing hard!
Rudy: Well, you see, his lungs are used to handling oxygen for the blood supply for two arms and two legs. Now they only have to take care of one.

Oliver Spencer: There is no end to obligations.

Oliver Spencer: Please, please, Wells, don't be sentimental. I can always have another cyborg build if this one fails. But if he should survive... which appears to be doubtful, then I know that I have my man.

(Steve has just broken his own and his fellow prisoner's chains) Prisoner: Hala Maria, how you able to do that?
Steve: Vitamins.

Oliver Spencer: (Steve whispers something in Spencers ear) Really? Oh, I haven't been called that since grammar school. (chuckles)


  • The mission that Spencer sends Austin on in the pilot, is based on the second mission in Caidin's Cyborg novel, although in the novel Austin works with a female partner; in the film, he works solo. And in the novel Austin uses deadly force more willingly against the enemy (including breaking the neck of a truck driver to silence him from revealing their presence). The novel also includes a lengthy sequence in which Austin and his partner struggle to cross desert terrain, whereas in the movie he does so alone and effortlessly.
  • Austin's communications with the ground prior to the crash are more extensive -- and completely different -- than that heard in either the followup Wine, Women and War telefilm or the later TV series.
  • The flight/crash sequence includes detail not mentioned in the regular series opening credits. The most notable difference between the crash as shown here and that depicted in the series credits is that no "blowout" is shown to occur, nor is there any reference to the vehicle "breaking up". The vehicle is shown rocking in the air and ultimately crashing. The re-edited syndicated version, as noted above, adds footage from other episodes to make it seem as if Austin is nearly able to bring the craft in for a controlled landing, only to lose his grip on the control stick at the last moment; this does not occur in the original telefilm. Austin's demeanor in the moments before the crash are very different from the later opening credits -- while he makes several exclamations in the later version ("She's breaking up! She's break-"), he is much calmer in the telefilm version, and in fact says virtually nothing as his plane begins to approach the ground (it could be argued that this is a more realistic response for a trained pilot). No reference is made to ejecting.
  • Dr. Wells mentions that the manual to the bionic arm has 840 pages and that Austin is to be furnished with a copy.
  • Wells states that the bionic arm is powered by a "nuclear powered electrical generator", and he points to what is clearly a mechanism on the arm. This is contradicted in a later episode [citation needed], where it is said the arm uses a thermocouple to generate electricity. A thermocouple would look nothing like a generator, which the mechanism Wells pointed to does.
  • When Austin is running through the desert on his mission, the perspiration is much heavier under Austin's left arm than it is on the right. Apparently, bionic limbs don't sweat. This is supported by a line of dialogue from Rudy in which he states that Austin's circulatory system no longer needs to maintain the three new limbs, just his one natural arm. This detail would not be followed consistently in the series.
  • Although the growing romantic relationship between Austin and Jean is a major subplot of the film, Jean Manners never appeared again in the series. In the second season episode The Seven Million Dollar Man; a character named Carla Peterson, played by actress Maggie Sullivan, is said to have been the nurse who aided Austin during his convalescence. This seems to suggest that the character of Jean Manners was retconned out of existence in a manner similar to that in which the character of Oscar Goldman replaced that of Oliver Spencer. Another possibility is the character changed her name.
  • The film makes reference to Austin's bionic eye restoring his vision, with the potential to "transcend normal vision", but other than this reference no special features of the bionic eye are actually used in the film. Its nightvision capability would not be introduced until Wine, Women and War while the telescopic function wouldn't be revealed until the series proper. Close examination of the artificial eye shown here and diagrams in be background, suggest part of the bionic eye was meant to be screwed into an eyeball; whether an artificial one or Steve's actual eye is not known. This is consistent with Caidin's novel which indicates that the eye (which in Caidin's book is simply a camera that does not restore or enhance vision) is intended to be removable in order to access the film inside.
  • Some noticeable differences between Caidin's concept of the Steve Austin character and the TV version are in evidence. In the telefilm, Austin expresses reluctance towards killing people (though he kills at least one terrorist when he drops a grenade into the cabin of a tank, and he also is shown delivering possibly fatal blows to others); in Caidin's novel, Austin is depicted as being more willing to use deadly force and does so more frequently (in keeping with the literary version of the character being a seasoned Vietnam veteran), including killing several individuals in cold blood during his first mission.
  • No calendar year or date is given for Austin's accident, however the later episode "The Return of the Bionic Woman" establishes that Austin has been bionic for "about three years" at that point. Assuming that episode takes place around the same time it was broadcast in September 1975, then Austin's accident could be surmised to have occurred in the second half of 1972. Several episodes (and this telefilm itself) suggest that it took Austin some time to recover from the surgery, and Austin's first mission might have occurred in the spring of 1973. "The Return of Athena One" establishes that Austin was the last man to walk on the moon, but gives the date of this mission as January 1972, whereas in real life the final American moon landing happened in December 1972.
  • The office building where the OSO officials meet is at 11000 Wilshire Blvd. in Santa Monica. The building still exists today and can be viewed on Google Street View. It currently houses FBI offices, among others.
  • Several references are made to Frankenstein's monster, while the scene in which Austin first moves his bionic arm and legs is strongly reminiscent of the scene in which the Monster, played by Boris Karloff, first comes to life in the 1931 Frankenstein film -- which was also produced by Universal Studios.
  • The sequence where Steve is first seen running at full speed (specifically, the sequence where he runs by the white fence that would later be incorporated into the opening title sequence) is a rarity of fast-motion photography in the series. In other instances, the fast-motion is jerky and cartoonish, but in this sequence, great care was taken to make the sequence look absolutely authentic. For one thing, the dolly shot is exceptionally smooth, eliminating camera wiggle altogether. Secondly, the shot is not only done at a lower frame rate (probably around 5 - 9 FPS), but the shutter speed was also dialed up, so that a degree of motion blur takes place. When this footage is then replayed at a normal 24 FPS, it ends up looking extremely realistic, like Austin really is running about 60 miles per hour. The elongated shutter speed also allowed for more vibrant color saturation, making the sequence aesthetically more rich and enjoyable as well. All this combined likely resulted in the decision to retain some of the footage for the opening credits of the series, even long after using slow-motion had become the norm. In the telefilm the sequence ends with a brief view of Austin from the front, shown running in slow-motion. Aside from being the first use of this effect in the series, this footage would also become the title card for the later series.
  • The electronic sound effect associated with bionics is not heard in the telefilm, nor will it be heard until well into the first season (and not consistently applied to Steve's bionics until the second season).
  • As was common for made-for-TV movies in the 1970s, there is no standalone opening credits sequence: the title and the acting/production credits play out over one of the opening scenes of the film, accompanied by unobtrusive music. This does not occur again within the TV franchise until the very last reunion movie, Bionic Ever After? in 1994.

Comic book adaptation[]

Although the basic plot points of the TV movie (and the original novel) were adapted to some degree by both the Charlton Comics and Peter Pan Records licensees, a scene-for-scene adaptation of the TV movie titled El Hombre Nuclear was published in Spanish, adapted by Linton Howard with art by Pablo Martire Villar (who appears to have based some of his art on Neal Adams' work for Charlton). This was a faithful adaptation of the TV movie, with the exception of Oliver Spencer being replaced by Oscar Goldman, and a changed ending in which Steve willingly agrees to work for Oscar and the two shake hands. Austin is also shown smoking cigarettes, differing from the TV character.



  • In this film we see Austin running at full speed without the slow-motion effect later associated with the power, and a clip of him doing a test run from the pilot film would be included in the opening of every episode of the series. What is never accounted for is the fact Austin's non-bionic left arm is seen pumping just as fast as his bionic right arm during his bionic speed run. This error is repeated throughout the history of the franchise whenever a bionic person is shown moving in "real time". One speculated explanation is that as the perfusion (blood supply) becomes minimal to the three bionic limbs, it increases for the non-bionic parts of the body including the left upper limb. This, in conjunction with intensive physical training, could potentially augment functions of the trunk and the left upper limb leading to higher ability to withstand physical stresses. In the movie this is somewhat hinted at by Wells mentioning that Austin's heart and lungs are now only responsible for sustaining one limb, rather than four.
  • In the opening sequences, and as established in the TV movie, it is seen that the right shoulder, structures supporting and moving the right shoulder, both hips, and structures supporting and moving both hips are not bionically replaced.
  • Before his flight Austin is seen in his spacesuit, with an aide carrying his oxygen supply. This is standard practice, except is redundant in this case as Austin's helmet is open, eliminating the need for him to carry an independent oxygen supply. Rebuttal: Actually, that unit is for cooling, as the well-insulated suit becomes very hot.
  • It could be considered rather convenient that Steve's crash appears to occur at the same time as the OSO meeting, however given the way the narrative is presented, there's nothing saying the two events actually occur simultaneously. (However, given the revelations of "The Deadly Replay" and Spencer's nature, the two might have taken place at the same time.)
  • Similarly, it's hard to tell whether it's an actual error that Mrs. McKay and the other OSO officials get off the elevator on one floor, while Spencer continues to another floor, exits the elevator and arrives in the board room where those same officials are meeting. It's possible he got off on another floor and walked down, or he might have stopped at his office first. Rebuttal: Given the established secrecy of the OSO and of the meeting, the way the scene is presented seems to hint that the attendees split up so as not to arrive at the same time, possibly for security reasons.
  • The audience is required to suspend disbelief that Steve Austin's close friend and personal doctor just happens to also be the creator of bionics, making for a convenient scenario after the crash. The fact Wells and Austin were close friends prior to the crash is never revisited in the regular series.


  1. MCA/Universal memo to broadcast outlets
  2. [ Youtube: Six Million Dollar Man pilot promo
  3. Jenkins, Dennis R.: Space Shuttle: The History of the National Space Transportation System, Midland Publishing, 2001, pp. 38-39