The Six Million Dollar Man Peter Pan records were a group of vinyl recordings sold between 1976 and 1978 by Peter Pan Records, usually under its subsidiary, Power Records. These original dramas are the only ones of their type to feature Steve Austin; another company, Wonderland Records, released an album featuring Jaime Sommers also in 1976 (see Bionic Woman: Great Adventures).
A subsidiary of Synthetic Plastics, Peter Pan and Power licensed many properties during the 1960s-1980s and produced full-cast audio dramas aimed at younger listeners. A repertory cast of uncredited actors performed the roles, impersonating the original actors as much as possible. Some were published with comic book adaptations. Some stories adapted previously published material such as comics or TV and episode scripts, while others used original storylines. With the exception of "Birth of the Bionic Man", all of the Six Million Dollar Man audio stories were originals.
The Peter Pan stories can be divided into two groups. On the one hand, the eight "serious" adventures of the first two "volumes" were comprised of two, 12", 33.3 rpm vinyl LPs, with two stories to each disc. All these included read-along comics, which transcribed the audio recording for listeners.
The third "volume" is comprised entirely of shorter, Christmas-themed adventures, and feature no read-along content.
None of the adventures used the voices, music or even bionic sound effects of the television program, but they all had full-casts, music, and voice-over narration. The one exception to this is "The Kris Kringle Caper", included on the Christmas LP, which opens with an abbreviated version of the televised Six Million Dollar Man theme music. The average running time of the first two volumes was just under 10 minutes. The Christmas Adventures clocked in at around 8 minutes.
While the Christmas stories were never released in any other format but vinyl, the first eight tales were later re-released on CD by Power Records — a label owned by the same parent company as Peter Pan, which produced material aimed principally at teenagers. The first volume was also released at least twice by Power on a single 12" LP, contemporaneous with the Peter Pan read-along releases. One 1970s Power version had an illustrated cover by Neal Adams; the other was slightly more "adult", with the television show's title card predominating. The Adams portrait of Austin originated in the Six Million Dollar Man illustrated magazine.
Peter Pan also released all the Christmas stories on a collected LP. Power Records also released several stories, such as "Bionic Berserker" in 7-inch vinyl "single" format, with the single stories split over the two sides. One release, "Elves Revolt", featured two different stories (oddly, "Elves Revolt" was not one of them).
Volume One (1976)
"Birth of the Bionic Man"
Only very loosely based on the original 1973 pilot film, the story begins with a newscast recapping Steve Austin’s moonwalk, and reporting that his experimental jet crashed today, leaving Steve seriously injured. Oscar Goldman and Rudy Wells discuss their plan to give Steve bionic replacement parts. Rudy has concerns about Steve’s emotional state, but Oscar decides to go ahead with the operations, beginning a week of surgery. Steve awakens in his hospital room. When Rudy and Oscar explain his bionics to him, Steve goes temporarily berserk and begins trashing the room, stopping only when Oscar shoots him with a tranquilizer dart.
Steve awakens the next day considerably calmer, but still thinking of himself as a freak for having bionic limbs. Oscar brings in Bobby Phillips, son of a military officer who was paralyzed in a car crash. The boy tells Steve he is lucky he can even get bionics, then leaves Steve to ponder his situation.
The next day, Oscar and Rudy arrive at the lab to find Steve running on the treadmill at bionic speed. Steve undergoes a battery of tests, which Oscar dictates into his recorded log. Oscar says that Steve has decided to give being bionic a try; Oscar wonders how Steve would feel if he learned Bobby Phillips was just an actor Oscar hired to bring Steve out of his depression.
Steve arrives at Oscar’s office, ready for his first assignment.
- The character of Bobby Phillips is unique to this version of the origin story and appears in none of the other comic strip or live-action versions of the tale. The deceit of Oscar hiring an actor to fool Austin is more in keeping with Oliver Spencer than the Oscar of the TV series.
- Steve is shown running faster than 60 MPH (though TV episodes likewise occasionally indicated a higher top speed for Austin). He is also said to be able read the lettering on a postage stamp from 100 yards and jump 30 feet upwards (the latter is consistent with noted restrictions on Steve's powers).
- Oscar is shown shooting a berserk Steve with a tranquilizer gun, another plot element unique to this version of the story.
"The Man from the Future"
Oscar Goldman and General Hickman are at Langley AFB, where a crucial rocket test has been disrupted by an attack from a foreign robot tank. Oscar tries to locate Steve Austin while the base is evacuated. Meanwhile, a identical double of Steve materializes on base; Oscar mistakes him for Steve and sends him to disable the tank, which he does before disappearing. Steve emerges from an underground bunker where he was doing an inventory, leading Steve and Oscar to conclude there is an impostor loose on the base.
Hours later, Steve is surprised by his double. The other Steve explains that he is the Steve Austin of 2976, a physical duplicate of Steve of 1976. He is not bionic; his abilities are thanks to an energy booster under his clothes. He has been sent back in time to help his ancestor with the ion rocket test scheduled for the next day. Steve agrees to think about it as he hides Steve II in an abandoned hangar. Steve II thinks about how he must take Steve’s place on the ion rocket test flight, where Steve Austin is destined to die in an explosion.
The next morning, Steve returns to the hangar to tell Steve II if he can assist him or not. Steve II attacks before Steve of 1976 can finish his sentence; a superpowered battle ensues, leaving one Steve Austin standing.
Hours later, Steve Austin is piloting the ion rocket on its test flight. From the control center, Oscar and General Hickman watch in horror as the rocket reaches Mach 1 and explodes, apparently killing Steve.
Later, Oscar is in his office mourning the death of his friend. Suddenly Steve Austin materializes in front of him. It is the Steve Austin of 1976 – he explains to Oscar that he defeated Steve II and was piloting the ion rocket when it exploded, but he was teleported away at the last second by scientists of 2976. Apparently, Steve II based his research on flawed reports that Steve Austin died in the explosion, not realizing he was to survive. Steve II was returned to his own time, and the original Steve Austin returned to 1976.
Oscar is amazed at the story, and asks how he is to explain to the press that Steve Austin survived another seemingly fatal crash. Steve says he will leave that up to Oscar; time travel has worn him out, and he is going to take a nap.
- The story is explicitly set in 1976, with Austin experiencing time travel to 2976, something he never experienced on the TV series, though he did go back in time in an issue of the Charlton comic book series.
- The idea of Austin's superiors being unable to locate him prior to an important test is similar to the opening of the 1973 pilot.
- Austin's bionic speed is somewhat exaggerated here, suggesting he can run fast enough to be little more than a blur while able to keep up a conversation at the same time.
- The story gets confusing when it comes to the notion of changing history. The future Steve Austin says history decrees that Austin dies in the rocket sled crash, and history must not be changed, so therefore he must take Austin's place - yet that would be mean Austin would have been seen to survive, changing history after all.
Weingardt at the NASA centrifuge chamber receives a call from Oscar Goldman, telling him to have Steve Austin report to him at once. Weingardt enters the chamber and is stunned to see Steve exiting the centrifuge before it has stopped spinning, an impossible feat. Steve agrees to go see Oscar and tells Weingardt that his incredible strength is due to “health food.”
In his office, Oscar tells Steve that an experimental portable nuclear reactor has been stolen by terrorists. Both men know that if the reactor were overloaded, the radioactive fallout could endanger an entire city. Oscar assigns Steve to find the reactor before it’s too late.
Driving home, Steve considers the impossibility of finding the reactor in such a huge idea. He is surprised to find a young boy, Toby Danner, hiding the backseat of his car. Toby was in the hospital during Steve’s bionic conversion; he wants bionic parts to compensate for his crippled leg so the other children will stop making fun of him. Their conversation is interrupted by a news report that the terrorists are hiding the reactor in the depressed town of Wilton, and demand a ransom. Toby, who lives in Wilton, offers to help Steve find the reactor, but Steve drops Toby off and proceeds to the town.
The town is in the middle of a panicked evacuation when Steve arrives. Walking the streets, Steve sees a man reading a dosimeter, and follows him to a warehouse. Inside, two terrorists and a scientist have the reactor hidden inside a truck; the scientist warns that the truck’s sides are rusting out and letting powerful radiation escape. Steve bursts into the warehouse and tries to apprehend the terrorists when his bionic limbs begin to malfunction from the radiation.
Toby arrives at the warehouse, having tracked the radiation with a Geiger counter from the high school. He sees Steve running wild in the warehouse, barely able to keep the terrorists from escaping. Toby correctly guesses that the radiation is the problem, and maneuvers a forklift in the front of the truck, allowing Steve to recover and stop the terrorists.
The police arrive to arrest the terrorists. Toby is more excited than ever to become bionic, but Steve tells him he is worth more without them.
"The Iron Heart"
Oscar Goldman asks Steve Austin what he knows about the Eastern European nation of Valmaria. Steve replies that its king, Sydor, flew through an atomic explosion twenty years ago seemingly without any ill effects. Steve is upset when Oscar tells him he is being sent there for a goodwill visit: Valmaria is a repressive dictatorial monarchy, but Oscar nonetheless sends Steve overseas.
In Valmaria, King Sydor is hosting a ceremony in honor of the famous astronaut. Steve meets Sydor’s nineteen-year-old daughter, Syla, who has a huge crush on him. Sydor announces that Steve will marry Syla, much to Steve’s surprise. When Steve refuses to marry the princess, Sydor orders him shot. Syla demands that Steve be spared, so he is thrown in jail instead.
Syla comes to visit Steve in his cell. She tries to convince Steve to marry her, but Steve remains unmoved. In the distance, they hear a mob outside the castle walls – the local resistance has decided to storm the castle and overthrow Sydor. Steve uses his bionic powers to break out of his cell and confronts the mob as they break in. The mob demands that Sydor sign a bill of rights (freedom of religion, freedom of the press, innocent until proven guilty). They say that unless Sydor signs, his daughter will be killed and he will be hunted to the ends of the Earth. Steve agrees to take their demands to the king.
When Steve explains that Syla’s life is at stake, Sydor agrees to sign the bill, but he finds he cannot make his hands move. He reveals to Steve that as a result of flying through the atomic blast, his daughter was born with strange mental abilities, including being able to control her father’s mind and bend his will. Her control is only broken when she is upset or distracted. Sydor suddenly regains control of himself, leading him to believe that the mob has indeed captured Syla and plans to kill her.
Outside on the castle grounds, the mob has imprisoned Syla in a cage suspended over a well; if her father does not sign the bill, she will be dropped to her death. As Steve approaches, he sees the rope holding the cage is about to break. As the cage falls, Steve kicks out the stone walls of the well, bridging over the opening so that Syla is saved.
Sydor arrives with the signed document. One of the mob draws a gun and shoots, grazing the king’s skull. Steve subdues the gunman, then sees that the king is fine as he agrees to give the people their liberty. Syla says the skull injury now prevents her from controlling her father, but Steve suspects the events of the day have matured her. He tells her once she has grown up a little more, he will come back to Valmaria.
Volume Two (1976)
"Operation Deep Freeze"
- Note: this story ends with Jaime Sommers being referred to by name, the only such reference in the Power Records series. Power/Peter Pan was unable to obtain the rights to The Bionic Woman, resulting in a competing company, Wonderland Records, putting out an album of Jaime stories instead.
"The Haiti Connection"
"The Loch Ness Syndrome"
"To Win an Oscar"
Christmas Adventures (1978)
Christmas-themed adventures, published by Peter Pan, appeared in 1978. These stories were shorter than their non-holiday-themed counterparts, published in a 7" vinyl format.
The stories were a mixture of reasonably plausible espionage adventures that just happened to have a vaguely Christmas theme ("The Toymaker", "The Kris Kringle Kaper") and those that featured illogical interaction with mythical elements ("Christmas Lights", "Elves' Revolt"). However, they also served to confirm the usual, televised meaning of the acronym OSI as "Office of Scientific Intelligence". Some of the stories also — uniquely for Peter Pan/Power's audio dramas based on the series — feature brief rearrangements of Oliver Nelson's Six Million Dollar Man Theme.
In all, there were four adventures available for individual purchase, as well as the collected LP.
Dr. Koenig, a World War II-era émigré, invents a molecular duplicator in order to mass produce toys at a rapid pace. His boss, Danzer, nevertheless fires him, saying that his machine is a fraud, and that Koenig cannot meet the company's production quota. However, the duplicator does work, and Danzer used the firing as a pretext to separate Koenig from his machine. While Koenig believes it can't be used to duplicate something as large as a tank, he can't be sure. Thus, Steve and Oscar must stop Danzer from selling the machine, with its inherent ability to duplicate weapons as well as toys, to an Eastern European bidder,
"The Kris Kringle Kaper"
Steve goes Christmas shopping at the department store, Geffner's, where a loud dispute arises near the store's Santa Claus. A man and a kid named Sandy are in a dispute over a Christmas present. She claims that the man stole the gift that Santa gave her. When he brandishes a weapon, Steve has to use his bionics to diffuse the situation. Later, Oscar reveals that the man was Haverson Fredericks, a member of an espionage ring ostensibly trying to smuggle a top secret electronic fuel cell out of the country. Surmising that the Santa Claus must be a part of the ring, too, Oscar orders Steve to become the replacement Santa Claus, so the OSI can keep tabs on the department store's complicity in the ring. It turns out that the department manager, Maris, was indeed using the Santa Claus presents as a conduit for ferrying the fuel cells. Sandy, it turns out, was being used as an unwitting courier for the fuel cells, taking them from Santa Claus to the espionage ring's boss, "Mr. Big". Oscar tells Steve that he had agents tail Sandy right to Mr. Big, ending the ring's activities.
Dr. Ethel Landis, a cryptologist, concludes that a strange, coded message received by the Colorado Springs Air Defense Command is actually a last message from a planet circling the so-called Star of Bethleham. The message's clarity on Earth is a bit garbled, however, so she recommends sending a man into orbit above the radiation belt. Landis and Austin thus ride a Titan rocket into space on a mission to decode the message. Inside the capsule, Voyager One, trouble brews when space debris impacts the hull, damaging the forward gyros. The trouble spreads to the radio system. Somehow, though, the crew of Voyager One begin to receive the message they were intending to decode. Ethel manages to record it, while Steve comes up with a plan to save them. He guesses that if he links his bionic power source into the ship's system, he might be able to "jump start" the backup power units. The procedure works, but leaves Austin unconscious. Houston is able to bring the capsule back to Earth remotely. Back at the Bionics Laboratory, Steve wakes up after an emergency repair job. Landis reveals her findings to a healing Steve Austin. The message says, "Prepare for a new day". Though an ostensible reference to the fact that the inhabitants were dying as a result of their star's impending super nova, Landis' calculations reveal that the message dates 2011 years in the past, roughly the time of the birth of Christ.
Steve discovers that Santa's elves are in a labor dispute with their boss. Complaining of low wages and bad working condiions, they go an strike. Their "picket line" is literally formed by a terrorist elf named Ramat, whose scheme to bring Santa to the bargaining table involves melting the polar ice cap. Getting a report from the National Weather Service that the ice cap is melting at a rate of 1°/hour, Steve and Oscar rush to the North Pole to see if there's anything they can do to reverse the process. If not, the majority the northern hemisphere will be covered in water by Christmas. However, they are soon captured by Ramat and can do little more than talk to their fellow captive, Santa Claus, about his union problems. In the end, the foreman of the elves comes to his senses and orders his men to stop Ramat. When they do so, they are able to diffuse all the heating elements Ramat had emplaced, and the two sides of the labor dispute reconcile.
- This story directly contradicts the assertion of Population Zero that cold negatively affects bionic performance. It also makes explicit reference to the The Six Million Dollar Man doll.
A 7-inch, 33 1/3-rpm single was released featuring stories from the LP on Peter Pan 2602, however according to the index site Discogs.com, the release contained a number of errors:
- The cover sleeve indicates it is the story "Elves Revolt" - but this story is not on the single.
- The label indicates that Side A is Part 1 of "The Kris Kringle Caper" and Side B is Part 2.
- In reality, however, Side A is the story "The Toymaker", while "The Kris Kringle Caper" is only on Side B.