The History of The Six Million Dollar Man


Definition of the hit sci-fi series

The Six Million Dollar Man is a science fiction television series, based on Martin Caidin’s best-selling 1972 novel “Cyborg.” The series starred Lee Majors in the title role and successfully ran for five seasons, from 1974 to 1978. Richard Anderson and Martin E. Brooks also had lead roles in the series. The series also spawned a spinoff The Bionic Woman starring Lindsay Wagner.

Most famous Six Million Dollar Man quote – Opening of the TV show

“Steve Austin, astronaut. A man barely alive. Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to build the world’s first bionic man. Steve Austin will be that man. Better than he was before. Better, stronger, faster.” ~ Oscar Goldman, Steve Austin’s superior.


Origins of the series, and the launch of “The Six Million Dollar Man” TV series

Author Martin Caidin (b. 1927 – d. 1997) was known for his stories of technology and its relationship and connection to society and the government. One of Caidin’s recurring characters is the cyborg. This is basically a human that has been fitted with machines. His novel Cyborg was published in 1972 and became a best-seller. Cyborg would become the source material of the popular sci-fi series.

Seeking to capitalize on the novel’s success, the producers at ABC successfully translated Cyborg onto the small screen. The first of the Cyborg‘s adaptations was a TV movie entitled The Six Million Dollar Man, which also starred Majors.

The TV movie became a success. It also yielded two more Cyborg-related TV movies, The Six Million Dollar Man: “Wine, Women and War” as well as The Six Million Dollar Man: “The Solid Gold Kidnapping.” Both of these also became hits which encouraged ABC to launch a regular television series based on Cyborg. This series was unveiled in January 1974 and was simply titled The Six Million Dollar Man.

What’s the series all about?

The series starred Majors as the lead character Steve Austin. Austin was an astronaut who nearly died in a plane crash on his return to Earth. The accident leaves him terribly crippled. The government decides to reconstruct Austin’s damaged body  parts with machines. The government spends $6 million on the bionic parts that are fitted into his body. In the series, Austin’s left eye, right arm, and both legs are replaced. These experimental bionic parts give Austin superhuman powers.

As a way of repaying the government’s efforts to bring him back to life, as well as giving him extraordinary powers, Austin in turn works for the Office of Scientific Intelligence (OSI) as a secret agent. Of course, he utilizes his reinforced and enhanced abilities to carry out his missions.

What are the Six Million Dollar Man’s powers?

If you have ever watched The Six Million Dollar Man, you may wish you had some of his superhuman powers to work for your own advantage, without looking like a total robot. These enhancements that give Steve Austin unbelievable powers include:

  • uncanny night (infrared) vision
  • bionic sight in his one eye which has a 20:1 zoom lens
  • one powerful arm, which has as much strength as a bulldozer
  • ability to run beyond 60 mph

Unlike in the TV series, the lead character from Martin Caidin’s original novels has significantly fewer powers. However, in the original book versions the cyborg there has some quite cool armaments and devices built into his body. These include a poison dart gun in his arm, radio transmitter embedded into his rib, as well as a skull reinforced with steel (stainless most likely). These amazing powers more than make up for his lack of bionic sight. Still, it would be interesting to be able to use any of the powers Steve Austin had, whether from the book or the television series.

The TV series’ impact and spin-off series “The Bionic Woman”

The Six Million Dollar Man became a hit and soon grew to be a pop culture icon. The same goes for Majors, too, who was propelled into stardom. Classic elements of the show included unique sound effects as well as the slow-motion sequences that were considered as groundbreaking. And, of course, who can forget the famous line: “Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology.”

The Six Million Dollar Man also produced a spin-off series, The Bionic Woman. It introduced Jamie Sommers, portrayed by Lindsay Wagner. Sommers was one of the recurring characters on The Six Million Dollar Man. She was Austin’s love interest. And like Austin, she was fitted with bionic parts following a parachuting accident. But unlike him, Sommers died along the way.

However, Wagner’s character of Sommers became so popular that she was given her own series, The Bionic Woman. The series debuted in 1976 and eventually became a hit as well, running for two more seasons.

Because of The Six Million Dollar Man‘s fame and success, it launched a profitable merchandise campaign and commercial tie-in’s. Toys, lunchboxes, board games, eyeglasses, bed sheets, action figures and anything else that carried the image of the Steve Austin character — rolled out in many stores.

The classic sci-fi/action series also spawned numerous adaptations in different formats such as comic books, comic strip series, audio records, and TV movie reunions.

There are no theatrical film adaptations so far, although there have been attempts to bring The Six Million Dollar Man to the big screen. It appears legal that matters seemed to hold back these attempts. In November 2014, however, it was reported that actor Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg would be making a theatrical movie which is reported to be renamed The Six Billion Dollar Man and will be released some time in 2016.

Only hearing about the possibility of The Six Million Dollar Man being adapted into a movie already sounds exciting. Fans of the classic sci-fi series hope that this isn’t just talks – and that they will finally see their favorite sci-fi TV show jump to the big screen.

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