The Six Million Dollar Man is an American television series about a former astronaut with fictional bionic implants working for the OSI (which was usually referred to as the Office of Scientific Intelligence, the Office of Scientific Investigation or the Office of Strategic Intelligence ). The show was based on the novel Cyborg by Martin Caidin, and during pre-production, that was the proposed title of the series. It aired on the ABC network as a regular series from 1974 to 1978, following three television movies aired in 1973. The title role of Steve Austin was played by Lee Majors, who subsequently became a pop culture icon of the 1970s. A spin-off of the show was produced, The Bionic Woman, as well as several television movies featuring both eponymous characters.
The background story of the original novel and the later series is the crash of former astronaut Steve Austin in a “lifting body” craft, shown in the opening credits of the show (the lifting body craft mostly shown was a Northrop M2-F2, however in the episode "The Deadly Replay", a Northrop HL-10, identified as such in dialog, was used). Austin is severely injured in the crash and is “rebuilt” in a title-giving operation that costs six million dollars. His right arm, both legs and the left eye are replaced by "bionic" implants that enhance his strength, speed and vision far above human norms: he can run at speeds of , and his eye has a 20:1 zoom lens and infrared capabilities. He uses his enhanced abilities to work for the OSI (Office of Scientific Intelligence ) as a secret agent (and as a guinea pig for bionics).
Caidin’s novel was a best-seller when it was published in 1972 and was followed by three sequels, Cyborg II: Operation Nuke, Cyborg III: High Crystal, and Cyborg IV (with no subtitle), respectively about a black market in nuclear weapons, a Chariots of the Gods scenario, and fusing Austin's bionics to a space plane. None of these plotlines were utilized in the TV series.
In March 1973, Cyborg was loosely adapted as a made-for-TV movie starring Majors as Austin (although usually referred to by the title The Six Million Dollar Man, and that is the precise wording used on the original ABC broadcast, this film is sometimes cited by the longer title Cyborg: Six Million Dollar Man). The adaptation was done by writer Howard Rodman working under the pseudonym of Henri Simoun. The film, which was nominated for a Hugo Award, modified Caidin's plot, and notably made Austin a civilian astronaut, rather than an Air Force officer. Absent were some of the standard features of the later series: the electronic sound effects, the slow motion running, and the character of Oscar Goldman (instead, another character named Oliver Spencer, played by Darren McGavin, was Austin's supervisor, of an organization here called the OSO). The lead scientist involved in making Austin bionic, Dr. Rudy Wells, was played in the pilot by Martin Balsam, then on an occasional basis in the series by Alan Oppenheimer, and, finally, as a series regular, by Martin E. Brooks. Austin does not use the enhanced capabilities of his bionic eye at any time during the film.
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