‘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.’
When a television show or movie makes a point of showcasing the latest technological advances, in an attempt to make the show seem futuristic, you can be sure that the show will date badly. Technology progresses at such a rapid rate these days, that as soon as you have purchased the latest piece of equipment or gadget, it is already obsolete. Technological advancements were not so rapid in the 1970s but looking back at the hi-tech world of The Six Million Dollar Man, it all seems rather clunky and primitive today. It’s easy to laugh at how hokey The Six Million Dollar Man is, but that wouldn’t be fair. Maybe I am looking back through rose coloured glasses, but in it’s day The Six Million Dollar Man was one of the most imaginative and inspiring shows on television. At the very least it inspired me to run around at school in slow motion believing I was running incredibly fast. It also had me jumping off the roof of my parents chicken coop, believing I was making bionic leaps. But enough of that – it’s getting embarrassing.
For those not familiar with the show (shame on you), it’s concerns an ex-astronaut, Steve Austin (Lee Majors), who now works for the OSI as an operative on their most demanding missions. What makes Austin special, is that after an accident, test piloting an experimental NASA jet aircraft, he lost both legs, an arm, and an eye. At a cost of six million dollars, the OSI stepped in and ‘rebuilt’ Austin, giving him bionic (robotic) legs, a new arm and eye. Now he can run faster, jump higher or kick harder than any man. With his arm he can punch, push, pull or throw further than any man. And finally, with his bionic eye, which has telescopic and infra-red functions, he can see further than us mere mortals. While not quite being a super man, Steve Austin is still quite a package and capable of taking on armies of evil doers all around the world.
This episode starts in a scientific testing centre, under the guidance of Dr. Dolenz (Henry Jones). Dolenz is presenting the fruits of his scientific experiments to Mr. Wilson (Lloyd Bochner). Who Wilson works for or represents is never really explained. For the test, a muscle bound guy walks up to a stacked set of weights which are resting on the floor. He tries to lift the bar over his head, but cannot complete the lift. It is too heavy. The behemoth walks off, and another gentleman, whose face we don’t see because he is wearing a hooded jacket, approaches the weights. He lifts them up with one hand. Wilson is impressed and walks around to the front of this super strong fellow, only not to see a face, but a cavity with a mess of wires and circuit boards. This is not a man but a robot. The robot is being prepared to steal a missile guidance system.
When we first meet Steve Austin in this episode, he is playing a game of tennis with an old buddy of his, Fred Sloan (John Saxon). Using his bionic eye to target the sidelines, Steve wins the match, but they both promise each other a return match. After the game, they both have important meetings, which co-incidentally (or so it seems) are at the tennis court. Well not so co-incidentally, as Oscar Goldman of the OSI has arranged to meet both of them after the game. You see Sloan has perfected a new anti missile missile system (that is a missile which shoots other missiles out of the sky). The new system is being tested on the following day, and Steve has been chosen to play body guard and get Sloan to the test with the projects most essential component – an activator card.
En route, Sloan starts to feel ill, and asks Steve to pull over at the next petrol station. Steve does, and Sloan heads to the nearest bathroom, only to be clobbered over the head by two goons and shunted into the back of a delivery van. A robot version of Sloan replaces the real one, and makes the rest of the journey with Steve Austin.
Of course, the whole purpose of this episode is to have Steve go up against someone who is more powerful than he is, and have him rely on his wits rather than his bionic limbs to get him out of trouble, and on that level the story works pretty well. It helps that John Saxon plays, both Steve’s friend and the robot. This was made just before Saxon was typecast forever as a bad guy, and shows he can be a personable and likable actor. And as the robot, well that doesn’t require much acting – but still he sells it.
Day Of The Robot is a pretty good entry in the series, and (minor spoiler ahead) Dr. Dolenz slips away at the end of the episode…who knows, maybe Dolenz will turn up again with his evil robots once again…