harsens_rob (harsens_rob) wrote,

Six Million Dollar Man, reviewed: "Population: Zero"


The Six Million Dollar Man
Population: Zero

Writer: Elroy Schwartz
DIR: Jeannot Szwarc

Blurb (partial - Bionic Wiki): When all 23 residents of the small town of Norris appear to have died simultaneously from an unknown cause, Steve Austin dons a spacesuit and ventures into the town to investigate.

Scene 01: We open simply on a road sign for the city limits of Norris, revealing a very tiny hamlet with an official population of 23.

We skip through Norris, CA to find a doll abandoned on a swing as we hear no sounds but the wind blowing through the dusty town.

In a backyard, we suddenly see a woman who had been hanging laundry. She’s not moving.

A tumbleweed blows by the Norris city limits sign, and we find several more people lying still in the roadway. From the distance we hear the sound of an engine approaching.

Scene 02: This turns out to be a motorcycle approaching the town. It’s a highway patrolman stopping into Norris for a cup of coffee. Our cop comes to a stop and dismounts before noticing the people lying about where they apparently fell going through their day to day activities.

Our officer gazes around in a growing sense of shocked horror as in every direction, people lie or sit in utter stillness. There doesn’t seem to be a single one alive in the town.

He “oh, my god”. Paul grabs his radio to report into dispatch on the horror in front of him. He tells dispatch to stand by and goes to the closest man, where he listens desperately for a heartbeat. To do this, he has to remove his helmet. Moments later, he’s reacting in pain to something unseen.

He tries to block his ears before falling to the ground, and then reacts as if he’s having the worst headache of his life. Disoriented, he cannot stand, but crawls his way back toward his radio.

Commentary: And this opening is supremely well set up, though we’ll have to admit here that it’s designed to echo the opening to “The Andromeda Strain”. It sets up a wonderfully creepy atmosphere, like that movie, and it has the outside guy come in and be struck down by whatever has apparently killed all of the residents.

It’s a strong opening…

Scene 03: Elsewhere, we see the top of a van. It has a camera mounted to a pair of small, parabolic dishes being pointed in a generally downward direction. Someone watches Paul on a bank of monitors crawling desperately for his radio for help.

With Paul’s shout of anguish, a middle aged man in a suit hits a button. The whirr of a transmitter grows louder as he watches Paul just making it to the motorcycle, while yelling out in pain.

Scene 04: With Paul, a high pitched whine pummels his brain, trying to incapacitate him. He fights through it to warn Bonnie on the other end not to approach the town, before he collapses on his back, grabbing the sides of his head and seemingly succumbing to whatever the bad guy is sending from his van.

Scene 05: Once Paul has been rendered dead or unconscious, our bad guy and his two assistants begin shutting down the mobile device used against Norris.

Middle Aged Bad Guy tells the others that their message has been sent, pompously, and then tells them they’ll have to see what The Establishment does about it.

Commentary: Okay, so… well, I have to admit that I’d much have rather seen a repeat of Piedmont, NM being wiped out by a killer microbe that Steve and the OSI have to stop. Alas, we’re just going to get a bad guy who can be stopped by the end of the episode.

But, that opening was well shot by Jeannot and the more that Paul struggled, the more I liked him [but then he is played by Paul Carr, who is somebody I like seeing in general].

CREDITS do their job

Scene 06: We now join Steve Austin in a garage, where he’s working on his dune buggy, picking up a roll bar and bending it into shape to add to his desert ride. Oscar stops by for a pre-arranged meeting, but tells Steve he can’t stay long as he has to head back to D.C.

He tells Steve that their meeting they were supposed to have will have to be postponed. When Steve asks what is going on, Oscar tells him about the small town whose population appears to have all died. He tells Steve the area has been sealed off and they’re trying to decide what to do.

When Steve is informed it’s a little place called Norris, he’s shocked. He tells Oscar that he knew those people, as he went to high school only 20 miles from that town [which retroactively puts Norris in the vicinity of Ojai, CA].

Oscar tells Steve that they can’t risk sending him in yet because of his monetary value as an agent and besides, he has another assignment for him coming up. Steve says that’s fine, he can give him the details of the new assignment by reaching him at the army command base at Norris.

Commentary: And this will be one of several times when Steve [and later Jaime] will completely ignore Oscar. In fact, when Oscar is later abducted by Dr. Franklin, he’ll even joke that he’s surprised when Steve ever actually listens to his instructions. Nevertheless, Oscar and Steve maintain a lifelong friendship, and Richard Anderson and Lee Majors are always great together with a natural chemistry that really helps sell their mutual respect, even when they’re griping at one another. The casting in replacing the MIA Oliver Spencer with Oscar Goldman before the series was put in place was an excellent choice in retrospect, though it does still bother me that we never got an ‘official hand off’ from Darren to Richard.

Scene 07: Steve is stopped at a checkpoint three miles from command, but finds out that Oscar phoned ahead to smooth his way past the blockade, rather than wasting time trying to fight against Steve’s plans to help.

Scene 08: Later, Steve meets the General in charge of the operation, who is instructing that he wants hourly reports on wind speed and direction in case there is an airborne pathogen or gas that has caused the apparent extermination of Norris.

Austin asks for some technical details on what they’ve observed thus far, and he directs him to the medical officer in charge of the investigation - Dr. Forbes [and being the 70s, we have to have the “*gasp*- you’re a girl!” moment, though thankfully it isn’t overplayed painfully].

Dr. Chris Forbes takes the Colonel’s moment of discombobulation with good humor. The doctor shows Steve photos from flights over the town at half hour intervals where people are clearly lying in the roads unmoving [in fact, the photos are actually from a flyover of Piedmont in ‘The Andromeda Strain’, making the inspiration for this episode blatant… not that that’s a bad thing].

The briefing is interrupted by the announcement of a truck from NASA. The General tells the reporting soldier he wasn’t expecting anything from NASA, and Colonel Austin reports he ordered it.

Commentary: What I liked about this short scene is that Steve goes through the usual possibilities of radiation, gas leak, pollutant, etc. and it’s clear that the army already went through all of those possibilities and can explain that all their tests were negative. Rather than the hero having to come in and ask for the obvious, the professionals already in place are treated as competently able to assess the situation without the star’s presence. And I liked Penny Fuller almost immediately as Dr. Forbes.

What I didn’t like though was the setup of Steve’s delivery from NASA, which is treated as mysterious. It doesn’t make sense that Austin wouldn’t have warned the General that he had a special delivery, in order to make sure that the NASA truck wasn’t held up. The only reason to do so would be to make his special order mysterious to us, and that wasn’t necessary -- in fact, it does exactly what the episode had just avoided by having Steve think ahead to order isolation suits --- surely something that would’ve already been on site and having been used by medical technicians.

It’s clumsy and it’s only because they’re trying to keep the audience thinking that The Six Million Dollar Man is starting the series by wiping out a whole small town. In actuality, we’re about to find out the town’s residents aren’t dead but we, naturally, couldn’t have the dayplayers find that out on their own to build the mystery. It has to be Steve, so of course nobody else bothers with sending in a team in hazmat suits.

Scene 09: Steve meets the delivery and there is some banter about having a space suit delivered when it was originally custom made and so won’t be of much use to anybody other than the astronaut that used it to walk on the moon. Which of course, was Steve himself, but he plays along with thinking that he’ll just try it on and see if he gets lucky.

A wipe later and Steve is dressed in his moon suit, joking with the delivery guy when he asks his name, only to find it’s on the suit.

Scene 10: Austin is driven closer to the impacted area, where he readies to go into the town, over Dr. Forbes’ worried objection.

Steve tracks up a small hill, on which the town resides on the other side. He reports that nothing has changed since the last photo updates they reviewed.

Scene 11: General Tate joins Chris at the waiting jeeps outside of the town area. He’s there to relay and stop Austin from going into the town alone, under direct orders from Oscar, but of course he’s a bit late now.

Steve radios back in to Forbes; He’s just entering town and is beginning to check on the bodies lying around the ghost town.

Commentary: This scene is problematic as well. Even not being a doctor himself, there is zero reason that Steve wouldn’t notice that these people aren’t dead, heavy suit or not. Yes, they’re all deeply unconscious, but an unconscious person doesn’t have the same color and skin tone as a corpse, especially when at least 8 hours and probably more has passed in the meantime.

In fact, Steve should be noticing that everybody is getting one hell of a sunburn from lying out all day under the CA sun, something that would not happen if they were dead. And, even a layman would notice that nobody appears to be in rigor or decay.

So this part, despite the creepy visuals and the haunting whistle on the soundtrack just doesn’t quite work. Maybe if they just hadn’t made this so many, many hours later the fake-out would’ve worked a bit better [being the 70s, yes it is possible that they could’ve started off an episode with a small town being destroyed… it was a very pessimistic decade].

Scene 12: Steve hears a groan, and finds a woman alive in her tipped on its side car. Since she’s not quite come around yet, Austin risks his public bionics to right her automobile [which he’s able to do because the front fender has been affixed by the world’s strongest epoxy, apparently].

As Mrs. Nelson comes around, Steve reports in on a survivor. As he glances around the town, he notices that everybody else is also beginning to stir.

Everyone is still alive! Yay!

Scene 13: Back at the army post, Steve is on the phone with Oscar being given the second degree for rushing into a dangerous and unknown situation, when he knew that Oscar didn’t want him taking unnecessary risks.

Goldman asks Steve about the victims, but so far the townspeople don’t seem to recall what exactly happened in the moments before they were all rendered unconscious.

Scene 14: Outside, the army is promising that General Tate will be briefing the populace on what happened briefly. One of our residents, Mr. Barnes, asks about the ‘civilian who seems to pull a lot of weight’ and is told about Austin working for one of those D.C. agencies.

Mr. Barnes is none other than our Middle Aged Bad Guy, who we’ll go ahead and call Dr. Stanley Bacon now for convenience.

“Mr. Barnes” is glad that their situation has reached such a high level that it’s being investigated by Oscar Goldman, who somehow this “small town resident” claims to have heard of. But Dr. Bacon is clearly not as pleased that the OSI are snooping around.

Scene 15: Meanwhile, Mrs. Nelson is with Dr. Forbes and describing her lack of memory in what exactly happened to her. She remembers a sense of pain, and a sudden feeling that somebody was coming after her but she can’t explain either.

She’s told to try to get some rest, before Chris tells Steve that this is the same story they’re all telling. A sense of sudden onset pain, but no memory of what happened just before or during the sensation.

Steve asks if there is any way they can break through the mental block, and Dr. Forbes offers that she’d like to try a technique called Narcosynthesis. Under Steve’s suggestion, Old Joe Taylor is chosen to try with.

Scene 16: Under light sedation, Joe is hypnotized to take him back to that morning.

Joe suddenly relives excruciating pain, and leaps from his cot. To the noise, a soldier comes in and Joe grabs his rifle before the young soldier can respond. He butts him in the face. Turning on Steve and Chris now, Joe threatens to kill them for what they’re doing to him.

Steve is able to talk him into following his direction, claiming that if he kneels down, the way Steve is now, the pain will stop. Joe alas is too confused to follow even this simple directive, but that’s okay since it was a trick anyway. Steve uses his bionics to leap across the tent and tackle the poor old dude to the ground before he can accidentally shoot anybody.

Post tackle, Joe recovers without any memory of how he ended up on the ground, and seemingly little worse for wear.

[No information on the hell the young soldier went through by his squad for letting an old storekeeper take his weapon from him and stun him to the face with it.]

Commentary: This is the first episode and certain things hadn’t been established yet, like in the movies, regarding sound FX. Here Steve is clearly using his bionics for his leap but we’ll not get the ‘bionic-sound’ that is part of our culture by now. They do use a musical cue to help out, but it just isn’t the same.

Scene 17: A bit later, Chris is asking Steve how he performed such a leap. He tells her that he eats a lot of jumping beans, the first of many times that Steve will offer an entirely ridiculous excuse in jest in order to avoid a security issue with revealing his cyborg nature.

Across the encampment, Steve sees Officer Paul Cord sitting in the back of a jeep looking a little lost and confused. Apparently, he’d specifically asked to speak to the colonel, and they now find out why.

Although Paul offers it may not be important, he recalls that the pain that rendered him unconscious hadn’t started until he’d taken it off in order to check on the postman. While his helmet was on, he wasn’t affected by whatever was happening. He also tells Steve and Dr. Forbes that the pain started in his ears, but he didn’t actually hear anything - just felt the crippling and overwhelming pain.

From this, Steve hazards a guess that the town could’ve been hit with a sonic weapon.

Scene 18: Elsewhere and at Barnes’ Cold Storage and Freezer, Dr. Bacon arrives with a box. He glances around suspiciously for peeping toms and then enters.

Inside is one of Bacon’s colleagues, to whom Bacon enthuses that things are going their way. He shares that Oscar Goldman has been assigned to look into what they did to the town, and he’s only called in when the government is serious. His colleague asks about their next step and Bacon tells them they’ll go right for the money with the ransom demand.

Commentary: Yeah. All of this in order to demand a ransom. Thankfully for Dr. Bacon, the U.S. isn't yet just droning everyone to death.

Scene 19: In the command tent, Steve receives a relayed message from the secured teletype machine from an analysis run by - uh - Washington, apparently and presumably satellite data. The computer analysis reports that there were ultra-high frequencies detected around the anomaly by -uh- a satellite... and it is just now being reported when somebody specifically asks because -uh-.

It turns out that the ‘sonic footprint’ of the waves detected indicate an experimental weapon researched by the U.S. in equipping foot soldiers with incapacitating weaponry.

The project was abandoned three years previously due to being unable to solve the mobile power requirements to make it a viable alternative to bullets. And the project’s former head, Dr. Stanley Bacon disappeared 18 months ago.

As they’re putting together that Bacon must not have given up on his pet project [which will be uncommonly common among our rather unpatriotic science divisions in future as well], a copter comes flying over the post, buzzing them.

[Because, unlike Piedmont, the Air Force apparently isn’t involved in security around Norris - very thankfully for the bad guys.]

It releases flyers.

Scene 20: The flyers are, of course, the ransom note. The note indicates that the government has until the following morning to deliver 10 million dollars [no details how this is to be accomplished] or another town will have the device used on it, and this time nobody will survive.

Scene 21: That evening, we’re back in D.C.

Oscar, as is his Fate, is busy being harassed by the Secretary who is never interested in cooperating with Goldman. He’s forced to read the Ransom Note, Part II which does actually have instructions as to how to deliver the money.

Goldman is put on stand-by while Mr. Secretary takes things to the President.

Scene 22: Back at the security teletype, Steve is told to stand by, which he’s very unhappy about.

Outside, Steve gazes morose into a barrel fire, and after reading the very short note from Oscar, Dr. Forbes joins him to commiserate. Chris brings up the feat Steve performed earlier that day. She mentions that she’s a doctor with high security classification, and she’s up to date on current medical research. She guesses that Steve may’ve been enhanced related to the work of bionics and Dr. Rudy Wells, but Steve won’t directly comment.

Chris tries asking how Steve’s modifications feel, but he snappily tells her it’s all peachy. She apologizes for prying. He apologizes back for being sensitive about being a medical curiosity, she gets flirtatious.

[Thankfully, before I vomit,] A call comes through, interrupting, from Washington. It’s Oscar reporting that the State Department won’t authorize the ransom money. Goldman reports that the computer analysis has determined that Bacon’s device can’t kill because he can’t supply the necessary power and the FBI is convinced they’ll have Bacon in custody within 24 hours. Even if another town gets hit with temporary unconsciousness, shortly after this whole conspiracy will be shut down.

Steve is angered at the idea of just standing around waiting. Oscar tells him Federal Agents are on their way to take over the case. He orders Steve to back off and let them handle things. Steve snots and ignores, as he is in the habit of doing.

The General questions Steve about the money and is told it ain’t happening. But Austin also tells Tate that he needs an armored truck, and implies that Oscar has ordered that he drive the empty truck to confront Bacon and his cronies.

Commentary: I’m just going to comment here again on Penny Fuller. I really liked her Dr. Chris Forbes character and her interactions with Steve [even the flirting wasn’t too obnoxious]. But what I liked about this scene, are the indications that Steve still hasn’t dealt fully with his being different from the people around him. Despite the physical enhancements and the good he can do with them, Austin remains suffering a stigma in regards to his robotic parts and I like that the character consistency is being carried through from the tele-movies.

Scene 23: The next morning before the Feds can arrive and shut down Steve’s plan, he’s driving out to the rendezvous point in the middle of nowhere in the empty armored vehicle.

The truck is being tracked via a transponder at the command tent.

Drive, Track, Drive, Track.

Scene 24: Steve is joined by a jeep with masked, armed men shortly after he stops.

Steve tells the guys that there isn’t any money coming, because Washington has figured out already that they’re dealing with Dr. Bacon. Austin tells them that they need to take him to Dr. Bacon before everything goes sideways for them.

They do so, though not without some angry, intimidating shoving. And a knock over the back of the head to knock Steve out for the ride.

Scene 25: Meanwhile, Oscar has arrived to the base camp and is greeted by Dr. Forbes.

He’s not pleased when he finds that Steve isn’t awaiting his arrival and it falls to Chris to inform him that Austin has gone off on his own.

Scene 26: At the secret refrigeration hideout, Dr. Bacon notices that Austin is without a pulse on his right wrist, but has a regular pulse on his left and at his neck. He thinks that’s a bit weird, but also being a former government researcher with high level intelligence access, he’s heard the same medical experiments going on surrounding Dr. Wells as Chris Forbes.

Further exam reveals the differences in the lens reactions to light between Steve’s right and left eye. Bacon figures out that Wells must’ve had success and he’s looking at one of his cyborgs.

Bacon excitedly has ‘Frank’ hand him a Geiger counter and starts a sweep of Steve’s body, where he picks up the nuclear power packs that drive Steve’s bionics.

[And, OMG, Dr. Bacon has some 70’s deliciousness as henchman! Heeelllllooooo….]

Commentary: Unfortunately, there are all sorts of logic problems that are set up with Steve’s bionics and which get a highlight here as a plot point. One of these, is of course, that Steve could be walking around leaking minute bits of radioactivity in sufficient quantities to be picked up and have his human tissue exposed to this field 24/7/365. Including his now irradiated testicles. Not only is Steve looking at a high cancer risk, but his future spawn is risking chromosomal damage.

And let’s not even consider Steve’s ocular implant’s power pack leaking radiation inside of his skull!

It’s unfortunate that 70s TV didn’t consider logical consequences a bit more seriously when they were developing their programs. Or that I can’t just turn off my brain, like I could do as a kid, and not bother considering the implications of the way Steve’s bionics are portrayed.

Scene 27: Steve comes around to Dr. Bacon’s having figured out exactly what has been done to Austin by Goldman, and that means he won’t just be tied up and left in a room to escape.

Further, Bacon excitedly asks questions about Steve’s construction, which he answers good naturedly, if reluctantly since Stan has it all figured out anyway. But when Steve mentions how much he cost, Bacon’s mood turns decidedly sour. He’s suddenly incensed that Oscar found 6 million dollars to spend on Rudy Wells, while his own project was de-funded, instead of receiving the resources necessary to overcome the power pack limitations.

Stan asks about Goldman being at the command center, and Steve tells him he should’ve arrived by now. He tries to tell Bacon that Oscar is there to negotiate, but Stanley doesn’t buy it. He accuses Steve of being there as a ploy to stall because Washington doesn’t believe he can pull of his ransom consequences. Steve admits that their computer analysis is telling D.C. that he can’t do what he threatened.

Dr. Bacon informs Steve that he does, in fact, have the power necessary. It only cost him some bribe money to allow him to connect his device directly into the local power grid. Steve offers that he can speak to Oscar, but Stanley is too angry for that now. He tells Austin that people will die now. Steve begs he not hurt the innocents of Norris again, but Bacon informs him he’s going to turn the weapon on the command center and kill the battalion of soldiers stationed there, along with Oscar Goldman. He figures the government will be more than willing to pay even more than the previously demanded 10 million the next time around.

And for the cherry on top, Steve himself will be reduced to a pile of junk.

Commentary: I really loved Don Porter in this scene. Unlike the mwah-hah-hah bad guyness of his previous bits, this one really had some emotion behind it. I liked the way that he handled on his face the realization that Oscar spent six times as much on Wells’ pet project as he ever got for his. And I liked the way that he flat out told Steve that he was going to kill a lot of people, without a shred of remorse, anger or joy. It’s simply a fact to show the government what he can do, in order to get the money “he deserves”. It was some very nice acting, here.

Scene 28: After a not commercial break, Austin is marched into a freezer unit.

Steve tells him that killing him is worthless since Federal Agents will be swarming the area by now. But Stanley is thinking ahead. He informs Steve he isn’t going to be killed yet. He’s going to be left for later use, as an ace in the hole, to trade if things go sideways. In the meantime, the freezer at 20 below will render his bionics inert, if he’s guessing their function correctly.

Commentary: Again, this is some nice acting by Don and I enjoyed his command of the situation. Also, ‘Frank’ and ‘Oscar’ the henchmen remain providing eye candy. But Stanley is entirely incorrect about the effects of cold on Steve’s systems. Well, okay, he’s entirely correct within universe -- but he shouldn’t be.

This is another logic issue when it comes to how bionics are portrayed as working, and for a full explanation, visit this episode’s page on the Wiki. If anything, Steve’s bionics shouldn’t have a problem with extreme cold, so much as with heat running around as he does in the desert. And what’s more, Steve’s human cells would be damaged far before his bionics would be impacted even if the cold were severe enough to render them dysfunctional. In fact, Steve should probably be near death by the time he bionics could get cold enough to stop working.


Scene 29: Bacon leaves with Frank and Oscar (not Goldman) to set up the weapon to target the command center. Steve is left in the freezer with one guardsman to keep him secured.

Alas, Steve chooses to stand around rather than take the risk of busting out immediately.

Scene 30: At command center, Oscar has just gotten a disappointing update. Dr. Forbes worries over Steve’s fate.

Scene 31: The utility truck carrying Bacon, hot henchmen and sonic weapon toodles down the dusty back roads along the path of the electrical towers.

Scene 32: Steve begins to frost up, still not breaking out immediately before he freezes.

Scene 33: In the tent, Oscar gets a teletype of updated computer projections. It turns out that oops- Bacon could turn his weapon up to kill with about 7,000 volts administered to run the projector.

General Tate tells him that would mean hooking up to the local station, and Oscar orders a call to the local utility.

Scene 34: At said plant, Oscar is assured over the phone that nobody could tap them for 7,000 volts without their immediately knowing it. But, we can see that the plant manager is Dr. Bacon’s associate from earlier and obviously the man who he bribed to get in on the share of the wealth.

Goldman is assured that the plant’s security officers will be on alert and no one will be allowed to pull whatever-whatever switch to provide that sort of power without authorization.

Whoever immediately gets on a mobile phone to Dr. Bacon’s Utility Truck of Death to report in [while his tie appallingly clashes with his shirt - ughhh, the 70s].

Scene 35: In the van, Bacon is told about Goldman having figured out that the local power grid will be a target to make his weapon work and he’d better hurry.

Scene 36: In the freezer, Steve finally decides it’s time to bust out, but now his bionics are malfunctioning [not to mention his suffering some frost bite from hell… oh, wait, no he isn’t - he just should be].

Austin looks around and finds a gas shut off valve inside the freezer. He spies on the oxygen tank that Bacon gave him because the air gets stale inside the old meat locker and starts to formulate a plan [a little late]. He lumbers stiffly to the gas line.

Scene 37: In the meantime, we have more riveting driving action with Dr. Bacon and studly henchman.

[Wow. Needed scene, thank you so much.]

Back in the Deep Freeze, Steve works on the shut off valve, though he is very weakened.

Utility Van of Death drives. [OKAY-- STOP IT.]

Steve manages to pull a gas pipe free of the line. He readies to yank on another line [possibly electrical]. [NO REALLY. STOP CUTTING BACK AND FORTH.]

Utility Van drives.

Steve yanks conduit from wall, barely [And at this point, I stopped numbering the scene swaps individually and consolidated them here. They’re really annoying me with the crappy view scene switches to Utility Truck driving along dirt track].

Back to the frickin’ Van driving.  [No, really. They’re still not at the substation to power their frickin’ weapon of Oscar killing doom. Driving, driving, driving.]

Back with Steve, he’s pulling the room apart still to enact his plan to get free.

[I begin a weepy, half-crazed laugh…] Utility Van drives, drives, drives along dirt track.

Steve reconnects the electrical conduit pipe into the emergency gas valve line.

Van drives, drives, drives [oh, god, stop the torture…!]

Steve hooks up the other end of the electrical conduit pipe to the oxygen tank.

Utility truck drives and drives, lumbering along ever so slowly [because Jeannot or George Ohanian - the editor - has clearly lost his/their minds -- and I am now too: STOP IT, STOP IT, STOP IT!!].

Steve does something more… [I think now that he’s fashioning a blow torch].

Van. Driving. It stops.

Steve turns on the emergency gas valve.

Dr. Bacon and sexy henchman spy down the valley on the unsuspecting command center.

Steve starts his makeshift blowtorch up.

Bacon’s henchman connect the Utility Van Death Beam to the power transformer.

Steve cuts through the brackets helping to secure the heavy freezer door [his face and human fingers should be turning black, instead of just being covered in fake Christmas tree snow spray].

Scene 38: Guardsman hears something odd from behind the freezer door and so stands in front of it, listening closer. Steve pushes with his barely functional bionic arm against the door. The door is pushed in and collapses on Guardsman, freeing Steve -- Finally.

Scene 39: Back with Bacon, his device is finally connected to the power grid after the 5 hour drive at 15 mph to the middle of Nowhere Ridge.

The generator on the Sonic Weapon is powered up.

Scene 40: Steve starts the long cross country run. But his bionic legs are still super cooled, causing a lot of stumbling, and an inability to move at vehicle speeds.

Scene 41: In the Van of Imminent Death, the weapon is deployed.

Scene 42: Steve lopsidedly runs, as his bionics begin to reheat themselves up to functional temperatures. He finally starts being able to run at greater than human speeds across the California scrublands.

Commentary: And in a very nice and attentive touch, only the human armpit of Steve actually sweats, while his right side remains dry. That was a nice detail not to overlook.

Alas, we still don’t have the bionic sounds in place. But the slo-mo helps us understand what is happening, along with his heartbeat on the soundtrack. It’s a nice way of suggesting that Steve is moving into vehicle speeds.

Scene 43: Down in the temporary base, Dr. Forbes is staring up at the ridgeline in puzzlement as Oscar comes out of the command tent. She brings his attention to something reflecting from near the high tension lines.

Scene 44: The sonic dishes are aimed as the army soldiers’ attention is also brought on the reflection from up the mountain.

Steve in the meantime runs and runs.

Scene 45: Sonic Attack begins and despite Dr. Forbes’ warning to cover their ears, that isn’t enough with the added power to the device to save them from being disabled by the high frequency waves being directed at them. Everyone starts to collapse in suffering.

Scene 46: Steve arrives above the Utility Van and spots it pointing its directional dishes down toward the command post. Looking around, he spots a storage depot area and rushes over to it, where he pulls a metal fence post out of the ground.

Steve runs with his makeshift javelin, and lets fly right into the Utility Van of Doom Rays.

Driver Henchman spots him running at them with the metal post and bangs at the interior of the Utility Van to warn his boss that Austin is headed inbound. Bacon orders the dishes redirected at Steve.

Scene 47: While the Death Beam is being tracked along Austin’s path, Steve is able to launch the metal pole skyward.

The pole punctures the interior of the Utility Van and causes a terrific explosion [because of course it does], killing Bacon and Hunky Mustache Henchman instantly. It’s unclear if Driver was taken out in the explosion, but we don’t see him leap out of the way so I think he’s dead, too.

[I like this Steve. There are future episodes where the script painfully keeps the bad guys from dying in circumstances where it’s highly unlikely. This early, we’re still able to play with Steve doing what he needs to do, including using lethal force as befits an actual government agent.]

Scene 48: With more explosions than one Utility Van of Death should be capable of generating, everyone at Command Center recovers their wits. Yay!

Scene 49: Later that night, Steve meets up again Old Joe in Norris, where he gets caught up on some of the young people he used to go to school with from the town. As they separate, Oscar and Dr. Forbes show up.

She has dared to pair light brown clunky shoes with an emerald green dress that appears a bit too elegant for her ugly shoes.

Oscar offers the wrap up, letting us know that everything has returned to normal and Johnson at the electric company was arrested as a co-conspirator. He heads back to Washington, which leaves Chris and Steve to hook up for an impromptu date, because of course they do.

The Good: The opening, as clearly stolen as it is from 'The Andromeda Strain', is still very effecting and chilling.

I liked Paul Carr's officer stumbling along the scene and his shocked horror at what he sees.

The natural chemistry between Richard Anderson and Lee Majors is terrific and pairing them for the series was a good choice.

I did like the way that the group figured out they were dealing with a manmade, ultrasonic attack and not a biological toxin, even though a helmet wouldn't have actually protected Paul.

I liked that we're given a glimpse of Steve's ongoing problems with accepting his cyborg nature, being carried through from the tele-movies. It's a nice character moment that gives a peek behind Steve's usual jovial nature.

I enjoyed the shading that Don Porter gave to his facial expression when Stanley finds out how much money was poured into Steve, when his own project couldn't even get a measley million.

The detail of showing Steve's left arm sweating when running in the desert heat, while his right - bionic - side doesn't perspire at all was a nice and neat random detail to remember in the filming.

The Bad: Steve's entire capture for so long in the subfreezing meat locker is ridiculously stupid of him. It just doesn't make sense that he'd wait until his bionics are practically useless before he starts looking for a way out.

It's also annoying that every scientist with a security clearance apparently knows all about Rudy's cyborg program and can rapidly figure out that Steve Austin is in fact an enhanced human.

The excitement of the episode is really harmed in the latter quarter of the episode when the travelogue to get Bacon to the targeting location to take down Oscar is stretched well past the breaking point. It seriously harms the pacing, and the constant interruptions of Steve's plan to escape are damaging to getting engaged in how he's going to recover from his bionics malfunction as well. It really starts turning my mood against the episode.

Other Thoughts: There are some scripting issues that are clumsy. The delivery of Steve's space suit for instance. And there were some long term logic problems in bionics in general that are mentioned both in the review and on the bionics wiki that can bug you, if you let 'em. [I'm mostly not complaining about these issues with bionics, since we're talking a science fiction show here, but yeah... there are some issues with bionics that would really have stark impacts on Steve's health.]

I also don't really like the way that he script handles everybody being "dead", then turning out not to be but Steve fails to notice until they actually start waking up. That's just a clunky reveal of the real situation.

I was glad that the episode ended with the death of Dr. Bacon, rather than some lame "I know your secret Austin, but the government will fail to keep me from coming back later even though I could easily blow it at any time" ending.

The Score: I was completely happy with the episode until Steve's escape kept cutting to that stupid Utility Van endlessly driving at ultra-slow speeds through boring, dusty scrubland. That really hurt the episode's pacing right as the conclusion was approaching. As such, I have to downgrade my scoring to:

3.50 out of 5 ... when it was doing so much better than that.

Next Up: Well, whether by DVD or having to watch it from YouTube (which I'd rather not do), next will be that movie review for 'Death Warmed Up'.

Tags: six million dollar man reviews

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