The Six Million Dollar Man: The Rescue of Athena One (1974)

Director: Lawrence Doheny
Starring: Lee Majors, Farrah Fawcett, Richard Anderson, Paul Kent, John S. Ragin
Music: Oliver Nelson

This is the next of my ‘cleaning out the closet’ reviews. It was written when Farrah Fawcett passed a way a few months ago. I never posted it because my review is pretty thin and I didn’t think it was much of a tribute. Also, the particular episode I chose to review wasn’t very espionage related. But here it is in all its convoluted glory.

This particular episode of The Six Million Dollar Man is not very spy like at all. If fact it probably owes more to the disaster films of the early ’70s – and possibly is inspired by the explosion on Apollo 13 in 1970. So begs the question why review it when the bulk of The Six Million Dollar Man episodes are espionage based? There are two reasons. First is that the character Steve Austin was an astronaut, and if I am going to give a fair overview of the series I guess an example from the ‘space’ episodes should be included. The other reason, and possibly the more important of the two was that Lee Majors was married to Farrah Fawcett (this was before she took off as Jill in Charlie’s Angels). As Major’s wife, Farrah Fawcett appeared on The Six Million Dollar Man on four occasions. Her character in this episode, Major Kelly Wood would reappear in the season four episode Nightmare in the Sky. But this was her first appearance.

The episode opens in a space capsule flight simulator. Steve Austin has been assigned to train Major Kelly Wood, who is being groomed to be America’s first female astronaut. Steve isn’t happy about his assignment. He has been to the moon and knows how dangerous space travel can be.

After she has completed her training, Wood is launched into orbit in a spacecraft called Athena One – her mission to find new sources of energy. Steve remains on the ground as the flight director in the command centre. During the mission there is a small explosion of the port side. The co-pilot, Paul Osterman, is badly injured. In an effort to stabilise Osterman and repair the ship, Wood docks with Skylab, but she cannot get the hatch open. It appears that the explosion has jammed the door shut.

Steve hops on a back-up rocket and rendezvous at Skylab. Using his bionic strength he opens the hatch. It all seems pretty easy – that is until Steve’s bionics start to malfunction due to the solar radiation.

This episode features plenty of archival NASA footage, which doesn’t always match the studio footage. For example there is a scene where a NASA astronaut is wearing a red helmet, yet Steve Austin is wearing a white helmet. There are quite a few little inconsistencies like that.

The story is incredibly contrived, but it still manages to build up a modicum of tension – but really, was there ever a doubt that Steve would fail in his mission? Not likely!

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