Part 2 of childhood science fiction influences. This time the action hero we all wanted to be, the programme is possibly the scariest children’s TV show ever, and then we go swimming.
Steve Austin – astronaut, secret agent, bionic man. We all wanted to be him in the playground. We all made ‘bionic’ noises while jumping over things. We would all sacrifice (literally) our right arm to be him.
I had a poster on my wall. I had the action figure with the cool bionic eye you could look through from the back of its head and the fake skin that peeled away to show the bionics in his arm. I even did the ride at Universal Studies.
Some 40 years on when I’m researching transhumanism and human enhancement, Steve Austin walks beside me. My favourite episodes were the ones where he fought the robots that replaced people, when he found other bionic people (“The Seven Million Dollar Man“) and, of course, the Bigfoot alien story line.
The character has been rebooted recently in the comic book series, The Bionic Man, scripted by Kevin Smith. Those comics are very good too.
Steve Austin and Bigfoot
Steve Austin vs. robot Oscar
The action figure
The comic (from 2011)
Okay, let’s get this clear up front. This is the scariest TV show I have ever watched. It was a children’s TV show that made the scariest episode of Doctor Who look like a warm and fuzzy Play School episode. There is probably an entire generation of kids who are now in therapy because of this show. Wikipedia notes it has been called “the scariest programme ever made for children”. And it was on TV at 4.30pm after school.
It had everything – Gareth Thomas (Blake’s 7), ancient standing stones, strange alien influence, mythology, children in peril, and so on. It’s not called a ‘cult’ series for nothing. You had to watch it with the lights on and in daylight.
And so it begins
Having been freaked out after school by Children of the Stones, the Man from Atlantis offered safe, formulaic science fiction adventure in the near future. Submarines, webbed hands, Patrick Duffy playing the amnesiac aquatic man, lots of dolphin kicking, and yellow togs/trunks/cossies, and even a promotion in the opening episode for microwave ovens and cooking fish in them.
Alas, one season and three television movies (one including the obligatory aliens), and it was all over. Not before a comic book series was release, but alas I can’t remember any toys.
Patrick Duffy did go on to greater(?) things as Bobby Ewing in Dallas.
Only some on-demand DVD releases in the US, so no chance to acquire the season here.