Retro review: Six Million Dollar Man: ‘Burning Bright’

the_six_million_dollar_man‘Burning Bright’
Written by Del Reisman
Transmitted April 12, 1974

The great thing about the retro pop culture revival is that I can sit ad watch old Six Million Dollar Man episodes that I only vaguely recall from my childhood. The superhero adventure TV series that was not based on a comic book at all, Six Million Dollar Man is an iconic 1970’s TV program that made an firm imprint on my psyche. Heck, I still have my Bionic Man thermos!

This episode is a stand out adventure as it features cult icon William Shatner as a guest star. He plays Josh Lang, an astronaut who lost his marbles in space and while he seems to spout gibberish most of the time, he can also rattle off complex mathematics like nobody’s business. No one else but Shatner could have played this part. He is both soulful and nuttier than a fruit cake all at once. The ranting scene in space that opens the story is amazing and could not have been accomplished by anyone else. The fact that he shares scenes with the king of cool Lee Majors is the icing on the cake. They are so totally opposite and it works.

Rogers is ordered to assess his friend’s behavior and help NASA decide if he is a flight risk. But all Lang wants to do is hang out in Sea World and communicate with the dolphins. The blend of the absurd and wonderful is made evident when Lang conducts a performance with the dolphins using only his mind. He theorizes that his brain received some interstellar message that could possibly be interpreted better by dolphins.

Yes, he wants to launch a dolphin expedition into space. The problem is that as loopy as that sounds, he is right about everything else, even abstract space science and computer programming. I absolutely love how the program presents Lang as a lunatic who is so far ahead of his time that no one can understand him. And of course Shatner plays the part with aplomb.

Lee Majors is an admittedly limited actor. He essentially does one thing, this raised eyebrow look… but e he does it so well! He was described by producer Harve Bennet as a ‘cowboy without a horse’ and the more I watch of the series the more sense that makes. He continually holds the moral high ground but with a serenity that hearkens back to a simpler, less socially complicated time.

If you have not revisited this series, you may want to pick up a DVD set, bargain-priced at most Target stores or online. It’s a marvelous cult TV program that wraps around you like a warm snuggly blanket.

For a fantastic resource on this program, I highly recommend the BionicWikia

The Six Million Dollar Man: Season 1

The Six Million Dollar Man: Season 2


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