|Played by Lee Majors|
|Job/Title|| Colonel, US Air Force (Reserves)|
OSI field agent
|Family|| Helen Elgin, mother|
Jim Elgin, stepfather
Jaime Sommers, wife
Carl Austin, natural father
Michael Austin, son
|BW|| "A Thing of the Past"|
"The Deadly Missiles"
"The Return of Bigfoot (Part II)"
"Kill Oscar (Part III)
Colonel Steven 'Steve' Austin is the primary protagonist of Martin Caidin's Cyborg series of novels and the television series spinoff of these books, The Six Million Dollar Man. After a near fatal military plane crash, Steve Austin became the world's first bionic man.
Steve Austin was born February 5, 1942. His father, Carl, was a captain in the US Army Air Force, commanding a DC-3 nicknamed My Little Girl. While on a top-secret courier mission over the Himalayas, his plane was attacked by Japanese fighters. It was reported that Carl Austin bailed out of the plane and left the crew to die (Steve eventually learned it was his co-pilot, Christopher Bell, who fled the plane, "The Coward"). Steve’s mother, Helen, later married Jim Elgin, who brought the family to a ranch in Ojai, California and formally adopted Steve as his son.
Steve excelled at athletics, but also possessed a strong scientific streak. Fascinated by airplanes and flying, he cajoled his parents into letting him get a pilot's license before he could drive a car. He joined Army ROTC in high school to earn money for college and fell in love with local girl Jaime Sommers, but their relationship ended when Steve left for college. While at college, he roomed with future recording star John Perry, and even wrote some songs he claimed would make John famous if he recorded them. In college he was outstanding in football, but turned down offers to join the pros in favor of graduate school. Steve earned masters degrees in aeronautical engineering, geology and history, and occupied what little spare time was left him with programs in wrestling, judo, aikido, gymnastics, and fencing.
Steve's experience as a military pilot dates back to at least October 1962, as he flew reconnaissance missions over Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis ("Target in the Sky").
After college, Steve spent a year in Vietnam flying a helicopter gunship, but was shot down (breaking three of his ribs) and sent back to the U.S. to recuperate. He took the opportunity to transfer to the Air Force to fly jets. He commanded a wing of F-111 fighter-bombers, then was assigned to Edwards Air Force Base in California, where he became one of their top test pilots. He also met Doctor Rudy Wells, who quickly became one of Steve's closest friends.
The reputation Steve earned at Edwards made him very attractive to NASA, who recruited him for the astronaut program. Even among the competitors of the astronaut corps, Steve stood out as the youngest astronaut, along with a combination of sheer genius, athletic ability and ladies'-man magnetism. It was at this time that he became seriously involved with Barbara Marsh; he and Barbara were engaged for a time, but his commitment to NASA ended the relationship.
Steve was selected as backup mission commander on Apollo 17, the final lunar landing. When the primary mission commander broke his arm in a car accident two weeks before the launch, Steve was promoted to commander of the prime crew. At 12:53 a.m. on December 7, 1972, Apollo 17 launched from Cape Kennedy, Florida. Four days later, Steve landed his lunar module on the Moon; he carried out a series of successful experiments and even set the record for longest single moonwalk at seven hours, thirty-seven minutes. When Apollo 17 returned from the Moon on December 17, 1972, Steve Austin was a celebrity, as evidenced by a road sign near Ojai featuring his name. (Note: the second telefilm pilot, Wine, Women and War identifies Austin's ship as Apollo 19.)
After making the obligatory rounds of talk shows and special appearances, Steve returned to Edwards AFB. He was anxious to return to space, but the next round of missions aboard the Skylab space station were already spoken for. NASA wanted him for a rotation aboard Skylab II, but Steve set his sights on the Space Shuttle, and quickly became chief design officer and chief test pilot of a lifting body prototype designed to test a spacecraft's ability to reenter atmosphere and land like an airplane.
The almost-deadly crash
The test flight began well. The lifting body detached from its carrier B-52, ignited its engines and brought Steve Austin to the edge of space. He piloted the ship back into the atmosphere and to the runway back at Edwards, but a crucial component of the craft's steering system blew out, and the ship crashed to the desert floor.
Steve Austin survived, but barely. His right arm was torn off by the twisting forces of the crash, which also crushed his legs. A fragment of metal penetrated the front of his flight helmet, shattered his jaw and destroyed his left eye. His ribs were crushed, a heart valve was damaged, and his skull was fractured. His legs were too badly crushed and had to be removed. Rudy Wells, who was present at the test, had Steve rushed to the base medical center and supervised hours of surgery. Steve was kept in electrosleep to allow his body to recuperate and to spare his mind the horror of his injuries.
While Steve slept, Rudy Wells was approached by Oliver Spencer of the Office of Strategic Operations. Oscar Goldman, the Director of the OSI, had long sought to create a cyborg, a melding of man and machine through the new science of bionics. Working with the Bionics Research Laboratory in Colorado Springs, he had the technology; now all he needed was the right man. Steve Austin was the perfect candidate. Spencer convinced Rudy Wells that bionics were Steve's best hope, and offered to pay six million dollars to make it happen. As later explained in "Pilot Error", this money was provided through the political efforts of Oscar Goldman. He had influenced Senator Ed Hill, an Air National Guard reserve general officer, to get emergency Congressional authorization for the funds without having to specify what the money was going to be used for.
What do you have to give to reach perfection?
The next several months were difficult. When Steve was revived from electrosleep and learned of his condition, he attempted suicide. Rudy Wells knew that while Steve's physical condition had stabilized, his emotional state was delicate. He spent hours explaining bionics to Steve, using the astronaut's scientific curiosity and engineering genius to draw him out of his shell. After months of discussion and education, Steve agreed to the surgery. He was given a new eye, an new arm and two new legs; these were all bionic hardware.
The "ultimate man's" search for his soul
The recuperation process was long and difficult. The months it took for Steve to use his new limbs easily and safely took a heavy toll on his self-esteem. After a long period of testing and refining, Steve learned that OSI planned to use him as a special agent on missions too dangerous for normal agents and too specialized for regular military. His first mission was to rescue an Israeli sympathizer from Arab insurgents; Steve was captured and learned that his objective had been shot trying to escape months before. Steve was able to escape after a grenade assault on the insurgent base.
The colonel had his left eye blinded, his right arm shorn off, and both legs crushed in the crash, in addition to sustaining other injuries that are not detailed in "The Moon And The Desert" ("The Six Million Dollar Man (1973)"). All of these were replaced with bionic hardware prostheses. (The estimated cost of the entire project is stated as, at least at its start-up phase, approximately six million American dollars, hence the title of the series.)
Steve's legs allow him to run over 60 mph (the highest speed ever shown in the series on a speed gauge is 66 and 70 mph; the later revival films suggested that he could run faster at a speed of 120 miles per hour,) swim at 40 mph and jump over 40 feet high. Steve's legs are also very strong and can kick any door down; he can even lift/push a car with his legs, and when he kicks an object, it is usually seen flying away. His legs give him amazing agility, allowing him to leap well over 30 feet horizontally. His legs are also extremely durable. His arms and legs give him amazing acrobatic abilities.
Steve's bionic right arm has the equivalent strength of a bulldozer, lifting well above 1,000 pounds. With his bionic arm, Steve can perform feats of great superhuman strength, including breaking steel chains, lifting cars, throwing boulders, ripping guns in half, bending metal bars, crushing concrete, knocking down and lifting trees, throwing objects incredably far, and so on. His strength is great enough to flip an entire car and lift a small plane. In many episodes he has moved his bionic arm at great almost superhuman speeds.
He also uses his arm as a shield as objects usually bounce off or break when they hit it. Blows from the bionic arm against human opponents are usually depicted as being devastating but not fatal. Austin is able to exercise a degree of control and is usually able to deliver non-fatal blows, but Steve typically tries to avoid this, saving the bionic right hook for a crisis. In the season 2 premiere of The Six Million Dollar Man, Steve Austin’s bionic arm has a facility to connect a tracking device to it. Dolenz calculates that Steve can lift 2,420 pounds six feet off the ground.
It is revealed, in this episode, that Austin's bionic arm contains a geiger counter for detecting radioactivity. Steve's arm can also somehow absorb electricity. His arm is also extremely durable. In the episode "The Blue Flash" Steve gains the ability to detect microchips with his arm, resulting in a blue flash in his bionic eye.
His left eye has not only restored his vision, but also features a telescopic zoom lens (the ratio is cited as 20.2:1) that allows him to see things far away. It also has a microscopic lens in which he can magnify his vision to see smaller objects. Additionally, the eye is equipped with an infrared function that allows him to see in the dark and the ability to detect heat (as in the episode "The Pioneers").
One early episode, "Day of the Robot", shows the eye as a deadly accurate targeting device for his throwing arm, implying that it may have a targeting system in it. In the episode "The Bionic Woman", Steve scanned a $20 bill with his eye using his macro lens at Oscar's request, and determined that it was genuine. In "Straight On 'Til Morning", Steve was able to see past the illusion the aliens had created to fool their pursuers, and determine it to be fake. Steve displays a unique ability in this episode "The Secret of Bigfoot". After he rips Bigfoot's arm off and pursues him into the cave, his way is blocked by a false wall.
Austin looks at the wall and as an electronic sound effect is heard, the portion of the wall that opens up begins to glow. Although it is possible that this is a presentation of Austin's infrared vision capability, by this point in the series the usual presentation of this was a red-filtered version of the usual crosshairs which followed the usual close-up of Austin's eye; this does not occur in this instance.
"The Secret of Bigfoot (Part II)" features another unique use of Austin's bionic eye. He can view humanoid beings moving too fast for a normal eye to see. While the standard crosshairs are visible, a different form of filtering is used for the image, a lower-pitched version of the "bionic eye beep" is heard, and the close-up of Austin's eye is different from the usual one used.
His eye allows Steve to see things that would be invisible to a normal eye. In "Divided Loyalty", Steve was able to see motion sensor beams when Leon Jackson and his son could not; also, in the same episode, when Leon was blinded, Steve was able to use his eye to tell him that the blindness was only temporary and that his vision would come back. In "Clark Templeton O'Flaherty", his bionic eye is given a infrared fingerprint scanner. And in "The Return of Bigfoot", Steve's eye can detect radiation. In Nightmare in the Sky, Steve uses his eye to see a holographic plane.
Details of the hardware
All bionics are powered by nuclear power generators that provide the user's bionic parts limitless endurance and stamina, while Steve's heart and lungs need only to provide for his torso, head and remaining arm, increasing the capacity of the remaining organics.
The implants have a major flaw: extreme cold interferes with their functions and can disable them given sufficient exposure. However, when Austin returns to a warmer temperature, the implants soon regain full functionality. This weakness is shared by Jaime Sommers, and other bionic persons. Bionic hardware has another flaw; as seen when Steve's legs were destroyed, it leads to harmful radiation leaks throughout his body.
Austin's bionics in the novel have some additional capabilities, not seen in the show. A finger on his bionic hand is capable of firing projectiles (specifically poison darts). Storage compartments in the legs allow him to carry concealed items, such as an oxygen tank and breathing mask. Austin's eye was originally depicted as simply a camera (which had to be physically removed after use) and Austin remained blind in the eye; later, he gained the ability to shoot a laser from the eye (this ability is also demonstrated in the first issue of the Six Million Dollar Man comic book issued by Charlton Comics).
A radio transceiver can be equipped in one leg, and his partially metallic rib cage can be used as an antenna. A good portion of Austin's skull has also been replaced with metal. Although not utilized in the TV series, many of these extra features, especially the poison dart gun and metal skull replacement, are featured in several of the novels adapting Six Million Dollar Man episodes, especially those by Mike Jahn. The Charlton Comics Six Million Dollar Man magazine included several stories that incorporated some of these extra features, too, such as the radio transceiver in Austin's leg.
In the epilogue of the novel "The Secret of Bigfoot Pass", the aliens attempt to erase Austin's memory of his encounter with them, but while this is successful in the televised episode (requiring Austin's memories to be restored in the later sequel episode), the novelization ends with Austin telling the aliens that the steel plate used to replace his skull (per Caidin's version of the character) renders such memory-erasing efforts useless.
In the reunion movies, the capabilities of Austin's bionic hardware seemed to have been increased: With his right arm, he could flip an entire car, and he seemed to be able to jump higher; the heights he could reach by that means appeared to be at least double those of the television show. In addition, it was also shown that the colonel could now run faster as well. His eye was also apparently upgraded, as it had new and improved functions, but how or why Steve had all these upgrades of all his bionic hardware prostheses is unknown.
Returning to the United States, Steve came under the direct supervision of Oscar Goldman. Their relationship was strained at first; Austin chafed at being obligated to OSI, and Goldman, though himself a former Naval Intelligence (N-2) captain retired into civilian civil service in the intelligence community, at first treated Austin as a machine. It took many months before the two began to thaw towards one another, aided in part by a mission where Steve protected Oscar from assassins. Eventually, the two became close friends. Steve Austin retained his rank and pay in the Air Force, officially listed as an advisor to OSI. In reality, he was their top agent, traveling the world and using his unique skills on behalf of the American government.
Known code names
- Sneezy (Act of Piracy and others)
- Blue Sparrow (Little Orphan Airplane, assigned by USAF)
- Operator 1 (The Seven Million Dollar Man, assigned by OSI when posing as a telephone worker)
- Sea Shell (The Most Dangerous Enemy)
Further space travel
Austin's career with the OSI took him back into space on several occasions after his bionic operation.
In The Rescue of Athena One, Austin launches to rendezvous with Athena One at Skylab, where Major Kelly Woods has docked after a catastrophic explosion injured her crewmate. Austin manages to effect repairs, but discovers that his bionics are effected by the radiation in space, causing severe symptoms, making him fear that he will be unable to return to space ever again. Oscar reassures him later, telling him that Rudy Wells has developed a shield for his bionic limbs, that will allow him to return.
In The Bionic Woman episode "Doomsday Is Tomorrow", which aired concurrent with the middle of Season Four of The Six Million Dollar Man, it is revealed that Austin is traveling on the NASA space station Skylab for undisclosed reasons (thereby rendering him unavailable to help Jaime Sommers prevent the activation of a doomsday device).
During Season Five, Austin returned to the moon for the two-part adventure "Dark Side of the Moon". He also flew a space mission to test a new rocket fuel in "Just a Matter of Time" and blasted off at the end of "Deadly Countdown" to repair a satellite in orbit.
Steve Austin has few known family members. His parents are discussed above, and Jaime Sommers eventually becomes his wife. Austin is also known to have been married at least once before and to have had at least one child, a son, Michael Austin, born sometime in the early to middle 1960s, from that marriage. Michael would eventually become a test pilot like his father and, ultimately, undergo advanced bionic reconstruction after an accident similar to that experienced by his father.
Later rebuilds and upgrades
Steve Austin underwent several upgrades and/or rebuilds during his career. For example, in The Return of the Bionic Woman, an Achilles heel-like incident incapacitated his legs (and bionic system), requiring Wells to rebuild his legs and requiring Austin to spend several weeks rehabilitating and retraining himself. In the reunion movie "Bionic Ever After?", Austin's bionic eye works differently than seen in the series (suggesting an off-camera upgrade occurred prior to the film) and it is also suggested that he later received an upgrade to his systems.
In Seasons One through Three, Steve was seen sporting a shiny, metallic bracelet on his right wrist which may or may not have been a POW/MIA bracelet, which were popular in the 1970s--especially among U.S. servicemen. By Season Four, the bracelet was gone. There is no indication that the bracelet has any connection to Steve's right arm being bionic.
Although usually clean-shaven, for a period of time (beginning in "The Return of Bigfoot", Austin sports a mustache. The mustache disappears after the episode "The Privacy of the Mind". Steve is 6'0" tall and supposedly weighs 175 lbs, according to his District of Columbia Motor Vehicle Operator's Permit as shown in season 4 episode "The Ghostly Teletype." (According to such of Caidin's novels as Operation Nuke and the specially-written novelizations of several episodes, Austin actually weighs almost 240 pounds because of the metal and other systems in his bionic hardware prostheses. According to Goldman's thoughts about this, Austin carries it all, if not quite with ease, with the indifference of any man who knows what he is.)
Although Steve is never seen smoking, he is often seen with an unlit wooden match in his mouth. Whether this is an indication that he used to smoke is a matter of interpretation.
Novels vs. TV
In Caidin's original novels, Steve's bionics are somewhat different than those depicted on TV. They are nowhere near as sophisticated, with the bionic arm being little more than a battering ram, and his legs were more designed for stamina than super-speed. Steve remained blind in his bionic eye, which as initially depicted was little more than a concealed camera that actually had to be removed in order to process the film. His legs had compartments containing underwater breathing gear, as well as a radio transmitter (the antenna being an artificial rib). Most of Steve's skull was replaced with alloy that allowed him to withstand blows to the head that otherwise would render unconscious, or kill, normal people (a featured definitely omitted from the TV series, given how many times Steve was knocked out). Austin's bionic arm was his left one in the novels, and concealed in one of the fingers was a CO2 dart gun that fired poison projectiles.
Steve Austin, as depicted in Martin Caidin's original novels, is a somewhat colder individual than the TV series. While very much the reluctant agent as on TV, once in the field he follows his orders with deadly efficiency, sometimes acting more in the cold-blooded mode of Mack Bolan or Nick Carter than the Austin known from the TV series (for example, during his first mission in the initial Cyborg novel, Austin uses his bionic arm to kill numerous adversaries, including breaking the neck of an unconscious opponent to prevent him from giving away his presence). One weapon given to Austin in the books, a CO2 gun hidden in a bionic finger, fires poison darts.
In his interviews for the 2010 DVD release of the series, Lee Majors remarked on this aspect of Austin, and added that a conscious effort was made to tone this down for the series. Indeed, the TV movie adaptation shows Austin stating his reluctance to kill (though he appears to do so at least once during the rescue mission when he drops a grenade into the cab of a tank, presumably eliminating the operator inside). The TV version of Austin also kills on a few occasions in the later TV movies and early episodes, but these became rare events and ultimately eliminated.
However, an attempt was made to maintain literary continuity between Caidin's novels and the several novelizations that were published. As a result, the character of Austin in books such as the adaptation of Wine, Women and War, and International Incidents (a novel combining the plots of several episodes) is more the cold, deadly agent of Caidin's books than the version played by Majors. Several aspects of Steve's bionics are restored in these books, such as the CO2 dart gun, which he uses to kill people in scenes added to the novelizations (i.e. several of Kaslov's men in "Wine, Women and War", and the villain of "Love Song for Tanya" in International Incidents), and steel-reinforced skull that causes the aliens' attempt to block Steve's memory at the end of "The Secret of Bigfoot" to actually fail in the novelization of same. Austin's legs in the novelizations once again contain the radio transmitter and equipment compartments, and his bionic arm is once again his left, not his right.