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1978 paperback edition
|Series||Cyborg a.k.a. The Six Million Dollar Man|
|Genre||Science fiction novel|
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
|ISBN||0-87795-025-3 (first edition, hardback)|
|LC Class||PZ4.C133 Cy PS3553.A38|
|Followed by||Operation Nuke|
Cyborg is the title of a science fiction/secret agent novel by Martin Caidin which was first published in 1972. The novel also included elements of speculative fiction, and was adapted as the television movie The Six Million Dollar Man, which was followed by a weekly series, and also inspired a spin-off, The Bionic Woman.
Cyborg is the story of an astronaut-turned-test pilot, Steve Austin, who experiences a catastrophic crash during a flight, leaving him with all but one limb destroyed, blind in one eye, and with other major injuries.
At the same time, a secret branch of the American government, the Office of Strategic Operations (OSO) has taken an interest in the work of Dr. Rudy Wells in the field of bionics - the replacement of human body parts with mechanical prosthetics that (in the context of this novel) are more powerful than the original limbs. Wells also happens to be a close friend of Austin's, so when OSO chief Oscar Goldman "invites" (or rather, orders) Wells to rebuild Austin with bionics limbs, Wells agrees.
Steve Austin is outfitted with two new legs capable of propelling him at great speed, and a bionic left arm with almost human dexterity and the strength of a battering ram. One of the fingers of the hand incorporates a poison dart gun. His left eye is replaced with a false, removable eye that is used (in this first novel) to house a miniature camera. Other physical alterations include the installation of a steel skull plate to replace bone smashed by the crash, and a radio transmitter built into a rib. This mixture of man and machine is known as a cyborg, from which the novel gets its title.
The first half of the novel details Austin's operation and both his reaction to his original injuries—he attempts to commit suicide—and his initially resentful reaction to being rebuilt with bionics. The operation comes with a hefty price tag, and Austin is committed to working for the OSO as a reluctant agent. The second half of the novel outlines Austin being teamed with an already experienced female operative, and his mission to the Middle East as both spy and weapon. Austin, already coming to appreciate his bionic implants, relies heavily on his augmentation during the mission and by the end accepts his role.
Steve Austin series
Caidin's book was written as the first of a series, and over the next few years he would write three more books that were, for the most part, independent of the continuity of the television series (upon which additional novels were written by other authors):
None of the sequels to Cyborg were adapted for the television series.
TV, literary and comic book adaptations
In 1973, Cyborg was adapted as a 90-minute made-for-TV movie titled The Six Million Dollar Man. The film begins with a computerized text scroll explaining the term "cyborg" and since the word "CYBORG" is the first word seen on screen, some sources, including the ABC network's own promotions for the telefilm and later Discovision home video release, give the full title as Cyborg: The Six Million Dollar Man.
The film starred Lee Majors as Austin and Martin Balsam as Rudy Wells. For reasons unknown, it was decided to change the name of the OSO chief to Oliver Spencer (played by Darren McGavin). Real-life footage of a test plane crash was incorporated into the film to depict Austin's accident.
The first half of the film follows Cyborg fairly closely, including Austin's initial suicide attempt and Wells' reluctance to operate on his friend. The second half of the telefilm differs from the novel, with Austin dropped into a remote part of Saudi Arabia on a solo mission and ordered to rescue a prisoner from a group of extremists, a mission later revealed to be a test of Austin's abilities.
The film was a ratings hit. A second film, Wine, Women and War was commissioned, but this was not based upon a Caidin work. For this second film, Oscar Goldman was reinstated (with Richard Anderson playing the role), but the agency was renamed the Office of Scientific Intelligence (OSI). Alan Oppenheimer replaced Martin Balsam as Dr. Wells. A third TV movie, Solid Gold Kidnapping followed, after which The Six Million Dollar Man was launched as a weekly TV series in 1974, running until 1978; five seasons in total. The original pilot film was re-edited with new footage to make it a "flashback episode" and syndicated as the two-part "The Moon and the Desert". Author Martin Caidin, according to The Bionic Book by Herbie Pilato, served as an uncredited consultant on the series throughout its run and ultimately made a cameo appearance in one of its final-season episodes; in addition, author Jay Barbree, who collaborated with Caidin on a number of non-fiction book projects and also wrote a novel based upon the series.
In 1976, a spin-off, The Bionic Woman was launched, running also until 1978, or three seasons. In 1987, 1989 and 1994 three made-for-TV films reunited the casts of both series. Due to his licensing agreement with Universal Studios, Caidin received credit on all these productions, even though The Bionic Woman did not originate in his books. The Bionic Woman was remade in 2007 as Bionic Woman, although few elements from the 1976-78 series were retained; elements from Cyborg, however, were incorporated, such as the imagined Jaime Sommers possessing a bionic eye - a feature invented by Caidin for Austin - and organizational similarlities between the OSO of Caidin's novel and the telefilm, and the Berkut Group organization featured in the remake. Only nine episodes of the remake were produced.
Changes for television
A number of changes to Austin's bionic abilities and his demeanor were made as Caidin's dark-in-tone original novel and its concepts were adapted.
In order to increase the science-fiction appeal, Austin's bionics were made more powerful, and he had abilities his literary counterpart lacked. Most notably, the first telefilm revealed that Austin's replacement bionic eye had a telescopic feature (later expanded to include nightvision), whereas Caidin originally had Austin's eye be little more than a mini-camera (and the character was still blind in it). Although his bionic eye is shown pre-implantation and Austin is later shown using both of his eyes for normal vision, the telefilm otherwise omits any demonstration of the eye's special abilities. (The comic book adaptation of The Six Million Dollar Man added even more functions to the eye; in the first issue Austin shoots a laser out of the eye, while in a later issue its telescopic function is so advanced he is able to see a man standing on a streetcorner from dozens of miles away.)
Austin was made to be less cold-blooded in the TV series. In the novel (and those that followed), Caidin depicts Austin as being prepared to kill without pause during his missions - for example, he kills a truck driver in order to prevent the man from identifying Austin to the enemy. The TV version, however, is shown stating outright that he has no desire to kill people (although he still does, on occasion), and tools such as the poison dart gun in the bionic arm were dropped. Also, since actor Majors was right-handed, it was decided that Austin's bionic arm would be his right, not his left as depicted in the novels (this discrepancy resulted in the cover art of some editions of the novels showing a bionics left arm and others a right; see, for example, the 1978 cover art depicted above the infobox). In Caidin's novel, the bionics arm was essentially a bludgeon and battering ram (Austin is frequently described crushing skulls with it during fight sequences); in the televised version the arm is more sophisticated and Austin is shown bending bars and throwing objects great distances with it.
In the novel, Austin is described as having a military and astronaut background. In the telefilm adaptation, he is explicitly described as a civilian test pilot (although also a former astronaut). For the television series, Austin's background was changed to match that of the books, and he was given the rank of US Air Force Colonel.
Despite the changes made to the character for television, when authors such as Mike Jahn and Evan Richards were commissioned to write novelizations based upon Six Million Dollar Man episodes, they chose to follow Caidin's original model of the character, which on at least one occasion (the adaptation of "Love Song for Tanya" contained within Jahn's book, International Incidents) led to the ending of an episode being changed (in the episode, the villain is apprehended by Austin and arrested; in the book, Austin simply fires his poison dart gun at him and kills him).
The Six Million Dollar Man spawned two comic book adaptations beginning in 1976, both from Charlton Comics - a colour monthly comic and a black and white illustrated magazine. Both included condensed adaptations of the Cyborg origin story in their first issues; Power Records also retold the story of Cyborg for one of its illustrated book-and-record sets also in 1976. More recently, the original novel - as well as the TV series - informed a new adaptation of Cyborg, The Bionic Man, published by Dynamite Comics in 2011-2012, based upon an unproduced screenplay by Kevin Smith; in 2012 the comic began featuring original stories. In 2014, Dynamite replaced this series with The Six Million Dollar Man Season Six, chronicling the adventures of Steve Austin after the TV series.
In the 1990s, Caidin wrote the novel Buck Rogers: A Life in the Future based upon the Buck Rogers comic strip of the 1930s. In this book, Caidin pays tribute to Cyborg by having Buck Rogers receive bionics transplants following his 500-year coma, including several direct references to Steve Austin himself.
Cyborg was not Caidin's first dalliance with bionics, as the concept is also discussed in his 1968 novel, The God Machine. Caidin also revisited the concept in his 1982 novel Manfac, ISBN 0-671-65409-8, ISBN 978-0-671-65409-2, which even included dialog that derisively referred to the Six Million Dollar Man series.
- Other definitions for the acronym, such as Office of Strategic Intelligence, have also appeared, usually in spin-off media, however Office of Scientific Intelligence is the form as actually displayed on screen