In the pilot movie "The Six Million Dollar Man" (1973) which preceded the TV series, Steve Austin was a "civilian member" of NASA who had walked on the moon, which justified his role as a test pilot. It was only in the second TV movie, "Wine, Women, and War" that he was changed to have the rank of Colonel. I have not read the Martin Caidin novels, but evidently he held the military rank and background in those.

Is there any evidence in writings about the pilot regarding what scenarios would be possible in future TV movies, shows (if they were already pitching it as a series) if he didn't have the military background? It seems as though they deemed it important in the initial pilot movie that Steve Austin was well-known as an astronaut, but was the cultural backdrop of the end of the Vietnam war part of their initial decision to shed the military connection?

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    Generally giving an individual a military background bakes in back story, 'cause they have Seen Things and Been Places. It also gives him access to secret projects and an excuse to move him around to fit the needs of the scenario.
    – lonstar
    Dec 9, 2013 at 0:15

1 Answer 1


When The Six Million Dollar Man premiered (1973) in the United States had just ended its involvement in the Vietnam War. The US military was not held in high regards in many circles and having Austin be a veteran might have been seen as "problematic." The pilot seems to have done away with this by having Austin be a civilian test pilot who was the only civilian ever sent to the Moon.

After two additional television films (during which Steve Austin was returned to his former military rank) the series was picked up by ABC as a weekly series in 1974. The improbability of Austin having been a civilian astronaut was probably brought the attention of the producers who simply changed the back story during the second pilot film.

In this respect, the television series began to match Martin Caidin's novels. The show later expanded upon Austin's background adding a family and then later love interest, Jamie Sommers, who herself became The Bionic Woman.

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