The Show: The Six Million Dollar Man
In this iconic show from the me Decade, astronaut, Col. Steve Austin, is badly injured during a test flight and is rebuilt by the government using atomic-powered, cybernetic limbs called Bionics that bestow upon him incredible powers. These include the ability to lift heavy objects and punch through walls with his right arm, to jump great heights and run upwards of 60 mph with his bionic legs, and a bionic eye that allows him to see great distances or things that are invisible to a human eye. With his newfound abilities at a price tag of $6 million, Steve Austin becomes Uncle Sam’s most classified and specialized secret agent, taking on missions that no ordinary human can handle.
- Lee Majors as Col. Steve Austin
- Richard Anderson as Oscar Goldman
- Martin E. Brooks as Dr. Rudy Wells
The Episode: “The Price of Liberty”
A bitter former government employee and explosives expert, Robert Meyer (Henry Beckman), who was laid off when the space program experienced a downturn, hijacks the Liberty Bell and rigs it to explode with three bombs if he’s not paid $5 million and given safe passage out of the country. However, when he dies unexpectedly before defusing the bombs, it falls to Steve and a former pupil of Meyer’s, Neils Lindstrom (Chuck Connors), who is a convict, to disarm the explosives before the Bell is destroyed and a national treasure is lost.
This was the third episode of the third season and the first one after the epic Return of The Bionic Woman two-part season premiere after fan acclaim for Lindsay Wagner as Jaime Sommers led the producers to rethink their decision to kill her off. By now everything that was clicking and distinctive about The Six Million Dollar Man was in place and the show was still in its prime. Season 3 would also find Steve going up against Barney Miller (Monte Markham), the Seven Million Dollar Man again and of course, Bigfoot. In The Price of Liberty, however, Steve was faced with an adversary of a different sort, a mad bomber who wanted to turn the Liberty Bell into scrap if he didn’t get paid.
Chuck Connors was the big guest star here, and he gives a fairly affecting turn as a character who’s 180 degrees removed from Lucas McCain. His Neils Lindstrom is a hardened convict who is doing 15-20 for safecracking, yet is the only person handy who can defuse the bomb set by Meyer. Lindstrom knows the odds of defusing his mentor’s bomb and isn’t too keen to take a crack at it, even for a full pardon. But Steve isn’t going to let him off the hook and forces him to make the choice of saving the Bell or going back to prison. What ensues is a fairly impressively taut thriller of them working their way through the bombs one at a time.
Henry Beckman, who had a staggering list of television credits going back over five decades was also good as Meyer. Credit should also be given to Majors, who, while comfortable in the role of Austin by now, seemed to give it just a little more this go round. This was a deliberately patriotism-heavy episode as the Bicentennial was looming in the next year. It even managed to work in history lessons on the Bell into the dialogue. It couldn’t have been easy to get out lines like “Oscar, the Liberty Bell happens to be one of the most important symbols of what America stands for,” or “…the price was high for the Colonies back in 1776…the price of liberty comes high, Lindstrom…theirs then, yours now.” But Majors and Connors had good interplay as Lindstrom was grudgingly spurred on and eventually won over by Austin’s stubborn civic-minded duty and determination to save the Bell.
Producer Kenneth Johnson wrote this episode personally with Justin Edgerton, who also scripted a few episodes of Johnson’s other shows, The Bionic Woman and The Incredible Hulk before disappearing from Hollywood. This episode was directed by veteran Dick Moder, who had experience on such shows as Wonder Woman, Bonanza, Wagon Train, Lassie and over a dozen other episodes of SMDM. This was also a reunion for Moder and Connors, as he had also directed a couple of episodes of The Rifleman.
The Price of Liberty is one of the better episodes of Season 3. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy to catch the episode because Universal has never released it on DVD here in the States and even in Region 2, only the first two seasons of SMDM and TBW have been released. Syfy (nee The Sci-Fi Channel) used to rerun episodes of the show, but not for some time now.
7.8 out of 10