Bionics and Bigfoot. Does it get any better?
It's the mid-1970s. The Six Million Dollar Man is in his third season. The Bionic Woman is in her first. Both shows are Top 10 in the Nielsen Ratings. Woman is at #4 and Man is at #9. Everything is healthy and fine there. They are pop culture phenomena. (Cracked Mazagine seemed particularly enamored.)
Meanwhile, Bigfoot (along with many other cryptozoological/ UFO-related topics) had somehow entered the pop culture sphere also. Man, did we love Bigfoot. From movies to speculative TV shows to books to, I don't know, where there Bigfoot sleeping bags? Bigfoot slippers? Bigfoot's House of Pancakes? I bet there were. The big guy was everywhere.
There's your Nightmare Fuel
With the Bionic folks, I think it was the near-magic of the bionics themselves coupled with the endless charisma of the two leads that made it so huge in the minds of kids and grown ups who think like kids (i.e. me). With Bigfoot, it's the sheer mystery of the big guy. Is he real? Is he a hoax? If so many people have seen him, why do we not have absolute proof? Plus, there are the locations. I love the woods. I'm a woods man. (Also a leg man but that's for another blog.) So, all the shots of the majesty of the Pacific Northwest always thrills me. The 1976 film Sasquatch is 90-odd minutes of people wandering through woods and, basically, encountering nothing. But, I can watch that film every Sunday afternoon because I adore (Adore!) those woods. Heck, I have that film on Blu-Ray for Heaven's Sake.
What I'm trying to say is that the things that made them pop culture popular are diametrically opposed.
So, of course, they met.
And, of course, Bigfoot is completely explained.
Bigfoot is a sort of bionic cyborg android kind of thing working for aliens who live in San Angelo, CA. His purpose is to kidnap people for the aliens so they can study humanity.
Things just got weird in Bionic Town
From February 1, 1976 to October 9, 1977, four episodes of Man and one episode of Woman told the story of Sasquatch and The Aliens and their adventures with the Bionic Gang. (I would have watched a Filmation cartoon called The Bionic Gang.) The episodes are: The Secret of Bigfoot, aired on February 1, 1976. The Secret of Bigfoot Part 2, aired on February 4, 1976. The Return of Bigfoot, aired on September 19, 1976. Over on The Bionic Woman, we got The Return of Bigfoot, Part 2, aired on September 22, 1976. And, back to The Six Million Dollar Man for the final episode: Bigfoot V, aired on October 9, 1977. The first four episodes are written by the great Kenneth Johnson. The fifth one was written by Gregory S. Dinallo.
Better than a bear hug any day
I'm going to go through the five episodes, one by one. I'm going to try to keep the focus on Bigfoot as much as I can. And yes, even though this is a Villain/ Monster-related blogathon, I realize that Bigfoot is actually neither, except when he goes a little nutty.
This begins as you might expect and then begins to get all twisty-turny, especially when the rotating ice tunnel thing from Universal Studios turns up. A couple of scientists are planting sensors along a fault line in a forest on the West Coast... when something big and hairy seems to attack them. Steve Austin, Oscar Goldman and a bunch of the OSI gang* are there too, worried about a possible large earthquake occurring.
He's hoping to see Maxwell Smart in there
When they learn that the scientists have vanished, Steve goes into the woods looking for them.... and he gets attacked by the big and hairy thing: Bigfoot. (Played by Andre the Giant.) As the two of them brawl, strange shadowy figures watch them and are very impressed at the fact that Steve, like Bigfoot, seems to have some bionics. Bigfoot's arm comes off. So, the big guy is called back to the alien colony, which is in some caves. Steve gives chase and then things go screwy.
Yes, we are an advanced alien civilization from many light years away
And, yes, we do watch The Six Million Dollar Man.
We like your Lee Majors very much.
We meet those aforementioned aliens. And they do a very thorough examination of Steve and his bionics. What's amazing about these initial scenes with the aliens is 1) Stefanie Powers is gorgeous. (Well, maybe that's just a fact but I still feel amazement.) 2) they have some of the silliest alien names ever. But, unlike, say, the names of the Slitheen on Doctor Who, which are supposed to be silly, these, I think, are serious silly names. Shalon, Apploy and Faler are just three of them. They're kind of tough to say as well, if that makes sense. 3) Stefanie Powers (as Shalon) delivers more technobabble than you've ever heard before. Here are a few of the terms she uses:
Nyosynthetics (their version of bionics)
and my absolute favorite...
Intramuscular Caladentic Response
After a time, you just kind of tune it out but if you choose to tune it in... it's some screwball chatter.
"Bafflegab, my dear. I've never heard such baffelgab in all my lives."
I love every bit of this frame
Of course, the aliens are super advanced with a wonder drug that cures everything and something called a TLC. That's a Time Line Converter. It's a little device that allows them to slow down or speed up their personal timeline, which means (when they speed it up) that they can move without being seen.
Ramp up the Gravitic Pulmonary Reticulater and then Cram It!
Bigfoot spends most of the rest of this episode being repaired. Jaime Sommers shows up in a brief scene on the phone with Oscar, which seems to imply that she might show up in Part 2 but is really there to pad the episode out (per the Kenny Johnson commentary). The episode ends with OSI planning to detonate a nuclear device on the fault line to trigger a smaller earthquake that will stop the larger earthquake. (Sounds like Science to me.) Of course, the device will devastate the aliens' cave if it goes off...
Pretty standard in a Bionic Bigfoot fight
The episode starts off Bigfoot-heavy. He's glimpsed, per every other Bigfoot-related entertainment of the day, briefly and then there's a POV attack! The fight with Steve is awesome. Yes, it is all in slow mo (and that may become a liability later) but it's fun. Come on! Bigfoot fights The Six Million Dollar Man! What's not to love? Once he heads into the cave though, it's all about the amoral aliens. So, I'll hop ahead to.
There's a lot that goes on in this episode. Suffice it to say, it all culminates in the "Will the nuclear device go off or won't it? Will the aliens stop it or won't they? And, will Steve fight Bigfoot again?" I won't spoil everything for you. But, I will say that Sasquatch (which is what the aliens call him) and Steve do brawl. However, in the end, the two of them team up to save the day and everything is all right. Oh, and they wipe Steve's mind so he doesn't remember any of it.
Steve's so tiny!
Look, Bigfoot's great in this. Yes, he's not in it nearly enough. Once they reveal "The Secret," there's a lot more of Steve flirting with Shalon than there is anything else. But, look at him. That is an awesome Bigfoot. One of the troubles with Bigfoot movies is that the creature generally ends up being a bit of a letdown. (Night of the Demon, anyone?) But here, they went whole hog. He looks brilliant. And, he's super scary early on. Well, actually, he kind of remains scary even when we know he's a good sort of Sasquatch. That's how cool the makeup/ suit is. I do wish there was more Bigfoot in this but maybe the next two parter will rectify that.
Bigfoot's Gone Bad! He's stealing all sorts of jewels and equipment and stuff in general from various Top Secret locations. And, the government thinks Steve Austin did it! Why? Because bionics were involved. So, it must be Steve, right? Makes sense to me. Steve heads back to the Alien Caves and the rotating ice tunnel to clear his name.
I am NOT interested in any Wheat Thins, Duncan
Well, The Alien Gang** is still there. But, a man named Nedlick (?) has gone rogue with some buddies. They've caused a radiation leak at the caves, which has exhausted the aliens' supply of their wonder drug apart from one vial that Shalon has. And yes, Nedlick is manipulating Sasquatch to commit crimes by saying that Shalon's life is threatened. (It's not but the Sasquatch doesn't know that.)
Nedlick is played by John Saxon in a glorious purple outfit with an ascot. Saxon Goes Camp! Unfortunately, whatever Nedlick and his pals are up to kept eluding me. Either I'm dumb or it's confusing or both. Just keep this in mind: they're the bad guys. They're using Sasquatch. They're going to cause a volcano to erupt. Keep your focus on the brawling and Sandy Duncan as Gillian. (She's an alien and she got that name?)
Oh boy. This isn't going to go well
This part ends with an epic brawl between Steve and the Sasqutach***. Sadly, Steve gets his butt handed to him in this one. The episode ends with the bad guys threatening the West Coast and Steve close to death! Luckily, we've got an ace in the hole.
The Bionic Woman
Jamie shows up! Hooray! And she heads to the Aliens' cave to try to get some of their wonder drug. Shalon gives up the last of her stash and Steve is saved! But, not before, Jamie fights Sasquatch in a really great scene with lots of boulders being thrown around and Nedlick saying "Attack, Sasquatch! Attack!" over and over. Jamie is captured by the baddies. Steve gets better... and it all ends with volcanoes erupting and Sasquatch being freed from Nedlick's control... and a very entertaining scene where The Bionic Gang beats the dooty out of the bad guys. It's very satisfying.
Jaime up a tree!
The aliens leave in the end. Everyone says their goodbyes. And Jamie hugs Bigfoot. Does it get better?
This is Super Sweet
The thieving Bigfoot in these episodes is a scary delight. I mean, it's bad enough that someone's stealing your stuff. But, when it turns out to be a 7/8 foot tall hairy monster-type that makes the thieving even worse and, in some ways, better. Adding Jamie to the mix is great. She's so charming. Her fight with Bigfoot is kickass and her smashing through the rock wall of her cell is so good. I wish these three had hung out more! Nedlick is a pretty good villain. (Hey, it's John Saxon.)
Logan's Run called. We're all too old.
The one drawback (and I don't consider the fact that I couldn't figure out what the heck the bad guys were up to as a drawback) is that the slow mo fighting did begin to wear me down a bit. Maybe my tolerance for slow mo fighting isn't what it once was? Regardless, I took a day off before I watched...
The Six Million Dollar Man
An anthropologist and her two guides activate some sort of sonic device that wakes up the sleeping Sasquatch. He's hooked into some sort of gizmo and he is pissed. He begins to rampage around. Steve and Dr. Rudy Wells show up to find out 1) why the big guy is acting like this and 2) what he's still doing on Earth. Those questions are answered quite well. The episode turns out to go quite sweet and poignant in the end. I didn't realize that Sasquatch was going to have an arc across the episodes but this closes it out and brings the whole Bigfoot issue full circle. I AM NOT going to ruin it here because it surprised me.
Things are going funky in Bigfootville
The tricky thing with this episode is all the other stuff around Bigfoot. The anthropologist causes the problem with her equipment but that's an accident. In some respects, her meddling brings Steve and Sasquatch together one last time, which is nice. But, boy, it causes Sasquatch a lot of pain and Steve a lot of trouble. The issue is that her plot-line about wanting to catch Bigfoot is pretty useless. And, the other subplot about the two guides trying to capture Bigfoot is even more useless. So the Bigfoot and Steve stuff is great but everything else is sub-par and, frankly, dull. I didn't need aliens, TLCs, volcanic eruptions, nuclear devices, Stefanie Powers, rotating ice tunnels and John Saxon in an ascot. But, I would have liked more than what we were given. It's like the musical numbers and romantic scenes in A Night At The Opera. They get in the way. And, we know that these clowns are NOT going to get Bigfoot in the end so that makes it even more pointless.
But, that's an unfortunate element to the end of the Bionic Bigfoot saga.
Yes, we're ineffectual, pointless characters.
Why do you ask?
And, in the end, he will become what we thought he was all along.
The saga closes...
I grew up with these two TV shows but I never watched them. I started about two years ago, slowly working my way through both of them. They're a good time. One of the things I was looking forward to when I started was reaching these episodes as I do love Bigfoot so. And, they're good to very good episodes. Bigfoot has less to do than I thought he would (especially in Secret). And, as I mentioned, he's not a villain or a monster. In the end, he turns out to be a good guy. A good, giant, hairy fellow who, for possibly the first time in his life, has a friend. That's not where I expected this blogathon entry to end at but I'm glad it did.
...just as it should
*I would probably watch a Saturday morning cartoon called The OSI Gang.
**I might watch this one. It sounds far too generic and could involve people immigrating from one country to another, which is not as fun as UFO-related hi-jinks.
***You can bet your behind I'm watching a show (or movie) called Steve & The Sasquatch.