Monday, December 31, 2012

The Six Million Dollar Man: "A Bionic Christmas Carol"



First aired December 12, 1976

Oscar Goldman: You need any help?
Steve Austin: No, I think I have help.  I ran into an old friend named Dickens, he seems to have some bright ideas. 
Oscar Goldman: Dickens?


Steve Austin (Lee Majors) is getting ready to visit his parents for Christmas.  But his boss Oscar Goldman (Richard Anderson) has a mission for him.  Steve is assigned to investigate a corporation for the Office of  Scientific Intelligence (OSI).

Steve delivers a Christmas present for Oscar.
The Budge Corporation is working on life support equipment for astronauts.  Oscar says some of the equipment is sub-standard, which could result in deaths or injuries.

Ray Walston as Horton Budge.
Steve meets the owner of the company, Horton Budge (Ray Walston).  He doesn't like Steve and lets him know immediately.  Budge says the equipment problem are merely "minor bugs." Steve says any life support system that doesn't work 100% of the time is unacceptable.  We see Budge drinking some sort of liquid in his office.


Budge hates Christmas (we see him ordering a worker to take down a tree) and treats his employees with general disdain.

Budge tells his workers to take down their Christmas tree.
This is especially true in the case of his chauffeur Bob Crandall (Dick Sargent), who also happens to be Budge's nephew.  We see a conversation between the two and learn that Bob owes money to Budge and is working to pay it off.  Bob's wife Nora (Antoinette Bower) was very ill, so Bob embezzled money from Budge's company to pay for her care.  He is caught, of course, and Budge insists that Bob pay all the money back, with interest.  Budge also demoted Bob from accountant to chauffeur and forces him to work well into the night on Christmas Eve.  Bob would rather be home that night with his wife Nora and their three children.  
Bob Crandall talks to Steve, a Salvation Army Santa looks on.

Steve notices this and offers to work for Bob that night.  Bob appreciates this, but knows Budge wouldn't allow it.  Instead, Steve says he wants to buy some presents for Bob's kids, which Bob allows.

Steve shops for toys;The Jaws game & Steve Austin in the same shot, talk about a 70s Pop Culture moment!

When they arrive at the Crandall house, Steve is surprised to see they have no Christmas tree.  The kids tell him it's been a while since they had one.  Steve uses his bionic strength to get them a tree by breaking off the top of a big pine tree in their yard.

Steve gets a Christmas tree for the Crandalls.
 Back at Budge's company, the workers are testing the space life support system.  Something goes wrong with it and jeopardizes the life of the test astronaut.  Luckily, Steve is nearby and uses his bionic strength to  break open the test chamber and save him.  When Steve confronts Budge about this, Budge dismisses his concerns.  He tells Steve that his factory follows all regulations.  Steve acknowledges this, but tells him they need to do better than the bare minimum.

Budge's house. Yes, it's the Bates' house from Psycho.
That night, Budge gets sick, Bob and Steve go to Budge's home to check on him.  Budge is delirious and hallucinating.  The doctor says Budge has taken an overdose of his medication (the aforementioned liquid).  Steve decides to take advantage of the hallucinationsHe will try to "Scrooge" Budge.

Steve shows Budge his "tombstone".

He borrows a  Santa suit from a Salvation Army bell ringer.  He wears it to Budge's house and takes the old man out for a walk.  Steve (using his bionic powers) molds a stepping stone into a tombstone for Budge.  This shocks Budge a bit and makes him think about changing his ways.

Next, Steve takes Budge into town, where carolers are singing "O' Come All Ye Faithful".  Budge admits their song is pretty and even gives them a donation.


Steve also gives Budge a look at "Christmas Present".  They visit the Crandall's home and overhear Bob worrying about Budge's health.  Nora mentions that Budge didn't show any concern over her health when she was sick.  Budge says he never realized how ill she was.  Bob regrets leaving Budge in Steve's care.  They don't wish ill on Budge or carry any grudges.

Nora & Bob trim their tree.
Next, Budge and Steve listen in on the Crandall children.  Bob Jr. (Adam Rich, who later starred on Eight Is Enough) mentions that their uncle never buys them presents or even bothers to visit them.  His older sister Elsie (Quinn Cummings, best known for her roles in  The Goodbye Girl and Family) says that doesn't mean Budge doesn't love them.  Elsie says he loves them and they love him too.

Budge hears Bob's kids say that they love him.
Budge overhears this and says he loves the kids.  He says that if he is dreaming, he'll show them how much he loves them when he wakes up. 

Budge comes to his senses & plays Santa for the Crandalls on Christmas morning.
J.A. Morris says:

It's funny that I don't remember seeing this episode as a kid.  I watched this show religiously, I even had several Six Million Dollar Man toys, but somehow missed this episode. 

On the left side of this image, you'll see a Six Million Dollar Man doll.  Of course I had one!

It's a good modern retelling of the Scrooge story.  If Dickens' miser ran a military contract company, he probably would have cut corners and not worried about occupational safety.

Steve brings Christmas gifts for the Crandall children.

Bob Crandall isn't quite as innocent as Crachit was.  He embezzled money from Budge, something Scrooge's employee never did, but we still sympathize with Crandall, considering the scenario.

Steve brings back a tree.
 One thing that makes this episode work is Ray Walston.  He was always one of my favorite character actors, Walston elevates the material here.    

The Crandall kids decorate their tree.


There's one problem with "A Bionic Christmas Carol."  Budge seems to get very sick right away, and out of nowhere.  I mentioned that we see him take a few drinks early in the episode, but all of a sudden Bob is acting like Budge has a life-threatening illness.  

Steve carries a drug-out, hallucinating Budge.

This episode is only available in the U.S. as part of the (very expensive) complete series dvd set.  I got hold of a copy through Interlibrary Loan (yay for libraries!) and you can probably find this episode online if you look hard enough.

Steve & Budge listen on the kids' conversation during Budge's "Scrooge" trip.


I generally enjoyed this episode and fans of this series will appreciate it too.  A Bionic Christmas Carol is a fun, nostalgic Christmas card from the 70s.  

Oscar gives Steve a gift as they wish each other a Merry Christmas.



J.A. Morris' rating:
3 Candy Canes.

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