Well, hello there! Welcome back for another edition of “Versus”! This week, we dive into a great battle of cyborg versus cyborg! We present to you the Bionic Man (Steve Austin) vs. Robocop (Alex Murphy). Who would be the last cyborg standing? We let you decide the winner. Vote at the end of this article. Here is a little about each contestant! And don’t worry about our combatants, “we have the technology, we can rebuild him!”
Six Million Dollar Man (Steve Austin)
Steve Austin is a character created by Martin Caidin for his 1972 novel, Cyborg. The lead character, Colonel Steve Austin, became an iconic 1970s television science fiction action hero, portrayed by American actor Lee Majors, in the television series ”The Six Million Dollar Man”, which aired on the ABC network as a regular series for five seasons from 1974 to 1978. In the television series, Steve Austin takes on special high-risk government missions using his superhuman bionic powers. The television character Steve Austin became a pop culture icon of the 1970s.
The Six Million Dollar Man television series had as its original working title during pre-production the Martin Caidin novel Cyborg title.
Caidin’s version of Steve Austin appeared in only four original novels unrelated to the television series continuity: “Cyborg”, “Operation Nuke”, “High Crystal” and “Cyborg IV”.
Following the “The Six Million Dollar Man” television series, Lee Majors reprised the role of Colonel Steve Austin in a several bionic reunion television movies in the late 1980s and 1990s.
As originally conceived by Caidin, Austin is a former US Army helicopter pilot who served in Vietnam before being transferred to the Air Force and then into NASA. As backup Lunar Module Pilot for Apollo 17, he became one of twelve astronauts to walk on the moon when the prime Lunar Module Pilot (LMP) broke an arm before launch.
In the pilot episode of The Six Million Dollar Man, Austin’s background is adjusted: he is a civilian test pilot who was the only civilian to walk on the Moon. In the regular series, however, Austin once again became a military man, holding the rank of colonel in the Air Force. In the episode “Pilot Error” Austin is shown to be wearing both the Vietnam Service Medal and the Vietnam Campaign Medal on his dress uniform, implying that he is a Vietnam veteran.
In both versions of his origin, Austin is testing an experimental lifting body aircraft when a malfunction causes a crash. Austin’s injuries are severe: both legs and one arm are lost, and he is also blinded in one eye and his skull is pulverized (the TV version does not suffer the skull injury). One of Austin’s best friends is Dr. Rudy Wells, a doctor and scientist who is a specialist in the newly emerging field of bionics; unknown to Wells, a secret American government intelligence agency, the Office of Strategic Operations (OSO; later changed to Office of Scientific Intelligence or OSI for TV) has been looking at a way of reducing agent casualties. Their solution is to take a severely injured man, rebuild him with bionics, and create a cyborg—part man, part machine. Wells is ordered to perform the procedure on Austin, who expresses a desire to commit suicide after learning about the loss of his limbs.
The operation to rebuild him costs $6 million. Bionics are used to replace Austin’s arm (his left in Caidin’s original story; his right in the TV version) and both legs. Austin’s eye is also replaced. Caidin and the TV series treat this differently; Caidin’s Austin receives a sophisticated miniature camera (activated by pressing a hidden shutter implanted under Austin’s skin after which the eye has to be removed before development of the film) but otherwise remains blinded in that eye, while the television version not only restores sight but also has extreme telescopic magnification and infrared capabilities. His legs and arm provide Austin with superhuman speed, strength and endurance (the latter because, Caidin writes, Austin’s heart and lungs only need to power his torso, head and remaining arm). Caidin’s character also had some additional bionic parts his TV counterpart lacked, such as a steel-reinforced skull, a poison dart gun built into one of his bionic fingers, and a radio transmitter built into a rib.
Another big distinction between Caidin’s original and his television counterpart is the extent to which the bionics could supply strength and speed. In the former, Austin’s strength and speed were limited by the physical abilities of the connecting human parts. For instance, Austin could run faster than the best Olympic athlete, whereas the TV character could run 60 MPH. Caidin himself satirized the TV series’ unrealistic science in another novel, ManFac.
Both versions of the character are subsequently recruited into the OSO/OSI as a secret agent (and as an ongoing test subject for bionics). Austin becomes a top agent, traveling the world to fight everything from terrorism (the most common target of the literary version of the character) to even alien invasion on television. Austin is obscure enough to usually maintain his anonymity, and uses his astronaut status to establish credibility when necessary.
Austin’s personality was altered in the TV series. In the books, Austin was capable of being cold-blooded and did not hesitate to use his powers to kill if necessary. Yet in the TV pilot, Austin is initially hesitant to work for the OSI because, he says, “I don’t want to kill people,” although he appears to do just that in the subsequent mission. After the show’s first season, however, Austin was usually not shown killing anyone.
In Caidin’s novels, Austin’s superior is OSO chief Oscar Goldman. Goldman was replaced by another character, Oliver Spencer, in the TV pilot film, but appeared in the regular series. The relationship between the TV version of Austin and Oscar was much friendlier than the literary counterpart, although numerous episodes show Austin being frustrated at being a “bionic lap dog” for the OSI.
Austin’s backstory is barely described by Caidin. The TV series, however, introduced his mother and stepfather (who live in Ojai, California), and eventually, a fiancée, Jaime Sommers, who would herself become bionic after a skydiving accident, leading to a spin-off series, The Bionic Woman. Lee Majors made frequent guest appearances on the spin-off series, which springboarded from Jaime being brought back to life after her bionics failed; a consequence of this was she lost all memory of her relationship to Austin. Both The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman went off the air in 1978.
A later episode reveals that Austin’s biological father was also an Air Force pilot and was killed in the crash of his C-47 Skytrain in the China-Burma-India Theater during World War II.
Further details about Austin’s later life were filled in during three made-for-TV reunion movies that aired between 1987 and 1994. In the first (“The Return of the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman”), which takes place several years after Austin retires from the OSI, it is revealed that he had a son, Michael, born in the mid-1960s. His mother is not identified. Michael subsequently suffers traumatic injuries in a crash similar to that which his father experienced, and undergoes bionic rebuilding which renders him more powerful than his bionic father. In exchange for Michael’s operation, Austin agrees to return to OSI and his son also becomes an operative, though he would not appear in any subsequent films. In the second film, “Bionic Showdown”, Austin is shown to be a senior OSI operative helping thwart a terrorist attack against an athletic event in Canada. “Bionic Ever After?”, the final reunion film, saw Austin’s bionics malfunctioning due to a computer virus, but in the end he is rescued by Jaime and the two finally marry as the film ends. Unlike Jaime, who undergoes an upgrade to her bionics in “Bionic Ever After?” which apparently adds new abilities, no such upgrade was ever evidenced for Austin in the telefilms, with the exception of an apparent enhancement to his bionic eye which is illustrated in “Bionic Ever After?”.
Robocop (Alex Murphy)
RoboCop is a fictional Detroit robotically enhanced police officer designated as OCP Crime Prevention Unit 001 in the film series of the same name. The character begins as a human being named Alexander James “Alex” Murphy, who is killed in the line of duty by a vicious crime gang. Subsequently, Murphy is transformed into the cyborg entity RoboCop by the megacorporation Omni Consumer Products (OCP). He is referred to as Robo by creators Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner in their original screenplay.
Police officer Alex Murphy is serving with the Detroit Police Department when its funding and administration is taken over by the private corporation Omni Consumer Products. Murphy is a devout Irish Catholic and a mild-mannered family man, living with his wife, Ellen (Nancy in the television series, Clara in the 2014 remake), and his son, Jimmy (James Daniel “Jimmy” Murphy in RoboCop: The Series (see ep. 06, “Zone Five”), David in the 2014 remake). Murphy starts mimicking his son’s television hero, T.J. Lazer, by twirling his gun whenever he took down a criminal. Murphy’s psychological profile states that he was top of his class at the police academy and possesses a fierce sense of duty. This dedication explains why Murphy exhibits none of the negative attitudes and statements shared by his fellow officers when he is transferred to the Metro West Precinct, the most violent area of Old Detroit. The police dissatisfaction is the result of OCP’s deliberate mismanagement, and penny-pinching, which led to the deaths of many police officers in the precinct
Ten years after the first RoboCop was activated, OCP revives the RoboCop Program yet again. After the death of Delta City Security Commander John T. Cable, OCP uses portions of his body to create Crime Prevention Unit 002, moving back to the original elements of Morton’s RoboCop Program. In a move of Corporate Espionage, this new RoboCop is activated in an attempt to eliminate his predecessor so that the conglomerate could freely participate in questionable activities. This programming is later overcome by Cable, who OCP had not remembered was a former friend, and partner, of Alex Murphy, and the two instead moved against OCP.
First Directive: Serve the public trust
This is the moral directive programmed: it establishes RoboCop as a police civil servant in the series. RoboCop must help the civilians in any ways possible; and must protect their rights to life, privacy, and property from any lethal or non-lethal harm. This disables him from prosecuting, arresting, trespassing or harming innocent civilians without warrant, or act in any way against the public’s trust. If he detects an innocent bystanders, his fellow officers or criminals of minor misdemeanors are attacked; it then activates the Second Directive and Third Directive.
Second Directive: Protect the innocent
This is the ethical directive programmed: it establishes Robocop must exercise duty to rescue, non-lethality and the presumption of innocence at all times. Lethal-force is authorized only during life-threatening situations, and only against criminals with a history of serious felonies (etc. murder).
Third Directive: Uphold the law
This is the legal directive programmed: it establishes RoboCop as a law enforcement officer, and is obligated to “protect and serve” as required by law. It also forbids strike action or to request termination of employment, and disables him from directly arresting or harming a police officer (unless proven guilty).
Fourth Directive: Classified
This directive is deliberately programmed as “hidden” and is inaccessible by RoboCop. This directive renders him physically incapable of arresting or injuring any senior OCP employee: “Any attempt to arrest a senior OCP employee results in shutdown.”
Robocop carries guns designed for him and is equipped with enhanced reflexes, speed and strength, visual and auditory capabilities.
RoboCop holstering weapon
• Auto-9 – RoboCop’s primary weapon; it is a 9mm handgun with a large barrel extension that fires in three-round bursts. The sidearm is stored in a mechanical holster which opens out of RoboCop’s right thigh. The prop for the weapon is a modified Beretta 93R. Though unnamed in the films, The Series referred to the Auto-9 by name and added that the main version of the weapon was modified so that no one but RoboCop could actually fire it. In Prime Directives, it could fire various types of ammunition which RoboCop could select at any given time.
• Cobra Assault Cannon – The Cobra Assault Cannon used in RoboCop could fire explosive rounds equivalent to that of a grenade launcher and is based on the Barrett M82A1 anti-materiel rifle.
• Machine gun/rocket launcher – This weapon made its appearance in RoboCop 3 and was never referenced by name other than being called a “weapon arm” in promotional action figures, and a “gun arm” by the production team. To use it, RoboCop removes his left hand and replaces it with the weapon assembly. It contains a 9mm Calico M960, a flamethrower and a small missile launcher with a projectile potent enough to destroy an armored vehicle.
• Flightpack/recharging station – A large jetpack that allows RoboCop to fly. It also doubles as a replenishing system for when RoboCop’s battery system is low on power. As seen in RoboCop 3, the jetpack allows Murphy to overcome his relatively limited mobility for tactical advantage in combat. Referred to in the film as a “flightpack” and by production as a “jetpack,” some Japanese schematics also mention “Gyropack” as a name.
• Mini-gun/cannon – This weapon appears in Frank Miller’s RoboCop comic book and was originally meant to be RoboCop’s arm cannon prior to the final product in RoboCop 3.
• Data spike – RoboCop’s data spike is a sharp, spike-like device that protrudes from Robocop’s right fist. This device can be used by Robocop to interface with a corresponding data port in order to download information from the police database and compare information he’s gathered from his missions with the police database. Not actually a weapon, this device was also used to take out Clarence Boddicker; having pinned RoboCop under a pile of scrap metal, the cyborg waited for Boddicker to approach and then stabbed Boddicker in the throat, killing the crime lord. The spike does not make an appearance in the second, but it is used by RoboCop in the third film to access the OCP mainframe where he finds that a young girl’s parents have been eliminated. It also appears regularly throughout RoboCop: The Series.
• Explosives – In RoboCop: The Series, unidentified explosive devices were equipped in Robocop’s left thigh holster, and adhere to metallic surfaces. When armed, they can be detonated by weapons-fire, and are used primarily to remove barricades and other obstacles.
• Ramset/Rambolt – In RoboCop: The Series, RoboCop came with a Ramset/Rambolt function, wherein he can anchor himself to the spot by deploying a pair of retractable bolts out of the bottom of each foot. When anchored in place, RoboCop is able to stop a colliding car in its tracts. While this function is called ‘Ramset’ in its first two appearances, in ep. #03 “Officer Missing”, & #04 “What Money Can’t Buy”, in all its following appearances it is called ‘Rambolt’.
Well there you have it fans of the cyborg world. Who do you choose? Who is the victor? Vote now, and also let us know what you think of this divine challenge. What are your thoughts on this “Versus”? Do you want to hear us talk about this in more detail? We have all you need about this fight – listen to our podcast at podcastunlimited.com, go to our archive section and look for episode 90!
“Dead or alive, your coming with me!”