‘Bionic Woman’ Panel Reunites Lindsay Wagner & Alan Oppenheimer For the First Time in Years

Alan Oppenheimer and Lindsay Wagner collage
Everett Collection; Bobby Bank/WireImage; Gregg DeGuire/Getty Images

Lots of big stars from classic TV shows reunited during The Hollywood Show on June 7 and 8 in Los Angeles, California, but one of the biggest reunions to draw thunderous applause from the audience took place during the Bionic Woman panel. According to the schedule, it was only supposed to be a panel featuring the one-and-only Lindsay Wagner, who plays Jaime Sommers, aka the Bionic Woman. But fans in attendance were also treated to an unexpected surprise. Alan Oppenheimer, the beloved actor behind so many memorable voices including Skeletor from He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and Falkor from The NeverEnding Story, made a surprise appearance and it was his first time side by side with Wagner in years.

In The Six Million Dollar Man, Oppenheimer played Dr. Rudy Wells, the bionics expert responsible for overseeing the well-being of Steve Austin (Lee Majors). The same character was portrayed by Martin Balsam in the pilot episode, but Oppenheimer took over the role starting with 1973’s “Wine, Women, and War” made-for-TV movie. But what makes his reunion with Wagner such a monumental occasion is that he played Dr. Wells during the two-part “The Bionic Woman,” the pivotal episode where he gifts Jaime Sommers with her bionic parts, thus paving the way for the eventual Bionic Woman spinoff.

BIONIC WOMAN, Richard Anderson, Lindsay Wagner, Lee Majors, 1976-1978

Everett Collection

During the beginning of the panel, Oppenheimer reflected on first landing the role. “I was doing a play at the Mark Taper and a casting guy from Universal who happened to be a graduate of Carnegie, which I also was, he thought he’d put me in this one episode and it went for three years, but only three episodes a year. And then, unfortunately I would’ve been going further, but I killed her,” he told a crowded audience as he points to a Bionic Woman mannequin. “You see—I was a rather shitty doctor. I also play lawyers. So maybe I could sue myself.”

Bionic Museum Hollywood Show June 2024

Gil Macias

As the audience erupts in laughter following Oppenheimer’s joke about killing Jaime Sommers, that’s when Wagner enters the room to an uproar of cheers. And according to Wagner and Oppenheimer, “The Bionic Woman” episodes were the only two times they’ve ever shared the screen and they really haven’t seen much of each other since. “This is the first time I’ve had more than a ‘hello’ with this lovely lady,” Oppenheimer tells the audience.

As for the long gap of communication between the two stars, Wagner blames it on the fact that their two characters never really had much interaction beyond the two episodes they were in together. “One of the reasons that we didn’t know each other much was because he was talking to [other characters], explains Wagner. “I was out cold on the table, so I had nothing to say [to him].”


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One might assume the cast of The Six Million Dollar Man were all besties even after the show concluded, but that’s actually not the case. As it turns out, Oppenheimer also hasn’t seen Lee Majors in about four decades either. Once cameras stopped rolling, the stars just went about their business. “I haven’t met him in 40 years,” he told the moderator when asked about how often he hung out with Majors outside of the studio. “Actually, I didn’t talk to him very much when we worked together. I’d do a scene and then he’d go off and play backgammon. I really never talked to him at all.”

THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN - "The Return of the Bionic Woman" - Airdate September 14, 1975. ALAN OPPENHEIMER;LEE MAJORS;RICHARD ANDERSON

ABC Photo Archives/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

Before Oppenheimer makes his exit from the panel, they’re asked about whether or not they had any idea there was going to be a Six Million Dollar Man spinoff. It’s here where Wagner shares her memories about the enormous response that television studio executives received regarding the controversial fate of Jaime Sommers. “Nobody knew there was going to be a spinoff. [Pointing to the audience] It’s actually all these people and their parents who brought her back — Jaime Sommers was gone, really. Because it wasn’t the formula, it wasn’t her franchise and they don’t want the people in the audience to think Steve Austin wasn’t available, which keeps women interested in the show — ‘the fantasy’,” she tells the audience. “So she’s there, they fall in love, then — ‘Get rid of her now.’ And they did, which was crazy because it was a family show.”

But it was the power of the fans, mainly children, who wrote droves of passionate letters to save their beloved Bionic Woman that ultimately led to the spinoff. “Kids and parents wrote in saying, ‘How could you do that?’ These kids fall in love with their quintessential father figure with The Six Million Dollar man and you create their mother figure and all the kids go, ‘Oh, I love her,’ and then you kill her right in front of them?” recalls Wagner. “The network went, ‘Oh, this is not good. We have to bring her back.’ So they wrote more episodes just to bring her back so kids knew she was okay. But they still didn’t want her. No, no, no. It was intended to bring her back so all families will know that she’s on the airbase teaching kids and everybody’s fine and happy and having a good time and leave it at that.”

Of course, that wasn’t the end of it. Even though Jaime Sommers was revived and given a happy ending, audiences were still hungry for more of the Bionic Woman, so that so-called ending was very temporary. “I go off making another movie in Canada and I hear that there’s this huge wave of people coming in and the board of directors says, ‘We have to have a series,’  because the wave of ‘Oh, we love it, we love it, we want more,’” reflects Wagner. “Because all those people wrote in. I mean you wrote a letter in those days, and so literally it was public demand. So thank you for making my career.”


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August 2020

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