That One Time William Shatner Tried to Take a Dolphin into Space

We all know about the time Captain Kirk took whales to the future — but years earlier, William Shatner wanted to bring dolphins on a rocket. In this special episode of Six Million Dollar Man, Shatner plays an astronaut whose brain gets supercharged by an energy field in space, letting him communicate with dolphins.


The early episodes of $6MM are often pretty off the wall — but "Burning Bright" could be the strangest. Shatner is playing Josh, an astronaut who starts talking some crazy talk during an EVA, about how the sun is "the origin of space." Once back on Earth, Josh acts loony and insists that the next launch calculations are wrong because "there's not a variable in the curl pattern." Steve Austin insists that the bigwigs run both of these crazy ideas through their computer in Washington — even though computer time is fantastically expensive — and the computer concludes that Josh was right, both times. The sun is the origin of space, and there is no variable in the curl pattern.

But then it all goes south, as you can see in the above clip — Josh starts communicating psychically with dolphins, and decides that dolphins must be on the same wavelength as the energy field he encountered in space. So he wants to bring a dolphin into space with him, but meanwhile the NASA brass just want to confine him to a hospital bed, under armed guard if necessary. And then Josh starts using his mental powers to knock people out, while also showing signs that his supercharged brain is more than his body can handle.

The whole thing is insanely cheesy and Shatnertastic, and yet there's kind of an interesting idea at the center of it: the notion that both Josh and Steve are superhuman misfits, because of Josh's superbrain and Steve's bionic body. But Steve is able to pass for normal and function in society, whereas Josh is rejected because he can't play dumb.

But mostly, it's just an excuse to watch Shatner being more over-the-top than he ever was on Star Trek.


Share This Story