The Bionic Woman

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Jump to: navigation, search
See below for 2007 series.

ABC, 1976-1978. Spin-Off from The Six Million Dollar Man, featuring Lindsay Wagner as Jaime Sommers, the second active bionic agent of the OSI. Jaime made her initial appearance in a 1975 episode of The Six Million Dollar Man -- she was a tennis pro and Steve Austin's old sweetheart. During a vacation from the OSI, Austin returns to his home town of Ojai and runs into Jaime again, and pretty soon their romance resumes. During one of their outings, they decide to go parachuting; Jaime's chute fails and she suffers catastrophic injuries. An overwrought Steve convinces his boss, Oscar Goldman, to authorize bionic replacement surgery to restore Jaime's destroyed legs, right arm and right ear. Goldman agrees.

Jaime and Steve bond further after the surgery, and he proposes marriage. But before they can wed, her body starts rejecting the bionics; she dies on the operating table as Rudy Wells struggled to save her life.

Or so it seemed. Viewer response to Jaime was so great, and their response to her death so negative, that ABC ordered the producers of Six Mil to revamp the opening of the show's third season in order to slot in a two-parter that explained that unknown to Steve, Jaime had been placed in suspended animation (cryonics), which allowed her to be brought back to life. But at a price: no memory of Steve or her love for him remained. Again, viewer response was strong and ABC commissioned, on very short notice for TV, a new spin-off series to debut in January 1976.

Because her bionics gave her an unfair advantage on the court, Jaime left the professional tennis circuit and returned to her home town of Ojai, California, to work as a teacher -- and as an occasional, not to mention reluctant, special agent for the OSI. Her adventures tended to be lower-key than Steve's, and less violent, often following the Star Trek formula of emphasizing character over style. That didn't stop the show from occasionally dipping into the overt sci-fi well the parent show did, such as a series of episode featuring lifelike androids called "Fembots", and the inevitable crossovers with Six Mil that included a run-in with the infamous Bigfoot. During the show's final season, even more attempts were made to humanize things by saddling Jaime with a "Bionic Dog" named Max, a German shepherd who was one of the early successes in Rudy Wells' bionic development program, and who had been scheduled for destruction before Jaime stepped in.

One of the keys to the program's top-ratings success (it often beat its parent program in that area) was Lindsay Wagner's very wry and down-to-earth performance as Jaime. One got the feeling that (unlike Austin) she could lose all her bionic augmentations and not care much, although she certainly was more than able to make good use of them in the appropriate crisis situations. Wagner became the first actress in a science fiction-based TV series to win a Best Actress Emmy Award due to her work on Bionic Woman (a fact often ignored by those keen on dismissing the series as another example of "1970s cheese"). Her support cast include always-dependable Richard Anderson as Oscar Goldman, and Martin E. Brooks as Dr. Rudy Wells. Both actors made history when ABC cancelled the series and NBC picked it up for a final season, and the two were allowed to continue to appear in both shows, even though they were now on competing networks. (Further crossovers with Lee Majors, however, were forbidden.)

Like The Six Million Dollar Man, the special effects are a product of their time, in particular the slow motion effects which were inspired, according to producer Harve Bennett, by NFL Films' iconic slow-motion footage of football players in action, and because, so sayeth Lee Majors on the 2010 DVD release of his series, showing bionics at full speed looked silly. With Wagner, the slow-motion takes on a graceful elegance generally missing from the parent series, which is likely why the use of slow-motion on The Bionic Woman tends to be less-frequently lampooned. Like most series, the scripts run the gamut from classics like "Doomsday is Tomorrow", a two-parter by series creator Kenneth Johnson (V, Alien Nation) that pitted Jaime against a computer programmed to destroy the world, to lesser episodes such as one in which Jaime had to protect a lion (the plot did not get any thicker than that!). Due to the very short notice given for the production of the first season, a couple of scripts had to be recycled from the show's male counterpart. Still, Wagner's charm and sense of humor was often enough to carry the show, and it is still remembered with fondness by a large number of fans.

At their best, both the Bionic Woman and The Six Million Dollar Man sometimes transcended the usual limitations of TV action/adventure. For example, in Kill Oscar, an evil scientist decides to replace the female personnel of the OSI with life-like female 'fembots'. The 3-part crossover took this and actually made it both disturbing (at how easily people could be replaced, and how much harm could come of it if a high-ranking person was one of them) and oddly non-sexist, in that the women the robots replaced were the secretaries and assistants of high-ranking male OSI personnel. These secretaries are clearly shown as having high security clearances, access to important knowledge and making a very important contribution to the work, and yet underappreciated and too often ignored. This nearly enables the scientist to bring about the defeat of the OSI.

Tropes used in The Bionic Woman include:

Bionic Woman[edit | hide | hide all]

The series was rebooted by David Eick, one of the producers of the new Battlestar Galactica; it briefly aired on NBC in fall 2007 and starred Michelle Ryan (Zoe Slater from Eastenders) as a Fake American. It lasted only nine episodes before the writer's strike and low ratings killed it, although the re-imagined series was troubled from the start due to Executive Meddling, and numerous behind-the-scenes changes before the first episode aired.

  • Achilles' Heel: Jaime's natural arm.
    • Occasionally her bionics in general, too (one early episode actually has her breaking a bionic toe while leaping a fence).
  • All Just a Dream: Jaime freaks out discovering she's being turned into a bionic woman, gets stunned into unconsciousness, then wakes up with her body intact and apparently normal. She's relieved for a second...then her fiance appears and tells her that what she saw earlier was indeed real.
  • Always Save the Girl: Averted. Even though he loves her, Jae Kim doesn't hesitate to Boom! Headshot! Sarah Corvus the second she rushes him. Jonas Bledsoe's wife died even though he knew bionic technology could have saved her life. Will Anthros appears to follow this trope only for it to be revealed he'd been grooming Jaime as a potential bionic woman all along.
  • Anyone Can Die: Will Anthros and Antonio Pope.
  • Badass Normal: Jae and Antonio are skilled enough to fight a bionic woman in unarmed combat (though not necessarily beat her).
  • Battle in the Rain: Jaime and Sarah's fight in the pilot.
  • Bioluminescence Is Terrifying And Makes You Knock Your Mad Doctor Fiance Across The Room
  • Big Brother Is Employing You: There's a GPS tracker inside Jaime's head, and Berkut can see everything she sees. Jaime is not pleased.
  • Blessed with Suck: Jaime discovers she'll be dead in five years unless new technology is developed.
  • Bratty Half-Pint: Becca Sommers, Jaime's fifteen year old sister.
  • Break the Cutie: Although she's a bit of a bad-ass from the start, elements of the various episodes suggest this being attempted of Jaime.
  • Call Back: The sound played in the original series whenever the heroine used her bionic powers can be heard on several occasions towards the end of the series. And at least one use of old-school slow-motion running, too.
    • It's worth noting that these effects appear primarily in the later episodes after fan and critical reaction had become known.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: Jaime is assigned to babysit a Poor Little Rich Kid who pulls the usual Ditch the Bodyguards stunt. As punishment Jaime puts her in a room for two hours with Berkut headshrink Ruth Treadwell -- two hours later the Mind Screwed kid meekly apologises.
  • Cool Big Sis: Jaime to Becca, but her efforts are hampered by Jaime having to act as surrogate mother thanks to their Disappeared Dad.
  • Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: Or cybernetics make you go Ax Crazy and kill fourteen people.
  • Cyborg Nosebleed: When Jaime deactivates her tracker.
  • Darker and Edgier: Definitely applies to Jonas and the Berkut Group who are a much more malevolent organization than Oscar Goldman's OSI (at least as depicted in the original TV series; they're actually consistent with how Caidin treated Goldman and the OSI/OSO in the original Cyborg novels and the original 1973 Six Million Dollar Man pilot movie). Can also be applied to Jamie, who though she is unwilling to kill anyone herself is more inclined to beat the stuffings out of bad guys than Lindsay Wagner's Jamie (and in one episode she actually encourages a colleague to shoot a bad guy dead).
  • Dating Catwoman: Jae Kim and Sarah Corvus. Subverted in that they're fully prepared to kill each other if necessary.
  • Dead Little Sister: Corvus is haunted by the death of her sister, killed while they were drink-driving.
  • Dodge the Bullet: Jaime reacts to a long-range sniper shot but not in time to save her fiance. She pulls him out of the way of the second bullet but only because she had time to realise it was coming.
  • Does Not Know Her Own Strength: Jaime tries making out with a handsome stranger in a restroom and ends up breaking one of his ribs.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: Wolf Creek Biotech Research Facility.
  • Everything's Sexier With A Brit Accent: When posing as a British exchange student in "The Education of Jaime Sommers" Michelle Ryan reverts to her natural accent, described as "Literally the hottest thing ever" by Nathan. During the mission she meets her Love Interest, CIA agent Tom Hastings, who is somewhat disappointed when Jaime reverts to her 'real' accent. The next episode has them Undercover As Lovers in Paris -- Jaime's discovery that Tom speaks fluent French clearly puts her in snogging mode.
  • Evil Counterpart (with touches of Evil Mentor): Sarah Corvus to Jaime Sommers.
  • Good Eyes, Evil Eyes: Sarah's bionic eye glows red when it activates. Jaime's glows green.
  • Healing Factor: The anthrocytes can heal injuries at a rapid rate but also shorten her lifespan.
  • Heroes-R-Us: The Berkut Group, a private corporation set up to stop technology from falling into the wrong hands (who constitutes the 'wrong hands' is entirely up to them).
  • Hey, It's That Guy!: Starbuck is a cylon...I mean cyborg! Romo Lampkin is a Mad Scientist! The Chief puts on a brief cameo too.
    • And every British viewer went "Zoe Slater's the bionic woman!"
  • Interservice Rivalry: Between Berkut and the CIA.
  • Ironic Echo: Jaime complains to Jonas about not having any privacy due to the tracker inside her head. Later Corvus turns up at her house and Jonas asks why they didn't know right away.

"You said to hold off on that -- something about her right to privacy."

  • Juggle Fu: In the pilot Jaime knocks a switchblade from a mugger's hand, takes him down with some martial arts moves then catches the knife as it falls. That's when she realises she's been programmed as a Super Soldier.
  • Kinda Busy Here: While Jaime is hiding from well-armed mooks in "Paradise Lost", Becca rings demanding to know where her Tenacious D T-shirt is.
  • Laser Hallway: Visible despite the fact that Jaime's bionic eye could have given her a plausible way of seeing infra-red beams. Subverted when instead of trying to slip through the beams, Antonio deliberately steps into them so he can use Jaime as a Trojan Prisoner.
  • Les Yay: Averted despite all the "Lesbionic Woman" spoofs and two hot Action Girls with Foe Yay. What were they thinking?
  • Manipulative Bastard: Jaime discovers her fiance Will Anthros had been keeping a file on back two years before they 'met', clearly assessing her as a potential bionic woman. Jonas Bledsoe may be this or a Guile Hero, depending on whether he's really looking out for Jaime and Corvus' best interests as he claims.
  • Mission Control: Nathan
  • Mundane Utility: An episode opens with Jaime racing at Super Speed down a dark alley at night, leaping over a fence In a Single Bound and yanking open a car door to reveal her underage sister necking with an older boy. As she broke a bionic toe jumping the fence, Berkut makes a point of telling her just how much it costs to replace.
  • Neural Implanting

"You're hardwired for highly specialised warfare."