I’ve ended up buying the bionic series back to front, largely because ‘The Bionic Woman’ was the cheapest but then at only three seasons that was understandable. Whatever, it’s still cheaper to buy as a complete boxset than individual seasons when they were originally released plus you do get all the extras with audio commentaries, galleries and interviews which really is a must for any fans of this show. As I missed a lot of season three originally back in the 70s, it gave me a chance to not only see them but also in context. Considering that the series Stateside had been switched to a different network and some of the latter episodes were a little okey, some of these were also extremely good and even funny. Compare season 3’s ‘Rancho Outcast’ and ‘Over The Hill Spy’ to first season’s ‘Angel Of Mercy’, which from her interview is Lindsay Wagner’s favourite, is still on top form. From the interview, her choice for being in disguise a lot in various episodes also ensured she was keeping herself from being typecast by fitting into various guises. I’d love to see her showreel from that time.
For those who’ve been living on another planet, Jaime Sommers (actress Lindsay Wagner) was a school-time sweetheart of the Six Million Dollar Man, the cyborg Steve Austin (actor Lee Majors). When they got back together in his show, they were skydiving and her parachute candled and she got terrible injuries. Austin persuades his OSI boss, Oscar Goldman (actor Richard Anderson), to get Dr. Rudy Wells (actor Martin E. Brooks) to put up the money to turn her bionic with a pair of legs, arm and ear and effectively saved her life. Unfortunately, her body rejects her parts and for all intents and purposes she dies.
Except that viewing figures dictated otherwise and she was kept in deep freeze until things were sorted out and was returned to life. Not everything was rosy because brain damage meant she only saw Austin as a friend not a lover and got slowly eased into doing missions for the OSI, becoming a valuable asset herself.
I’m not going to detail the episodes here but will point out that the two cross-overs with ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’ are contained here so there is no break in continuity plus the three twenty years later stories. Seeing those again, the third ‘Bionic Ever After’ without the need of showing other people being made bionic was probably the most effective even if everyone at the OSI, including the gate guards, seems to have level 6 clearance.
As usual, for me, there were some odd things I picked up along the way that can be used for discussion points.
It does make me wonder about her placement in the order of things from the opening credits as being the second bionic person as this makes Barney Hiller/Miller, the seven million dollar man, as being the third bionic person when I would have placed him as second.
Jaime meets four alien species throughout the seasons and each time she forgets she’s met others each time. Granted that she was probably wise to question anyone with such claims and who spoke English and humanoid as to their alien credentials, but you would have thought she’d have been better prepared than most.
Jaime uses ‘Huh!’ a lot in her dialogue in the first two seasons which oddly doesn’t come out in her interviews so presumably was scripted that way..
In season one, ‘Fly Jaime’, apart from being a remake of a ‘Six Million Dollar Man’ story ‘Survival Of The Fittest’, with Rudy Wells replacing Oscar Goldman, for being injured and Jaime’s finger being the cautiser. She also reminds Rudy that she actually cost six million dollars herself. The only reason the series wasn’t called ‘The Six Million Dollar Woman’ was because someone at the studio thought it might make her sound like a high class call girl. I should point out the re-make episode was largely to fill the schedule at short notice and it was adapted to her quite well.
Speaking of price, I suspect most of us here have always considered their bionic costs to be divided between their different parts but this is actually for the entire project, which pays for check-ups, replacement parts and such plus half a million dollars a year afterwards. In that respects, the cost of the bionics that are actually incorporated into them does actually come down to a more reasonable price. It’s rather interesting to note that modern day science is finally catching up with its 70s fictional counterpart with connecting nerve endings to mechanics and although I doubt if any would carry a nuclear power source, which season 3’s ‘The Pyramid’ shows to be quite tiny really or have the capabilities they had, true bionic cyborgs aren’t that far off now.
Lindsay Wagner’s audio commentary with the ‘Nashville’ story addresses, amongst other things, her arguments with creator/scriptwriter Kenny Johnson about moving her hair away from bionic ear when she was listening in on something. Thinking about this I drew a better conclusion. Unlike Austin’s bionic eye which works on a focusing technique, for Jaime to having her hearing up all the time would effectively be an uneven stereo effect and she would need to keep it at regular levels most of the time and couldn’t really be done by focusing. I wonder if Rudy Wells had an inductor in her bionic finger to turn it up when she needed the volume up and just bringing her hand up to her ear raised the volume. That way, moving her hair back would just look like a normal activity.
By the way, there is a muddle on the final disk of the first season and the only way to the non-audio commentary of the penultimate story ‘Mirror Image’ is to manual over-ride or else have that of the final story ‘The Ghosthunter’s audio commentary again.
These days, we’re used to seeing two units being noted in the closing credits, when it’s possible to read them. The Bionic Woman only had one unit so it’s no wonder that the working days were so long and why ultimately, Lindsay Wagner called it a day from exhaustion.
Coming away from this series, I’m still left reasonably impressed and how much the series holds together so well today. Like Lindsay Wagner herself, you have to admire her stunt lady Rita Egleston reverse jumping on one foot and the leap in ‘Sanctuary Earth’ into the lake has to be a personal favourite.
Treat the 2007 version as a misfire and have a look at the original because it’s so much better even today. There were very few leading lady American TV series back then and only one SF series, ‘The Bionic Woman’.
(region 2 DVD: pub: Freemantle Media Enterprises FHED2885. 18 DVDs 3504 minutes 3 seasons 66 * 45 minute episodes and 3 TV film specials and extras. Price: about £40.00 (UK) if you know where to look)
cast: Lindsay Wager, Richard Anderson and Martin E. Brooks
check out website: www.fabulous films.com