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Wonder Woman: The Complete Collection boxset (DVD TV series review).

Last year, I pulled the complete ‘The All-New Adventures Of Wonder Woman’ under the name of ‘Wonder Woman: The Complete Collection’, at a good price. I can’t recall the first season ever being shown in the UK as we started with the second season, so this will give me an opportunity to see and compare to the modern 20th century seasons. Back in the 1970s, budgets were low and licensing was never more than the Amazon Princess herself.

Even my memories of the series didn’t bold well. One of my brothers pointed out that Wonder Woman could outrun normal humans and I had a think and conceded that, although watching again now I couldn’t figure out which episode we were watching. It was only when Diana Prince does the twirl into Wonder Woman does she exert her full strength, speed and jumping ability with a touch of invulnerability and, at least in the opening season, ability to mimic other people’s voices. What was the key selling point was actress Lynda Carter who really looked the part. Even after all that time, artist Alex Ross used her as the model for his paintings. Let’s hit on some highlights.

The pilot episode is 70 minutes long with an audio commentary. I’m going to precis this pilot episode. Be prepared to identify the character actors. Not all of them are in the opening credits. It borrows heavily from the comicbooks, not just in the opening credits but in captions, too. Quite why the Germans would want to attack the USA directly beats me in 1942. It’s a long way to fly, let alone get back with no fuel stops. Pilot and Intelligence Office Major Steve Trevor (actor Lyle Waggoner) assigns himself to take out the German plane over the Devil’s Triangle in the Atlantic rather than over American dockyards.

In the conflab, both pilots planes are destroyed and the German pilot (a brief part for actor Eric Braeden) shoots Trevor and succumbs to landing amongst sharks. Trevor washes up unconscious on. Paradise Island and Diana (actress Lynda Carter) and Rena (actress Inga Neilsen) find him. Keeping his eyes bandaged so he doesn’t know where he is when he wakes up, the amazon Queen Hippolyta (actress Cloris Leachman) wants the island to stay secret and away from men. She’s also not keep that, as princess, Diana, should not get too involved. The Germans, meanwhile, are going to launch another plane to carry out the same mission, this time by Colonel Von Blasko (actor Kenneth Mars) once the replacement XV-13 plane arrives. Ah-hah! Further in, its revealed he refuels in Argentina.

The Queen reminds Diana that if she leaves the island she risks her immortality. However, who returns Trevor to the USA will be decided by a competition but refuses Diana from taking part and goes off to one of the island’s retreats. I did wonder how Diana could be in disguise until all the participants come out wearing masks and blonde wigs. Presumably to avoid favouritism. Now, here’s a puzzle, if the Amazons have never been near human civilisation, where did they get their pistols from or know what parachutes were? ‘Amazon supremacy’ sounds a little…what can we call it?

As Wonder Woman, she flies Trevor back to the USA in her invisible plane which conveniently has a visible flying seat and delivers him to hospital, despite their own administrations. Oh, there’s a lot of double-agents shenanigans going on as well.

You would think as Hippolyta sent Wonder Woman to be unobtrusive, why go in costume although Diana figures that out and visits to a clothes shop and nearly walks off with it. After stopping a robbery, an entrepreneur convinces her to perform her guns and bracelets trick to make some much needed money on stage.

After getting enough money, Wonder Woman leaves after one performance and reading Steve Trevor has recovered. News of Von Blasko’s plane gets to him and Trevor is determined to stop him again but is apprehended by Nazi infiltrators along the way. Under truth serum, he gives the safe combination to…well, that’s an open spoiler who bumps into Wonder Woman. Later, she does become Trevor’s secretary so she can keep an eye on him and rescue when needed.

Oddly, for its time period, the story holds up well until you get people like me asking questions. It does avoid elements of campiness. I’ll give Lynda Carter her due, when she smiles, the screen lights up. I’m more amazed how she can understand terrestrial co-ordinates and even how to use a telephone and do flawless voice impersonations.

The audio commentary with Lynda Carter and executive producer Douglas S. Cramer, recorded 30 years after it was filmed. Carter points out that she played Wonder Woman totally straight against the craziness around her and preferred the 1970s to the 1940s. It was also her suggestion to spin around to do the costume change. Cramer preferred the tongue-in-cheek qualities and points out the show was trail-blazing proving that a woman could lead a series. Lots of good stuff here, especially addressing the lack of women directors and so forth at the time.

Quite a learning experience. Carter notes there were very few roles for women back then. Hah! It also sounds like she was near-sighted and wasn’t able to wear the old-fashioned hard contact lenses. Ah, she was also wearing a wig because the studio hair-curling her wiped out a lot of her own hair. Whether this was true for the later seasons is hard to say. For those of you intending to make the model kit of Carter as Wonder Woman, she isn’t a brunette but dark brown haired and would suggest you use umber if you want a colour match.

The aspects of the series depends on Steve Trevor and his associates not recognising Diana Prince as Wonder Woman or why both of them don’t appear together. Then again, that never stopped that reporter chap hoodwinking his associates neither. With the first season, you do have to wonder if Steve Trevor was that good why wasn’t he sent to Europe to work? America’s involvement in the world war two seems more involved than in our reality, more so as its announced in the second episode that they have city blackouts at night.

A two-parter, ‘The Feminum Mystique’, early in the season has Queen Hippolyta (this time played by Carolyn Jones) unhappy that her daughter hadn’t returned from America, sends her younger sister, Drusilla (actress Debra Winger) to find out what was going on. Drusilla gets mistaken for her sister when she works out how to get her own costume.

When you consider she’s shorter and the costume isn’t quite the same, you do have to wonder about that, although I suspect Wonder Woman was known more by reputation with no one having a photograph of her yet. When captured by a Nazi team in the USA, Drusilla is tricked into giving away the co-ordinates of Paradise Island and a commando team led by Captain Radi (actor John Saxon) lands there wanting the feminium metal used to make the Amazon bracelets beats the unit there with knock-out gas. Considering in the pilot, no man is supposed to walk on Paradise Island, this is somewhat contradictory although does indicate their submissiveness they have until Wonder Woman and Drusilla turn things around when they return.

I think one of the startling things to discover was in a couple episodes Wonder Woman was wearing a formal cape and skirt. Yes, I have seen photos of her in the cape before, but just assumed that that they were promo and not used in the series.

Oddly, the more SF is the two-parter ‘Judgement From Outer Space’ with actor Tim O’Connor playing the alien Andros. Although there are elements of ‘The Day The Earth Stood Still’, Andros was defending his stance that mankind must be allowed to develop than be destroyed but wanted to meet all world leaders. When the Nazis capture him and the committee deprives him of his own technology, he is still determined to meet the Axis leaders. Even when Wonder Woman tried to free him and is herself captured, taking her belt and lasso seems to take her strength, she and Andros discuss concentration camps and a line that Americans are doing a similar thing, a reference to American-Orientals, and what follows actually turns this into an intense story. The ending gets a little rushed but I was most surprised by it not being so light. I looked up actor Tim Conner and was interested to discover he loved SF. A shame there was so little of it he could guest-star in backwhen.

The last two episodes of season one were set on a ranch and Hollywood. Although both are related to the war effort, it did make me wonder if they were the test for bringing Wonder Woman into the present: the 1970s.

Overall, this opening season was a lot better than I expected it to be. Diana’s relationship to Steve Trevor was more an affectionate guardian than anything else. Those glasses must be something else if he couldn’t tell them apart or why they never appeared together. Although Trevor was rescued from time to time, he wasn’t a wimp. Then again, Wonder Woman’s super-strength was neutralised without her belt so she wasn’t unbeatable. Probably the most unusual extra-power they gave her was the ability to imitate other people’s voices. You can also see why Lynda Carter had the affection of her fans in the part, she will always be Wonder Woman.

The opening 70 minute episode of season 2, ‘The Return Of Wonder Woman’ is nearly a reboot in the classical sense, although it really matches up and fills the gap between 1945 and 1977. This time, Steve Trevor is the son of the man who was frequently was with Wonder Woman from 1942-1945. He works for the Inter-Agency Defence Command (IADC) with a mission taking nuclear physicists to a conference to discuss placing a nuclear reactor in a foreign country when one of the people on-board gases them as they pass over the Devil’s Triangle. The Amazons stop it crashing and while they are unconscious work out what is going on. Diana’s surprise at seeing Steve Trevor and is determined to go back to sort out a bigger evil organisation than the Nazis this time. Trevor is hypnotised to believe that Diana Prince is his associate. You need to watch the story for itself. She cements her identity with the IADC computer, IRAC/Ira, and gives her age as 25, 2502 years less than her Amazonian age.

There’s a distinct difference in her Wonder Woman costume. Fewer stars on her trunks, a more distinctive eagle on her chest and golden not silver bracelets. As I said earlier, there’s a Wonder Woman model kit based on Lynda Carter and you might have to match it to that than the picture on the box. Her mother, Hippolyta (actress Beatrice Straight this time), reminds her without her belt and bracelets, she is a normal woman. Mind you, without them, she could still carry the unconscious Steve Trevor and he must have been at least weighed 14 stone.

This isn’t to say this series is perfect. Borrowing footage of the Seaview for an unmanned enemy submarine, that was Wonder Woman doesn’t kill anyone when she puts a limpet bomb on it, was probably done because some producer thought no one would remember it. A lot of the noise effects were from some defunct TV show from the 1960s called ‘Star Trek’ sound library as if anyone was planning to resurrect it.

The basic opening plots of season 2 was basically Diana and Trevor sent on missions, occasionally with Joe Atkinson (actor Normann Burton), from presumably a voice from the White House. The hypnotism on Paradise Island prevents Trevor making the connection between Diana disappearing and Wonder Woman appearing on the scene, although you do have to wonder what IADC agents or other agency staff, when we rarely see them, couldn’t make the connection.

However, a lot changed with the ninth episode, ‘The Man Who Made Volcanoes’, with the cartoon opening credits gone and music only. At the end of the credits, we have a new producer, Bruce Lansbury, and things changed drastically. Steve Trevor has been promoted to being Diana’s boss and just giving out orders and Diana, not in the presence of IADC personal, doesn’t always wears her glasses.

One episode which must have come up as a convention question is which actors from the 1966 ‘Batman’ series that appeared here. First we had Roddy McDowall in ‘The Made Who Made Volcanos’ and then Frank Gorshin in ‘The Deadly Toys’.

It’s rather interesting that a couple villains appear that Wonder Woman has come across before but we haven’t seen her earlier adventures, suggesting that we haven’t seen all her battles. Retrospectively, this does give a sense of history to the TV character.

The last episode of season 2, ‘The Murderous Missile’ starts with the impression of corrupt cops grabbing passing people and fining them. Nope, its not that kind of plot although it does misdirect that way with some hilarious lines, showing Lynda Carter could do comedy. It also gives Diana Prince an opportunity to spin her costume into Wonder Biker to conceal the padding.

The 9 minute extra explodes how Lynda Carter was the embodiment of Wonder Woman and an opportunity to see artist Alex Ross working on a painting of the Amazon. Lynda Carter also says she’s only worn the costume twice since the series but doesn’t cite the second time.

The third season of ‘Wonder Woman’ has an updated jazzier opening theme and certainly looks like the producers were making sure there was some relevance to the younger audience when they brought in singer Leif Garrett in the opening episode, ‘My Teenage Idol Is Missing’. It also has an audio commentary with Lynda Carter, which from what she says was recorded in 2010. Very insightful and she covers a lot more than this episode, including not knowing this was the last season until near the end of filming. I liked her anecdote about the stunt driving she learnt here and made use of it in a film called ‘The Creature Of The Sunny Side Up Trailer Park (2006), not on DVD from the looks of things. I was curious about her co-star Whitney, played by Dawn Lyn, and a little IMdB research indicates she was Leif Garrett’s younger sister.

The ‘Formicida’ episode must surely be the first super-villain eco-warrior with a green conscience. Taking a serum, she (actress Lorene Yarnell) transforms into a super-strong individual with the ability to control ants. It’s a shame she didn’t have more tussles with Wonder Woman because this was one of the rare times she was facing an equal.

The most important thing to note from this season is it seeking out new audiences, especially with the young bringing in discos, skateboarding, arcade games and such. Back in the day, such scattershot wasn’t unusual, don’t forget hippies appearing in ‘The Man From U.N.C.L.E.’ and even ‘Star Trek’, although being careful what they could get away with. ‘Wonder Woman’ didn’t go quite that far but the producers were edging their bets against keeping viewing figures.

Oddly, despite the first part of ‘The Boy Who Knew Her Secret’ is largely a rip of ‘Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers’, the second part turned it on its head somewhat and also gave some insight into Diana Prince’s role at the end.

The two-parter ‘The Phantom Of The Roller Coaster’ and ‘The Man Who Could Not Die’ is in the wrong order as the latter really should be the latter as Diana Prince has been moved to Los Angeles to live and work and was probably a set-up for a fourth season that never happened and looks like wouldn’t have the presence of Steve Trevor. Saying that, again, I know Trevor was hypnotised not to make a connection between her and Wonder Woman but you would have thought others in the IADC might have made the connection or wonder where Wonder Woman hides until she’s needed.

Finally, there’s a 13 minute feature, ‘Wonder Woman: The Ultimate Feminist Icon’, where Lynda Carter and some of her comicbook writers discuss the Amazon and the effect of her on women in general.

Hmm…a long appraisal. Sorry about that. Making allowances for the budget and such, these three seasons from 1975-1979 do hold up rather well and the SF isn’t embarrassing. Certainly, its success must have encouraged ‘The Bionic Woman’ TV series (1976-1978) could find its own audience and both shows proved you could have women leads in adventure drama. Prior to that, I can only think of ‘Honey West’ (1965) that would come under the same category. We certainly need more women actresses in starring roles in SF shows. We get some but not always top billing so its worth your time to have a look at this series.

GF Willmetts

April 2023

(pub: Warner Bros/DC Comics, 2005. 2845 minutes 21 DVDs.

Season 1: 5 DVDs 16 * 50 minute episodes with extras.

Season 2: 8 DVDs apart from the 70 minute pilot, the other 21 episodes are 50 minutes each with extras.

Season 3: 8 DVDs 24 * 50 minute episodes with extras

Price: I pulled this set for around £30.00 (UK). ASIN: 5000219781)

cast: Lynda Carter, Lyle Waggoner and many, many others

check out website: www.warnerbros.com

UncleGeoff

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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