The Bionic Woman
|The Bionic Woman|
Opening credits screenshot
|Created by||Kenneth Johnson|
by Martin Caidin
Martin E. Brooks
|Theme music composer||Jerry Fielding|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||3|
|No. of episodes||58 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||48 minutes|
|Production company(s)||MCA/Universal in association with Harve Bennett Productions|
|Original release||January 14, 1976 – May 13, 1978|
The Bionic Woman is an American television science fiction action series starring Lindsay Wagner that aired between 1976 and 1978. The Bionic Woman series features Jaime Sommers, who takes on special high-risk government missions using her superhuman bionic powers. The Bionic Woman series is a spin-off from the 1970s The Six Million Dollar Man television science fiction action series.
Wagner stars as professional tennis player Jaime Sommers, who becomes critically injured during a skydiving accident. Jaime's life is saved by Oscar Goldman (Richard Anderson) and Dr. Rudy Wells (Martin E. Brooks) with bionic surgical implants similar to those of The Six Million Dollar Man Steve Austin (Lee Majors). Through the use of cybernetic implants, known as bionics, Jaime is gifted with an amplified bionic ear which allows her to hear at low volumes and at different frequencies from most humans and over uncommonly long distances. She also has extraordinary strength in her bionic right arm and in both legs that enables her to run at speeds exceeding 60 miles per hour. She is then assigned to spy missions of her own as an occasional agent of the Office of Scientific Information, while under the employment cover as a school teacher of middle school students.
The series proved highly popular worldwide, gaining high ratings in the US and particularly so in the UK (where it became the only science fiction programme to achieve the No.1 position in the ratings during the 20th century). The series ran for three seasons, from 1975 to 1978, and was first shown on the ABC network and then the NBC network for its final season. Years after its cancelation, three spin-off TV movies were produced between 1987 and 1994. Reruns of the show aired on Sci-Fi Channel from 1997 to 2001. A remake of the series was produced in 2007.
The character of Jaime Sommers first appears in a two-part episode of The Six Million Dollar Man in 1975 titled "The Bionic Woman". In the first episode, Steve travels to his old hometown of Ojai, California, to buy a ranch that is for sale and to visit his mother and stepfather. During his visit, he rekindles his old relationship with Jaime Sommers, now one of America's top tennis players. Their relationship progresses rapidly to the point where Steve proposes marriage.
During an outing, Steve and Jaime take part in some skydiving. Jaime's parachute malfunctions and she plummets to the ground, falling through tree branches, hitting the ground and suffering traumatic injuries to her head, legs, and right arm. Steve then makes an emotional plea to his boss, Oscar Goldman, to save Jaime's life by implementing bionics, even going so far as to commit Jaime to becoming an operative of the Office of Scientific Intelligence (OSI). Goldman agrees to assign Dr. Rudy Wells (played at this point in the series by Alan Oppenheimer) and the bionics team to rebuild her.
Jaime's body is reconstructed with parts similar to Steve's, but the actual cost of rebuilding her is not revealed. It is said humorously in dialogue to be less than the $6 million it cost to rebuild Austin because the replacement parts for her were "smaller" (though in Germany the show was called Die Sieben Millionen Dollar Frau, which translates as The Seven Million Dollar Woman). Like Steve before her, Jaime is given two bionic legs, capable of propelling her at speeds exceeding 60 mph (having been clocked at more than 62 mph in "Doomsday Is Tomorrow" and outpacing a race car going 100 mph in "Winning is Everything") and jumping to and from great heights, and her right arm is replaced by a lifelike prosthetic capable of bending steel or throwing objects great distances. Whereas Austin received a bionic eye, the inner mechanism of Jaime's right ear is replaced by a bionic device that gives her amplified hearing such that she can detect most sounds regardless of volume or frequency. These bionic implants cannot be distinguished from natural body parts, except on occasions where they sustain damage and the mechanisms beneath the skin become exposed, as seen in Part 2 of the episode "Doomsday Is Tomorrow", when Jaime sustained damage to her right leg. Jaime discovers on vacation in the Bahamas her artificial bionic skin cannot suntan with exposure to sunlight.
After Jaime recovers from her operation, Steve tries to break his agreement with Oscar that she will serve as an agent for OSI. Jaime agrees to undertake a mission for Oscar despite Steve's concerns. During the mission her bionics malfunction, and she experiences severe and crippling headaches. Dr. Wells determines that Jaime's body is rejecting her bionic implants and a massive cerebral clot is causing her headaches and malfunctions. Soon after, she goes berserk and forces her way out of the hospital. Steve pursues and catches her, and she collapses in his arms. Soon after, Jaime dies on the operating table when her body shuts down.
The character was so popular that ABC asked the writers to find a way to bring her back. In the first episode of the next season, it is revealed that Jaime had not died after all, but Steve was not told. He soon discovers the truth when he is hospitalized after suffering severe damage to his bionic legs; he sees Jaime before slipping into a coma.
As Steve later learns, Wells' assistant, Dr. Michael Marchetti, had urged Rudy (now played by Martin E. Brooks) to try his newly developed cryogenic techniques to keep Jaime in suspended animation until the cerebral clot could be safely removed, after which she was successfully revived. A side effect of the procedure causes Jaime to develop retrograde amnesia, preventing her from recalling previous events including her relationship with Steve. Any attempt to remember causes her headaches and pain. Steve reluctantly lets her go on to live her own life as an agent for the OSI, although the pair would frequently work together on missions and establish a new friendship.
Jaime, now retired as a tennis player, takes a job as a schoolteacher at an Air Force base in Ojai, California. She lives in an apartment over a barn located on the ranch owned by Steve's mother and stepfather, both of whom are aware of their bionic implants and their lives as secret agents. Season three opened with the two-part episode "The Bionic Dog", in which Jaime discovers Max (short for Maximillion), a German Shepherd dog that has been given a bionic jaw and legs who could run at speeds of up to 90 mph. His bionics pre-date Steve's and Jamie's, as he was a lab animal used to test early bionic prosthetics. He was named "Maximillion" because his bionics cost "a million" dollars. When he was introduced, he experienced symptoms suggesting bionic rejection and was due to be put to sleep. Jaime discovered the condition was psychological, stemming from a traumatic lab fire that injured him when he was a puppy. With Jaime's help, Max was cured and went to live with her, proving himself to be of considerable help in some of her adventures. The original intent was to create a spin-off series featuring The Bionic Dog, and at the end of the two-part episode that introduced him, it was implied Max would stay with Jaime's forest ranger friend Roger Grette in the Sierra Mountains and Jaime would visit occasionally. However, the network rejected the proposed spin-off series and Max stayed with Jaime instead, making several appearances throughout the third season of The Bionic Woman.
Production and broadcast
To maintain the show's plausibility, creator/executive producer Kenneth Johnson set very specific limits on Jaime Sommers's abilities. He elaborated, "When you’re dealing with the area of fantasy, if you say, ‘Well, they’re bionic so they can do whatever they want,’ then it gets out of hand, so you’ve got to have really, really tight rules. [Steve and Jaime] can jump up two stories but not three. They can jump down three stories but not four. Jaime can’t turn over a truck but she can turn over a car." These limits were occasionally incorporated into episodes, such as "Kill Oscar Part 1" in which Jaime is forced to make a jump that's too far down for her bionic legs, causing massive damage to them and nearly causing her death as a result.
The series premiered on ABC in January 1976, as a mid-season replacement for the sitcoms When Things Were Rotten and That's My Mama. With thirteen episodes airing from January 1976 to May 1976, it became the fifth most-watched television show of the whole 1975–76 season – despite only running for half the season – ranking behind Maude, Laverne & Shirley, Rich Man, Poor Man, and All In The Family, and slightly ahead of The Six Million Dollar Man. Season two ran from September 1976 to May 1977 with 22 episodes and finished with good ratings (#14 overall – slightly behind The Six Million Dollar Man). Season two also had its most notable episodes, "Kill Oscar" where Jaime fights the fembots, and "Deadly Ringer", which would win Wagner an Emmy Award. Although the show performed well during season two, ABC elected not to renew the series, feeling it was no longer attracting the kind of demographics that ABC wanted (ABC head Fred Silverman was notorious for his focus on demographics). NBC picked up the show for a third (and final) season. Season three ran from September 1977 to May 1978 with 22 episodes and would see a new character, Chris Williams (Christopher Stone), as a recurring love-interest for Jaime. This was due in part to the change of networks, which prevented any more crossovers by Jaime's former love-interest, Steve Austin; however, in a situation still considered unique; Anderson and Brooks continued to play their roles in both series, despite the network differential.
The series proved popular worldwide, particularly so in the United Kingdom, where it was shown on the ITV network and achieved unusually high audience figures for a science fiction show. The first episode of the series ("Welcome Home Jaime") was shown on 1 July 1976 and was the No.1 most watched programme of the week. It was watched in 7 million homes, giving it an average of 14 million viewers. Two weeks later, the show's third episode (Angel of Mercy) also became the No.1 most-watched programme of the week. Its success continued with a further 10 episodes scoring in the top 20 during 1976 (in contrast, The Six Million Dollar Man never once entered the top 10 rating during its five seasons, though this was most likely due to the fact that the show was never broadcast across all ITV stations in the UK at the same time). The second season also proved popular, with seven episodes finishing in the weekly top 20, the highest of these being the episode The Vega Influence on 12 May 1977, which reached No.8 with 14.8 million viewers. The third season was not broadcast simultaneously across all ITV stations in the UK, however, and therefore no episodes reached the weekly Top 20.
The most notable of the frequent crossovers between the two shows included a two-part episode in which Steve and Jaime square off against Austin's sometimes-friend/sometimes-enemy Bigfoot and a three-part story arc entitled "Kill Oscar" that aired the first and third parts as Bionic Woman episodes and the second part as an episode of The Six Million Dollar Man. The close connection between The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman was highlighted by the fact that Richard Anderson and Martin E. Brooks played their same characters on two different television shows (eventually) running concurrently on two different networks.
On her own, Jaime's enemies include the Fembots, a line of powerful robots that she fights twice in the series over several episodes. She also thwarts the plan of an aging nuclear scientist named Elijah Cooper to destroy all life on Earth using a doomsday device in "Doomsday Is Tomorrow". Jaime's missions frequently involved undercover work in which she takes on a secret identity, such as a nun, a police officer, a college student, an air-steward, a singer, and a professional wrestler. Her tennis background also came into play occasionally, and she was also from time to time seen having adventures with some of her students in Ojai.
As with spy shows at this time, Jaime was frequently kidnapped (more often than not with the use of chloroform or a drugged drink) and placed in dangerous situations from which she would need her bionic abilities to escape. Typically, she would be bound or handcuffed to a bomb from which she could escape with ease once she woke up. However, on one occasion she was handcuffed to a friend, so she could not use her bionic strength to escape as this would pull off the friend's hand.
Jaime dealt with a number of bizarre cases, such as a villain who operates a hair salon using a "truth serum" shampoo to extract information from OSI agents. In another episode, a convict named Lisa Galloway (also portrayed by Lindsay Wagner) is given plastic surgery and tries to replace Jaime. In a later episode, Lisa ingests a paste-like substance called Adrenalizine that gives her temporary super-strength, allowing her to fully replace Jaime at OSI while the real Jaime is imprisoned and led to question her own identity. Lisa, however, did not know of Jaime's bionic implants and believed her powers to have come from the Adrenalizine. After Jaime's eventual escape, Dr. Wells discovers that the Adrenalizine was breaking down and becoming toxic to Lisa's health. Further complicating the issue was Lisa's increasing belief that she was in fact, the real Jaime.
During the series, it is shown that Jaime's enhanced abilities have their limitations. In one of the "Kill Oscar" chapters, Jaime jumps from the window of a particularly tall building while trying to escape the Fembots. However, due to the height from which she jumped, her legs explode upon landing, nearly killing her. Extreme cold is shown to inhibit her bionic implants, causing them to freeze up and malfunction (a scenario also common with Steve Austin). However, her right ear, as it is encased in her body, is typically not subject to these negative effects.
While Steve Austin occasionally (particularly in early episodes) employed violence in order to complete missions, Jaime's approach tended to be less-violent and as such she was rarely shown directly using her bionic strength against a human opponent (and even when she did, never with deadly force).
In the last episode ("On the Run"), Jamie is called "Robot Lady" by a little girl who has learned about her bionics. Like Steve Austin in the original book Cyborg, she has to come to terms with the fact that she is not quite human. After three years with too many assignments to allow her time to herself, she resigns. However, the people in charge decide that she cannot just be allowed to leave and want to put her into a safe community where they can keep their eye on her. She goes on the run but later realises that she is still the same woman, despite her mechanical parts and goes back to work for the OSI, but with fewer missions and more time to herself. The final episode was acknowledged to have been inspired by The Prisoner as Jaime is similarly being pursued by entities concerned about the secret information she possesses.
Despite being on different networks, both The Bionic Woman and The Six Million Dollar Man were simultaneously cancelled in the spring of 1978. Unlike The Six Million Dollar Man, which ended with a standard episode, "On the Run" was written and filmed as a resolution to the series.
Three made-for-TV movies were produced that expanded the "bionic family" and explored a rekindled love between Jaime and Steve.
In the first reunion, The Return of the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman (1987), Jaime and Steve are reunited after nearly ten years of living separate lives. Jaime's memory is fully restored (according to Oscar, Jaime was involved in an explosion at the American Embassy in Budapest and "she remembered everything" after she recovered from her concussion) and she tries to reconcile her feelings for Steve while at the same time helping train Steve's son Michael in the use of his own recently acquired updated bionics. Jaime challenges Michael to a friendly race. He overtakes her and she makes the comment that she feels like an "obsolete model". Michael is kidnapped by Fortress. Steve and Jamie along with the Air Force infiltrate the abandoned glass factory to "rescue" Michael.
The second film, Bionic Showdown: The Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman, (1989) introduced Sandra Bullock as paraplegic Kate Mason who becomes a next-generation bionic woman and Sommers again helps train the neophyte cyborg.
In the final reunion film, Bionic Ever After? (1994), a computer virus corrupts Jaime's bionic systems. Dr. Wells informs Steve that "she may never be bionic again," but Steve's main regard is he wants her alive above all else. She undergoes a major upgrade, which not only increases the power of her bionics but gives her night vision. Finally, after so many years of waiting around, the bionic couple say their "I Do's".
Jerry Fielding composed the series' first opening theme. Beginning in season two, Fielding's theme was phased out and replaced by another piece of music by Joe Harnell which had previously been used for the closing credits.
In the UK, Universal released three single-disc volumes of selected episodes of The Bionic Woman in 2001/02. Each volume contained three episodes. Universal then released the first two full seasons of The Bionic Woman on DVD in the UK and Australia in 2005/06. There were no special features on any of the sets. Season three was eventually released in the UK by Fabulous Films in December 2012, along with repackaged versions of the first two seasons and a complete 18-disc boxed set of all three seasons. These versions contained various special features as found on the Region 1 sets (see below), though the season three release also contains all three of the Bionic reunion movies from the 1980s and 1990s.
In Germany, Koch Media has released all three seasons on DVD under the name Die Sieben Millionen Dollar Frau (The Seven Million Dollar Woman), though these sets do not contain special features.
Plans for a North American DVD release were first announced in 2004 by Universal Home Video. Those plans were made public via a listing in a TV-DVD release guide sent to retailers, a mention in an otherwise unrelated studio press release, and as a trailer included on a DVD given away through retail chain Best Buy. However, that release never happened due to rights issues which prevented both The Bionic Woman and The Six Million Dollar Man from being released on DVD in North America at that time.
In April 2010, creator Kenneth Johnson said that the rights issues had been solved and he was taping interviews for the DVD. On July 15, 2010, Universal Studios Home Entertainment announced the release of the first season on DVD in North America, which took place on October 19, 2010. Season Two was released on May 17, 2011. On October 4, 2011, Universal released The Bionic Woman: The Complete Third & Final Season on Region 1 DVD. (Concurrently, The Six Million Dollar Man achieved its initial DVD release in 2010 as a mail-order box set via Time-Life, with the individual seasons receiving regular retail release beginning in 2012.)
Two novels adapting various episodes were published to coincide with the series: Welcome Home, Jaime and Extracurricular Activities, both by Eileen Lottman. The UK editions of these two books were credited to "Maud Willis" and were retitled Double Identity and A Question of Life, respectively. Although the closing credits of every episode says the series was based upon Martin Caidin's 1972 novel, Cyborg, this only refers to the bionics concept, the characters of Rudy Wells and Oscar Goldman, and the occasional appearance by Steve Austin; Jaime Sommers does not appear in any of Caidin's novels.
A short-lived comic book series by Charlton Comics was published in the US in 1976–77. UK comic Look-In ran a colour comic strip between 1976 and 1979, written by Angus P. Allan and drawn by artists including John Bolton and Arthur Ranson. The character was also to have appeared in a 1996 comic miniseries entitled Bionix by Maximum Press. Although the magazine was advertised in comic book trade publications, it was ultimately never published.
The French comic Télé-Junior published strips based on the popular TV series. This included their own versions of The Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman which was renamed Super Jaimie.
In March 2012, Dynamite Entertainment launched a new The Bionic Woman comic book title, based upon the revised continuity established in the Kevin Smith-written The Bionic Man comic (a reimagining of The Six Million Dollar Man), in which the character of Jaime Sommers was reintroduced. A crossover mini-series, The Bionic Man vs. The Bionic Woman, was launched in January 2013. Unlike the Bionic Man title, which (depending on the artist) occasionally renders Steve Austin in the likeness of actor Lee Majors, the Dynamite version of Jaime Sommers generally is not rendered in the likeness of Lindsay Wagner. In late 2013, Dynamite ended both series and in the spring of 2014 launched The Six Million Dollar Man Season 6, a more faithful adaptation of the original Six Million Dollar Man TV series. Jaime Sommers, based on the Wagner interpretation, was reintroduced in issue 3 and in June 2014 Dynamite announced it will publish The Bionic Woman Season 4, a continuation of the TV series, beginning in the fall of 2014.
Like its parent program The Bionic Woman spawned its own line of toys. Kenner produced a 12-inch doll of the character, with similar features to the Steve Austin version (bionic modules and removable bionic limbs), except instead of a bionic eye the doll's head would click when turned, simulating the sound of Jaime's bionic ear. Accessories for the doll released by Kenner included additional fashions, and a Bionic Beauty Salon playset.
A metal lunchbox for children was available, as was a vinyl story record produced by Wonderland Records. Kenner produced a series of stickers and temporary tattoos featuring Jaime Sommers individually and with Steve Austin.
A board game based on The Bionic Woman series was also created. It was sold by Parker Brothers in the US, and was a 2–4 player game suited for children between 7 and 12 years of age.
In July 2016, prior to Comic-Con International, the New York Times ran a story about Dynamite Entertainment. In it, best-selling author Andy Mangels was revealed to be writing a prestigious new intercompany crossover mini-series for the company, in conjunction with DC Comics: Wonder Woman '77 Meets The Bionic Woman, bringing together the Lynda Carter television character with Lindsay Wagner's fellow 1970s television super-heroine. The series is set to start in December 2016.
In August 2002 it was announced that the show was to be remade by producers Jennifer and Suzanne Todd ("Team Todd") for the USA Network; media reports suggested that Jennifer Aniston was being considered for the title role. After the initial press release was issued, the show never made it out of pre-production and no other announcements were made as to the show's fate.
On October 9, 2006, NBC Universal announced that it was bringing the project back, with new producers and a reworking of the concept. The project's one-hour pilot was given an official greenlight by NBC on January 3, 2007. On February 13, 2007 it was announced that English actress Michelle Ryan (affecting an American accent) had been cast in the title role for this pilot, and that Katee Sackhoff would play Sarah Corvus, the bionic woman's nemesis. The series was subsequently picked up by NBC and debuted on September 26, 2007. Eight more episodes were produced and aired before the Writers Guild of America strike forced a halt to production. As of March 2008, NBC had not yet announced whether the show would be renewed, allowed to complete its original order of 13 episodes, or cancelled outright, although series developer and producer David Eick told the official website of the Sci-Fi Channel (now known as Syfy) on March 18, 2008, that the series had been cancelled. Lindsay Wagner, the original Bionic Woman, was not involved in the new series. Wagner said, "On a technical level, it was very good, but I don't think they understood the show. It was steeped in that old-school thinking. It was like a lot of things today, angry and dark.
- Goldengirl, a 1979 novel and 1979 TV movie also about a woman with superhuman abilities.
- Although 60 mph is the most commonly cited running speed for Sommers and Austin, the Bionic Woman episode "Winning is Everything" shows her unambiguously outrunning a race car going 100 mph (a speedometer is shown on screen). The Six Million Dollar Man also established that Austin was capable of exceeding 60 mph as well.
- There is some dispute over whether the OSI stands for Office of Scientific Information or Office of Strategic Intelligence. This version of the name is per several episodes of Season 1 of The Bionic Woman that explicitly spell out what OSI stands for. Spin-off media, however, such as novels and comic books, have tended to use the Strategic Intelligence version.
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