The Bionic Woman (1976)
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The Bionic Woman is an American television series which spun off from The Six Million Dollar Man. It starred Lindsay Wagner as Jaime Sommers, a tennis professional who was nearly killed in a skydiving accident, and was rebuilt by Oscar Goldman (Richard Anderson) and Dr. Rudy Wells (Martin E. Brooks), who had also rebuilt The Six Million Dollar Man. As the result of her surgical implantation, Jaime Sommers had amplified hearing, a greatly strengthened right arm, and enhanced legs, enabling her to run faster than a speeding car.
The series ran on ABC for 2 seasons, from 1976 to 1977, and then it was picked-up for airing on NBC from 1977 to 1978, for just one season. Its run on ABC was successful with good ratings, coming in as the fifth most-watched show in its first season, and finishing in the top 15 (#14) at the end of its second season. At the end of its second season, ABC decided not to renew the show, feeling it was no longer attracting the kind of demographics that ABC wanted. Competing network NBC revived the show for its third and final season.
Jaime Sommers first appears in a two-part episode of The Six Million Dollar Man in 1975 entitled "The Bionic Woman." In this episode, Steve travels to his old hometown of Ojai, California, to visit his mother and stepfather and take a vacation from his work. 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 through a clump of trees and hits the ground, suffering traumatic injuries to her legs, right arm, and head. Steve Austin makes an emotional plea to his boss, Oscar Goldman, even going so far as to commit Jaime to become an operative of the Office of Scientific Intelligence (OSI), a branch of the CIA. 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 in dialogue to be less than the $6 million it cost to rebuild Austin because the replacement parts were smaller, however, the German dub of the show contradicts this - the show is called The 7 Million Dollar Woman in that country. Like Steve Austin before her, Jaime is given two bionic legs, capable of propelling her at speeds exceeding 60 mph, 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 the ability to hear a whisper a mile away. 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. Also, as Jaime discovered on a vacation in the Bahamas, her bionic skin cannot tan 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, but Jaime agrees to go on a mission for Oscar, despite Steve's concerns. During the mission, however, her bionics malfunction, and she experiences severe and crippling headaches.
Dr. Wells determines that Jaime's body is rejecting her bionic implants; a massive cerebral clot is apparently causing her headaches and malfunctions. Soon after, she goes berserk and crashes her way out of the hospital. Steve takes pursuit and eventually catches up with her, where she collapses in his arms. Soon after, Jaime dies on the operating table, her body shutting down. The episode ends with Steve weeping at her memory.
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, although Steve Austin was not informed of this fact. He discovers it when he is hospitalized at Dr. Wells' bionic clinic after a mission goes bad, and he suffers severe damage to his bionic legs; he sees Jaime as he is being rolled into the operating room for repair, just before slipping into a coma.
As Steve later learns, Wells' assistant, Dr. Michael Marcetti, 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 amnesia and forget her relationship with Steve; any attempt to make her remember her life with Steve causes her headaches and pain. Steve reluctantly lets her go on to live her own life as an agent for the OSI.
Jaime, now retired as a tennis player, takes a job as a schoolteacher in Ojai. She lives in a converted farmhouse rented from Steve's mother and stepfather, who were aware of her and Steve's bionic nature and their double lives as secret agents. In later episodes, Jaime adopts Maximillion, a German shepherd that had been given a bionic jaw and legs. He was an experiment to see if trained animals could benefit from bionics and was named Maximillion because the cost of his bionics was one million dollars. When he was introduced, he started experiencing symptoms that suggested an age-related variant of bionic rejection and was due to be dissected, but it was discovered the condition was actually psychological owing to resurfaced memories of a traumatic fire that threatened Max in his youth. As such, the dog was allowed to live and become Jaime's companion.
Jaime also worked frequently with Steve Austin on missions, and the two reestablished their friendship, although no romance resulted initially.
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 were credited in the openings of both series; this continued even after The Bionic Woman was cancelled by ABC and was immediately picked up by NBC. It is believed that Anderson and Brooks were the first actors to play the same roles in two concurrent television series airing on two different networks.
The most notable of the frequent crossovers between The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman included a two-part episode in which the two characters squared 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.
On her own, Jaime's most noted enemies were the Fembots, a line of powerful androids that she fought twice in the series. Arguably her most vital mission was the thwarting the plan of an aging nuclear scientist named Elijah Cooper to destroy all life on Earth using a doomsday device. Jaime's mission's frequently involved undercover work in which she takes on a number of roles, 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 many spy films at the 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 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 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. However after Jaime's eventual escape from prison, Dr. Wells later discovered the Adrenalizine was breaking down and becoming toxic, thus detrimental to Lisa's health. Further complicating the issue was Lisa's increasing belief that she was in fact, the real Jaime. The final episode of the series is acknowledged to have been inspired by The Prisoner; Jaime resigns from the OSI and finds herself being pursued by entities concerned about the secret information she possesses.
Jaime's bionic abilities were depicted as being similar to Steve's. She could run at least 60 mph (having been clocked at more than 62 mph during the episode Doomsday Is Tomorrow), like Steve, and could bend steel bars with her right arm, and could jump to and from great heights with her new legs. But Jaime's and Steve's powers have their limitations. In one episode, Jaime jumps from the window of a particularly tall building while trying to escape the Fembots. Due to the height from which she jumped, her legs malfunctioned upon impact with the ground, knocking her unconscious. Her right ear, however, is extremely sensitive and can detect most sounds regardless of volume or frequency (she is often shown using this ability to break into safes). As it is encased in her body, it is also typically not subject to the negative effects extreme cold has on bionic implants.
Despite being on different networks, both The Bionic Woman and The Six Million Dollar Man were simultaneously cancelled in the spring of 1978. Three made-for-TV reunion movies were produced between 1987 and 1994 that expanded the "bionic family", while the love between Jaime and Steve rekindled and this was further explored.
In the first reunion, The Return of the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman, Jaime Sommers and Steve Austin are reunited after nearly ten years of living separate lives. Jaime's memory is fully restored (according to Oscar Goldman, Jaime was in an accident that involved an explosion, 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, and is outpaced, making the comment she feels like an "obsolete model". The second film, Bionic Showdown, introduced Sandra Bullock as paraplegic Kate Mason who becomes a next-generation bionic woman; Sommers again helps train the neophyte cyborg.
In the final reunion film, Bionic Ever After?, 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.
Universal Playback has released the first 2 Seasons of The Bionic Woman on DVD in Region 2 (which followed three previous DVD sets labeled as Volumes 1, 2 and 3). Those DVDs have all been English-language, primarily sold in the United Kingdom. A German-language Region 2 release, a 4-DVD package under the name Die Sieben Millionen Dollar Frau - St. 01 (The Seven Million Dollar Woman - Season 1), is planned for release on March 7, 2008 by an international division of Koch Vision.
A North American DVD release (Region 1) was previously planned by Universal Studio. 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, the release has never actually happened due to rights issues which prevent both The Bionic Woman and The Six Million Dollar Man from being released on DVD in North America.
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 1976-79, 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.
Like its parent program The Bionic Woman spawned its own line of toys. Kenner produced an 11-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 vinyl story record was also produced by Wonderland Records in addition to children's lunchboxes.
The Bionic Woman board game was also available it was sold by Parker Brothers in the US. It was a 2-4 player game suited for children between 7 and 12 years of age.
Main article: Bionic Woman (2007 TV series)
In August of 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. However, 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 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 Sept. 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 on March 18, 2008, that the series had been cancelled.