The Secrets of Isis
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The Secrets of Isis was a live action CBS television series produced by Filmation in the 1970s that appeared during the Saturday morning cartoon lineup. The show was also aired in various countries around the world. It is also known by the shorter title, Isis, which is in fact its on-screen title. As indicated on commentary in the 2007 DVD release of the series, and supported by examining broadcast premiere dates, Secrets of Isis was the first weekly American live-action television series starring a female superhero (predating the weekly debuts of both Wonder Woman and The Bionic Woman; the character Batgirl had been a regular on the 1960s series Batman, but was not the lead character).
The Secrets of Isis (also called simply, "Isis") starred JoAnna Cameron as Andrea Thomas, a high school science teacher who found an ancient mystical amulet on an archeological dig in Egypt. The amulet belonged to Hatshepsut, an ancient Egyptian Queen and it gave the wearer the powers of Isis. Andrea, by virtue of being able to open the casing which the amulet rested, was recognized as an heir to Isis's secrets. Whenever Isis was needed, Andrea would reveal the amulet and incite an incantation ("Oh, mighty Isis!") and she would be transformed into the goddess Isis.
As Isis she was given great strength, the ability to move inanimate objects, and the power to fly and run at super speed. To invoke her powers, she intoned rhythmic rhyming chants, such as Oh zephyr winds which blow on high, lift me now, so I can fly, which enabled her to fly. Isis used her powers for good by capturing criminals, righting wrongs, and helping anyone who was in danger. Unlike other superheroes who responded when people called their name, Isis often came to the rescue of people who didn't call for her, arriving in the nick of time and encouraging the wrongdoer to see the error of their ways through self-reflection. Even without the help of Isis, Andrea Thomas demonstrates high intellect (in the episode "The Sound of Silence", she invents a force field powered by a uranium pellet), and also has some abilities even when not in the guise of Isis, such as in "Sound of Silence" when she gives telepathic instructions to her pet mynah bird.
The show co-starred Brian Cutler as Rick Mason and Joanna Pang as Cindy Lee. In Season 2, Ronalda Douglas joined as Renee Carroll, replacing Cindy. A romantic attraction between Rick and Andrea (and between Rick and Isis herself) is suggested in numerous episodes; in his interview on the 2007 DVD release, Cutler likens his character to a male version of Superman's Lois Lane. Commentary on the DVD release also indicates that Cindy Lee's actual function at the high school was never defined, with episodes varyingly showing her as a student and a teacher's assistant, as well as sometimes a subordinate of Andrea's and in other episodes she is shown socializing with both Andrea and Rick. Renee, by contrast, is clearly defined as Andrea's assistant; in the episode "The Cheerleader", for example, she is shown preparing the answer key for an exam (however, she is also shown cavorting with students). The abbreviated second season saw some cosmetic changes to the character of Andrea Thomas/Isis, with an attempt to soften her look with increased make-up and a new hairstyle for Isis. Her performance as Isis is also somewhat more subdued than in the first season (as can be seen when comparing her reciting of the "zephyr winds" chant in both seasons).
Three episodes of the series featured crossover appearances by Captain Marvel of the show's companion series, Shazam! and Cameron likewise appeared as Isis in three episodes of the other series. (As of 2007, however, only a single episode of Shazam! has been released to DVD in North America).
Most storylines involved Isis coming to the rescue of high school students who find themselves endangered due to unwise choices. A notable exception was the two-part series finale "Now You See It..." and "And Now You Don't", which had an espionage-related plotline, revealing that Rick Mason has been working secretly for the government on a weather-making machine. This same two-parter introduced a trio of crime-fighting teens dubbed "The Super-Sleuths", and according to the DVD notes, was intended as a backdoor pilot for a Super-Sleuths series that never eventuated. It's not known whether this sudden change in direction from school-related plotlines to more traditional superhero adventures would have continued had production not been discontinued.
Secrets of Isis often broke the fourth wall with Isis/Andrea winking at the camera or otherwise acknowledging the audience at applicable moments (this is in addition to the "moral" segment at the end of each episode (see below).
Isis aired on CBS from September 6, 1975 to September 3, 1977 (15 episodes in first season, seven in the second, totaling 22 original episodes) as part of the Shazam/Isis Hour. The success of the show led to her own series the following year as The Secrets of Isis, but this was just reruns of the 22 previously-produced episodes (no additional new episodes were made). The character (played by the same actress) also appeared in three episodes of Shazam! Isis later appeared in animated form (voiced by Diane Pershing rather than Joanna Cameron) on Filmation's Tarzan and the Super 7 show in 1980, as part of a segment called The Freedom Force, as well as a guest appearance on the cartoon Hero High.
The series spun-off a comic book produced by DC Comics. Although Isis is often cited as a DC creation, the series is one of the very few Filmation originals (most of their creations were adaptations of previously existing material); the character was created specifically for the television series and was only later adapted for comics. The TV character later appeared in animated form on other series. A considerably reworked version of the character (though still connected with Captain Marvel and given the name Adrianna Tomaz in honor of the television character's secret identity) was introduced in the 2006 comic series 52 and its novelization by Greg Cox.
In 2006, BCI, an American distributor of DVDs, announced it had acquired the rights to release the series on DVD in North America, which was released on July 24, 2007. The episodes on the DVD release are presented in their "known original airdate order". Additionally, BCI was able to recover a number of segments from the original broadcasts in which Isis broke the fourth wall to deliver a moral relating to each episode; as noted on the DVD notes, these segments were removed from the prints for syndication and the original footage has been lost. It is stated in the DVD set that the quality may not be as high as the episode, these morals were sourced from slightly degraded videotape. Also because BCI was unable to recover all of the moral segments, they could not be properly shown at the end of the episodes, thus the ones that were recovered were included as a bonus feature instead. Conspicuous by her absence in the DVD commentaries and interviews is Joanna Cameron herself.
The DVD includes the first issue of The 'Legend of Isis, a comic book published by Bluewater Productions, that debuted in 2007. This version of the character was created by Bluewater's founder, Darren G. Davis, and previously appeared in Image Comics. In this version of the story, Isis is a warrior from Ancient Egypt who is transported through time to the 21st Century, where she befriends a police detective. Aside from similarities in costume, this version of Isis has little connection to the TV version.
List of episodes
- The Lights of Mystery Mountain
- Spots of the Leopard
- Fool's Dare
- The Sound of Silence
- Rockhound's Roost
- How to Find a Friend
- The Show Off
- The Outsider
- Funny Girl
- Girl Driver
- Scuba Duba
- Dreams of Flight
- No Drums, No Trumpets
- Seeing Eye Horse
- The Hitchhiker
- The Cheerleader
- The Class Clown
- Year of the Dragon
- Now You See It ...
- ... Now You Don't