The Bionic Woman and Bionic Woman

The Bionic Woman (1976-1978)
Bionic Woman (2007-    )
Type: Revival

   Wow. TV and the world can change a lot in 30 years and you can really see it in the difference between the original 1970s series The Bionic Woman and it's 2007 "rebuild". Much like the bionic woman herself, they pulled this series into the lab, did some surgery, and upped the horsepower.

   Let's start at the beginning. Back in the 70s ABC had a hit series called The Six Million Dollar Man. Steve Austin was an astronaut/test pilot who was terminally injured in a bad crash. He was given massive surgery in which both his legs, his right arm and his right eye were all removed and replaced with robotic "bionic" parts. Steve went to work for an agency of the US government called the OSI.

   After awhile the show introduced Steve's old sweetheart Jaime Sommers. Sadly shortly after reuniting with Steve, tennis pro Jaime suffered a bad accident (isn't that always the way). While skydiving Jaime's parachute failed to open and she went kersplat. Luckily for her she was in fact Steve Austin's girlfriend. Steve went to the guys he worked for and said, hey, can you spend another couple million dollars and save the life of my girlfriend? Amazingly they said, "Sure, why not?" Wow. What HMO is he on. I want that plan. So they fixed her up. New arm, legs and a bionic ear. Her tennis career was obviously over. More of a surprise was that so was her relationship with Steve Austin was also over. Man, save a girl's life, give her superpowers and she dumps you. Geesh. Actually there was a reason for it. Everything that happened left Jaime psychologically tweaked. She was going mental from the memory of what had happened and her body was rejecting her bionic limbs. To recover she had to forget. Jaime lost all the memories of her relationship with Steve and had to move away from him. She went to live with Steve's parents (what?) and took up teaching school. And, given what the OSI had done for her, she agreed to do missions for them on the side.

   Now, with the new Bionic Woman hitting the air, I have heard the old show referred to as cheesy. I don't think that's accurate. Occasionally they did wild stories (A teenage Helen Hunt playing a space princess jumps to mind) but mostly the show was trying to be a serious action drama in same mode as most other dramas of the day. For its time it wasn't too cheesy. And it was one of the first female action shows. Of course back then female action heroes couldn't be quite as tough as the boys. They had to have a softness to them, some nurturing. Jaime can work as a spy but she also taught garde school. Dawww.

   Again, there's 30 years between the original show and the revival. That's 30 years worth of genre movies and shows, 30 years worth of female action heroes, 30 years of change. 2007's Bionic Woman was heavily influenced by all that came in between.

   2007's Bionic Woman centered on Jaime Sommers but a very different Jaime Sommers. Tennis pro turned teacher? Nope. This Jaime is a girl with a high IQ who nonetheless worked as a bartender while looking after her little sister. Yeah, that's still sort of nurturing but with less warm fuzzies and more sisters-who-drive-each-other-crazy tension. Jaime is dating Will, an expert in body repair/enhancement. She thinks he's just a smart doc/teacher. What she doesn't know is he works for a top secret government program.

   Shortly into the first episode Jaime and Will are in a horrible car accident. Only it's not an accident. The truck that hit them was driven by the first bionic woman, Sarah Corvis, created by Will's bosses. She went bad and all believed she had been killed. She was trying to kill Will. She failed. But Jaime was terminally injured. To save her life, and without permission from his bosses, Will saved Jaime's life by giving her a bionic makeover. New legs, new right arm, new ear AND a new eye. And, oh yeah, she also has built in fight training.

   Back in the 70s Jaime Sommers worked for the OSI as a sort of favor. The new Jaime Sommers? Not so lucky. This mystery group saved her ass and now feel they own her ass. They do let her "escape" their facility to give her the illusion of free will but they own her.

   Having failed to kill Will with the truck, Sarah comes back and finishes the job with a sniper riffle. Like the original Ms. Sommers, the new bionic woman is on her own. But in the original that was just to get her off on her own show. She still had her supportive friends at the OSI. For the new girl losing her man means she is in this alone. She can't trust her handlers and she can't tell her friends or family the truth of what she's going through.

   Jaime ends up tracking down and smacking down bionic woman version 1.0. In that fight she discovers that Sarah is a wee bit more bionic. Both arms, both legs, both eyes, chest (heh, bionic boobicles). Sarah is tougher. But it is heavily implied that the one thing Jaime has that Sarah lacks is her humanity. Sarah knows she is more powerful than those around her and so she can do what she wants. While Jaime also is clearly aware of this in herself, she has not allowed it to corrupt her. And so we begin.

   Like I said, the new show is different because it is influenced by so much that went before it. First lets talk plot. The evil, tougher, "original" bionic woman is a direct lift from the Six Million Dollar Man where one of Steve Austin's foes was the original, more bionic and evil bionic man. Jaime being pulled in, remade into a super agent and then forced to work for a mysterious agency against her will is right from La Femme Nikita. In the Robocop films, all attempts to create cyborg cops failed except for Officer Murphy. In his case the procedure was a success because he held onto a his humanity. And, oh yeah, Robocop's creator was played by Miguel Ferrer who also plays the head honcho responsible for the bionic woman project. And while the original Jaime seemed to take being bionic in stride (aside from the initial freak out) the new Jaime clearly feels the angst and pressure of her situation. I already mentioned La Femme Nikita. Then there's some Buffy The Vampire Slayer in there. Young girl who just wants to be like everyone else suddenly having power and responsibility forced on her that she must deal with. And throw in a big serving of the spy series Alias which also centered on a young woman who finds herself working for people she can't fully trust who have caused her fiancé to be killed. Finally, I think I smell some Ghost In The Shell mixed in there. Ghost In The Shell is a Japanese anime/manga about a future where people routinely "upgrade" there bodies with tech enhancements. One of the themes of Ghost was how much of your body and mind can you remove and replace and still be a human with a soul? I couldn't help think of that as Sarah listed off all the bits of her she "upgraded", explaining, "I'm cutting away all the parts of me that are weak." These are not your soft and wussy bionic babes. Ala Buffy and Alias these are some ass whuppin' bad asses.

   Then there's the tech. On the original shows, the bionics were fleshy on the outside but robo-parts on the inside. The new bionics while powerful give the sense of new tech, lighter and leaner. Additionally Jaime now has bionic blood. Her blood is loaded with a substance that helps her heal at an accelerated rate. Physical alterations that make her tougher and she has a healing factor. Sounds like the X-Men's Wolverine to me. The old bionic eye has had an upgrade too. It has gotten a Terminator makeover with targeting and text info added to its display. They also seem to added a nice touch that I don't think I've seen before. It seemed to me that the bionic eye and ear were working in conjunction. Want to hear something specific out of the general din? You use the eye to target in on what you want to hear and then the ear focuses in on that target. Nice. And then there's the chips placed in her brain to give her instant fight training. Hello Matrix! "I know kung fu!"

   The most famous conceit on the old shows were the slow motion action sequences. The idea was that with bionics Steve and Jaime could move so fast that the only way to show you the action was to show it in slow motion. In reality it was probably the best way to show the action without it looking silly at regular speed or trying to simulate the speed by speeding up the film and making it look like a Benny Hill skit. But now, with digital effects bionic action can be shown at regular speed without it looking silly (although some "bullet time" bionic slow motion could be cool).

   The only question remain…who will original bionic woman Lindsay Wagner cameo as? MY guess would be either the therapist enlisted to help her adjust (similar to what she did in the bionic "reunion" flicks, helping a bionic Sandra Bullock adjust). But this being a darker version she will of course have ulterior, darker motives. Buhahahah!!!!

Other The Bionic Woman Crossover Links
The Bionic Woman and The Six Million Dollar Man

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