The Bionic Woman is a sci-fi series that aired for eight episodes in 2007 on NBC. It is a re-imaging of the original series from the 1970’s starring Lindsey Wagner. That series was itself a spin-off of the Six Million Dollar Man, which spun out of the novel Cyborg by Martin Caidin. The character of the Bionic Woman was not a part of the novel and is the creation of series writer Kenneth Johnson. The 2007 series centers around Jaime Wells Sommers, an LA bartender, who receives bionics from her boyfriend, Dr. Will Anthros, after she suffers a near fatal car accident. The rest of the short series shows her adapting to the new “powers” the bionics afford her, her training as an anti-terrorism operative and alternately battling and trying to help Sarah Corvis, the first “Bionic Woman” whose bionics are malfunctioning and who believes that Jamie’s bionics are the key to fixing hers.
Jaime was destined for great things but her life always seemed to get in the way. Born to activist parents who traveled a great deal but always brought back photographs, Jaime developed an early love of photography, which followed her into her school years as part of the school newspaper and the photography club, amongst other scholastic and athletic activities. With neither of her parents being in particularly lucrative professions, Jamie also did a number of local jobs. In her junior year, her mother was diagnosed with malignant stage II breast cancer and Jaime dropped most of her activities to care for her ailing mother. She began to let her academics fall during this period but she still managed to graduate in the upper 7% of her class and was offered a spot at Harvard, but lets the offer go to stay with her mother and support her family which included a little sister who was born years earlier. After four years of caring for her mother, she finally dies and Jamie immediately moves to the west coast and settles in a college town, securing a bartending job and beginning to take classes including a bioethics class taught by Dr. Will Anthros, who she starts dating. In a couple of years, her sister Becca, now a teenager, shows up on her doorstep and Jaime once again finds herself having to put her life aside to support a family member.
It is Will that suggests the bionics his father created to be used on Jamie after her nearly fatal car accident. The bionics include a right arm which endows her with super strength, both legs which allow her to run at superhuman speeds and jump incredibly high, a right eye which gives her 2000/20 vision allowing her to see better than most binoculars, and a right ear that could hear in the lowest band frequencies and over a distance. Her body was also filled by “anthrocites” nanites that can heal her body of injuries and viruses. She also soon found that her eye had a tracking device and her handlers could watch what was happening through her eye. Thankfully, for her own privacy, she learned how to turn that off. She later found that her bionics only had a five year operating life and would slowly start breaking down, as Sarah Corvis’ bionics were breaking down. She could no long turn to Will because Sarah killed him. Then Sarah is approached by a covert anti-terrorist group, who trains her and sends her out on missions. During this period, Sarah vows never to kill with her powers and incorporates her new life as a spy into the life of bartender and surrogate mother to the rebellious Becca. Most of the rest of the series was spent with Jaime mentally and physically adapting to the new bionics in her body, with Jaime’s training as a spy, and discovering who she can trust in the agency.
What killed the Bionic Woman series? There were several things. One was a writers strike. The Writers Guild of America went on strike in mid- November 2007. During the strike all the episodes were aired and NBC said production would resume once the strike was over. However, once the strike was resolved in 2008, Bionic Woman was not on the list of scheduled shows and a later press release sad the eight shows were its first full season and no mention of any revival has been made since. The second was its portrayal of the lead character. In the original, Jamie Sommers was an icon of 70’s women’s liberation. She was a successful teacher and a strong self-assured woman. The new Jaime was a high school dropout and a bartender. Several critics had issues with the dark tones and moods of the show. Even Lindsey Wagner herself said it was darker, gritty and angrier than her portrayal. Critic also called foul on the Matrix like fight scenes with one critic calling the lead character a “martial arts freeboot” and calling for more screen time for Katee Sackhoff’ s evil bionic woman. Lastly, I think the idea of bionics is just too quaint for the modern world. Anyone who knows anything about anatomy realizes that Jaime’s entire skeleton and musculature would have to be reinforced to lift heavy objects with her bionic arm. Also, unless she has an ‘invisible aura’ like the Flash, the friction of running at super speed would, at the very least burn her clothes off. Additionally she would have to close her unaltered eye for fear that a bug or small projectile would slice right through that eye.
Bionic Woman… a good idea, a great cast but ultimately was not meant to be. Some people think that there are some shows that should not be remade and this is apparently one of them.