Bionic Woman (2007): Season 1 Volume 1
At times it seems that there is not an original idea left in the film or television industries. Remaking an old movie or TV series has become all too familiar of late. One of the latest in this trend is the reimagining of the mid-seventies cult classic, ‘The Bionic Woman’. Even the show back then wasn’t really original; it was a spin off of the successful ‘Six Million Dollar Man’. Now over three decades later a young woman enhanced with futuristic cybertronic devices has hit the television landscape again. As is only natural some changes had to be made in the format and particulars of the series in order to bring it into this new millennium. The networks gave this series every possible advantage a new series could dream of having. It was placed on Monday night right after the NBC super sci-fi / fantasy hit, ‘Heroes’. Since the new series should appeal to the same demographic this was a major plus for the cast and crew. The producers also brought in a cast member from another Sci-Fi extremely popular Sci-Fi series, ‘Battlestar Galatica’. With all this going for it the show should have been a huge hit. Unfortunately, there were just as many factors conspiring against it. One of the most obvious is the Writers Guild of America went out on strike cutting the series short with only eight episodes available for broadcast. This is also the reason why the DVD from Universal Studio is listed as ‘Season One, Volume One’. This prevented the series from having a chance to fully develop the themes and plot lines that would define the series and separate from the seventies version.
Okay, the premise is pretty much the same; pretty young woman, near fatal crash and a covert set of operations. This time out the victim is Jaime Sommers (Michelle Ryan). She works as a bartender in a somewhat upscale place and is romantically involved with a college professor, Will Anthros (Chris Bowers). While on a date with him they are in a car crash instigated by the first bionic woman, Sarah Corvus (Katee Sackhoff). Sarah washed out of the secret program when she went a little crazy and tried to kill everyone in the institute that enhanced her. With the woman he loves at the verge of death he rebels against the rules and takes Jaime to where he really works, the top secret Berkut Group, dedicated to making sure advanced technology doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. When Jaime awakens she discovers that she has been enhanced with super powerful technology that includes a bionic ear, eyes and enhanced strength in her bionic legs and right arm. She is also infused with nanomachines called anthrocytes which greatly increase her ability to heal. She meets the other members of the Berkut Group. Leading it is Jonas Bledsoe (Miguel Ferrer), a stern administrator willing to have his field agents do anything to meet their objectives. Ruth Treadwell (Molly Price) is the group’s psychologist and often acts as the second in command. At least she feels free to stand up to Jonas. To help Jaime train in using her new abilities in combat situations is Jae Kim (Will Yun Lee), a master of most forms of martial arts and former lover of the out of control Sarah. To help Jaime in the field there is Antonio Pope (Isaiah Washington) who is assigned to be her partner. Back at the base is the now required computer geek extraordinary, Nathan (Kevin Rankin). At first Jaime wants nothing to do with the cloak and dagger world of the Berkut Group but after Will is killed by Sarah she decides to join up. This puts Jaime in the position of having to hide her new job from her teenaged sister Becca Sommers (Lucy Kate Hale) who lives with her. Her cover is selling time shares. Yes, this is the best cover that a top secret, high tech organization could come up with. Jamie can always tell Becca that there is a sale emergency and that is why she will be out of touch and unreachable for days at a time.
The series started out well with Jaime taking out the better trained Sarah and uncovering the secrets held by the Berkut Group. There are some aspects of forbidden romance when Sarah and Kim are reunited. Jaime is a reluctant heroine who is trying hard to balance her new life with the normally difficult task of bringing up a rebellious teenaged girl. There was even a sub plot where Jaime finds out that Sarah may be a victim and has to decide who to believe, the apparent psycho killer or the people at Berkut. Due to the writer’s strike most of these themes where left hanging in the first part of the season. What happens is the stories degrade into the espionage assignment of the week. They do throw in a romantic interest for Jaime in the form of Tom (Jordan Bridges), who works for the CIA and often crosses path with Berkut operatives. There is also a humanizing of Jonah when he starts warming up to Becca. In the episode where Jaime meets Tom there is an opportunity for British born Ryan to fall back on her natural English accent. It is a nice nod by the writers to the star of the series.
With the strike cutting the season to only eight episodes there really wasn’t a chance for it to find its rhythm and solidify its following. Add to this the sophomore slump that ‘Heroes’ was experiencing and the show fell in the ratings with a constantly declining number of viewers. Some of the themes added to this incarnation of the series is the right to individual privacy. Jaime is outraged when she discovers that Berkut has to ability to monitor her every movement. They can tap into her bionic eyes and ears and see and hear everything she does. The though of the computer tech watching her in the shower was more than a little uncomfortable for Jaime. The romance with Tom never had a chance to get off the ground. This would ultimately set up more conflict in Jaime’s life and provide some human oriented threads. To their credit the writers did not over use her abilities. There was always a situation where she would have to fall back on them buy overall the stories were driven by the spy assignment of the week. Some of the mysteries started here have the potential to take the series off track and hopefully we will have a chance to find out. It’s now entirely fair to judge a new series by only a fragment but this is all we have right now. There was some talk that NBC was canceling the series but their listing this DVD set as ‘Volume One’ does give fans some hope of a future.
This is a very good cast at least. In the title role Ryan does well as the young woman torn by job and family responsibilities. She is a bit unbelievable when she tries to stand up to the boss thinking the investment they made in her puts her in the driver seat. Katee Sackhoff’s character did seem to drop off the scene too suddenly. Perhaps she had to return to the Galatica set. She was great as the ambiguously bad bionic woman. Sackoff has the range to play this type of character realistically. Few actors can play menacing the way Miguel Ferrer does. He can remain calm and make threats that will chill your spine. He is one of the best things that is in this series. Molly Price is wonderful as the local shrink. She has the detached persona down but is able to still emote well.
Universal may be testing the waters with this season one, volume one DVD release. Some may thing that the suggested retail price of $30 is high for eight episodes but the purchase of this set may send the message to the studio executives that there is still interest in the series. While not he best around it was cut short do to circumstances beyond its control and should be given a chance.