When people want to do a remake of something, whether it’s a TV show or a movie, without being accused of doing a “remake” (read: lazy and unimaginative and only in it for the quick buck), they say they are “reimagining” the series. In this case, say the creators of the “new” show, they aren’t simply doing the show over, they’re starting with a common plot idea and going from there.
“Bionic Woman,” the 1976 television series starring Lindsay Wagner as an athlete who is transformed into the Bionic Woman, is being remade… er… reimagined, and will start airing this Fall at 9:00 PM on NBC, beginning on Wednesday, September 26.
On September 11, 2007, Amazon Unbox (a great digital download service I’ve reviewed here), began offering the pilot episode to this new series, completely free of charge. In addition, Unbox made available series pilots to five other shows: “The Big Bang Theory,” “Life,” “Chuck,” “K-Ville” and “Journeyman.” I decided to take advantage of the free offer and downloaded them all. After viewing these new shows, I decided to go back and do an article about each, outlining the plot of each pilot and going over what I think are the strong and weak points of each series.
WARNING: There will most definitely be spoilers ahead. If you continue reading past this point, you’ll know pretty much everything that happens in the first episode of “Bionic Woman,” so tread lightly. If you’re the type of person who reads the last page of a book first, maybe this is the type of review you’re looking for. If not… you’ve been warned.
In this new version of “Bionic Woman” we meet Jaime Sommers (played by Michelle Ryan), a bartender who takes care of her younger sister. She’s currently in a relationship with her college professor boyfriend, Will Anthros (played by Chris Bowers). Although everything seems happy on the surface for the two, we quickly learn that Will has not been completely upfront with Jaime, a mistake that soon leads to life-changing events.
The show starts out, however, in a hallway, with soldiers running past blood and bodies. They eventually open a door to see a woman, dressed in the garb of a hospital patient, blood-spattered and bent over a body. She turns, sees who it is and – almost as if apologizing, says “I didn’t want to.” She looks at the lead soldier. “I’m not in control.” “I know,” he says. Suddenly she leaps, traveling further than a “normal” human should be able to jump, straight at the soldier, who shoots her. “I love you,” he says, right before shooting her again.
Cut to a bar, where we see a brunette behind the counter. She smiles at customers, and we cut to the end of her shift, where she returns home and looks at a girl sleeping on the couch. The girl, we later learn, is her younger sister, Becca, who is living with her, although the dynamic is often less than good. Becca, apparently, has gotten into trouble with the law, and is not allowed to access the Internet for some reason.
After the sisters fight (their father is the obvious sore spot between the two), Jaime drops Becca off at school. Cut to Jaime at college, sitting in on a lecture from a professor (Will), discussing the ethics of using technology in transplants and “fixing” humans. We see the two talking after class, where we see that although the two are seeing each other, neither is necessarily comfortable in the relationship.
At dinner that evening, Will surprises Jaime with the news that he will be going to Paris for work, but asks her to come along. She surprises him with one of her own: she’s pregnant with his child, but doesn’t want to trap him with her. He seems more than willing to be trapped with her, and says that it was love at first sight, and asks her to marry him. The next we see them, the two are driving home from the restaurant, discussing what to name the baby, when out of nowhere, their car is broadsided by a semi. We see the driver of the semi, a woman (Sarah Corvis, played by Katee Sackhoff of “Battlestar Galactica” fame), get out and walk away. Obviously the accident was no accident.
Will, it turns out, secretly works for a government agency that specializes in bionic research, which is the introduction of tiny machines into the human body, to help repair and strengthen damaged or lost muscles, tissue and bone, as well as to affect the senses. In his desperation to save his girlfriend (fiance?), Will takes Jaime to the secret government bionic laboratory and saves her by effectively turning her into the Bionic Woman.
The next twenty minutes or so of the episode are the necessary montage, where we first meet Will’s boss at the Wolf Creek Biotech Research Facility, Jonas Bledsoe (played by Miguel Ferrer), who makes clear his displeasure at the unauthorized surgery, but decides to make the most of the situation. Will realizes that the only way Jaime will ever be allowed to leave the facility (now that she has been made better, faster and stronger, is for her to agree to work for the government.
Next we go back to Sarah Corvis, who crashed into Will and Jaime, a woman we eventually learn was the first Bionic Woman. She has, for some reason, gone rogue, and is now attempting to get rid of all the doctors and government officials who made her what she is. Jaime, realizing what has been done to save her, and all the while having flashbacks of Sarah Corvis, witnesses her increased strength, and for a while completely freaks out.
Eventually, she attempts to escape, and though she is allowed to return back to her apartment, she is kept track of. Not closely enough to notice that Sarah Corvis has also stalked her, recognizing her from the wreck. Sarah appears at first ready to offer “instruction” to the new Bionic Woman, but when Jaime appears unwilling, it seems that the only option is for the two women to try and kill each other, in a spectacular nighttime fight in the rain on top of a sky scraper.
Along the way we see Will’s father, who is imprisoned in a high security prison. His father is the original inventor of the bionic technology, and for reasons known to the characters, but not the audience (did he try to use the technology to take over the world?), has been incarcerated. We see the guard from the first scene asking how to stop Sarah Corvis, who he now realizes is still alive. And then, to set up even more subplots, at the end of the episode we see a man, who we have seen working with Sarah Corvis, and Will’s father (now out of prison), and anxious to get back to work. End.
At the outset, this was one of the new series I was most conflicted about. I was very young when the original aired, and while I don’t remember much about it, remembered enough of the cheesy special effects, silly noises and sound effects, to know that the first “Bionic Woman” was pretty campy. This new series, on the other hand, is nothing like that. At the outset of this article I mentioned the idea of a “reimagined” series, and that description fits this situtation perfectly. Gone are the fembots and abominable snowman, and in their place a vast government conspiracy, evil geniuses, and stronger-than-life bad guys (and girls). Jaime Sommers isn’t some tough soldier, hopped up on chemicals to make her invincible. Not all of her is bionic, after all. She can be hurt. And scared.
It’s these last two factors that probably make me most want to keep watching the series. There’s really no fun if the Bionic Woman is invincible. If she can’t be hurt, then there’s no drama. If she can be hurt, on the other hand, each fight could be her last. Each act of bravery could spell the end for her. There can be drama, sadness and anxiety, and with those, come the possibilty of a good series. I’m not convinced “Bionic Woman” will be incredibly popular. It’s science fiction, after all, and aside from “Star Trek” and shows like it, science fiction has a terrible track record on television. Still, it’s not being aired on FOX, which has a worse track record yet as far as science fiction shows go, so maybe “Bionic Woman” will stay on the air long enough to flesh out the characters and allow the show to really flourish. One can only hope.