Category Archives: bionic woman

The Bionic Woman 3.22 – On the Run

As I mentioned the other day, the series finale as we know it wasn’t the sort of thing that producers did back in the sixties or seventies. It was seen as an impediment to successful syndication, back when that was the main way that studios and production companies got their money back. Strangely, there was some reason to think this was true: two shows that did have celebrated final episodes, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp and The Fugitive, were not as successful in 1960s-70s syndication as their fame might suggest.

But the producers of The Bionic Woman wanted to give Jaime a proper sendoff, while also leaving the door open for future missions. So “On the Run,” written by Steven E. DeSouza, isn’t the end-all that it might be if it were made today. It seems to take its inspiration from The Prisoner, with Jaime ready to resign and just be a normal person again, and government agents, led by Andrew Duggan, wanting to send her to a resort that sounds an awful lot like “The Village” to keep other countries from abducting or dissecting her. Duggan was in all sorts of movies and TV shows in the seventies, usually playing some high-ranking government jerk.

Both Richard Anderson and Lindsay Wagner get some real meat to chew on in this story, with both actors putting in some of their very best work. Oscar is outraged on Jaime’s behalf and rails against his superiors, and Jaime is just about to crack and needs to see the light at the end of the tunnel for once. She has some additional support from a third season supporting character we’d missed in our viewing, a boyfriend called Chris Williams played by Christopher Stone. This character appeared in four episodes, but gets unceremoniously killed off sometime after this story so that Jaime and Steve could be together again in the reunion movies!

After The Bionic Woman, Lindsay Wagner became one of the networks’ most in-demand actresses for TV movies-of-the-week. She made dozens over the next twenty years, perhaps most famously Stranger in My Bed and She Woke Up. Her TV series weren’t as successful, but I think 1989’s family drama A Peaceable Kingdom was unfairly wasted by CBS, thrown away against established hits on the other networks without any support.

Richard Anderson, who passed away earlier this year, also stayed very much in demand, mainly in guest star roles, until he retired in the late 1990s. Both Anderson and Wagner appeared as guests in Lee Majors’ hit series The Fall Guy, although sadly not in the same episode! Anderson got to play another female secret agent’s boss in the 1984-85 series Cover Up, which starred Jennifer O’Neill. (It’s sadly better known as the show where her co-star, Jon Erik-Hexum, was tragically and accidentally killed after a couple of months filming than as one of the rare eighties action shows with a female lead.) In another notable appearance, Anderson played Lyndon Johnson in the syndicated miniseries Hoover vs. The Kennedys, which I think was the last big production from that old “Operation Prime Time” quasi-network.

This wraps up our look at the bionic action shows. I’d like to thank all the people who maintain and update The Bionic Wiki for helping me pick which episodes to watch with our son and providing all sorts of background information.

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The Bionic Woman 3.15 – The Martians are Coming, the Martians are Coming

When NBC picked up The Bionic Woman, they asked for one of those pre-credit showreels that you often saw in the seventies, with clips from the episode you’re about to watch. These are always obnoxious, but I liked the way they did this one. All the clips are from about the first seven minutes of the story.

I’m not giving away too much when I reveal this is one of those incredibly common hoax flying saucers that we often saw on TV in that decade, because the show gives it away after about ten minutes. These always let me down as a kid. But to their credit, the bad guys behind this hoax stick to their guns and keep their “holograph” projectors going even once the heroes and the audience are in on the scam. That way the kids in the audience can still have a special effect to look at.

Speaking of effects, while these are about as good as what you could expect to see on TV in 1978, there are a couple of shots where the plate which is used for the image of the flying saucer is pockmarked by two big black blobs right in the center of the picture and what looks like a huge ink smear in the upper left of the frame. Kind of hard to suspend disbelief when Universal’s special effects crew couldn’t even wipe down the plate with some glass cleaner, really. On the other hand, it gave us the opportunity to wind it back and talk with our son how they used to do special effects like this. I used to absorb every article about visual effects in magazines like Dynamite to understand how things like this were made.

In the cast, Jon Locke, who had played the leader of the Sleestak and a couple of other monsters in the last year of Land of the Lost the previous season, has a small part as one of the townspeople excited by the flying saucers. Jack Kelly plays a scientist who has been “abducted” along with Rudy Wells. Kelly is shamefully misused by this story and given next to nothing to do. Since Kelly was all over television doing guest parts during this period, often for Universal, perhaps he was only available for what looks like just two days of filming. That’s idle speculation on my part, but there are three other adult male roles in this story with much more meat on them where I’d prefer to have seen Kelly, who I really enjoy.

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The Bionic Woman 3.7 – Motorcycle Boogie

Bigfoot wasn’t the only major seventies icon to appear on the bionic shows. Evel Knievel, the idol of every under-twelve in that decade who ever aspired to pop a wheelie on their bike, got to play himself and brought along some 16mm stunt footage of him jumping thirty-odd junk cars. He gets to dodge bullets and rockets, although the great big super-jump in the end is done with edits and trick photography, sadly. For those of you who like other familiar faces and places from the seventies, Spencer Milligan plays an East German agent and the Rose Bowl pretends to be a stadium in West Berlin.

Our son tried to be all cool and say that this was only kind of exciting and kind of weird, but we know better. He was in seventh heaven, of course, incredibly thrilled and happy with the story. There were motorcycles and explosions and a very straightforward, simple, and easy-to-follow story by James D. Parriott and Kenneth Johnson. It’s a light and silly adventure, along the comedic lines of the previous year’s “Black Magic.”

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The Bionic Woman 3.4 – Fembots in Las Vegas (part two)

This story ends with a pretty run-of-the-mill episode, with a big climax built around getting out of the big enemy base before it blows up. It’s the sort of story the Bionic shows had done several times before. On the other hand, this does have some pretty interesting visuals. I love this shot of three Fembots confronting Jaime outside Carl Franklin’s secret base, and there’s a too-short nightmare sequence where Jaime is dreaming about unmasked Fembot showgirls.

Well, I say that it’s too short, but given the reality of this basic adventure plot, I don’t know that they could have really done much with a plot that ran in that direction instead. Nevertheless, while the images in the show are blurry and fleeting, NBC used several black and white photos of the Fembot showgirls in promoting their new acquisition. I was kind of disappointed that there was so little to the actual presentation in the episode!

Anyway, everything’s neatly tidied up at the end, with the Fembots all destroyed and no chance that their new controller will bother the heroes again. Even the Howard Hughes type we met in part one has a new miracle cure and a reunion with his girlfriend. On the other hand, our son enjoyed it quite a lot and told us that he liked all the big explosions. It’s a shame they didn’t bring back these villains for one last go-around before the end, though. I would’ve liked to have seen one more story with them.

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The Bionic Woman 3.3 – Fembots in Las Vegas (part one)

The NBC year of The Bionic Woman started with a two-part story that introduced Jaime’s bionic dog, Max, but we skipped that for the exciting return of the Fembots in an adventure written by Arthur Rowe. It’s silly and full of coincidence – I loved Jaime learning that they’d rebuilt the Callahan Fembot about four minutes before her new controller reactivates her – but it’s got some great fight scenes and footage of Las Vegas’s neon at night, although not as much as the Bond movie Diamonds are Forever did.

Like Diamonds, the story even includes a Howard Hughes analogue, living in isolation in a Vegas penthouse while directing research into big important-to-the-plot stuff. This guy’s a lot younger than Hughes was in his Vegas days, and is played by James Olson, who we saw in the Wonder Woman story “Last of the $2 Bills.” Melinda Fee, who had co-starred in NBC’s Six Million Dollar clone The Invisible Man, is one of the Fembots.

With this season, there was a new change initiated by NBC: one of those “here are some scenes from the episode you’re about to watch” montages before the credits. Since this spoiled both the return of the Fembots and that they’re being controlled by the mad Dr. Franklin’s previously unmentioned son, I skipped over those, but forgot that the Callahan ‘bot is reintroduced in literally the very first scene. I see why they wanted to make it this way, but it honestly would have been much more effective had we not known the robots were back until a little later. I was pleased that our son was happy to see these baddies return, but his favorite part was when Jaime and the Hughes character escaped from a trio of Fembots in a helicopter. There’s really good stunt work throughout this hour (although, sadly, Lindsay Wagner’s stunt double’s face is right in the center of the screen for a bit during her fight with the Melinda Fee Fembot) but I was probably also most pleased with the helicopter escape myself!

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The Bionic Woman 2.14 – Doomsday is Tomorrow (part two)

Well, the most important thing is that our son enjoyed the second episode more than he did the first. “I LOVED that episode,” he said, before adding “but part one was…” and he stuck out his tongue. The peanut gallery has spoken.

The second most important thing is that “Doomsday is Tomorrow” really entertained me as well. You could argue there’s a disagreeable cop-out near the end, but there are also a lot of completely unexpected twists and turns. Pretty much the whole thing is Lindsay Wagner stomping through some big industrial complex – I dunno where this was filmed, but if Disney showed up a year later to make the second Witch Mountain movie, I wouldn’t be surprised – arguing with the disembodied voice of ALEX 7000, pledging that the next round of defenses will surely kill her, so she should stop now. And yet Wagner is so good, and the plot keeps throwing surprises at us as ALEX improvises new ways to stop her, that this never feels like a low-budget way to do two episodes with a small cast. It feels like the end of the world.

Kenneth O’Brien has a whole lot less to do in the second part than I had thought, and Lew Ayres is only here briefly, having recorded his messages of doom to humanity before he died in part one. This is as close to a solo turn for a program’s protagonist as it got in the seventies, and it’s a genuine pleasure. I’m very glad that I picked this one.

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The Bionic Woman 2.13 – Doomsday is Tomorrow (part one)

He’s enjoyed the last few things that we’ve watched despite some worrying monsters and menace, but our son didn’t like part one of this story at all. I thought it was surprisingly good, miles better than that business with the police academy. “Doomsday is Tomorrow” was written, produced, and directed by Kenneth Johnson, and concerns a dying scientist and his seventies evil supercomputer triggering a Dr. Strangelove-style doomsday device, which will destroy all life on earth six hours after anybody, anywhere, ever triggers a nuclear device in the atmosphere.

The trouble is that just as soon as he reveals his threat and proves to a team of international scientists that he’s not bluffing, some middle eastern nogoodniks from Nosuchlandia decide this is a plot by the superpowers to stop their hydrogen bomb program and start a countdown. Jaime, teamed with a Soviet agent and electronics expert, has to race against time to penetrate more than six miles of artillery, lasers, and a minefield – that’s the second minefield we watched today! – to get back to the complex.

The problem with our son is that while, as a six year-old, he certainly loves lasers and explosions, he really, really didn’t like seeing Jaime so close to danger. He was so worried about her as she ran through the artillery barrage that it colored everything else!

Meanwhile, I did want to note that the scientist is played by Lew Ayres, who was a guest star in everything in the sixties and seventies, especially everything that Universal made. I remember him as a Nazi hunter working on a Gulf of Mexico oil rig in an early Route 66. Jaime’s unplanned partner is played by Kenneth O’Brien, another regular guest star actor of the day, and who we saw a year ago in an episode of Ark II. The evil supercomputer, ALEX, is voiced by Guerin Barry. Looks like two years later, he’d play another computer voice in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. It was the seventies. Computers only spoke with men’s voices then, but things eventually changed didn’t they, Siri?

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The Bionic Woman 2.11 – Jaime’s Shield (part two)

There’s a bit in part two of this story where Jaime punches a hole in the trunk of a runaway car in order to hold on. Our son loved that. He also really liked it when George Maharis’s character rides a motorcycle through a door. I didn’t like much of anything about this. At least part one had an interesting mystery about which cadet was the foreign agent. This is just another seventies cop show. There were dozens of cop shows on the air in 1976. The Bionic Woman should have been doing something with lions or Fembots in it, and not what every other series of the time was doing.

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