Reviews

The Bionic Woman (2007 Pilot)

Please note: The televised pilot differs in a few important ways from this version E.g. changing the Deaf sister into a ‘prettier’ generic computer hacker. In the end the writer’s strike lead to the show being cancelled, giving the execs a convenient excuse not bother trying to be different.

We can rebuild her; we can make her more logical and more plausible than before…

MOTHER and DAUGHTER drive down a motorway in the middle of a forest. The mother talks on her Bluetooth headset, keeping her eyes on the road. The daughter stares out of the window and spots Jamie running through the forest at full speed, keeping up with the car.

Daughter

(Excited)

Mommy, mommy, there’s a lady out there running really fast;

Like as fast as a car!

The Mother doesn’t even bother to look.

Mother

Sweetie; what did I tell you about making things up?

The daughter shrugs.

Daughter

(Impressed)

I just thought it was cool that a girl could do that, that’s all…

…Which is why it’s the Bionic Woman remake instead of the Six Million Dollar Man (or Fifty Million Dollar, as were told it now cost’s to make one of these people – Goddamn inflation!). But enough about empowering and inspiring the young woman of today to be the leaders of tomorrow – this has buff chicks, kicking each other’s arses, in the rain!

Brought to you by the man who produced the original Bionic couple and both the original and re-envisioned Battlestar Galactica TV show, Glen Morgan takes a similar approach to the Bionic Woman: cut out the cheese and replace it with (relatively) realistic and emotional responses to the situations our character’s find themselves in.

The new Jamie Summers (played to perfection by Michelle Ryan, previously of Eastenders fame) is a College (University for the non-Face book obsessed) dropout, who works night’s tending bar. Her mother died of cancer, leaving Jamie to take care of a rebellious fifteen year sister Beccy (Lucy Hale) who also happens to be deaf. Her seemingly perfect Boyfriend Will Anthros (Mark Sheppard) is a surgeon who also teaches Bio-ethics at the local College. As his opening lecture explains Bio-ethics deals with the moral ambiguity of using science to repair or improve upon the human body. After a romantic candle-lit dinner, Jamie blurts out the fact that she is pregnant, Will proposes and all is well and good in Telly land.  That’s the rise, and now for the fall…

Sounding out baby names whilst driving home, Jamie and Will’s car is hit side on by a Big Mutha Trucka, in a crash that makes James Bond’s waste of a perfectly good Aston Martin in Casino Royale look like a trolley spin out in a Tesco’s car park.  Bottom line is that their car end’s up wrapped around a lamppost. And I do mean wrapped; it’s a testament to either the skill of the stunt team or the size or the production budget (or both) that a Television production is able to outshine a Film in terms of pyrotechnics. The truck comes to a stop and Sarah Korvis, steps out of the cab, a satisfied look on her face. More about her later but meanwhile, back at the ranch…

Instead of rushing to the hospital like any normal person, Will decides to airlift Jamie to his Top-secret laboratory known only as Remote Station 41. Ignoring the advice of everyone who hasn’t either: a) just walked out of the world’s nuttiest car crash ever— or b) spent the last six months shagging the patient, Will decides the only way to save his beloved is to make her the new subject of his latest project; replacing both her legs, her right arm, eye and (one assumes inner) ear. Oh and just for good measure he replaces 1/8 of her blood supply with some very Borg nano-probe sounding robots called Anthrosites (see what they did there?) giving Jamie a handy Wolverine-like healing ability. Which raises an interesting question; if you woke after the aforementioned mentalist car crash without a scratch on you, unable to feel the vast majority of your limbs, only to have your partner come in and explain to you that you are now in essence a cybernetic killing machine; What would you do?

This Jamie answer’s is very real and true to the reality of the situation.  Whipping off bed sheets to reveal her as yet unfinished bionic arm and legs, the poor soul loses it completely. Putting an arm around Jamie in yet another misguided attempt to make her feel better, Will is flung six feet across the room in a re-enforced glass door, receiving a broken arm for his trouble.  All of this takes places within the first tweleve minutes of the show! Jamie later returns home to face a sister she can’t truthfully explain her whereabouts over last few weeks to and then, as the realisation of what’s happened to her finally kicks in, breaks down into tears in the shower. Standing on the edge of a roof top, it seems that Jamie may well be considering ending it all before taking – in a subtle homage to the first Spider-man and Matrix movies – both literally and metaphorically the biggest jump of her life; across a busy street to the opposite rooftop.

Earlier I mentioned one Sarah Korvis, played again to perfection by the new Battlestar Galactica’s  Katte Sackhoff.  What I didn’t mention is that Sarah is ever so slightly not right in the brain.  To quote the lady herself,

“Without sounding too melodramatic about the whole thing, I’m Sarah Korvis; the first Bionic Woman! Taa daa…”

The show opens with Sarah in tears, wearing a blood-spattered hospital-gown, kneeling over the corpse of a dead scientist. The first two lines out of her mouth effectively sum up this sexy cybernetic organism. The first “I’m not in control” is less self explanatory than it seems, the second being the plea “Tell me you love me”, as she launches herself across a room into the path of a speeding bullet.

What’s most interesting about her character is the fact that aside from having been a solider prior to receiving her implants, being more experienced and comfortable using them than Jamie, she is also technologically far superior, having had all her limbs replaced as well as both eyes and (most amusingly) part of her chest. This all ties back nicely into Will’s opening Bioethics lecture. Like Star Trek’s Borg Queen, Sarah sees the frailty of her organic components as weaknesses. This provides a nice contrast to Jamie’s outlook, who herself spends much of the second half of the episode desperately trying to feel normal again, returning home to her sister and then her job in the nightclub.

Sarah also poses another question that goes unanswered in this episode. During the climatic roof top fight scene (clips are available online) the first thing Sarah does is break, Jamie’s organic arm. It seems to have been healed mere moments later by the Anthrosites in Jamie’s bloodstream, nonetheless having your arm broken five or six times a fight will no doubt prove something of an annoyance after a while…

As brilliantly crafted (ha ha) as the two leading ladies characters are, what is seen of the supporting cast is a bit disappointing. I accept that they only had an hour minus ad breaks to tell the story but, several of the characters feel a little too functionary here. Jamie’s sister Beccy seems a little generic (deafness not withstanding) and serves only to ground Jamie in the real world; to give her a life she would actually want to return to. The same with her surgeon boyfriend; someone has to introduce Jamie into the shadowy world of Iwantoneofthose.comstyle cybernetics after all. Same again for Jamie’s new Boss, her therapist and even her combat trainer, each of whom are treated to the most cursory of back-story before we shoot along to the next scene.

Having said this it’s early days yet; the pilot I saw was not completely finished. It lacked titles, credits, the odd CG shot and even had one case of unfinished ADR towards the end. All in all the new Bionic Woman shows a lot of promise.  So, to sum up once again: out with the cheese, in with the realism.  Was I impressed? You’re goddamn right I was, but then I’m man. And a Sci-fi nerd. And it has hot, cyborg chicks, fighting in the rain. And a dirty car crash.  What’s not to like…

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