Review: The Bionic Woman – the Complete Collection / Cert: PG / Director: Various / Screenplay: Various / Starring: Lindsay Wagner, Lee Majors, Richard Anderson / Release Date: Out Now
Jaime Sommers, the world's first bionic woman, returns to our TV screens courtesy of one of the world's biggest box sets – 18 discs comprising all three seasons and a bundle of extras that will have completists salivating like Maximillian, the Bionic Dog. For those of you who weren't around in the '70s, Jaime is the childhood sweetheart of Six Million Dollar Man, Steve Austin. When he buys a place in his sleepy hometown of Ojai, California, their romance is rekindled, and after a skydiving accident puts her in the hospital, Steve calls in his pals from the Office of Scientific Intelligence to rebuild her. We're talking extensive body-work – both legs, one arm and a bionic ear (good for cracking safes, eavesdropping and wearing very dangly earrings).
Unfortunately, complications ensue (rejection of her bionic implants, death, resuscitation through cryogenic therapy, amnesia, and did we mention death? – all covered in four gloriously melodramatic Six Million Dollar Man episodes on disc 1), and in order for her not to suffer a relapse, she and Steve have to part.
With all that behind her, Season One sees Jaime making a new life for herself in Ojai, teaching 7th graders and embarking on a diverse series of adventures between lessons. Taking his cue from the small-town setting, writer-producer Kenneth Johnson (on this evidence, the J.J. Abrams of his time) keeps everything on a human level. Themes of female empowerment are gently explored, while sexist stereotypes get roundly mocked (in one Miss Congeniality-style episode, Jaime is forced, much to her disgust, to enter a beauty pageant, while in another she's bemused when she's sent undercover as a nurse as she hasn't the first clue how to tie a bandage).
Season Two switches things up and goes for fun and camp. This is the era that brought us the infamous fembots (tasked with stealing a weather control device from OSI) and saw Jaime fight Sasquatch in an effort to locate an alien wonder drug for a radiation-poisoned Steve Austin. All a bit silly, yes, but sharp scripts save the day, and there's a particularly delightful episode wherein Jaime infiltrates a team of lady wrestlers. Season Three offers more of the same – fembot showgirls, Max the dog (who, as the world's first bionic creature, has had it a bit rough) – before bowing out with a darker episode in which Jaime tries to resign from OSI.
Jaime and Steve would do that Buffy-Angel thing of popping up in each other's series, and these crossover storylines are all here, as are three later, very dignified reunion movies. Throughout, the picture restoration is bright and vivid. A classy box set for a classy show.
Extras: All 4 Six Million Dollar Man episodes explaining the origin of the Bionic Woman / Bionic Beginnings Featurette / Gag Reel / Bionic Galleries / Bonus Six Million Dollar Man episode “The Return of Big Foot” Pt. 1 / “Doomsday is Tomorrow” Pts. 1 & 2 audio commentary by creator/writer/director Kenneth Johnson / Audio commentaries on “Road to Nashville” and “Bio-Feedback” episodes by Lindsay Wagner / Bionic Blast Featurette / Audio commentary for “The Bionic Dog Pt. 1” from writer James D. Parriott / Audio commentary for “On the Run” from writer Steven E. De Souza / Q&A with Lindsay Wagner / All 3 reunion movies, “The Return of the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman” (1987), “Bionic Showdown” (1989), “Bionic Ever After” (1994) / Full-colour booklets and stills