It may have been the one to watch this season, but after only a handful of episodes David Eicks re-invented “Bionic Woman” series hit ratings free-fall and has thus far been unable to pull itself together. Viewership is down by 60 percent and it shows no signs of getting better. The series hasnt been cancelled yet, but it looks like after a fairly decent start, the end is only a matter of time.
And its a genuine shame too because the Pilot episode showed some real promise: Shooting along at breakneck speeds, we were instantly introduced to Jaime Sommers (Michelle Ryan) and her ever-so-slightly dysfunctional lifestyle, and then moments later she was pancaked by a truck that was moving almost as fast as the plot itself. There was no time to stop and ponder on the whos, the whys or the wheres, and before you know it, Jaime has been augmented with bionic technologies that let her smash through walls, look cool while leaping over entire buildings and zoom in on whatever she wants.
Jaime is instantly thrown into the field and comes face-to-face with her new-nemesis Sarah Corvus : the first bionic woman played by “Battlestar Galactica” vet Katee Sackhoff. There are times that the duo seemed a little too much like the old Buffy/Faith dynamic of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer,” but what you forget is that the third season of Buffy is considered the greatest of them all and a large chunk of that sentiment is due to that relationship. Replicating it on this series (if intended or not) wasnt a bad move because the final fight scene on the roof was filled with so much coolness it justified why the series was expected to be the champion of the new television season. Theres something about rooftop fighting that looks so much better in the rain.
Unfortunately however, the pilot episode is about as good as the series has managed to get. The episodes that followed with a few futuristic-themed terrorist plots and bland baddies were a little too Jake 2.0 without the same fun factor that kept that series fresh and fails to bring anything new or provocative to the screen. Corvus helped keep the series moving with her sinister presence, and in many cases Sackhoff stole the show away from Ryan – when you have a character thats as stylish and utterly absorbing like Sarah Corvus, who needs Jaime Sommers anyway?
Sackhoff is an unmitigated joy as Starbuck over on Battlestar Galactica and in Bionic Woman delivers another gripping and emotionally complicated character that never grows old. The showrunners manage to utilize Corvus in a way they seem unable to do with Jaime, particularly in “Sisterhood” with the two bionic women co-operating for their own agenda : one that doesnt concern Berkut. Sadly, that plot thread vanishes completely leaving behind some very mellow family drama and a poorly constructed romance with a CIA agent.
Sydney Bristow on Alias was so entertaining because she broke the rules when she wanted and because she had something to fight for – Jaime has nothing to fight for. After the death of her boyfriend Will Athros (Chris Bowers), a mysteriously convenient dossier comes to light giving our heroine a reason both to hate and forget the love of her life and move on without shedding any tears. Both Mark A. Sheppards Anthony Anthros and Miguel Ferrers Jonas Bledsoe have been continually underused and have had very little substance to deal with on the series whereas recurring characters such as Antonio Pope (Isaiah Washington) have had so much more screen time and development they should be part of the regular cast.
Former bionic woman Lindsay Wagner has spoken out on the series herself, essentially condemning this contemporary telling for being too dark, too violent, and too different from the show she was a part of.
“It’s very much like what the shows are today … kind of dark and broody and violent,” Wagner said. “It’s not at all what we were doing. We were doing a show for kids intentionally and making it fun in such a way that adults could enjoy it, too.”
The interesting thing is, however, that the darker tales with the infinitely witty banter between Jaime and one of her many partners have been the most entertaining. The dialogue always maintained a very light-hearted tone that was a wonderful contrast to the twisted and murky storytelling. The disappointing thing is, the series is at its best with Sarah Corvus lurking in the background – and if the series is canned now, we may never see her make a triumphant return that could potentially save the series.
SyBits I hope you all enjoyed me subbing for Michael Hinman. He’ll be back writing SciFriday next week just as November sweeps ends.
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Alan Stanley Blair is the assistant news editor for Airlock Alpha, contributing from his home country of Scotland. He is currently studying for his post-graduate diploma in freelance journalism and feature writing as a distance student at the London School of Journalism. He can be reached at any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.