- for other uses, see The Bionic Woman (disambiguation)
Bionic Woman is a 2007 NBC series reimagining starring British actress Michelle Ryan. Jaime Sommers is the only character from the original series to be retained, and the series was considered different enough from its forebears that neither Johnson nor Caidin receive screen credit, with David Eick considered de facto creator. The series aired eight episodes before production was halted due to the 2007-2008 Writers Guild of America Strike. On March 18, 2008, series producer, David Eick confirmed that it had been canceled.
In 2007, NBC launched Bionic Woman, a reimagined version of the 1976-78 series produced and developed by David Eick. The character of Jaime Sommers was the only character from the original series retained for the new program, and only the term bionics was taken from Martin Caidin's original work (bionics being considered a general term like prosthetics and therefore not something Caidin would own the rights to).
The reimagined version of Jaime as portrayed by British actress Michelle Ryan (at the time best known for her hundreds of appearances on the UK soap opera EastEnders) is markedly different than the Lindsay Wagner original. The new Sommers is a young woman trying to balance her job as a bartender with caring for her rebellious teenaged sister (her mother being dead and her father having left years before). Her boyfriend is a scientist, and Sommers discovers that she's pregnant by him. A devastating automobile crash (later revealed to have been intentionally staged) critically injures Jaime. Her boyfriend, it is revealed, works for a top-secret black ops organization called The Berkut Group and has been working on a new generation of bionics.
In this version of Jaime Sommers, not only are her legs, right arm, and right ear replaced by super-powered machines, but she also receives a bionic left eye, which gives Jaime commonality with the original version of Steve Austin (though not to the extent of the series becoming a Caidin derivative). It is also revealed later that Jaime's brain is implanted with electronics that allow Berkut to view what she sees through her eye and hear through her ear, and transmit voice messages directly to her. The nanite-like machines responsible for maintaining her bionics also allow her to heal from injuries at a rapid speed. Unlike the Wagner version of the character, the new series gives a cost for Jaime's bionics: approximately $50 million. In one episode, Jaime accidentally damages a toe and is told the repair would cost more than $100,000.
In the series, Jaime reluctantly joins Berkut as an agent, and a subplot of the series depicts her trying to maintain a "real life" outside of work - a life that includes caring for her sister and trying to enjoy a romance with an FBI agent. She receives unexpected assistance from her superior, Jonas Bledsoe who, while initially depicted as an Oliver Spencer-like figure, later softens into more the Oscar Goldman mode although his true motives are never revealed.
The series featured a recurring adversary in Sarah Corvus, played by Katee Sackhoff (who, at the time, was also co-starring as Starbuck in Eick's reimagining of Glen Larson's Battlestar Galactica, making her one of the few actors to appear in two such remakes simultaneously). Corvus was the series' equivalent to Barney Hiller, in that she was a previous bionic woman prototype who, like Barney, was unable to control her urges as she became superpowered (though in the series this is in part due to Sarah - and later Jaime - learning that the Berkut group had installed a five-year life expectancy in their bionics).
The series was canceled after only eight episodes, an acknowledged victim of low ratings and the 2007-2008 Writers Guild of America Strike which shut down production of most American network scripted television series. As late as early 2008, both NBC and Eick indicated that the series was expected to, at least, complete the original 13-episode commitment, and it was announced that actor Bruce McGill would be joining the series (in a role never clearly specified); Universal Home Video announced a DVD release of the initial 8 episodes, dubbing the set "Volume 1" as it also expected there to be more episodes produced. As the strike dragged on, and NBC began making plans for the upcoming season, however, it was decided not to continue production of Bionic Woman and the series was officially cancelled in the spring of 2008.
One subplot left unresolved is the revelation that this Jaime's bionics have only a five-year operational expectancy at which point she will die unless this limitation is resolved. The relationship between Sarah and Jaime, and Sarah's complex backstory, were only touched on before the series was cancelled.
Towards the end of the series some attempts were made to bring the show closer in spirit to the original. Aside from the apparent Oscar-like softening of Jonas, in one of the final episodes Jaime is shown running in slow-motion, a nod to how the original series presented bionic running.
After the series' cancellation, its stars went their separate ways, with Ryan returning to the UK where she quickly won a recurring role as a villain in yet another reimagining, this time of Merlin, and soon after also guest starred on Doctor Who. Sackhoff, meanwhile, continued with Battlestar Galactica until that series ended, moved on to other series such as 24 and the video game Call of Duty Black Ops III. Another guest star, Mark Sheppard, who as Anthony Anthros was expected to be an ongoing threat to Jaime, also continued with his recurring role in Battlestar Galactica.
The original pilot and pre-broadcast controversy
Several aspects of production of Bionic Woman sparked controversy. The original pilot episode for the series was remade and never broadcast (nor was it released on DVD). In it, Mae Whitman was cast as Jaime's sister, who in the pilot was established as being deaf. The casting of a hearing actress in the role sparked complaints from hearing impaired advocacy groups. The pilot was subsequently reshot with Lucy Hale (who later went on to star in Pretty Little Liars) as Becca, who was no longer depicted as being hearing impaired, which also sparked complaints.
Further controversy arose when Isaiah Washington was cast as fellow Berkut agent (and potential love interest) Antonio Pope. This was Washington's first major acting role after being fired from the series Grey's Anatomy over alleged, but well publicized comments he made regarding a gay actor, and public sentiment at the time was still against Washington, with the producers of Bionic Woman being criticized in the press and Internet forums for casting him.
Although less regarded than the original Bionic franchise series, the 2007 version of Bionic Woman has the distinction of being the first (and for several years only) series connected to the franchise to be released on DVD in North America (Region 1). Universal Home Video optimistically labelled the spring 2008 release as "Volume 1" as at the time of the DVD's production there was still a chance of the series continuing. Later release in the UK used the more accurate "The Complete Series" subtitle. It would be the only Bionic series officially available on DVD in Region 1 until the original The Bionic Woman Season 1 was released in October 2010.
Earlier series announcements
Prior to the announcement of the Michelle Ryan series, US media had reported on at least two other planned Bionic Woman remakes. One, designated for production by cable network USA, was to have starred Jennifer Aniston of Friends fame as Jaime. That plan fell through, as did a later concept for a Bionic Woman series that reportedly would have done away with actual superpowers, rendering the whole "bionics" aspect a metaphor. Little more was heard of this radical reimagining before the Ryan series was announced by NBC.