How Kara Thrace Killed the Bionic Woman

I will smoke you good

Okay, so maybe Starbuck isn’t entirely guilty of this crime of bionicide. But it makes a catchy title, no?

What geekery has me in a lather now? It’s the 2007 attempt to restart the Bionic Woman television series. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I own the 2-DVD set released after this show’s inevitable cancellation. Of all the myriad ridiculous reasons behind my ownership is the fact that it’s awesome to play during my evening workouts. I just finished re-watching the eight episodes yet again. It’s a great sorbet in between my marathon viewings of shows like the new Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek: Voyager.

What struck me as particularly interesting during this re-viewing is how many BSG alumni pop up throughout BW. Of course, there is Katee Sackhoff, she of Starbuck fame, playing Jaime Sommers’s arch nemesis, Sarah Corvus. But Mark Sheppard (Romo Lampkin) played another recurring character, and Aaron Douglas (Chief Tyrol) and Callum Keith Rennie (Leoben Conoy) made guest appearances. I’m willing to bet there were others who crossed over as well, but I’m horrible at face recognition so these are the only ones I’ve got for you.

Seems like Universal was hell-bent on shuffling some of its BSG viewership ratings over to BW in the laziest way imaginable (of course, I’m sure it helped that the series creator was BSG producer/writer David Eick). Don’t worry about the writing…just make sure that those BSG actors are showcased in advertisements. Seems like Universal felt that loyalty among sci-fi geeks is transferable. Oh, how very wrong they were. Sci-fi geeks are some of the ficklest fans EVAR. Sure, maybe we’ll tune in originally because Kara Thrace and Leoben are there. But you’ve got to give us more to keep us. Plus, I didn’t even know who Kara Thrace was at the time. I was still in my “I’m not getting addicted to that fracking over-hyped sci-fi show” mindset. So those parallels were completely lost to me the first time around.

No, I came to BW because I loved the original Lindsay Wagner show when I was a wee Lobita. I’m still waiting for that series to be released on DVD, but thanks to legal issues between Universal and Dimension (one owns the show, and one owns the rights to the original source material), that might never happen. At least Hulu.com is currently showing the first season.

What I found was a reboot that, like most of the drivel that Hollywood spews out anymore, wasn’t worth the effort. I’d like to say that at least their hearts were in it…but if their “hearts” were anything like their focus, then they were all over the place. Just like the scripts. And the character development. And everything else for that matter. This show needed a lot more pre-planning before it ever headed to the development process. The characters needed way more fleshing out. Some of the characters were so last minute that they needed “Wet Paint” signs around their necks. Perfect example: Jaime’s little sister, Becca. That character was originally supposed to be deaf and was played by a completely different actress. Scrapped at the 11th hour, she instead became some kind of nondescript computer hacker fugitive. But only in the first episode. All subsequent appearances portrayed her as a typical surly teen with severe rebellious tendencies. Of course, I’d rebel, too, if I knew I was around only as a plot device that would just as quickly be forgotten whenever Big Sis needed to go on a covert mission that would inexplicably take her away for days at a time.

Hair? Check. Makeup? Check. Wardrobe? Check. Solid Character Development? Anyone? Oi!

Then there was Jaime herself. The new bionic woman is an early-20s college dropout-cum-bartender? Yeah, she gets all super-duper souped up because of an accident, but we learn in the second episode that her doctor/scientist/bionic savior dead BF had been keeping a dossier on her for years, apparently because he thought she would be perfect as his human lab rat for Berkut’s bionic program. Really? Why? Do something anything to establish right from the start what makes her so special. Besides the fact that she looks great wearing black leather and fighting in the rain with sexy Sarah Corvus. That was their first failure.

No. I take that back. Their first failure is the fact that the very first character we meet is Sarah Corvus. Anyone familiar with BSG knows that Katee Sackhoff thoroughly kicked ass as Starbuck. She equally kicked ass as Sarah Corvus. Every single time she appeared on BW, it was like getting a defibrillator jolt to a rapidly dying show. Sackhoff was literally the brightest spot of the series. She appeared in the first four episodes; the final four were decidedly Corvus-less. And that was when the already discordant show began to seriously unravel. It was like removing a jellyfish’s spine. All you’re left with is jiggly blubber.

[Okay, I’m way off in my biological comparisons right now, but cut me a little slack…my brain is still partially holiday-closed, dammit.]

Bottom line was that Michelle Ryan could not compare to Katee Sackhoff. The guest outshone the star each and every time. In Ryan’s defense, this was a) her first big starring role and b) her U.S. debut. So you put her up against an American actress with several years’ experience under her belt in working on a regular sci-fi series that’s heavy on action, heavy on CGI, heavy on everything that Ryan’s not used to? And you put her into a role that is severely under-developed on a show that is lacking even the pretense of knowing what it wants to become or where it wants to go?

Did anyone actually want Michelle Ryan, or for that matter, this show to succeed? Because, honestly, it’s a terrible show. Jaime Sommers as re-imagined by Eick & Co. is an abomination, an embarrassment to the genre. And that’s a serious shame. I wanted this show to succeed more than any other that debuted that 2007 TV season. I was so stoked about BW that I set my Outlook calendar to remind me when it was airing. I watched every episode during the original airing. Yes, I was 1 of the 12 who was still watching right up to the bitter end. I kept hoping that it would find its footing. But the writers’ strike pretty much knocked the sand-slippery slope that the show was already on right out from under it. Michelle Ryan returned to England, Katee Sackhoff went back to toasting skinjobs, and yet another show that could have been a beacon of brightness for women in a still decidedly male-dominated genre was completely doused.

Ah well. I still have my 2-DVD set. And I will say this: It’s awful, campy goodness that’s so laughably terrible that I easily forget about the horrible things I’m making my naturally sedentary body do for the 45-minute duration of the shows. That makes it solid platinum in my book.