Follow TV Tropes


Series / The Bionic Woman

Go To

For the 2007 series, see Bionic Woman.

The Bionic Woman (ABC, 1976-1978) is a Spin-Off from The Six Million Dollar Man, featuring Lindsay Wagner as Jaime Sommers, the second active bionic agent of the OSI. Jaime made her initial appearance in a 1975 episode of The Six Million Dollar Man — she was a tennis pro and Steve Austin's old sweetheart. During a vacation from the OSI, Austin returns to his home town of Ojai and runs into Jaime again, and pretty soon their romance resumes. During one of their outings, they decide to go parachuting; Jaime's chute fails and she suffers catastrophic injuries. An overwrought Steve convinces his boss, Oscar Goldman, to authorize bionic replacement surgery to restore Jaime's destroyed legs, right arm and right ear. Goldman agrees.

Jaime and Steve bond further after the surgery, and he proposes marriage. But before they can wed, her body starts rejecting the bionics; she dies on the operating table as Rudy Wells struggled to save her life.


Or so it seemed. Viewer response to Jaime was so great, and their response to her death so negative, that ABC ordered the producers of Six Mil to revamp the opening of the show's third season in order to slot in a two-parter that explained that unknown to Steve, Jaime had been placed in suspended animation (cryonics), which allowed her to be brought back to life. But at a price: no memory of Steve or her love for him remained. Again, viewer response was strong and ABC commissioned, on very short notice for TV, a new spin-off series to debut in January 1976.

Because her bionics gave her an unfair advantage on the court, Jaime left the professional tennis circuit and returned to her home town of Ojai, California, to work as a teacher — and as an occasional, not to mention reluctant, special agent for the OSI. Her adventures tended to be lower-key than Steve's, and less violent, often following the Star Trek formula of emphasizing character over style. That didn't stop the show from occasionally dipping into the overt sci-fi well the parent show did, such as a series of episodes featuring lifelike androids called "Fembots", and the inevitable crossovers with Six Mil that included a run-in with the infamous Bigfoot.


During the show's final season, even more attempts were made to humanize things by saddling Jaime with a "Bionic Dog" named Max, a German shepherd who was one of the early successes in Rudy Wells' bionic development program, and who had been scheduled for destruction before Jaime stepped in.

One of the keys to the program's top-ratings success (it often beat its parent program in that area) was Lindsay Wagner's very wry and down-to-earth performance as Jaime. One got the feeling that (unlike Austin) she could lose all her bionic augmentations and not care much, although she certainly was more than able to make good use of them in the appropriate crisis situations (and the series also frequently showed how bionics could be used in day-to-day situations as well). Wagner became the first actress in a science fiction-based TV series to win a Best Actress Emmy Award due to her work on The Bionic Woman (a fact often ignored by those keen on dismissing the series as another example of "1970s cheese"). Her support cast include always-dependable Richard Anderson as Oscar Goldman, and Martin E. Brooks as Dr. Rudy Wells. Both actors made history when ABC cancelled the series and NBC picked it up for a final season, and the two were allowed to continue to appear in both shows, even though they were now on competing networks. (Further crossovers with Lee Majors, however, were forbidden.)

Like The Six Million Dollar Man, the special effects are a product of their time, in particular the slow motion effects which were inspired, according to producer Harve Bennett, by NFL Films' iconic slow-motion footage of football players in action, and because, so sayeth Lee Majors on the 2010 DVD release of his series, showing bionics at full speed looked silly. With Wagner, the slow-motion takes on a graceful elegance generally missing from the parent series, which is likely why the use of slow-motion on The Bionic Woman tends to be less-frequently lampooned. Like most series, the scripts run the gamut from classics like "Doomsday Is Tomorrow", a two-parter by series creator Kenneth Johnson (V, Alien Nation) that pitted Jaime against a computer programmed to destroy the world, to lesser episodes such as one in which Jaime had to protect a lion (the plot did not get any thicker than that!). Due to the very short notice given for the production of the first season, a couple of scripts had to be recycled from the show's male counterpart. Still, Wagner's charm and sense of humor was often enough to carry the show, and it is still remembered with fondness by a large number of fans.

At their best, both The Bionic Woman and The Six Million Dollar Man sometimes transcended the usual limitations of TV action/adventure. For example, in "Kill Oscar", an evil scientist decides to replace the female personnel of the OSI with life-like female "fembots". The 3-part crossover took this and actually made it both disturbing (at how easily people could be replaced, and how much harm could come of it if a high-ranking person was one of them) and oddly non-sexist, in that the women the robots replaced were the secretaries and assistants of high-ranking male OSI personnel. These secretaries are clearly shown as having high security clearances, access to important knowledge and making a very important contribution to the work, and yet underappreciated and too often ignored. This nearly enables the scientist to bring about the defeat of the OSI.

A trio of reunion movies combined with Six Mill were made between 1987 and 1994 (the second of which introduced a next-generation bionic woman played by a pre-stardom Sandra Bullock as a pilot for a revival series that was never made). In the 1990s and 2000s there were occasional rumors of new film or TV versions of the series, including a made-for-cable series that would have starred Jennifer Anison as Jaime and an In Name Only reimagining in which the title was going to be simply a metaphor and the lead character would have no powers at all! Eventually, a short-lived remake appeared on NBC in 2007 what was closer in spirit to Martin Caidin's original Cyborg novel series upon which Six Mill was based. And in 2012 a Darker and Edgier comic book version (featuring a Jaime who is not averse to breaking necks when threatened) was launched, though this was replaced in the summer of 2014 with a Bionic Woman Season 4 comic more closely based on the TV series and, in 2017, another comic book that teamed Jaime up with the Lynda Carter version of Wonder Woman.

The Bionic Woman provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Aborted Arc: Jaime's schoolteaching job, which drove a number of early plotlines, is all but forgotten about by season 2.
  • Absolute Cleavage: The blue shirt that Jaime wears in "Brain Wash."
  • Achilles' Heel
    • Extreme cold can make her parts stop working until they warm up.
    • Jamie's natural arm is vulnerable, as was the rest of her human body, obviously.
    • Following on from something established in the parent series, after Jaime jumps from too high a building in "Kill Oscar" and makes her legs explode, taking out her legs has the potential to leave her at death's door.
    • She is also vulnerable to some forms of electrocution, again through her legs.
    • Early on, attempting to remember her relationship with Steve still had the potential to cause her pain, though this was downplayed more as time went on.
  • Action Girl: Jaime, obviously, though she actually makes an effort to avoid being one.
  • Affably Evil: ALEX 7000 from "Doomsday is Tomorrow". He tries to kill Jamie so she can't stop him from causing the destruction of humanity. Still, he politely warns her of his intentions, speaks to her in a friendly manner, and even considers her something of a "cousin", due to her bionics.
  • Artistic License – Military: The soldiers or airmen Jaime encounters tend to have shaggy 70s haircuts.
  • Analogy Backfire: Jamie does this to herself during "Black Magic" when she is forced to work with one villain to take down another.
    Manfred: Don't you trust me?
    Jamie: I trust you about as far as I could throw you. No, no, I don't trust you that far.
  • As Himself, Special Guest: Evel Knievel in Season 3 episode "Motorcycle Boogie", where he becomes an unwitting accomplice to Jaime when she tries to retrieve a stolen data tape from behind the Iron Curtain. Needless to say his trademark motorcycle stunts prove conveniently useful.
  • Backdoor Pilot
    • The episode "Biofeedback" was clearly intended to launch a spin-off, but it never happened.
    • Several sources have suggested that Max the bionic dog was going to get a spin-off, often to illustrate the "one spin-off too many" concept, but there's little sign that this was ever planned.
    • Bionic Showdown, the second of the Six Million Dollar Man/Bionic Woman reunion movies, was a backdoor pilot for a potential spin-off featuring a pre-stardom Sandra Bullock as a next-generation bionic woman.
  • Battle in the Rain: Technically Steve's encounter with her in the pilot 2-parter counts.
  • Belly Dancer: Jaime performs for an Arab sheik in "Jaime and the King".
  • The Board Game: Parker Brothers made one in 1976.
  • Break the Cutie: Literally, both before and after she becomes bionic.
    • Jaime came damn close to cracking in "Doomsday is Tomorrow Part II," then again an episode later in "Deadly Ringer Part I."
    • The final episode, "On the Run" as well.
    • Applies to Steve, too, in relation to Jaime. From the beginning, we see that being around her turns him to mush; he's so in love with her that he begs Oscar to make her bionic rather than lose her, despite Oscar's warnings about what it will cost both of them. Steve then watches her literally self-destruct, gets told she's dead, finds out she's actually alive—only to discover she doesn't remember him anymore.
  • Comic-Book Adaptation:
    • Charlton Comics put out a short-lived adaptation concurrent with the series; in the 2010s a reimagined version also appeared.
    • In 2014, Dynamic Comics launched The Six Million Dollar Man Season 6, a direct continuation of the TV series. Jaime debuted in the 3rd issue, and Dynamite eventually launched The Bionic Woman Season 4 in the summer of 2014.
    • In the UK, the magazine Look-In published a weekly comic strip titled Bionic Action in the 1970s that featured both Steve and Jaime.
    • In the mid-1990s a new US comic book series titled Bionix was announced, again to feature both Steve and Jaime, but it was cancelled despite being promoted in various magazines, though a few pages of sample art were published.
  • Cyborg: Jaime and Steve, naturally, but also Max the bionic German Shepherd.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Numerous episodes imply that Oscar is in love with Jaime (a fact confirmed by Word of Saint Paul years later), yet in the series her heart remains with Steve Austin (even though most of her memories remain blocked), then Chris Williams, then with Steve again in the reunion movies, culminating in their long-delayed marriage.
  • Disney Death: Jaime's own, at the beginning of the series.
  • Distaff Counterpart: To The Six Million Dollar Man, of course.
  • Does Not Know Her Own Strength
    • In the 1994 reunion movie, Steve was trying to help Jaime with her malfunctioning arm... and promptly got whacked into the drink for his troubles. He responded by instinctively tossing a stream at her. (Their friendly little racquetball game was also hit on all sides with this trope.)
    • Jaime crushes a tennis ball by accident in her first SMDM episode, and the scene was replayed during the spin-off's opening credits. Similar incidents pepper the series as a form of comic relief. However, the original tennis ball crush was in fact an indication of serious side-effects with Jaime's bionics (which ultimately lead to her "death"), lending an air of Mood Whiplash.
  • Dramatic Hour Long
  • Early Installment Weirdness
    • Due to the short timeframe given to the producers to mount the first season of the series, they were forced to recycle several Six Million Dollar Man scripts.
    • One of the first episodes shows Jaime outrunning a race car going 100 miles per hour. Later, her top speed is said to be more comparable to Steve's.
  • Easy Amnesia
  • Everything's Sexier in French: As demonstrated by Jaime in "Doomsday is Tomorrow".
  • Evil Is Hammy: Manfred in "Black Magic" was played by Vincent Price, insuring that this trope was in full force.
  • Face–Heel Turn: The OSI in the final episode of the series, "On the Run".
  • Genre Blindness
  • Genre Savvy: In "Black Magic" ( Jaime - "The butler did it?")
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Oscar to the sheep-herding nuns in "Sister Jaime" who are blocking his way: "You've got to get the flock out of here!"note .
  • Glasses Pull: Oscar was given to these in moments of alarm.
  • Impeded Communication: "Doomsday Is Tomorrow" has an Air Force bomber en route to drop a cobalt bomb on the Elaborate Underground Base. A spotter for OSI sees Jaime Sommers emerge alive and well, and the recall code is issued to the bomber. The A.I. Is a Crapshoot computer, however, wants the bomb dropped to create massive radioactive cloud. It beams the "404 = continue mission" code to the bomber, which is stronger than the "808 = abort and recall" code.
  • Killed Off for Real: Fellow agent and love interest Chris Williams from Season 3, though this occurs after the end of the series, and is revealed during the first reunion movie.
  • Lighter and Softer
    • As Kenneth Johnson explains on the 2010 DVD release, The Bionic Woman was conceived as a less-violent companion to The Six Million Dollar Man. The use of "pocket bionics" (a term coined by Johnson to describe a normal everyday use of bionics, such as opening a can of soup with a bionic fingernail) was emphasized over violent use, and Jamie would rarely be seen being the aggressor in a fight or, certainly, killing.
    • Averted in the 2012 comic book version, in which Jaime has a well-established "kill count" (referred to as such), and in the 2007 remake the character also became less averse to deadly force as she became more experienced as an agent.
  • Magical Native American: "Out of Body," in which Jaime's comatose native American friend contacts her (and his deceased parents) through visions. Subverted in "The Night Demon," which appears to be a native vision but turns out to be fake.
  • Magic Antidote: The eponymous drug in "The Antidote." Most of the episode is a Race Against the Clock before a poisoned Jaime dies, but when the doctors find the vial of poison (with all its ingredients listed on the label), they are easily able to concoct a fast-acting antidote.
  • Market-Based Title: "The Return Of Bigfoot, Part 2" was shown in the UK as part of The Six Million Dollar Man.
  • Master of Your Domain: The episode "Biofeedback".
  • Mr. Fanservice: In "Kill Oscar Part III", Lee Majors spends the last 15 minutes of the episode wearing nothing but a pair of swim trunks.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Rarely invoked, except for a few cases.
    • For instance, the episode in which Jaime impersonates a female wrestler and dons a skimpy costume to do so.
    • "Kill Oscar Part 1" features glimpses of Katy the Fembot wearing hot pants for no particular story-related reason.
    • The beginning of "Mirror Image" has Jaime tanning in a bikini in Nassau and bemoaning the fact that her bionic limbs don't tan. Ultimately subverted when she decides to cover herself up with a beach smock instead.
    • "Jaime and the King" has Jaime reluctantly steal and don a belly dancer's costume to go undercover, and later does a "veil dance" as a distraction while looking for a bomb.
    • Jaime's Absolute Cleavage blouse in "Brain Wash" is pretty fanservice-y, although it's Played for Drama since it's implied that Callaghan thinks Jaime is trying to play up the fanservice to steal her new boyfriend.note 
  • Mundane Utility: Most episodes featured Jaime using her bionics to make some mundane household chore or activity easier. The term "pocket bionics" was coined by creator Kenneth Johnson to describe these humanizing moments (although to be fair Steve Austin had been shown engaging in "pocket bionics" since the start of his series, too). This is used as both a Moment of Awesome and Funny in Jaime's first meeting with her unruly class... when she slowly rips a phone book in half in front of them. The kids behave from that point on.
  • Non-Human Sidekick: Max, the Bionic Dog.
  • Notable Original Music: "Sweet Jaime" (sung by Lee Majors)
  • Not So Different: In "Doomsday is Tomorrow", ALEX 7000 says this of himself (a supercomputer with a near-human personality) and Jamie (a cyborg).
  • Not Wearing Tights: Since she's a secret agent who frequently goes undercover, Jaime has no need for a costume. Averted with the action figure, which initially depicted her in the tracksuit she wears in the opening credits (and later versions showed her in a blue pantsuit).
  • Novelization: Two volumes of novelizations were published (credited to different authors in the US and UK, with different titles). One was based on the "Welcome Home, Jaime" two-parter, the other combined two other episodes as one narrative. An unusual aspect of these books is they included a detailed description of Jaime's bionic rebuild, however the text was taken mostly from The Six Million Dollar Man novelizations. As a result, in one book Jaime is described as having a bionic eye!
  • Off Screen Moment Of Awesome: At some point between this series and the reunion TV movies, Jaime fully regains her memories of being in love with Steve Austin.
  • Poorly Disguised Pilot: It's long been rumoured that one two-parter was considered a backdoor pilot for a potential Max the Bionic Dog spinoff, however there's no indication this was ever seriously planned.
  • Put on a Bus: Kind of an ironic way to put it, but Jaime's junior-high-school students and the classroom setting figured heavily into early episodes and then were written out altogether.
  • Railing Kill: Carl Franklin, the son of the Fembots' creator (and himself a robot), hurtles to his destruction when he lunges for Jaime and instead goes over a railing (one of the only times Jaime - albeit unintentionally - is actually involved in someone's death).
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: When Bionic Woman changed networks, the producers were - in an unprecedented move - allowed to feature Oscar Goldman and Rudy Wells in both it and The Six Million Dollar Man. No crossovers were allowed with Steve Austin, however, resulting in the series introducing a Replacement Goldfish. By the time the reunion movies were made, the prohibition no longer existed, so that character was Killed Off for Real at some point between the TV series and first movie.
  • Remember the New Guy?: The episode "Out of Body" introduces Jaime's native American soulmate, Tommy Littlehorse. Even though we've never seen him before this episode and never so much as hear about him afterward, Jaime's apartment is suddenly littered with pictures of the two of them hanging out and cuddling, and when he hovers near death she wistfully recalls many sweet Noodle Incidents with him. Rudy and Oscar also act as though he's been around forever.
  • Required Secondary Powers: See the entry for The Six Million Dollar Man for more details.
  • Robotic Reveal: The first time Jaime tangles with the Fembots, she doesn't realize what they are until she rips off one of their faces and reacts with (understandable) horror at what she sees. The reveal is enough to drive her to leap out a window too high up for her bionic legs to withstand just to get away from them—well, that and the fact that the Fembots are tearing through doors and furniture to get to her.
  • Running Gag
    • Nearly every episode featured at least one moment (dubbed "pocket bionics" by Word of God) where Jaime is shown using her bionics in some every-day circumstance (such as doing the dishes at high speed). According to Word of God these sequences were to acknowledge the fact that in real life people would choose to use bionics for mundane tasks if given the opportunity.
    • Jaime's repeated use of different Snow White-Dwarf code names (Sleepy, Bashful, Grumpy, etc), which often change depending on her mood in a particular episode.
  • A Spy at the Spa: In "Brain Wash", a salon owner uses shampoo laced with Truth Serum to manipulate his clients into divulging sensitive information, which he then records.
  • Stock Footage
    • The World War II-era submarines shown in Part 3 of "Kill Oscar" are especially memorable.
    • In a Fembot episode, stock footage of a lunar module set upside down was used as an "orbiting weapons platform."
  • Super Hero: In fact, she was one of the first female superheroes ever depicted in live action on TV, predated only by Batgirl on Batman in the 1960s, and Cathy Lee Crosby's unsuccessful version of Wonder Woman in 1974.
  • Super Villain Lair: Several over the course of the series. Lampshaded in Wagner's commentary, as she wonders aloud why '70s bad guys got to live in palatial European mansions while today's villains tend to be depicted lurking in low places. Epitomized in "Doomsday is Tomorrow", which featured an Elaborate Underground Base.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Chris Williams, fellow agent and potential boyfriend for Jaime, is introduced in season 3 as a counterpart to Steve (as the change of network meant no further crossovers with Six Million Dollar Man were possible), sans bionic powers, of course. But with a similar acting style.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Jaime was conceived from the start as a non-violent character and as such never intentionally used deadly force against mooks or villains.
    • Fembots don't count.
    • Averted in the 2012 comic book series.
  • Throw a Barrel at It: Episode "A Thing of the Past". While Jaime is battling a couple of thugs in a repair garage, she uses her bionic strength to throw a barrel full of oil at one of them. The barrel breaks open and spills oil on the floor, causing the thug to fall down.
  • Title Sequence Replacement: The second season Title Sequence replaced the first one in syndicated reruns, while an early version of the first-season sequence was used for all first-year episodes on the 2010 DVD release.
  • Trouble Magnet Gambit: In "Deadly Music".
  • We Can Rebuild Him: Or in this case, her. After Jaime Summers suffers catastrophic injuries to her legs, right arm and right ear, she receives replacement cybernetic parts to replace them.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Dr. Elijah Cooper in "Doomsday is Tomorrow". A peace-loving scientist, he wants to prevent a nuclear holocaust by building a humanity-destroying weapon that would be triggered by the detonation of a nuclear warhead. It turns out to be a hoax, intended to force people to appreciate life when they believe they're closest to death. Unfortunately, ALEX 7000 wants to make the hoax a reality.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Played literally in several episodes in which we learn Jaime is, indeed, fearful of snakes.
  • You Can Never Leave: The final episode of the original series has Jaime resigning from the OSI, but in a storyline inspired by The Prisoner, the OSI tries to capture her and send her to a retirement facility instead. Although Oscar ultimately decides not to, it creates a rift between Jaime and Oscar that is not healed until the TV movies.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: