Preview: Bionic Woman

Katee Sackoff in Bionic Woman

In the US: Wednesdays, 9pm/8c, NBC. Starts September 26th.
In the UK: Acquired by ITV2

Battlestar Galactica is everyone’s favourite current example of adult science-fiction. It has two exec producers: the highly visible, highly involved Ronald Moore; and the not very visible, not very involved David Eick. Many people have wondered exactly what parts David Eick is responsible for in producing this top show.

Judging by this pilot for NBC’s remake of The Bionic Woman, he’s responsible for all the crap bits.

Now, it’s worth remembering that the pilot is already being extensively retooled, with recasting, rewriting and more happening behind the scenes to bring the programme up to scratch. But it’s going to take a lot of work to remove the clunky dialogue, poor characterisation and tedious pseudo-feminist sub-text.

Plot
Jaimie Sommers (Michelle Ryan) has a slightly crap life. She’s a bartender and she has to look after her annoying little sister. But she’s getting married to this nice surgeon guy, Will Anthros (Chris Bowers), and they’re going to have a baby.

But then, oh dear! There’s a near-fatal car crash and Jaimie ends up losing her legs, an arm, an eye and more. Fortunately, Anthros is involved in a top-secret bionics programme with a lovely underground base. He promptly gives her some implants and some ‘anthrocytes’, which make her heal quicker, right down to those missing bits. Soon, she’s stronger, faster and tougher than she’s ever been, with only the slightly loopy original bionic woman (Katee Sackoff) to threaten her when she undertakes secret government missions.

Is it any good?
Michelle Ryan is surprisingly good, although she’s not outstanding and her American accent isn’t as good as Hugh Laurie’s or many other Brit actors. Hopefully, it’ll get better by the time the show airs.

She, however, is easily acted off the screen by Katee Sackoff, who steals the whole pilot, and Miguel Ferrer, who’s the nasty government boss who runs the bionics programme.

Plot-wise, it’s definitely a re-imagining rather than a remake of The Bionic Woman, though, with no characters other than Sommers transferring over from the original. Every cliché of darker sci-fi is there: the underground lab, the human rights-ignoring boss with the ambivalent attitude towards his agent and an unlimited budget for doing ridiculous things, the unwatchable fight scenes that always have to be shot in the rain at night, everyone having a secret issue that causes them angst. It all got sent up years ago with the much better The Invisible Man, but here it is again, presented as new.

The supposedly feminist sub-text is ladeled on with a trowel. Jaimie learns that she has untapped potential and no one can push her around; bad bionic woman loses because she’s prepared to change herself for the benefit of men and doesn’t like herself; little girl who sees bionic woman running thinks “it’s cool a girl can do that”. Seriously, guys, a little subtlety can go a long way.

Lastly, the effects are rubbish. You’ll be yearning for slow-mo by the end of the pilot because the sight of Michelle Ryan supposedly running quickly was about as believable as Muffin the Mule.

I’m hoping that once the initial pilot jitters are out the way, it’ll improve. But at the moment, it’s a great big lump of generic sci-fi travelling under an old show’s name (without the ‘The’).

Here’s a YouTube trailer for you that basically covers the entire episode, bar all the bits with Mark Sheppard (one of the many BSG alumni in the show) as the long-term series bad-guy.