The Bionic Woman is an American television series starring Lindsay Wagner that aired for three seasons between 1976 and 1978 as a spin off from The Six Million Dollar Man. Wagner stars as tennis pro Jaime Sommers who is nearly killed in a skydiving accident. Sommers' life is saved by Oscar Goldman (Richard Anderson) and Dr. Rudy Wells (Martin E. Brooks), by "bionic" surgical implants similar to those of The Six Million Dollar Man Steve Austin. As the result of Jaime's bionics, she has amplified hearing in her right ear, a greatly strengthened right arm, and stronger and enhanced legs which enable her to run at speeds exceeding 60 miles per hour.
The series premiered on ABC in January 1976, as a mid-season replacement. With thirteen episodes airing from January 1976 to May 1976, it became the fifth most-watched television show of the 1975–76 season, ranking behind Maude, Laverne & Shirley, Rich Man, Poor Man, and All In The Family, and slightly ahead of The Six Million Dollar Man. Season Two ran from September 1976 to May 1977 with 22 episodes and finished with good ratings (#14 overall – slightly behind The Six Million Dollar Man). Season Two also had its most notable episodes, "Kill Oscar" where Jaime fights the fembots, and "Deadly Ringer", which would win Wagner an Emmy Award. Although the show performed well during Season Two, ABC elected not to renew the series feeling it was no longer attracting the kind of demographics that ABC wanted.
NBC picked up the show for a third (and final) season. Season Three ran from September 1977 to May 1978 with 22 episodes and would see a new character, Chris Williams (Christopher Stone), as a recurring love-interest for Jaime. This was due in part to the change of networks which prevented any more crossovers by Jaime's former love-interest, Steve Austin; however, in a situation still considered unique, Anderson and Brooks continued to play their roles in both series, despite the network differential.
The character of Jaime Sommers first appears in a two-part episode of The Six Million Dollar Man in 1975 titled "The Bionic Woman". In this episode, Steve travels to his old hometown of Ojai, California, to buy a ranch that is for sale and to visit his mother and stepfather. During his visit, he rekindles his old relationship with Jaime Sommers, now one of America's top tennis players. Their relationship progresses rapidly to the point where Steve proposes marriage.
During an outing, Steve and Jaime take part in some skydiving. Jaime's parachute malfunctions and she plummets toward the ground, falling through tree branches and hitting the ground, suffering traumatic injuries to her head, legs, and right arm. Steve then makes an emotional plea to his boss, Oscar Goldman, to save Jaime's life by implementing bionics, even going so far as to commit Jaime to becoming an operative of the Office of Scientific Intelligence (OSI). Goldman agrees to assign Dr. Rudy Wells (played at this point in the series by Alan Oppenheimer) and the bionics team to rebuild her.
Jaime's body is reconstructed with parts similar to Steve's but the actual cost of rebuilding her is not revealed. It is said humorously in dialogue to be less than the $6 million it cost to rebuild Austin because the replacement parts for her were "smaller". However, the German dub of the show contradicts this as it is called Die Sieben Millionen Dollar Frau (translated: The Seven Million Dollar Woman) in that country. Like Steve before her, Jaime is given two bionic legs, capable of propelling her at speeds exceeding 60 mph (having been clocked at more than 62 mph in "Doomsday Is Tomorrow" and outpacing a race car going 100 mph in "Winning is Everything") and jumping to and from great heights, and her right arm is replaced by a lifelike prosthetic capable of bending steel or throwing objects great distances.
Whereas Austin received a bionic eye, the inner mechanism of Jaime's right ear is replaced by a bionic device that gives her amplified hearing such that she can detect most sounds regardless of volume or frequency. These bionic implants cannot be distinguished from natural body parts, except on occasions where they sustain damage and the mechanisms beneath the skin become exposed, as seen in Part 2 of the episode "Doomsday Is Tomorrow", when Jaime sustained damage to her right leg. Jaime discovers on vacation in the Bahamas her bionic skin cannot tan with exposure to sunlight.
After Jaime recovers from her operation, Steve tries to break his agreement with Oscar that she will serve as an agent for OSI. Jaime agrees to undertake a mission for Oscar despite Steve's concerns. During the mission her bionics malfunction, and she experiences severe and crippling headaches. Dr. Wells determines that Jaime's body is rejecting her bionic implants and a massive cerebral clot is causing her headaches and malfunctions. Soon after, she goes berserk and forces her way out of the hospital. Steve pursues and catches her, and she collapses in his arms. Soon after, Jaime dies on the operating table when her body shuts down.
The character was so popular that ABC asked the writers to find a way to bring her back. In the first episode of the next season, it is revealed that Jaime had not died after all, but Steve was not told. He soon discovers the truth when he is hospitalized after suffering severe damage to his bionic legs; he sees Jaime before slipping into a coma.
As Steve later learns, Wells' assistant, Dr. Michael Marchetti, had urged Rudy (now played by Martin E. Brooks) to try his newly developed cryogenic techniques to keep Jaime in suspended animation until the cerebral clot could be safely removed, after which she was successfully revived. A side-effect of the procedure causes Jaime to develop retrograde amnesia, preventing her from recalling previous events including her relationship with Steve. Any attempt to remember causes her headaches and pain. Steve reluctantly lets her go on to live her own life as an agent for the OSI, although the pair would frequently work together on missions and establish a new friendship.
Jaime, now retired as a tennis player, takes a job as a schoolteacher in Ojai, California. She lives in a refurbished rented apartment over a barn located on the ranch owned by Steve's mother and stepfather, who are aware of their bionic implants and their lives as secret agents. In season three, Jaime adopts Maximillion, a German Shepherd that has been given a bionic jaw and legs who could run at speeds of up to 90 mph. His bionics pre-date Steve and Jamie's, as he was a lab animal used to test early bionics prosthetics. He was named "Maximillion" because his bionics cost a max[imum] of a million dollars. When he was introduced, he experienced symptoms suggesting bionic rejection and was due to be dissected. It was discovered the condition was psychological, stemming from the traumatic fire that injured him when he was a puppy. The dog was cured and became Jaime's pet.
To maintain the show's plausibility, creator/executive producer Kenneth Johnson set very specific limits on Jaime Sommers's abilities. He elaborated, "When you’re dealing with the area of fantasy, if you say, ‘Well, they’re bionic so they can do whatever they want,’ then it gets out of hand, so you’ve got to have really, really tight rules. [Steve and Jaime] can jump up two stories but not three. They can jump down three stories but not four. Jaime can’t turn over a truck but she can turn over a car." These limits were occasionally incorporated into episodes, such as "Kill Oscar Part 1" in which Jaime is forced to make a jump that's too far down for her bionic legs, causing massive damage to them and nearly causing her death as a result.
Three made-for-TV movies were produced between 1987 and 1994 that expanded the "bionic family" and explored a rekindled love between Jaime and Steve.
In the first reunion, The Return of the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman, Jaime and Steve are reunited after nearly ten years of living separate lives. Jaime's memory is fully restored (according to Oscar, Jaime was in an involved an explosion at the American Embassy in Budapest and "she remembered everything" after she recovered from her concussion) and she tries to reconcile her feelings for Steve while at the same time helping train Steve's son Michael in the use of his own recently acquired updated bionics. Jaime challenges Michael to a friendly race. He overtakes her and she makes the comment that she feels like an "obsolete model". Michael is kidnapped by Fortress. Steve and Jamie along with the Air Force infiltrate the abandoned glass factory to "rescue" Michael.
The second film, Bionic Showdown, introduced Sandra Bullock as paraplegic Kate Mason who becomes a next-generation bionic woman and Sommers again helps train the neophyte cyborg.
In the final reunion film, Bionic Ever After?, a computer virus corrupts Jaime's bionic systems. Dr. Wells informs Steve that "she may never be bionic again," but Steve's main regard is he wants her alive above all else. She undergoes a major upgrade, which not only increases the power of her bionics but gives her night vision. Finally, after so many years of waiting around, the bionic couple say their "I Do's".
Universal Playback released the first two seasons of The Bionic Woman on DVD in the UK and Australia. Season three was released in the UK by Fabulous Films in 2012, along with repackaged versions of the first two seasons and a complete boxed set of all three seasons. In Germany, Koch Media has released all three seasons on DVD under the name Die Sieben Millionen Dollar Frau (The Seven Million Dollar Woman).
Plans for a North American DVD release were first announced in 2004 by Universal Home Video. Those plans were made public via a listing in a TV-DVD release guide sent to retailers, a mention in an otherwise unrelated studio press release, and as a trailer included on a DVD given away through retail chain Best Buy. However, that release never happened due to rights issues which prevented both The Bionic Woman and The Six Million Dollar Man from being released on DVD in North America at that time.
In April 2010, creator Kenneth Johnson said that the rights issues had been solved and he was taping interviews for the DVD. On July 15, 2010, Universal Studios Home Entertainment announced the release of the first season on DVD in North America, which took place on October 19, 2010. Season 2 was released on May 17, 2011. On October 4, 2011, Universal released The Bionic Woman: The Complete Third & Final Season on Region 1 DVD. (Concurrently, The Six Million Dollar Man achieved its initial DVD release in 2010 as a mail-order box set via Time-Life, with the individual seasons receiving regular retail release beginning in 2012.)