Sci-Fi Spinoff: Behind-The-Scenes Secrets From The Bionic Woman

The Bionic Woman was a popular TV series that debuted in 1976. The show focused on a woman named Jaime Sommers with bionic superpowers. She was part cyborg and part gorgeous female lead, and though the show was short-lived, it was still rather popular among its cult-like viewer following.

The show was only on for three seasons, 1976-1978, but that didn’t stop it from amassing its own interesting secrets and facts that many viewers may have missed. Here are some interesting facts about The Bionic Woman that you might not know about.

The Six Million Dollar Man Helped Lindsay Wagner Get Her Own Show

ABC/NBC
ABC/NBC

Lindsay Wagner played a role on The Six Million Dollar Man which was supposed to be her last role with Universal. However, the show was so popular and did so well that the executives of universal decided that she should have her own series and The Bionic Woman was created specifically for her character.

The Show Switched Networks

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ABC/NBC
ABC/NBC

For the final season of the show, the series switched from ABC to NBC. ABC continued to air The Six Million Dollar Man as NBC picked up The Bionic Woman. This means that Richard Anderson and Martin E. Brooks were the first two actors to simultaneously play the same characters on two different television networks.

The Bionic Woman Didn’t Cost As Much As The Man

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Fotos International/Courtesy of Getty Images
Fotos International/Courtesy of Getty Images

The suit for The Six Million Dollar Man was, you guessed it, around six million dollars to build. The one for The Bionic Woman was constructed with similar parts, and an exact estimate of how much it cost was never mentioned. It was rumored to not be as expensive as the man’s, however.

Lindsay Wagner Almost Wasn’t The Bionic Woman

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Bettmann/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images

Since Lindsay Wagner’s contract with the studios had ended, other people were considered to play the part of the Bionic Woman. Sally Field, as well as Stefanie Powers, were two actresses considered, though the studio still felt Lindsay deserved the part.

The Bionic Dog Had Many Different Actors

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ABC/NBC
ABC/NBC

Though in the show there was only one bionic dog, it was actually played by several different, very talented, dog actors. This was because they had to get different dogs trained in different aspects of the show’s plotlines, such as being comfortable around fire, one that was disciplined around food, and one that was good on a treadmill.

Jaime Sommers’ Parents Were..

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Alan Band/Keystone/Getty Images
Alan Band/Keystone/Getty Images

In addition working undercover for the U.S, Jaime Sommers’ parents were also college professor before she became The Bionic Woman. They were eventually killed in a car accident (it was assumed to be a murder). That is when family friends, Jim and Helen Elgin became her legal guardians.

Lindsay Wagner Has Been Married Four Times

ABC/NBC
ABC/NBC

Much different from her character on the show, since the series ended, Lindsay Wagner found herself married as well as divorced, four different times. Now she continues to do a little acting, but mostly gives speeches and self help seminars.

The Fans Were Devastated When It Ended

ABC/NBC
ABC/NBC

When the studio decided to end the life of The Bionic Woman, the fans were in shock. “They were so appalled that the studio had killed off a character that had resonated so deeply with them and especially their children,” said Wagner. “Even a children’s hospital in Boston wrote a letter of protest.”

The Bionic Woman Was One Of The First Strong Female Characters

ABC/NBC
ABC/NBC

Around the time the show came out, there weren’t many strong female characters on television. Even in our time now it can be difficult to find a powerful female character on TV. Her personal strength helped her grow in popularity, and many women looked up to Jaime as a role model who was both strong and independent.

She Was A Teenage Icon

ABC/NBC
ABC/NBC

Many young teenage boys used to also look up to The Bionic Woman back in the best days of Lindsay Wagner’s career. An action figure of The Bionic Woman can now sell for upwards of $1,000 on eBay. Nowadays, Lindsay says that not too many people lust for her, as many of her fans have grown up.

The Show Was Progressive For Its Time

ABC/NBC
ABC/NBC

The show was good for women in ways other shows like it weren’t. Jaime Sommers didn’t have to wear skimpy outfits and sexy clothes to stay relevant and popular. The show also featured several interracial relationships, something that wasn’t very common at the time.

Lee Majors Wasn’t Allowed On The Show

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Bettmann/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images

After the crossover from ABC to NBC, Lee Majors was no longer allowed to appear on the spinoff. This was because his contract with ABC had not expired. Lindsay was also not allowed to go back to the other show as well, since she had renewed her contract.

Only One Arm Was Bionic

ABC/NBC
ABC/NBC

The only parts that were bionic on Jaime Sommers were her legs, right arm and right ear. This was because only damaged parts were replaced. However, in several scenes, there are slip-ups of Jamie using her left arm to do bionic things. Everyone makes mistakes, even producers.

Jamie Doesn’t Remember Who Steve Is

ABC
ABC

At one point, the bionic man and woman were actually engaged. However, after Jaime’s accident that causes her to be bionic, she has amnesia which causes her to lose her memory. In one episode when both are reunited, she sees Steve and asks “Who are you?”

Jaime Goes On To Teach

ABC/NBC
ABC/NBC

Jaime was also a pro tennis player, but instead of continuing tennis after becoming bionic, she decides to quit, as she has such an unfair disadvantage. She decides to become a school teacher since she has a background in education.

Jaime Was A Tough Teacher Too

ABC/NBC
ABC/NBC

Before she landed her teaching gig, three substitute teachers had already been cycled through the class, leaving Jaime a challenging position. To prove her strength to the class, she rips a phone book in half with her bionic powers, earning her the respect of her class.

She Got Sick In Ways Humans Can’t

ABC/NBC
ABC/NBC

In one episode, Jaime Sommers got sick, causing much confusion and worry to her doctors. It is later revealed, however, that Jaime was actually sick from a computer virus, not a human virus, and the cure was an easy fix.

There Was A Different Dog In The Third Season

ABC/NBC
ABC/NBC

In the third season of the show, there was a new bionic dog named Maximillion. Maximillion got his name because, you guessed it again, his dog suit cost over a million dollars to be created! He was only a featured dog during the third season.

Max Was The First Creature To Be Bionic

ABC/NBC
ABC/NBC

Steve Austin is well known for being the Bionic Man, even to those who haven’t seen the series. However, Max was the first one to get a bionic body suit, as the scientist who created them wanted to first try out the procedure on a badly injured dog to make sure they would eventually work for humans.

The Characters Were Legends

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ABC/NBC
ABC/NBC

The characters of Steve Austin and Jaime Sommers were ranked number 19 on a list of 25 Greatest Sci-Fi Legends in a list created by TV Guide. Though the spin-off was short-lived, this proves that the characters were nothing less than a success.

The Timing Of The Show

ABC/NBC
ABC/NBC

As we mentioned earlier, this show was very progressive. In today’s time, we are seeing plenty of women protagonist so it is nothing new. Back then, however, was a whole different story. “This show could not have happened 10 years before,” Wagner said. It just goes to show we are slowly but surely maturing as a society.

Wagner Had Collaboration Rights With The Studio

ABC/NBC
ABC/NBC

Some actors have their own vision for how they want the character they are playing to be perceived. Lindsay Wagner is one of them. Because she was playing the role of a strong female lead, she wanted The Bionic Woman to be seen as something more than just muscles. That is why she had her deal with the studio include content collaboration rights.

Wagner’s Wants

ABC/NBC
ABC/NBC

Everyone agrees that having super strength is something to be enamored by. Wagner wanted something else too to be paired with that. “Though the physical strength was fascinating to watch and cutting-edge technology at the time, I wanted Jaime to come from a more enlightened mindset than, ‘I’m stronger physically so I win,’” she said.

Combining Feminine And Masculine Traits

ABC/NBC
ABC/NBC

Wagner thought that it wasn’t considered a compromise if you were adding the feminine side to The Bionic Woman in order to lessen some of the more masculine features. “It doesn’t feel like a sacrifice if you’re truly caring about the good of all concerned,” she said. “That way requires using your heart and your head and if necessary of course your physical strength.”

The Word Bionic Is An Interesting Derivative

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BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The name bionic was created as a combination of the word biology and electronics. This was the perfect name for the woman as she was half bionic and half a woman. She mentions this is where the name came from in one episode of the show.

Why The Show Was A Trailblazer

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ABC/NBC

Often when something new is being introduced into society, it can be very polarizing. “This show really was hugely embraced as the first time a woman was stepping into what was typically accepted as only a man’s shoes,” said Wagner. For it to be embraced by many early on was huge.

Power And Sensitivity

ABC/NBC
ABC/NBC

Power and sensitivity, two aspects that you would not expect to see working together. The long list of people with power includes a very minimal amount who also practice sensitivity. Imagine Wolverine being sensitive while clawing a face off. The Bionic Woman changed things in that department for its viewers.

Power And Sensitivity Pt. 2

ABC/NBC
ABC/NBC

Fans of Wagner have told her that because of the show their perspective has changed and people can be both powerful and sensitive. “For them to tell me that, it blew me away because obviously it was focused on empowering young women, but my dream inside was people would see that,” Wagner said.

Collaboration Rights

ABC/NBC
ABC/NBC

We brought up the collaboration rights but let’s touch on the subject a bit deeper. Wagner would urge writers to write differently. “I was constantly challenging the writers to do stories where we have that approach [anything other than being just powerful] of resolution of the conflict,” she said. “It was hard because it was a very atypical way of writing, especially then.”

The Fans Are What Led To The Spin-Off

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ABC/NBC
ABC/NBC

Clearly, the phrase “ask and you shall receive” works more often than not. The fans spoke up and they got what they wanted. “The studio had to bring me back for another two-parter to bring Jaime back to life and the network decided to do the spin-off series,” said Wagner.

What Is Wagner Up To These Days?

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ABC/NBC

She had much success on her show and gained a huge following as well as shifting the paradigm in a society so one track minded. After being on a show where she was recovered into a bionic form it makes sense that Lindsay Wagner is heavy in the life of healing. Let us take a deeper look into her life.

Passing On The Approaches Of Well-Being

ABC/NBC
ABC/NBC

When Lindsay Wagner was 19, she fostered a holistic take on life after two doctors helped with her recovery from medical conditions. She had a horrible case of ulcers on top of gallbladder problems and the doctors helped her by avoiding surgery which was the traditional treatment for those problems.

A Trio Of Well-Being Teachers

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Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for San Diego International Film Festival
Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for San Diego International Film Festival

Today, she passes on her well-being approaches with Co-founder of the Center for Spiritual Healing, Dr. William Hornaday and Dr. Omar Fareed. They do so through experiential workshops and retreats known as Quiet the Mind & Open the Heart. Just what do the trio mean when they use that phrase?

Quiet The Mind

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Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images
Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

What exactly do they mean with Quiet the Mind? “By “quiet the mind”, we mean stopping the endless “mind chatter”, which is what is going on when we are analyzing or comparing, or criticizing, whether it’s in our mind or from our mouth,” said Wagner. Sounds holistic enough to us.

Tips On A Better Body Chemistry

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Harry Langdon/Getty Images
Harry Langdon/Getty Images

The trio has a whole list of tips and ideas that help keep people in a better state of being. One involves breathing. “Our breath gets shallow and ineffective when we are in a stressed state,” Wagner says. “I advocate stopping whatever you’re doing for a couple of minutes five times a day, closing your eyes and taking deep breaths.”

The Gift Of Acceptance

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Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Some people have a rough time dealing with acceptance and that is on any level. Luckily, Wagner has the perfect remedy for those in that situation. “Using an acupuncture point to clear yourself of negative energy while focusing on acceptance,” said Wagner. “When we shift our perception, our experience changes.”

Know Your Worth

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David A. Walega/WireImage
David A. Walega/WireImage

Knowing your truth worth is something that takes time to understand. Once you get to that level of understanding of yourself then you will better place yourself in the position to receive what you deserve. “How much are you willing to receive,” said Wagner. “Choose a lot; you deserve it. Not because of who you think you are but because of who you truly are.”

Grasping A New Beginning

Photo credit: Franco S. Origlia / WireImage / Getty
Photo credit: Franco S. Origlia / WireImage / Getty

All the tips she gives are to assist in a better quality of life. When something becomes challenging, it is better to change how you view it. “Every moment holds the potential for new beginnings,” Wagner said. “When you find yourself thinking or speaking negatively about yourself or life, always add these three words: UP UNTIL NOW!”

Don’t be afraid of hardship

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Stanley Bielecki Movie Collection/Getty Images
Stanley Bielecki Movie Collection/Getty Images

According to what Wagner has learned, hardship is something you shouldn’t look at in a negative way. “One of my teachers said, ‘All people and situations that appear in our lives are there for our spiritual growth,'” said Wagner. “If we accept the events in our life this way, it makes it easier to embrace the perceived difficulties as opportunities to grow.”

The Power Of TV

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Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images
Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images

Something that embodies the positive messages that Lindsay Wagner has given herself and The Bionic Woman has helped portray, she has a quote that brings it all full circle. “I have always felt that TV could be used not only to entertain, but also to highlight important issues and help people embrace their higher potential,” she noted.