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Monday, December 30, 2013

The Bionic Woman & UFOs

"You know, Ray, some days I really miss 
my little private practice in Florida."

Some TV shows are like meteors hurtling across the midnight sky.  For a short while, they outshine everything else in the heavens.  But whether they reach the Earth or not, we forget about them in time, while above our heads hang the stars night after night, year after year, never decreasing in prominence or illumination.  From its continuing popularity on websites, conventions, and fan clubs, it would appear that The Bionic Woman resembles one of those fantastic orbs that burn for billions of years, rather than for just a short time.

In the third season episode "The Martians Are Coming, The Martians Are Coming," we see more proof that Dr. Rudy Wells' expertise extends far beyond the field of Bionics he's so successfully pioneered.  After overseeing development of a new radar tracking system at a secret government base, Rudy and fellow coworker Ray head for the Pacific Ocean to do a little fishing.  As they walk onto the dock, the sky fills with a strange hum, and a glowing craft appears in the sky.  The strange craft zooms toward them, hovers above the dock, and then the two scientists disappear amid a cone of orange light.

We find Jaime sitting on her couch, relaxing after a tough week teaching the children of service members at the nearby Air Force Base.  While surfing channels, she comes across TV coverage of the incident. When her German Shepherd Max whines, she assures him she'll feed him later. But Max can't wait any longer, and as another patient of Dr. Rudy Wells, he doesn't have to!  Max grabs a can of dog food from the cupboard, opens it with his bionic jaws, and dumps his self-serve meal into his bowl.  It's just as well, for when Jaime learns of Rudy and Ray's disappearance, she leaps off the couch and heads for her car.  

This episode continues the story-direction begun with "The Pyramid," and reminds us of our fascination with the stars.  While most of us may think of Flying Saucers and UFOs as outmoded concepts, these were mainstream stories in the 1970s.  Not only did Steve Austin, Jaime's boyfriend and star of The Six Million Dollar Man, occasionally encounter aliens, but later TV series such as "Project U.F.O." and "The X-Files" would remind us that governments will always investigate potential extraterrestrial incidents.  And why not?  With so many stars shining in the sky above us, is it so difficult to believe that another planet capable of hosting sentient life might circle one of them, and that its inhabitants might visit us?

Or that they might already have visited us?

In his novel One Door Away From Heaven, Dean Koontz tantalizes us with the idea that aliens might currently live among us.  We meet a shapeshifting alien named Curtis, who arrives on Earth to help us, only to see other aliens arrive and chase him across the United States, intent on killing him before he can do so.  Ironically, a group of U.F.O. enthusiasts take in Curtis, and he travels with them in their RV, going from one U.F.O. gathering to another.  While Curtis still wants to help us realize our potential, he also desperately wants to stay alive.  Like The Bionic Woman, Dean Koontz' novel takes us on a rousing adventure, while tantalizing us with the idea that we might actually be sharing our world with extraterrestrials.   And how knows?  Maybe there's less fiction in either story than most are prepared to believe.

Warning: The Next Paragraph contains Plot Spoilers!

As the episode continues, we follow Jaime's attempts to track the mysterious craft and rescue the two men.  Then we learn that the U.F.O. that abducted Ray and Rudy was actually a helicopter projecting a holographic image.  Worse, Ray has committed treason by selling his newly developed radar tracking system to another government, and their agents staged the abduction to quietly spirit Ray and his wife out of the country.  But they weren't counting on Jaime Sommers, the bionic woman!  Jaime cares so much about Rudy that she'd willingly lay down her life for him.  And she nearly does, when the enemy agents lock her in an industrial freezer, cooling her bionics below their operating temperature.  It'll take all her determination, creativity, and the help of an unlikely friend she meets during her investigation, to escape the freezer, rescue Rudy, and prevent the bad guys from stealing America's new radar tracking system.  The episode embodies all the ideas we love in the show, and reminds us why we continue to care about Jaime Sommers, 35 years after The Bionic Woman originally aired.  

But then, some stories and characters shine as brightly, and for as long, as the stars in the midnight sky.

Dragon Dave

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