Looking Back At WONDER WOMAN - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Looking Back At WONDER WOMAN

Martin Rayburn goes for a spin...

November 7th 1975 saw the start of a wonderful TV series. The rather paradoxically titled The New Original Wonder Woman began with a TV movie setting up the premise for the Amazonian Princess' adventures in "Man's world".

This pilot took place during World War II, and saw U.S Air Force pilot Steve Trevor (Lyle Waggoner) shot down by a Nazi after a spectacular aerial battle over the Bermuda Triangle. He crash lands on Paradise Island, which happens to be home to the Amazons. A race of beautiful, ageless women of great strength, agility, and intelligence. Princess Diana (former Miss World USA 1972 Lynda Carter) wins the right to return him to said "Man's World" (it's how the Amazonian women refer to the rest of human society). And thus, Wonder Woman's career as a super-heroine begins, as she and Steve take on the Nazis and their various attempts to sabotage the U.S. war effort.

One of the great things about Wonder Woman is that it really does feel like a real-life, live-action comic book. Well, of that era's comic books that is, and it's an era I loved. There are shots in each episode that closely resemble panels from a comic book, which makes the whole thing feel like it's coming to life from within the pages. Another positive thing about the direction of the series is that it doesn't fall into the full-blown camp territory of its obvious predecessor, the 1966 Adam West Batman show. Not that Wonder Woman takes itself all that seriously, rather the tone is set just right, which means that even now, although it's dated, it's still a great fun show to watch through and through - well, most of it.

In her "Man's World" civilian identity, Princess Diana is bookish Diana Prince. Astute comic book lovers will recognise that "Diana Prince" is actually the secret identity, whereas Wonder Woman is the character's true personality. This is much like DC Comics' male flagship character, Superman/Clark Kent, and I've always thought this was the more interesting duality concept for superheroes.

The stunningly beautiful Lynda Carter IS Wonder Woman. I'm sorry Gal Gadot, as much as your take on Wonder Woman is very good, for me Lynda Carter can not be bested. She was born to play the role, closely resembling her comic book counterpart, and exuding charisma and natural sexiness (which no doubt helped to propel the series into the homes of millions of viewers). Despite having relatively no acting experience, having only made her first acting appearance a year previously in an episode of the US police drama Nakia, Carter was a very wise casting choice for sure. Carter reportedly performed a number of her own stunts for the series, including dangling from a flying helicopter in the second episode of the second season.

Wonder Woman is a role that Carter will forever be closely linked to and it remains her most famous part to date. Indeed, it may well be a forty five year old series but thanks to re-runs and her complete encapsulation of the role it's a part she'll never escape. And I doubt she has an issue with that at all.

One aspect of the series that makes it especially interesting to watch today is that the show retains the feminist appeal of the original comic book character. Because of this, it was often Steve Trevor who was in distress and needed to be rescued, and not the other way around. It's a great role reversal from what is normally seen in most superhero comic book shows, and most television series' in general, especially from the era. Before its time, perhaps?

Another famous aspect of the TV show is the spinning transformation of Diana Prince into Wonder Woman. This actually originated here and then went on to become synonymous with the character. Prior to this, the transformation was depicted in the comics by way of Diana spinning her magic lasso around her body, with the lasso changing her clothes, or she would simply change at super speed. When it came to filming the pilot producers were looking for a more successful way to depict this change on screen, and it was Lynda Carter herself who suggested that she do a spin. This transformation was later incorporated into the comics and into some of Wonder Woman's animated appearances, such as Justice League Unlimited.

Not everything is perfect about Wonder Woman of course. As enjoyable as the show is to watch on the screen there were clearly lots of creative issues going on behind the scenes. Wonder Woman's original concept kept changing over its three seasons. The first year, which I feel is the best overall, aired on ABC and was a solid hit for them. However, the network was reluctant to renew the series as being a period piece it was more expensive to produce than most other shows of the time.

CBS threw a lifeline to Wonder Woman and commissioned a second season, which saw events move into the then present day, the mid-1970s, as Diana once again returns to "Man's World" to battle all manner of evil - terrorists, evil geniuses, crooks, and, as a bit of a throwback, even Nazi war criminals hiding out in South America! She once again teamed up with Steve Trevor, or rather, Steve Trevor, Jr., the son of the lead male protagonist from the first season (who is still portrayed by Lyle Waggoner). Diana's perky younger sister Drusilla/Wonder Girl was introduced, as played by a young Debra Winger.

Come the third season in 1978, additional creative changes saw the style of the show revamped to a more teen-friendly disco-tinged style. And finally, in the last episode produced that year (which was actually shown out of sequence as the anti-penultimate installment of season 3), the writers attempted a relaunch of sorts by having Diana move to Los Angeles with a new supporting cast. This was done in anticipation of a fourth season, but, sadly, all of these endless reinventions didn't help the show survive for another year.

Wonder Woman is a classic superhero series in every sense of the word. In my opinion the first season is the best but all three make for enjoyable viewing today thanks to its instantly recognisable character, timeless appeal, interesting duality, and its male/female role reversal that was very uncommon of in the era but suits today's audience so well. But mainly, the longevity of the Wonder Woman TV series and why it's still so well remembered and loved by many forty five years on is down to Lynda Carter's portrayal of the premiere DC Comics super-heroine. With the greatest respect to Gal Gadot, who has done a wonderful job within the DC Extended Universe, Lynda Carter's portrayal of Wonder Woman will always remain the most loved live-action version of the character. And I'd suggest that will apply for many years to come regardless who may don the satin tights in the future, whether that be on television or in the movies.

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