In advance of the new movie, I look back at a previous generation’s heroine.
The Return of Wonder Woman (The New Adventures of Wonder Woman) (1977)
After a 1975-76 season set in WWII, the Wonder Woman series skipped from ABC to CBS and had a format reworking – though it kept the two stars and the title song. This – which has no title onscreen except for the generic The New Adventures of Wonder Woman – was the first episode, and effectively serves as a pilot for the revamped show.
In the modern era, another plane carrying Steve Trevor Jr (Lyle Waggoner) and some diplomats is about to crash on Paradise Island, which is topically for the the’70s in the Bermuda Triangle, when it is remote-piloted to safety. Using ‘light hypnosis’ on a hijacker, the Amazon Queen (Beatrice Straight, succeeding Cloris Leachman and Carolyn Jones) determines that terrorists are now a bigger threat to the world than Nazis were and Princess Diana (Lynda Carter) volunteers to return to her double life as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman to stand up to … well, a pretty feeble excuse for supervillainy from Dr Solano (Fritz Weaver, actually very good – in a role similar to the one he took as the head of THRUSH in the Man From UNCLE pilot), a South American with only a few henchmen (and Jessica Walter as a nasty bitch) to back him up when he could do with a THRUSH/SPECTRE/KAOS-like global organisation to make it worth opposing him. Dr Solano wants to hijack a nuclear power plant being gifted by the US to the nation of Samarra and claim it for the island state of Guanaray, and his dirty tricks department includes a masked woman who has a knock-down drag-out catfight with Diana in her civilian identity (which is never satisfactorily explained), a paunchy fencing robot with a Cybernuat-look face and a nuclear heart that finally detonates with a pretty feeble blast, and a plastic surgeried double for Trever who gives the game away by lecherously moving in on Diana.
Steve Trevor senior is apparently dead and WW (who is over 2500 years old) is oddly incurious about who her love interest married – indeed, the world seems to have mostly forgotten WW, though Solano digs up some Nazi files and a few stills. The new-look outfit, with higher-cut trunks, debuts in an action scene as WW roughs up goons trying to kidnap Steve and some Norman Burton debuts as Joe Atkinson, boss of an inter-agency spy unit Steve works for, without getting much to do. Brooke Bundy (uncredited) seems to be down as the replacement for WW’s sidekick Etta Candy, but was dropped from the series. At the end, Solano is in one of those escapable explosions and WW muses that he might be back to plague them again – but he never was. In fact, the whole thing seems a bit tentative – as if the format were still being argued over. The colourful comic strip intertitles, funky music, silly invisible plane, lasso of truth, tiara-that-transforms-into-a-boomerang twirl-of-costume-change and bullets-and-bracelets stuff is in place, but Stephen Kandel’s script is perfunctory and Alan Crosland Jr’s direction of the get-it-over-with-and-on-to-next-week variety.
But the reason this show is remembered is Carter – she miraculously manages not to look silly in the starry panties and eagle bustier, fully commits to the iconic role (I didn’t quite get WW’s appeal until a comics writer explained why little girls liked her – she’s a superheroine who’s also a princess) and delivers dumb dialogue with a good-humoured, fresh-faced earnestness that comes close to actually being wonderful.
This Episode Was 34 Years Old On 9/15/11.
The Best American Film Actress To Play Wonder Woman (Diana Prince/Princess Diana) Is Lynda Carter.