“In your satin tights/fighting for your rights and the old red white and blue …”
Not that I wasn’t already glued to the TV screen when Wonder Woman debuted in 1975, but the theme song nailed me firmly in place there for the next three years. I’d cut my super hero teeth on Shazam and Isis, and reruns of Batman and Superman … but nobody ever got super heroes right for me (as the 11-year-old expert I was) like Wonder Woman.
Week after week, I was entranced. I admit, the Nazi stories got old for me quickly. And like many other super hero adaptations, it lacked costumed villains. I longed for the Cheetah, or Dr. Psycho. Angle Man, for Aphrodite’s sake!
Then … Wonder Girl appeared. This was as unprecedented as Batgirl had been in the 1960s. Another hero in the family? I spun around playgrounds, my room and the creek behind my house, desperately trying to trigger my transformation into Wonder Boy.
No offense to any other adaptation to the Amazing Amazon there has been or ever will be, but Lynda Carter (to whom I maintain must be distantly related … and therefore may still yet grant me the power to spin into Wonder Middle-Aged Man one day) will forever be my one true Diana Prince.
Lynda Carter embodied the perfect casting for a super hero for me. Her looks, grace, athleticism, acting — whether she was in the 1940s or the 1970s, she nailed the innocent confidence, charm, and self-aware breaking of the fourth wall that I found irresistible.
I also can’t fault the casting of Lyle Waggoner as Steve Trevor. He played the romantic lead as a subordinate to Wonder Woman, effortlessly and yet never came off as a wimp. He simply knew WW could kick all ass. And so she did.
The show treated the source mythology decently, sometimes expanding it in … well, whimsical ways (the Wonder motorcycle outfit anyone?) The special effects (and audio effects!) made this viewing heaven for me. I personally loved the time jump into the 1970s and I was sad that the show only lasted two more seasons.
In any event … in case you’ve never experienced the glory that was the 1970s TV version of Wonder Woman, step onto our invisible plane and glide off to Paradise Island. Watch as she fights to “Stop a war with love/Make a liar tell the truth … change their minds and change the world!”
NOTE – For the recaps of the first season set in the 1940s, I am going to avoid any images of the Nazi swastika, SS symbols or any other of that garbage. I can’t recap the show without talking about Nazis, but I don’t have to post those images. If I miss one somehow in the background of an image, please point it out in the comments and I’ll delete.
I loved the comic book-style captions. You know where you stand with a good caption! Today, we’re at a top-secret Nazi base near Berlin, Germany. A dramatic hand turns a globe. A pilot comes in and his Nazi boss tells him to speak English for secrecy’s sake. What? Olde Viking wouldn’t be a better choice? Still, it is helpful for an American TV audience.
An underling goes up to the roof to snag a pigeon with a giant net. Okay, now I know why they lost the war. This was their preferred method of secret communications? The pilot is heading to blow up a secret American bomb site. The underling comes back in to serve tea, and I suspect he may NOT be a Nazi. The officer, Colonel Von Blosko (that’s what’s on IMDB, folks – that is his name!) has some pretty heavy emphasis on certain words – like “FlawLESS!”
The pilot takes off (after oddly transforming into black and white stock footage) and we caption ourselves over to Washington D.C. General Blankenship comes into Major Steve Trevor’s office and discusses why a Nazi pilot is heading to their bomb site. Marcia, Steve’s secretary is clearly having an affair with Steve from her body language. And regular language.
Trevor decides to head out and stop the pilot before he can get to the continental U.S. Across town (thanks captions!), Marcia gets home and pulls out a radio set. SHE’S A SPY! A spy with a fabulous hat, but still a spy. She calls the secret spy base near Berlin and tells them that Steve’s coming to shoot the pilot down. Von Blosko knows there is a leak somewhere, which makes his pigeon-handling underling nervous.
Steve plans to go to the so-called Devil’s Triangle to shoot the pilot down. Now. I’m no geography major. But wouldn’t a German plane be coming north over Europe and the Atlantic … not near, say BERMUDA? Oh, well … chalk it up to plot reasons. Plus, Steve says it could make the Nazis think the plane disappeared on its own. Riiiight.
Steve and Blankenship laugh manfully about the tropical island paradises that are in the Triangle before Blankenship’s underling comes in. Steve heads out.
The Nazi pilot and Steve get into a dogfight that switches from color to black and white constantly. Imma say that’s a function of the Devil’s Triangle and not the continued use of stock war footage.
Both planes are shot down. Steve and the Nazi drift down in parachutes making bizarre hand gestures at each other. Steve gets shot twice and the Nazi gloats … until he looks down. He lands in front of a school of sharks. Justice (and dinner for the sharks) is served!
At last, we caption over to an uncharted isle … and two Amazons are racing through a forest near the beach. In chiffon skirts , as you do. They see Steve’s parachute and race toward it. They discover a man … on Paradise Island!
Princess Diana (as we know now who this is) takes the lead, getting him free of the chute. She picks him up and runs with him. They jog past Amazons practicing archery etc. At the Amazon palace – Fannie Flagg is reading to Queen Chloris Leachman, who is chewing some scenery. She is gripping curtains, then a column. Then a statue. Chloris talks about sisterhood and then tells Fannie “Begone” after Diana comes in to talk about the male. I’m not sure how to take this version of the Queen of the Amazons.
Chloris wanders all over the set, gripping more things and biting her knuckle. Diana tries hard to convince her mother that maybe things in Man’s World have changed. She wants to nurse Steve, but Chloris is adamantly against it, until Di couches it as “scientific research.”
Back in the US, everyone thinks Steve has died – it’s even on the newspaper’s front page. I’m not sure if that was standard procedure for the war or not. General Blankenship and Marcia are toasting him with champagne in those tiny paper cups you get mouthwash in at the dentists. So, it’s not against regulations if the drinks are that small, I guess?
Also, Marcia’s headwraps are voluminous, the same fabric as her dress and apparently, FULL OF SECRETS!
In a nice edit, as Marcia and General Blankenship drink, we cut to Paradise Island, where Fannie is giving a blindfolded and shirtless Steve a drink. It’s a potion of “special serum,” which we realize is plain old truth serum. She questions Steve about what he’s doing here and he has to explain Nazis and the U.S. to her.
Diana is super into nursing Steve and rubs his forehead. Back in America, Marcia is sending a secret message about Steve ending up in the Devil’s Triangle. Von Blosko now decides he will personally fly the attack on Brooklyn.
Chloris is playing some serious harp as Diana trots back to the throne room. Chloris decrees that Diana can leave Steve’s care … “to others.” Chloris is magnetic to watch as she chomps the living eff out of the scene. Her hair is even a little askew, as she rants about the evils of Man’s World.
However, Diana is having feels. She is determined to help Steve. Chloris decrees a tournament of athletic games to determine which Amazon will take Steve to America. She forbids Diana to compete – which might work better if she also didn’t decree everyone should wear masks. Diana claims she’s going to sulk in the summer palace instead of watching the games.
There is a super slow-mo montage of all the Amazons competing. They all have Roman numeral tags on their chest which, you know, the Amazons were Greek, not Roman, but whatever. Diana is number XXXIII. They have some GREAT events like Stone Throwing (as you would need that skill to ferry an injured soldier back to America in your invisible plane).
Number XXXIII and Number VIII are tied – so only a test of Bullets and Bracelets can determine the winner.
Paradise By the Computer Screen Light
The 1966 Batman is wonderful fun, don’t get me wrong. And he had VILLAINS! But this origin story is truly one of the most comic-book authentic things ever committed to screen. Everything is kind of note-perfect (well, I never saw Queen Hippolyta being such a flighty, nervous monarch, but otherwise, it’s cool).
Blonde Amazon # XXXIII gets shot at first and she deflects easily. She shoots at her Amazon sister next and, no surprise, she wounds her. The Queen is ready to bestow the Golden Belt and Golden Lasso to Blonde Amazon # XXXIII. Now, it’s time for the reveal – and as the blonde rips off her wig and reveals she is DIANA!
Chloris is cool with it, but given her personality before, I’m not sure why. But what is she gonna do, as Diana won fair and square in front of EVERYBODY ON THE ISLAND?
After the commercial break, we see Diana in the Wonder Woman outfit for the first time. I will 100% go bullets and bracelets with anyone who wants to fight me on this, but it is sheer perfection. Somehow, it looks perfect. Maybe because I’m gay, I don’t get a super pervy vibe even though it’s essentially only a bathing suit. It even has the skirt wrap she wore in the 1940s comics, but Diana discards that and we rarely see it again.
Chloris designed the costume herself, the colors naturally symbolizing freedom and democracy. She warns Diana that even some women are evil. It’s time to say goodbye, as the Invisible Plane is gassed up and ready. Chloris reminds her that in a world of ordinary mortals … she is a Wonder Woman. YAY!
Later, over Washington DC, a still-shirtless Steve is on the floor of the Invisible Plane and wakes briefly. He passes back out and once they land, Diana races to the Armed Services Hospital with Steve wrapped in a pink blanket, which is rather inconspicuous compared to the Amazon in the star-spangled swimsuit.
The nurse wants her to fill out paperwork, but that’s not happening. Then, instead of heading back to her Invisible Plane, Diana explores D.C.
At headquarters, Blankenship holds Marcia’s hands as he gleefully lets her know, Steve is alive! She’s wearing a red and black colored-blocked outfit and black hair net now, as she makes a phone call to New York to plot some eeevil!
As Diana strolls through the city, hilarity ensues as a woman tries to sell her a dress … until Diana reveals she doesn’t have money. However, a bank robbery and a quick game of bullets and bracelets later, and Diana lands a theatrical agent, Norman, that wants to put her on stage.
Before she agrees to being a performer, though, she has to sneak in to see Steve. At the moment, Marcia and the General are in Steve’s room and wearing masks. I’m not sure why visitors need masks for a plane crash victim, but okay. Marsha remarks that all she’s heard about the woman who brought Steve in was “unfemininely pushy.” OUCH!
They leave and we see the nurse is Diana! She lets Steve see her, but tells him it’s a dream. Then, she’s back to her agent. In mere moments, she’s on stage as Wonder Woman. This is not so comic-book authentic, (unless you’re Spider-Man).
A Marine volunteers to shoot Wonder Woman. The Marine aims his rifle and WW easily deflects it. Some civilian shoots a pistol. Then, Then, Marcia’s evil Nazi grandmother also volunteers. She comes up with her big carpet bag, and asks if she can use her OWN gun. Of course, it’s a machine gun.
Wonder Woman is cool with it. Nazi Granny lets loose, but WW deflects all the bullets. She also gives Marcia and her granny a LOOK.
In Germany, von Blosko is dressed and ready to pilot his mission. These fake German accents are too much. His underling, who has a name and its Nicholas, releases a pigeon and says “God Bless America.”
In Norman’s office, he and Diana discuss her future in showbiz, until she sees an article in the paper. The headline is … STEVE TREVOR RECOVERING WELL, NOW ABLE TO SPEAK. That is some DETAILED REPORTING, people! Norman is devastated that Wonder Woman is quitting showbiz. He’s about to skip out with all their money – and then pulls a gun on her. HAS HE NOT SEEN HER ACT?!?
We then find out HE IS IN CAHOOTS WITH MARCIA! His name is actually Karl!
Meanwhile, 4,771 miles south of there, a very smug von Blosko is flying over … Brazil? How do you go from Germany to Brazil to New York?? Marcia busies herself reading some top secret stuff. There’s another secret bomb site … and ONLY Steve Trevor can outfly von Blosko!
As Steve takes a cab to get to his plane, Karl lays a trap. Of course, Steve starts punching them out. He fights three Nazi goons but he gets overpowered. At the hospital, “Nurse” Diana finds out Steve was headed to Military Intelligence. Is THAT where his plane was?
Diana finds an empty hallway and we see the iconic Transformation Twirl® for the first time! It doesn’t have the light flash we’ll see later, and the music cue is a little less pumped up. But she STILL touches her tiara and belt. Ahhh, wonderful, wonderful nostalgia.
40 years later and I still don’t know why she always touched her belt and tiara. Were they in danger of spinning off during the Twirl? Anyway, she heads out to find Steve.
Meanwhile, at Marsha’s apartment, Steve is tied up and blindfolded. Marcia reveals she’s been working undercover for five years! That’s more than I can stay at most jobs! They drug Steve to trick him into giving her the combination to the safe in his office. As Marcia goes to the office and gets some secret plans out of the safe, Wonder Woman arrives. She says she knew it was Marcia all the time.
Marcia pulls a gun on Wonder Woman and then realizes that’s not going to work. However, in the most plotty of twists … it turns out Marcia was the Nuremberg Judo Champ! Her form is patently awful and I don’t even know the first thing about judo.
They fight and WW sends her through the glass door. Marcia half-defeats herself by trying to swing a huge chandelier at WW. One wonder punch later, Marcia is done. Wonder Woman uses the Magic Lasso to get her to exposit her plans. It doesn’t have the sound effect that it will later, however.
Steve will be killed at midnight AND the navy yard is due to be blown up by then – how can Wonder Woman save both? By imitating Marcia’s voice and calling the apartment – but not before a little soapbox about women being the future. Oh, Wonder Woman … if only that future had arrived before 2016 …
Diana forestalls the killing of Steve, and heads up to stop von Blasko in her Invisible Plane. She dives down at him and the U-Boat coming to collect all these Nazi agents. She boards his plane and teaches him a lesson in respect.
She crashes the plane in the ocean, flies off in her plane and delivers von Blasko to the same cops she ran into when she foiled a robbery earlier.
At Marcia’s apartment, before her goons are about to kill Steve, Wonder Woman bursts in and beats them all. She unties Steve and tells him everything is okay now. She also lets Steve know who the leader of the pack actually was. Oh, Marcia, Marcia, Marcia …
WW heads off and tells Steve she’ll see him again. But how?
At HQ, Steve tells Blankenship he wants no more pretty secretaries. He and Blankenship laugh their butts off. Ugh. They open the door to … Diana! So glasses and tight hair style suddenly make Diana not pretty? Steve wants to dictate a letter to … someone. And tell them … something. Great direction there, Steve-O.
Romantic 70s music plays as Yeoman Diana Prince tells him to just say what he wants to say. They agree they’re going to get along fine and we fade to the credits.
Suffering Sappho, as the Amazons might say! Its cheese factor is a tad much, but overall, it holds up well. There wasn’t much else on TV at the time so blatantly demanding female equality (certainly not Dallas!).
I give it a 4 out of 5 Magic Lassos. I’m loving diving back into this show! Next time, hitch a ride on the Invisible Plane and join us as Wonder Woman meets Baroness Paula van Gunther!