Episode Title: The Feminum Mystique Part 1
Original Airdate: November 6, 1976
You know, they say everyone has to start somewhere. Once an actor or actress hits it big, it’s often fun to take a look at where they started. Tom Hanks appeared in a slasher movie called He Knows You’re Alone, George Clooney was in Return of the Killer Tomatoes, and Hilary Swank was The Next Karate Kid. But for Debra Winger, the road that would eventually lead to three Oscar nominations first made a stop here. Prepare for Debra Winger as Wonder Girl in this week’s episode, The Feminum Mystique Part 1.
As we begin this adventure, Steve Trevor and Diana Prince are arriving to for a test of a new jet engine, the XPJ-1. Steve is going to pilot the jet. Unfortunately, there are also two Nazi agents watching, Lt. Wertz (Paul Shenar) and Capt Radl (John Saxon). They are plotting to steal the experimental plane. Some explosions go off to cause a diversion and other Nazis disguised as MP’s start shooting. Meanwhile, our two main baddies head for the jet. Of course, Diana transforms into Wonder Woman, but she gets too busy saving Steve by deflecting bullets with her bracelets to stop the villains from getting away with the jet. Luckily, the plane has a remote self destruct which General Blankenship is able to activate. The jet is destroyed, but the enemy pilot makes it out alive. Radl also ends up escaping and takes refuge with another Nazi agent posing as a Ranger with the Forest Service. He reports back to Berlin about the bullet deflecting bracelets, which they now see as a weapon they must get their hands on.
The action now switches to Paradise Island where Queen Hippolyta (now played by Carolyn Jones instead of Cloris Leachman) is once again having her Amazons take part in a tournament. One of the best in the contest is the Princess Drusilla (Debra Winger), Diana’s younger sister. The Queen decides that the time has come for Diana to return home, so Drusilla is dispatched to head to America and bring her back.
Back in Washington D.C., Steve asks Diana to arrange a dinner meeting between him and Peter Knight, the inventor of the XPJ-1. She suggest having it at her home, but when she returns there she senses an intruder. She transforms into Wonder Woman and then realizes the intruder is Drusilla, who has already raided the freezer and had developed a love for ice cream. Over dinner, we learn that there is another XPJ-1 engine ready for testing. Meanwhile, Drusilla learns a bit about men…remember, she’s never seen one before. But WE, the audience, learn something that our three heroes don’t know. We see a meeting between Capt. Radl and, you guessed it, Peter Knight. Radl is, of course, still obsessed with Wonder Woman and her bracelets. Since Wonder Woman often appears around operations that come out of General Blankenship’s office, they decide to focus their efforts there.
The next day, Diana sets Drusilla up with some clothes more appropriate for a teenager in 1942 and then brings her to the office. General Blankenship ends up taking Drusilla with him so they can see Mt Vernon. Unfortunately, along the way Radl and his fake forest ranger buddy kidnap Blankenship. Drusilla decides she needs to do something. So, she tries copying her older sister’s spin to transform. It takes her two tries, but she ends up becoming Wonder Girl. When she arrives at the ranger station, Radl’s and his men assume she’s Wonder Woman. They knock her out with chloroform and run off. Blankenship is left behind, never knowing what happened. Can Diana and Steve track down Drusilla and stop the Nazi plot? We’ll have to wait ‘till part 2 to find out.
I sometimes find that two part episodes, especially of hour long series’, can be a bit problematic at times. Often, part one ends up being just a lot of setup for whatever is going to happen in part two. There is some degree of that in this episode. Because of the nature of this particular story, we don’t get a whole lot of Wonder Woman action in this episode. She shows up at the very beginning and briefly does battle with the Nazis as they try to swipe the jet…but that’s really it for this episode. The other appearance she makes is just when she meets up with Drusilla and explains how her secret identity works. So this episode really doesn’t have a big action sequence like the others have had. I can only assume that will be made up for in part 2.
What this episode does have, however, is a wonderful performance by Debra Winger as Drusilla. Nothing against the other actors and actresses who have appeared on this series, but Winger very quickly out performs everyone we’ve seen on the series thus far. She’s got an awful lot of spunk in this role and manages to be very funny in several scenes. Winger is more associated with dramatic roles but she has great comedic delivery here. The scene in which Dru sits in on the dinner meeting is very charming and funny. At one point, the young scientist Peter Knight says, “out of the blue I have a date when I thought I was going to be stag tonight.” To which Dru replies, “I shot one of those once with my crossbow!” There’s also a very funny sequence between Drusilla and a young mechanic. He tells her about a new singer named Frank Sinatra who is “knocking ‘em dead.” This, of course, greatly concerns Dru. Bottom line is this episode has some very clever moments when it comes to the whole fish-out-of-water aspect of Drusilla’s storyline.
Now, Debra Winger isn’t the only guest star of note in this one. She was just an unknown at this point, but the bad guys get a big star like John Saxon! That’s Enter the Dragon’s John Saxon, people! Saxon always brings a certain coolness to his roles, and this is no exception. He is a great choice to play a slimeball Nazi trying to dismantle America from the inside. Having someone young and handsome in the villain role is a nice change from the Col. Klink style Nazis that so many movies and TV shows resort to. It should be fun to see what other evil deeds Saxon has up his sleeve in part 2. Not as well used in this episode is Carolyn Jones, taking over the role of Diana’s mother. Jones is probably most famous for playing Morticia Addams on The Addams Family. Her part in this episode is pretty small and unfortunately she’s not really given the chance to add a whole lot to the character. She’s a great choice for the part, but sadly she just doesn’t have much to work with here.
So, even though this episode is lighter on the action, there’s still plenty to enjoy. I’m looking forward to seeing more out of both Winger and Saxon in part 2…and we’ll see if Wonder Girl manages to upstage her more famous big sister. So join us next time for The Feminum Mystique Part 2.