Wonder Woman (1975) episode 5 uses its position as the establishing episode in the show’s first two-parter to breathe fresh air into the series.
“Oh not another how-to-be-heir-to-the-throne lesson. Diana’s the heir, mother, not me.” – Drusilla
Wonder Woman (1975) episode 5 (“The Feminum Mystique: Part One”) opens with Steve Trevor (Lyle Waggoner) and Diana Prince (Lynda Carter) travelling down to a Virginian airfield to peek at a super secret project the Allies have put together. Now, are you ready to hear about this? Are you sure? Okay. It’s a plane. It’s a plane that can fly without needing a propeller. Which is pretty exciting stuff for 1942. But, something a little less exciting, and a little more worrying, is Steve’s intention to get in the pilot’s seat and take this thing for a test run. I don’t know who thought that’d be a good idea. I mean, the first time I saw Steve flying a plane he washed up on an island in the Bermuda Triangle.
Fortunately for the super secret plane, this is the ‘70s Wonder Woman telly show, and so a group of Nazi spies soon show up, cause some havoc, and fly off with the project before Steve gets the chance to crash it. Unfortunately for the super secret plane, it’s now being piloted to Germany, so the Americans decide to flick a remote self-destruct switch, and the whole thing gets blown to smithereens. Really, if these five episodes of Wonder Woman are anything to go by, ‘40s America was simply crawling with Nazis.
One of these Nazis, as it turns out, managed to escape the ruckus at the airfield and has now sent a report back to Berlin detailing how a woman with bullet-deflecting bracelets, and a pair of cute red earrings, was quick to come to the Americans aid during the recent chaos. Apparently this is one of a few reports that Nazi HQ have now received on Wonder Woman, and her presence on their radar has grown unignorable (seemingly forgetting that Hitler himself fancied recruiting her just two episodes ago).
The name ‘Wonder Woman’ and the feats associated with it haven’t only made their way to Germany however, but also back to Paradise Island, and not realising her daughter was going to have such an impact on the world’s military news, Hippolyta (Carolyn Jones) decides it’s time she comes home, and continue with the duties required of a super-powered princess. What those duties may be, I’m not sure, but they must be rather important, because the queen sends Wonder Woman’s teen sister, Drusilla (Debra Winger), to head to America and fetch her back.
The entirely unexpected appearance of a kid sister in Wonder Woman episode 5 is rapidly justified. The culture shock Drusilla experiences on entering the U.S., as mean as I feel writing so, is a lot of fun to watch. She’s energetic, her presence recaptures the adventurous spirit of Wonder Woman’s first episode, and she’s full of entertaining questions. What’s the point in all these blokes? What on Earth is a Nazi? How come we don’t have any ice cream back home?
Drusilla’s perceived naivety, and interest in a reality not her own, puts me curiously in mind of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland (1915). If someone was able to write the essay that argues Gilman’s utopia to be a sort of precursor to William Marston’s Paradise Island, I’d much like to read it. But, that can wait for another time. For now, I was writing about the first two-parter in ‘70s Wonder Woman, and, you know, when I was coming up to this episode I thought: “oh good, this might provide some more time to develop the stakes, to flesh out the scenario, to live with the characters” and all that. But it seems that first-time Wonder Woman story writers Barbara Avedon and Barbara Corday were thinking the exact opposite.
For Wonder Woman episode 5 is easily the busiest, quickest, most plot-driven episode since the very first. It’s chock full of stuff, it’s rapid, it all feels very refreshing, and it makes me ask: why haven’t all the solo episodes been like this? No comprehensive answer quickly occurs to me, and so I can only put it down to the presence of Drusilla and the Barbara’s, who I sincerely hope stick around for as long as they like.
Episode 5 of Wonder Woman (1975) is now available to watch on digital and on demand.