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Wonder Woman (1975): Episode 7 Review

A still from episode 7 of Wonder Woman (1975)

Wonder Woman (1975) episode 7 brings another established character to the small screen, but feels insubstantial after “The Feminum Mystique”. 

Come on, Steve. A gorilla? They’ll laugh me right out of the general staff meeting.” – General Blankenship

Wonder Woman (1975) episode 7 (“Wonder Woman vs Gargantua!”) opens not in the usual environs of Washington D.C., any of its neighbouring states, nor, even, on Paradise Island or in Germany, but somewhere within the continent of Africa. There, a Nazi called Erica Belgard (Gretchen Corbett) is training a gorilla called Gargantua (Mickey Morton) to do as she damn well says so. 

Meanwhile, over in Washington D.C. (we were bound to be back there soon enough), the Americans have got their hands on a defected Nazi called Conrad Steigler (John Hillerman), who’s happy to spill the beans on locations commonly used by state-side Axis spies. However, the Nazis have heard about this defected fellow, and they’re not dead keen on their old pal selling them out to the ‘Mericans. 

So, a group of Nazi spies already in the U.S., now aided by Erica Belgard and Gargantua (who enter the country under the guise of circus performers), plan to do something about it. You see, Gargantua can climb walls, throw people about with ease, and might even have the strength to go up against Wonder Woman herself (Lynda Carter) – so this ought to be a doozie. Their plan has three steps: 1) use brain-washed gorilla to capture Conrad Steiger, the defected Nazi, 2) use brain-washed gorilla to capture Wonder Woman, which is bound to impress high command very much, and 3) return to Germany as Nazi heroes, where Gargantua might even get a medal like Chewie did in Star Wars (1977). 

Now, I’m not some kind of comic book expert, but I am familiar enough with spots in the DC back catalogue to hear the name ‘Gargantua’ in Wonder Woman episode 7 and think to myself: “this isn’t supposed to be Giganta, is it?” A few cursory glances on my search engine of choice reveals that yes, apparently this Nazi-controlled ape is an attempt to screen adapt the female super-villain Giganta – a character I only really know of thanks to the endearing DC Super Hero Girls (2015), rather than actually reading any comics, but I won’t tell anyone if you don’t. 

A cardboard photo of Lynda Carter in episode 7 of Wonder Woman (1975)
Episode 7 of Wonder Woman (1975) (Warner Bros. Entertainment)

According to said search engine of choice, Giganta (in her 2D illustrated form) originally was indeed a gorilla, but was forcibly-evolved into a strongwoman who developed an interest in inciting rebellions, and causing Wonder Woman trouble. Since then, the character of Giganta has been a few things – a genius scientist, a woman capable of growing to Godzilla-esque size, but always an antagonist with background, and the penchant for being a pain in Wonder Woman’s neck.  

No matter how you slice it then, the presentation of Gargantua in Wonder Woman episode 7 as just a uniquely-trained ape seems a mis-adaptation, and perhaps an underutilisation of what may have been the Giganta character. It’s a bit like if Marvel’s the Wasp was simply a programmable insect, and not actually a woman, or if the Incredible Hulk wasn’t actually Bruce Banner, but simply a green monster tricked into running errands. I can’t even suggest that this creative decision was made due to budgetary restraints, for surely putting a man in a tailored gorilla suit costs more than hiring a female wrestler, for instance. 

Aside from this (what the media police might categorise as a crime against comic books – which is very serious nowadays), there is something about Wonder Woman episode 7 that, depending on what you like, could be quite the positive. And that is that this episode is the most like a Saturday morning cartoon that I’ve seen so far. I’ve never before had reason to compare something to Spider-Woman (1979), but that series and Wonder Woman episode 7 do share a similar sort of atmosphere. They both tap into that same concept: “there’s this woman, she’s got a superhero alter-ego, and she works in a place that’s conveniently able to notify her whenever this week’s antagonist shows up”. 

Wonder Woman (1975): Episode 6 Review – Loud And Clear Reviews
Wonder Woman (1975) episode 6 takes place almost entirely on the rarely seen Paradise Island, and concludes the show’s first two-parter.

Unfortunately, with that, neither Diana Prince nor Wonder Woman have much character this episode. Diana Prince is simply Stever Trevor’s secretary. Wonder Woman is simply the costumed hero who doesn’t like that the Nazis are using animals to do their dirty work. Overall, Wonder Woman episode 7 is rather shallow, but sometimes, do forgive me, that’s exactly what the mood requires – fifty minutes of telly that’s got a hero, a mind-controlled gorilla, and was aired on a December’s Saturday in 1976. 

Still, after only one episode without them, I do already miss Drusilla (Debra Winger) as Wonder Woman’s kid sister, and Barbara Avedon and Barbara Corday as Wonder Woman story writers. I do sincerely hope this first series of the ‘70s Wonder Woman show didn’t peak with “The Feminum Mystique”, but I have the creepiest of suspicions that it might have done. 

Episode 7 of Wonder Woman (1975) is now available to watch on digital and on demand.

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