Sunday, June 5, 2011


Question: When someone shouts "Fembots!", what image comes to mind? Is it these attractive but deadly blond ladies of a certain caliber, from Austin Powers:International Man of Mystery?

If so, count yourself among the lucky. For some people, like me, the word conjures up a horrific image from the past, permanently branded into my subconscious as a young man.

Brace yourself for the nightmarish visage I will now reveal below....







Oh, that wasn't too bad. Looks like a perfectly normal woman. Except for that feathered hair, nothing scary here. Let me try again... scroll down, if you dare!








Hmmm... she's not scary either. Somethings not right here. Wait, I know--we have to rough-house with them a little bit. Then you'll see what I mean.

There it is! Look! It's dead eyes are staring through my soul!

Jamie Sommers (Lindsay Wagner) aka The Bionic Woman, below, has perfectly visualized my own aghast reaction upon first encountering these creepy Fembot assassins, which predate Austin Powers by 20 years, and have never once go-go danced to These Boots Are Made For Walking.

When I was a kid in the 70s, I wanted to be the bionic man with a six-million dollar price tag, Steve Austin (Lee Majors) (and even had the Kenner doll with the roll-up arm skin and telescopic bionic eye), but I usually ended up watching The Bionic Woman.

I think part of the reason is that macho actor Lee Majors looks like he could beat you up even if he wasn't bionic. Not so with Jamie Sommers. So there was something inherently cooler when she dished out a surprise robotic ass-whooping on unsuspecting baddies. There may have been other reasons I gravitated toward The Bionic Woman instead of The Six-Million Dollar Man, but I can't seem to put my finger on it...

Anywho, in the 1976 episode Kill Oscar (a 3-parter that crossed over between shows, the 1st and 3rd parts belonging to The Bionic Woman, and the 2nd part appearing on The Six-Million Dollar Man), I was introduced to these robotic lady-killers that looked, moved and spoke just like their real life counterparts (that is, until their faces popped off to reveal those cold, staring eyes.)

The Fembots are the brainchild of Dr. Franklin (John Houseman; The Fog, Rollerball), a former scientist for OSI (Office for Scientific Intelligence, the same covert government agency that the bionic couple work for) who now hopes to infiltrate the organization with these robotic spies. As he describes them, Fembots are "the perfect women.. programmable, obedient, and as beautiful or deadly as I choose to make them."

Here he is in his secret lab, uploading his own personal knowledge of the OSI to a newly manufactured Fembot by plugging her head into the 1970s equivalent of a USB port.

Of course, this stage occurs towards the end of the Fembot production process. They actually start out as these simplistic figures that look more like mannequins than the sophisticated robots they'll eventually become.

Once completed, they will not only perfectly mimic an actual living person, but also possess superhuman strength, can transmit live 3-D video information back to base, and walk on heat-sensing feet!

Fembots are also skilled with weapons...

...and can even pilot a helicopter.

The only giveaway that these ladies aren't what they seem is that they weigh about 400 pounds, and their face pops off during horseplay.

Now with a name like Fembot, you might assume that they are all modeled after women. Well get with the times, grandpa. In the enlightened and open-minded 70s, there are male Fembots too, like this one of Oscar Goldman (Richard Anderson), the agent that shut down Dr. Franklin's Fembot research when he was still working for OSI ten years earlier.

Oscar's been good enough to volunteer in a little safety demonstration on how to deactivate a Fembot that is out of control.

First, wrestle it to the ground.

Next, pull the Fembot's wig off to reveal the power supply and socket. The wig may be discarded.

Firmly grip the power supply attached in the back of the skull.

Pull out in a straight motion. Your Fembot has now been safely deactivated.

Both The Six-Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman were popular programs, so its no surprise they spawned a full line of toys and promotional items. But it is kind of unexpected to find that the sinister Fembots were among the characters realized in doll-form, complete with removable wig and exchangeable faces.

The Fembot trilogy, Kill Oscar, can be found on The Bionic Woman-Season 2 DVD set.


The Captain said...

Question: When someone shouts "Fembots!", what image comes to mind?

Machine gun jubblies of course!

Cool post I remember those episodes as a kid, but I don't remember the fembot toy.

Prof. Grewbeard said...

nice thing to run across at 1:00 a.m., now i scared...

Wings1295 said...

Youngsters these days would probably laugh at the Fembots, but I was scared witless, too, as a kid in the 70s! They were the stuff of nightmares!

Loved both The Six-Million Dollar Man (he was my role model) and the Bionic Woman (she was just the perfect woman to me, then).

Good times.

kakupacal said...

I want one.

Chris 'Frog Queen' Davis said...

Fembot dolls?!?!? How did I miss that one.

Very fun post.


Brother Bill said...

The Captain: I'm just glad to know I'm not the only one hearing people shout "fembots"! ;)

Keith said...

That's classic. I wonder if this trilogy pre-date movies like West World and Future world?

Jeunefille said...

I am a little freaked out now haha! nice blog btw!x

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Mat Black said...

Always remember, Lindsay Wagner prefers a setting of 35 on her Sleep Number bed.

Write This Ass said...

Hi there,
Totally off topic and I apologize. Though I loved the Bionic Fembots, they scared the hell out of me when I was a kid. In any case, you have a post from a couple years ago where you have screen grabs of "The House With A Clock In It's Walls", the John Bellairs series. By any chance can I get a copy of this from you. Can I buy or rent it from you. Please let me know. Thanks so much. Any response back will go to my email. Perhaps you can help a gal out. Thank you.

Dewey said...

Nice! I showed a picture of the Lynda fembot to a kid in his 20s (who had only ever seen the Austin Powers bots) and he thanked me, said he'd have nightmares for life.

NickM said...

This was a terrific article. I am watching this 3 part episode on FETV this weekend.
Your writings were spot on. I used to get scared when I would see them and remember them for years in my childhood dreams. Now that they are back on TV I still get a little scared. :) Absolutely fun! Thanks for posting

CLooLooAU said...

As a kid I used to get literal nightmares about being chased by Fembots, but regardless, those were my favourite BW episodes! I recently bought the Bionic Woman DVD set so I could relive the terror! :D P.s I still have my childhood Jaime Sommers doll. I don’t recall seeing the Fembot dolls back then or I’m sure I would have wanted one too.