Monday, 27 May 2013

TV Series: La Femme Nikita

"La Femme Nikita" is a Canadian-made television series that ran for 96 episodes from 1997 to 2001. During the first two years it was the highest rated drama series on basic cable channels in America. Despite its popularity it was never properly nurtured by the television producers. It received a cult following, leading to enormous petitions when it was announced the series would be cancelled. Eventually this led to a new series, titled simply "Nikita", which began in 2010 with different actors and is still active today after 66 episodes.

The series is based on the film "Nikita", but with strong influence from the English tv series "Callan". The first episode practically retells the film. One difference, presumably to make the leading character more sympathetic to the viewers, is that in the film Nikita was a murderer, whereas in the series she is framed for murder. Section One, the organisation that Nikita is working for, is an anti-terrorist organisation, working similarly to Section in "Callan". People are recruited against their will, and they are treated as expendable if they don't perform efficiently. Nobody ever retires from Section One, they work until they die. In the first season of "La Femme Nikita" there is no doubt that Section One is on the side of the "good guys", but as the series progresses this is put into doubt. The leaders are so ruthless in their fight against terrorism that they are willing to accept any level of collateral damage in order to succeed.

A frequently asked question is where Section One is located. In the film everything takes place in France. It's a French film, after all. In the television series it isn't so clear. Everyone speaks English, and although the series is filmed in Canada I assumed that it takes place in an unnamed town in the north of the USA. This is typical for Canadian series; they are filmed in Canada, but prominent landmarks are avoided to give the impression that the action is taking place somewhere in America. See "Highlander" as an example. This changes in the third season. In the first two episodes we are given a strong clue that Section One is in France, when we see letters showing that Michael's home address is in France. In the 16th episode of the third season we see a prominent landmark for the first time; the Eiffel Tower is visible when the agents leave the building. This is a superimposed image, of course, the episodes are still being filmed in Canada. We can deduce from this that the people in Section One are all speaking French, but through the magic of television we are hearing them in English.

When the series was first shown I didn't pay much attention to it. I saw a few random episodes in early 1997, but it didn't grip me. The reason is that I've always been fascinated by strong women, but in the series Nikita didn't seem strong. Yes, she's a trained fighter, but emotionally she's weak. She has to struggle to cope with life in Section One. The missions seemed flimsy to me, just blam blam shoot em up action that always turned out well. It wasn't until I watched a few episodes in sequence at the end of the first season that I began to understand. It's not about the missions. The missions are just a background to the real story, which is Nikita's personal development, including her love relationship with Michael. I watched the series on television throughout the second and third seasons, but that changed when I moved to England. The English broadcasts were two years behind America, so I rewatched the old episodes for a while, then lost track, and the series was complete before I knew it. After watching the film "Nikita" in 2011 I decided to rewatch the complete series on DVD. All I can say is that it's incredible. Watching it in order from the beginning shows its power. The action, the intrigue and the music. It's truly an underrated series.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Tick the box "Notify me" to receive notification of replies.