Wonder Woman (Pilot)
by David E. Kelley
Writer's First Draft - December 2010
Drama Pilot, 66 pages
"Come on. For me to look for a real relationship in my line of work --" - Diana
The pilot for Wonder Woman, which, as Kelley noted in all caps, was "to be aired without commercial interruption," was as complex and layered as it was enjoyable. I found it to be a very easy read and am disappointed that the show never happened as it is something I'd like to have watched.
In this pilot, we meet Wonder Woman in action chasing down a suspect. Thanks to the dialogue and provided visuals - for example, the news is covering the chase and, during it, she runs into a street performer dressed as her - Kelley shows us that, in this world, everyone knows who Wonder Woman is, and she's famous. During this chase we also get to see some of the "iconic" elements and how they function. She's shown easily leaping and bounding over cars, gets hit by a car but is barely stopped by it, and uses her lasso to finally trap her suspect. In short, she's shown to be incredible.
But not everyone agrees. Some of the news anchors question her sanity and whether she is prone to violence and, due to the fact that this undercurrent is repeated throughout the episode, I have a sense that it was likely the big problem for the series, or at least the first season - namely, can Wonder Woman function outside of the confines of the law?
As always, Kelley's action lines are funny, full of voice and style, and add another layer to the read. Through them, we see that Wonder Woman, or Diana, is comfortable in the modern world. Music plays throughout the script, including popular songs like Beyonce's "Single Ladies." Diana also watches E.T. and sings along with "One Way or Another." Through descriptions, Kelley also lets us know the feeling that the scenes should evoke such as "It's like a Presidential State of the Union" and "she's a rockstar." They add some depth to our protagonist. My personal favorite, as she's flying one of her jets:
"She zooms down and flies about fifteen feet above the congested traffic, perhaps just to taunt the drivers a little."
An element I particularly enjoyed is that Wonder Woman has been merchandised. There are toys, lunch boxes - even diverse toys for specific markets like an Asian Wonder Woman doll. But Diana isn't always happy about these things, even if they do pay for all of her toys - like her fleet of different colored airplanes. She doesn't like being sexualized. For example, she no longer wears the original, scant costume and protests that the dolls are given big breasts that are much larger than her actual ones.
I spent some time trying to figure out why this show never aired. I have heard rumors that the shot pilot doesn't match the script in tone, but, as I have not seen it for myself, I can only hypothesize baed on the script. First, it seems rather expensive. The pilot had over forty speaking characters, locations in LA, DC, NY, and Paradise Island, and was filled with flashbacks. Diana flew three of her jets, and the fight sequences were nuanced and intense with buildings being destroyed. None of these things are necessarily prohibitive on their own, but I do think that this show would be more expensive than may, making greenlighting a season a big monetary risk.
There were also two elements of plot that I could foresee being stumbling blocks. In the problem-of-the-week, Wonder Woman goes up against Veronica Cole, the head of a nebulous pharmaceutical company. (As an aside, I personally enjoyed that her main antagonist, at least for the pilot, was female.) Diana was called in front of Congress - yes, that Congress - and ended up annihilating the government's relationship with big pharma in a fiery speech. It was quite the take down, but I could see how the overt politics could potentially alienate some viewers and advertisers and might be a red flag for a network.
As for the second stumbling block, the show is quite complex. There are four aspects to Diana: her Wonder Woman persona, aka the superhero vigilante; Diana Themyscira, CEO of Themyscira Industries and the person most of the world knows to be Wonder Woman; Diana Prince, Diana's secret identity that most people don't know about; and Diana at earlier times in flashbacks. As she presumably looks essentially the same in all of them (she didn't age on Paradise Island and out here is doing so very, very slowly) and a lot of quick flashes are used. What is clear on the page could, potentially, be confusing to view.
While I was definitely left wanting more, I was not certain of the story engine from this introduction. More specifically, I'm not sure whether this would be a problem-of-the-week procedural or more of a serialized drama with a nemesis. As Veronica seemed effectively stopped by the end of the script, I didn't have a big sense of the overarching problem for Wonder Woman. I did see that Diana, at least on an emotional level, is just the same as us and the "small things" like discovering that her ex, Steve, is now married and missing her mother and sister were the things that got her down. Her weakness. Another element that was briefly touched on was finding a way to get Diana back to Paradise Island, which hints to how the series might have ended. As I said, despite not being certain of where this was going, I definitely would have watched the series and am disappointed that I'll never have the chance to see more of Kelley's take on this icon.