June 25, 2016

THE SECRETS OF ISIS

THE SECRETS OF ISIS
(CBS, September 6, 1975-October 30, 1976)


Filmation Associates

MAIN CAST:
Joanna Cameron – Andrea Thomas/Isis
Brian Cutler – Rick Mason
Joanna Pang – Cindy Lee (season 1)
Albert Reed – Dr. Barnes
Ronalda Douglas – Rennie Carol (season 2)
Lou Scheimer – Opening narration

In 1974, Filmation had licensed and produced a live-action show around the DC Comics character, Captain Marvel (also known as Shazam, due to rival publisher Marvel Comics also having a character named Captain Marvel). The series proved to be a hit and was renewed for a second season. Wanting to expand on their success with the addition of a female counterpart, something unseen at that time, Filmation opted to create an original character rather than license yet another from DC. The result was Isis.

Isis and Tut.
The Secrets of Isis was developed by Marc Richards, who suggested the Egyptian theme. Initially, the series was going to have more of a mystery angle with the characters actively involved in situations as forensic investigators, but the network requested that it instead be moved to a school setting. As a result, the heroine was Larkspur High School science teacher Andrea Thomas (Joanna Cameron), a descendant of Egyptian Pharaoh Queen Hatshepsut. While on an archaeological dig, Andrea discovered the Isiac amulet which bestowed members of that bloodline with the powers of the animals and elements when exposed to the sun and the name of the goddess Isis invoked. With the words “Oh mighty Isis”, Andrea was transformed into Isis and able to access a wide array of powers through the recitation of a rhyming couplet related to the desired ability. Amongst her powers were superhuman strength, flight, control of the elements and matter, summoning of living things, divination of the recent past, and time manipulation. Although not as powerful in human form, Andrea could still communicate with her pet raven, Tut (whom Cameron hated working with and was difficult to wrangle), and was able to use light reflected off her amulet to restore lost memories. Aiding Andrea and Isis were her student assistant, Cindy Lee (Joanna Pang), colleague Rick Mason (Brian Cutler), and school principal, Dr. Barnes (Albert Reed). 

Andrea and Rick.

Isis was the first television series to feature a female superhero lead character, beating out the premiers of The Bionic Woman by four months and Wonder Woman by seven. Like most 70s superhero programs, Isis never fought supervillains. Most of the time, she dealt with problems that arose when her students or other kids made poor decisions and wound up in peril. On the rare occasion, Isis would fight legitimate thieves and people with evil intent. This allowed Isis to deliver Filmation’s customary pro-social message at the end of each episode related to the story’s plot. Because both shows were produced by Filmation, Isis and Captain Marvel (John Davey) crossed over into each other’s programs for three episodes apiece after a special arrangement with DC.



The Secrets of Isis debuted on CBS on September 6, 1975 as part of The Shazam/Isis Hour, with music composed by Ray Ellis (as Yvette Blais) and producer Norm Prescott (as Jeff Michael). Because of this branding, the show’s on-screen title was shortened to Isis. The full title, though spoken in opening narration by producer Lou Scheimer, wouldn’t been seen until the series entered syndicated reruns where the show also lost the epilogues. Isis was written by Sidney Morse, Arthur Nadel (who also directed), David Dworski, Ann Udell, Kathleen Barnes, Susan Dworski, David Wise, Chuck Menville, Len Janson, Russell Bates, Henry Colman, Robert F. Joseph, Michael Reaves, James Schmerer, Norman Cameron, Peter L. Dixon and Sarah Dixon

Isis and Captain Marvel together.

The series proved successful, getting renewed for a second season alongside Shazam! Inexplicably, Pang was dropped from the show and replaced by new student assistant, Rennie Carol (Ronalda Douglas). The second season ran for seven episodes and ended with the show’s first two-part episode, “Now you See It…” and “…And Now You Don’t.” The episodes introduced three crime-fighting teens who called themselves “The Super-Sleuths” that Filmation was hoping to spin off into their own series. Unfortunately, that series never materialized. 

DC's Isis comic.

Filmation didn’t give up on Isis. She made animated appearances on future Filmation projects such as Freedom Force voiced by Diane Pershing and Hero High voiced by Linda Gary. Cameron herself wasn’t done with superheroes, as she would go on to appear in the 1978 TV movie The Amazing Spider-Man: The Deadly Dust (also known as Spider-Man Strikes Back). During the second season, DC produced an 8-issue comic series very loosely based on the show prefaced by a guest appearance in Shazam! #25. That same year, Mego produced an action figure while Whitman released several puzzles. In 1977, Golden Press published a book based on the show.

Isis for a new generation.

DC acquired the rights to the character and introduced a reworked version of Isis in their maxi-series 52 in 2006. This version was Adrianna Tomaz (a play on the character’s original name) who became the wife of Captain Marvel’s nemesis, Black Adam, and attempted to reform him until their mutual death and resurrection turned them both evil. Another version of Isis appeared on the 2010 episode of Smallville called “Isis”, where Lois Lane (Erica Durance) was possessed by Isis through the amulet. Smallville’s version blended elements from both the 1970s and 52 portrayals of the character. In 2013, Tomaz appeared again as a support card for the mobile version of Injustice: Gods Among Us.

The episode collection DVD.

In 2007, BCI Eclipse released The Secrets of Isis: The Complete Series on DVD. Episodes were presented in original airdate order and the exorcised moral messages were included as bonus features. The set also included the first issue of Bluewater ProductionsThe Legend of Isis, which while sharing similarities to the character was actually completely unrelated. In 2008, BCI released a compilation of their Filmation box sets called Heroes and Heroines, which included the first disc from the complete series set. When the BCI set went out of print, Classic Media acquired the rights to the show and released the 7-episode collection The Secrets of Isis in 2010. The series was made available for streaming on Hulu.


EPISODE GUIDE:
Season 1:
“The Lights of Mystery Mountain” (9/6/75) – Isis investigates if UFOs are responsible for the disappearance of local residents of the mountain.

“Fool’s Dare” (9/14/75) – A young girl finds herself on the run from car thieves who use the junkyard she snuck into as a base.

“Spots of the Leopard” (9/20/75) – Isis has to prove a former jewel thief isn’t behind a recent robbery.

“The Sound of Silence” (9/28/75) – A desperate student steals Andrea’s force field device and sells it to a local crime boss.

“Rockhound’s Roost” (10/5/75) – Isis rescues a runaway boy from a bear in the forest.

“Lucky” (10/12/75) – Isis saves a boy distraught over the death of his dog at sea.

“Bigfoot” (10/19/75) – Some students head to the mountains to investigate the rumors of Bigfoot.

“How to Find a Friend” (10/26/75) – Tom’s attempt at making a new friend leads this “friend” to steal his father’s souvenir handgun.

“The Show Off” (11/1/75) – Steve’s showing off lands him in the clutches of a gorilla.

“The Outsider” (11/8/75) – Some boys who don’t like the new student attempt to frame him for the theft of a rival school’s mascot.

“No Drums, No Trumpets” (11/15/75) – After Fred takes his poor showing at the science fair badly, he, Andrea and Dorothy take a drive to a ghost town inhabited by a gang of thieves.

“Funny Gal” (11/22/75) – Isis and Captain Marvel team-up to rescue a girl who stole a boat for a publicity stunt.

“Girl Driver” (11/29/75) – A boy cheats during a safety driving competition and ends up in danger.

“Scuba Duba” (12/6/75) – A rebellious scuba student ends up trapped underwater.

“Dreams of Flight” (12/13/75) – A girl designs model planes, but the men in her life want to keep her from competing with them.

Season 2:
“Seeing Eye Horse” (9/11/76) – Andrea teaches a blind student to ride a horse to help build his self-confidence.

“The Hitchhiker” (9/18/76) – Isis saves a habitual hitchhiker from a near-fatal car accident.

“The Class Clown” (9/25/76) – Rudy’s practical jokes end up causing a deadly problem in the chemistry lab.

“The Cheerleader” (10/2/76) – A cheerleader attempts to thin the field by framing another for cheating on a test.

“Year of the Dragon” (10/16/76) – Julie is embarrassed by her father’s adherence to his old customs.

“Now You See It…” (10/23/76) – Rick is framed for stealing a weather-manipulating machine.

“…And Now You Don’t” (10/30/76) – Isis and Captain Marvel have to rescue Rick from the real thieves who want the rest of the machine’s plans.


Originally posted in 2016. Updated in 2020.

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