FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The Series Fans are Dying For!
LA FEMME NIKITA:
THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON
Available On DVD, July 8
BURBANK, CA. (April 28, 2003) – She’s been sentenced to life in a ruthless, clandestine world where beauty and danger collide at every turn, and now Warner Home Video (WHV) is sending her home, by releasing La Femme Nikita: The Complete First Season on DVD, July 8, 2003. With one of the most loyal fan bases of any series, La Femme Nikita was the top-rated show on the USA Network during the series’ five-year run. Those fans have been bombarding WHV with emails, letters and phone calls demanding the show’s DVD release and now their calls are answered, as La Femme Nikita: The Complete First Season will be available in a 6-disc boxed set with enhanced content for $99.98 SRP DVD.
From the executive producers of 24, La Femme Nikita stars Peta Wilson as an elite operative for a covert organization dedicated to fighting global terrorism by any means necessary. Wrongly accused of murdering a cop and headed for lethal injection, Nikita is rescued from her fate by the top-secret government organization, Section One. Under the tutelage of the mysterious Michael (Roy Dupuis), Nikita must rely on her fierce instincts and killer looks to achieve the covert and death-defying objectives of a monolithic establishment that is all too willing to cancel her should her conscience get in the way. There is no end in sight to the pulse-pounding predicaments and gut-wrenching moral wars she must wage each and every day.
Based on characters created for the film of the same name, La Femme Nikita was a huge hit on USA Network and avoided cancellation in 2000 following a phenomenal letter-writing campaign by fans—and now airs daily on the Oxygen Network. The series continues to have a loyal and dedicated cult following, boasting over 300 hundred fan sites online and second only to Friends in average number of daily hits among Warner Brothers TV show sites during its run.
The La Femme Nikita: The Complete First Season DVD includes audio commentary by producers Joel Surnow and Robert Cochran, deleted scenes, a behind-the-scenes documentary, and photo galleries.
1. Nikita: Wrongly accused of a murder she didn’t commit, Nikita wakes up at a top secret government agency that aims to train her to become an anti-terrorist operative. Despite her resistance, she is forced to comply in order to stay alive.
2. Friend: Nikita is assigned to protect Jovan Mijovich, a politician attempting to negotiate peace in his war-torn part of the world, but a chance encounter with a childhood friend puts her at odds with her own past.
3. Simone: Nikita infiltrates a high-tech terrorist organization, only to discover that Michael’s wife Simone, a Section One operative long believed dead, is actually still alive and being held hostage to ensure the organization’s survival.
4. Charity: While investigating a money launderer, Nikita learns about his charity for troubled youth and becomes conflicted. Section One informs her that his charity is in actuality a front for child slave trade.
5. Mother: A nuclear trigger is stolen by a cold-blooded terrorist couple and Nikita must pose as the couple’s long-lost daughter to get it back. Unfortunately, this leads to unexpected consequences for both “mother” and “daughter.”
6. Love: Nikita and Michael must pose as a married mercenary couple to infiltrate the compound of an international arms smuggler, only to discover that the canister of nerve gas they are to recover has already been put to very deadly use.
7. Treason: After a botched attempt to “quietly” capture and deport a foreign anti-terrorist contact, Nikita discovers a traitor in Section One—but one who is being manipulated by the contact, who in turn is holding his son hostage.
8. Escape: A mysterious Section One operative offers Nikita a seemingly ironclad opportunity to escape from the organization for good, but is the opportunity a real one, or is it just a trick to test her loyalty?
9. Gray: Section One’s directory of all their agents is stolen, but when it falls into the hands of unwitting civilian, Gray Wellman, Nikita is assigned to retrieve the directory at all costs, never suspecting she’ll fall in love with Gray.
10. Choice: Section One is called upon to capture a rogue element of the CIA, but Nikita’s continued involvement with Gray Wellman is putting her at risk, forcing her to choose between the organization that controls her and the man she loves.
11. Rescue: Nikita and Madeline go undercover to rescue Michael from a former Soviet Block country, but a high-ranking military official blows their cover and Michael must convince a new friend to help them all escape.
12. Innocent: A terrorist group is threatening to detonate a nuclear device in a major American city, unless Nikita can convince the simple pizza delivery man who witnessed the transfer to help her before the organization “cancels” him.
13. Gambit: The theft of a canister of Cobalt 60 has been thwarted, but the Cobalt has been lost. Now Madeline must put her life on the line to find out where the canister is, from one of the world’s most fearsome terrorists, George Kessler.
14. Recruit: An operative-in-training kills her trainer in cold blood while on a mission to capture a terrorist, using the excuse that he had repeatedly raped her, and now Nikita must discover the truth behind her outrageous claim.
15. Obsessed: Section One is powerless to stop one of the world’s most dangerous hit men, because he is in possession of information damaging to Western governments, so Nikita is forced to use his abused girlfriend to get to him.
16. Missing: Section One’s mission to eradicate a criminal organization that steals classified information is jeopardized because Operations’ son Steven is involved, giving Nikita the opportunity to bargain for her freedom in exchange for Steven’s life.
17. Noise: When Birkoff is forced to defend himself for the very first time, his fear of being killed jeopardizes his ability to protect Section operatives, Now, unless Nikita can help him overcome his fear, he will be cancelled.
18. Voices: While working undercover, Nikita is confronted with a known serial rapist, leaving him battered, bruised and subdued, but when an overzealous cop breaks through her cover, she must protect him before he is cancelled.
19. War: The stolen Directory has fallen into the hands of Red Cell and operatives are being hit around the world, but while trying to capture Red Cell’s counterpart to Birkoff, Nikita and Michael are themselves captured and tortured for information.
20. Verdict: Jovan Mijovich has been elected Premier and Section One has been dispatched to provide security, but when a hostage situation ensues by a man claiming Mijovich raped and blinded his daughter, the fate of the new nation is put at risk.
21. Brainwash: A strange helmet-like device causes problems for Section One when Nikita uses it to discover what it is, unaware that it is used for brainwashing. Now she may be the greatest threat to her new assignment: the Premier of China.
22. Mercy: A terrorist kidnaps a young inventor and Nikita is sent to rescue him, but when the mission is unsuccessful, she is given orders to cancel the inventor. Refusing puts her at risk of her own cancellation, unless Michael can save her.
About Warner Home Video:
With operations in 78 international territories Warner Home Video Inc., commands the largest distribution infrastructure in the global video marketplace. Warner Home Video’s film library is the largest of any studio, offering top quality new and vintage titles from the repertoires of Warner Bros. Pictures Inc., Turner Entertainment Co., Castle Rock Entertainment, HBO Home Video and New Line Home Entertainment.
For more information on these and other titles distributed by Warner Home Video, visit www.WHVDirect.com.
Review by Stephen Wong, Entertainment Insiders
Movie Rating: 8/10
DVD Rating: 8/10
Inspired by Luc Besson’s incredible 1990 French feature film (and one of the greatest action films of all-time), USA Network’s television series La Femme Nikita garnered cult-like status throughout its five-season run (1997-2001), at one point being saved from cancellation by ardent cries from its throngs of die-hard fans.
Closely basing itself off Besson’s Nikita blueprint (most of the pilot episode and parts of others essentially recreate scenes from the French film, including the infamous “Josephine” line), the show follows the initial story arc of Nikita with some interesting deviations. Striking Australian actress Peta Wilson plays the lead role of Nikita, a street-wise homeless woman who faces a death sentence after witnessing a murder that has been unjustly pinned on her (in the film, Nikita is a drug-addicted cop killer). Facing the death chamber, she’s taken in by an underground spy agency known as Section One, who offer her -- as an alternative to termination -- training and a new identity as an anti-terrorist spy operative. Roy Dupuis plays the enigmatic Michael (essentially Tchéky Karyo’s “Bob” from the film), Nikita’s mentor at Section One and on-going love interest.
Produced by the same team behind Fox’s popular 24, Nikita was one of the first television series to tackle issues of modern-day terrorism, from plane hijackings to viruses being unleashed on densely populated areas. Throughout the action-packed 22 episodes of the first season, Nikita struggles with the reality of her new life of deception and bloodshed, both on the job and within her own agency, while dealing with her complicated feelings for Michael. Dupius’s approach to the role of Michael takes a little getting used to, but his cool and mysterious persona makes for a completely different (and engrossing) dynamic than that of the feature film.
I’ll be honest with you. After the dud of a remake Point of No Return, I was quite skeptical about a television series based on the French film. Boy, was I wrong. Though the show’s “everything is a test” twist that pervades every episode can get a little tiring, La Femme Nikita exudes style and sex appeal; an amazing feat for such a relatively low budget series. Peta Wilson (who is co-starring opposite Sean Connery in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) had an allure about her that kept the show fresh and exciting, and the show as a whole is a fine addition to the La Femme Nikita saga.
The DiscOne of the few TV series season sets that actually offers more than a cursory set of extra features to go along with the episodes, “La Femme Nikita” should make most fans of the show drool with delight. Though the video transfer has little to be desired, the extra features are surprisingly extensive. Select episode commentaries by Joel Surnow, writer Robert Cochran and director Jon Cassar are excellent compendiums, while deleted scenes with commentary and a nice little “Making Of” featurette are also worth your time.
Picture Quality: 6/10
A sub par transfer. There are significant digital artifacts in the transfer and lots of heavy grain. It varies in episodes, but as a whole the color seems a bit off, and very desaturated. Doesn't stack up to normally above-average transfers Warner has for its other television show box sets.
Sound Quality: 8/10
Nothing particularly impressive with this Dolby Digital Surround transfer, but also nothing to complain about. Dialogue remains crisp and clear, and the dynamic range is solid for a two channel track.
My name is Nikita:
To access the Egg, go to the Special Features section on Disc 6.
Highlight either "Section 1 Declassified" or "Main Menu" and arrow Left. Nikita's Lips will change colors. Hit enter and you will be treated to a short narrative by Nikita (Peta Wilson showing a lots 'o leg) with several small clips from Season 1 (thanks Maria).
Extra Features: 8/10
Outside of the 22 episodes themselves, the selection of extra features are impressive. Select commentary tracks on discs one and six offers commentary by producer Surnow, writer Cochran, and director Jon Cassar on the shows "Nikita" (disc one) and "Mercy" (disc six). It's a very informative track in which the three discuss motivations for the characters, and some behind-the-scenes tidbits about the production and casting (like their description of Peta Wilson's really odd casting interview). Be careful though. The three occasionally leak out spoilers in their commentary, so it's best that you've seen all the episodes before listening in.
There is also commentary by Surnow for deleted scenes from several episodes (discs 1, 2, 3, and 6), as well as "Section One Declassified: The Making of La Femme Nikita," which features interviews with the cast and creators.
Special Features: Commentary by Joel Surnow, writer/creative consultant Robert Cochran, and director Jon Cassar on 'Nikita'
Commentary by Joel Surnow on 'Mercy'
Canceled scenes with optional commentary by Joel Surnow
"Section One Declassified: The Making of La Femme Nikita" Video Format: Full Frame (1.33:1)
[SS-SL] Languages: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
Casing: 6-Disc Fold-out Case
The Final Word:
Fans of the La Femme Nikita tv series should be giddy about the release of the first season on DVD. A ground-breaking show that treated its original source material (the 1990 French feature Nikita) with a respect that was lacking in the American film remake Point of No Return, even newcomers to the show should take a gander. One of the few TV series season sets that actually offers more than a cursory set of extra features to go along with the episodes, “La Femme Nikita: The Complete First Season” should make most fans of the show drool with delight. Though the video transfer has little to be desired, the extra features are surprisingly extensive. Select episode commentaries by Joel Surnow, writer Robert Cochran and director Jon Cassar are excellent compendiums, while deleted scenes with commentary and a nice little “Making Of” featurette are also worth your time.
Review by Mike Restaino, DVDFile.com
Armed with one whuppin' drop-kick, a brutal sense of handgun know-how and hyper-sexual sass, Peta Wilson's Nikita ain't your mama's action hero. This street urchin-turned-spy goddess is a tight-top-wearin', wild animal of an assassin, a woman as lethal and dangerous as she is good-looking and well-dressed.
In this first season of La Femme Nikita, a USA series take on the Luc Besson French action classic, we get twenty-two episodes of international espionage, interdepartmental double-crossings and will-they-or-won't-they love-snugglin' that turned the show into a well-deserved cult hit and earned its status as one of the better hour-long action shows on basic cable.
It's a long journey - 16-plus hours of ass-kicking is a lot to get through - but Peta Wilson's killer performance and endearing, elusive charm makes it at the very least worth your time. I'll be the first to admit my preference for Anne Parillaud over Ms. Wilson (Peta may have that smoldering euro-sneer down pat, but Anne was sweeter, more sensitive and therefore more involving), but what this episodic Nikita has going for it is its giddy, addictive narrative format. Hey, if I could watch Anne Parillaud parade around western Europe fighting crime every week, I would, but Anne is a distant, conniving beauty whose air of mystery insists that she disappear into the esoteric French mist before her secrets are exposed. And where Parillaud was able to mesmerize the audience with her desperate, flailing attempts to come to terms with the strange and violent world that became her reality, Wilson instead just picks up a gun and screams into the abyss, insisting on some kind of answer - right now, sucka!
And Peta, God bless her, doesn't seem to mind that we check in with her each week. Like Lucy Lawless' enjoyable caricature as Xena, Wilson is able to bring a flippant sense of pop-culture savvy to her performance while always keeping the character's emotional realities up close and personal. Admittedly, this show can be pretty cheesy - endless synthesizer score, supporting characters that overact and unbelievable plot situations abound. Many of these first-season episodes left me gagging with their super-corny narrative arcs and anemic melodrama, but it all comes back to Peta. She's more than just the glue that holds the show together, she is the show. Even for a cranky critic like myself, there's something unmistakable about Wilson's approach to her character here: She doesn't care what you think of her, she only worries about staying true to herself. And she does.
Video: How Does The Disc Look?
All 22 first season episodes are presented here in 4:3 full screen. Colors here are replicated nicely - the firm blue hues and dark greens are most impressive - and black levels are pretty darned solid. Sometimes fleshtones, however, can be a bit off, which is not surprising given how stylized this show is. Detail is overall very good, but does suffer from a bit of inconsistency, sometimes appearing soft and lacking in the level of shadow delineation. While not an exemplary set of transfers, La Femme Nikita looks, warm, clean and crisp. Not bad.
Audio: How Does The Disc Sound?
Presented in its broadcast Dolby 2.0 stereo, the sound here is adequate. A nice, robust surround remix could have done a rootin'-tootin' spy show like this some good. As it stands, music competes with the often too-subdued dialogue to create a murky sound, while effects and atmospherics are cool when given anything interesting to do (which isn't very often, as this show primarily relies on its synthesized score to do the trick). Not terrible, just uninspired. One can't help but wish that these soundtracks were opened up a little more with a remix.
Also included are English, French and Spanish subtitles and English Closed Captions.
Supplements: What Goodies Are There?
Section One Declassified: The Making of La Femme Nikita is a standard yet revealing featurette about the show's aims, inspiration and cult success. I was mesmerized by Peta Wilson's non-Nikita persona, but I wish she would have talked for hours - where was her commentary track, boys? Nothing extraordinary, just merely a press-kit style making-of featurette, But for beginners, it's a nice primer coat.
There aren't too many audio commentaries included, but what's here actually isn't too bad. The series' pilot features creator Joel Surnow, writer and creative consultant Robert Cochran and director John Cassar, and their discussions on the world they created is informational and easy to listen to. The last episode of the season "Mercy" also gets a commentary track, but only with Surnow. It is more blah and dull and lacks the depth of detail that the group commentary delivers.
Next we have nine deleted scenes (they're referred to in this collection as "canceled scenes") with optional commentary from Surnow. They're spread out over the first four discs of the edition to go with the episodes from which they were axed. While the scenes themselves don't shed too much light on anything, Surnow's discussion of why they hit the cutting room floor is intriguing. It may be slight, but he does offer a quick glimpse into what this show had to have in order to remain a success.
DVD-ROM Exclusives: What do you get when you pop the disc in your PC?
No ROM extras have been included.
For those who respond to the power, sensuality and mystery that is Peta Wilson, La Femme Nikita is probably a must-have for your shelf. This six-disc DVD set doesn't break the mold - the transfers and soundtracks are perfectly fine and the extras fairly good - but for fans of the show, this one is worth the $99.95 list price.
Review by Andrew Sweeney, CHUD.com
The single biggest thing that DVD brought to the tables of suburbia is the ability to get into television shows that you wouldn't have given the time of day when they were on. When I saw the previews for La Femme Nikita, I was mildly interested, but it wasn't enough to stay home and consciously catch an ep or two. Fast forward to five years later, and the Season One box set finds its way into my hot little hands. Now, truth be told, there is only room for one bad guy "Slayer" in my life, and that is an unfair standard to hold any series to. Especially in its first season. With that understanding, here's the lowdown on the first season of La Femme Nikita, which turns out to be a hell of a lot better than I would've first thought, and a great show in its own right.
Having no expectations for a DVD set is tough, but when you know that the show has rabid fans salivating, you get a couple of preconceived notions anyway. Part of my hesitancy stemmed from the fact that Nikita had already been remade once, twice, three times a Geena Davis. This incarnation of the blonde bombshell is driven by a couple of familiar names in Robert Cochran and Joel Surnow. Those names should look familiar if you've ever watched the credits for a little show I like to call 24. Early on in the first season, you see a lot of concepts that will mature into standard technique on 24 (split-screen multi-angle, intense torture, good guys as bad as the villains).
The spin that is put to this version is that Nikita is an innocent bystander, rather than a hardened criminal. She is taken in by a secret organization under the assumption that is truly guilty of murder. The organization trains her to be an operative of Section One, which protects national security from the shadows, away from any global spotlights. Nikita, who is not capable of murder, is constantly forced into situations where she must kill or be killed. Peta Wilson (soon to be playing Mina Harker in LXG) plays Nikita as the conflicted woman pushed into a corner. She shows a good deal of talent with what the writers give her to work with, balancing the cold training instilled in her with her humanity.
Her supporting cast has a bit of trouble finding their place and character, but its the first season, so a pass can be given to some degree. The male lead is played by rogue Canadian Roy Dupuis, who makes the ladies swoon. The first half of his season is spent looking severe and generally speaking as little as possible playing Nikita's trainer/commander Michael. As the season progresses, his role is expanded as the pseudo-love interest of Nikita, and he is given a bit more to do. Matthew Ferguson (Owning Mahowny, Cube 2) plays the resident techie Birkoff, a recluse who lives within the Section and hasn't been outside its walls in years. Don Francks plays Walter, the Section's resident Q- er.. weapons expert. Alberta Watson and Eugene Robert Glazer round out the main characters as the two commanding forces of Section One, as the enigmatic Madeline and the stony Operations. (Yes, that's his name. Operations. Like the game. Or games.) Again, the first half of the season is a little more wooden than the latter half, but things warm up as you get to know the characters a bit more.
On the subject of story, Nikita's plotlines have subtle differences and nuances, but ultimately tend to fall into formula more often than not. (In all fairness, a good amount of quality TV faces this same problem in the first year: ST:TNG, Law and Order, perhaps even my beloved Buffy.) The general breakdown for an episode is an impending doom is discovered, Section One attempts to handle it, Nikita has some internal conflict, she resolves her conflict and completes the mission, she is disciplined or forced to witness something horrible, roll credits. Odd for formula, to be sure, but the first six or so episodes follow this template pretty closely. Once the show gets moving and the writers begin taking chances, the show really starts to pick up. Something that surprised me about Nikita is that they really didn't start to advance a "mythology" for the series until the last four or five episodes, where they began to develop the reoccurring characters more often, giving several of them their own episodes. The mythology began on another front when the writers brought in the terrorist groups of Red Cell and the Freedom League, both of whom would play much larger roles in later seasons.
Any good sci-fi series has to have its share of gadgets, effects, fights, and techno-speak, and Nikita has all three in varying degrees of quality. First off, the techno-speak. It wavers from damn intolerable to "Carol Channing reads War and Peace (in Esperanto!)". To say more about it would take too much effort for too little gain. Don't expect much. As far as the gadgets, they're on par with a lower level James Bond. The requisite communication and imaging devices show an imaginative streak in the filmmakers, and interestingly, foretell a good number of actual military technologies. That said, the show's effects reflect the minimal budget of all first seasons at times. One of the main recurring effects in the show is a viewscreen that appears in the main briefing room that is used to display mugshots, mission parameters, and the like. And holy Lord, the effect shows its age. While it gets the point across, the floating screen doesn't work well at certain angles and in certain scenes. Overall though, the effects are about equal as far as television seasons go. The fights are the real standout as far as Nikita goes. Shows like Buffy and Dark Angel had little choice but to show the stunt women working, at times this was painfully obvious that Ms. Gellar couldn't fight her way out of a papyrus bag. With Nikita, they tend to use more high speed photography, more close ups, and fewer stunt people. What comes out of this is a smoother looking action sequence that is one of the shows high points.
I'm a sucker for a pretty face who can kick ass. Okay, so a pretty face that has a stunt double that can kick some ass. The show, while I complained a lot in the first couple of episodes, had me looking forward to the next episodes, and found me disappointed when I reached the end. If you never saw the show, give it a look. Fair warning, however: If it doesn't hook you after the first couple of episodes, chances are it won't hook you at all.
8.3 out of 10
First season problems abound. The show struggles to find its own visual style through the entirety of the season and doesn't quite make it to a consistent place. Whether they're switching the split screen effect in and out or changing the tone of scenes from gritty and cool to soft and warm, they're testing a lot of water. See 24 to get an idea of where these techniques show up as mature ideas. That said, each individual episode has its own style, but on the whole, the series feels a bit schizophrenic on a visual level.
As far as transfer is concerned, I think the transfer is adequate. There are times when there are some edges that look a bit rough, some shifting once in a while, but overall it looks like a transfer of a television show to DVD.
6.0 out of 10
Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround in English....
There's nice separation on some episodes, some episodes are murky. As a nice benchmark for each episode, you can always fast forward to the explosion (there's one in each episode) and check the sound on a case by case basis. And let me take just a moment to thank the unsung heroes in the Foley artists. You are the unheralded saviors in this ungodly business.
7.0 out of 10
The commentary tracks on the first and last episodes are good, as they give a lot of insight into where the filmmakers are going. (As an added bonus, they mention 24 an awful lot, for you fans of that show.) The Deleted Scenes (I'm sorry, Cancelled Scenes. Cancelled = Nikita-speak for the killings) are fair, with the commentary adding a bit of reasoning for why they were rejected. There were a couple of scenes that I really would've liked to see included, as it helped to add to the background characters mythology.
The featurette covers all of the standard bases, talks to the main characters, and covers the plot, but after watching it, I really didn't feel all that informed about how the show was put together. There's a good amount of information about the characters and the actors that make them up, but in the end there wasn't enough to satisfy the filmmaker inside's curiosity.
6.0 out of 10
With so many visual chances that LFN takes in each episode, it would've been nice to see a little more flair in the packaging. Even that "other female protagonist" show's DVDs acknowledge the supporting players in the show. A little love for Birkoff maybe? No Michael face time?
5.0 out of 10
THE FLICK: 8.3
THE LOOK: 6.0
THE NOISE: 7.0
THE GOODIES: 6.0
THE ARTWORK: 5.0
Review by Hock Guan Teh, DVDTown
“La Femme Nikita” premiered on the USA Network in 1997 with little or no fanfare. It received mixed reviews in the major media outlets and no one had any idea what kind of reception this new series will eventually receive from the general public. Since it is based on Luc Besson’s (“Fifth Element”) 1990 successful, stylish and dark French thriller of the same name (which is later followed by the forgettable Bridget Fonda-helmed American remake, “Point of No Return”), “LFN” already had some name recognition on its side but little else. Slowly but surely, a small but rabid fan base starts to emerge as the series reached its mid-point in the first season.
In this television series, Nikita (Peta Wilson) is portrayed as a homeless urchin, living on the streets. In a cruel twist of fate, a jury later finds her guilty of a murder she did not commit. Condemned to spend the rest of her life in prison, Nikita is plucked out of her long-term punishment by Michael (Roy Dupuis), an operative for the ultra-secret anti-terrorism organization simply called Section One. According to Michael, the Nikita that she once knew is now considered dead, her death faked to erase her former identity from the system. Recognizing her potential and planning to train her into a beautiful but deadly assassin, Michael offers Nikita a “take it or die” ultimatum: join Section One or her fake death becomes a reality. Obviously with no other way out, Nikita agrees to become a Section One operative, undergoing a total makeover and physical and weapons training. Backing up Nikita is an able cast of characters that include Walter (Don Francks), a weapons expert whose James Bond-esque gadgets helps get her out of many sticky situations, Seymour Birkoff (Matthew Ferguson), the resident computer whiz kid and Madeline (Alberta Watson), Section One’s second-in-command and a sometimes-Machiavellian figure.
A major change from the original movie is that the character of Nikita in the TV series is not portrayed as a convicted killer but a wayward street person caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. This change makes Nikita a more compelling and complicated character, as she struggles with her unwanted new identity as a killer against her own conscience. To become a deadly and successful assassin, one must have absolutely no remorse or hesitation to kill in order to complete the assignment. Unfortunately for Nikita, doing the right thing is not always part of the job description and she gets into trouble early with Operations (Eugene Robert Glazer), the head of Section One, a ruthless leader who doesn’t think twice about risking the lives of his operatives in order to get the job done. This sets her apart from the rest of the operatives at Section One as she battles both her heart that wants to do the right thing and the assignment’s primary objective that only has one goal in mind, complete it at all costs.
The premiere episode goes through the background of Nikita’s recruitment and training swiftly and even recreates (almost identically) the explosive restaurant scene featured prominently in both of the “Nikita” movies. Serving as her first test, the gunfight at the restaurant bolsters Michael's confidence in Nikita's ability to competently get herself out of a jam. In her next assignment, Nikita, now going by the codename “Josephine”, bungles her assignment when she hesitated in shooting a bad guy disguised as a waiter. In the early going, Michael had to come to her defense quite a number of times to keep Operations from cutting her loose, which meant having her disposed of. Slowly but surely, Nikita’s penchant for doing the right thing begins to rub off on Michael, projecting a human side to the clandestine operations that is often cold and surgical, preferring to categorize everything else other than the mission objective as collateral damage and expandable.
In trying to keep viewer interest for the show high, an often-predictable romantic relationship between Nikita and Michael is allowed to flourish. Starting off as more of a love-hate relationship, the sexual tension between the two attractive leads got to be as big a deal as the Mulder-Scully relationship on the X-Files. The first real hint of their attraction to each other comes early, in the episode “Love”, where Michael and Nikita infiltrate a terrorist organization posing as an attractive and sexy couple who also happen to be mercenaries. Not always agreeing with Section One’s decisions when it comes to collateral damage, Nikita gets upset by some preventable civilian deaths that are allowed to happen on this assignment. To show her displeasure, Nikita almost gets their cover blown, but manages to come around at the most crucial time to “perform” with Michael for the viewing pleasure of the voyeuristic terrorist leader. It is hard to decipher whether Nikita’s feelings for Michael is genuine as her passionate performance is so convincing that it creates more questions than answer them. With this key episode, the expected rumors and gossip of an impending relationship between the show’s two leads start flying with gusto among the more dedicated fans of the show. However, as the writers of the show concede, putting those two into a relationship this early is definitely out of the question. It just makes better sense to stretch this thread out as much as possible to create much-needed buzz and interest in the show.
Gorgeous Australian unknown, Peta Wilson emerged from nowhere to land the coveted role of Nikita. Wilson is the perfect actress for the job as she is obviously very beautiful and her unknown quality makes her mysterious, unpredictable and vulnerable, the best possible combination of traits for the role of Nikita. An interesting revelation, told by the show’s creator, Joel Surnow in the audio commentary during the premiere episode, reveals how, early on in the series, the producers hated Roy Dupuis’ rather bland interpretation of the character Michael. They were unfortunately hopelessly stuck with the image of Bob from the original French movie, for which Dupuis’ character is based on. However, Dupuis, through his superb acting and perseverance, later managed to bring them around in accepting the way he plays Michael.
News of “LFN”’s demise started surfacing at the end of its fourth season with the changing of the guard at USA Networks. Instead of resigning themselves to the sad fact that their favorite series is kaput, fan of the series began mobilizing for an intense campaign that eventually brought the series back from the dead for another season. According to the network, it received more than 25,000 letters and e-mail from fans not only in the U.S but also from around the world. It is a remarkable feat by the fans, who demanded that questions left hanging at the end of the fourth season be answered with new episodes. Eventually a fifth season, shortened to just eight episodes, was ordered and the rest, as they say, is part of television history.
Although “LFN” only completed its abbreviated run of five seasons on USA, the series did blaze a trail for future female secret agent-type characters on television. It set the stage perfectly for the very popular ABC series “Alias”, which help launch Jennifer Garner’s blossoming career....
For a television show that first aired six years ago, the video quality holds up pretty well. Although somewhat soft and a little grainy in certain parts, the fullscreen video for the entire first season of “LFN” is comparable to any recent releases of made-for-TV series. Three subtitle options are available on this DVD set: English, Spanish and French.
Audio is presented in Dolby Surround 2.0 and has very active surround qualities. Dialogue is crisp and clear but the audio standout happens when the action heats up on screen. Nice front and surround effects during action scenes create a delightful viewing experience. Only English is offered as an audio option.
On Disc 1, there is an audio commentary of the first episode “Nikita” by writers/creative consultants Joel Surnow and Robert Cochran and director Jon Cassar. A rather interesting listen as the trio give out anecdotal tidbits about the background of how the show came about and also the actors and sets. Also included on Disc 1 are four deleted scenes--2 from “Nikita”, 1 each from “Friend” and “Simone”--together with optional audio commentary by Surnow.
Other deleted scenes appear on Disc 2 (three deleted scenes from the episode “Charity”) and on Disc 3 (one deleted scene each from the episodes “Gray” and “Choice”)
On Disc 6, an audio commentary by Joel Surnow is offered on the final episode, “Mercy”. To round up the extras, a 12-minute behind-the-scenes documentary titled “Section One Declassified: The Making of La Femme Nikita” is also available on Disc 6. A talking heads love-fest, this documentary features interviews with Surnow, Cochran, Cassar and most of the principal actors.
The six discs are nicely placed onto multi-disc trays that open like the pages of a book.
Joel Surnow, the co-creator of the “La Femme Nikita” series, is also the creator, together with Robert Cochran of my favorite television show ever, the thrilling action-oriented real-time series, “24”. Although not as tense as “24”, the first season of “La Femme Nikita” shows real promise. The writers are able to create characters that are not only intriguing but are able to develop a bond with its audience. People get hooked on shows that have characters that they can care about and “LFN” have plenty of those. I thoroughly enjoyed this first season of “LFN” even though I have never caught a single episode of it when it first aired. The writing and character development during this first season improves with each episode, setting up nicely for the anticipated second season.
Film Value: 7/10
Review at CurrentFilm.com
Director Luc Besson's "La Femme Nikita" became an international hit several years ago. The film featured a woman from the streets (Anne Parillaud) recruited to be a government assassin. There was also an American remake, nowhere near as good, starring Bridget Fonda ("Point of No Return"). Despite the fact that the American remake was not well-received, the original still managed to suggest that there could be additional adventures in the works for the character.
"La Femme Nikita", the TV show, stars Petra Wilson as Nikita, a woman wrongly convicted for murder who is given a second chance, working for the government as a spy/assassin, followed closely by her "handler" Michael (Roy Dupuis). The show follows Nikita each week as she goes on another mission to try and take down terrorists and other criminals. The show, which ran for several seasons from 1997-2001, was produced by Joel Surnow and Robert Cochran, both of whom became instrumental in creating the popular Fox series "24".
It's rather easy to see why the show gained such a devoted following over the years it ran. Wilson, who is remarkably attractive (has sort of a Gwyneth Paltrow/Jewel thing going on), is also a strong actress that capably portrays the complex emotions involved with some of the darker tasks that she must carry out. It's a dynamic performance that smoothly shows both the vicious side and the human feelings/emotions within the character. Supporting performances are also superb; characters are well-developed and believably shady/complex. Despite what appears to be a limited budget (the show does have a rather "basic cable" appearance, especially in the opening credits), it appears the producers have worked with what they have intelligently, leading to action scenes that are suspenseful, well-staged and occasionally, rather clever.
The only thing that I have to say I didn't entirely care for was Mark Snow's score. While the composer, famed for his work on the "X-Files", does a fine job here, it's simply that the show doesn't seem to need to be as "score-heavy" as it is. Some of the scenes could have gained tension had they simply stayed quiet. The whole show - I'm not sure if it's this way in later seasons, as this DVD set is all I've watched of it - seems a little music-heavy. Overall, though, I thought this first season showed a compelling and highly watchable series. I'm surprised that Peta Wilson hasn't become a bigger star as a result.
VIDEO: "La Femme Nikita" is presented by Warner Brothers in the show's original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio. All of the 22 episodes were presented across 6 dual-layer discs, which I think nicely spaced them out. TV shows on DVD sometimes seem compressed onto only a few discs to try and keep costs down, resulting in inconsistent image quality. Here, episodes consistently remained sharp and well-defined, with very nice definition, clarity and shadow detail. Although some minor shimmering was occasionally visible, the picture did not suffer from any edge enhancement or pixelation. Colors could occasionally appear a tad soft, although this seemed to be the intentional look. However, colors most appeared crisp, accurate and well-rendered. English/French/Spanish subtitles are offered.
SOUND: The Dolby Surround soundtrack remained crisp and clear throughout all episodes. Sound effects and music offered a very respectable punch for a 2.0 TV soundtrack, while dialogue sounded pretty natural. Nicely done, although the material suggests a 5.1 soundtrack may have added to the experience.
EXTRAS: Joel Surnow, John Cassar and Robert Cochran offer an audo commentary for the first episode of the season, while Surnow offers a commentary for the last episode. For the first episode, the group starts off discussing the conception of the show and compliment those involved. After that's out of the way, they go into greater detail about issues like casting, budget, locations (Canada) and discuss the inspirations for the look of the show and how action scenes were constructed. Surnow's commentary for the finale provides a wrap-up of the season and overview of the first series.
A 12-minute "making of" documentary, which compresses a lot of insight about casting and character into a short period, is offered, as are 9 deleted scenes w/commentary.
Final Thoughts: "La Femme Nikita" is an excellent continuation of Luc Besson's film, lead primarily by an intoxicating and delightful performance from Peta Wilson, whose athleticism, personality and exotic looks are fascinating to watch. The DVD set offers very good features, audio and video quality. Recommended.
Review by Matt Brighton, DVD/Authority
La Femme Nikita is most likely remembered by the movie that came out some 13 years ago. It was then re-made into an “American” version starring Bridget Fonda and essentially retitled “Point of No Return”. However, the movie was popular enough (and director Luc Besson was popular enough as well) that the show was turned into a television show that ran on the USA Network for five years. The characters and the story are the same, but if you liked the movie then you’ll most likely want to see more adventures of Nikita. The show, now cancelled, was among the most popular in syndication history. Fans have been bombarding Warner Video with requests to get the show on DVD and now that’s happened! Of course, we all know the story of La Femme Nikita; but in case you don’t, here’s a quick recap. Nikita (Peta Wilson) is an operative whose sole purpose is to fight terrorism (a word that has taken on much more meaning since the show first aired). She was rescued by “Section One” after she was wrongly accused for murdering a police officer. Michael (Roy Dupuis) is her mentor who trains her to kill and become an even more elusive and better agent than she was before. Naturally, with every new week brought a new episode and all of the first season is here on 6 discs. Below are some episode capsules from the first season of La Femme Nikita.
The series, as we might expect, is shown in it’s original aspect ratio of 1.33:1. Lacking the benefit of anamorphic enhancement, this picture still looks pretty clean and clear; as the series isn’t that old to take on many artifacts and such. Though at times there seems to be a slight problem with edge enhancement and some of the scenes do look oversaturated from time to time. Aside from that, it’s a very respectable transfer and the droves of fans of this series will be more than happy to see how this is represented on DVD here. Another top-notch effort from Warner here.
Unlike the movie, which was re-mastered for 5.1 sound (albeit in French), all we get here is a Dolby Surround mix. Like many television shows, this is really all that’s needed here as the effects and such were meant for TV, not home theater. Still, the track is rather robust at times providing a depth that I really didn’t think possible. Granted, it’s during scenes in which you might expect the sound to shine (a car chase, guns firing, etc.); but for a television show, I was rather impressed. Dialogue is very clean as well, sounding very natural.
The main draw here is the audio commentaries on the season opener and the latter finale episodes. The tracks are very much alike in the sense that they know they’re dealing with a cult hit almost immediately. The don’t talk about the movie quite as much, but it’s an underlying item. Essentially, fans of this will most likely listen to the tracks right after they watch the episodes. While I wasn’t too taken with the commentaries, they’re a welcome addition to the set and I’m certain they’ll be present on future seasons. We don’t really think that television series have scenes that get taken out, but we’re wrong! There are nine deleted scenes (labeled as “cancelled”) that are shown in their entirety. Though not a lot is learned from them, they, like the commentaries, are a welcome addition to the disc. I can see why a few were deleted though (after watching countless deleted scenes off other discs, it’s clear to see why some really were cut and some made the final product). Lastly, a featurette entitled “Section One Declassified: The Making of La Femme Nikita” is included. This, like so many others, is just an extended promo piece, albeit with interviews with the stars and how the show came to be, etc. A bit of fluff material here, but again, the die hard fans of the show will eat it up. All in all, a rather nice set by Warner. A bit on the pricey side, though (by Warner’s standards); but this was produced by fan response, so we’ll pay it!
Review by Don Houston, DVD Talk
Television series that are derived from a movie are often pretty weak. Anybody ever watching My Big Fat Greek Life can attest to that. Some of the time though, thoughtful writing, good direction, and a talented cast can combine to effectively explore the themes of a movie in areas that a movie, by the time constraints imposed of a single movie if nothing else, in better ways. such is the case with a now finished cable television series known as La Femme Nikita also known as Nikita.
The French movie centered on a woman who was part of a burglary/murder of a pharmacy. Hoping to score some great drugs and maybe cash, she joined a few other losers and tried to knock the place off. After a grisly shoot out, she is caught and sentenced to die. In a twisted form of reprieve, she is recruited by a secret organization that does all the things that governments do, such as assassinations, with the proviso that she will be killed if she doesn't do everything she's told. Not exactly a great career choice, huh?
The television series glosses over the origin a bit and makes the lead character, Nikita (Peta Wilson), a street person who scrapes by to make a living. Caught up in circumstances beyond her control, this time innocent of murder, she is trained and put to work for an anti-terrorist unit known only as Section One. Her boss, Michael (Roy Dupuis), ruthless and cold, puts her in situations where if she really can't kill, as she has told him, she'll simply die and be done with. Sounds a bit like working in a major corporation to me (except for the death part).
The six disc set has the entire first season of 22 episodes which slowly expand upon the movie in a number of ways. One of the best being that Nikita's office romance is always understated but grows (with each season -- sorry for the spoiler) in subtle ways. The characters are all pretty distinct too -- the computer nerd isn't just a loser, Michael isn't just a cold control freak, and a host of others, all of whom develop over the course of the series. Some die off, some move on, but they generally aren't stagnating like too many shows that are produced by "suits" who don't want to mess with a profitable franchise.
Now, if the characters grow, that's a sign of usually good writing but what about the direction of the show? All too often, even in the best series, a hodge podge of directors will come in and often enough, screw things up by not having the knowledge of where the characters have been, if not have a somewhat limited grasp on the technical aspects of a show. Of the nearly dozen directors from the first season, I don't think any were really bad just as the ensemble of writers seemed to do pretty well too (both groups having some rough edges in terms of how certain shows were handled).
If the technical and writing were solid, on average at least, what about the chemistry of the actors and their abilities? Thankfully, the two main characters, Peta (not related to the activist group, People Eating Tasty Animals) and Roy, were great together. That said, many of the supporting cast were actually even more talented, or better written in some episodes, the first who comes to mind is Alberta Watson as Madeline, which made this a lot of fun to watch. In all, I think the team effort here showed a lot more than in similar series, and that the producers spent a lot of time listening to fans (on internet websites), adjusting the content and direction when it made sense, speaks volumes as to why the show lasted five seasons.
I liked the original movie a lot. It had a gritty edge to it that most domestically made movies typically lack. That said, I was a snob about the series while it was in production. How could it possibly match the intensity of the movie, I thought. Well, it was definitely a show of it's own with it's own strengths and weaknesses, and a different personality to match. After watching this one over the last couple of days, I can't wait to see the following seasons on dvd since a few friends have indicated that they liked the first season but later seasons were even better. If they are presented like this boxed set, they too will have earned a Highly Recommended rating.
Picture: The picture was presented in the original 1.33:1 ratio full frame color. While there were some compression artifacts once in awhile, this was so much better than my cable television version, I'd be lying to you if I said I noticed any major problems. From the flesh tones to the dark scenes (which were sometimes lit poorly/too low on purpose per the commentary track to add to the feel), a lot of work went into this one.
Sound: The sound was presented in Dolby Digital Surround stereo English with optional English, French or Spanish subtitles. The audio did have some separation that added to the suspenseful moments and was always clear and crisp.
Extras: Unlike some older shows, this one had some good extras to check out. There were two commentary tracks, one on the first episode by Joel Surnow, writer Robert Cochran, and Director Jon Cassar and on the season finale by Joel. Both tracks added some background to the story and the series in general-it's only a shame that there weren't more of them for the legions of fans. The next extra was a bunch of deleted scenes, most of which were good enough that they could've been kept in-and all of them had an optional commentary track to explain why they were cut. There was also a Making Of... documentary that showed the cast and crew making the show and explaining it a bit. Lastly, there was a great paper insert booklet that provided details for the episodes and some nice pictures of the cast. On a related note, the box itself was kind of flimsy but the dvd holder, which was one of those ones where all the dvd holders are made of hard, clear plastic, seemed quite durable.
Final Thoughts: Lots of bang for your buck here made this one a lot of fun to watch and enjoy. Heck, it converted me into something of a fan -- not an easy task considering how long some friends have been working on me over it. Cast, crew, value, and decent extras combine to make this a winner. In the future, maybe the producers can get cast members to provide audio commentaries or at least some of the directors and technical crew. Good job!
Review by D.K. Holm, DVD Journal
A woman is torn between her compassionate side and the needs of her employer. She is also torn between the newfound skills she has acquired and the lure of domesticity represented by the co-worker she finds herself falling for. And her bosses are irritable, cold-hearted authoritarians whose decisions are irreversible. Sound familiar? It's La Femme Nikita — and practically every other dramatic series on television. Though on the surface La Femme Nikita is about a virulent team of anti-terrorists, like most shows it is really about the workplace and how to cope with it: how to deal with bosses you don't like, how to handle tasks you don't approve of, and how to survive work-related romances. What's also unusual is that the Toronto-based Nikita is one of the best shows derived from a movie, in this case quite obviously Luc Besson's rambunctiously Americanized film of the same title released in 1990 (an American remake starring Bridget Fonda and called Point of No Return was released in 1993, and in fact the series occasionally uses shots from this film). Long before Jennifer Garner was recruited off a college campus as a spy on Alias, the titular Nikita was convicted of a murder (one that in the show she didn't commit) and though officially sentenced to death, was really scooped up by scouts for a top-secret government anti-terrorist agency. The first season follows the original movie closely and more or less covers the full narrative arc of its source, from homeless person Nikita (the exotic Peta Wilson) joining Section One, her training as an assassin, her tentative romance with her supervisor Michael (Roy Dupuis), and her final disappearance. The first season ends where the film ends, but on television Nikita battled on for four more seasons. In a way it's ever so appropriate that Nikita ended up on Oxygen after its run on the USA Network; the show's concerns are very much those of American series, which is to say women's concerns, such as making moral choices that don't harm one's integrity in a world more or less run by men with male values. La Femme Nikita also happens to be one of the best shows based on a movie (M*A*S*H the show was better than the movie, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer is so far superior to the source film as to render it null). The producers of Nikita also understand that television acting is all about the eyes, which are active within an otherwise expressionless face. The television screen is both too small yet too closely intimate at the same time, and the stars who take viewers by storm almost always have rather expressionless faces, making them able to be framed tightly without evincing actorial quirks that later prove embarrassing. The first season includes a number of fine episodes: "Love," in which Nikita and Michael pose as a married couple, "Recruit," wherein Nikita is called upon to judge a new Section One member not unlike herself, and "Noise," in which the viewer learns more about computer expert Birkof (Matthew Ferguson). From its coital theme-song to its array of Alias-style costume changes, from its cold-blooded men to its hierarchy of repressed, locked down people, the 22-episode first season of Nikita is a weirdly sexy show. Its set and costume design and music all conspire to elevate Nikita above the usual run of team-oriented syndicated action series. Warner Home Video has put together a fine package of the first season, with sharp full-frame transfers. The six-disc set comes unusually lavished with extras, which appear on discs One, Two, Three, and Six. First off is a commentary track by Joel Surnow and Robert Cochran (who also came up with 24), along with director John Cassar. The difference between television tracks and movie tracks is that (in one reviewer's experience, anyway), the TV tracks tend to be more honest. In the first of the set's two tracks, the three men are surprisingly frank about tricks, flaws, and any problems they had with the show (such as a soon-discarded set). Thus, when they say something good, such as about Wilson's remarkable ability to combine playfulness, lethalness, and concern in one character, we believe that they really believe it. Surnow does a track for the 22nd episode. There also are nine deleted scenes with optional Surnow commentary (some good, some bad, but as a whole tending to present a more emotional Michael and a more girlish Nikita). On Disc Six there's a 12-minute doc called "Section One Declassified: The Making of La Femme Nikita" that is about 40 percent better than the usual thinly disguised trailer. In it, we learn (as we also do on the first audio track) that the show's creators at first hated Dupuis (emotionless, talked too low, moved too slow) until they got hip to the subtle interpretation he had brought to the role. Subtitles come in English, French, and Spanish. Six-disc folding digipak with slipcase.
Review by Dennis Landmann, MovieFreak.com
The first season of La Femme Nikita premiered on the USA network in 1997, some seven years after the original Nikita directed by Luc Besson. The French import also inspired a 1994 remake with Bridget Fonda playing the troubled heroine Nikita. Responsible for the five-year series are 24 co-creators Robert Cochran and Joel Surnow, who are credited as creative consultant and executive consultant, respectively, as well as Jay Firestone (executive producer) and Jamie Paul Rock (producer). La Femme Nikita takes inspiration from Luc Besson’s film, but ultimately goes down a different road—Nikita stays with the secret organization and takes part in weekly secret operations against the enemies of the free world (to put it lightly). The show is generally clever and shows signs of originality.
The first ten minutes of the premiere episode "Nikita" deals with the introduction and training of the troubled girl-turned-agent. The episode assumes viewers are already familiar with the story, which is a good thing. It also incorporates a few memorable scenes from the original film, such as the dinner take-out which covers for Nikita’s first mission. The rest of the episode then plays out its first mission-against-terrorist plot of the week, if you know what I mean. Every week there is a new mission, and most of them fair well. Some story plots lack intensity, but generally each episode is clever, and features some exciting and well-executed action.
Peta Wilson plays Nikita, taking over the reigns of French actress Anne Parillaud and Fonda. She brings her own looks, charms, and vulnerabilities to the role. Her performance is what holds the show together—and sometimes she even likes to break off into an accent, but maybe it’s just me noticing it (though she is from Australia originally). Backing up Peta Wilson is the Section One team, most prominently is Roy Dupuis playing Michael, her mentor and section leader. Dupuis replaces the Tcheky Karyo character from the Luc Besson film and overall he does a pretty good job; he’s flexible and adapts to all kinds of situations. Rounding out Section One is Birkoff (Matthew Ferguson), the resident computer whiz, Walter (Don Francks), the gadget provider, Operations (Eugene Robert Glazer), the man behind the whole show, also known as Paul Wolfe, and Madeline (Alberta Watson), psychology and interrogations specialist.
For a basic cable show La Femme Nikita offers more than meets the eye. Even though the limited budget shows, the creative team makes sure each character and subplot progresses, as well as creating some well-executed action pieces. On the other hand, the show breaks into music mode too often, most evident when Nikita picks up the phone and hears her code name "Josephine." [Cue Sean Callery’s music.] The music is generally very good, but talk about music overkill. Also, Mark Snow’s theme song is disappointing. Known for scoring the X-Files series, here his opening and closing theme sounds recycled and simply too weak. The credit sequence looks a little weak as well.
Despite those minor faults, La Femme Nikita holds up as a generally clever and exciting show. With Peta Wilson as a relatively strong lead, the show’s first season proves to be more than just basic cable television. The second season is something to look forward to, and perhaps it will also show some basic improvement. All in all, La Femme Nikita is a pretty decent show.
Here is a breakdown of all 22 first season episodes as they are spaced out on six dual-layer discs
7 out of 10
Warner Bros. presents La Femme Nikita in the show's original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio. Colors look accurate, vivid, and crisp, though some appear a little too soft. Color detail is fine and mostly accurate. No compression artifacts or pixelation occurs as all 22 episodes are nicely spread out over 6 dual-layer discs. Edge enhancement is also not visible, although shimmering appears in some instances. Also, dark tones and black levels are a little inconsistent. Overall, La Femme Nikita looks very decent.
7 out of 10
Warner Bros. presents La Femme Nikita in English 2.0 Dolby Surround Sound. For a TV show this transfer is pretty decent. It gets the essence of the show across just fine, with some good punch in the soundtrack. Dialog scenes are clear and easy to understand. Sound effects come across fairly well from the front speakers. Sean Callery’s music plays out quite nicely in this transfer, even though there is a little bit too much of it. This is a pretty decent audio presentation altogether, but La Femme Nikita could’ve benefited from a 5.1 track no doubt.
7 out of 10
Commentaries – Joel Surnow, Robert Cochran, and Jon Cassar provide commentary on the first episode called "Nikita." They engage in some interesting conversations as they talk about the show’s casting, budget, and locations, but also touch on the story of the show. The second audio commentary is for the season finale entitled "Mercy." Here Joel Surnow continues talk about the show and wraps up some things about the first season. All in all, these two commentaries are perfectly decent.
Section One Declassified: The Making of La Femme Nikita (~12 mins) – This documentary addresses quite a few things in a relatively short amount of time. It includes information about the show’s character and casting, backed up by interviews with cast and crew. Again, this making-of is a little short, but it makes for a pretty good extra.
9 Cancelled Scenes – These come with optional commentary by Joel Surnow and are spread across discs 1, 2, 3, and 6. As Surnow explains, most of the scenes—which are all presented in standard full-frame—are not in the show because of timing issues, yet they provide some additional subplots, such as Nikita spending time with her friend next door. They all vary in length; one goes on for over three minutes. Surnow’s comments here are sparse, but then again you don’t have to listen to them.
The boxed set arrives in fairly durable packaging. It's one whole set with three back-to-back, hard plastic cases that folds back and forth. The DVD cover is a little unexciting; yes, Peta Wilson looks sexy, but the purple background is too weak and simple.
You can select to view the episodes with optional English, French, and Spanish subtitles. The DVD’s menus are not animated. Each episode runs approximately 44 minutes and is organized into 6 chapters.
5 out of 10
The first season of La Femme Nikita is pretty decent. Despite lacking intensity, episodes are generally clever and feature exciting action scenes. Warner Bros. presents the show in pretty decent video and audio transfers. With a decent set of special features, La Femme Nikita comes recommended. Fans of the show might find the list price of $99.95 worth it, though it’s a high price. Newcomers, and fans alike, might want to hold off and seek out the set for retail price only (it is available for $69.95 in some places).
Review by Michael Patrick Sullivan, Underground Online
La Femme Nikita is the television series based on the French film of the same name by Luc Besson (and its American remake, Point of No Return). It stars Peta Wilson as the titular Nikita, a not-entirely willing agent of a secret governmental organization.
Those familiar with the original films will find this version to be fairly mutated. Those unfamiliar with the films are probably in the best position to get enjoyment from the television series. The primary difference is that the films did not provide an open ending for ongoing adventures. The nature of the government organization has changed. New characters are present, and some have been changed from the template of the originals.
La Femme Nikita follows Wilson's character from her humble beginnings in a street life that comes to an abrupt halt when she is picked up by police for a murder that she didn't commit. Section One, a no-holds-barred anti-terrorist organization, sees her as a perfect candidate to become one of their operatives. As she's a wastrel and entirely alone, the organization believes she'll be inclined to serve as their operative and assassin rather than facing a death sentence.
The series is notable to fans of today's secret agent/anti-terrorist television, as it is an earlier foray into the genre by several of the creative minds behind the ground-breaking 24. But while 24 is based in a strong sense of reality, La Femme Nikita is much more of a fantasy spy story. Still, some of the ethics of anti-terrorism employed in 24 are first seen here, and in harsher execution.
Nikita was a Canadian production that ran on the USA Network in the United States for five seasons (so it's obviously considered to be a success). Given these origins, one can imagine the budget was considerably less than your average network series. This comes through in some of the earliest episodes, but as the set progresses, there is a more professional look and some familiar faces from American television begin popping up amidst the swell of unknown Canadian actors.
Two things really shine in this first season. Firstly, Peta Wilson's portray of an extremely lethal secret agent who would like to be anything but an extremely lethal secret agent is very affecting, especially in the earlier episodes. As the series moves on, there is a sense of comfort, or more likely familiarity, but throughout the season, she is tested in many ways, and the result is not always what you would expect.
That would be the second great aspect of La Femme Nikita: The writing. The likes of Joel Surnow and Michael Loceff (among others) pull no punches as each story contends with the collateral damage of dead civilians, the possibility and occasional need to kill the Section's own agents and the blatant "use" of unwitting human beings in order to further the goals of the Section. It is truly not a story of good versus evil or right versus wrong. It's all about the grey areas.
La Femme Nikita is presented as it was shot and aired, in 1.33:1 fullframe. Unlike many of today's action dramas, Nikita was also shot in a very crisp and colorful manner with use of both film and video, sometimes resulting in some unusual color palettes that are perhaps even better viewed in the digital format than when they were originally screened.
Audio is presented in the standard Dolby Digital Surround Stereo 2.0 for the English track. French and Spanish language tracks are also available.
The extras are commensurate with a release of this nature. Two commentary tracks are available. Producer Surnow and director Jon Cassar give an insight into adapting Nikita to the small screen on the commentary for the pilot, while Surnow goes it alone on the season finale.
There are also nine deleted scenes from the season that are viewable with or without commentary. Some of these provide an interesting look at the plot prior to the final version. Others, as is often the case, simply prove why they were deleted in the first place. For a further look behind the scenes, the producers have included Section One Declassified: The Making of La Femme Nikita. Informative, but really nothing more than the standard featurette one finds on any number of TV series releases.
Lastly, Warner Bros. continues to provide the option of playing all episodes on a disc in one continuous run, something that TV set big boy Fox still fails to do on release after release.
The Show: B. La Femme Nikita is its own show, separate from the movies, but its shoestring production tends to tug on first-rate writing.
The Look: B-. Once again, low production values come through on the digital format.
The Sound: B. Dolby Surround. It's a TV show, what more do you want?
The Extras: B+. Two insightful commentaries from the man who went on to be a driving force behind 24, a run-of-the-mill making-of featurette and a mix of deleted scenes.
Overall: B. 978 minutes of escapist secret-agent fare with one of TV's first strong female action heroes.