La Femme Nikita, also known as Nikita, is a Canadian action/drama television series based on the French film Nikita by Luc Besson. The series was co-produced by Jay Firestone of Fireworks Entertainment and Warner Brothers. It was adapted for television by Joel Surnow.
The series was first telecast in North America on the USA Network cable channel on January 13, 1997, and ran for five television seasons—until March 2001. The series was also aired in Canada on the over-the-air CTV Television Network. La Femme Nikita was the highest-rated drama on American basic cable during its first two seasons. It was also distributed in some other countries, and it continues to have a strong cult following.
Section One, a clandestine anti-terrorist organization, fakes the death of a jailed, convicted murderer and, believing her twin assets of beauty and ability to kill will make her a valuable new operative, trains her in the fighting skills necessary to succeed in her new job. The new operative, code-named 'Josephine', proves to be somewhat less ruthless than planned, however, as she had been falsely convicted and never murdered anyone.
Style and presentationEdit
Despite being advertised as an action-oriented series, the series' uniqueness primarily stems from its de-emphasis on action as such and greater reliance on well-crafted dialogue and complex plot structures more common to the genre of sophisticated spy-fi as influenced by film noir and neo-noir. Since its inception, the series did not have a large enough budget to finance complex action sequences (as seen in later dramatic spy fiction or spy thriller television series such as Alias or 24). The creative team focused the episodes into the writing of episodes with more complex plot structures, fuller character development, and more substantial dialogue for the series' actors (all of which aspects are less costly than filming special effects in action sequences).
The autonomous nature of Section One allowed the writers of this series freedom to explore areas not usually associated with this genre on television. Nikita's voice-over in Season One establishes the Machiavellian motif of Section One. While founded as a counterterrorism organization (traditionally represented within fiction as good), Section One uses (as a standard) immoral means to achieve its objectives, while still citing efficiency and the ends justify the means and the service of the greater good as justification for its actions. Its standardized implementation of draconian measures includes the use (upon both terrorist and innocent) of intimidation, torture ("The White Room"), murder ("cancellation"), assassination, abduction, suicide operatives ("abeyance" operatives), false imprisonment, and terrorist co-operation. In one early episode, for example, in exchange for crucial information Section One hands a woman over to a sadist knowing she will be carved up.
Unlike most organizations engaged in counterterrorism, Section One's key personnel work neither for monetary gain nor for "pure" ideological devotion; instead, since most of these operatives are purportedly reformed criminals (though their backgrounds are often ambiguous), they work out of fear of execution for substandard performance or disloyalty (fear of being "cancelled"). Such a dynamic based on fear fosters a bleak social environment in which there is little interaction among members (except regarding issues relating to work). This rather paranoid environment, combined with the futuristic hyper-realist setting of the organization, the brutally real nature of counterterrorism, and Section One's particular mantra of efficiency, results in a dark, minimalist ethos reflected or expressed in all aspects of the television series. Most particularly, this is present in its design of costumes and selection and original composition of music, as well as in aspects of dialogue, plot, themes, lighting, and acting modes and camera styles. Also notable are intriguing camera angles and frequent close-ups on actors' facial expressions, focusing especially, during pauses in dialogue or in reaction shots, on their eyes in long takes.
Owing to the harshness (both mental and physical) of the environment in which operatives have to perform, the writing tends not to romanticize any potentially positive aspects of the organization or of most of the series' characters (excluding Nikita, Birkoff or Walter, and, at times, Michael at his most vulnerable). The series generally exudes a dark tone in keeping with the organizational philosophies, the counterterrorist (frequently dangerously violent) situations, and the requisite tactics used by operatives of Section One. Unlimited operational resources for missions coupled with human propensity to hide ulterior motives and individual personal moral relativism lead to widespread intra- and interdepartmental infighting and recurrent secret alliances, backstabbing, blackmail and abuses of power between and among the characters, especially among those in the highest levels of power: Operations, Madeline, and George.
The series explored insights about moral issues emerging from the paradoxical nature of a counterterrorism organization which resorts to terrorist methods to succeed in its own ostensibly altruistic goals, and the attendant dilemmas in which the generally unwilling operatives in such an organization find themselves. Nikita's unwavering belief in a kind of moral absolutism (as opposed to Section One's prescribed philosophy of situational ethics) consistently and coherently motivates the underlying dramatic plot conflicts in the majority of the episodes.
- Peta Wilson as Nikita
- Roy Dupuis as Michael
- Eugene Robert Glazer as Operations / Paul L. Wolfe
- Alberta Watson as Madeline
- Matthew Ferguson as Seymour Birkoff/Jason Crawford
- Don Francks as Walter
- Cindy Dolenc as Quinn
- Carlo Rota as Mick Schtoppel / "Mr. Jones" / Reginald "Martin" Henderson
- Lindsay Collins as "Devo" One aka Elizabeth
- Josh Holliday as "Devo" Two aka Henry (seasons 3–5)
- portrayed by various uncredited extras in seasons 1–2
- Tara Slone as Gail
- Anais Granofsky as Carla
- Bruce Payne as Jurgen
- Siân Phillips as Adrian
- David Hemblen as George
- Lawrence Bayne as Davenport
- Kris Lemche as Greg Hillinger
- Stephen Shellen as Marco O'Brien
- Samia Shoaib as Elena
- Evan Caravela as Adam
- Kira Clavell as Jasmine Kwong
- Edward Woodward as Mr. Jones aka Philip, codename 'Flavius'
- Polly Shannon as Michelle
- Kassandra Marr as Kyria
- Conrad Coates as Haled
- Aidan Devine as Graff
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