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.
- 1 Plot
- 2 Style and presentation
- 3 Characters
- 4 Cast
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.
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 on writing 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 the first season 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, that 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 terrorists and innocents) of intimidation, torture ("The White Room"), murder ("cancellation"), assassination, abduction, suicide operatives ("abeyance" operatives), false imprisonment, and terrorist co-operation. For example, in one early episode Section One hands a woman over to a sadist in exchange for crucial information, 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 brutal 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.
Nikita (Peta Wilson)
Falsely accused of killing a police officer, Nikita is sentenced to life in prison. Soon afterward, she is recruited into Section One when the organization fakes her suicide. As the only truly innocent recruit into Section, her compassion and sympathy constantly conflicts with the often ruthless orders she is given. After spending two years being trained by Michael, Nikita learns to use her beauty as a weapon and becomes an expert in martial arts and ordnance. Initially reluctant to kill (she uses creative measures to avoid having to commit a murder during her first mission), she eventually becomes more efficient at doing so. As field operative level 2, she is used in a wide variety of capacities, from "valentine operative" to assassin, despite her moral qualms, but manages to hold on to her humanity while working for the organization. Eventually, she and Michael become romantically involved, a development that threatens not only their standing in Section One, but their very lives. Their relationship is seen as a threat by Operations and Madeline, and they use a mind-altering method on Nikita to rid her of all emotions. Michael manages to reverse the process, but Nikita's performance takes a more professional tone. In the 5th season, Nikita works directly for Center and evaluates all section One staff. Nikita discovers the real reason she was taken into Section —her father was Mr Jones, the head of Center, the organization that controls Section. His plan was to make Nikita take over as head of Section One and eventually Center. In the series finale, he sacrifices himself to achieve these goals.
Michael Samuel(Roy Dupuis)
- Main cast: Seasons 1–4
- Special guest star: Season 5
Blank-faced, often emotionless and coldly efficient, Michael Samuelle is a former radical student activist whose protest group sparked the Paris Riots of 1984. Not long after being sent to prison, he is recruited into Section One. He graduates nine months early directly as a level 3 operative. He becomes one of their most successful and respected operatives. A few years later, however, the apparent death of his wife, Simone—a fellow Section operative whom he married against the wishes of Operations and Madeline, affects him greatly but not enough to grant cancellation. He completely shuts down emotionally, becoming almost an automaton. It is not until Nikita enters the organization that he begins to open up emotionally once again. Simone is revealed to still be alive early in the first season and sacrifices her life to exact revenge on her abductor for her years of imprisonment and torture. This time Michael has Nikita to fall back on. Complicating their often difficult relationship is Michael's "blood cover" marriage to Elena Vacek, the daughter of a fearsome terrorist that Section One has pursued for decades. His son, Adam, is a product of that union. After ten years in section, he is a level 5 field operative and team leader and is most likely to succeed Operations. He is quite accurate with firearms, almost never missing a shot, especially while performing acrobatics. He is sent on a suicide mission by Nikita when she evaluates the staff for Center.
Operations (Eugene Robert Glazer)
- Seasons 1–4 (7 shows in season 5)
Level 9, head of Section One. Accountable only to Oversight. A Vietnam veteran, former Lieutenant Paul L. Wolfe was recruited into Section One against his will just before the fall of Saigon. A shrewd and driven man, Operations eventually topples the founder and head of Section One, Adrian, seizing control of the organization himself. While giving lip service to the aims of Section—the eradication of terrorists and the protection of the innocent—Operations uses Section One as his own power base, gaining considerable control over dictators in many regions of the globe. This lust for power brings him into direct conflict with George, head of Oversight, who on many levels despises him, and even Adrian returns from her forced retirement to mount an unsuccessful coup attempt against Operations. He is also distrustful of Nikita, and even attempts to kill her on a number of occasions, but is grudgingly forced to accept her success at completing Section missions. (The same is also true of Operations' relationship to Michael, when he discovers Michael's romantic involvement with Nikita.) Operations and Madeline make for an effective partnership, though it includes a brief romance that sometimes causes complications.
Operations dies attempting to rescue Michael's son, who has been kidnapped by the Collective. Operations is then replaced by Nikita.
Madeline (Alberta Watson)
- Main cast: Seasons 1–4
- Special guest star: Season 5
Madeline is the Level 9 executive strategist, second-in-command, chief tactician, and psychologist for Section One. She is Operations' closest ally and confidante. The ultimate personification of Section One's ideals, she is cold and efficient in the execution of her duties, which often involve using torture to extract information from captured terrorist subjects. A master manipulator, she knows the psyche of each Section operative inside and out, and can push the right buttons to get what she wants from each one each time. This brings her into constant conflict with Nikita, whose independent spirit she grudgingly admires, but overall, views as a threat to her control within the organization. Madeline's "Type One Directive" against Michael's and Nikita's romantic partnership kicked off a chain of events that even Madeline was unable to predict, events that eventually forced her to make choices that had major repercussions on the future of Section One.
However she also knows the limits of the operatives. In one episode Nikita was ordered to cancel an operative and she couldn't do it. She tried and faltered, but Madeline came into the scenes and told Nikita that was enough took the gun from her hand, told her that she could not do her ob. Nikita left to the sound of a gun shot as Madeline carried out the "cancellation".
Seymour Birkoff/Jason Crawford (Matthew Ferguson)
- Main cast: Seasons 1–4
- Special guest star: Season 5
Level 4, head of Comm. Seymour Birkoff is Section One's resident genius, his computer abilities are legendary, he supervises Section missions in progress. He and Walter are close friends despite their wide difference in age, and Nikita sees him like a younger brother. Many years later, Birkoff learns he was one of two twin boys born to a Section operative. The boys became the subject of a Section One psychological comparison, in which Birkoff was kept within Section One, while his brother Jason was adopted by the Crawford family outside the organization. This was due to a fateful flip of the coin by Walter, and when Birkoff discovers this, it permanently strains their relationship. Birkoff's new obsession with leaving Section One leads to the creation of an artificial intelligence program to take his place, in order to create more downtime. Unfortunately, the AI becomes self-aware, and Birkoff sacrifices himself in order to stop it. Quinn replaces him as the head of Comm. His brother Jason is later recruited by Section One, upgraded to level 1 and sent to Center.
Walter (Don Francks)
Level 7, head of Munitions. Walter is the oldest operative in Section One. He is responsible for creating new and necessary gadgets, tools, and weapons for use on Section One operatives' various missions. While he was sexually attracted to Nikita upon her arrival at Section One, Walter becomes her loyal friend and confidante, even participating in a cover-up to hide the ongoing romantic status of Nikita and Michael. Walter's nickname for Nikita, "Sugar", and his bandana were details added by the actor himself. Walter's brief marriage to, and loss of, Belinda, an "abeyance operative" (one who is scheduled to be eliminated or "cancelled" by Section One) -- is ample motivation for his willingness to do anything for revenge for what Walter perceives as Operations' cruelty. However, Operations continues to spare Walter's life, likely because of a long-standing relationship that began in Vietnam and may have included a period where Walter was Operations' Section trainer, though this is informed speculation. In the series finale, after Operations' death, Walter reveals to Quinn that he once saved Operations' life. Operations did not thank him, but also did not cancel him, even though he had many reasons to do so over the years. Walter states: "I guess in the end, we both came out about even".
Quinn (Cindy Dolenc)
- Main cast: Season 5
- Recurring: Season 4
Katherine "Kate" Quinn is Seymour Birkoff's replacement as head of Comm, and is markedly different from her predecessor. Arrogant, sharp-tongued and distrustful of all men, she nevertheless is unflappable in the face of danger and capable of manipulating her superiors when necessary. Forced to work alongside the newly recruited Jason Crawford, she shares a number of humorous exchanges when she becomes the focus of his romantic interests. However, her sights are set on Operations, and she apparently seeks to replace Madeline as the woman at his side in charge of Section One. She is later revealed to be working for Mr. Jones.
Recurring guest stars
Actors who appeared in three episodes or more
- Carlo Rota as Mick Schtoppel (seasons 1–4) / "Mr. Jones" (seasons 4–5 ) / Reginald "Martin" Henderson (Season 5), a flashy, worldly informant, later revealed to be "Mr. Jones", the head of "Center", an organization above Oversight that directs all Sections. Later, Mr. Jones is revealed to be another cover identity. Henderson is exposed as an actor working for Center as a decoy for the real Mr. Jones.
- Lindsay Collins as "Devo" One aka Elizabeth (seasons 1–5)
- Josh Holliday as "Devo" Two aka Henry (seasons 3–5) (In seasons 1–2, "Devo" Two was portrayed by various uncredited extras.)
- Tara Slone as Gail (seasons 1–2), Section operative and Birkoff's girlfriend.
- Anais Granofsky as Carla (seasons 1–2), Nikita's neighbor, later revealed to be an operative for Adrian.
- Bruce Payne as Jurgen (season 2), a ruthless, brutal high-ranked operative.
- Siân Phillips as Adrian (seasons 2, 4), the "Mother" of Section One, who was deposed in a coup orchestrated by Paul and Madeline and seeks to destroy the Section to prevent it from taking over the world.
- David Hemblen as George (seasons 3–4), the head of "Oversight", former lover of Adrian and enemy of Operations.
- Lawrence Bayne as Davenport (seasons 3–4), a Section One operative loyal to Operations.
- Kris Lemche as Greg Hillinger (seasons 2–4), Birkoff's rival in Section One, later revealed to be a mole for Oversight.
- Stephen Shellen as Marco O'Brien (seasons 1, 5), a former police officer who becomes Michael's replacement.
- Samia Shoaib as Elena (seasons 3–4), Michael's wife and daughter of a terrorist.
- Evan Caravela as Adam (seasons 3–5), Michael's son with Elena.
- Kira Clavell as Jasmine Kwong (seasons 4–5), recruit turned Section operative and confidant of Nikita.
- Edward Woodward as Mr. Jones aka Philip, codename 'Flavius' (season 5), the true head of "Center" and Nikita's father.
- Polly Shannon as Michelle (season 5), Mr. Jones's mysterious secretary.
- Kassandra Marr as Kyria (season 5), the spy.
- Conrad Coates as Haled (season 5), the Collective's second in command.
- Aidan Devine as Graff (season 5), the leader of the Collective.
- 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
- 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
- Penisme McGay as Richard
- 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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