Friday, September 10, 2010

The Animated Series, Season 1: The Lorelei Signal

The Animated Series, Season 1
"The Lorelei Signal"
Airdate: September 23, 1973
6 of 22 produced
4 of 22 produced


The Enterprise is exploring a region of space where ships seem to go missing once every 27.346 star years. It is almost time for the next disappearance. The Enterprise receives a signal that draws it to the Taurean system. There they find a race of beautiful and technologically advanced women. The men of the Enterprise seem to immediately fall under their thrall. Lieutenant Uhura and Nurse Chapel seem to be the only crew members not affected. With most of the crew incapacitated by the siren song of these women, it is up to Uhura to save the Enterprise and her crew. What is the source of these mysterious women's powers? Will Uhura be able to stop them?
With this much mini-skirted fem-power, can there be any doubt?


Kevin: There a lot of ways to gauge if an episode is good. "It made me stand up in my living room and ask aloud 'Why, dear God, why, was this not an episode of The Original Series?!?!?!?'" is a pretty solid one. With a lot of TAS, setting or set up requires the freedom of animation to achieve. Not so here. This would have been a perfect episode for TOS, and I'm thrilled they found a way to tell it here.

It does wonders both for the Star Trek universe and Uhura's character. I loved that she knew something was wrong right away. There was no script-enforced period of stupidity to make the story happen. Once she identified the problem, she acted entirely appropriately for established Starfleet procedure and her own character. I liked the addendum "I take full responsibility," in the log. She knows it's a risky proposition to take command, but she's doing it any because she knows she has to. I also liked how she ordered female only security guards in the transporter rooms, and then Spock asks for female only security teams. I love it when crew independently arrive at the same, correct answer. It does everyone credit.

There are plenty of places where doubling or tripling up with Nichelle Nichols, Majel Barrett, or James Doohan don't quite pan out, but not here. Majel Barrett's contralto voice was perfect for the leader of this society of sirens.

The set-up is a common one in Star Trek, but overall, not an unsatisfying one. We have the society of women preying on men passing by, ala Voyager's "Favorite Son," but this episode is far more satisfying. We have another society adapting to radiation, and an exploration of the costs of a society that finds immortality. For a 22 minute show, we get a lot of meat, if not maybe the more nuanced resolution of a full TOS episode. I also liked the art for this episode. I would have liked some more expansive exploration of the cityscape, but the costume really hit the nail on the head for me of invoking the costumes of William Ware Theiss. Skimpy, but not vulgar.

Overall, for the strength of the Uhura storyline alone, this gets an enthusiastic 5. Character development coupled with a solid outing for some workhorse Star Trek concepts and some neat-o art design make this the quintessential TAS episode.

Matthew: Kevin, I agree with you that this was a meaty set-up for a Trek story. Clearly, it must have been, given that it was riffed on both before and after this episode. It was kind of a bummer that, owing to the restrictions of a "children's" format, they couldn't come out and say that the planet of Glamazons would suck the energy out of the men by some sexual means. Nonetheless, it's a good setup. We got a combination of the male sex slaves of "Wink Of An Eye," the aging crew of "The Deadly Years," and the cloaked planet of TNG's "When the Bough Breaks."

Where I think this episode fell a little bit was in execution. One more voice for the female crew members and the amazon women would have really helped verisimilitude. While Majel Barrett is pretty good at shifting her voice, Nichelle Nichols is not. It always sounds like her, no matter what. I found the notion of Spock singing (in soprano no less) to activate the computer kind of silly. Story logic-wise, it was pretty questionable why the women did not ask their computer where the men were during their chase, when they later did that exact thing. transporter restoration - why don't their brains also get repatterned to forget everything? The transporter fix at the end bugged me. Why don't they use it for immortality? 99.7 to 1 odds sound pretty good in the face of certain death.

OK, all that said, it was great to see the female crew members shine, especially Uhura. Big props go to the writers of this episode for Uhura's "taking command" scene. Also very nice was the character interplay - the Spock/Chapel relationship was referenced, as well as the Uhura/Kirk connection. It's great when an animated show can have that level of nuance and reference. We get a rare TOS-era yellow alert, as well.

Given the mixed bag, I can't give this a 5. But I do think it is an above-average tale. So I'm going with a 4, for a total of a 9.

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