“The Lorelei Signal”
Written by Margaret Armen
Directed by Hal Sutherland
Animated Season 1, Episode 4
Production episode 22006
Original air date: September 29, 1973
Captain’s log. The Enterprise is investigating a section of space in which many ships—Federation, Klingon, Romulan—have disappeared over the centuries. The Enterprise detects a signal from the Taurean system on the edge of the sector, one that sounds like a simple tone. The men on the bridge liken it to a summons, though Uhura doesn’t get that vibe from it at all.
As they approach, Uhura summons Chapel to the bridge to see if she sees how weird the men are acting. The men start experiencing audiovisual hallucinations, but Uhura and Chapel see and hear nothing except the signal. Kirk is concerned, but the men soon become completely distracted.
They arrive at Taurean II, and Kirk beams down with Spock, McCoy, and Carver, where they admire the architecture. On the Enterprise, Scotty waxes rhapsodic about the planet in the captain’s log. Meanwhile, Uhura is finding discrepancies in Spock’s readings.
On the planet, Kirk is very nonchalant about examining the planet, and then they come across a mess of women, led by a woman named Theela, who welcome the landing party and invite them to a feast. They control their technology via tones they sing.
All the men are captivated by the women and soon collapse from exhaustion. When they wake up, they’re all wearing odd headbands and they’re all noticeably older. They try to appeal to Theela to let them go back to their ship, but the women refuse, saying that the men are needed—and the landing party are all too weak to resist as the women toss them about.
Uhura and Chapel have female science teams run tests, and they determine that there is a beam coming from the planet that is enervating to humanoid males. Realizing the danger, Uhura immediately takes charge of the ship, posting female security guards on all transporters. Scotty is too busy singing Welsh ditties to really give a damn, so Uhura officially takes command of the Enterprise.
McCoy injects the landing party with a stimulant to help them fight the effects and they manage a prison break. When the women are nearby, the headbands glow, but they don’t when they’re separated—Spock hypothesizes that the women are sucking the life out of the men-folk. Since Spock is the strongest of them, he goes off to find the communicators so they can contact the Enterprise, while the other three hide in a giant urn. Before he collapses from his efforts, Spock manages to get a message to Uhura, who immediately beams down with Chapel and an all-female security team. They stun Theela and her helpers and find Spock, who urges Chapel to use ship’s power to block the signal to the planet.
Uhura questions Theela, who reveals that the planet was colonized by humanoids, but the planet itself drained the life out of the men—the women were immune and they learned to control certain parts of men’s minds. But while the men wither and die, the women are immortal, but sterile.
It starts raining, and the urn is starting to fill with water—Kirk, McCoy, and Carver will drown, but Uhura and her security team manage to destroy the urn with phasers and save them from drowning.
All attempts to revitalize the landing party fail, until Spock hits on using the transporter to rematerialize them with the patterns they had when they beamed down. This somehow works. Theela smashes the device they use to lure ships to the planet and Uhura promises to send an all-woman ship to take them to another world where they can live their lives without having to drain the life from unsuspecting people. No mention of criminal charges of kidnapping and murder is made for some odd reason.
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? The transporter shows the magical ability to restore someone from a previous pattern, a radically impressive use of the technology that should revolutionize medicine from that day forward. It won’t.
Fascinating. Spock is able to keep his mojo a bit better than Kirk, McCoy, or Carver, as he is longer lived and stronger. He also comes up with the crazy-ass plan to save the day.
I’m a doctor not an escalator. McCoy provides the landing party with a stimulant that enables them to escape, though it doesn’t give them enough to later climb out of the urn as it’s filling with rainwater.
Hailing frequencies open. Uhura realizes right away something’s up, and takes all the right steps—getting Chapel to confirm her suspicions, not taking command until she’s verified what’s happening scientifically, and then kicking ass and taking names when she beams down.
It’s not clear why she needed Spock to tell her to send a security team down, though…
I cannot change the laws of physics! While in command of the ship, and under the influence of Theela and her gang, Scotty decides to start singing “Yr Hufen Melyn” (“The Yellow Cream”) by Eifion Wyn. It’s a Welsh ballad, which is surprising coming from the Scotsman, but whatever. It’s certainly grounds for being relieved of command, and at least it sounds nicer than “I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen” or “Heart of Oak” or “Maiden Wine.”
Go put on a red shirt. Carver is part of the landing party and wears red. It’s unclear whether or not he’s security or engineering. Meanwhile, Uhura beams down with a quartet of female security guards.
No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. Spock and Chapel are close enough that Spock can communicate with her telepathically. Hubba.
Channel open. “You’re more handsome than ever.”
Uhura’s response to Kirk being restored to his normal age. The limitations of Filmation’s animation techniques mean we don’t actually see her drooling or waggling her eyebrows….
Welcome aboard. Nichelle Nichols provides four voices—including, strangely, the voice of the Enterprise computer, which is usually done by Majel Barrett, as well as Uhura, Theela’s second in command Dara, and Security Officer Davison. For her part, Barrett does Chapel and Theela. James Doohan plays Scotty, and also provides Carver’s one and only line.
Trivial matters: The title refers to the German legend of the Lorelei, who bewitched men and led them to their deaths.
This is the first time Uhura is seen to be in command of the Enterprise, and only the second time we’ve female members of the security team—the only other one being Tamura in “A Taste of Armageddon.”
Spock’s ability to get Chapel’s attention telepathically probably is a result of their sharing a brain in “Return to Tomorrow.”
To boldly go. “Obstruct them!” I really want to like this episode. It finally puts Uhura in charge of the ship, something that should have happened back in “Catspaw,” if nowhere else, and it’s great fun to watch her kick ass and take names and do much of the work in saving the day. This couldn’t have happened in the live-action series, but the intervening years saw the rise of the “women’s lib” movement, the debut of Ms. magazine, and the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment by Congress. Plus nobody was paying any attention to a kids’ show…
Unfortunately, while Uhura is great in this, and Nichelle Nichols takes full advantage of the opportunity, the actual story is—well, about as good as you would expect from the writer of “The Gamesters of Triskelion,” “The Paradise Syndrome,” and “The Cloud Minders.” To wit, dumber than a box of hair. The woman who ensorcells men is almost literally the oldest story in the book, and—unlike, say, the riff on it done by the other show I’m currently rewatching, which at least gave us Joan Collins—this adds nothing of interest to the legend. Theela and her minions make the Eymorgs of “Spock’s Brain” look like they belong in Mensa.
The stupidities pile up: if Theela and her women can just leave the planet, why haven’t they done so on any of the dozens of ships they’ve nabbed? Also—what happened to the women on those ships? For that matter, what happened to the ships? If the fancy device can find the landing party in the urn, why was Theela sending out search parties to find them earlier?
Of course, it’s still left to Spock to do all the heavy lifting. Yes, Uhura and Chapel are clever and proactive, but it still takes Spock to tell them to beam down a security team, and it’s Spock who comes up with the solution.
And holy crap that solution! The magical transporter fixes all the problems by setting it to reboot in safe mode from an earlier start date. Or whatever it is they do. The notion that the transporter can actually do this is at once amazing and revolting, and it makes no sense, none, that it wasn’t used for medical purposes more often. (They try to fig-leaf its lack of regular use by having Scotty say that either it’ll cure them or kill them, but c’mon. Just the fact that it can work means it should at least be researched for mass use…)
Yeah. I love Uhura in charge, I just wish it was in a good episode.
Warp factor rating: 4
Next week: “More Tribbles, More Troubles”
Keith R.A. DeCandido‘s latest release is the Super City Cops novella Avenging Amethyst, an excerpt of which can be found on this very site. It’s the first of three novellas about police in a city filled with costumed heroes and villains published by Bastei Entertainment. Full information, including the cover, promo copy, ordering links, and another excerpt can be found on Keith’s blog. The next two novellas, Undercover Blues and Secret Identities, will be released in January and February.