Star Trek: The Animated Series: The Lorelei Signal   Rewatch 
May 5, 2020 11:12 PM - Season 1, Episode 4 - Subscribe

The Enterprise is drawn to a planet populated solely by women who dominate the male crew members' minds to the point that Uhura must assume command to rescue them.

Memory Alpha's got some data for us, of course.

Background information
Title, story, script, and production
  • The title of this episode is a reference to the Legend of the Lorelei (also Loreley), which is an old German tale similar to the legend about the Sirens from ancient Greek mythology. Loreley is the name of one of the beautiful Rhine Maidens who lure sailors to the sandbanks and rocks with their alluring singing. (Star Trek Concordance, 2nd ed., p. 80; et al.)
  • This is one of two TAS episodes that feature the most characters voiced by Nichelle Nichols (the other installment being "The Time Trap" for which, in common with this episode, Nichols provided the voices for a total of four different roles).
  • This is the only occasion in either TAS, the original series or the movies when Lieutenant Uhura assumes command of the Enterprise. Gene Roddenberry had always wanted to show her as a capable commander. Though that hadn't been doable in the more sexist 1960s when TOS had been produced, Roddenberry finally got his wish with this episode. (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 1, Issue 17, p. 69) For that reason, Nichelle Nichols held a certain fondness for this installment. (Beyond Uhura, p. 205) David Gerrold remembered, "Nichelle was reading through the script [....] She says, 'I'm taking command of this ship!' And then she goes, 'At last!' She just got so excited." ("Bem" audio commentary) Gerrold also stated, "She just had so much fun with that, and that goes back to who Nichelle is." ("Drawn to the Final Frontier - The Making of Star Trek: The Animated Series", TAS DVD) Uhura also briefly assumes command, though not explicitly stated, in the episode "Bem".
  • In the "Ultimate Guide" in Star Trek Magazine issue 163, p. 25, this episode was rated 4 out of 5 Starfleet arrowhead insignia. Also, the magazine considered the moment where Uhura leads a landing party to save several male officers from the Enterprise as being the "Best Moment" from the animated Star Trek, exclaiming, "Her stun-first-and-ask-questions-later attitude is a joy to behold. Oh, to have seen Nichelle Nichols perform this in a live-action episode."
  • The reference book Star Trek 101, by Terry J. Erdmann and Paula M. Block, cites this episode as the Star Trek: The Animated Series winner of the "Spock's Brain" Award and complains that the "beautiful sirens" in this outing "aren't a lot brighter" than the Eymorgs from the episode "Spock's Brain". The book goes on to question whether the female inhabitants ever think to utilize their male-luring signal to summon help or ask a passing starship if it can take them to a safer planet.
Poster's Log:

The rapid aging of the away team hearkens back to "The Deadly Years", and the use of the transporter to restore the crew to their original state will recur in TAS's "The Counter-Clock Incident", as well as TNG's "Unnatural Selection" and "Rascals".

Nichelle Nichols voices the ship's computer in this outing; she'll do it again in "The Infinite Vulcan".

When Uhura, Chapel, and the all-female security crew beam down, Chapel can briefly be seen wearing a red uniform instead of her blue medical uniform.

I struggle with sleep issues. One of the things that helps is watching familiar television, and I've used TAS for this a few times. Because of that, this is the episode of TAS that was my girlfriend's introduction to the show (she's only watched VOY and PIC otherwise). It's the only one she's completely seen, and she loves it. Uhura taking command of the Enterprise, the all-female security team, the general feeling of empowerment, all of it really spoke to her.

I have mixed but mostly positive opinions about this episode. Spock's ability to precisely imitate the hum necessary to activate the opto-aud feels a little forced, as does the decision to hide in the only thing large enough to be unable to escape from (and, one wonders why the 'trapped' crew members didn't just wait until the urn was full enough to float out). But, Uhura's decisiveness in taking control when the male crew members were incapacitated was such a strong statement for 1973, especially knowing how much Nichelle Nichols had complained about how little Uhura had to do through most of TOS.
posted by hanov3r (8 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It’s probably the best TAS episode (maybe fighting with “wee little Spock” for the honor).
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:49 AM on May 6, 2020

It's top 5 for sure, maybe top 3.
posted by hanov3r at 1:43 PM on May 6, 2020

It really is kind of amazing that live-action Uhura never got to sit in the big chair. The first pilot, "The Cage," not only had a woman as the XO but also in command of the Enterprise for most of it after Pike gets abducted; Uhura even wore command gold for her first couple of appearances. I think that the only other member of the principal cast who never sat in the big chair (or had a command of their own) was McCoy, who wasn't really part of the bridge crew. So, this is great in that respect.

Other great things about the episode: Scotty warbling as the ship slowly sails through space (it's apparently... a Welsh ballad? Way to miss the opportunity to have Scotty do "Loch Lomond"), every Loreleian looking like a Targaryen, music-activated viewscreen, women kicking ass, Kirk having the brilliant idea of hiding in a giant vase right before a rainstorm (and the storm pouring down feet of rain in a short time), the sappy expressions on all the dudes' faces.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:19 PM on May 6, 2020 [3 favorites]

I would put this one just below "Yesteryear", mainly because the loreleis are not nearly as compelling as they could have been (see "Spock's Brain" comment at the top). This would have easily made a good TOS episode.

Though Uhura never got the captain's chair in TOS, she did get to run the helm one time, which was cool. You notice they never let any of the boys sit at the comm station, so obvs she was better cross-trained than the others.
posted by briank at 7:16 AM on May 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

As usual, Alan Dean Foster's adaption adds quite a bit, though I'm going from old memories now- really the only scene I remember is when Uhura needs Engineering to set up a block for the signal, but Scott is out, so she starts to call the assistant chief--wait, he's a guy, OK, third in command of engineering. Yeah, she'll do the job, if she doesn't blow up the ship in her enthusiasm...

Also Foster answered the "Why don't they just wait and float to the top of the jar?" question. As in the jar had a heavy grating on the top, and to hide they dragged it back over the opening... Oops.

I mean for all its got "life force" as a major plot line, it's an excellent episode.
posted by happyroach at 11:08 AM on May 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

That Scotty warbling moment was downright eerie. I love how weird this show is willing to get.

Somewhere in the books or comics, Uhura becomes head of Starfleet Intelligence IIRC. Which makes a lot of sense, though being noncanon, it hardly compensates for her almost Harry Kim-esque career stagnation in canon.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 2:27 PM on May 7, 2020 [2 favorites]

gI had forgotten the Uhura takes command beat but boy did I get excited about it. It is a damn shame we never got to see Nichelle lay it down in charge in a live action episode.

There are some recuperative echoes of “The Cage” here. I kinda wish that in early TNG when they were filing serial numbers off plot elements, sometimes they’d chosen to critique and invert like this.
posted by mwhybark at 11:33 PM on May 7, 2020

posted by vibratory manner of working at 10:35 PM on September 5, 2020

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