The Animated Series’ “The Lorelei Signal” in Review
This episode is inspired by an alluring mythological figure. But is the episode itself as appealing?
Travelling through a mysterious sector where starships have disappeared, the Enterprise receives an enigmatic radio signal. Whereas Uhura likens it to music, the male crew members perceive it as a summons. The ship heads to the signal’s source — the Taurean system. Uhura tells Chapel the crewmen have changed since detecting the signal. The male officers hallucinate blonde women, disrupting their work. In orbit of Planet Two in the Taurean system, Scotty — having assumed command — voices a log entry, mentioning evidence that a vast civilization once inhabited the planet.
Kirk beams down with an all-male landing party. They find a stately-looking temple. Inside, they encounter the same blonde women from their hallucinations. The leader, Theela, explains that a computer called the “opto-aud” revealed the Enterprise to the women. They lured the ship and its men. When Kirk asks about the signal’s purpose, Theela says only that she’s prepared a feast for the newcomers.
The landing party is clearly enchanted with the women and their planet. Theela mentions that the men of this world are in a different compound. The newcomers lose consciousness and Theela sheds a tear. The men reawaken, each wearing a strange circlet around their heads and looking much older.
On the Enterprise, Uhura secures the transporter rooms, planning to take command. While Theela has her women forcibly prevent the landing party from returning to the vessel, Uhura assumes command from a dazed Scotty and promotes Chapel to acting chief medical officer.
Left alone by Theela and her women, McCoy finds his medikit, including a strong stimulant: cortropine. He administers it to the men. They escape, pursued by four women, but hide in an urn. Unable to find the men, the women leave. Spock realises they are using the headbands to drain the males’ energy. Returning to the temple, he consults the opto-aud to locate the landing party’s communicators but is caught trying to retrieve them and faints again.
Uhura beams down with an all-female landing party. They stun Theela’s group with phasers. Spock contacts Chapel telepathically and is recovered by her and Uhura. Rain starts pouring, filling the urn with water.
Theela uses the opto-aud to reveal the planet’s past. Her group’s ancestors arrived, unaware the planet drained humanoid energy. The women adapted, developing glandular secretions to survive and manipulate male brains. However, the secretions drained the males’ energy, causing them to weaken and die.
Theela and the second landing party rescue Kirk’s men. Their physical health is restored thanks to the transporter. Arrangements are made for Theela’s people to be moved to a suitable planet.
This episode’s title refers to Lorelei, a German legend. Lorelei was a Siren (like those in Greek mythology) and lured sailors with enchanting singing. The women remind me of the Sirens from the Odyssey but their depletion of physical vitality is a bit like Krall from Star Trek Beyond. This episode is also similar to Voyager’s “Favorite Son”, though Lisa Klink hadn’t seen this installment when she wrote that one.
It’s odd that, in his initial log entry, Kirk refers to “the Earth Federation,” a rather biased description of the United Federation of Planets. Perhaps Azetbur had a point when, in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, she claims, “The Federation is no more than a homo-sapiens-only club.” However, it’s cool that, in the same log entry, Kirk goes on to reference both the Klingons and Romulans, the two most-seen antagonists of The Original Series.
When the hallucinations begin, Spock likens the signal to a “Vulcan marriage drum.” This strikes me as a bit odd, considering that the episode’s writer, Margaret Armen (a veteran writer of TOS episodes), could have picked a gong or small bells, both of which are in the Vulcan marriage ceremony in “Amok Time”. That said, I guess it does add to the sense of world building in this episode.
Since the men of the Enterprise are already being affected by the signal, I don’t see much sense in beaming an all-male landing party to the planet where the signal is emanating from. However, it’s worth remembering that this is authorised by a commanding officer and a CMO who are already-under-the-influence males.
The background art of the planet’s surface looks suitably exquisite. I also like how William Shatner voices his captain’s log a bit deliriously. The contrast between this and Scotty’s surrealist voiceover, blissfully singing a song while the Enterprise slowly orbits the planet — as if during one of the log extract scenes — is highly amusing. It also seems to poke fun at the hippie movement of the ’60s, with these guys essentially tripping out in a TV series format from that same era.
I love that Uhura is finally shown in command of the Enterprise. However, it’s a bit annoying that she gets there because the male crew members are all incapacitated. It would have been far greater if, instead, she had simply been shown in command after Kirk, Spock and Scotty are incapacitated — demonstrating that Uhura is fourth in command, after those three. In a way, it’s also unfortunate that Nichelle Nichols voices one of the women in Theela’s group, because she sounds very much like Uhura, which is occasionally confusing. Where Uhura excels isn’t in the command chair (unfortunately, the episode doesn’t show us this) but when leading the second landing party.
This is the third episode in a row where Spock is relied upon for a special mission. The moment when he’s shown fainting and the women surrounding him refreshens the trope and is genuinely terrifying, given that he succeeded in his previous two missions — saving his boyhood self from death in “Yesteryear” and telepathically persuading a cosmic cloud to cease a destructive course in “One of Our Planets is Missing”. This time, the viewer is left wondering if Spock will make it. The scene is highly effective.
This, in general, is a nice installment with some fun adventuring but a formulaic plot. Meanwhile, some excellent character development temporarily sees Uhura in command and Chapel as CMO.
Webmaster of WarpFactorTrek, Dan is an avid Star Trek fan who lives in Aberdeen, Scotland. Dan has loved Star Trek ever since discovering it in his childhood. He worked as an administrator, for six years, on the encyclopedic Star Trek website Memory Alpha, which involved studying the making of the various series and films. He has been mentioned in the official Star Trek Magazine, has qualified from a Star Trek course taught at Glasgow Clyde College, and coordinated the SubSpace Chatter (formerly The Scotch Trekker) YouTube channel, which regularly featured live interviews with the cast and crew of Star Trek.