Stardate: 5483.7 (2269)
Original Air Date: September 29, 1973
Writer: Margaret Armen
Director: Hal Sutherland
“What are you doing?”
“Taking command of this ship!”
The Enterprise is en route to an unfamiliar sector of space where a series of earth ships have disappeared mysteriously over the last 150 years. Recent discussions with the Klingon and Romulan empires have revealed that a starship has disappeared precisely every 27.346 star years. Suddenly, the Enterprise receives a sub-space radio signal that sounds like a strange form of music, and Spock realizes the ship is being probed by the Taurean system which is located some ten or twenty lightyears away. The Enterprise heads toward the system at warp 7, arriving at the second planet in the Taurean System where Kirk, Spock, Bones, and Lt. Carver form a landing party to investigate the surface where an extraordinarily advanced civilization has been constructed.
However, Uhura begins to grow suspicious. She notices that all the men have been affected by the signals being emitted from this planet, and they begin having enticing hallucinations. Her readings of the planet also contradict what Spock is finding. While Scotty helms the ship, his mind also begins to drift away into a euphoric state as he sings an old traditional Welsh song “Yr Hufen Melyn” (“The Yellow Cream”). Thus, Uhura takes command of the ship.
Meanwhile on the planet’s surface, the landing party encounters a race of humanoid women led by Theela (Majel Barrett) who verbally communicates with their technology via tonal control (i.e. singing a musical note) and the women sedate the Enterprise crewmen using a powerful nectar causing weakness in men. Life-force transferring headbands are placed onto the heads of the crewmen which glow when the female Taureans are near. However, thanks to some quick thinking by Spock, the crew break out of imprisonment, and they are rescued by Uhura’s all-female rescue party, thanks to Spock’s ability to telepathically communicate with Nurse Chapel.
The headbands have each drained much of the life-force from the crewmen, their skin appears frail, wrinkled, and baggy, however they are able to be fully reconstructed via the Enterprise transporter. And in the end the crew are able to actually help the female Taureans –who were previously eternal prisoners unable to age or produce children. Much to their delight, the Enterprise promises to send another Federation ship to bring the female humanoids to a new planet where they may live normal lives.
My Thoughts on “The Lorelei Signal”
While it goes without saying that the animation is a bit stilted and choppy, thus far these episodes of TAS are still fun examples of classic Trek, perhaps this is owing to DC Fontana’s attention and care for the series. In “The Lorelei Signal,” we revisit a science fiction version of the sirens’ song which initially appeared in classical mythology (Homer’s Odyssey). I was particularly struck by the idea of tonal communication to access advanced alien machinery –a fascinating concept which will appear again in future iterations of Star Trek. This is also a great Uhura episode as she takes over command of the ship, and I should also note that TAS allows for some extraordinary set designs like the plant life on the surface of the second Taurean planet.
Margaret Armen (1921-2003) worked from home writing articles for various newspapers while raising her young son. She started writing for several television shows, especially westerns, before writing three episodes of Star Trek TOS: “The Gamesters of Triskelion,” “The Paradise Syndrome,” and “The Cloud Minders.” She also wrote two episodes of TAS “The Lorelei Signal” and “The Ambergris Element.” Armen was invited to write for TAS by DC Fontana.
Star Trek Trivia:
- The title of this episode is a reference to an old Germanic legend (“The Legend of Lorelei”) and also it alludes to the mythological sirens in Homer’s Odyssey.
- This episode was similar to treatment written by Gene Roddenberry for the Original Series entitled “The Venus Planet.”
- In addition to her normal role as Nurse Chapel, Majel Barrett performed the voice of Theela, the head of the Taurean women.
- Nichelle Nichols supplies the voice of security officer Lt. Davison in addition to that of Lt. Uhura.
- James Doohan adds the voice of Lt. Carver to his usual role of Chief Engineer Scott.
- This episode features an amusing sequence in which Doohan sings part of an old Welsh folk song, “Yr Hufen Melyn” (“The Yellow Cream”) as the Enterprise drifts by the planet, in a segment that lasts over half a minute.
- Nichelle Nichols was apparently thrilled that Uhura was offered the chance to command the Enterprise in this episode.
- This episode has one of the closest examples of “Beam me up, Scotty” –a phrase which Kirk never actually says. In this episode, he says, “Beam us up, Scotty.”
- Director Hal Sutherland (1929-2014) directed all episodes of the first season of TAS. He gained early career recognition working on large Disney animation movies before switching to Filmation where he worked on TAS, as well as Flash Gordon, Batman, and Superman animated shows. Notably, pink is a recurring color in TAS. This is because Sutherland was colorblind and thought he was actually selecting the color grey.
A triumph for Nichelle as Uhura and for women of the classic Trek’s Enterprise. Amen. Thank you for your review and trivia.
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