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Star Trek The Animated Series: The Lorelei Signal

The Agents of Doux are covering The Animated Series with "discussion reviews."

Mikey Heinrich: Investigating a mysterious pattern of disappearances in which one ship disappears from the exact same place every 27 and a bit years, Kirk and crew receive a mysterious signal at the expected time and place and follow it to the planet of Chicksamiright.

Beaming down to the planet, the all-male landing party are greeted by (and quickly fall into the thrall of) the all identical female society they find there. Turns out that the women of this planet stay young and beautiful by draining the essence of males and feeding on it. Or maybe there's some sort of energy rays on the planet that the ladies thrive on but causes the men to wither and die. The episode itself waffles a bit on this point.

So, yeah. It's Kirk versus the fairly sexist succubus trope, but it does at least feature a charming sequence where our dudes in question run away and try to escape by hiding in a gigantic vase, which then nearly drowns them when it starts raining, all of which is just so ridiculous that I couldn't help but enjoy it.

I wish that the episode had let Uhura have as much agency as it keeps threatening to do. She gets a great moment fairly early on when Scotty is in command and clearly pheromoned off his little Scottish coconut and she basically takes a deep sigh and just nopes him the hell out of there. "Yeah, girls sure are pretty. That's right, let's stand up and walk away from the big important chair. Maybe you might want to hold this Altarean Trapper Keeper in front of your crotch while we walk you down the hallway to sickbay."

But then they make her wait for Spock to summon help instead of having a great scene with her, Nurse Chapel, and in a perfect world Yeoman Rand checking in on the planet and promptly going Ripley all over the alien women. The episode would have been improved immeasurably if the focus had been shifted slightly to being about how the women of the Enterprise have to step in and save their idiot men from being ensnared by an alien boner-signal. As it is, it doesn't feel like Uhura and co. get as much credit as they deserve for being the heroes and so the implicit sexism of the premise doesn't get challenged in any way.

And then of course there's the way the whole thing gets wrapped up by Kirk basically telling the women, "Hey, if you move to a different planet without the man-withering rays you can all totally get laid again. Isn't that better than immortality?" and all the women go "Wheee!"

So, not the most enlightened moment Star Trek has ever produced.

Don't the miniskirts look particularly silly here?

Billie Doux: I was reluctant to watch this one. The title of the episode just oozes sexism, since I was pretty sure it was going to be Homeric and not about the Gilmore Girls.

But I was pleasantly surprised. I mean, it wasn't what I'd call great, but Uhura taking command from Scotty and leading an all female rescue team down to the planet made me cheer. It was way past time. I'd always wanted to see Uhura in command, and I finally got my wish. According to Memory Alpha, Gene Roddenberry had also always wanted to see Uhura in command, so good for you, Gene Roddenberry. And at least it was an energy-sucking thing and not something else that would have been too racy for Saturday morning cartoons.

But then it was like, they're hiding in a huge vase? Much like the Vulcan kids-wear and the small intestine, there always seems to be something inappropriately ridiculous in these episodes. My daughter watched most of this episode with me and couldn't stop MST-ying it. I also practically gagged when Uhura told Kirk, "You're more handsome than ever."

So, to count up original series homages just in this episode, there was "Spock's Brain" with the split society and women in control using headbands, "The Deadly Years" where Kirk, Spock and McCoy contract an aging disease, and "The Apple," where the Enterprise takes a society of happy immortals and makes them trade immortality for sex and reproduction. Not to mention using the transporter to "fix" the lead characters, a plot device they overused in Star Trek.

But at least we had Uhura in command.

Mikey: Uhura in command was awesome! I can't believe I missed an opportunity for a Gilmore Girls reference. If you'll excuse me, I'm going to go hide in a gigantic vase in shame.

Billie: And shame on me for not mentioning Christine Chapel as chief medical officer.

Mikey: Also really great to see!

Why oh why did they miss a trick and not throw Yeoman Rand with her basket weave hair in there? They wouldn't even have had to give her a line, just have an officer with the basket weave, we'd have gotten it.

CoramDeo: This one is so very Roddenberry; rather progressive ideas about women for his time, mixed with the fairly scummy and possessive way he actually treated women. I really liked seeing Uhura take charge though. That was fun.

It's really funny to me how low quality this animation is. The whole idea of the Animated Series was that they could show things they could never do in live action, but the animators they hired were pretty cheap. This episode they didn't even bother to color Chapel's uniform correctly. When they beam down to the planet she's wearing red, back to blue in the next shot. And when she presses the button to open the door when they find Spock, her arm is red and the rest is blue. That’s super basic stuff, folks! Step it up a bit!


Billie: Good point. There was a lot of actually rather gorgeous background scenery and set dec on the Lorelei planet, so why did they make all of the alien women the same woman? A lazy decision.

Mikey: It is a very nice giant vase.

I think the animation company was pretty notorious for just slamming stuff out.

CoramDeo: Speaking of which, THE URN. Gee, we can't find them. Too bad there isn't a massive, obvious hiding spot right smack dab in the middle of this open field. Why do they have a big urn in the middle of the field anyway? And since it clearly happens often, who empties it when it rains?


Billie: Ratings, anyone? Like the other episodes, I thought this one really could have been good but it got waylaid, mostly by an immense vase. Or urn. Two out of four giant urn vases?

CoramDeo: I'd say 2 out of 4 is fair. Using my traditional system, it’s probably be 2.5 out of 6 miscolored sleeves.

Mikey: I'm going to go with six out of ten Uhuras who are currently kicking ass and taking names. And now I'm off to google what the difference is between a vase and an urn.

(later)

Mikey: What we're learning through this exercise is that I am a much laxer grader than you guys.

The answer to the urn/vase thing turned out to be kind of interesting. Apparently a vase can be any shape but an urn needs to have a footed base? If one believes the internet.

Billie: So it was an urn? I can't remember what the base of the thing was like.

Mikey: Apparently all urns are vases but not all vases are urns. So I think it was both. Also, an enormous safety hazard.

Juliette: I am just seeing this, popping in to say I love this episode for giving us Uhura in the Captain's chair.
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2 comments:

Samantha M. Quinn said...

So this is the Uhura kicks ass episode. I'm down with that.

Mikey Heinrich said...

She's absolutely the best part of the episode