Warp Speed to Nonsense

Warp Speed to Nonsense

Monday, June 29, 2015

ST:TAS Season One, Episode Four: The Lorelei Signal

"The Lorelei Signal"
Air Order: 4
Star Date: 5483.7
Original Air Date: September 29, 1973

Kirk's Log 5483.7: "Going into an unexplored area of space. Over the last 150 years, A bunch of starships have disappeared here over the last 150 years, like once every 27 years or so. That won't happen to us, though, because I'm Kirk, and this is the Enterprise."

"We have twenty seconds left until something happens, and we fall off the map," says Spock.
"Okay," says Kirk. "Let's do yellow alert."
Spock counts down, and when he gets to one, Uhura reports a sub-space radio message that's actually just one long tone when played through the PA. We get some shots of the tone emanating through the speakers all over the ship, which makes me wonder: when they put subspace messages on "speakerphone," does it always broadcast through the ship like that? I thought it was only on the bridge. If they put Kor or Kang from the Klingon Empire on the viewscreen, can people in engineering eavesdrop in on the conversation?

Spock reports that they are being scanned from a star system twenty light years from their position.
"Damn, that's a long probe," says Kirk.
The guys on the bridge all think the sound resembles a summons.
Uhura says it doesn't sound like a summons to her. Kirk kind of waves her off.
They dutifully turn the ship in the direction of the signal.
Uhura pages Christine to the bridge. "All of the guys are acting weird."
They're all just kind of standing on the bridge, staring off into actual space, and acting... I dunno, super-high? Spock says that the sound reminds him of Vulcan mating drums. They show some transparent girl playing a drum over animation of Spock's face. And they use that wavy "viewing things underwater" filter-special effect thing on her, like it's a mirage or something.

He says he's hallucinating. Kirk says the same, and a wavy girl appears over a shot of him as well.
"Um, what are you guys on?" asks Uhura. "Cuz we sure as shit don't see anything."
Kirk asks Uhura to call Bones, but Bones doesn't answer because he also appears to be sitting in his office, high as a kite, muttering about magnolias in bloom.
There's some wavy-filter animation, and a planet appears on the viewscreen ahead of them.

A quick fangirl moment here: there's this animation technique that I've seen them use a few times before, using this red-orange planet. They watercolored the planet surface in vertical striations, then moved the watercolored paper behind the black background, through an unpainted circle. The striations moving across the open circle make it appear as though the planet is rotating. It's so ridiculously cool I think I made a squeaky noise the first time I saw it.

Scotty's Log 5483.8: "So we're in orbit over the second planet in the Taurean system, and it looks like there was once a really cool civilization here. We got some weird readings, so Kirk and them are checking it out. In other news, I'm hallucinating some chick's face in a flower. She's pretty hot."

So while all the guys are busy in bonerland, Uhura and Christine are checking out the sensor scans. Apparently, what Spock reported to Kirk is not what is showing up on the screens.
On the surface, Kirk is hanging out with Spock, Bones, and some random Red named Carver.
"Hey," says Spock, taking a scan, "my beeping box says our troubles may increase if we go into that building, where there are life-forms. We should not do the thing."
"Man, screw you," says Kirk. "There's non-dangerous poontang in that building. We are so doing the thing."
So of course they do the thing.

They get inside, and we learn that this is the much-touted "Star Trek meets She-Ra, Princess of Power" episode. (Fun fact: Filmation did the anmation for She-Ra as well. Color me surprised.) The head chick is named Theela, and because we have only two female cast members on this show, all of the women are voiced by Majel Barrett. I'm having flashbacks of that scene in Austin Powers with the fembots. Everyone is blonde, everyone has the same voice, they must all be the same girl, duplicated over and over again.

The girl behind Theela's left shoulder seems to have a disease that
afflicts female cartoon and graphic novel characters. It's called
"There's Not Enough Room In My Torso For Actual Organs."
Amazingly, it is not fatal.

So Theela greets all of the guys by name except for Carver (rude), and Spock scans them (rude) and reports that their physiology is different (also rude - they're standing right there!), and that they have some kind of psychokinesis as part of their body function.
"First time I've ever admired a body function," quips Bones. Rude.
Kirk asks Theela how he knew their names, and she says that the "opto-aud" told them (I'm guessing that means optical-audio, because it's basically a freaking closed-circuit tv). Then she turns to this thing that looks like the Guardian of Forever, and she makes a humming noise at it, and it turns on and shows them the E bridge, with Scotty sitting in the captain's chair.
Spock admires the fact that the opto-aud opens with a tonal lock.
Theela says they have lots of things to discuss, and that they are having a feast in honor of their new visitors.
And because we can't have a commercial break without dramatic music, they play some right after Theela says she is going to feed them. Are we assuming the food has been poisoned? Or did Theela just admit that she's a shitty cook?

Kirk's Log 5..4..8..3 point...9?: "I'm pretty baked, and so are my friends, but these chicks are super bangable, so who cares? You know what would be fun? We should take them to Amsterdam."

Everyone is enjoying themselves at the feast when Bones asks where all the dudes are at this taco fest. Theela says they're somewhere else.
"That makes sense," reasons Kirk, in that same voice that your best guy friend uses when he's trying to justify his girlfriend's crazy level against her hotness level.
One girl tosses to Spock what appears to be a huge ruby. When he stands up to catch it, he collapses. The rest of our boys try to help him, but end up collapsing themselves.
"You should go to the rest chambers and sleep," suggests Theela.
Our boys are dragged off to sleep, and Theela lets one single tear slip, because this show hates me.

A little later, Bones and Spock stumble into Kirk's resting chamber. They are now both wearing fashionable tiaras, and they've aged considerably. Kirk wakes up, sees them, realizes without a mirror that he is now also much older, and cringes.

Upstairs, Uhura and Christine have correctly identified that males are of little use at this point, and they've been investigating this weird-ass planet and inhabitants using an all-female science team. Because Majel is doing all of the voices for the females on the planet, Nichelle has taken all of the voices for the female crew members, as well as the voice of the computer. Nichelle actually does a pretty good job, changing her voice and accents slightly to make it seem like a much bigger cast was involved.
Anyway, the computer says that the probe that the planet launched at the ship affects the males onboard in such a way that they will eventually lose all energy and die.
Uhura calls for Security Red Davison, and tells her that she wants all-female crews of Security Reds at each transporter, and that no one is to be allowed to transport down.
"The hell?" asks Christine.
"Yeah, I'm taking over the ship," says Uhura.
YAY! About freaking time! When Kirk comes back, can we just stick him in engineering, or something?

Down in the throne room, Theela is sitting on her skinny ass while our boys tell her that they must leave and go back to the ship.
"You can't go," she replies. "We need you here. Pretty soon, all of the men on your ship will come to us."
"Naw... we have to go," mumbles Kirk.
"Obstruct them!" yells Theela. (No, really. She says "obstruct.")
And a bunch of girls come forward and literally toss our boys into a heap in the corner.

The next scene is awesome. It's just the E slowly, slooooowly drifting across the screen, while Scotty sings drunkenly in Gaelic. Seriously, if you're going to watch this episode for anything, watch it for this scene. You won't be disappointed.

When we actually go to the bridge, Uhura informs Scotty that she's relieving him of duty and taking over. She promptly records an acting captains log that says she's taking over because Scotty is off his rocker.
He responds with "Very thoughtful of you, love."
She then puts Christine in charge of sick bay. Lt Uhura: kickin' ass and takin' names.

So for whatever reason, the Majel clones have allowed Bones to keep his med kit, and he gives the away team all shots of some strong stimulant. I have no idea where any of the women have gone, or why they left the boys alone, but it happened, so now the boys are going to shoot themselves up. They manage to escape out the front doors, but not before Theela discovers them leaving.
Everyone runs out into the garden, and Kirk suggests that they hide in a giant urn that looks like a fancy termite mound.

Once they're hidden, the women search that part of the garden, and the tiaras on the boys glow yellow. When the women leave to search elsewhere, the glowing stops.
"Y'all, I have a theory," says Spock. "The tiaras are how the women sap our life energy. They are taking it for themselves. So they get stronger in our presence, as we get weaker. Remember how, when we first met them, they were kind of listless?"
No dude, because they were never animated that way. They're been the same, start to finish. Sure, Theela shouts a little more enthusiastically now, but there was no reason for her to shout earlier, so you can't reasonably say that she is no longer acting in a listless manner.
Anyway, we're just going to have to buy whatever it is that Spock is selling, because without that, the rest of the episode doesn't make sense.
He predicts that they're aging about ten years per day, and Bones exclaims that they'll be dead in four. So then Kirk jumps in to say that the women will need to replenish their supply of dudes with the rest of the men on the Enterprise. Spock finishes the conversation by volunteering to get the comms, because he, as a Vulcan, has a longer life and more strength. Kirk agrees to let him go with the most pronounced nod ever animated.

Back inside the castle-thing, Spock realizes that he has no clue where to look for the comms, so he decides to ask the opto-aud. He closes his eyes, and they use Christine's earlier voice work to make the sound that turns it on. How do I know they used Christine's voice? Because Leonard Nimoy's voice is too deep to make that sound.
He asks the opto-thingy where the comms are, and it shows him that they are inside the ottoman at the base of the throne. Spock crawls up the stairs, procures the equipment, and calls the E.
"Enterprise," answers Uhura. "Captain Badass speaking."
"Need...rescue team," Spock struggles. "All-female..."
He collapses on the dais, repeating the words "all-female" over and over, while the blonde bitches surround him.
Because she's classy like that, Uhura continues to put together an all-female rescue team, rather than answer "Took you long enough to figure it out, Ear Boy."

The away team beams down, mostly female security officers (have we actually seen any female security Reds before?), and oops, some painter has reassigned Christine to Ops. There's a brief catfight moment where Theela welcomes them to the still-nameless planet, then instructs them to GTFO.
"Yeah, no," says Uhura. "Those are not the hell your boys."
Theela points at the away team like she's directing her bitches to seize them or something, but the away team just stuns their asses. Then Uhura orders the team to split into groups of two and conduct a search.
In a resting chamber, Spock senses or hears the away team or something, and he decides to call to Christine telepathically.
Hold up: can he do that? I mean, I know the dude is an alien, but you can't assign every super power to him and just explain it away as him being Vulcan. I've never seen him communicate telepathically before last week, and then he had made some sort of by-proxy mind-meld thing with a cloud. Here, he's just calling out to another crew member. I mean, I guess it's canon now, but it's awfully convenient when you make something mildly impossible into canon, just to solve a minor problem like, "Where are you?" This is why Lady Archon prefers comm badges to communication devices - she could have tapped her comm badge and been "Christine to Spock" and he would have been like "Yo, I'm in the rest chamber to your right." Okay, I know that that means that any hostile can just snatch the comm badge off your chest, and you'd be in the same pickle, but as we've seen, not everyone is smart enough to realize that it's a comm badge and not just some brooch, and those communication devices are very obviously tools. But it's a hell of a lot better than saying, "Let's just make him telepathically tell her where he is."
Anyway, he calls out "Miss Chapel" and she tells Uhura that Spock is calling to her, and then he calls her Christine, which is pretty forward for a Vulcan, especially when he rarely ever calls his best friend by his first name, either.
She figures out when he's calling to her from (how, I wonder?), and realizes that she's standing right next to a panel in the wall, which, when opened, reveals Spock laying on the bed.


They run in to him, and something has happened to make him age like Yoda.
Seriously. he wasn't that old when they caught him on the dais a few minutes ago, and if he looks like that now, what must the guys in the urn look like?

It starts raining outside, because of course it does. The men being kind of incapacitated didn't make enough of a difference, because there are enough women crew members to run the ship without them. Girls in Charge is not an adequate Disable the Ship sub-plot. (Thank Zod for that, I would have had to punch somebody if it was.) So the away team drowning in an urn in the garden is our new Disable the Ship for this episode.

Unable to locate the rest of the away team, they transport Spock up to sick bay. There, Christine removes his tiara, and he tells her raspily that a female engineer needs to divert all energy to the shields to block out the signal. She protests that they had tried that, but he reiterates that it must be all power, and not just a lot.

Downstairs, Uhura is tired of Theela's shit. She uses a phaser to disintegrate a vase, then pretty much tells Theela that she's gonna bust up the place if she doesn't get some answers. Seeing she's at a loss, Theela opens the opto-aud, and gives Uhura the PowerPoint presentation of her people's history.

So Theela's people emigrated to this planet when their own planet died, and things for fine for a hot second, but then the men started getting and dying at a crazy-fast rate. Turns out the planet itself beefed up some gland that the women had, making them stronger and kind of immortal. They have powers to control men's emotions, but it kills the men. Every 27 years or so, they have to get a new supply of fresh men, be it human, Klingon, or Romulan. They're essentially trapped there, unable to die, and unable to procreate.
"Okay, that's nice, but where's my men?" demands Uhura.
They decide to ask the opto-aud, and ignore the fact that they might have done so earlier, when the away team escaped into the garden in the first place. The opto-aud shows the team up to their chests in water.

They run out into the garden and destroy the urn with phasers. I have to wonder why, when the urn was full enough, they didn't just climb out. I mean, I know they were too weak to climb out because they were old and weak, but nothing was keeping them from floating in that urn. Ah, well. Whatever. Uhura and the very capable away team get the guys out of the urn, and back to the E.
Up in sick bay, Christine and some others try to restore the away team to their original ages, to no avail.
"I think we should try the transporters," rasps Spock. "They hold our original DNA sequencing, and maybe going back through the transporters again, set in a specific way, would reverse this. The odds are pretty much astronomically against us, even though everything we try has never been tested before, is almost guaranteed not to work, but always ends up working anyway."
"Yeah," says Kirk. "Enterprise FTW."

So they beam the boys down to the surface again.
"Beam us up, Scotty," says Kirk, which is actually the closest to that iconic bumper sticker that the show's dialog ever gets. (Nope, Kirk never says, "Beam me up, Scotty." Not in the shows, not in the films.)
This time, with adjustments, Kirk & Co come out as planned.

We're back on the surface again, and it's Uhura who has once again taken charge. Theela destroys this round thing on a pedestal that turns out to be how they were broadcasting that signal. She tells Uhura to let know that they did as they agreed they would do, and Uhura tells them that a ship with an all-female crew will be back to pick them up and take them to another suitable planet. These girls are super-stoked and want to know how quickly they'll go back to being normal. Uhura says that Bones says it'll be a few months.
"Awesome," says Theela. "Immortality seriously blows."
And the E leaves orbit.

So despite some issues, this episode had some good stuff going for it. For one, there was brief discussion about how immortality sucks ass. You've probably seen Highlander or Doctor Who, so you know how it goes: you stay the same, while your loved ones grow old and die, and you're forced to either move on after a while, or rewatch the same dance over and over. As a race of people who like to dream about the impossible, we were forced to face facts that immortality comes with it's own set of issues. Queen is right: who wants to live forever?

But who is this Lorelei chick? The main girl's name was Theela.
Star Trek is getting clever on us again. Lorelei are the name of the sirens in German mythology who lure sailors to their deaths, just like their Greek cousins.

The best part of this episode is that when the chips are down among the men, the females can pick up without blinking, and nobody questions it. Uhura didn't hem and haw and Hamlet like Kirk sometimes does. She picked up a phaser, pushed Scotty out of the captain's chair, and began issuing orders. She took no crap, and got the job done quickly and efficiently. I have no idea how this episode was met critically, being that it was broadcast on Saturday mornings at ten am, but it's cool to think about - a POC female took command of the Enterprise, several years after that Number One debacle. Does it help that this episode was written by a female? Maybe. (Margaret Armen also wrote "The Gamesters of Triskelion" (ugh), "The Paradise Syndrome" (noooooo), and the teleplay for "The Cloud Minders", which was actually pretty good.) What's most awesome is that no one bats an eyelash at Uhura taking charge. She's treated like any other crew member who is next in line for command and takes it.

It's not a huge part of the episode, but I'd like to give a command gold star to the writers for solving a problem with good science fiction rather than the crappy kind. The suggestion of sending them back through the transporter was excellent, because it has already been established that each person who uses the transporter has their original DNA pattern stored in the pattern buffer. There's no magic wand waved, no new machine used that we will never see again, no potion that Bones must pull out of his ass at the last minute, which will make them young and whole again. No, they return to the transporter, set it for their original DNA sequencing, and run them through it again. This is awesome! Science fiction (and Star Trek) had already established that when is transported, one is actually destroyed at the entry point, and then remade again at the destination. Science has established that, too! Good for you, Star Trek.


HOLD THE MOTHERFUCKING COMM BADGE: I think I found a chai that I actually like.
So Roomie (who claims that she does not pilfer things) pilfered some more tea from somewhere, and she brought home these little elongated pyramids with leaf tags that say "Tea Forte." They're actually really cool-looking, and upon further research, I discovered that the founder got himself some learning at RISD. Nice!
The tea itself is spicy, a bit heavy on the cinnamon, but some honey took the bite off it.
You want to know the shitty part? Roomie has not been able to tell me which chai it is. She took the little jacket off the bag, and now I have no idea what I drank. I tried looking it up online, but their website lists like, five thousand chais. So now I might have to Cinderella that shit, trying cup after cup of a blend that I don't normally like, all to find the one that I do.
Anyway, you might want to give these a shot. They seem to make a good-quality product, and the one I tried was really good, despite the fact that I have zero clue as to what it was.

Edit: After some sleuthing and educated guesses, Agent K and I have decided that it probably Winter Chai.

Mass hysteria!

1 comment:

  1. Okay, I've always hated the "transporters destroy and remake a thing" explanation because then peole say things like "it kills people and then clones them again" which is not the sort of fridge horror the show was going for. They just wanted to save money, for crying out loud. I'm pretty sure in one of the movies it's explained that the transporter takes your actual molecules and moves them, which somehow means that it's still you and not some clone that turns up on the other side. (It's Sci-fi, don't ask me to elaborate please.)

    Star Trek does sometimes suffer from giving Spock new powers as the plot demands. It's pretty annoying, along with him magically knowing all the information they need for that week's adventure, like he's a walking encyclopedia or a robot or something, and the fact they mostly ignore his strength whenever he gets into fights. (Maybe he's just not that good.) His whole "talking to Nurse Chapel in her head" thing kind of makes sense considering what we've seen so far, though. A few episodes had him "influencing" people from a distance, sometimes through walls, getting them to do or think what he wanted, and it's shown that all Vulcans have a strong psychic bond with each other. Christine shared her body with him in that one episode with the giant glowing globe things, so he could have some sort of link with her from that, and it's not too much of a stretch to think he could use that link to call out, considering all the other stuff he can magically do, like feeling a bunch of his fellows dying/hearing their death screams from light years away. Him calling her "Christine" came off as creepy/uncool though, like he was banking on the fact that because she liked him, him calling her by name would get her attention better than just calling her by her formal name. He knows how she feels and can't return her feelings, fine, but don't toy with her! The show often tries to play off her feelings as some sort of joke but it's not like she's obnoxious about them and she can't help how she feels. I'm tired of them mocking her, just hook her up with a nice blue already.