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Old April 22 2011, 06:46 PM   #6
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Re: The Jihad vs. The Lorelei Signal

"The Jihad" is definitely better, though I'm not happy with its perpetuation of the common Western mistake of equating jihad with an aggressive holy war, the equivalent of a Christian crusade, when it's actually defined as a defensive struggle to protect the faithful from invaders or oppressors. (Islamist militants like al-Qaida have to go to extreme lengths to contort logic and distort facts in their efforts to convince their followers that their acts of aggression are actually self-defense.) But that's another discussion, and I guess I couldn't have expected a writer in 1973 to know better, given how little-understood it is even today (and given that it's not immune to being abused in the Muslim world). Indeed, I suppose one could argue that the Skorr would have considered their war to be a defensive retaliation against an outside assault on their faith, so maybe jihad could be a valid analogy for it after all, at least in terms of how they rationalized it to themselves.

Anyway, it is a cool episode for the reasons stated above -- lots of interesting aliens and concepts, a story that TOS could never have pulled off, and lively characters. It's odd to see a story that's just Kirk and Spock teaming up with a bunch of guest characters, but it works pretty well. It's also just about the only TAS episode even to come close to giving Kirk a romantic subplot.

One problem I have with it is the plausibility of the "Mad Planet" and how quickly its conditions change. But I can buy that a young planet that had turbulent geology and weather could go through such changes at nearly that pace. I simply assume that what we saw was time-compressed for our benefit and that the events of the story "really" spanned several hours or maybe a couple of days.

As for "Lorelei," I was sour on it for a long time, but I've raised my opinion of it recently. In general, I hate "rapid aging" stories because they're so unrealistic; even if someone did suffer from a condition that caused the equivalent of rapid aging, like progeria, it wouldn't cause their hair to turn white or their skin to wrinkle in just hours. It would be more like a progressive breakdown of body functions with little external change. The one time this was done right was in an episode of Sliders in, I believe, its fourth season. Also, I found this episode's use of "life force draining" as an excuse for the rapid aging to be silly. I hate stories based on that notion, that we have some fixed reservoir of life energy in us and that aging is caused merely by its depletion, like burning a tank of gas. (I hate the "life energy transfer" stuff in Babylon 5 for the same reason.) It's easier to suspend belief about something like "The Deadly Years" or "Unnatural Selection," because there it could be attributed to genetic damage causing a shutdown of bodily functions akin to aging (although Kirk's swift recovery in TDY is still stupid).

But in retrospect, I find I can gloss over the "aging" in "Lorelei." For one thing, their hair doesn't change color, which is refreshing; even if their follicles stopped making pigment, it would still take days or weeks before the white roots started showing. As for the wrinkles, that could just be attributed to a loss of body fluids making the skin hang loose, or something. Spock did describe it in terms of aging, but maybe he was just using that as an analogy for their deterioration. So in some ways it's easier to rationalize than most "rapid aging" stories. (Don't get me started on "Man of the People.")

Aside from that, "Lorelei" is a nice episode to look at. The architecture and scenery designs on the planet are beautiful, and the women are nice to look at too, though I could've wished for more variety in their color schemes. And it is good to see that there are female security guards on the Enterprise and that Uhura is able to take command effectively -- though it's very '70s that it required the men being incapacitated for us to see it.
Christopher L. Bennett Homepage -- Site update 11/16/14 including annotations for "The Caress of a Butterfly's Wing" and overview for DTI: The Collectors

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