Friday, August 05, 2016
Man from Atlantis: "Siren" (May 2, 1978)
A group of pirates aboard a submarine have captured a young siren -- a creature of the sea -- and plan to use her strange and hypnotic song to extract secrets from a captured defense department scientist Hugh Trevanian (Michael Strong).
After rescuing Trevanian’s daughter (Laurette Spang), Mark attempts to rescue the scientist, and the “mythical” creature from the sea too.
The siren is one of the most popular cult-TV tropes of all times, and it gets a work-out in this second-to-last episode of Man from Atlantis (1977). Sirens were featured in Homer's The Odyssey, and beguiled there the sailors of Odysseus's ship with their strange, beckoning song.
In cult-TV history, sirens have appeared in Star Trek: The Animated Series (1973) in "The Lorelei Signal" and on Space:1999 (1975-1979) in "Guardian of Piri," to name just two seventies programs that also featured these creatures. A siren was also a villain (played by Joan Collins during the third and final season of Batman. Here, the siren, however, is not a seductive woman, but a little girl lost.
This episode introduces Lisa Blake Richards as Dr. Elilzaeth Merrill’s (presumably?) temporary replacement, Jenny Reynolds. She is a little less agreeable, a little more acerbic, than her predecessor was. This isn't a bad thing, since the character's scenes with Mark Harris have a bit of zing to them.
And at one point in “Siren,” C.W. (Alan Fudge) is seen talking on the phone, apparently with Elizabeth Merrill (not seen…) telling her to return from Washington D.C. soon. In terms of the series continuity, however, she never does.
Other than that cast note, “Siren” is notable primarily for introducing another denizen of the deep sea: the aforementioned lost female siren. This being has pointed eyebrows, and the lower-half of a fish, or mermaid.
When Mark encounters the siren, however, he doesn’t ask her about his own people, or about Atlantis…which seems strange. She should be another “bread crumb” on his journey of re-discovery, but isn’t, at least not in any deep way. The episode ends with the girl siren disappearing, presumably rescued by her people. Wouldn't Mark want to wait around and question them about where they hail from, and if they have been in touch with the denizens of Atlantis?
This episode also reveals a new power for Mark. He can apparently simulate his own death, slowing down his pulse to a dead stop.
And once more, one must remember that Star Trek’s Mr. Spock also had such an ability. In “By Any Other Name,” Spock (Leonard Nimoy) was able to meditate himself into a coma-like state, so as to appear near death.
In “Siren,” Mark uses the same trick to escape capture from the pirates.
Special effects aren't too good this week, alas. All throughout the series, we have seen Mark Harris underwater, communicating with Cetacean. These scenes always appear to have actually been filmed underwater. In this installment, for some reason, all the new underwater footage appears to be achieved through rear projection instead.
In terms of guest stars, this episode features at least three notable actors. Neville Brand plays the evil pirate, while Laurette Spang, of Battlestar Galactica (1978-1979) fame plays Trevanian's daughter. Trevanian is played by Michael Strong, who was Dr. Korby in Star Trek's "What Are Little GirlsMade of."
Finally, "Siren" marks the last appearance of the Cetacean and her crew in the regular series.
Next: "Deadly Carnival"