22011 "The Slaver Weapon"

(airdate: December 15, 1973)

Writer: Larry Niven (adapted from his story "The Soft Weapon")
Director: Hal Sutherland

Chuft-Captain: James Doohan
Kzinti Flyer: James Doohan

Kzinti Telepath: James Doohan
Slaver weapon computer: Majel Barrett

Stardate: 4187.3

Captain's Log: The shuttlecraft Copernicus, with Spock, Sulu, and Uhura on board, is returning to Starbase 25 with a Slaver stasis box - "Slaver" being the name for an ancient race from over a billion years ago that left behind artifacts in boxes that freeze time. While passing Beta Lyrae, they detect another stasis box and go to investigate. However, it's a trap by a group of feline aliens called the Kzinti; they want the contents of the stasis box held by the shuttle crew. They immobilize Spock, Uhura, and Sulu and open the box, where they find a device that can alter its shape; however, it doesn't appear to have significant offensive capabilities. One of the settings drains energy, allowing Spock and Sulu to escape with the device - but Uhura is recaptured. Sulu determines that the device does in fact have incredible offensive power - so incredible that the blowback knocks Spock and Sulu out, allowing the Kzinti to recapture both them and the device. The device has a computer built in, and so the Kzinti demand of the computer that the device change into the weapon Sulu fired; the device seemingly complies, but in fact self-destructs, taking the Kzinti with it.

Whoops!: Once again, Uhura has a double-circle symbol in her assignment patch instead of the standard operations spiral. There's a flipped shot of the Kzinti telepath (you can tell by the emblem on his spacesuit). The Slaver weapon switches the wrong way in a shot, from the second setting to the first instead from the first to the second (and the surrounding shots therefore don't match that shot). When in energy absorber mode, the device seems to have an extra setting.

Don't Wear a Red Shirt: Spock, Sulu, and Uhura are stunned by the Kzinti when they fall into the Kzinti trap. Uhura is stunned twice by the Kzinti, while Spock attacks the Kzinti leader Chuft-Captain and breaks two of his ribs. Spock and Sulu are knocked out by the blast from the Slaver weapon's total conversion beam. All the Kzinti are killed when the Slaver device self-destructs (the only on-screen deaths in the Animated Series).

Library Computer: A billion years ago, there was an empire that spanned the galaxy, called [by current historians, rather than the people themselves, most likely] the Slaver Empire. They were said to have been the masters of all intelligent beings in the galaxy, but then one race revolted, leading to a war that wiped out all the Slavers and their subjects - this meant that intelligent life in the galaxy had to evolve all over again. The only traces of the Slavers (and thus the only source of information) are yellow stasis boxes, in which time stands completely still. No depiction of a Slaver has been discovered, although the stasis box opened shortly after stardate 4187.3 contains a picture of a green, muscular, upright alligator with webbed feet and one eye that might be a Slaver.
     These stasis boxes could contain any number of things: one had contained a flying belt that was ultimately the key to the artificial gravity field used on starships. [Somewhat surprisingly, this has yet to be contradicted by any subsequent episodes.] However, one had contained a disrupter bomb with the pin pulled; consequently, stasis boxes are under the jurisdiction of Starfleet, and only certain specialists handle them. The only known stasis box detector is another stasis box: the stasis box glows when another one is in the vicinity. Recently [in terms of the episode], two stasis boxes were found on the planet Kzin, although only the existence of one of them was revealed to Starfleet; however, the undisclosed stasis box was ultimately empty. The other stasis box contained a picture (possibly of a Slaver, as noted above), a protoplasmic and poisonous (to Kzinti) piece of meat, and a strange green device, which looked like a large egg with a handle.
     This device was in fact a sort of multi-purpose device, with five settings along its handle plus a sixth, null setting. [The default setting when it's removed from the box is an egg-like shape, with three circles on the side. We never see this shape again, though; afterwards the default is a smooth globe.] Adjusting the settings caused the device to morph into various forms with corresponding functions. The first setting was a more pointy egg, which caused Sulu to feel a faint vibration in his life support belt but little else. The Kzin named Chuft-Captain speculated that that setting could either be a communications device or a sonic stunner designed to affect a now-dead race. [Incidentally, we never hear the singular form, but "Kzin" was Niven's preferred version - and, corroborating this, the script for "The Time Trap" mentions a singular Kzin.] The second setting was a telescope, and the third was a rather low-power laser. The fourth setting emitted a powerful rocket flame and was speculated by the Kzinti to be a form of transportation. [There's a weird moment where one of the Kzinti says you could put your feet on the pedal shape sticking out the top and balance, but it frankly looks far too small for that to be viable.] The fifth setting looks like a ball with two large loops extending out from either side; this setting was a form of energy absorber. [Though it didn't absorb the energy from the life support belts, fortunately for the shuttle crew.] In addition to these five settings, twisting the globe that formed when it was on the null setting created a gun-like object that was an incredibly powerful weapon: it could perform a total matter-to-energy conversion over a distance. No world in the Federation had produced anything as powerful. This setting seemed to be temporary, however; it reverted back to a globe after Sulu dropped it. There were two final settings: the first, when twisting the globe, was a computer with a grid of what appeared to be orange buttons on the top. This computer could be communicated with, although it required a series of codewords before it would reveal any significant information. Twisting the device widdershins [counter-clockwise] until the null position was reached created the second of the final settings that we see: a two-pronged gun-like object that was in fact a self-destruct setting. When Chuft-Captain pulled the trigger, the device exploded, taking all the Kzinti crew with it. Sulu theorized that this device for use by a spy, hence all the various different settings.
     The Kzinti are a bipedal feline race from the planet Kzin, with orange fur, web-like ears, yellow eyes, prominent fangs, three fingers and a thumb on each hand, and long thin tails. They all seem to be hunched when standing. Kzinti have more than one heart, and their ribs have some vertical bracing. The ones we see are dressed in pink spacesuits, with purple boots, gloves, shoulders, and belts, with a purple stripe running down the front and back of the torso. [Apparently this was the episode that led story editor D.C. Fontana to learn Hal Sutherland was colorblind.] There's a yellow emblem on their left breast, consisting of a circle with a wedge passing through it from the upper-right to the lower-left. Their helmets are completely clear. The Kzinti are carnivores, and their females are apparently little more than dumb animals. The Kzinti and humanity have fought four wars (all of which the Kzinti lost), the last of which, according to Sulu, was two hundred years ago. [From the "original series is set in the 22nd century" standpoint this is obviously untenable, but even from the now-standard "it's the 23rd century" standpoint this is problematic, particularly given that Star Trek: First Contact establishes that the warp barrier wasn't even broken until 2063 - and the Voyager episode "Friendship One" has the titular probe launched in 2067, with no evidence of the Kzinti to be seen. If we allow for Sulu rounding, we could push the dates of the human-Kzinti conflicts to the end of the 21st century/beginning of the 22nd without too much trouble. This assumes that these four wars happened in reasonably quick succession, but that doesn't seem too unreasonable. Alternately, you could assume that Sulu misspoke and meant to say one hundred years ago; possibly supporting this position, there were plans to introduce the Kzinti into season 5 of Enterprise, which never happened for obvious reasons.] At that time, the Kzinti ate humans. The Treaty of Sirius forbids the Kzinti from having any weapons beyond police vessels and associated equipment - such as a police web, a six-sided netting with a series of concentric hexagons, laid on the floor, that immbolized a person inside its field. [Note that the Kzinti here are using Starfleet phasers.] The Kzinti police vessel that we see, the Traitor's Claw, is a round, thin, pink ship, with a yellow dome on top and two spheres attached on either side of the dish by thin angular struts. The Kzinti have superstitions of weapons haunted by previous owners. They are a proud race, and if one of them is attacked and injured by someone they consider inferior, they will seek personal vengeance rather than call for help (which would alert others of their shame). Leaving a Kzin alive after attacking and injuring them is considered the ultimate insult.
     The leader of the Traitor's Claw is named Chuft-Captain, while his second is the pilot [called Flyer in the script.] They also have a telepath that they call Telepath. Telepath is a bedraggled, unhappy-looking creature, partly because, according to Uhura, all Kzinti telepaths are neurotic. When Sulu thinks about eating a root vegetable, the thought repulses Telepath. Telepath is drained after reading minds and needs time to recover [hence the bedraggled look, presumably]. There's also one other Kzin present. The Kzinti are on an unofficial mission from the Kzinti government; if the Kzinti are captured, they can be disowned by the Highest of Kzin, but otherwise they plan to conquer the galaxy (or some similar sort of plan; Chuft-Captain describes them all as "meat for our tables" if they succeed). Consequently, the Traitor's Claw is officially listed as stolen. When the Slaver device tricks Chuft-Captain into activating its self-destruct mechanism, all the Kzinti are killed. [The Kzinti actually predate Star Trek; they're an invention of author Larry Niven, first appearing in the 1966 short story "The Warriors", as part of his "Known Space" universe. This story itself is, as the credits note, an adaptation of Niven's story "The Soft Weapon", which also includes both the Kzinti and the Slaver weapon and stasis box (and note that the possible picture here matches the description of the Slavers (or Thrintun, as they're called in those stories) there). In "The Soft Weapon", it's revealed that the stasis box isn't a Slaver stasis box, but rather one from the race that revolted (the Tnuctipun), which might explain the presence of the picture. The slightly odd Kzinti names here are in keeping with Kzinti naming practices in the "Known Space" stories, where Kzinti earn their names through valorous actions; Kzinti who have not yet performed such deeds are referred to by their job titles. Chuft-Captain's name indicates that he has performed some particular deed but has also chosen to retain his rank as part of his name.]
     The Enterprise shuttlecraft Copernicus (registry NCC-1701/12) is a large, sleek-looking shuttlecraft, with a cross-section roughly like a fat hexagon. It has a long nose with a sensor dish on the front, a thin rod dropped down from the nose, two boxy wings projecting from the side at an approximately 45° downward angle, and two warp nacelles attached to the top of the craft. The ship has a sliding hatch in the rear of the vessel. [This is a similar but not identical design to the previous NCC-1701/12 shuttle, which was destroyed in "Mudd's Passion".]
     Beta Lyrae is considered to be a rare spectacle in the galaxy; it resembles a large white spiral, and almost every ship that passes stops to look at it. Beta Lyrae has at least one planet, with an icy moon or dwarf planet as well. [We're shown a red planet with thick red rings, with a small white planet apparently orbiting it, inside the innermost ring. So this is either a dwarf planet or a really close moon. The Copernicus is shown passing this planet by, suggesting that this isn't the icy planet they ultimately land on (although, as this is the Animated Series we're talking about, we can't be 100% certain about that) and that there's therefore another small icy planet in the Beta Lyrae system.]
     Uhura has studied the history of the Slaver Empire. She used to run the hundred [meter] in record time, but she thinks she's slowing down these days.
     Sulu is an expert in the field of weapons, according to Spock.
     [This is the only episode of the original or Animated Series (except for "The Cage") in which Kirk doesn't appear.]

Final Analysis: "Strange, how the past sometimes breaks through into the present." A good, solid story, with lots of action and little in the way of longueurs. Focusing on just Spock, Sulu, and Uhura not only gives them more to do, but also makes the Star Trek universe feel a bit bigger, as we're away from both Kirk and the Enterprise. And the Kzinti make for great adversaries too.

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Page originally created: June 11, 2019
Page last updated: June 11, 2019

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