Warp Speed to Nonsense

Warp Speed to Nonsense

Monday, September 7, 2015

ST:TAS Season One, Episode Fourteen "The Slaver Weapon"

"The Slaver Weapon"
Air Order: 14
Stardate: 4187.3
Original Air Date: December 15, 1973

My sister got me this Star Trek lunchbox for my chronological leveling up, and when I opened the box, I couldn't stop laughing. Everyone is smiling and happy, except for Spock, who is his usual stoic self, and Kirk, who looks baffled as hell in his Casual Friday Wrap-Around Blouse.

Also included in the lunchbox: a $25 gift card to Chipotle.
I could get 12 portions of guac, you guys. 12 fucking portions of guac.


Spock's Log 4187.3: "Traveling on the Enterprise shuttle Copernicus to starbase 25 with a slaver stasis box, which archaeologists found on the planet Kzin. The slaver box is a weird and cool thing because time stands still inside of one. Plus they're like Cracker Jack prizes, because you might get something extra, only better because it's not going to be some piece of crap cardboard thing." 

Uhura and Spock have a conversation that exposits that the slavers were a race that enslaved all other races in the galaxy a billion years earlier, that one race revolted against the slavers, and that everyone was killed in the war following, and life had to evolve from the beginning again. The boxes are all that is left of that earlier race.
Uhura notices that the box is glowing, which is new.
"Whoa," says Spock. "That means another stasis box is nearby."
They are close to Beta Lyrae, and they decide to check it out.

As they head off to Beta Lyrae, Spock does more voice-over about the boxes: some of those Bonus Prizes included a gravity belt that was the basis for starship travel, and a disruptor bomb with the pin pulled. This is why stasis boxes are so valuable: they lead to awesome stuff, but also scary stuff, and the ones that have been found tend to be heavily-guarded.
They land on the surface of Hoth  some little ice-covered planet that's part of Beta Lyrae, and they hop out of the shuttle with their yellow-aura'd life belts.

They locate the new box some ways under the ice, and Sulu says all they have to do is melt the ice with their phasers. Easy-peasey. Only the less-dramatic music swells, and we see cats pop up over some ice hills. Humanoid cats! Cats with phasers! They take out our intrepid trio fairly quickly.

Those uniforms are pink because of Hal Sutherlin's pink-grey

In the next scene, we see that the alien cats' spaceship is parked in some cavern underground on the little ice planet, and that Sulu, Uhura, and Spock are being kept in what Spock calls a "police web." He does some logical version of Kirk's Hamletting, where he gets on his own case for being so dazzled by the thought of another stasis box, that he let it overtake the possibility that someone else might be looking for it as well. Basically, he feels dumb that they got captured, and blames himself. Also, the cats have their box, so that sucks.
Sulu talks about how the police web thingy is holding them there, like a cell-less cell.

This is driving me nuts, you guys. I swear I've seen this again in TNG, like Picard is captured by some alien group, and he and two others are held prisoner in a shape on the floor similar to this. But no amount of Googling could find the thing that I was thinking of.

The cat people are called the Kzinti, and according to Spock, they're not supposed to have weapons, except for police. I guess these Kzinti have no fucks to give for treaties.
Two younger Kzinti come in with a third, older cat guy who looks like Grizabella the Glamor Cat. Spock says this ratchet Kzinti is the mind-reader of the group, and says the way to keep them from reading your mind is to imagine the thing the Kzinti hate the most. As the Kzinti are strict carnivores, this means you're supposed to think about eating raw veggies. That's kind of dumb, but the rest of this episode is awesome, so we'll let it slide.

He then says that the Kzinti will probably only talk to Sulu, because they hate Vulcans. Then he advises Uhura to say nothing and act stupid, because Kzinti females are dumb animals, and they just assume that all females are as well.
"Fuck you very much," she replies, pissed off.
"No, it's cool," he says quietly. "We know you're smart, but it's better if they forget that human females are intelligent. Then we can spring some shit on them."
I really like this exchange. Uhura gets angry for being told to play it dumb, because she clearly is not. But then Spock assures her that the Kzinti are dumbshits for thinking human females are less intelligent. If you're a little girl watching this on Saturday morning in 1973 (or anytime at all), it boils down to "girls are smart, and we can use that to our advantage." I'm counting that shit as gender equality. Go, Star Trek!

Uhura is having none of your gender role bullshit.

The Kzinti ask Sulu who they are, and Sulu tells them, introducing Spock as well. Kitty #1 tells them that's they're now prisoners of space pirates, and that they are on a stolen police ship, which at least explains how they got weapons. They then admit that while Kzin archaeologists found both stasis boxes, they got the empty one. But they knew they could use it to lure the shuttle in, and get the other box. They think it might hold some bad-ass weapon.
"Dude, you guys started four wars with humans," says Sulu. "You lost them all. I guess you haven't learned anything."
Kitty 1 threatens to eat them. "You guys always have better weapons than us. But now we're gonna see if Box #1 has a slaver weapon, which has gotta be way better than anything you have now."

They open the box with a laser beam, which seems excessive, but whatever. The first thing to come out of it? A picture of a big green cyclops thing. Sulu thinks it might be a picture of a slaver, but since nobody knows what a slaver looks like, it's anybody's guess. That could be a slaver's dog, and no one would know.

Next to come out of the box... a steak. No, seriously. Some slaver put a selfie and a steak in one of these fancy-ass boxes a billion years ago. Uhura comments that that billion-year-old steak looks fresh. What's up with the pic and the meat? Spoilers: we never find out. Because this is Kzinti Christmas, and the next thing out of the box is a weapon.

Or maybe it's a watermelon... on a steeek.

Or they think it is, anyway. They tell Sulu that they're gonna use it to end humanity, but wouldn't it be fabulous if they started a war, pointed it at some high-ranking official in Starfleet, and it turned out to be like a Windex dispenser or something?
"Die, human!"
*pulls trigger*
"What did you just spray me with?" *sniff* "Is that window cleaner?"

Kitty 1 tells the other non-mind-reader Kzinti to move our intrepid three up to the surface, cuz he wants to try out the weapon on them. Kitty #2 calls him "Chuft Captain" so I guess our boy One is in charge.
Captain then asks the ratchet cat if he is reading the minds of the shuttle crew. He replies that he can kinda-sorta read Sulu, but that it's beneath him to read Spock ("the pacifistic herbivore") and Uhura, the lowly female.
"Do I really have to?" he asks, making big, sad eyes.
No, seriously.

Up top, they lay out the police web again and force our heroes to stand on it. The Kzinti are decent enough to turn their life belts back on, but not so decent as to point the slaver weapon away from them.
Nothing happens.
The captain asks Grizabella the mind-reader if anything is happening to Sulu. Mind-Reader Cat says no, and then sobs because Sulu is thinking about eating vegetables.
Kitty #2 suggests that moving the toggle on the handle to another setting will produce a weapon that does something. So Captain moves the toggle, and the gun-thing changes shape. He aims at Sulu, pulls the trigger... nothing.
The Captain takes a guess that maybe the setting once stunned or killed some race that doesn't exist anymore. Or something like that. He's trying to save face because the damn thing doesn't work.
The next switch gives him a telescopic view.

Bond. Chuft Bond.

He tries a bunch of the settings, with no success. At one point, it shoots a laser, but Sulu declares that the Federation has had better weapons than that for more than a century. Chuft Captain switches it over to something that shoots flames out the back, and holding down the trigger causes him to fly all over the place.

His biscuits are burnin.'

In the commotion, the Captain damages the space suit of the mind-reader, and Uhura gets knocked out of the web. She takes off at top speed, but when the captain gets the gun turned off, he remembers that human girls are not stupid, and he yells at Kitty 2 to go get her. She's captured and returned to the web. The telepath is taken back to the ship to have his suit repaired. When things settle down, Kitty 2 suggests that the flame-thrower setting isn't a weapon, but a transportation device.
Uhura laments that she used to be able to run the hundred-meter dash in record time, but that she seems to be slowing down. You know it's gotta be those Starfleet-issued go-go boots, but all the same, I'm glad we get to add a talent to her roster. Excellent officer, fantastic musician, athlete.

The next setting on the weapon is one of those spinny-launcher toys that always gets fashioned into some kind of helicopter for boys, and fairies for girls, despite the fact that it's the same damn toy doing the same damn thing no matter which gender you buy it for.

"What's wrong, honey? Was that not what you asked for for Christmas?"
"Well, yeah, but... I wanted the blue one."

Chuft Captain pulls the trigger, and the light in the cavern behind him goes off. The police web also powers down. Our heroes realize this even though the Kzin do not, and Spock surmises that it must be an energy absorber. How lucky for them that the absorber did not power off their lift belts, or you know, they'd be dead by now. They make a break for it. Uhura and Sulu take off for the shuttle, but Spock doubles back and pulls out his best karate move on Chuft Captain, knocking both kitties over and stealing the gun-thing.

The kitties fire regular weapons at the fleeing Starfleet officers. Uhura is once again taken, but Spock and Sulu get away.
"What happened?" Kitty 2 asks the captain, despite the fact that he was standing right fucking there the whole time.
"Mind your own beeswax," grouches Chuft Captain, who would rather not admit to getting his furry ass handed to him by a pacifist.

Spock joins Sulu behind an outcropping of ice, and even though Sulu is glad to see that Spock has the weapon, he is concerned because the Kzinti have Uhura, and the means to call their people for back-up.
"Noop," says Spock. "I bought us some insurance and beat the crap out of Chuft Captain. The thing about the Kzinti is, I'm someone unworthy to beat him up, in their eyes. I'm a vegetarian and a pacifist. The other part is, Chuft Captain has to seek revenge on me before he can call for reinforcements. I left him alive. It's an honor thing."
"Sweet," says Sulu. "So hey, I think that multi-use weapon was owned by a slaver spy. It seems to have a lot of doodads that a regular soldier-type wouldn't need."
"I'll defer to you on that point," says Spock. "You're the weapons expert."
(Yep, he is the weapons expert on the E. Not only does he have an interest in antique weaponry, TOS happened to have combined tactical and helm positions, which he, Chekov, and Arax filled. In TNG terms, he held the equivalent positions of season one's Geordi LaForge and Tasha Yar, only at the same time.)
"If it's a weapon of espionage," muses Spock, "maybe it has a self-destruct. We have no idea what that first setting does, if anything."

There's a rumbling, and the Kzinti ship breaks free of the ice to hover over the surface. Chuft Captain calls to Sulu over the PA that he wants to trade the weapon for Uhura. At least, I think he's calling over the PA. It certainly appears that way. But when Sulu answers back, he uses his comm device, which somehow taps into the system of the stolen Kzinti police cruiser...? I dunno. Either way, Sulu asks what will happen to Spock.
"We have to engage in combat to the death," admits the captain. "He broke two of my ribs, which I haven't set or taken care of in any way. He has to either finish the job, or let me kill him."
"Yeahhh, no," says Sulu. "Not doing either of those."
Chuft Captain turns to Uhura, and the exchange here is great:
Chuft Captain: "They think very little of you."
Uhura: "Wrong. They don't think much of you."
And Chuft Captain is rushed to the burn unit. Bye, Felicia!

Sulu and Spock are still trying to figure out the weapon settings, looking for a self-destruct button. They set it for one of the settings that didn't seem to work before, and Sulu fires into the distance. There's a boom and a huge freaking mushroom cloud appears.
"Well, fuck," says Sulu. "So not given this to them."
"Dude, that's matter to energy conversion at a distance," says Spock. "We don't have anything that powerful in the Federation."
When the explosion catches up with them, it knocks them out. The weapon changes back to the original setting.

The Kzinti, safe in their ship, collect our boys and their toy from the surface. Spock and Sulu wake up in the web with Uhura. The Kzinti are screwing around with the weapon again. This time, it turns into some kind of communications device, which answers back. Spock is amazed that a super-computer would fit into something that small.
You heard it here, folks - i-Phone technology comes from slavers.
The Kzinti are a bit taken aback when the comm device turns on and talks to them, as they apparently have an ancient superstition about weapons being haunted by previous owners.
"How long have you been off?" Chuft Captain asks the weapon.
"Dunno," it replies. "I don't know how time passes when I'm off."
"What were you doing before that?" asks Chuft.
"We were on some mission," says the weapon.
"What mission?" asks the captain.
"Do you have the code words?" asks the weapon. "Unless you know the code words, you can fuck right off."

"How about," suggests Kitty 2, "you tell us the positioning of the stars in your time, so we can figure out where you were."
"How about," suggests the weapon, "you fuck right off? I told you I'm not doing anything without the codes."
"Okay," says Chuft Captain. "We saw an energy converter earlier. How do we get back to that setting?"
"Cool," replies the weapon. "This is how you do it." And it gives them directions for finding that setting.
But what the weapon morphs into is not what Sulu fired earlier.
"The hell?" asks Sulu.
The Kzinti take the new weapon and exit the ship, leaving the old mind-reader behind as a guard.

"So that's us screwed," laments Uhura.
"Naw," says Spock. "Think about it: if you were that weapon, and you had been turned off for who knows how long in the middle of a war, and the next person to talk to you doesn't hardly know anything about you, you'd assume they were the enemy. So when they ask you how to get to your most powerful setting, what do you do?"
Chuft Captain fires the weapon, and there's an explosion. It blows a giant hole in the ice where he and Kitty 2 were standing, and takes a large chunk of the Kzinti ship, killing Mind-Reader Cat in the process. Somehow, even though they are now exposed to space, none of our heroes is sucked out of the hole, and Spock has time to calmly voice-activate their life-belts.

The setting the weapon activated was for a disruptor field, meaning that the only technology it had that the Federation didn't was that energy-converter.
The weapon is gone, and Spock is satisfied, because that weapon in the wrong hands could have fucked up all the shit.

Back in the shuttle (minus both stasis boxes) Spock muses that the old war of slavers vs everyone else in the known universe almost sparked another war between the Kzinti and humans. Uhura brings up the haunted weapon thing.
"At the rate they're going," she jokes, "they'll never get over those old superstitions!"
And I think about how often Star Trek ends on a joke that doesn't really make sense.

It's Star Trek, but not so much Star Trek storytelling. It does, in fact, remind me of season one's "The Alternative Factor".
"Why?" you ask. ""The Alternative Factor" kind of sucked, and this did not."
Here's the thing, Trek fans: both this episode and that one struck me as hard-core late-sixties/early-seventies science fiction, which was later altered slightly for Star Trek. In the case "Factor", I could never find concrete evidence of it, except for a weird feeling that it had been written as a short story, and Star Trek components were added later, making their parts feel pasted on top of the episode. 
In the case of "The Slaver Weapon," I know this to be true. Author Larry Niven had a series called "Known Space" and he adapted the story to fit Star Trek requirements. The reasons why this episode are unusual are the same reasons why it's so good. Niven had characters that were similar to Spock, Sulu, and Uhura, and he could adapt the story to fit them. He could not easily adapt any characters to fit Kirk, so he was excused from including him, making this the only TOS-based production to not include Kirk. ("The Cage" does not count, as it was never aired in its entirety before TOS was canceled.) Another bit of trivia: this is the only TOS-based production to not include the Enterprise. 
In short, this episode was excellent because the science fiction was excellent. We got a great new enemy that has supposedly engaged the Federation four previous times, but which cannot be produced outside of animation. (Well, it can now, anyway.) We also get a cool new weapon, and a mysterious set of boxes.
And can I just say how awesome it is that we got a story that features three of my favorite characters? Sulu and Uhura never get enough screen time, and when they do, it's short and duty-based. I much prefer them like this, more in the spotlight with better lines and background information. The characters standing behind Kirk are just as interesting, and deserve far more screen-time than they actually get.

Other trivia tidbits: 
-Jimmy Doohan doesn't appear onscreen as Scotty in this episode, but he did play the Kzinti characters. This means that Jimmy and Leonard are the only cast members to have parts in all 22 episodes of the animated series.
-In some additional digging concerning Sulu being a weapons expert, I found out that the official canon reason given for Chekov's replacement on the bridge during TAS is that he returned to the academy for further officer training.


I was in a Chinese fast-food joint this week, and the thought of soda was gross, so I opted to get a Sobe tea instead. This one in particular was a Sobe Tea Infusion, green tea that features vitamin c, ginseng, guarana, and rose hips.
What does it taste like? Minty liquid sugar. Like, I enjoy a sweeter tea, but this was a bit overwhelming on the sweet. I could taste a bit of the green tea under everything else, but the mint flavor was really strong.
Not gonna, this was not my favorite. I will probably avoid it in the future. It's not awful, but it's really, really sweet.

Neighbor dog Zoro meets tiny kitten Torchwood

1 comment:

  1. Mysterious evil race that wiped out all life in the galaxy billions of years ago? Okay, kind of interesting, but just another dead civilization backdrop. A lot of episodes have that, especially in the first season of TOS. I like them for the ambience they set, but since I know the show isn't going to explore them beyond the episode I can't get that excited about them. Spock's " what would you do if you were that computer" speech was pretty stupid. I know Star Trek likes to make computers sentient and self-aware, but anyone who knows even the basics about how computers work would be slamming their head into the nearest wall. They do what they're programmed to do. I wish Star Trek had had the foresight to have written that deduction in a way that meshes with reality. Say that it's probably programmed to direct people who don't have clearance and look to be enemy to self-destruct. Say anything besides "how would you feel if you were a computer" because that doesn't make any sense. That's like something a three year old who thinks Siri is alive would say.

    At the end of the day, Spock lost the precious cargo they were carrying, and three Kzinti blew up. Not what I'd call a successful mission. He failed the mission objective and watched three sentient beings needlessly die. And this whole situation could have been avoided if he had stuck to the original plan and later brought back a larger, better equipped team to investigate. What he did do was brash and risky, more like the kind of thing he'd advise Kirk against. Seems like Spock's always ready to pull a Kirk when Kirk's not around but never gets the same results Kirk would.

    This originally being written with other characters would explain Spock being polite to Uhura when she got indignant. Normally he doesn't care about offending people and would probably lecture her about being emotional. Yeesh. Can't say I mind that he's being decent here, even if it does feel odd for the character.

    Sulu gets more screen time! Unfortunately there is no Chekov in the cartoon, and we never see how he and Arax interact. Chekov and Sulu were bros and it was fun to watch them interact. Them on an away mission together could have been entertaining. I like it when Uhura gets the spotlight but we don't really know how she, Sulu, and Spock feel about each other beyond professional curtesy so there's not a lot going on here.