Friday, December 9, 2011

The Slaver Weapon

***** (5 stars out of 5)

"The Slaver Weapon" is an adaptation of Larry Niven's 'The Soft Weapon'. Like all animated episodes, the canonicity is debatable, but not so the debate over the cannon. Heh.

What I mean is, they made it, they can't UN-make it! And I love it.

In this story, we have the first and only on screen mention of the Slavers who conquered the entire galaxy and were overthrown a billion years ago. These jerks and their subject races died in that war. The Federation has gathered some of their artifacts called 'Stasis Boxes'.

Stasis Boxes make the ultimate Secret Slaver Santa gifts (since December 1973). Untouched by the passage of epochs they may contain technological wonders like the flying belt from which humans learned to make artificial gravity, or maybe a disruptor bomb with the pin already pulled.

Returning by shuttle with a Stasis Box uncovered on planet Kzin, Spock, Sulu, and Uhura discover another one on an ice world of Beta Lyrae (the boxes light up when another box is near). They are accosted and captured by warrior felinoids called Kzinti.
I think the Kzinti are great in concept and writing, undercut slightly by their sketchy execution and mostly by their pink police cruiser and pink jim-jams. Filmation Director Hal Sutherland, I've read, was colour blind, causing many items conceived as grey or brown to be rendered a charming but not-terribly-intimidating pink.

Breaking the Treaty of Sirius, these Kzinti privateers will only admit to be acting on their government's behalf if they don't fail. Imprisoned, Spock is still formidable, using his knowledge of the culture of these kitties to finally turn the tables. As Kzinti are carnivores, their telepath despises the thoughts of vegetarians like Spock, and as Kzinti females are not sentient, Uhura may be overlooked if she stays quiet.

Spock advises Sulu to think of eating veggies, which disturbs the telepath no end.

Sulu taunts their captors with history: Kzinti lost all four wars they fought with mankind over 200 years ago. Since that was scant years after the crippling devastation of World War III, and in the VERY early days of warp drive, the mind boggles. What were the Kzinti fighting with? Muskets and stout brass bathyspheres?

Kzinti Chuft Captain and his men would welcome the chance to dine on humans as their ancestors did.

The box contains a picture of a Slaver's mom (or some other reptile) some fresh but inedible meat, and a shapeshifting handgun in fashionable fall watermelon colours! Every setting of the weapon is different, more than meets the eye. Telescope, ray gun, flamethrower, energy siphon, and, just for kicks, a pocket total conversion beam more powerful than a nuke.

Uhura was a great sprinter in her youth, but is shot down by phaser stun when she escapes.
In the second attempt, Spock breaks Chuft Captain's ribs. The Kzin regards it as an extreme dishonour that an herbivorous pacifist bested him and left him alive.

Lastly, the weapon has a reasoning computer which, in the absence of the right code words, blows the incautious Kzinti to kingdom come. The Federation's Purina Cat Chow is safe... for now.

Larry Niven brought me great pleasure with his Ringworld books and other short stories. So far, I've only scratched the surface of his work, but this tale is a treat for me. With only Spock, Sulu and Uhura involved, there is plenty for each of them to do. In the case of the lieutenants, it may be the most action they got to take in any tale so far. Awesome.

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