The Great Star Trek TAS Rewatch: The Slaver Weapon

While transporting a rare “stasis box” to Starbase 25, the shuttlecraft Copernicus falls into a trap laid by the Kzinti, a rare of fierce warrior felines. Now Spock, Uhura and Sulu must figure out not only how to escape, but keep the contents of the stasis box out of Kzinti hands.

This episode was a big deal back when it aired. Given the chance to write for the show and bring some of his IP into the Star Trek universe, Larry Niven adapted his short story, “The Soft Weapon” into this, The Slaver Weapon. At the time, this was all very exciting, and lots of fans greatly enjoyed seeing Niven’s Kzinti show up in the Star Trek universe.

Although I do have Ringworld in my to-read pile, I have yet to read any of Niven’s Kzinti stories, so right from the start there’s no excitement or nostalgia for me here. Add to that my natural dislike for crossover episodes, and this one’s a hard sell. I feel uneasy about introducing aspects of Kzinti lore into the Star Trek universe, especially when it drastically rewrites continuity.

Even taken on its own, this isn’t a story that has stood the test of time. On the plus side, it’s a nice touch to omit Kirk and the Enterprise in favour of focussing entirely on Spock, Sulu and Uhura. But even if the plot felt fresh and original in the 1970s, it certainly doesn’t here. The Kzinti are the classic warrior race trope – despite outnumbering and outgunning the trio from the Enterprise, their notions of honour and general shortsightedness and selfishness in planning lead to them making basic mistakes which can be exploited. And while it’s good seeing Uhura get to contribute, as the only female character in the episode she does of course end up getting kidnapped. Props to her for being able to run so fast in those heels, though.

Other notes

  • According to Sulu, the last of the wars between humans and Kzinti took place two centuries ago. In the Star Trek timeline, this would make it in the late 21st century. This timeline obviously conflicts with the now established Star Trek continuity of humanity’s first contact with aliens being with the Vulcans in 2063.
  • Apparently technology obtained from previous stasis boxes was used to develop advancements such as the antigravity belt.
  • If even an empty stasis box can detect another stasis box, why isn’t Starfleet using the ones they already have to discover more? Or maybe they are actually doing this, but the limited range of the effect makes it a slow and time consuming process.
  • Since Kzinti only value their females for breeding, they’ve bred Kzinti women to be sub-sapient beings who only eat, sleep and have sex. I’m sure this seems like the logical and right thing to do to a certain class of sci-fi fan, but it’s really quite tiresome to keep coming across it. This is science-fiction, you can do what you like with your alien races. How about something radical like writing societies where women are equal and get to be fully fleshed-out characters?
  • The Kzinti are meant to be striped, but apparently this was too expensive to animate.

Summary – The Slaver Weapon: Mr Spock and a Kzinti on the same planet! Is this a crossover episode?

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