Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Animated Series, Season 1: The Slaver Weapon

The Animated Series, Season 1
"The Slaver Weapon"
Airdate: December 15, 1973
11 of 22 produced
14 of 22 aired


Uhura, Spock, and Sulu are travelling by shuttle with a valuable artifact of a long dead civilization. They are to take this object, a Slaver stasis box to Starbase 36 for study. The box holds its contents in perfect stasis, even for a billion years. Its contents could provide vital clues to the ancient Slaver society, a civilization that ruled the galaxy a billion years ago. Previous stasis boxes yielded invaluable treasure. What secrets does this box hold? What dangers? And will the crew be able to keep it from falling into the wrong hands?
Has anyone ever told you that you have a certain glow about you, Lieutenant?


Kevin: I didn't quite know what to make of this episode when I first watched it. Introducing another ancient, galaxy spanning civilization seems a little annoying to me at first. How many can there really be? But then I thought about it and even if a species ruled the galaxy for a 100 million years, that's still 150 civilizations over the life of the universe. Anyway, the exposition here is good. I thought enough information about the Slaver's was given to make them interesting, but not so much that they got bogged down in details.

The highlight of this episode for me was the action involving Sulu and Uhura. It's always nice when the other cast members get to do some stuff, and when they let Nichelle Nichols use her own voice, I find her to be a pretty good voice talent. I also liked that we finally have an outing where Spock is in command and no one questions his Vulcan decisions.

I also really liked the casual mention that previous Slaver discoveries let to artificial gravity. Every time they find an advanced civilization, they always discuss how it could revolutionize the Federation, and then nothing. (cough cough..Cytherians..cough cough) It's a nice touch and very credible that the Federation didn't invent from whole cloth every single one of their advancements.

The Kzinti were, well let's face it, pretty bad. If we haven't discussed this before, it should be pointed out here that the show runner, Hal Sutherland was color blind, and saw pinks as grays, and that explains the Kzinti as well as the Klingon uniforms and the tribbles. I understand not catching that it's pink. I want to know who made it pink in the first place. That aside, I felt the Kzinti fell very quickly into the trap of "Since we are evil, we must also be breathtakingly stupid." Overall, I didn't find them threatening, so much as annoying. I know the crew is going win in the end, it's a tv show after all, but I want it to feel like they had to work for it a little.

The episode did really impress me at one point. When the weapon refuses to give the Kzinti information as they lack the proper ID, but seemed willing to turn back into the doomsday gun, I thought to myself that was a pretty ass-tastic security system, but then it turned out it was a ruse for the self destruct device. I always appreciate when the writers anticipate and respond to my objections.

In the balance, this is a 3. I enjoyed watching the episode a great deal. The action sequences were fun, and there were some nice moments in going back to get Uhura, but the design and blandness of the Kzinti hold this back from the 4.


The Kzinti as villains are the primary problem with this episode. I appreciate that they would be unable to do the Kzinti convincingly on TOS. So their look is perhaps marginally pretty good. Well, outside of the pink ships and uniforms, anyway, which were apparently due to the color-blindness you mentioned. But the race itself had some issues. They didn't seem menacing or competent enough to justify a total disarmament a la postwar Japan .

Anyway, every other part of this show was pretty darned good. The stasis box is a great idea which reminds me of some serious hard-sci-fi writing. The galaxy-striding civilization didn't bug me too much, except for the notion that it could be maintained as a slave state. That is something that has never been seen in our experience as a workable, lasting form of government. I do like though the notion that there was a total war that eliminated all intelligent life. A nice Cold War idea.  What impressed me the most was the shock wave of the matter-energy explosion. It's the sort of little detail that gets overlooked by a lot of lazier dramas (usually produced and directed by J. J. Abrams). Its inclusion here pleased me to no end. There were also good character moments, such as Sulu's weapons expertise, and Uhura's annoyance at having to play the "stupid female."

Really, most of this could be developed into a great TOS episode. The inherent mystery of the stasis box and the weapon itself could definitely have sustained an hour-long show. It just would have been done with someone like the Klingons or the Romulans, and it would have been better for it. The Kzinti just weren't up to the task. It would be as if Picard was at odds with the Ferengi instead of the Romulans in "Contagion," a very similar plot.

But is this really in the upper quartile of Trek? Sadly, I think it just might have to be considered as a part of the big part of the bell curve, because of the lackluster villain and the other limits of the format. It's a 3 from me as well, for a total of 6.

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