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Star Trek The Animated Series: The Slaver Weapon

Mikey Heinrich and Billie Doux discuss The Animated Series episode, "The Slaver Weapon."

Mikey: Wow, that was a lot of ideas to throw at that one wall.

So, Sulu, Spock and Uhura are off on a side quest this week to return a rare and potentially dangerous ancient artifact to a nearby starbase via shuttlecraft. Why does this take three people, let alone these three people? Why doesn't this merit at least one security person? Who knows. We barely have time to register the questions before we're off and running.

Back in the day (and possibly still, I haven't thought about it in ages and haven't checked if it's still going) there was a web cartoon called Axe Cop, which was literally plotted by a five year old, and was awesome. The way it worked was that the cartoonist (mid-twenties, as I recall) would play with his five-year-old brother, and the stories the kid came up with were what he would draw in the comic strip.

The high point for me was when Lobster Man began telling the story of his secret origin with the sentence, "Our parents were German Shepherds..."

This episode felt a lot like that same energy. So many potentially cool and interesting ideas are being rattled off, machine gun style, that it's hard to even keep up. The idea of stasis boxes – vessels in which time is literally frozen indefinitely until you reopen the box – could easily support a whole episode on its own, but here we immediately follow it up with the reveal that they're created by the ancient race of Slavers who existed centuries ago and ruled absolutely everything and eventually one race that they'd subjugated fought back and the war destroyed literally everything in existence so that evolution had to start all over from scratch, but even so, some stuff they left behind in the boxes was the basis for pretty much all of the cool technology the Federation has, and they had this gun that thinks for itself and shoots nuclear explosions, and the boxes can totally sense each other, but one of them got found by sexist space-Wolverines who you can totally ward off by thinking about vegetables and then the gun realizes that they don't know the secret passcodes so it tricks the space wolverines into blowing everything up.

See what I mean about the five-year-old energy?

Like, there are at least three concepts in there that completely upend most of what we understand about the universe, but we bolt through them like the sugar rush is just really kicking in, and none of it gets reflected on in any way because HEY LET'S GO RIDE BIKES!

This episode would be completely exhausting if it wasn't just so much fun.

My favorite detail, were I to pick one, is that one of the previous stasis boxes contained a super-grenade with the pin pulled, after which all stasis boxes were declared property of the Federation and too dangerous for anyone else. Which seems a little difficult for them to enforce should, say, a Romulan come across one.

What did you all think?

Billie: Mikey, I loved your recap so very much. I laughed several times.

It did have a lot of potential. I really enjoyed those carnivorous morons experimenting with the green hair dryer that turned into all those different objects. Is it a telescope? A cell phone? A divining rod? A balloon? It's just amazing that no one thought it could quite possibly blow up like the grenade they mentioned earlier. The ending where the safely imprisoned Enterprise crew figured out that the weapon would self-destruct and take out the Kzinti, right before it did exactly that, was my favorite part.

The anti-vegetarian stuff was mildly amusing. The "women as dumb animals" was less so.

I have to comment on the Kzinti choice of wardrobe. They're orange-red beings and their uniforms were pink and purple with yellow accents. Their spaceship was also pink. What sort of self-respecting uber-carnivorous beings are they?

I can't believe a major science fiction writer wrote this one. So disappointed in you, Larry Niven.

For what it's worth, John Varley wrote four science fiction novels (The Thunder and Lightning series, first volume entitled Red Thunder) about the invention of two different bubbles, one of which was a stasis bubble that did what the slaver boxes did. Varley came up with a bunch of amazing, imaginative things that could be done with it.

Mikey: I think the thing I really enjoyed about this one is that it so closely mirrors what kids actually do with the characters. If you went out to "play Star Trek" with your friends, this is pretty much exactly what it would look like. It made me kind of nostalgic for the feeling.

Yeah, regarding the "women are dumb animals" portion. This seems like a perfect encapsulation of Gene's difficult relationship with feminism. We have Spock saying the right things as far as "Hey, WE all know that women are smart and valuable, but if we play into their prejudices it would give us a tactical advantage." Which is a perfectly fair and logical point. But then the episode just revels in rolling around in the sexism like a pig in mud for the rest of the time so that Spock's statement kind of reads like "no homo, but for chicks." Which is frustrating. Saying the right thing followed up by doing the wrong thing seems to be how Gene and feminism liked to roll.

Billie: Such a good point about kids playing Star Trek, Mikey. It did feel like that. Speaking as someone who played Star Trek when I was young.

The Kzinti and their women-as-dumb-animals thing was much like the Ferengi, whom I think Roddenberry had planned to be Next Gen's big bad, except that everyone hated them, and their big ears and head curtains made them look ridiculous.

Star Trek is so interesting as a cultural phenomenon. It started out appearing to be genuinely progressive, except that we look back at it now and see it as baby steps. But they were steps. I still give Roddenberry huge credit for putting an African American woman and an Asian man on the bridge in the 1960s, and for trying so hard to give us a woman as second in command in the original pilot. Every Star Trek series has moved the goalpost. Even The Animated Series gave us that Uhura/Chapel episode.

Mikey: Very true. You have to give them a ton of credit, even if Gene's lesser instincts occasionally undercut his good intentions.

Which is why the whole right wing "Why did Star Trek have to get woke and all political all of a sudden?" thing is so completely ridiculous.

Billie: People see what they want to see, interpret things through their own personal lens. A lot of Star Trek fans trash all of the new series. That always makes me sad. I love that we have so much new Star Trek to enjoy. The Paramount Plus service is the one I can't do without.

Mikey: Right there with you! I'm literally counting the hours until I can go home and watch the finale of Strange New Worlds.

Billie: What do you think? Two out of four pink and purple spacesuits? I'm giving it that second point because of the green hair dryer.

Mikey: I'll go with five out of ten doses of ADHD medication. Although I really did enjoy the particular flavor of 'objectively not very good' that it's steeped in.

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