The Slaver Weapon
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Published on Mar 6, 2012
"The Slaver Weapon" is an episode (#13) of Star Trek: The Animated Series that first aired on 15 December 1973.
Larry Niven's "The Slaver Weapon" in Star Trek: The Animated Series, adapted from his own short story "The Soft Weapon". It includes some elements from his Known Space mythos such as the Kzinti and the Slavers. This is the only Kirk era TV or movie story in which Kirk didn't appear. This episode also has the distinction of being the only animated episode where anyone dies or is killed on-screen. All that was known and left of those lost civilizations were their stasis boxes, in which several advanced devices were found. The first one found contained a flying belt, the second a disruptor bomb, and one found in 2269 contained a weapon of a Tnuctip spy
Dorothy "D.C." Fontana, a prolific author of Star Trek screenplays, approached Larry Niven in 1973 to see if he would write an episode for The Animated Series. At the time Niven was a major up-and-coming force in the science fiction world; in 1971 he won three major science fiction awards for his book Ringworld, the Hugo, Nebula and Locus.
Niven's first attempt to write a screenplay introduced his Known Space setting into the Star Trek universe. The story involved a group of Outsiders who were using a quantum black hole to disable passing ships drives' in order to pirate them. Fontana advised him that the original version wouldn't work as an episode, and his second attempt proved to be "too bloody."
While Niven visited Gene Roddenberry's house one afternoon, Roddenberry suggested that he use his short story "The Soft Weapon" as the basis for an episode. This story opens with a small spacecraft making a quick side-trip to view Beta Lyrae. Onboard are the human couple who crew the spacecraft, and their passenger, a Pierson's Puppeteer named Nessus. Nessus has a stasis box in his possession, and a routine scan reveals that another stasis box is located somewhere in the Beta Lyrae system, much to their surprise. When they attempt to retrieve the second box, they are captured by a group of Kzinti pirates. The Kzinti are in possession of an empty stasis box, and are using it to lure in passing starships. The three outwit the Kzinti and escape.
For the adaptation into the Star Trek universe, Niven changed the identity of the characters in the original to their analogs in Star Trek. Nessus, a highly intelligent normally pacifistic herbivore, fitted neatly onto the character of Spock. The original male and female starship crew were replaced by Sulu and Uhura, while the small spacecraft became the newly introduced long-range shuttlecraft. The characters from the Kzinti ship remained unchanged.
There were minor changes to simplify the storytelling, but only one major change. In "The Soft Weapon" the artifacts were built by the Tnuctip, a technologically advanced species that had been enslaved by the Thrint, the titular "Slavers". They had built many weapons in secret like this one as part of a long-planned revolt. This backstory is outside the scope of the "The Slaver Weapon", and in this version the box and weapon are presumed to be of Slaver origin.
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