"The Slaver Weapon"

Discussion in 'Star Trek - The Original & Animated Series' started by Ketrick, Feb 16, 2013.

  1. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    ^See Inside Star Trek pp. 206-7. In Herb Solow's words:
    Of course, the other difference between that and the other two is that Brown had no actual involvement in writing the episode. "The Slaver Weapon" and "Tin Man" were both written by the actual authors of the works they were adapted from.

    (There's also TNG's "Where No One Has Gone Before," written by Diane Duane and Michael Reaves as a loose adaptation of Duane's TOS novel The Wounded Sky and then profoundly rewritten by the TNG staff until it bore almost no resemblance to Duane and Reaves's script. But I didn't count that because the source material was a Trek story, not a story from a different SF universe. And "Slaver" was the only Trek episode adapted from another long-running SF continuity. Brown's "Arena" and Bischoff & Bailey's Tin Woodman were both, as far as I know, standalone works rather than parts of series.)
     
  2. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    Well, that Inside Star Trek account doesn't address the question of whether Coon might have read or heard about Brown's story years before, which is the sort of thing that would have happened if "Gene Coon was concerned he may have been influenced by Brown's story" as Christopher first put it (emphasis mine). All we can glean from that account is that, if he had, he had honestly forgotten about it. Which is fine; it makes no difference, since he and the producers did the right thing.

    ---

    I've also noticed "story by" credits, such as for TNG: Sarek where it says story by Peter S. Beagle (from an unpublished story by Marc Cushman & Jake Jacobs). So, I guess the case there is that material originally conceived in some for or another for Star Trek was adapted?
     
  3. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    As I read the passage, it quite clearly says that Coon, an avid reader of SF, was positive that he had read the story years before and had unintentionally based part of his script on it.

    Which is exactly what I meant to convey in the first place, just in different words. I guess I could've phrased it more clearly.


    Well, the basic "story by" credit usually refers to the story outline for the episode, as either developed by the staff in the writers' room or pitched by a freelancer to the show's producers. I'm not sure what the "from an unpublished story" credit refer to; it's hard to say whether such unpublished stories ("The Emissary" also carries such a credit) were actually prose stories or just script proposals. I can't find any detailed information about them in a web search or in the TNG Companion.

    But in any case, such inspirations are generally quite loose; it may be a case where the story they developed for the episode was just indirectly inspired by the "unpublished story." For instance, "Sarek" was inspired by an outline about a different, non-telepathic ambassador having a mental breakdown, although the sources are unclear whether that was Cushman & Jacobs's story or Beagle's. So those are too vague even to constitute adaptations -- and of course if the stories are unsold, they're more potential stories than "real" ones.
     
  4. gottacook

    gottacook Captain Captain

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    Fascinating. I had always assumed that "Arena" was indeed based on the Brown story, probably because the 1973 David Gerrold book stated it as a fact: "And one of the scripts was based on a short story by Fredric Brown."
     
  5. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    Ah, interesting. Which book, by the way? There are two Gerrold Star Trek books from 1973: The World of Star Trek and The Trouble with Tribbles. And, do you have a page number?
     
  6. RAMA

    RAMA Admiral Admiral

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    http://stexpanded.wikia.com/wiki/Mirak_Star_League
     
  7. Redfern

    Redfern Commodore Commodore

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    As far as I can remember, an early issue of StarLog (maybe issue 4 or 5) also played it up as though Trek's Arena was directly inspired by the Brown short story. Not claiming that was reality, just that StarLog reported it that way. That claim prologued a reprint of the original Brown story and even had a painting by Boris Vallejo depicting the defenseless astronaut and his alien opponent. A couple of issues later StarLog printed a letter from an irate reader stating, "I thought I had accidentally picked up an issue of PlayGirl!" Boris' painting depicted nothing more than the side of the astronaut's hip. Any "crack" was hidden by shadow and soil.

    Sincerely,

    Bill
     
  8. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Well, Inside Star Trek wasn't published until 1996, and it upended a lot of conventional wisdom about ST. Maybe nobody knew the real story until Solow told it in the book. The credits did say that the episode was based on a story by Brown, and as Solow said, the production didn't tell Brown the script had already been written at the time they offered to buy the story. Maybe they were embarrassed to admit what had really happened, and so it took a while before the truth came out.
     
  9. gottacook

    gottacook Captain Captain

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    Sorry, I meant The World of Star Trek. I'm not home right now, but the quote can be seen at Google Books on page 243 (http://books.google.com/books?ei=d-...d+of+star+trek&q="was+based+on"#search_anchor).
     
  10. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    And let's take note: the reason they called up Brown and got the rights to the story was because Coon realized that he had based his episode somewhat on elements of Brown's story; it just wasn't intentionally based on it. Coon realized he'd read the story at some point in the past and was probably inadvertently drawing on his memory of it. So it's not actually wrong to say the episode was based on the story. It's just an oversimplification.
     
  11. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    Thanks.
     
  12. gottacook

    gottacook Captain Captain

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    At your service, CorporalCaptain - how's about a nice cold grape Nehi?
     
  13. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    Man, you're psychic. That's my favorite drink!
     
  14. GSchnitzer

    GSchnitzer Co-Executive Producer Moderator

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    If Coon wrote the script before he know of its subconscious source, it would be interesting to know what he had originally titled his script.

    Also, the old Starlog issue (Number 4) with "Arena" in it can be found here:

    http://swords-and-veeblefetzers.blogspot.com/2009/12/worlds-unknown-04-fredric-browns-arena.html

    Vallejo's pictures from the article are below. (I guess I understand the Playgirl assertion; it's not really "nothing more than the astronaut's hip.")

    [​IMG]
     
  15. Ketrick

    Ketrick Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    To me, the only real problem is the Slavers. The other things don't really require much creative rationalizations. Of course, that's just me.

    Though, if I were a creator of a new Trek series, I would simply be vague and only touch on what absolutely had to be touched. Only a minimum of backstory would really be necessary because I doubt most fans know much about what "The Slaver Weapon" set up. Still, the Kzinti are too cool for me to leave alone.
     
  16. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    But the Kzinti are less cool without their backstory. Like I said, they might as well just be another generic feline warrior race. If you want Kzinti coolness, your best bet is to read the Known Space series.
     
  17. Redfern

    Redfern Commodore Commodore

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    Hmm, how to do the "Slaver Weapon" without the overt Niven elements?

    Might have to pull an "Arena" on this one, having only the vague outline of the original narrative. Let's see...

    Drop aspects about the Thrint and their slave species. So instead of an ancient weapon left by a long dead race, have it be what Spock and Sulu deduce, a spy's weapon, but it's a prototype being developed by Federation intelligence. Spock, Sulu and Uhura are tasked with transporting this device to a StarFleet base. Even they don't know what it is. Since it's Fed tech' and not a Slaver box, something else is needed to make them land.

    Drop the Kzinti. Make them another adversarial species. Possible candidates could be Klingons, Gorn, maybe Romulans. (If this were the "Next Gen'" era, one could play upon the often bragged upon Klingon "honor". The leader get sidewhacked by Spock, a seeming pacifist and he'd demand a rematch. But since this was years before Ruffles had ridges, er, I mean Klingons, let alone the obsession with "honor", it might have seen odd. Klingons were portrayed as the "back stabbers" until '87.

    Romulans might work as we observed a sense of fair play in Mark Lenard's "Romulan Commander". Maybe the leader here is disgusted with the way Vulcans socially developed sense their "split". Again, getting ambushed by a supposed peace lover would be insulting to a warrior race.

    Given their teeth, I think we can reasonably assume the Gorn are likely carnivores. so, like the Chuft-Captain, the leader would be shamed getting injured by a plant eater.

    Or, if one just has to employ a feline species, build upon M'Ress' species. Make it a faction of Caitians that opposed the planet's entry into the Federation. The idea of milling about with carrion eaters and flat out herbivores is disgusting to them. they want to return to the "old ways". Again, the initial confrontation between the lead pirate and Spock can not go unchallenged. (While I personal like this twist, even i will agree that might lean a bit too close to Niven's Kzin for comfort.

    Point is, the "meat" of the story could be retained while keeping it more firmly rooted in existing Trek lore.

    Sincerely,

    Bill
     
  18. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    But that's the thing... back when Niven wrote the episode in 1973, there wasn't nearly as much "existing Trek lore" as there is now. They hadn't even pinned down exactly when the series took place, and its history was mostly unwritten. So it was easy to plug in ideas from other SF franchises. Niven did it in "The Slaver Weapon," and James Blish did it in his early TOS episode adaptations, which pretty much imply at some points that Star Trek took place in Blish's Cities in Flight universe (which, at the time, was the more established and mature franchise).

    But since then, Trek history has been fleshed out in much greater detail by creators who weren't making any effort to keep "The Slaver Weapon" in mind, due to the ambiguous status of TAS as a whole and the legal issues with Niven's creations in particular. So today we have a Trek history that the details of "The Slaver Weapon" no longer fit into.

    In short, the episode is an artifact of its time. I'm not that fond of the idea of rewriting books and episodes to force them to fit a more modern take, since I think it does them an injustice. I think they should be accepted and appreciated for what they are, what they were intended to be. And if that doesn't fit with modern continuity, so what? It's all equally imaginary anyway. The eccentricities of these early alternative takes are part of what makes them interesting, and I'd rather celebrate that infinite diversity than try to bowdlerize their unique attributes and bulldoze them into uniformity.
     
  19. Redfern

    Redfern Commodore Commodore

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    D*mn...sorry I typed anything.

    No, wait...I won't apologize for posting.

    You are the one who keeps posting, "It doesn't belong! It doesn't belong!" So, simply as a mental exercise, just a bloody conjecture, how might have the writing staff of 1973 created an equivalent narrative, avoiding the legal hassles resulting from the Kzinti, ancient Slavers, stasis boxes, etc.

    I was NOT stating they SHOULD have done it, merely HOW it could have been done within the context of 1973.

    Sincerely,

    Bill
     
  20. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    I get what you're getting at.

    From http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Caitian#Background:

    From http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Kzinti#Background:

    The "alternate universe" idea of Star Trek Kzin as actual renegade Caitians, as opposed to more distant relatives, is intriguing. Why Fontana, Niven, et al. didn't go that route at the time, I haven't a clue. If it did occur to them, perhaps they decided that there was no compelling reason to go there. In any case, none of that means that I'm sorry that we got the episode we got.