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L.I. Underhill is a media critic and historian specializing in pop culture, with a focus on science fiction (especially Star Trek) and video games. Their projects include a critical history of Star Trek told through the narrative of a war in time, a “heretical” history of The Legend of Zelda series and a literary postmodern reading of Jim Davis' Garfield.


  1. BerserkRL
    January 8, 2014 @ 10:27 am

    One problem with the adaptation is that while the Kzinti's not taking Nessus seriously as a threat makes sense (given the notoriously cowardly nature of Nessus's species), transferring Nessus's role to Spock means that the Kzinti have to fail to take him seriously as a threat on the grounds that … he's a vegetarian. I mean, even the Knzinti aren't that dumb.

    Incidentally, while I'm a big fan of Niven's Known universe series, I always found the Kzinti to be the least interesting part of it.

    in Star Trek they're the Slavers, while in the Known Universe they're called the Thrint

    They're called the Slavers in the Known Universe too. "Thrintun" is the technical term for them, but "Slavers" is the colloquial term.

    Although no traces of their civilization still exist

    Not true in Niven's works; a number of Slavers have survived into the Known Space era. See World of Ptavvs, "The Handicapped," and "The Asteroid Queen."


  2. BerserkRL
    January 8, 2014 @ 10:36 am

    Incidentally, in the original story the weapon belongs not to the Slavers but to the group that was leading the rebellion against the Slavers — the Tnuctipun. I wonder why that was changed for TAS.


  3. Adam Riggio
    January 8, 2014 @ 3:23 pm

    A wonderful post again. I'm glad this theme, the Dark Side of the Federation and Star Trek itself, crops up so clearly so early in the history of the franchise. I'm mostly familiar with it through the realpolitiking that the Enterprise was roped into with Cardassia over the last two seasons. Deep Space Nine, of course, plays with these ideas throughout its run. I particularly love the late-series plot arcs in DS9 revolving around Section 31, and thinking about the similarities and contrasts with the Obsidian Order. In many ways, the Cardassians, and later the Dominion in a different manner, perform a diegetic function as the dark side of Star Trek, the enemy that forces them to turn against their ideals.

    And part of what I consider a central flaw of Voyager was that they so rarely confronted a genuine challenge to their ideals. It's why probably my favourite Voyager episode was the two-parter Equinox.


  4. BerserkRL
    January 8, 2014 @ 5:50 pm

    Voyager was particularly maddening in that respect because they were in such a natural position to explore those challenges. Here we have a Federation crew and a Maquis crew — two groups, both largely sympathetic, but with different ideals, different rules, different command structures, different attitudes to authority, all sorts of clashing values — forced to work together on one ship. There they had the potential for a lot of interesting stories. Instead, with the exception of the first couple of episodes they essentially treated the ship as a Federation ship run on Federation lines.


  5. K. Jones
    January 9, 2014 @ 4:32 pm

    Voyager is overburdened with missed opportunities.

    The joint Federation/Bajoran … and local galactic civilian … nature of DS9 as well as the static nature of a mostly fixed Station was the ideal location for these contrasts, anyway. So no stone left unturned in that series. I always assumed Voyager had the tougher act to follow because it would be treading on topics DS9 made very explicit.


  6. Daru
    February 10, 2014 @ 12:42 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.


  7. Daru
    February 10, 2014 @ 12:46 am

    I am re-watching Voyager all the way through with my partner and yes it is maddening how often they dodge those juicy areas of conflict, agree with below – big missed opportunities.

    The one thing that often annoys me is the Federation and how it describes itself, or more how each time we come across those who have opted out of the Federation are described as misguided mavericks or fools. I find that quite sad, being a foolish maverick myself but still living within society.


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