Wednesday, September 4, 2013

BLASTERS MONTH - Zat'nik'tel (Zat)

Jack and his Zat
If we were taking a poll of which gun in SF folklore had the stupidest name, the Zat'nik'tel, or Zat gun, would get the gong in my book. The zat was introduced in Stargate SG1 and is of Goa'uld design, possibly explaining the ridiculous name.

While I'll concede the idea of a pistol that looks and/or works like a serpent (viper) is pretty terrifying, the way the zat gun works is actually the opposite of what you may think. Far from the deadly, lightning fast strike of a cobra, the zat gun is disappointingly clunky, and about as scary as a rainbow with a pot of gold at the end.

A pot of gold guarded by a comical leprechaun.
The guys who brought you the Zat'nik'tel

The weapon is carried about in its relaxed, dormant state. When activated, it makes a piercing electronic whine, utterly destroying the element of surprise. Following the beeping and whining, it jerks upright in an ungainly mockery of a snake preparing to strike.

So what happens next? The first shot from a zat gun usually stuns the target - but not always. Some people/creatures/godlike beings are able to resist the stunning effects of the first shot. But most fall down unconscious - similar to the effect of being stunned by a phaser.

The second shot from a zat usually kills - once again, not always. But let's take a break here for a moment while I propose a purely hypothetical scenario. Let's just say for a moment that I jumped out from behind a wobbly bulkhead and shot you (because you are my enemy) with a zat gun and you fell down stunned. Oscar winning performance BTW - well done. Now I'm presented with a bit of a dilemma. You might get up again after I run off, and try to hunt me down. No problem, I think. I can just shoot you a second time, while you're lying prone and defenceless as the day you were born, knowing the second shot will probably kill you.

The zat at rest
Now lets assume that I'm a hero of rather average morals who doesn't have much of a problem shooting prone, defenceless, stunned people, so I shoot you again. Your body convulses and you die. AWESOME, I think. No need to worry about that douchebag anymore. I'm about to rush off to do something truly world-saving - and I'm talking about a deed so amazingly heroic I'll be immortalised forever as a shining example of how brave humanity can be - when I look back at your prone, defenceless, dead body and worry that if anyone sees you laying there, they may raise the alarm and foil my planet-saving plans.

Then I remember that a third shot from a zat will completely disintegrate your body as if it never existed. Your mummy and daddy will never know what happened to you. I wrestle with this concept for a moment, because although I'm a hero of pretty average morals, I'm also a sci fi fan, and that means I'm interested in what it means to be human. I ask myself what effect utterly destroying another sentient being will have on upon my soul. It's actually a pretty gut-wrenching concept when I think about it.

Then I hear the stomp of more enemy troops echoing down the hall and I shoot your prone, defenceless, dead body a third time without hesitation. Time to rush off and do that truly heroic thing I was talking about.

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