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Star Trek’s bat’leth is the stupidest weapon in science fiction

Star Trek: Beyond is actually pretty good and CBS (not Paramount; man, that’s a decades-long habit) is working on a new Star Trek TV series, so this seems like a good time to address something that’s been bugging me for years. I know the Klingons haven’t had much of a presence in the reboot universe outside of the really, really stupid-looking post-apocalyptic raver gang in Into Darkness, but this has been a problem since Next Generation: The bat’leth is the dumbest weapon.

Yes, the signature weapon of the Klingons, the ultimate warrior’s sword wielded by a race of honorable and combat-ready space Vikings, the blade shaped when Kahless himself dipped his hair in lava and bent it into a weapon to kill the gods of the Klingons. That bat’leth. It’s dumb as hell.

If you’re not familiar with the bat’leth, which is possible since it hasn’t been in post-reboot Star Trek, it’s a Klingon “sword” that looks like a big steel crescent bat wing with leather handles. Worf is a master of it, and nearly every major duel and battle to the death involving Klingons has centered around it.

It looks super-sick, I won’t deny it. But it’s one of the stupidest weapons imaginable for a so-called warrior race, because its design is almost purely defensive. This isn’t an offensive sword. In fact, it’s terribly designed for attacking.

Bat’leths are typically held with two hands on two parts of the handles about a third of the blade’s distance inward from each end. Its base stance holds it like a staff, or one of those American Gladiators Q-tip things (which Riker hilariously fought his father with, because Next Generation for all of its great episodes had some really, really stupid moments). You hold it horizontally, and swing or deflect attacks from that position, unless you want to do a weird baton-swirling thing and try to catch it against your forearm.

I want you to picture holding this weapon, or take a broom or some long stick and hold it like you would a bat’leth. Now, from this neutral position, imagine hitting someone with the ends of the stick.

Clonk. Clonk. Wow, those were really short, weak swings. That’s because the bat’leth is designed to have the worst possible leverage when you hold it naturally. You have a yard-long steel blade, and the grip gives you a reach of about a foot, without the distance or torque to put any power behind it.

The producers, or at least the choreographers, realized this about halfway through Next Generation. That’s why when Worf goes for the killing blow against Duras, he grips his bat’leth at the far end and swings it like a big axe. It’s also why they introduced mek’leths, which are culturally minor weapons compared with the bat’leth but much, much better designed because they’re basically just big, jagged machetes.

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It’s a really good weapon for defense if you hold it naturally, but you need to completely move both of your hands to get a good swing going (and that position kills your defensive leverage). That’s a good second or two in the middle of battle, and that can mean death. Any weapon that forces you to change your grip so radically to effectively attack is terribly designed, and really stupid for a warrior race to venerate. Congratulations, honorable fighters! You’re running into battle flicking your hips to scratch at your enemies, or wasting time moving your hands while- what? You’re dead already? Good work.

Why not just wield the bat’leth like an axe all the time, then? Because that just highlights how stupid the design is. Grips are meant to be gripped, and on edged weapons every inch of grip is an inch that could be a razor-sharp blade used to murdering people. Bat’leths have big-ass grips all across the back, and if you’re holding on to just a fraction of that space, you’re really showing off how much metal is wasted, adding nothing to either blade area or weight for swinging. And because it’s a symmetrical weapon, even swinging it as an axe isn’t nearly as effective as a real axe, because the weight of the head increases the force of the blow. The angle of the claw blade things at the ends of the bat’leth are also really shallow for any sort of axe swing, so most of the power behind it will just glance off.

For a race of warriors that prize their prowess in melee combat, the most famous weapon of the Klingons is really, really dumb. Seriously, what was Kahless thinking?

Anyway here’s a slideshow about Star Trek’s sex planet.

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