I liked the two-parter “In a Mirror, Darkly” in the final season of Star Trek: Enterprise because it seemed to be actively channeling the original series, and we got to see Jonathan Archer and his crew wearing TOS-era uniforms.
As it turns out, DS9 did something similar years earlier with Ep. 5.6 “Trials and Tribble-ations.” While I’ll admit that I could be biased because I watched it just earlier today, I’ll go so far as to say I think I liked this DS9 episode just as much as the Enterprise two-parter. It has definitely made my All-Time Best Trek list.
DS9 took the TOS homage a step further than Enterprise did. Using the same technology that had been used to make Forest Gump just a couple of years before this aired, this episode used footage from the TOS episode “The Trouble with Tribbles” and painted the DS9 characters, realistically, into several scenes. The results look amazing.
The David Gerrold-penned “The Trouble with Tribbles” is among my favorite of the original series episodes. So, that was a plus right off the bat. It was more light-hearted than the typical ship-and-crew-in-danger plots. And the comedic situations presented by the fast-reproducing tribbles didn’t seem forced. I’ll write about this episode in detail when I get there in this Boldly Going project.
The DS9 crew gets involved through that time-honored Trek Trope Time Travel. Long story, shortened: the Defiant has one of those mystic Bajoran orbs on it that’s somehow related to time travel, and they pick up a human merchant named Waddle who is actually Arne Darvin, the same Klingon surgically altered to appear human who was in “The Trouble with Tribbles.” Played by the same actor, by the way. Waddle/Darvin sabotages the orb somehow to send all of them back in time to the moment of his downfall, the Tribble fiasco on Space Station K-7.
The writers of this DS9 episode heightened the stakes by having the future Darvin plotting to kill James T. Kirk this time by planting a bomb inside one of the Tribbles. Odo, Worf, Sisko, Dax, O’Brien and Bashir all disguise themselves in period appropriate clothing. Odo and Worf are civilian traders, while the rest are in old-style primary-colored Starfleet uniforms. Dax covers up her Trill spots as well.
There’s a lot to like in this episode. The sets are perfect, as is the blending of original footage and new. I like Sisko explaining how the uniform colors signified different things during Kirk’s time. Gold was for command and red was support. Also, Dax is wearing a miniskirt just like the women on TOS with her hair in a semi-beehive do reminiscent of Yeoman Rand.
I also liked our DS9 team having to learn how to use the turbolifts of the era (with the hand-operated handle in addition to voice command). I even liked Worf’s not-explanatory explanation for the different appearance of the Klingons in this episode. Enterprise offered a more extensive retcon later, but just the fact that it was acknowledged was enough for me.
This episode also has a wraparound frame device, which has this entire episode being presented as Sisko’s testimony to Lucsly and Dulmur from Temporal Investigations. I enjoyed the idea of a Federation agency investigating time travel incidents (especially since there seems to be a lot of time travel in Trek) and I absolutely loved the fact that TI agents would loathe James T. Kirk as one of the worst offenders for temporal anomalies. What I missed when watching this episode was that Lucsly and Dulmur were based on Scully and Mulder from The X-Files. Even their names are anagrams (loosely so in Dulmur’s case). Maybe this would have been more obvious to me if I had watched this episode when it originally aired. But, I love this homage as well.
The plot of the episode itself is relatively straightforward, and if it were any other episode without the special effects that allow the original cast to work together again in a Trek episode, it wouldn’t have been anything special. This is a case of the whole being better than the sum of its parts.
I give this episode 4 out of 5 stars without reservation. Highly recommended.