|||[Boldly Going]||| Star Trek: The Original Series—Season Two: Ep. 2.15 “The Trouble with Tribbles” – (Original air date: Friday, December 29, 1967)

Welcome to my rewatching of the original 79 episodes of the series that launched the franchise. Below are the bulletpointed notes I jotted down while watching “The Trouble with Tribbles.”

  • On this date in history, “Hello, Goodbye,” by the Beatles, is the #1 single on the Billboard Hot 100. The song is going to ride out the top of the chart into the first two weeks of 1968. You say “Yes.” I say “No.” You say “Stop.” I say “Go, go, go.” Profound lyrics.
  • The term black hole is coined by Princeton University physicist John Archibald Wheeler during an after-dinner talk at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in New York.
  • The so-called spaghetti western The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly made its American debut, dubbed in English, a full year after it was first released in Italy. That famous movie theme you’re probably hearing in your head right now? Ennio Morricone. His composition “The Ecstasy of Gold,” which is also in this film, is a favorite intro track for the rock band Metallica, and can also currently be heard in Modelo beer commercials.
  • The Trouble with Tribbles” made my list of essential TOS episodes. It’s always been one of my favorites, among the most memorable episodes, and I’m not alone in this. Not to be a sheep, it’s near the top of most diehard Trekkie lists.
  • Even people who don’t consider themselves to be Trekkies are usually familiar with this episode.
  • More Tribbles, More Troubles” was the sequel to this episode on Star Trek: The Animated Series.
  • Trials and Tribble-ations” was the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode that used special effects to put the time-traveling crew of DS9 into this TOS episode, using the best special effects available in 1996.
  • Tribbles even made an appearance in the Kelvin Timeline of the J.J. Abrams Trek reboot. In Star Trek: Into Darkness, Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy was injecting a dead tribble with some of Khan’s blood to test its regenerative powers.
  • This episode was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation in 1968, but lost to another Trek episode, “The City on the Edge of Forever.” Bittersweet.
  • I’ve read that several people involved with TOS disliked the episodes with a comedic tone that seemed prominent during Gene L. Coon’s tenure. These people included Gene Roddenberry, who envisioned this as a more serious show. The Great Bird of the Galaxy, probably bowing down to popular opinion, later listed this episode as one of his favorites.
  • Personally, I would have hated the series if it were a steady diet of such episodes, but the occasional whimsical story, often with much lower stakes, was a pleasant respite. A pleasant, refreshing rest stop on the long highway of a season.
  • That being said, Captain James T. Kirk is wearing that green, V-necked, wraparound Ice Capades tunic once again in this episode. I thought we had seen the last of that accursed garment.
  • I didn’t write that many notes during this rewatch, but I noted the green tunic twice on the same quarter of a notebook page. Whimsical or not, I hate it.
  • During the teaser, we learn that the USS Enterprise is heading for Deep Space Station K-7, which makes me wonder how Terok Nor was able to get the designation Deep Space Nine. Did the space station cataloguing system change at some point, or is there also a letter in front of DS9’s number? Or, am I overthinking this, as nerds are wont to do?
  • The space station is only one parsec from the nearest Klingon outpost. Deep Space K-7 is also close to the M-class Sherman’s Planet, which is—for the purposes of this episode—claimed by both the Klingons and the Federation.
  • For further edification, a parsec is defined as about 3.26 light years, or the distance light can travel in a little over 39 months. In the Trek universe, as in ours, a parsec is a measure of distance, not time. I’m looking at you, George Lucas.
  • In the teaser to this episode, Ensign Chekov suggested that the Klingon outpost was “close enough to smell them.” I realize that this was meant to be hyperbolic (as well as racist), but my argument is that a parsec is still quite a distance, even at fictional super-speeds.
  • We get a little more Trek military history in this teaser as well. Twenty-three years before the date of this episode, the Federation fought the Battle of Donatu V with the Klingon Empire. While the results of the battle were inconclusive, it resulted in the Organian Peace Treaty, which will grant control of Sherman’s Planet to whomever demonstrates that it can develop the planet’s resources most efficiently. Donatu V would later be referenced in other Trek series, including Discovery. And, the Organian Peace Treaty would later be superseded by the Khitomer Accords.
  • To avoid a lengthy sidebar, I’m not going to talk about Organians or Khitomer any further.
  • This is all teaser backstory, at any rate. Space station K-7 issues an alert that they are under attack. Captain Kirk orders an increase in ship’s speed to Warp Factor 6.
  • I don’t know how far the Enterprise is from K-7, but at Warp 6 it would take 5.5 days to travel from K-7 to the Klingon outpost. You would think a space station under attack would warrant a bit more speed. Just sayin’.
  • This was a good teaser, promising a lot of action.
  • As Act One begins, we get none of the action promised. The space station does not seem to be under attack. Captain Kirk beams over with his First Officer, Mr. Spock. I’m not sure who’s in charge of the Enterprise. It should be Scotty. We’re pretty loose with chain-of-command in these days.
  • Kirk launches into Lurry, the station manager, about misuse of the emergency beacon. Lurry’s not to blame here, though. That will be Nilz Baris (which reads a lot like Niels Bohr, doesn’t it?). Baris is the Federation Undersecretary for Agricultural Affairs, and he is in charge of the Sherman’s Planet development project.
  • Baris has an aide named Arne Darvin. When you give a character a name, you also give him a reason to exist, in most cases. Why does Arne Darvin exist? Hold that thought.
  • Baris and his assistant both fear that the Klingons are going to attempt to sabotage the Federation’s best hope to gain control of Sherman’s Planet. It’s a high-yield grain known as quadrotriticale, and it’s the only Terran grain that will grow on this planet. Tons of this grain are stored on K-7.
  • Kirk is still miffed at Baris for crying “wolf.” He assigns only two guards to the station, reporting to the hapless Lurry, and allows his crew to take shore leave.
  • Lieutenant Uhura and Ensign Chekov head straight to the station bar, because they are party people. There, they meet a trader named Cyrano Jones, who is trying to sell stuff to the bartender. The barkeep isn’t interested in Spican Flame Gems or Antarean Glow Water (although I am), but he kinda likes the Tribbles.
  • Everyone likes Tribbles, it seems. They’re furry little powder puff creatures that purr and are all cute as hell. As Chekov points out, they seem to like eating the special grain that’s stored on the space station. Think that might be an important plot point?
  • The trader sells some of the creatures to the bartender after haggling over the price, but he gives one to Uhura, who is crazy about Tribbles. He claims that it will help spur the sales. Uhura wears short skirts and has nice legs. Good advertising.
  • On the Enterprise, Kirk is ordered by Admiral Fitzpatrick to give any and all aid that Nilz Baris needs. Kirk is told that the safety of the grain—and the project—is his responsibility now. Kirk isn’t happy about this.
  • But, then he hears that a Klingon battle cruiser has arrived within 100 km of K-7.
  • That’s more Kirk’s speed. He orders a red alert, and then contacts Lurry.
  • The station manager tells Kirk that K-7 is not under attack. In fact, the captain of the Klingon vessel, Koloth, and his first officer, Korax, are sitting in his office.
  • Kirk cancels the red alert, and the first act.
  • As Act Two begins, Kirk beams over to the station with Spock. The Klingons use the Organian Treaty to justify their right to take shore leave. Kirk agrees to their right, but limits them to 12 Klingons at a time, with one guard assigned to each Klingon.
  • Sounds a little discriminatory, no?
  • Back on board the Enterprise, Uhura’s tribble delivers a litter of baby powder puffs. Dr. McCoy takes one of the baby tribbles to study it.
  • After getting a headache from arguing with Baris over security matters, Kirk goes to the sickbay to get treatment for his headache. He notices McCoy’s tribble has already produced offspring. McCoy says at least 50% of the creature’s metabolism is geared towards reproduction.
  • At first, Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott is reluctant to take shore leave. Kirk is too concerned that Scotty is getting too wrapped up in his technical journals, so he orders him to take shore leave to keep an eye on the others.
  • In a bar on the station, Cyrano Jones is still trying to sell tribbles. But, no one wants more. The bartender says the one he acquired earlier has already multiplied.
  • The tribbles all react violently to Klingons. And, Klingons don’t like tribbles either. This is probably an important plot point.
  • The Klingon first officer Korax begins insulting the Enterprise crew, first by comparing humans to Regulan bloodworms. He angers Mr. Chekov by insulting Captain Kirk, but Scott restrains the navigator. But, when Korax calls the Enterprise herself a garbage scow, Scotty no longer practices restraint, throwing the first punch that starts a huge bar brawl.
  • Security officers from the Enterprise arrest all the brawlers and shore leave for both ships is cancelled. And we’re at the end of our act.
  • Act Three begins with Kirk interrogating his crew, trying to find out who started the brawl. Scotty confesses that he started the fight after the others are confined to quarters. A bit of comedy as Kirk finds out that Scotty didn’t act until his ship was insulted.
  • Kirk also restricts Scotty to quarters. Scotty is happy to comply because it gives him a chance to catch up on his technical journals.
  • In sickbay, Spock and McCoy have a light-hearted debate about the tribbles. Spock notes their one redeeming characteristic to McCoy: tribbles do not talk too much.
  • The tribbles are getting out of hand. They are all over the bridge. There’s even one in—gasp!—Kirk’s chair.
  • McCoy has learned that tribbles are born pregnant. Their rampant reproduction is quickly filling the ship with their offspring.
  • Kirk orders Uhura to communicate that Cyrano Jones be detained on K-7. And, exasperated, he orders everyone to get the tribbles off the bridge.
  • On the space station, Spock calls Cyrano Jones to task for removing the tribbles from their natural predators and allowing them to overbreed.
  • Baris, the Federation Undersecretary over Grain Storage, or something like that, complains again to Kirk about insufficient security for the quadrotriticale grain. He’s also convinced that Cyrano Jones is a Klingon agent, which Kirk doubts.
  • Back on the Enterprise, the tribbles are into everything. All decks, the food synthesizers, all machinery and even the ventilation ducts.
  • When Spock points out that similar ventilation ducts on K-7 are connected to the grain storage compartments, Kirk rushes back onto the station and opens up one of the storage compartments. He is buried by an avalanche of falling tribbles.
  • Which signals our act break.
  • In Act Four, the jig is up and everything comes to an end.
  • The officious, supercilious Federation undersecretary Baris is in a hurry to place the blame for the failure of his project on Kirk, and is threatening to call a Starfleet board of inquiry against him.
  • Meanwhile, Spock and McCoy note that many of the tribbles in the avalanche are dead or dying. Kirk orders McCoy to find out why.
  • Kirk calls everyone together in station manager Lurry’s office, in time-honored amateur detective fashion. Koloth and Baris are both trying to politicize the incident, neither willing to give ground to the other. Koloth asks that all tribbles be removed from the room.
  • As one of the guards passes near Arne Darvin (you remember him, Baris’s aide) with the tribbles, the creatures begin to shriek just like they do around Klingons. Curiouser and curiouser.
  • McCoy’s tricorder reveals that Darvin is a disguised Klingon. Darvin has poisoned the grain with a virus that prevents its victims from absorbing nutrients. That’s how all the tribbles died.
  • Darvin is arrested. The Klingons are ordered to vacate Federation territory within the next six hours.
  • Back in the K-7 bar, Kirk and Spock give Cyrano Jones a choice between twenty years in a rehabilitation colony, or picking up every tribble on the station, which Spock estimates will take 17.9 years. Jones agrees to pick up tribbles.
  • Back on board the Enterprise bridge for a light-hearted outro. The ship is all clear of tribbles. Kirk wants to know how they did it. After some hemming and hawing, Scotty admits that, before the Klingon ship went into warp, he beamed all of the little critters into their engine room “where they’ll be no tribble at all.”
  • Hee-hee, ho-ho, ha-ha.

I’ve already said that I liked this one. The tribbles were cute and comical. Scotty started a bar room brawl because a Klingon insulted the Enterprise. What more can a Trekkie ask for? 4-out-of-5-stars.

Five-star ratings don’t grow on trees. This one was close.

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