Star Trek–The Trouble with Tribbles (1967)   2 comments

The Tribbles are Everywhere



Let your geek flag fly high and proudly!  You know who you are, fellow classic Star Trek fan.  You can recite this episode line-by-line, can you not?  So can I.  Consequently, this post will contain fewer details than any given Starhunter summary and review, for example.  The Trouble with Tribbles occupies an iconic place in science fiction television, and I choose to focus more on impressions than content this time.  The Tribbles did reappear in an episode of the 1973-1975 animated series and one episode of Deep Space Nine.  I will devote substantial content to the plot summaries of those episodes when I come to them, in subsequent posts.

Here is the short version of the plot, with pictures:

Captain Kirk, after receiving a high priority, emergency-only distress signal from space station K-7, takes the Enterprise to the space station, located near the Federation-Klingon border.  K-7 is near Sherman’s Planet, ownership of which is under dispute between the Klingon Empire and the United Federation of Planets.  The Organian Peace Treaty dictates that the side capable of developing the planet more efficiently will win.

Nilz Barris

Kirk and company arrive, only to find no emergency.  Nilz Barris, Undersecretary of Agricultural Affairs, ordered the emergency signal.  Quadrotriticale, a wheat-rye hybrid, is the only Earth grain capable of growing on Sherman’s Planet, and K-7 has much of the grain on board.  Barris wants Kirk to place guards around the storage bins.

One very funny recurring joke in the episode is that Kirk is the only person who seems never to have heard of Quadrotriticale.  He keeps calling it “wheat.”

Arne Darvin

Barris is obnoxious.  He spends the episode threatening Kirk, who insults him repeatedly  in return.  But even more annoying than Barris is his aide, Arne Darvin.

Cyrano Jones Shows Lt. Uhura a Tribble

In a bar aboard K-7, traveling merchant Cyrano Jones gives a tribble to Lt. Uhura.  A tribble, of course, is a furball that coos for everyone except a Klingon.  Remember that fact.

Captain Koloth

Captain Koloth and his Klingon crew visit K-7 for shore leave.  They have this right under the Organian Peace Treaty.  (That is what you get when non-corporeal beings impose a treaty on the Federation and the Empire.)

Prelude to a Bar Fight

Enterprise and Klingon officers enjoy shore leave on K-7.  What could possibly go wrong?  Kirk orders Scotty to keep the peace.  So, when Korax, the Klingon ship’s Executive Officer, insults Kirk to Scotty’s face, the Chief Engineer refuses to start a bar fight.  But Korax’s comment that the Enterprise should be hauled away as garbage is too much.  Scotty throws the first punch.  As he tells Captain Kirk, later, it was a matter of pride.

Tribbles are Everywhere

About this time Kirk and crew discover how prolific tribbles are.  They reproduce ten-fold upon the act of eating more than the smallest morsel of food.  So tribbles overwhelm the Enterprise and its systems.

Kirk, Buried in Tribbles

And they have consumed the Quadrotriticale at K-7.

But the K-7 tribbles are mostly either dead or dying.  Someone has poisoned the grain.

Spock, a Tribble, and Kirk

Tribbles like Vulcans.  Spock says that tribbles must be perceptive animals.

Barris, a Tribble, and Kirk

Tribbles even like Nilz Barris.  Kirk concludes that there must be no accounting for taste.

But a tribble reacts to Arne Darvin as if he were a Klingon.  He is a Klingon altered surgically to appear Human.  But really, given the appearance of Klingons in the original series, that is not saying much.  A two-part episode of Star Trek: Enterprise offers an explanation for changing Klingon appearances over time, but that is beside the point here and now.

Oh, Darvin poisoned the grain.  But never fear, the Federation has other supplies of it.

Kirk and Spock force the smarmy Cyrano Jones, the man responsible for bringing tribbles to K-7 (and hence to the Enterprise) to agree to pick up every tribble aboard the space station.  Spock says this will take 17.9 years.  Kirk calls this “job security.”

The Happy Ending

Back on the Enterprise, Kirk realizes that there are no tribbles aboard the ship.  McCoy, Spock, and Scotty reveal that they collaborated to beam all of them into the Klingons’ engine room, where “they’ll be no tribble at all.”  Gotta love the pun.

That is not the only excellent pun in the episode.  In one scene, Spock says, “He heard you; he simply could not believe his ears.”

The best way to enjoy this, David Gerrold’s debut as a Star Trek writer, is to watch it.  Glances become important, as does tone of voice.  And, of course, timing is crucial in comedy.  The actors mastered comic timing.

This is light-hearted fun of the highest order.  It deserves its status as an extremely popular episode.  (It is my favorite.)  And it inspired two follow-ups–one animated and the other live action.  So, if it will not tribble you, I will write summaries and reviews of those, too.



The pictures are screen captures.  Star Trek is property of CBS and Paramount Pictures.


Posted March 6, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Star Trek

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2 responses to “Star Trek–The Trouble with Tribbles (1967)

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  1. Pingback: Coming Soon–Tribbles Episodes | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

  2. Pingback: Guide Post: Star Trek | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

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