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The Trouble With Tribbles

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Title :
The Trouble With Tribbles
Series :
Rating :
Overall Ep :
First Aired :
29 Dec 1967
Stardate :
Director :
Year :
Writers :
Season Ep :
2 x 13
Main Cast :
Guest Cast :
Stunts :
Bob Miles as Klingon stunt double
Bob Orrison as Klingon stunt double
Dick Crockett as Klingon stunt double
Jay Jones as Stunt double
Jerry Summers as Chekov's stunt double
Phil Adams as Korax's stunt double
Richard Antoni as Klingon stunt double
When Kirk agrees to allow Klingons onto the station, he says he will send a security guard over for every one of the Klingons. I presume that these guards were actually supposed to follow the Klingons, rather than just wander the station corridors. Yet there are very few redshirts present during the bar fight. Did the security guards sneak off somewhere?
Great Moment :
Kirk under the avalanche of Tribbles.
Body Count :
At least 1,771,561 Tribbles are poisoned by the grain. Probably a similar number are beamed to the Klingon ship by Scotty, and one can only imagine that these would be killed by the Klingons.
Factoid :
This script was the first professional sale David Gerrold ever made.

Gerrold worried that he had inadvertently plagiarized Robert Heinlein's "Flat Cats", a creature in his book "The Rolling Stones" which were small, furry, cute animals that had a problematically high reproduction rate. The studio contacted Heinlein to clear their use of the similar Tribbles, and Heinlein agreed on condition that he could have a copy of the script signed by Gerrold.

George Takei is not in this or several other second season episodes, as he was busy filming The Green Berets.

This episode was nominated for a Hugo Award in 1968 as "Best Dramatic Presentation", but lost out to "The City on the Edge of Forever."

Scenes from this episode where used in DS9 homage "Trials and Tribble-ations."

This episode is a nominee for the DITL "Best of Trek" award.


The Enterprise is in the vicinity of Sherman's Planet, a world claimed by both the Federation and the Klingon Empire, when they pick up a Code One Emergency from the nearby Deep Space Station K-7. The code is reserved only for the most dire disasters, so Kirk takes the ship in expecting the worst. On arrival, though, he finds the station apparently peaceful and untroubled. The commander of the station, a Mr. Lurry, asks Kirk to come over to the station to talk. On arrival, a furious Kirk finds the Federation Under-Secretary for Agriculture, Nilz Baris, in Lurry's office with his assistant Arne Darvin.

Baris admits that he ordered the emergency code because the station is currently holding a large stock of Quadrotriticale, a genetically engineered grain to be used on Sherman's Planet. He is worried that the Klingons will attempt to sabotage the grain, as this would seriously hamper the Federation's attempts to develop the planet - and under the terms of the Organian peace treaty, the planet will belong to whomever can best use it. Kirk is increasingly annoyed by the use of the emergency code for what he sees as such a trivial reason, but is forced to concede that Baris has the authority to issue it and to order Kirk to provide security. He reluctantly assigns two guards to the storage compartments and returns to the ship.

As the Enterprise orbits the station a Klingon cruiser arrives, prompting Kirk to go to battle stations. However the ship's commander beams over to the station and merely requests shore leave for his crew there; under the treaty Mr, Lurry must agree, but Kirk is deeply suspicious of the Klingon Captain, Koloth, and places limits on the number of crew who can come aboard at any given time. He also informs Koloth that he will assign a security guard to follow each and every Klingon on the station. Baris is extremely unhappy with this development, and wastes no time in venting his anger on an increasingly frustrated Kirk.

On K-7 Uhura and Chekov are enjoying some time in the station bar where an independent trader named Cyrano Jones is trying to sell his wares. These include a Tribble - a small creature which looks like a spherical ball of fur with no visible limbs or features. Tribbles emit a soft purring sound when stroked, and Uhura finds it adorable. Jones gives her one as a free sample and agrees a deal with the bar owner to supply some more.

Uhura's tribble quickly reproduces, giving birth to a whole litter of small Tribbles which she distributes them to the crew as gifts. The Tribbles in the bar also reproduce, making it impossible for Jones to sell more. He tries to sell them to the Klingons, but the Tribbles react to proximity to a Klingon with a distressed shrieking sound - and the Klingons seem to like Tribbles no better than the Tribbles like them.

The Klingons begin needling Enterprise personnel in the bar about what a terrible person Kirk is. Scotty, as the senior officer present, restrains Chekov from starting a fight - but when the Klingons begin to mock the Enterprise Scotty himself throws the first punch and a large bar brawl breaks out. Kirk logs the incident as a 'small disturbance' and confines Scotty to his quarters, which delights the Engineer as he will have time to read up on his technical journals.

Meanwhile the Tribbles are reproducing at a fantastic rate, every one of them giving birth to large litters of offspring every twelve hours. Soon thousands of them are overrunning the ship, and much to Kirk's annoyance there seems to be no way to stop them. When he tries to order a meal he finds that the Tribbles have gotten into all the ship's machinery, including the food system, and are consuming their supplies rapidly. Spock notes that the Quadrotriticale is being stored under similar conditions on K-7, which is also being overrun by the furry menace.

Kirk beams to K-7 and hurries to the storage compartments to check on the grain - only to find that the compartments are stuffed with almost two million Tribbles who have eaten all the grain in the process of reproducing. However, a scan reveals that many of the Tribbles are dead, and the rest are rapidly dying - victims of the grain, which had been poisoned.

A furious Baris blames Kirk for the fiasco, threatening to have his career in ruins. Koloth also demands an apology for the brawl, which he blames purely on Kirk's men. Koloth also demands the removal of the Tribbles which are crowding the room, as he suffers from the same dislike of them as other Klingons. As Kirk moves to take them away he passes Baris's aide, Arne Darvin - and the Tribbles shriek as soon as they get close to him. A quick examination by McCoy shows that Darvin is a Klingon, a spy working to sabotage the Sherman's Planet project - it was he who poisoned the grain with a virus which prevented the food being absorbed into the body.

With his own aide shown to be the cause of all the trouble Baris's threats against Kirk are rendered moot, and with the Klingons shown to be behind the sabotage Kirk is able to brush off Koloth's complaints and order him out of Federation space. A new shipment of grain is ordered for Sherman's Planet, which now should fall quite easily under Federation control. Kirk orders Cyrano Jones to clear up all the Tribbles on the station, a task Spock estimates will take him 17.9 years - his alternative being to be charged with disrupting a space station, a crime which carries a 20 year sentence.

A victorious Kirk returns to the Enterprise to find it wholly Tribble free. After some prevaricating, his officers admit to the method they used - they beamed the entire population of Tribbles into the engine room of the Klingon ship just before it went to warp. Where, as Scotty puts it, 'they'll be no Tribble at all'. Imagining the chaos that must be going on aboard the Klingon ship, the officers share a laugh as the episode ends.


An almost perfect episode!

Everything about this episode is just a hoot. Kirk is a hero character, we're used to seeing him dealing with the fate of civilisations, engaging in desperate battles or fighting impossible situations. Seeing him being besieged by problems that are largely trivial is just a joy, because you can sense his building frustration and sense of impotence in the face of it all. And the Tribbles themselves are a wonderful idea, threatening without ever being at all evil. You can't help but wish you could have one, even as you see the trouble they cause! And having them be a factor in the solution to the issues at the end is a clever touch indeed.

Special Edition

The remastered version has all new effects. Most notably this gives us improved shots of K-7, and also we get to see the Klingon cruiser at the station. Note, however, that the Klingon ship we see is slightly different in colouring and hull detail than the version that we saw in DS9's "Trials and Tribble-ations".
© Graham & Ian Kennedy Page views : 42,610 Last updated : 27 Jul 2022