Tag Archives: Star Trek: The Original Series

Vintage Science Fiction Month: The Trouble With Tribbles

Vintage Science Fiction Blog Challenge badge. It shows a rocket ship against a red background. There is a bubble city in the background. Vintage Science Fiction month takes place every January, and has a few guidelines:

 – read, watch, listen to, or experience something science fiction / fantasy that was created in 1979 or earlier

 – talk about it online sometime in January

 – have fun

If any of my readers are also interested in participating this month, let Little Red Reviewer know about your posts if you’d like them to be included in her official roundups. 

Today I’m going to be discussing one of my favourite Star Trek: The Original Series episodes, “The Trouble with Tribbles.” It first aired on December 29, 1967 during the second season of this series and does not require any prior knowledge of the Star Trek universe in order to enjoy it.

The last time I blogged about Star Trek, Ruth Feiertag asked me to dedicate entire posts to single Star Trek episodes and to go into much more detail about them in the future. Ruth, I’m following your advice!

Text says The Trouble with Tribbles written by David Gerrold. Image in the background is of the Enterprise from Star Trek: The Original Series. All of the Original series Star Trek episodes are available on Netflix in Canada. I’d recommend watching this episode before checking out the rest of my post unless you don’t mind spoilers from a 50+ year old tv show.

This post is going to mostly consist of a fan talking about something she really liked. There might be a little bit of proper reviewing happening, but definitely not as much as usual.

The Trouble with Tribbles

Episode description:

To protect a space station with a vital grain shipment, Kirk must deal with Federation bureaucrats, a Klingon battle cruiser and a peddler who sells furry, purring, hungry little creatures as pets.

Many Star Trek episodes throughout the years have covered serious, sensitive topics.

And then there are lighthearted episodes that seem to have been written for the sheer fun of it.

Can you guess which category “The Trouble with Tribbles” falls into?

Perhaps showing Uhura cuddling a sweet little tribble will give you another hint.

Nichelle Nichols as Uhura. She's holding a tribble.
Nichelle Nichols as Uhura. She is holding her brand new tribble.

At this point in the series, Uhura and the rest of the crew had faced plenty of dangers. Seeing her cuddle a small, fuzzy, hamster-like creature given to her by a travelling salesman made me smile.

She took her new pet back to the ship and it soon gave birth to a litter of baby tribbles. Thrilled, Uhura gave them away to her coworkers.

Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock. He and Uhura are holding tribbles while Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and Ensign Freeman (Paul Baxley) look on.
Sharing the tribbles.

At the same time, The Enterprise happened to be carrying a large load of quadrotriticale grain that was bound for a place called Sherman’s Planet.

It seemed to be a perfectly normal journey until the crew realized the tribbles were reproducing much faster than any hamster or other similar creature on Earth.

Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock and and Deforest Spark as Dr. McCoy. They are looking over a table filled with tribbles.
Spock and Dr. McCoy looking over a table filled with tribbles.

The question is, what is going to happen if or when the tribbles discover the grain this ship is carrying?

I’ll leave it up to my readers to discover the answer to this question themselves. What I will say is that I loved seeing all of the characters out of their element. Fighting a scaly monster on an alien planet is one thing.

Figuring out how to deal with a small, fuzzy antagonist that reproduces faster than anyone can imagine and will eat just about anything is quite another.

This is one of those Star Trek episodes that has definitely stood the test of time. The humour in it still felt fresh. Tribbles will cause mischief no matter when or where they show up, and this is even more true for people who have no idea what they’re dealing with.

If you’ve never watched Star Trek, this is a fun place to start. The episode will give you all of the information you need. Feel free to dive in.

If you’re already a fan of it, this is the sort of episode that is somehow even funnier on the second or fifth or twentieth rewatch because of all of the little tells the characters give that they have no idea how to react to these creatures and may just have a long list of antagonists they’d prefer to be dealing with instead.

I can’t recommend it highly enough.

How Science Fiction Can Keep You Out of Trouble

Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock

I’ve been thinking about Star Trek a lot lately, especiallyThe Original Series.

The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine were the parts of this universe I grew up watching. It wasn’t I was an adult that I actually sat down and checked out the series that started the Star Trek franchise back in the 1960s.

If you’ve never watched Star Trek before, I would recommend beginning with one of the newer franchises. There were times when The Original Series was quite slow for twenty-first century tastes, and other scenes in it really didn’t age well at all.

Still, I’m glad I saw all of those old episodes. It was interesting to see how this universe has evolved over time and what things have remained constant no matter if you’re watching something from it that was created a few months or fifty years ago.

There is one particular Star Trek episode that keeps popping into my mind. I’m going to try to straddle the line between explaining it’s importance in this universe without giving away spoilers to anyone who  hasn’t seen it or caught the references to it in later series.

The Cage” was originally supposed to be the pilot episode for The Original Series. (Note: that link contains your full daily allowance of spoilers. Avoid it and the rest of this post if you want to remain spoiler-free for a show that was created 50+ years ago).

Talos IV

During this adventure Captain Pike and his crew responded to a distress call on a planet called Talos IV.

Some of the planets the crew visited during the course of The Original Series were dusty, ugly places, but this wasn’t one of them.

Talos IV was a pretty, peaceful place. Captain Pike and the rest of their crew met the Talosians, the friendly humanoids of that planet who offered hospitality without any expectation of reciprocation.

If there could ever be a setting an audience could relax into, this was one of them. Everything was going well.

Captain Pike was then introduced to a pretty, young human woman who had been raised by the Talosians and who wanted him to stay there and have children with her. This was where the plot truly grew interesting, and I wish I could say more about it without giving away all of the spoilers in the entire world to people who are new to the Trekverse.

If I’d seen this story as a kid, it would have blown my mind. As it was, I sensed something was odd as soon as the Talosians began bending over backwards to make their human visitors feel welcomed.

One of the things I enjoy the most about the science fiction genre is the way it can teach its audience to look out for red flags. “The Cage” was a story filled with many different themes. One of them seemed to be about recognizing early signs that someone might not be a person you’ll want to get to know better on a professional, personal, or romantic level.

Red Flag #1: Moving Quickly

The Talosian greeting party

The Talosians barely even knew the names of any of the Enterprise crew members, yet they were already prepared to offer them anything their hearts desired.

Generosity is a wonderful virtue, but there should be healthy limits to it. If someone has just met you and is already offering you the world, there may be something less wholesome going on with them behind the scenes.

Red Flag #2: Not Taking No for an Answer

I can’t go into a lot of detail about this without wandering into spoiler land, but let’s just say that the Talosians offer wasn’t one that was supposed to be refused.

People who run roughshod over small boundaries generally don’t respect the more important ones, either.

Red Flag #3: Deals That Seem too Good to be True

If someone seems too good to be true, there could very well be strings attached to it that haven’t been mentioned yet. By all means get more information, but don’t make any agreements or assumptions until you have all of the details hammered out and they make sense.

I can’t tell you how many times these lessons have given me early warnings about specific situations or interpersonal interactions. It’s one thing to read about red flags in a book, but it’s quite another to see them played out in a story while being asked to come to your own conclusions about how one might apply them to real life.

What life lessons have you learned from science fiction (or your favourite genre in general)? Do you also find that fiction can keep you out of trouble?