# The Trouble with Tribbles (episode)

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"The Trouble with Tribbles"
TOS, Episode 2x13
Production number: 60342
First aired: 29 December 1967
Remastered version aired: 4 November 2006
43rd of 80 produced in TOS
44th of 80 released in TOS
9th of 80 released in TOS Remastered
44th of 728 released in all
Written By
David Gerrold

Directed By
Joseph Pevney
4523.3 (2268)
Arc: Cyrano Jones and Tribbles (1 of 2)
Arc: Arne Darvin (1 of 2)

A dispute over control of a planet brings Enterprise to a space station, where they must deal with Klingons, edgy Federation officials, and a previously-unknown race of small, unbearably cute, voraciously hungry and rapidly-multiplying furry creatures.

## Summary

### Teaser

The Enterprise is en route to Deep Space Station K-7 for assistance with an important assignment regarding a disputed planet. One parsec from the nearest Klingon outpost ("Close enough to smell them," as Chekov puts it), the post is near Sherman's Planet, which is claimed by both sides.

Captain James T. Kirk, Commander Spock, and Ensign Pavel Chekov review the area's history: Twenty-three years after the inconclusive Battle of Donatu V, the Organian Peace Treaty is set to grant control of the planet to the party that can demonstrate it can develop the planet's resources most efficiently.

Uhura reports from the bridge that K-7 has issued a Code One alert, which signals that it is under attack. Kirk orders a speed increase to Warp Factor 6, while Uhura initiates a Red alert.

### Act One

The Enterprise arrives at maximum warp, ready for a fight, only to find no battle. Beaming over with Spock, Kirk demands an explanation from Station Manager Lurry, but is told he was ordered to do so by Nilz Baris, a Federation official in charge of the Sherman's Planet development project.

Baris and his aide, Arne Darvin, fear that the Klingons might try to sabotage the Federation's best hope to win control of the planet – a high-yield grain known as quadrotriticale, the only Earth grain that will grow on the planet. Tons of the grain are stored at the station, and Baris demands security and protection from Kirk. Kirk still believes they have misused the Priority One designation, but assigns two guards to the station, and allows shore leave for the Enterprise crew.

On leave, Uhura meets a dealer named Cyrano Jones, who is trying to wholesale to the skeptical bartender various rare galactic items, among them, furry little creatures Jones calls tribbles. While they dicker over the price, Chekov notices it has eaten a quadrotriticale sample left on the bar and Uhura is enchanted by it. Jones gives the tribble to Uhura, a move the bartender claims will ruin the market but Jones claims will spur more sales.

Back on the Enterprise, Kirk receives an order from Starfleet Admiral Fitzpatrick to render any aid that Baris may require. Kirk is exasperated, and just then learns that a Klingon battle cruiser has arrived within 100 kilometers of K-7. Kirk orders a Red Alert and for Lurry to be notified. Lurry, however, discounts a possible attack, as the Klingon ship's captain, Koloth, and first officer, Korax, are sitting in his office. Kirk orders the Red Alert canceled.

### Act Two

Kirk arrives and the Klingons assert their rights to shore leave under the Organian treaty. Kirk reluctantly accedes, but sets limits of twelve at a time, with one guard from the Enterprise for each Klingon soldier.

In the recreation room aboard the Enterprise, Uhura's tribble gives birth to a litter. The sounds the tribbles make seem to have a soothing effect on Humans and Vulcans. Dr. McCoy takes one of the offspring to study it. Meanwhile, Kirk argues with Baris about the adequacy of the security Kirk is providing, until Kirk claims he is getting a headache. Going to sickbay for a treatment, Kirk sees that McCoy's tribble has also produced a litter. McCoy reports that almost 50% of their metabolism is geared to reproduction.

Kirk tells crewmembers beaming over to shore leave on K7 to avoid trouble with the Klingons. Scotty declines shore leave, but Kirk, concerned for him getting too wrapped up in technical journals, orders him over to keep an eye on the others.

At the bar aboard K7, Jones tries to sell more tribbles. The Enterprise crew aren't interested, and the tribbles and the Klingons react to one another with loud hostility. The bartender is uninterested in more tribbles either – the one he acquired earlier is already multiplying. Korax starts insulting the Enterprise crew, first by comparing the Humans to tribbles and to Regulan bloodworms. He then tries to provoke Chekov by insulting Kirk, but Scott restrains Chekov. But then, Korax begins directing his insults at the Enterprise itself, first calling it a garbage scow, then just garbage. Scott finally punches Korax in the face, provoking a massive brawl between the two groups. The barman retreats and Jones dispenses himself a drink. Security from the Enterprise arrests the brawlers and restores order, and shore leave for both ships is canceled.

### Act Three

Kirk interrogates the crew involved in the brawl, but none are forthcoming about who started it. Scott confesses to Kirk in private that he started the fight after the Korax insulted Kirk. Kirk presses further and is perplexed to find that the men fought only after Korax insulted the Enterprise. Kirk restricts Scott to quarters, to which Scotty happily complies, anticipating time off to catch up on his technical journals.

In sickbay, Spock and McCoy have a characteristic debate on the aesthetics and utility of tribbles. The question soon attracts Kirk's attention on the bridge; there are tribbles in his captain's chair – and everywhere. McCoy says they are "born pregnant." Kirk orders Uhura to call for Jones to be detained on K7 – and to "get these tribbles off the bridge."

On K7, Spock berates Jones for removing tribbles from their natural predators and letting them overbreed. Jones counters with excuses and insists that, at six credits each, they're making him money. Then Nilz Baris confronts Kirk on the insufficient security detail for the quadrotriticale. Baris claims Jones is "quite probably a Klingon agent," but Kirk is unconvinced by the evidence and finds that Jones has done no worse than disrupt activities on K7, which is not unprecedented. "Sometimes, all they need is a title, Mr. Baris," Kirk concludes, and he and Spock return to the Enterprise.

Back on board, the tribble problem has worsened. Kirk can't even eat a meal, as tribbles have gotten into the food synthesizers. Scott reports that the tribbles are circulating through the ventilation ducts, ending up in machinery throughout the ship. Spock points out that there are comparable ducts aboard K7 that lead to the grain storage areas. Kirk orders all the tribbles removed from the Enterprise and rushes to K7, gaining access to one of the storage compartments, but when he opens the overhead door, an avalanche of tribbles buries him.

### Act Four

Kirk finally climbs out from the pile of tribbles – a population Spock estimates at 1,771,561 – and Spock discovers that they are gorged on the grain. Baris claims Kirk's orders have turned the project into a disaster and that he will call for a Starfleet board of inquiry against Kirk.

But Spock and McCoy notice that many of the tribbles in the pile are dead or dying. Kirk orders McCoy to find out why they died, though McCoy protests that he doesn't yet know what keeps them alive.

Kirk assembles all the principals in Lurry's office. Koloth demands that Kirk issue an official apology to the Klingon High Command, though Baris says that would give the Klingons the wedge they need to claim Sherman's Planet. Koloth also asks that the tribbles be removed from the room. The guards do so, but they pass Darvin, at which point the tribbles shriek just as they did around Klingons. With his tricorder, McCoy reveals Darvin to be a Klingon. He poisoned the grain with a virus that prevents its victim from absorbing nutrients, which is how the tribbles died. "They starved to death. In a storage compartment full of grain, they starved to death!" Kirk summarizes. Darvin is arrested, the Klingons are ordered out of Federation territory and Kirk says he could learn to like tribbles.

Kirk and Spock then give Jones a choice: twenty years in a rehabilitation colony for transporting a harmful species, or to pick up every tribble on the station (which Spock calculates would take 17.9 years). Jones accepts the latter. Back aboard the Enterprise, Kirk is happy to find the ship swept clean of tribbles, and asks Spock, McCoy and Scotty how they did it. They all deflect Kirk's questions until Scott reluctantly replies that before the Klingons went into warp, he beamed all of them into their engine room, "where they'll be no tribble at all."

## Log entries

• "Captain's log, stardate 4523.3. Deep Space Station K-7 has issued a Priority One call. More than an emergency, it signals near or total disaster. We can only assume the Klingons have attacked the station. We're going in armed for battle."
• "Captain's log, stardate 4524.2. A Klingon warship is hovering only 100 kilometers from Deep Space Station K-7 while its captain waits in the station manager's office. Their intentions are unknown."
• "Captain's log, stardate 4525.6. A small disturbance between the Klingon crew and members of the Enterprise crew has broken out aboard Space Station K-7. I am forced to cancel shore leave for both ships."

## Memorable Quotes

"I was making a little joke, sir."
"Extremely little, Ensign."

- Chekov and Spock, as the Enterprise heads for Deep Space Station K-7

"Wheat. So what?"

- Kirk upon first seeing the Quadrotriticale

"I have never questioned the orders or the intelligence of any representative of the Federation. Until now."

- Kirk, to Baris on the matter of the protection of the grain.

"Is that an offer or a joke?"
"That's my offer."
"That's a joke."

- Cyrano Jones and the K-7 bartender, as the bartender offers him four credits per tribble

"Its trilling seems to have a tranquilizing effect on the human nervous system. Fortunately, of course ... I am immune ... to its effect."

- Spock, as he strokes a tribble (before becoming the subject of dirty looks from Uhura and Freeman)

"Kirk, this station is swarming with Klingons!"
"I was not aware, Mister Baris, that twelve Klingons constitutes a swarm."

- Baris and Kirk, as Baris lodges a complaint

"Do you know what you get if you feed a tribble too much?"
"A fat tribble."
"No. You get a bunch of hungry little tribbles."

- McCoy and Kirk, on a tribble's metabolism

"When are you going to get off that milk diet, lad?"
"This is vodka."
"Where I come from, that's soda pop. Now this is a drink for a man."
"Scotch?"
"Aye."

- Scott and Chekov, at the K-7 bar

"Oh...I just remembered: There is one Earth man who doesn't remind me of a Regulan bloodworm. That's Kirk. A Regulan bloodworm is soft and shapeless. But Kirk isn't soft. Kirk may be a swaggering, overbearing, tin-plated dictator with delusions of godhood, but he's not soft."

- Korax, looking for trouble

"Of course, I'd say that Captain Kirk deserves his ship. We like the Enterprise. We, we really do. That sagging old rust bucket is designed like a garbage scow. Half the quadrant knows it. That's why they're learning to speak Klingonese."
"Mr. Scott!"
"Laddie...don't you think you should...rephrase that?"
(Mocking Scotty's accent) "You're right. I should." (Normal voice) "I didn't mean to say that the Enterprise should be hauling garbage. I meant to say that it should be hauled away as garbage."

- Korax, Chekov, and Scott, just before the fight begins

"What's the matter, Spock?"
"There's something disquieting about these creatures."
"Oh? Don't tell me you've got a feeling."
"Don't be insulting, Doctor."

- McCoy and Spock

"They do indeed have one redeeming characteristic."
"What's that?"
"They do not talk too much."

- Spock and McCoy, as Spock compares him to tribbles

"Too much of anything, Lieutenant, even love, isn't necessarily a good thing."

- Kirk to Uhura, on the love of a tribble

"In my opinion, you have taken this important project far too lightly."
"On the contrary, sir. I think of this project as very important. It is you I take lightly."

- Baris and Kirk, on the security measures for the grain

"My chicken sandwich and coffee. This is my chicken sandwich and coffee."
"Fascinating."

- Kirk and Spock, after Kirk is served tribbles by the food processor

"I want these things off my ship! I don't care if it takes every man we've got—I want them off the ship!"

- Kirk, determined to rid the ship of the Tribbles after discovering them in his food

"And as captain, I want two things done. First, find Cyrano Jones. And second ..." (A tribble lands on Kirk's head) "... close that door."

- Kirk, after an avalanche of tribbles falls on him

"They don't like Klingons. But they do like Vulcans. Well Mr Spock, I didn't know you had it in you."
"Obviously tribbles are very perceptive creatures, Captain."
"Obviously." (Carrying tribbles, Kirk walks over to Baris) "Mister Baris, they like you. Well, there's no accounting for taste."

- Kirk and Spock, using tribbles to uncover a Klingon spy

## Background Information

### Story and Script

• This script, one of Star Trek's most popular, was David Gerrold's first professional sale ever. His working title for the episode was "A Fuzzy Thing Happened to Me...". Writer/producer Gene L. Coon did heavy rewrites on the final version of the script. (Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, p 333)
• While the episode was in production, Gene Roddenberry noticed that the story was similar to Robert Heinlein's novel, The Rolling Stones, which featured the "Martian Flat Cats". Too late, he called Heinlein to apologize and avoid a possible lawsuit. Heinlein was very understanding, and was satisfied with a simple "mea culpa" by Roddenberry. (Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, pp 333-334)
• According to Bjo Trimble, the story for this episode is based upon the short story, Pigs Is Pigs. ("To Boldly Go...": Season 2, TOS Season 2 DVD special features)
• The line in which Spock says that Kirk heard what Baris said, but could not believe his ears, was lifted directly from a Mad Magazine spoof of Star Trek (titled Star Blecch) that had just been published.
• Chekov quips that Scotch whisky "was invented by a little old lady from Leningrad." That Russian city, originally St. Petersburg, had its name changed to honor Vladimir Lenin, leader of the Communist revolution in 1917. The name St. Petersburg was restored in 1991, after the breakup of the USSR. Chekov's scripted reference to Leningrad was apt for 1967, when the episode was made. It suggests that in the 23rd century, that the name has come back into use, or that the whiskey was invented during the time it was called Leningrad (in reality, name aside, the first recorded reference to scotch comes from 1495, while St. Petersburg/Leningrad was only created in 1703). The episode "I, Mudd" and movie Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home also refer to Leningrad.

### Cast and Characters

• George Takei (Hikaru Sulu) does not appear in this episode. For much of the second season, he was filming The Green Berets. Many scenes written for Takei were switched over to Walter Koenig. ("To Boldly Go...": Season 2, TOS Season 2 DVD special features)
• William Shatner recalled the great enjoyment all the cast had filming this episode. He noted, "The trouble we had with 'Tribbles' was [to] keep your straight face. It was just a lot of fun." ("To Boldly Go...": Season 2, TOS Season 2 DVD special features)
• Guy Raymond (the bartender) also played a bartender in beer commercials during the '60s, in which he commented on the strange occurrences in his bar.
• Michael Pataki is another actor who guested in two series of Star Trek, appearing as Karnas in TNG: "Too Short a Season".
• Some of the extras in the bar are wearing turtleneck uniforms from "The Cage" and "Where No Man Has Gone Before". The gentleman who seems to be enjoying watching the fight and another man are wearing Finnegan's and his stunt double's uniforms from "Shore Leave", another one is wearing a uniform of the Antares worn by Ramart or Tom Nellis in "Charlie X".
• Ed Reimers, who plays Admiral Fitzpatrick, was the TV spokesman for Allstate Insurance in the 1960s. In a funny sequence from the blooper reel, he catches a tribble thrown at him from offstage and, proffering it to the camera, says, "Oh, and Captain: you're in good hands with tribbles" (a play on the Allstate motto, "You're in good hands with Allstate.")
• William Schallert later guest starred as Varani in DS9: "Sanctuary".
• James Doohan insisted on doing his own stunts in the barroom brawl. Jay Jones only doubled for him in a few brief fight sequences.
• This is one of the few episodes in which Doohan's missing right middle finger (lost due to injuries sustained during the invasion of Normandy in World War Two) is apparent. It can also be noticed as he carries a large bundle of tribbles to Captain Kirk, complaining that they've infested Engineering.
• This is one of the few times in the series that Scott and Chekov have a conversation with one another. (However, in "Friday's Child", when Scott remarks, "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me," Chekov quips that the saying was invented in Russia.) Along with Kirk, they would be featured together in Star Trek Generations.
• Paul Baxley is credited as "Ensign Freeman," but is wearing lieutenant's stripes, as pointed out in DS9: "Trials and Tribble-ations" when Miles O'Brien mistakes Freeman for Captain Kirk and Julian Bashir questions his rank insignia.
• William Campbell (Koloth) and Charlie Brill (Arne Darvin) both reprised their roles in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine more than 25 years later: Campbell in "Blood Oath" and Brill in "Trials and Tribble-ations".

### Production

• Spock's estimate of how many tribbles there are in three days, dead or alive, starting with one tribble producing a litter of ten every twelve hours is exactly correct, assuming that every tribble always has a litter of ten. Tribble reproduction is exponential, starting when one tribble makes ten. In 12 hours the total number is 11. 12 hours later, each of the 11 tribbles produce ten, making the count 110 babies. Include the original eleven tribbles, and the total is 121. The formula for tribble reproduction is $x=11^{n/12}$, where x is the total, and n is the number of hours. Given three days (72 hours), the final result becomes $11^6$, which equals exactly 1,771,561.
• During production of the "buried in tribbles" scene, it took up to eight takes (a considerable number) to get the avalanche of tribbles to fall just right. Gerrold wrote in The Trouble with Tribbles, "If Captain Kirk looks just a little harried in that shot, it's not accidental. Having...tribbles dropped on you, eight times in one day, is NOT a happy experience." DS9: "Trials and Tribble-ations" would later establish that the continuously falling tribbles hitting Kirk were in fact thrown by Benjamin Sisko and Jadzia Dax, frantically searching for the bomb placed by the future Darvin. In reality, the tribbles kept falling out of the hatch because members of the production crew had no direct line of sight with William Shatner during the filming of the scene and could not tell when there were "enough" tribbles; a barrier in the set separated them from the storage compartment, which was filled with prop tribbles. In order to set up the avalanche scene, crew members kept throwing tribbles over the wall to ensure that the bin remained as "full" as possible; when the compartment was empty, these tribbles then fell onto Shatner's head as the crew tossed them one by one. Near the end of the scene, a perplexed Shatner–already chest-deep in tribbles–can clearly be seen turning his head toward the wall behind him, wondering when the prop men will stop. (The Trouble with Tribbles; "To Boldly Go...": Season 2, TOS Season 2 DVD special features)
• Wah Chang designed the original tribbles. Hundreds were sewn together during production, using pieces of extra-long rolls of carpet. Some of them had mechanical toys placed in them so they could walk around. ("To Boldly Go...": Season 2, TOS Season 2 DVD special features) The original tribbles became sought-after collector's items, and quickly disappeared from the prop department. According to Gerrold, 500 tribbles were constructed for the episode and the tribble-maker, Jacqueline Cumere, was paid US\$350.
• According to David Gerrold's The World of Star Trek, Tribbles would be around the set for some time afterward, allowing for occurrences such as what was mentioned earlier or popping up in various other places as well for some months after the production of the episode.

### Effects

• Sound effects editor Douglas Grindstaff combined altered dove coos, screech owl cries and emptying balloons to create the tribble sounds.
• The Enterprise miniature seen out of Lurry's window doesn't move, but if it was orbiting at the same speed the station was rotating, this would make sense.
• The miniature is actually one of the plastic model kits that AMT was selling at the time. In the 1970s, AMT produced a model of the K-7 space station itself, complete with a tiny Enterprise. SCTV blew up a Klingon ship with phaser blasts from some of these K-7 model kits in a low-budget effects spoof of The Empire Strikes Back in 1981.
• Footage of K-7 was recycled in "The Ultimate Computer".
• According to Michael and Denise Okuda's text commentary on this episode for the second season DVD set, the last fresh footage of the Enterprise was done for this episode. In every episode to follow, the shots of the ship were all stock footage.

### Sets

• The bar set, including the bartender's costume, is recycled from "Court Martial", with slight modifications, mostly in decoration.

### Apocrypha

• Although Kirk comments in the episode on the irony of tribbles in a grain storage bin dying of starvation, in James Blish's novelization of the episode, Spock also remarks on the elegant symmetry of the respective misdeeds: The poisoning of the grain eliminated the tribble infestation before it exhausted the cargo, whereas the tribbles disclosed the poisoning with no loss of human life.

### Reception

• This episode was nominated for a Hugo Award in 1968 as "Best Dramatic Presentation", but lost to the version of "The City on the Edge of Forever" that was actually shown on-air.
• In a 1985 interview, director Joseph Pevney named "The Trouble with Tribbles" as the best episode he directed. He added that they couldn't do an episode like that anymore, because the franchise has become "deadly serious" (interestingly enough, one year after the interview took place, the light-hearted, comedic Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home premiered in theatres). [1]
• Despite the broad popularity of this episode among fans, series Co-Producer Bob Justman wrote in his book Inside Star Trek: The Real Story that he never liked this episode, as he felt the characters parodied themselves, and that the episode's over-the-top humor lacked believability.
• Third season producer Fred Freiberger also disliked the show. David Gerrold recalled that when he pitched a sequel for the episode, Freiberger replied that he didn't like the original because "Star Trek is not a comedy." Gerrold's pitch later evolved into the Animated Series episode "More Tribbles, More Troubles". (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 97)
• Writer Samuel A. Peeples was another individual who worked on the original series but found this episode to be problematic. "I thought that the one with the fuzzy little creatures wasn't my idea of what the show should be," he remarked. "It was awfully cute and awfully nice, but it covered an area that I felt was unnecessary for that particular type of series." (The Star Trek Interview Book, p. 120)
• William Campbell (Koloth) recalled that, after this episode was aired, his neighbor's son consequently addressed his wife as "Mrs. Klingon". (The World of Star Trek)
• This was voted the best episode of Star Trek by viewers of Sci-Fi Channel's Star Trek 40th Anniversary Celebrations.
• It was also voted the best episode by "Empire" Magazine when they ranked the series #43 on their list of "The 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time." [2]
• The book Star Trek 101, by Terry J. Erdmann and Paula M. Block, lists this episode as one of "Ten Essential Episodes" from the original Star Trek series.
• Having been a big fan of the original Star Trek series during her youth, Diane Warren – the songwriter who wrote Star Trek: Enterprise's theme tune, "Where My Heart Will Take Me" – cited this installment as her favorite episode of TOS, upon being interviewed shortly after the start of Enterprise. She went on to say, "That's one of the episodes that, even after all these years has stayed in my mind." (Star Trek: Communicator issue 145, p. 57)

### Remastered Information

• "The Trouble with Tribbles" was the ninth episode of the remastered version of The Original Series to air. It premiered in syndication on the weekend of 4 November 2006 and featured significantly enhanced shots of the K-7 space station, now including the orbiting Template:ShipClass, IKS Gr'oth. The Enterprise can now be seen more often from Lurry's office, moving toward the left side of the window as it orbits K-7. The remastered episode is marked by the introduction of a revised digital model of the Enterprise, allowing for more detailed and accurate shots of the ship to be created.
• None of the special shots from the DS9 tribute episode was included in the remastered version. Furthermore, the Gr'oth's design is different from the Greg Jein model seen in Deep Space Nine episode. That ship is greener, with a avian pattern on it, where this version of the Klingon ship is grey and does not bear that pattern, bringing it more in line with TOS counterparts.
• Coincidentally, the episode that aired after this was "Mirror, Mirror". Scenes from both episodes were used in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's "Trials and Tribble-ations".
The next remastered episode to air was "Mirror, Mirror".

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