“Space, The final Frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. It’s five-year mission: To explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before!”
The Trouble with Tribbles
Season 2, Episode 15
Original air date: December 29, 1967
On their way to Space Station K-7, Chekov is being quizzed by Kirk and Spock about the disputed Sherman’s planet, the fate of which was left unresolved in the in the treaty that ended war between the Klingons and the Federation, the planet will go to which ever party can develop it the best. Just then they get a Priority one call to the station, a level higher than red alert and they accelerate to maximum warp. When they arrive, everything seems fine and station chief Lurry apologizes and asks them to beam down. On the station they meet Undersecretary of Agriculture Nilz Baris who ordered the Priority one signal. He has special grain that can grow on Sherman’s planet but wary of Klingon sabotage he wants Kirk to guard it. Kirk is very upset at these orders, feeling they were falsely alerted. He agrees to provide two guards which makes Baris angry. Kirk insults Baris humorously and leaves. Kirk is at the station bar with Spock as Uhura and Chekov walk in, Chekov knows all about the special grain (quadrotriticale – which will simply be grain from now on) which annoys Kirk and of course Chekov says a Russian invented it. When Kirk leaves, a salesman comes into the bar to try and sell various things to the bartender. His last attempt is a tribble, a ball of fuzzy hair that coos. Uhura is fascinated with the creature so after negotiating prices with the bartender the man – named Cyrano Jones – gives one to Uhura.
Back on the Enterprise, Kirk is ordered by the admiralty to protect the grain and listen to Baris, which annoys him further. Just then a Klingon vessel appears and when Kirk contacts the station, he finds the Klingon captain and first officer are already in Lurry’s office. Kirk beams down and the Klingon Captain says he wants shore leave for his crew which they can’t refuse under the treaty. Kirk agrees to allow 12 at a time and will have security personnel from the Enterprise to match. On the Enterprise, the galley is suddenly teeming with tribbles, it seems Uhura’s pet had babies. McCoy takes one to study as Uhura gives them to various crew members. Baris calls Kirk and is angry for allowing the Klingons on the station. Kirk assures him he is guarding both the grain and the Klingons and while he knows the mission is important, he dismisses Baris personally. Kirk has a headache and heads to sickbay where McCoy’s one tribble sample has turned into 11 tribbles. He says as far as he can tell almost all they do is reproduce. Kirk begins sending crewmen on shore leave, Scotty goes only reluctantly. On the station; Scotty, Chekov and another crewman head to the bar which is full of Enterprise crew members, Klingons and lots of tribbles. Jones comes in to sell more tribbles but the bartender has quite enough. We discover that the tribbles don’t like Klingons and recoil and produce almost a shrieking noise when near them. The Klingon first officer, Korax, begins insulting humans. Chekov wants to retaliate but Scotty won’t let him. He then insults Kirk personally, once again Chekov tries to get up but Scotty orders him to sit back down. Finally, Korax insults the Enterprise, twice, and Scotty has enough and punches him in the face. A comedic bar fight then breaks out and Cyrano Jones uses the commotion to get himself several free drinks before it is broken up by Starfleet security personnel. Back on the Enterprise, Kirk asks all involved to tell him who started the fight, but the crew remains loyal. Only after everyone else leaves does Scotty tell Kirk the whole story, including how he let the Kirk insults slide and only reacted to the insults of the Ship. Kirk confines Scotty to quarters which is where he wanted to be, reading his technical manuals, anyway. Kirk cancels all shore leave for his crew and the Klingons alike.
Spock and McCoy are in sickbay which is populated by hundreds of tribbles. They do their usual bickering as McCoy tries to figure the creatures out. On the bridge, Kirk discovers hundreds of more tribbles all over everything. Kirk orders the bridge cleared of tribbles and beams down with Spock to talk to Cyrano Jones about them. Kirk questions Jones, but he claims he’s just a simple breeder and salesman and has done nothing wrong. Baris and his assistant, Arne Darvin, come in and want Jones arrested as a Klingon agent. Spock and Kirk see no evidence of that charge and Kirk uses the occasion to insult Baris again. Back on the Enterprise, Kirk orders lunch but his tray is covered with tribbles, Scotty then comes in and tells him they’re getting in the equipment and storage compartments. Kirk has a revelation about the station regarding the grain and the tribbles and beams down, a few tribbles hitching a ride. Kirk, Spock, Lurry and Baris all met at the grain storage compartment and when Kirk opens the overhead compartment, hundreds of tribbles fall on his head eventually burying him up to his waist in tribbles. Spock tells everyone that based on his calculations there are 1,771,561 tribbles on the station. Baris is furious and blames Kirk for allowing this to happen, ruining his mission and threatens to bring him up to a board of inquiry. Just then McCoy shows up telling us that you have to stop feeding tribbles to get them to stop breeding – but his presence also allows him to confirm Spock’s speculation that many of the tribbles are dead and many more are seriously poisoned. McCoy investigates.
In Lurry’s office Jones is once again brought in for questioning about the poison with Kirk, Lurry, Baris and Spock present at first. The Klingons then storm in demanding to know why they were denied shore leave. Kirk asks them who poisoned the grain and killed the tribbles, which they claim no knowledge of. Just then Baris’ assistant Darvin comes in which causes the tribbles to react negatively to him. Jones tells Kirk they only react that way to Klingons and Kirk takes the tribbles from the Klingons to Darvin and back again, noticing they react to Darvin as they do to the Klingons. McCoy comes in with his findings about the grain, it was poisoned with a virus that essentially makes you starve to death as you eat it, but only over time. McCoy scans Darvin and discovers he’s a surgically modified Klingon and he admits to poisoning the grain. Baris leaves with Darvin under arrest and Kirk orders Captain Koloth to leave Federation Space. He then takes Jones to the bar area and tells him he has to clean up all the tribbles or go to jail for transportation of harmful animals – he agrees even as Spock tells him it will take him 17.9 years.
On the bridge as they ready to leave, Kirk asks where the tribbles went. McCoy refers him to Scotty, who refers him to Spock, who refers him back to Scotty. Nobody seems to want to tell Kirk where they went. Finally Scotty tells him that he beamed them all over to the Klingon ship just before it went to warp and they all have a hearty laugh.
Known to Fans As:
Notable Guest Stars:
William Schallert as Nilz Baris: Schallert is another guy that appeared in your TV show if it ran long enough. After serving as a fighter pilot in the Army Air Corps during WWII (kick ass) Schallert began his acting career mostly as a reliable character actor in various TV shows. What makes him somewhat unique is that he played different characters on the same shows, multiple times. He did this on The Rifleman, Gunsmoke and Wagon Train. From 1979 – 1981 Schallert served as President of the Screen Actor’s Guild but kept acting also appearing in movies like The Jerk and Interspace. It was on The Patty Duke Show that he had his longest run, playing the identical twin fathers; Martin and Kenneth, to Duke’s identical cousins Patty and Cathy. Schallert’s last TV appearance was in 2 Broke Girls in 2014. He died in 2016 at the age of 93 of natural causes.
Stanley Adams as Cyrano Jones: Adams was known for playing strange characters and big comedic parts. From memorable and meaty roles like a pool hustler on The Odd Couple to regrettable ones like a space carrot on Lost in Space. His most well-known role, which seems totally out of character with the rest of his career, was as Rusty Trawler, the eight richest man under 50, in the classic Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Adams took his own life at the age of 62 in 1977.
William Campbell as Koloth: Campbell likewise had a long career as a bit player in movies and TV shows. From Policewoman to Adam-12 on Television to John Wayne movies like Operation Pacific and Elvis Presley films like Love Me Tender, if you were consuming visual media in the middle of the last century you say William Campbell. He of course also played The Squire of Gothos in the TOS episode of the same name and reprises his role of Koloth, then an old man who somehow grew head ridges, in TNG. Campbell died of natural causes in 2011 at the age of 87 having not acted on television for 25 years.
Michael Pataki as Korax: Pataki is here not just because he has the most lines of any of the guest stars, but also because of the huge role he played in the movie that ended the cold war. Pataki did his usual rounds of guest spots, reuniting with Shatner in TJ Hooker for example but I know him best as the boxing trainer of Ivan Drago in Rocky IV – the movie that single-handedly destroyed the Soviet Empire. Pataki also directed many of the episodes of The Hardy Boys / Nancy Drew Mysteries in the 70’s and also a soft-core porn version of Cinderella that came out in 1977. He passed away from cancer in 2010 at the age of 72.
Charlie Brill as Arne Darvin: Brill had a career like many of the others we’ve gone over during these reviews. His only real long-term role was as Capt. Lipschitz on Silk Stalkings a show I never watched and didn’t even realize had a pun as a title until I wrote this sentence just now. So what did I recognize him from? Then I got it, he was in The Malibu Bikini Club a T&A movie that aired all the time on HBO in the late ‘80s and I became very familiar with. (you Millennials and your on-line pornography have no idea what it was like to grow up in the 70’s and 80’s.) Brill is now 82 and acts occasionally.
The Tribbles as the tribbles: While they’ve reprised their role on various Star Trek series over the years, The Tribbles have appeared in numerous other roles. They played Ralph Cifaretto’s hair piece on that dramatic episode of The Sopranos, after some dental implants they played Fizzgig in The Dark Crystal and most recently they were the thing under my old refrigerator when they took it away to install the new one. The Tribbles are 53 years old and just became Great to the 19,000th power – Grandparents.
Korax calls his language Klingonese
Tribbles show up many more times, most recently as an Easter egg in Discovery.
The Klingons, where do we start with the Klingons? I know they tried to ret-con why they look like dark-haired humans in TOS, then head-ridged spartan warriors in TNG, and now as someone in the comments yesterday called them, Space orcs, in Discovery which is about the same time frame as TOS. I’ll leave it to the comments – let’s just say there are some inconsistencies over the years.
By that same note, Scotty seemed to be a very good match for the many Klingons he punched out. Worf would not have found them to have fought very well.
This isn’t the first episode with this personality tendency but it’s the first I’ve reviewed here and it’s done to the Nth degree – Chekov’s insistence that every great inventor, author or scientist in earth’s history was Russian.
Vulcan Nerve Pinches: No
Damn it Jim: “They seem to be born pregnant, which would save a lot of time.”
Kirk’s Shirt Off: No
Aged the Best:
This whole episode is a comedy. The “seriousness” of the mission is dismissed by Kirk who as our proxy lets us know this isn’t that important. The bar fight was played totally for comedic affect especially with Jones vamping around getting drinks and avoiding the squabble like you could see Don Knotts or Jerry Lewis doing in a farcical movie But it works, and coming half-way through the show (not that they knew that) we know the characters well enough that their quirks help make it even funnier.
Kirk punishing Scotty with what he wanted to do in the first place was great.
Kirk is kind of a dick to Baris right out the gate. It’s out of character but it makes it easier to play as a farce.
Spock’s dismissing of the tribbles even as he obviously enjoys holding them is also great. Nimoy really is a fantastic actor – no wonder he tried to separate himself from this role early on and become a more serious actor.
Aged the Worst:
McCoy calls the tribbles bi-sexual, they’re actually hermaphroditic being both sexes at the same time and able to inseminate themselves, like some inveterates here on earth.
The Klingons, they’re played as a rival sports team here not a threat to life in the Federation.
Doesn’t 17.9 years of labor seem like a little much for exposing a space station to tribbles? Does the Federation not have ex-post facto legal protections? Were tribbles listed among the harmful animals it’s illegal to transport? I think Cyrano Jones needs proper legal representation. Next week on Space Court!
A, I mean it’s great and funny but doesn’t transcend.
Tomorrow’s Episode: The Enterprise Incident (On to Season 3)