Star Trek

Season 2 Episode 15

The Trouble With Tribbles

Aired Unknown Dec 29, 1967 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
219 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

Kirk must defuse a Klingon scheme to destroy a grain shipment...and cope with a seemingly benign creature known as a tribble, which reproduces at amazing speed.

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  • Captain Kirk has his hands full with Klingons and tribbles.

    Written by a kid fresh out of college (with an uncredited rewrite by Gene Coon), this comedic ensemble episode is arguably the most popular, memorable, and best TOS episode, appealing to hardcore, casual, and non-fans of Star Trek alike.

    Taking advantage of the cast's natural chemistry, Gerrold's tight script features rich character interplay that develops its humor organically from the situations and relationships in a way that makes us love the characters even more. With such crisp writing as the backbone for scene after scene, "Tribbles" creates the illusion of one cohesive story, though Gerrold cleverly hides an A/B plot structure beneath the surface. On the one hand, we have Kirk navigating a bureaucratic and diplomatic mess, a TOS trope that always works because it's easy to contrast our active, action-oriented captain with pompous, desk-bound, mealy-mouthed paper pushers. (William Schallert, who would pop up on DS9 some 26 years later, fills the latter role quite nicely as Federation Undersecretary Nilz Baris). On the other hand, we have the rascal, Cyrano Jones (a Harry Mudd-like character brilliantly played by Stanley Adams), and his tribbles, the latter being the most brilliant gag a Star Trek writer has ever developed. Their triple advantage is A: they work in the script as a legitimate threat, B: they work on screen as a striking visual that gets funnier and funnier as the episode moves along, and C: They work for free, costing only the price of a roll of carpet.

    With the two plots seamlessly interwoven and a Federation/Klingon bar-room brawl tossed in for good measure, "Tribbles" gives the series a unique sense of fun while remaining true to the characters and ideals that make TOS special. For the Star Trek cast, there would be many difficult times to come, with script and budget problems threatening to crush their spirit; but for this brief moment, you can tell that they're having the time of their lives, with only Leonard Nimoy able to (barely) keep a straight face. Given the chance to lighten up and have some fun, the ensemble gives one of their best performances, showing off an underrated talent for comedy that often gets buried in drama. Like Shakespeare, the actors have an uncanny knack for alternating between fun and seriousness, an asset that comes more into play in the feature films. In the meantime, "Tribbles" takes Kirk and the tribbles and combines humor and heart to give us a story with near universal appeal.

    Captain Koloth, originally meant to be a recurring character, returns in the same episode and also appears in DS9's second season episode, "Blood Oath". But upstaging these and just about everything Star Trek has ever done, "The Trouble With Tribbles" itself comes back in "Trials and Tribulations", a DS9 fifth season episode that features Sisko and company travelling back in time to rub shoulders with Kirk and Spock and includes a cameo by David Gerrold himself


    Remastered Version: With DS9's "Trials and Tribulations" preceding the upgraded version of "Tribbles" and featuring all new shots of the Enterprise and the space station she visits, this is a unique case where CBS Digital arrives late to the party. This means that CBS, to save money, could just lift some shots from DS9's episode. The CBS team, however, decides to create everything from scratch.

    Most of the shots are similar to their original counterparts, which are quite well done for 1967. (It's interesting that TOS would even go to the expense of doing a space station here, because the action could just as easily happen on a planet, with a stock planet sphere and stock matte painting providing the setting for free. Gerrold, of course, was a rookie and wrote the station in without thinking of budget. The real surprise is that the show didn't change it, especially considering every episode after this uses preexisting footage of the Enterprise).

    The space station itself presents the episode with a unique opportunity: a chance to show the Enterprise off in the distance through a window. The original version achieves the effect simply and cheaply by hanging an AMT Enterprise model against the backdrop. The problem? It doesn't move, despite exterior shots showing that it should. The updated version removes the model and adds a realistic Enterprise that can be seen graciously moving from one side of the window to the other.

    Lastly, whereas the original version excludes the talked about Klingon battle cruiser (being one element too many for the compositors), the upgraded version, like "Trials and Tribulations", is sure to include it.

  • so not the best Star Trek episode!!!!!

    This is where sci-fi fandom went off the rails. Voting this the best episode, why? Because it's the "funny" one? Other sci-fi shows have gone the same way. The kick-@$$, meaningful episodes get seconded to the comedy ones. I'm all for comedy but this annoys me no end. To me, this is a very good episode but not of the caliber of "Balance of Terror" or City on the Edge of Forever" or "Devil in the Dark" or "Mirror, It's notable for more screen time for the lesser crew including their free time on the station. We also get more Klingons although this is their fey-est commander. I know many will not agree with me but that's the difference between those who want serious sci-fi and those who just want a goof off afternoon time waster.moreless
  • One little tribble isn't.... harmful? ....

    In this episode, en rout to the space station K-7 The Enterprise receives a priority one distress call from the station and rushes to its supposed recue. When arriving at K-7, Captain Kirk finds out that a Federation big-wig sent out the distress call to simply get a Federation ship in the area to protect a shipment of quadotriticale. This quadotriticale is apparently the only thing that will grow on a planet that both the Federation and the Klingon Empire is positioning for and is therefore of high importance. Naturally put off by the undermining use of the priority one distress call simply to get the Enterprise to babysit some bio-enhanced grain, Kirk is nonetheless forced by Federation officials to keep an eye on the shipment of quadotriticale. But the job ends up being of far more urgency and importance when a Klingon warship shows up.

    "The Trouble With Tribbles" is one of the best episodes of the original Star Trek TV series and is also probably the most well known Star Trek episodes by non-Trekkers. It shows the Enterprise crew in a serious but also lighthearted manner - having fun but also having an important job to do. Also, the cast is at their Star Trek-defining bests with Scotty having an extended role in this episode - something that is not always seen throughout the Star Trek TV series and it is always nice to see more of Scotty! The best aspect of this episode is that most of the storyline centers on diplomatic issues that face the Federation, which is interesting and something that I particularly get into. And, of course, there are the many furry little tribbles that make this episode famous - and fun.moreless
  • The Enterprise must protect a space station on which a Klingon is trying to destroy a valuable shipment of grain; but a supposedly cuddly pet threatens everything when it begins to multiply out of control. One of the most memorable and popular episodes...moreless

    So here is another of the Original Series' most memorable and well known episodes. Although many episodes had elements of humour, "The Trouble with Tribbles" is one of Original 'Star Trek's few stories that is designed pretty much as an out-and-out comedy.

    So, for one of the most recognised episodes, how does it bear up all these years later?...

    The story is a good one, although personally I found it to be a series of gently amusing incidents more than an out-and-out laugh riot.

    The first act is rather dragged out, and it is not until the second act that the story really gets going.

    Cyrano Jones comes across (as another reviewer has also said) as a superior Harry Mudd (from the first season's "Mudd's Women", and "I, Mudd" this season). I'm surprised the character wasn't used again (although he did return in cartoon form, in the Animated Series sequel, "More Tribbles, More Troubles").

    William Campbell makes a strange sort of Klingon; I keep expecting him to break into a comedy routine. Maybe I associate him too much with playing Trelane in the first season episode "The Squire of Gothos".

    There are a couple of amusing moments, such as Scotty refusing to be offended by the Klingons insulting Captain Kirk, but taking offence to insulting the Enterprise itself; and Kirk being covered up to his neck in Tribbles that fall out of a hatch. But as I say, I find it more gently amusing than laugh out loud stuff.

    All-in-all, a good episode, and a nice break from some of the more serious stories. I may be very controversial here – I'm not sure if it would make my personal Top 10 episodes. But that's mostly because there are just so many other good episodes in the series.moreless
  • tribbles

    The crew has to protect the grain that will be planted on a planet from the klingons. so they must go down to the station where they meey cyrano jones who sells tribles. He sells one to the lady and the tribbles begin to reproduce like crazy and soon begin to eat the grain that was suppossed to be protect. some of the tribbles die because of the poisioned grain by the assistant who was really a klingon. they figure this out when the tribbles do not like the tribbles. the tribbles are beemed aboard the klingonshipm at the end of the episode.moreless
William Shatner

William Shatner

Captain James Tiberius Kirk

Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy

Mr. Spock

DeForest Kelley

DeForest Kelley

Dr. Leonard Horatio "Bones" McCoy

Jerry Summers

Jerry Summers

Chekov's Stunt Double (uncredited)

Guest Star

Dick Crockett

Dick Crockett

Klingon #4 (uncredited)

Guest Star

Richard Antoni

Richard Antoni

Klingon #1 (uncredited)

Guest Star

Bob Orrison

Bob Orrison

Klingon #3 (uncredited)

Recurring Role

Eddie Paskey

Eddie Paskey

Lt. Leslie (uncredited)

Recurring Role

Jay D. Jones

Jay D. Jones

Scott's Stunt Double (uncredited)

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (9)

    • During the communication with Admiral Fitzpatrick in the briefing room, the screen displaying the admiral shows down to his mid-chest area in the wide shots, but closeups only show down to his shoulders.

    • Cyrano Jones cannot pronounce the word Klingon correctly. He constantly says "Klingin" instead of Klingon.  Captain Koloth appears to have the same problem.

    • When Koloth is requesting that the tribbles be removed from the room, part of his goatee (on his left side) disappears.

    • In the last exterior shot of the Enterprise and the station, neither one is moving.

    • Chekov's drink repeatedly changes hands between shots.

    • Kirk says the Klingons will always be accompanied by an equal number of security guards, but there are no security guards present during the bar fight.

    • What exactly was Kirk planning to do if the tribbles didn't eat the grain when he checks the bins? It's an overhead door - if he'd gotten it open it would have cascaded down onto him.

    • During the bar fight there's nobody with blue shirts present, but when Kirk lines up the supposed participants for discipline, there are two men with blue shirts present.

    • Kirk confines Scotty to quarters, but a scene or two later he's back on the bridge and stays there until the end of the episode.

  • QUOTES (18)

    • Kirk: Mr. Chekov, this flight is supposed to provide both experience and knowledge. How close will we come to the nearest Klingon outpost if we continue on our present course?
      Chekov: Ah, one parsec, sir. Close enough to smell them!
      Spock: That is illogical, Ensign. Odors cannot travel through the vacuum of space.
      Chekov: I was making a little joke, sir.
      Spock: Extremely little, Ensign.

    • Kirk: Does everyone know about this grain but me?
      Checkov: Not everyone, Kepten - it's a Russian inwention.

    • Trader: Four credits.
      Cyrano Jones: Is that an offer or a joke?
      Trader: That's my offer.
      Cyrano Jones: That's a joke.

    • Kirk: (to Nilz Baris) We have guards around the grain; we have guards around the Klingons, and the only reason they're there is because Starfleet wants them there. As for what you want, it has been noted and logged.

    • Scotty: When are you gonna get off that milk diet, lad?
      Chekov: Milk? Why this is vodka!
      Scotty: Where I come from, that's sodapop. Now this is a drink for a man.
      Chekov: Scotch?
      Scotty: Aye.
      Chekov: It was inwented by a little old lady in Leningrad.

    • Korax: We like the Enterprise. 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!
      Scotty: [after Korax insults the Enterprise] Laddy, don't you think you should rephrase that?
      Korax: (in Scottish accent) You're right - I should. I didn't mean to say the Enterprise should be hauling garbage... I meant that it should be hauled away as garbage!

    • Kirk: Scotty, you're... confined to quarters until further notice.
      Scotty: Aye sir. Thank you, sir! That'll give me a chance to catch up on my technical journals!

    • McCoy: Do you know what you get when you feed a tribble too much?
      Kirk: A fat tribble.
      McCoy: No, you get a whole bunch of hungry little tribbles.
      Kirk: Well, all I can suggest is that you open a maternity ward.

    • (Kirk orders a coffee and sandwich from the replicator, but instead gets more tribbles.)
      Kirk: My coffee and chicken sandwich? (shows Spock) This is my coffee and chicken sandwich? (losing his patience) I want these things off the ship. I don't care if it takes every man we've got. I want them off the ship!

    • Nilz Barris: Captain Kirk, I consider your security measures a disgrace. In my opinion, you have taken this important project far too lightly.
      Kirk: On the contrary, sir, I think of this project as very important. It is you I take lightly.

    • McCoy: And from my observations, it seems (the tribbles) are bisexual, reproducing at will. And, brother, have they got a lot of will.

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

    • McCoy: It's a human trait to love little animals, especially if they're attractive in some way.
      Spock: Doctor, I am well aware of human traits, I am frequently inundated by them, but I've trained myself to put up with just about anything.
      McCoy: Spock, I don't know much about these things, but I do know one thing. I like them...better than I like you!
      Spock: Doctor, they do indeed have one redeeming quality.
      McCoy: What's that?
      Spock: They do not talk too much.

    • Spock: A most curious creature, Captain. Its trilling seems to have a tranquilizing effect on the human nervous system. Fortunately, of course... I am immune... to its effect. (begins cuddling and stroking the tribble, then stops himself when the crew look at him and leaves with Kirk)
      McCoy: Lieutenant, do you mind if I take one of these down to the lab and see what makes it tick?
      Uhura: Well, all right, Doctor, but if you're going to dissect it I don't want to know about it!
      McCoy: I won't harm a hair on its head... wherever that is.

    • Baris: There must be thousands of them!
      Kirk: Tens of thousands.
      Spock: One million seven hundred seventy one thousand five hundred and sixty one.
      (everyone stares at him)
      Spock: That's assuming one tribble, multiplying with an average litter of ten every twelve hours over a period of three days.

    • Kirk: As captain of this ship, I want two things done. First, find out what killed the Tribbles, and second... close that door.

    • Baris: Kirk, I will hold you responsible for this!
      Kirk: Mr Baris I'll hold you in irons if you don't shut up.

    • Scotty: Just before they went into warp, I beamed the whole kit and kaboodle into their engine room, where they'll be no tribble at all.

  • NOTES (8)

    • Even in the re-mastered version, Koloth's lines "Captain, we Klingons are not as luxury-minded as you Earthers. We do not equip our ships with--how shall I say it? Nonessentials. We have been in space for five months. What we choose as recreation is our own business." are omitted, as is his curving hand gesture.

    • According to the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine "Trials and Tribble-ations" episode, the events of this episode take place on a Friday, and last approximately 18 hours between the time the Enterprise is ordered to space station K-7 to the point at which Kirk reveals Darvon to be a Klingon spy.

    • David Gerrold originally wrote the role of "Ensign Freeman" for himself, but wasn't able to play the role, because he was too skinny to be an Enterprise crewman. This resulted in Paul Baxley, a frequent extra and stunt man, getting a great deal of screentime and dialogue.

    • William Campbell was intended to return as Koloth in several more episodes as Kirk's Klingon counterpart, including the episode "Day of the Dove" and several episodes of the planned, but never produced, fourth and fifth seasons.

    • William Campbell, who portrayed the mischievous Trelane in "The Squire of Gothos", reprised his role as Koloth in the DS9 episode "Blood Oath".

    • When Scotty says "They're into the machinery as well." if you look closely at his right hand, you can see that he is missing his middle finger, he lost it when he was in the Royal Canadian army during D-Day. This episode and "Catspaw" are the only two episodes in which you can see his finger is missing.

    • Charlie Brill showed up to cause even more trouble as Arne Darvin in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Trials and Tribble-ations."

    • Desilu No: 5149-42.