In the fifteenth episode of the second season of Star Trek, tribbles now and tribbles forever. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
There shall never come a day when I don’t love this episode. There are obvious reasons why it’s such an iconic entry into the Star Trek canon, enough that I knew tribbles existed without having seen a single episode of this show. (And now that I’ve actually seen them, I think I have come across a GIF or still of a tribble online years ago, since they seem vaguely familiar.) I mean, look at them. But the cuteness and inherent absurdity of the tribble – a constantly reproducing organism whose only purpose is to, quite literally, eat and have babies – is not what makes this such a good episode. No, y’all, I loved “The Trouble with Tribbles” because it’s so fucking funny.
It’s not as if Star Trek has been humorless up to this point, either. There’s always been a sly and goofy sense of humor to Captain Kirk, Bones, and Spock. What’s rewarding about this episode is that the writers create a situation to explore characterization that already exists. It builds on Kirk’s sense of duty, on Chekov’s belief that Russia is responsible for all things, on Scotty’s defensive nature regarding the Enterprise, on ALL OF HUMANITY’S LOVE FOR CREATURES THAT ARE CUTE. And it does all of this in a remarkably deceptive way, since we’re meant to believe that this is going to be a tense story about the Klingon presence within the K7 space station. There are hints, though, that this is a little different. Kirk’s annoyance with Baris is actually a fascinating thing for the show to explore! He takes his job very seriously, and he’s furious when he perceives that Baris is misusing the Federation’s support. So what does Kirk do when he disagrees with Federation command? Well, he kind of throws a tantrum, and it’s beautiful. Y’all, there are so many incredible one-liners in “The Trouble with Tribbles,” and most of them are from Captain Kirk towards Baris. Just… I CAN’T GET ENOUGH OF THIS!
And the humor is all over this episode. From the bar brawl, which is full of brilliant comic timing, to Scotty proudly admitting that he could not cope with the Enterprise being insulted but was perfectly willing to withstand insults about his captain, to all the visual gags that convey the spread of the tribbles throughout the ship, this is a stellar comic episode of the show. It just made me want so many more just like this. Can this turn into a comedy? Because these characters work so well against one another in a humorous setting, and I love the idea of Spock and Kirk constantly leveling their competition with well-timed barbs and insults.
Still, I don’t want to ignore the story that pulls this all together. Even that is clever once you think about it. It was easy to assume that the Klingons’ presence on the K7 was meant to intimidate the Federation, that they were there specifically to sabotage the attempt to properly claim Sherman’s Planet. (Did anyone else find that name to be suspiciously simple? For a show that has come up with so many unique names for other planets, it made me laugh that this entire drama was focused on developing Sherman’s Planet. Like, the guy who found it was like, “Allow me to name this planet in such a way that no one will ever doubt whose planet it is. It is Sherman’s.”) Given how notoriously tense every interaction with Klingons have been, I loved that this episode toyed with our expectations. I anticipated war to break out over the K7, and instead, we get a bar brawl focused on Scotty’s tolerance level and Cyrano Jones’s dedication to stealing liquor.
For me, that’s why this is so much fun. It’s not just any ol’ conflict at work here. This is the Klingons and the Federation fighting with one another, and the show manages to turn it into a comedy without throwing out all of the worldbuilding that had come prior to it. There’s a real story here, not just a gimmick, and I appreciate that. I love that the tribbles provide the clue that helps unravel the Klingon plot! Up until the twist reveal of Darvin’s identity, I couldn’t really figure out how the multiple plots were related to one another. It seemed way too convenient that Cyrano was responsible for releasing the tribbles just to attack the grain stores on the K7, and he didn’t seem like he was that pragmatic of a businessman. If anything, he felt too silly to be an antagonistic force. (Though I admit that he did feel a lot like Mudd, didn’t he?) I’m a much bigger fan of what the show pulls off here: the tribbles were incidental. Cyrano really did just want to sell them, and while he knew they reproduced rapidly, he wasn’t trying to ruin anything. It just happens that the tribbles’ need to eat constantly is how the poisoned grain was found in the first place.
It also means that I got to see Captain Kirk smothered in a pile of tribbles while someone offscreen pelted him in the head with the furry creatures. I will never forget this day. This is the day I learned why I needed to watch Star Trek: tribbles. TRIBBLES.
Y’all, I can’t deal with “The Trouble with Tribbles.” I can’t wait to see the same GIFs posted four million times. MORE TRIBBLES FOREVER.
The video for “The Trouble with Tribbles” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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