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Star Trek TOS - Season 2 - Episode 15

Star Trek TOS - 2x15 - The Trouble With Tribbles

Originally Aired: 1967-12-29

The Enterprise is overrun by furry creatures while tangling with Klingons and bureaucrats. [Blu-ray] [DVD]

My Rating - 9

Fan Rating Average - 6.13

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# Votes: 61 8 7 4 5 41 10 13 23 48 83

Filler Quotient: 0, not filler, do not skip this episode.
- Aside from being a terrific episode, this is the first episode to mention Tribbles and the first episode to feature Koloth. There are a number of subsequent followups to this episode in later Star Trek series.


- This episode was nominated for the 1968 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation.
- William Campbell, who played Koloth in this episode, also played Trelane in The Squire of Gothos.

Remarkable Scenes
- Kirk: "How close will we come to the nearest Klingon outpost if we continue on our present course?" Chekov: "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: "I have never questioned the orders or the intelligence of any representative of the Federation. Until now."
- Everyone falling in love with tribbles.
- The Klingon's reaction to the tribble.
- Scotty starting a fight with the Klingon.
- Cyrano Jones stealing drinks while casually observing the bar brawl.
- Scotty explaining why he started the fight to Kirk.
- Tribbles infesting the Enterprise.
- Kirk buried in tribbles.
- Kirk trying to figure out where the tribbles on the Enterprise went and everyone on the bridge avoiding his question.

My Review
The Trouble with Tribbles is the funniest episode so far and benefits mightily from multiple plot threads and combining a decently written drama with excellent humor. It's worth noting that many of Star Trek's typically most obnoxious cliches are present in this story, but each is rendered harmless by the clever writing's light hearted whimsy.

For instance, we have another proxy fight with the Klingons, but instead of the episode being a rehash of Errand of Mercy or worse yet a rehash of Friday's Child, this story takes a considerably different tone with the plot focusing instead on the Klingons and the Federation competing over offering assistance with developing a neutral world entitled Sherman's planet. The focus of this competition, a grain known as quadrotriticale, is known to everyone in the episode except for Kirk, who exhibits a remarkably cavalier attitude towards this mission, especially once his ship is rushed to the K7 space station on a priority distress call which is weakly substantiated by the annoying Federation official of the week, Mr. Baris, another common cliche.

Much like the improvements made to the proxy fight cliche, Kirk's growing cynicism towards the mission enables him to treat the annoying Federation official of the week with all due contempt, which greatly mitigates the typical storytelling issues that would normally result from that cliche. I laughed when Kirk said "I have never questioned the orders or the intelligence of any representative of the Federation. Until now." Then I realized he should do that more often. It's considerably more entertaining.

Another typical cliche featured by this story is scrappy Federation citizen of the week who shows up and causes trouble. That role this week is played by Cyrano Jones, who was at risk of being a rehash of the obnoxious Harry Mudd. Instead, however, he merely came across as a bumbling goofball and the plot did not pay any undue attention to him beyond utilizing him as a plot device for some light hearted comedy. This is essentially the tactic of the episode that makes it most successful: there's so much going on that the cliches never have enough time to become annoying!

There are a few flaws though. For one, it's never quite established just why the hell space station K7 exists in the first place. Was it in orbit of Sherman's planet? Sure didn't look that way. If not, then why is it hanging around in the middle of empty space? Why put it there of all places? I also could have done without Spock's New Testament reference (the "lilies of the field" line), as it's rather odd for a Vulcan to make a biblical reference. Finally it seems rather odd that the Federation punishes people transporting harmful animals with 20 years in prison. Likewise, the estimate that it would take 17.9 years to remove the tribbles from K7 is ridiculous, seeing as how it is such a simple matter to beam them elsewhere.

Overall though the episode was terrific. I enjoyed the continuity with Errand of Mercy when Koloth referenced the peace treaty established there as a reason why the Klingons should be allowed to take shore leave on a Federation space station. And the resolution to the plot was amusingly clever: Kirk while in the midst of not caring one bit about the K7 mission accidentally uncovers and solves a hidden plot to poison the quadrotriticale by the Klingons! Hilarious. An instant classic.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From Jem Hadar on 2010-08-24 at 8:56pm:
    Only a 9 and not a 10? :O
  • From Scott on 2011-05-04 at 11:23am:
    I really don't like this episode. I just don't think its funny. I chuckled maybe twice.

    I don't understand why Chekov's references to Russia inventing everything should be funny. I just found them repetitive.

    The scene in which Kirk interrogates Scotty is just painful - it's obvious where the scene is going.

    Then there's the "wah-wah-wah-waaaahhhh" music accompanying every joke. Urrggh!

    Generally, I like the humour in Star Trek - mostly when it involves Spock.

    As for this episode - I hated it!
  • From Glenn239 on 2012-09-27 at 8:28am:
    A good episode, but certainly not a '10'. This one is campy-cute, like the 3rd Season tried often to be, but failed. Tribbles is not in the top tier of episodes because that requires an intensity that this story lacks.
  • From Scott Hearon on 2014-04-07 at 8:01pm:
    It's rare for me to disagree so strongly with the esteemed founder of this great website, but I can only give this episode a 4/10.

    I totally agree with the other Scott here on the comment board - I really didn't like most of this episode. I'm simply not into campy humor, and a lot of the gags in this one are either repetitive, hokey, or can be seen coming from a mile off.

    I will say that James Doohan actually had a few good, solid scenes in this one, as he often does.

    The story is OK, and Kethinov makes the astute observation that this episode puts a few interesting twists on several of the stale cliches of Star Trek. Still, it wasn't enough to elicit more than a few wry grins from me.

    I also didn't like the casting of the same actor from the Squire of Gothos as a Klingon. Terrible choice, as he comes off about as threatening as Liberace.

    I know that this is considered a classic episode, and I can even see why, for hardcore fans of the original series. For me, though, I need something far different from my comedy.
  • From Alan Feldman on 2016-05-29 at 9:29pm:

    As far as humor goes, this is definitely right on the funny/not-funny fence. (Sort of like Mel Brooks' movies.) I can see some people not finding it funny. I like it, though.

    In the scene where Spock says he's immune to the tribbles' trilling: I'm not sure, but when he and Kirk walk away I think you can see that Shatner is barely able to keep from bursting out loud in laughter.

    Why on earth (or anywhere else) would you make a grain storage compartment with overhead doors that the grain will fall out of when opened? I suppose you could put a bin under it, but it seems like a messy way to do things. It's only real purpose, of course, is to drown Kirk in tribbles, and make it easier for our heroes to find that the tribbles were dying or dead. But if there were still grain in there, he'd be drowning in that!

    "A Klingon warship is hovering only 100 km from deep space station K7". In the remastered version it looks a lot closer than that to me! In the original you can't see it at all, and if it really were 100 km away, you'd have a tough time seeing it. Point: the original.

    About the location of the station in deep space:

    In orbit around a planet, various parties can beam down to a common area and interact. Out in deep space you're stuck with just your vessel. So it'd be nice to have a common external area to hang out with others, pick up supplies, what have you. In the episode it appears to serve as a relay station for the grain.

    In the scene starting at about 21:32, Korax pours some of his drink into Cyrano Jones's glass. What? Is this some bar custom I'm not aware of?

    I love Spock's line, "He simply could not believe his ears."

    "Disrupting a space station is not an offense." Say what?

    As for Spock's quoting from the Bible: Like it or not, the Bible is part of our culture. No less than Richard Dawkins (author of _The God Delusion_) says people should read it, but as literature, not scripture. There are too many references in English literature and such that you would not get without at least cursory knowledge of the Bible (see the first 3 minutes of ). Since Spock seems to know pretty much everything, that would include the Bible.

    Yes, it was cool to see continuity with "Errand of Mercy" with the Organian peace treaty.

    I tend to agree with Scott Hearon about the odd choice of William Campbell for Koloth. On the other hand, he fits in quite well with the lighthearted, humorous atmosphere of the story.
  • From Pietro on 2019-06-25 at 10:37am:
    Did you notice how the camera showing K7 on the Enterprise's screen panned right and zoomed out to reveal (for dramatic effect) the captain of the Klingong ship ("the captain of the Klingong ship is sitting right here in my office"). Normally visual communication feeds --between ships, or different parts of the Enterprise--they stay put, they don't move, which lets us assume the cameras used for visual communication are fixed. The panning of the frame in this case suggests what? That there's a camera person operating a camera for for visual communication between K7 and the Enterprise? Or is it somehow automatic and intelligent enough to know to pan based on speech that includes someone out of frame?

    Obviously they just wanted the dramatic effect of the slow reveal, but it's fun to try and justify the panning, when it otherwise never happens during visual communications. :)

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