Friday, December 26, 2014

Star Trek: The Trouble With Tribbles

I haven't had much time for blogging lately and it's been since mid October since I've posted anything on my slow journey through the original Star Trek series. The next episode up is a good one, maybe even worth the wait:
The Trouble With Tribbles doesn't take itself too seriously, so it is hard to directly compare it to other classics like The City on the Edge of Forever, Devil in the Dark or The Doomsday Machine. Yet it is top notch Trek - a story of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and possible ecological disaster through rapid population growth.
Soon after the episode begins, the Enterprise receives a priority one disaster call from Deep Space Station K7. They rush to the scene only to find that there isn't a disaster or much of any emergency.
Left photo: Nilz Baris (left) and his assistant Arne Darvin Right: Station Manager Lurry gives Kirk some grain

They've been called to the station by Nilz Baris, the Federation's Agricultural Affairs Undersecretary (So how come people complain that the Phantom Menace is supposedly about taxation of trade routes, but no one complains that Tribbles is about agricultural affairs?). Nearby Sherman's Planet has been claimed by both the Federation and the Klingon Empire. The group that can best develop the planet gets to claim it. The Federation's hopes lie in storage on K7, a cache of the only Earth grain that grows on Sherman's Planet -- Quadrotriticale. In case you are wondering quadrotriticale, a four-lobed hybrid of wheat and rye, is a GMO. Yeah, there are GMOs in the 23rd Century. Deal with it.

Anyway, Baris is concerned that the Klingons will tamper with the grain and wants Kirk to put up guards to protect it, which he begrudgingly does even though there are no Klingons on the station (yet). 
All is fine until Cyrano Jones and the Tribbles enter the picture. Jones was wonderfully portrayed by Stanley Adams, an actor who was a guest star on a lot of TV shows in the 60s. He later co-wrote a third season Trek episode, The Mark of Gideon
Jones gives a Tribble to Uhura, we see it eating some of that GMO Quadrotriticale grain and the population explosion begins. 
McCoy and Tribbles. I hope he doesn't inject any with Khan's blood.
Meanwhile a Klingon warship has arrived and their commander is visiting with Station manager Lurry. The Klingons should look familiar as that's William Campbell playing Captain Koloth. He did a fine job here but may be better known in the Trek universe for playing Trelane in The Squire of Gothos.

Behind him is Michael Pataki playing Korax. Korax gets all the best material in this episode.
 I gotta tell you that for years I thought that he was the same actor who played Lazarus in The Alternative Factor, but they are different guys. Somewhere along the line they both should have played David Hasselhoff, don't you think?

Soon we learn that Klingons and Tribbles don't get along. After that there's an awesome brawl in a bar on K7 between the Klingons and some of the Enterprise crew. What made it awesome was the wonderful lead up to the fight and the great scene afterwards.
In the build up to the fight, Korax is loudly insulting Kirk. So much so that Chekov wants to fight him. Scotty holds him back until Korax starts insulting the Enterprise. That's too much for Scotty to take and the brawl begins.
 Afterwards Kirk is chewing out everyone who was involved. He confines them all to quarters, except Scotty, who when confronted spills the beans. He tells Kirk how the Kingons insulted him, but ...
Scotty: And I didn't see that it was worth fighting about. After all, we're big enough to take a few insults. Aren't we?
Kirk: What was it they said that started the fight?
Scotty: They called the Enterprise a garbage scow, sir.
Kirk: I see. And that's when you hit the Klingons?
Scotty: Yes, sir.
Kirk: You hit the Klingons because they insulted the Enterprise, not because they-
Scotty: Well, sir, this was a matter of pride.
I just love it. It may have been Scotty's best scene in the entire series. It is nicely accompanied by Jerry Fielding's music for the scene ("A Matter of Pride") which would later double in the series effectively as Scotty's Theme.

The producers did a great job portraying the Tribbles' take over of the Enterprise as we go from the one Tribble given to Uhura all the way to their infiltration into pretty much everything. 
Soon the Tribble population explosion is in full swing. Kirk doesn't notice that they are all over the Enterprise bridge until he sits on one in his Captain's chair.
Afterwards Kirk and Spock hit the rec hall for a meal when they discover that the Tribbles have infiltrated in to the food processors. For some reason Scotty brings an armful of into the rec hall. Maybe he's storing them there. They quickly surmise that if they got into through the air vents on the Enterprise, they might have done the same thing over on the space station, getting into the grain.
Yeah, the Tribbles got into the grain and they all came crashing down on Kirk when the storage compartment was opened.  It turns out that this is a good thing as many of the Tribbles are dead, having eaten poisoned grain. Okay, that's not necessarily good for the Tribbles, but it's pretty wonderful for any colonists who might have ended up eating the grain.

McCoy explains that the grain was impregnated with a virus. Presumably that would have carried through to whatever would have been harvested after they planted the grain on Sherman's Planet.
While signs point to Cyrano Jones, it turns out that the grain was poisoned by Barris's assistant, Arne Darvin.  It was the Tribbles who led to the discovery that Darvin was a Klingon agent in disguise. This events of this episode and an older Arne Darvin, would return in an episode of Deep Space 9 called Trials and Tribble-ations.
Finally, all that's left to do is get rid of all the Tribbles. Jones is assigned the task of, in lieu of prison time,  clearing them off of the station. I love the look on his face (above, left) as he realizes the enormity of the task, which Spock estimates will take 17.9 years. At the very end we are left with a pun as we learn that Scotty has beamed the Tribbles off of the Enterprise and into the Klingon's engine room - surely an inhumane fate for the Tribbles and the Klingons.  

Still, it's all good stuff and one of the best Trek episodes around. So much so that in addition to the DS9 episode mentioned earlier, Tribbles would come back for an episode in the animated series too.

Next up is a definite step down, Bread and Circuses.

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