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Retro Review: More Tribbles, More Troubles

Posted by Michelle - 13/05/11 at 01:05 pm


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Star Trek: The Animated Series

Season: 01 Episode: 05 (s01e05)

Original US airdate: 10/06/1993

The Enterprise rescues Cyrano Jones and a new breed of tribbles from a ship of angry Klingons.

Plot Summary: While escorting two ships of grain to Sherman’s Planet to stop a famine, the Enterprise discovers a Klingon battle cruiser attacking a small ship. Scotty beams out the pilot, who turns out to be Cyrano Jones – and he has tribbles, along with a tribble predator called a glommer. The Klingons deploy a new weapon, a stasis field that disrupts the Enterprise’s propulsion and weapons. Though it drains the Klingons’ power, Captain Koloth tells Kirk that the attack will continue until the Klingons have custody of the saboteur Jones. Kirk uses the grain ships as decoys to escape, but when one is destroyed, the Enterprise must salvage and store grain in the corridors. Jones claims that his tribbles are now safe – they no longer reproduce – though he was foolish enough to sell some on a Klingon planet. To escape from the Klingons, Scotty beams several enormous tribbles into their engine room. A furious Koloth explains that they only really require the glommer, which was genetically engineered by the Klingons as a prototype to rid them of tribbles. Kirk returns the glommer to them and arrests Jones, though the glommer cannot eat the now-enormous tribbles. McCoy finds that the giant tribbles are actually colonies that can be broken down into small, non-reproducing tribbles, and does so, leaving the Enterprise with thousands of small tribbles to contend with while delivering the grain.

Analysis: I’m not particularly a fan of David Gerrold – he’s said contemptuous things about fans once too often – but there’s no way not to enjoy this sequel to the always-popular original series episode “The Trouble With Tribbles.” Structurally, they’re very similar, with the same Klingon threat, the same tribbles-threatening-grain situation, even the same gags with a tribble in Kirk’s command chair and piles of tribbles falling on his head; everything’s just outsized in the new one, from the new quintotriticale to the gigantic tribbles to the dangerous new Klingon weapon that proves to have a fatal flaw. The only difference is that instead of Arne Darvin playing the coward at the end, that honor falls to the poor glommer. It’s a fun, familiar story, with many moments of humor among the characters and plenty of unusual shipboard scenes – how often do we see barrels of grain being devoured by pink tribbles in the corridors?

The dialogue is quick and clever, well–played by the cast regulars, though I missed William Campbell as Koloth (as is typical in the animated series, James Doohan does double duty and voices the character). When Spock says that tribbles are well known for their proclivity in multiplication, Jones adds, “And they breed fast, too!” Early on in the episode when the Klingons use the stasis field to inhibit every tactical system on the Enterprise, Uhura says the crew could throw rocks at them; later on, Spock suggests throwing tribbles, leading Kirk to say that he thought Vulcans didn’t have a sense of humor, to which Spock replies, deadpan, that they don’t. When Kirk learns that Jones sold tribbles on a Klingon planet and reminds Jones that tribbles don’t like Klingons, Jones replies calmly that Klingons like tribbles even less. And when Kirk complains that there are too many tribbles on the Enterprise for his security officers to handle, Jones replies that Kirk needs better security officers.

I have nothing deep or meaningful to say about “More Tribbles, More Troubles”; I do wonder whether someone clever enough to alter tribbles so they live in enormous colonies isn’t also clever enough to design his own glommer rather than steal one from the Klingons, and it’s never really explained why Jones needs a glommer in the first place, since he must have left Space Station K-7 to steal it in the first place, thus evading his requirement that he clean up all the tribbles there. I’m a bit curious why McCoy didn’t come up with neoethylene or any tribble treatment at K-7 the first time, though I guess Kirk had decided that the tribbles weren’t his problem, though they’d destroyed a shipment of grain whose safety he never took all that seriously in the first place – though the famine on Sherman’s Planet would seem to suggest in retrospect that Nilz Baris had a right to be concerned way back when.

One nitpick: Would the weight of the grain on the ship really slow the Enterprise down? I don’t really understand the fiction of warp drive, but I didn’t think such minimal added mass would have any effect on it (or else the weight of the tribbles might have the same effect). I don’t think we’re supposed to be worrying about the science, anyway; the glommer appears to digest tribbles whole without creating waste, and it runs like Wile E Coyote when he’s just chased the Road Runner off a cliff. Between that, Koloth’s villainous bluster, and the slapstick humor with the tribbles, it’s pretty clear we’re supposed to be watching with our tongues in our cheeks, as with the original episode. I’m only sorry Chekov isn’t around to tell us that quintotriticale is a Russian inwention.

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