Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.
Captain's Log: Stardate 4523.3
While on routine patrol in Federation space, the Enterprise received a Priority One distress call - the Federation's communications protocol for near- or total disaster - from Deep Space Station K-7, which is located near the strategically important world known as Sherman's Planet. Claimed by both the Federation and the Klingon Empire, this otherwise insignificant planet has a small settlement dependent on food shipments - basically grain - from outside. Because the Organian Peace Treaty stipulates that the planet belongs to the government that can best populate it using peaceful means, it is imperative that the Enterprise investigate the nature of the distress call....
Star Trek, as originally conceived by series creator Gene Roddenberry, was intended to be an action-adventure show that used its 23rd Century sci-fi setting as a way to sneak serious ideas past the NBC TV network's Standards and Practices department and get people to think about such issues as racism, prejudice, war, peace, and sexual equality at a time when television tended to play it safe and aired entertaining but fluffy sitcoms such as Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, Green Acres, Petticoat Junction, Hogan's Heroes, and the short-lived My Mother the Car. If Roddenberry wanted to comment about the Vietnam War, say, the writing staff would come up with "A Private Little War." If he wanted to show how insane Mutual Assured Destruction policies vis a vis the U.S. and the Soviet Union were, he'd present episodes such as "Miri" and "A Taste of Armageddon." To highlight the ultimate irrationality of racial hatred, Star Trek's writers would come up with "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield."
Sometimes, though, the series would get off its oh-so-serious-and-philosophical pedestal and let loose with light-hearted, even comedic episodes that, even though the situation was still grounded in the Star Trek format of action-adventure, allowed Capt. James T. Kirk and the crew of the Starship Enterprise to loosen up and show the "lighter side of Starfleet."
"The Trouble With Tribbles," written by David Gerrold, is the funniest of the "comedy" episodes from the original 1966-1969 incarnation of Star Trek. Originally titled "A Fuzzy Thing Happened To Me On the Way to Antares," it has everything a good television episode should have - a dramatic confrontation between two intelligent opponents (Kirk and Klingon Captain Koloth), interesting "guest characters" such as the chubby entrepreneur Cyrano Jones (Stanley Adams) and the obnoxious Klingon Korax (Michael Pataki), a Western-style barroom brawl between Klingons and Enterprise crewmembers, and - of course, the furry creatures known as tribbles.
Gerrold kicks off the episode with a seriously dramatic "teaser," showing Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and the bridge crew in their tense "red alert" mode. They have just received the Priority One call from Deep Space Station K-7, and the Enterprise doesn't know what to expect, since that distress call is reserved for emergencies along the lines of a planetary disaster or, considering the station's proximity to the border with the Klingons, a full-scale invasion despite the Organian-imposed truce between the Federation and the Klingon Empire.
Kirk's alarm, however, shifts to bemused chagrin when he and his ship arrive at K-7. Yes, there is a Klingon ship nearby, but it's there under the terms of the treaty. Its captain, the charming-slimy Koloth (William Campbell), is nonchalantly seated in station manager Lurry's (Whit Bissell) office, making arrangements for shore leave for his cruiser's crew.
But the source of Kirk's irritation isn't his Klingon counterpart, it's the officious, overly-anxious, and positively obnoxious Federation Undersecretary Nilz Baris. It was his idea to issue the Priority One distress call - thereby placing the entire quadrant in a near-war footing - in order to protect a consignment of quadrotriticale grain, or, as Kirk says in almost-disgust, "wheat." Baris believes that in their efforts to undermine the Federation's colonization of Sherman's Planet, the Klingons will try to destroy the valuable grain. Also adding to Kirk's irritation with civilian bureaucrats is the really annoying Arne Darvin (Charlie Brill) Baris' assistant.
But the real trouble arises when the enterprising businessman Cyrano Jones gives Lt. Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) a small furry creature he calls a tribble. It has no legs, tail, or eyes, but it does purr, and most humanoid species find them cute and oddly comforting. In a marketing ploy intended to drum up interest in the tribbles, Jones offers it to Uhura as a free sample, and she takes it aboard the Enterprise, where it grows fruitful and multiplies.
Spock: [while holding a tribble] Intriguing. Its trilling noise seems to produce a tranquilizing effect on the human nervous system.
[he begins to pet it gently]
Spock: Fortunately, I am, of course, immune.
[realizing what he is doing, he quickly puts the tribble down and excuses himself]
Soon, to Kirk's dismay, the ship is overrun by thousands of fuzzy little tribbles, which are, according to Dr. McCoy's analysis, "born pregnant." All tribbles do, it seems, is purr, eat a lot, and create more tribbles.
Worse, if they get into K-7's storage compartments, the seemingly harmless tribbles will consume all the quadrotriticale grain destined for Sherman's Planet, which will force the Federation to evacuate...and allow the Klingons to plant their own colony without overtly violating the Organian Peace Treaty.
Although the episode does have a dramatic undercurrent of 23rd Century superpower rivalry, "The Trouble With Troubles" is perhaps the series' most popular installment, due, no doubt, to Gerrold's adroit use of comedic situations and lighthearted dialogue. For instance, the scene where Kirk assembles the Enterprise officers involved in the bar brawl on the station is capped with this dry-humored exchange between the captain and Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott (the late James Doohan):
Scotty: Well, Captain, er, the Klingons called you a tin plated over bearing swaggering dictator with delusions of grandeur.
Capt. Kirk: Is that all?
Scotty: No sir, they also compared you with a Denebian slime devil.
Capt. Kirk: I see.
Scotty: And then they said you were...
Capt. Kirk: I get the picture, Scotty.
Scotty: Yes, sir.
Capt. Kirk: And after they said all this, that's when you hit the Klingons.
Scotty: No, sir.
Capt. Kirk: No?
Scotty: No, er, I didn't. You told us to avoid trouble.
Capt. Kirk: Oh, yes.
Scotty: Well, I didn't see it was worth fighting about. After all, we're big enough to take a few insults, aren't we?
Capt. Kirk: What was it they said that started the fight?
Scotty: They called the Enterprise a garbage scow! Sir.
Capt. Kirk: I see. And that's when you hit the Klingon?
Scotty: Yes, sir.
Capt. Kirk: You hit the Klingons because they insulted the Enterprise, not because they...
Scotty: Well, sir, this was a matter of pride!
Capt. Kirk: All right, Scotty, dismissed. Oh, Scotty, you're restricted to quarters until further notice.
Scotty: Yes, sir. Thank you, sir. That'll give me a chance to catch up on my technical journals.
Although the special effects are now so outdated that all the episodes of the Original Series will be digitally remastered, Gerrold's pun-laden and brilliantly witty script is interpreted to near-perfection by the regular cast and the guest stars. William Campbell, who had played the Squire of Gothos in an earlier episode, gives Klingon Capt. Koloth a mixture of charm and duplicitious menace that was so indelible that he was asked to reprise the role in the Deep Space Nine episode "Blood Oath." The always-reliable William Schallert was the perfect Federation paper-pushing administrator who is the exact opposite of everything Kirk is, and Michael Pataki is wonderfully odious as the Klingon officer who badgers Scotty into throwing that first punch when he calls the Enterprise a "garbage scow." Finally, actor-writer Stanley Adams, who also penned the episode "The Mark of Gideon," pulls off a brilliantly comedic performance as the eager-to-make-a-fast-credit Cyrano Jones.
William Shatner as James T. Kirk
Leonard Nimoy as Spock
DeForest Kelley as Leonard H. McCoy
James Doohan as Montgomery Scott
Nichelle Nichols as Uhura
George Takei as Hikaru Sulu
Walter Koenig as Pavel Andreievich Chekov
William Schallert as Nilz Baris
William Campbell as Capt. Koloth
Stanley Adams as Cyrano Jones
Whit Bissell as Mr. Lurry
Michael Pataki as Korax
Ed Reimers as Admiral Fitzpatrick
Charlie Brill as Arne Darvin
Paul Baxley as Ensign Freeman
David L. Ross as Guard
Guy Raymond as Trader/bartender
Eddie Paskey as Security Guard
Director: Joseph Pevney
Written By: David Gerrold
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Viewing Format: VHS
Video Occasion: Good for Groups
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 9 - 12