The Trouble With Tribbles

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"The Trouble With Tribbles" is a second-season episode of Star Trek: The Original Series. The episode first aired on December 29, 1967 on the NBC Network. Written by David Gerrold and Directed by Joseph Pevney.

Plot summary

The Federation wants to colonize Sherman's Planet with the aid of a grain hybrid called quadro-triticale. However, the Klingon Empire wishes to do the same, and there is a treaty stipulating that whoever can manage the planet best has claim over it. A Federation official abuses a high priority distress call to lure the USS Enterprise to Deep Space Station K7 as protection for the wheat, much to the ire of Captain Kirk. However, a Klingon ship arrives soon after, ostensibly to claim shore leave rights under the terms of the treaty, and Kirk chooses to remain.

Meanwhile, in the station bar, the merchant Cyrano Jones is selling tribbles, small furry animals whose trilling has "a tranquilizing effect on the human nervous system." Lt. Uhuru brings a free tribble back to the ship, and it spawns over a dozen more by the next day, the same size as itself. McCoy brings one to the lab to analyze it, and it spawns 10 more.

The trouble starts when a drunken Klingon soldier begins flinging insults directed at Kirk and the Enterprise around to provoke a group of Enterprise crew members. Lt. Cmdr. Scott attacks the soldier, and the fight continues until security arrives. Kirk treats the incident mildly: he cancels shore leave for both ships and confines Scott and the other involved crew to quarters.

It would be unfair to the reader to give away the rest of the story, but the idea for tribbles is reminiscent of the Martian flat cats of The Rolling Stones, a science fiction story by Robert Heinlein.

Thanks to the story and nostalgia generated by "The Trouble With Tribbles", it was listed as the #1 best episode in the 1991 Star Trek Viewers Choice Marathon hosted by Shatner and Nimoy.

Episode sequel

Scenes from this episode were used in a sequel episode on the fifth season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, "Trials and Tribble-ations", with members of the Deep Space Nine crew digitally inserted into the scenes that featured Captain Kirk, Spock and other Original Series cast members from that episode (including a notable scene near the end of the episode, actually taken from the Original Series episode "Mirror, Mirror", where Deep Space Nine commander Captain Sisko, disguised as an Enterprise lieutenant, interacts with Captain Kirk on the Enterprise bridge).[1] Thanks to the nostalgia generated by "The Trouble with Tribbles", "Trials and Tribble-ations" was the most-watched Deep Space Nine episode that season.


  1. "Trials and Tribble-ations" at Memory Alpha Star Trek wiki