Friday, October 21, 2011

The Trouble With Tribbles

***** (5 stars out of 5)
So what IS 'The Trouble With Tribbles'? NOTHING! It's a brilliant episode and everyone loves it even if they have no use for Star Trek. Writer David Gerrold's first sale to TV brings the funny throughout, the actors seem to be having a blast, and toy tribbles have net Paramount fat wads of cash that Cyrano Jones could only dream about.

Trader Cyrano Jones sells tribbles on Deep Space Station K-7. Adorable, trilling little animals that the local bartender seems leery of, but which come home with Uhura as a gift.

First one's free!

The trouble is breeding. Out of its predator-filled environment, the tribbles' survival mechanism of large litters, born pregnant, increasing exponentially twice daily begins to over-run both ship and station. Most call what the tribbles do asexual reproduction, McCoy calls it 'bisexual'. He also refers to them as 'attractive'. Best not to dwell on this. I'm sure he didn't mean it like that!

Meanwhile, the Cold War imposed by the Organian Peace Treaty has the Klingons and Federation competing to develop Sherman's Planet most effectively. Klingon Captain Koloth and Captain Kirk have tangled before, but today they just smile and let their crews take leave on K-7 at the same time. When a raucous bar fight breaks out, the Organians don't intervene, but they didn't do much on Capella either. Apparently the Organians just left an impression on both parties that has them playing nice while still loathing each other.

Staney Adams as irresponsible Cyrano Jones, Whit Bissell as K-7's Manager Lurry, William Schallert as overzealous Agricultural Undersecretary Nilz Baris, Charlie Brill as his obsequious assistant Arne Darvin, Guy Raymond as the snarky bartender, Michael Pataki as belligerent Korax, and Trelane... I mean... William Campbell as sneering Koloth: every one brings their own notes of humour to the cheerful melody of this popular tale.

I've heard it said that just as the Neural Parasites of 'Operation -- Annihilate!' resemble Robert Heinlein's creation The Puppet Masters in form and function, so do tribbles resemble his 'flatcats'. It's a great word, too, and descriptive: sounds halfway between a cat and a flapjack. But Heinlein didn't mind: there are similar creatures in the 1905 story 'Pigs is Pigs'.
Flapjacks and bacon... I'm getting hungry as a tribble...

Tribbles may be an ecological disaster waiting to happen, but their voracious appetite saves plenty of lives today: the poor things perished on poisoned grain meant for humans. The saboteur is revealed by the tribbles also: Darvin is a Klingon agent surgically altered. But while tribbles purr for humans & Vulcans, they squeal at Klingons no matter what face they wear!

Jones' illegal transport of dangerous animals carries a 20 year penalty at a Rehabilitation Colony- but he bargains Kirk down to clearing K-7 of the beasties: which Spock figures will take 17.9 years. As Kirk puts it: "Call it job security."

Soft tribble, warm tribble, little ball of fur.
Happy tribble, sleepy tribble, purr purr purr.

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