Tuesday, December 25, 2007

No trouble with “tribbles”

You remember the original tribbles episode of Star Trek: Communications Officer Uhuru brings a new pet on board the Enterprise, forcing Captain Kirk and his crew to do battle (so to speak) with the fuzzy creatures that multiply beyond all reason. (Warning: Plot spoiler ahead.) In the end, Darvin the Klingon has to come to the rescue, doing the dirty work of starving the little buggers to death so they wouldn't cause any more “trouble.”

“The Trouble with Tribbles” aired exactly 40 years ago on December 29, 1967. The famous episode was written by science fiction writer David Gerrold, who penned the script when he was a wet-behind-the-ears 23 year-old. Recently he tried to explain to The New York Times why the episode has been so memorable: “I think [it] worked because it was so coy.”

Or did he mean to say cute?

Tribbles, indigenous to the planet Iota Geminorum IV, are diminutive, mostly gentle creatures that produce a soft purring sound. Most sentient races find these traits to be endearing, but Klingons do not. During this episode Leonard “Bones” McCoy explains that tribbles have only two purposes in life, eating and reproducing, and they perform both of these functions well. McCoy concludes that tribbles use over fifty percent of their metabolism for reproduction.

As a 9 year-old boy, I watched this episode when it first aired. I loved how the tribbles vexed the crew of the seemingly invincible Enterprise. In my preteen mind, tribbles were beguiling and scary -- not cute. I responded to them like in the same way as Spock, who couldn't comprehend them, and the Klingons, who totally rejected their unwanted screeching and deficiency of belligerence. Their sheer volume was also scary to me. Growing up in New York City, I had seen sewers overflow with rainwater and snow banks that stopped everything, so the tribbles were like a natural disaster in my mind. I have seen this episode three or four times since it first aired, but my first impression will last a lifetime.

If you've got some time over the holidays, do yourself a favor and spend some quality time with the tribbles. You won't regret it.

No comments: