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Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Trials and Tribble-ations

"I love classic 23rd century design... black finish, silver highlights."

It's a time travel tornado for the Deep Space Nine crew when they pass through a bunch of chronitons and wind up 200 light years away, their cloak deactivated, and face to face with one of the most terrifying menaces in Star Trek History: troublesome tribbles!

When I first heard about this episode, I groaned, inwardly expecting a cheesy hour of throwbacks and references to The Old Series. Most Deep Space Nine episodes are so serious, and most of what comedy there is, is unappetizing Ferengi comedy. I couldn't picture this would be anything other than cheap fanboy placation. I had no idea when I clicked WATCH that I was about to click into one of the most fun DS9 episodes I've had the opportunity to review – one in which the episode itself is entertaining, as well as the fanboy stuff it tries to implement.

The episode was a celebration of the 1996 30th anniversary of Star Trek, and a general homage to the series; the show combined clips from 'The Trouble with Tribbles' (1967) with the magic of Hollywood to put Dax, Sisko and the rest of our grand crew right there in the past; it was fun watching our team play with hair and costumes. The video is so artfully edited into the footage created for this episode that watching created a very odd sensation of whoa, the world is slipping! for me as a viewer. The show even brought back Charlie Brill, the same actor from the Old Series episode, to take up again the role he once executed so well.

Dax looked awesome in Old Series hair!

This plot is a story-within-a-story. The outside shell is the story of two Temporal Investigators, Dulmer and Lucsley (I love the X-Files reference; in both cases, the first syllable of the last name has been reversed) who come to check up on the DS9 crew after the Defiant experienced a time travel incident. The inside shell is the story of that experience, and how Sisko and crew tried to save a timeline after being accidentally thrown adrift into the past: specifically the past of James T. Kirk. In the DS9 era, Arne Darvin is making a hail mary pass at changing his own history and making his once-failure of an execution successful by using the Bajoran Orb of Time to go back 200 years and fix his own mistake.

What impacted me at this time and in this watching were how the show, which has arguably more people of color than white actors, tried to address and ret-con the racial shortcomings of earlier issues. Klingon appearances have changed with every series; this show tries to explain those changes.  It was hard watching Worf called a foul-smelling barbarian. At the same time it was good that the show didn't try to hide the casual racism in parts of the Trek experience – but at the same time, and again watching at this point in time, it was notable that neither of Worf's companions contradicted the slur. The 'races' of Star Trek have long been shorthand for the 'races' of humanity, and one of its brightest dreams has been the notion of the Federation – and this episode shows how humans might buckle and change in the pursuit of that dream.

The episode's ending makes me laugh. In this episode, we see a side of Sisko which doesn't emerge in every episode, but is a recurrent theme throughout the series: the historian-sociologist, the man one who knows about Bajoran culture and understands and studies galactic traditions and peoples, including his own. When this side of Sisko emerges and speaks he tells beautiful stories, and sounds like an earnest history teacher. It fits with his stern leader persona, and part of the reason this episode works is because of this element of Sisko's personality. Again and again, he warns his crew not to interact with heroes and friends from the past. In the end, though, he seizes his moment – and in another well-edited shot, thanks Kirk for the opportunity to serve with him.

Accessing the datapadd

The Orb of Time is one of the nine Tears of the Prophets, and is the third we have seen so far in the series; the first was the Orb of Prophecy and Change, and the second was the Orb of Wisdom, found by the Ferengi. There was also that shard the Bajorans were using to drive away evil. I wonder what impact this third orb will have on the whole Orb storyline.

Dax's confession about wanting to live again in the time she once lived. (Possibly because of sleeping with McCoy? Of the original three, I've always been a McCoy fan.) Emony Dax gets mentioned again. I thought this was a pretty versatile Dax episode.

The amazing Bar Fight Scene. That was a piece of art, mixing clips from old with clips from today. Oh, and that poor waitress, who kept getting asked for Klingon coffee!

I love how the actors even imitate the tones and speech patterns of the original Trek. They did a great job with fidelity.

Odo falling in love with the cute little Tribbles, for me, was reminiscent of Data's relationship with Spot in The Next Generation.

Is this the only episode containing actors from three separate series?

Cool writing note: David Gerrold, who wrote 'The Trouble with Tribbles,' came onboard to help write this episode and ensure the two merged seamlessly.

Stored on the tricorder

Sisko: It was an accident.
Lucsley: So you're not contending it was a predestination paradox?
Dulmur: A time loop. That you were meant to go back into the past?
Sisko: Erm, no.
Dulmur: Good.
Lucsley: We hate those. So, what happened?
Sisko: This may take some time.
Dulmur: Is that a joke?
Sisko: No.
Lucsley: Good.
Dulmur: We hate those too.

Worf: They do nothing but consume food and breed. If you feed that thing more than the smallest morsel, in a few hours you'll have ten tribbles, then a hundred, then a thousand.
Odo: Calm down. 
Worf: They were once considered mortal enemies of the Klingon Empire.
Odo: This? A mortal enemy of the Empire?
Worf: They were an ecological menace, a plague to be wiped out.
Odo: Wiped out? What are you saying?
Worf: Hundreds of warriors were sent to track them down throughout the galaxy. An armada obliterated the Tribbles' homeworld. By the end of the twenty-third century, they had been eradicated. 
Odo: Another glorious chapter of Klingon history. Tell me, do they still sing songs of the great tribble hunt?


I'm still amazed by what they managed to do; they even gave the original episode more context and depth. I think I'd have even more fun the next time I watched: five out of five fully glowing Orbs.


  1. Absolutely an undeniably great homage. Loved it. It was pretty much perfect.

    And before anyone else says it, calling the original series "the old series" is fightin' words. :)

  2. Thanks! Wouldn't it be fun to listen to a song about The Great Tribble Hunt? Certainly the Klingons could claim to have fought millions, maybe billions.

  3. This episode is amazing. Your point about the 'racism' against Klingons, etc. is well taken, though. It's not like they had the room to really address it properly here, but it does make for a glaring omission, especially viewed right now.

  4. Billie - no intent to fight! Imma change to Original... though it’s interesting in ASL we do say ‘Old’; wouldn’t Original be the Pike pilot?

  5. JRS, you don't need to change anything. I have to say it's fascinating that it's "Old" in ASL when a lot of Trek fans really hate that.

  6. I had forgotten about this episode entirely and watched it last night after reading this review. It was definitely fun, and it must have been just as fun to put it together. The amount of work that must have gone into building the sets for the original Enterprise is unfathomable; I suppose they had the budget for it!

    I have to say, though, if I had one criticism to offer it's that — and this is pretty much true of all the Star Trek spinoffs — the difference in the direction, timing, and delivery is amazingly apparent when comparing the TOS and DS9 episodes. There's something flatter about the way the DS9 actors deliver their lines, the humour just isn't as bright, the writing is not as sharp, and the whole feel of the thing is off somehow — almost as though ... I don't even know how to describe it, really. For example, in the fight scene in the bar — brilliantly integrated as it is — there's such an obvious difference in the choreography of the TOS scenes and the DS9 scenes. DS9 is much more restrained, TOS much more — perhaps enthusiastic is the word. Just watch the roundhouses Scotty is throwing and try to find that level of effort in any of the DS9 actors; it just isn't there. There's an immediacy, a crispness that's lacking, and I see that in all the new Trek. As though they're acting through cling film or something.

    Anyway, that's me. Maybe I'm just old. I still had fun watching it, and laughed out loud at many of the bits. It was great that they did it, and maybe it got some new Trek fans who had never seen TOS to go back and watch it.


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