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Star Trek The Animated Series: More Tribbles, More Troubles

The Agents of Doux are covering The Animated Series with "discussion reviews."

Mikey Heinrich: I want it on record, I will die angry that the official title for this isn't "Mo' Tribbles, Mo' Troubles."

For the first time since we started these discussion reviews I feel that my lack of knowledge of the Original Series might have hindered my enjoyment of this one. I've seen "The Trouble with Tribbles" once about half a year ago, and while I enjoyed it I can't swear that I remember it in any great detail. For example, I couldn't have come up with the name Cyrano Jones if you'd had a gun to my head, and it took me a minute to remember where he'd ended up at the end of the earlier story.

It feels like there are a lot of fond reflections of the earlier episode in this one and while not recognizing them didn't hurt my enjoyment of this story I did have a vague feeling of missing something.

Anyhow, Kirk and friends are again ferrying a big shipment of special super future space wheat to a starving planet, which is all terribly noble but doesn't stop Kirk from heading off a Klingon attack by throwing the cargo ships at them. The Klingons have a new super weapon which is actually a pretty interesting idea, basically an EMF burst that has an on/off switch and only affects weapons systems. This is played up as being a big deal with long term consequences until the end of the episode when Kirk says, "Ah well. I'm sure it'll probably not be a big deal" and they all never mention it again.

I do kind of wonder if anyone has ever written a paper analyzing the tribbles as a metaphor for gender relations. After spending their entire first appearance having Kirk and the boys constantly going on about how they can't be on the ship because it would be so inconvenient if they got pregnant, this time around Kirk spends most of the episode fat-shaming them. Not cool, Jim.

Other random thoughts, the Klingon commander was clearly being voiced by James Doohan. Usually I don't notice him doing other characters.

Speaking of Mssr. Doohan, at one point Scotty says they've filled all their holds with grain, and because of his accent I mis-heard him to say "We've filled all of our 'holes' with grain." Which took me down a very different story direction.

What do you all think?

Billie Doux: As someone who has seen "The Trouble with Tribbles" so many times that I can recite much of the dialogue, I was very dissatisfied. They brought back the original episode writer, the tribbles, the grain, Cyrano Jones, the Klingons, and even Captain Koloth. It should have been a slam dunk. Why wasn't it?

Maybe because, as you said, Mikey, there were so many callback scenes and jokes that it dominated the episode. It felt like we'd already seen it all.

The one new thing, other than the stasis field (more about that below), was that the tribbles were hot pink and looked like Barbie powder puffs, or fuzzy pink baseballs. The change from super-reproduction to fat-shaming made no sense at all when the huge tribbles eventually exploded into zillions of little tribbles, anyway. And I really hated the idea of the glommer, a creature that ate tribbles alive like snakes eating mice. The one thing that always bothered me about the original episode was that the tribbles weren't treated like living creatures that could feel pain.

The stasis field stuff was actually a bit more interesting, even though it kept reminding me of a giant white slinky. Captain Koloth and the stasis field might have been enough to make for an interesting episode. (Just fyi, I was hugged by Captain Koloth at a Star Trek convention. If you're interested, that story is in my review of William Campbell's other famous Star Trek episode, "The Squire of Gothos.")

Memory Alpha has a lot of interesting information about this episode. Turns out that it was supposed to be an original series episode, but one of the powers that be hated tribbles. At one point, they considered having the tribbles eat people – that would have been interesting. And the tribbles were pink because TAS's showrunner was colorblind and approved it that way, and they couldn't afford to go back and redo them.

I should probably repeat my Heinlein diatribe. David Gerrold ripped off everything about the tribbles from the Martian "flat cats" in Robert A. Heinlein's young adult novel, The Rolling Stones. Heinlein chose not to sue Gerrold. I don't know if I would have been as gracious.

Mikey: See, the fact that the tribbles were the wrong color didn't even register for me. Interesting.

It's also interesting to me that I appear to have been using the default assumption that the references I wasn't getting must be a net positive to the episode that I just wasn't knowledgeable enough to appreciate. Like a joke told in a language you don't know, you just kind of assume it must be funny if you understood it. It never once occurred to me that knowing the references might actually detract from the episode.

I did think it was a bold design choice to have the Glommers kill tribbles by squatting over them and shoving them up their butts. My therapist has some questions for the design team on that one.

Billie: Lol, Mikey. I hadn't thought of that, but it was definitely eating from below. Maybe the glommers can join our list of weird, bizarre and/or inappropriate episode elements, like the Vulcan kid wear, the small intestine and the giant urn-vase. What about the first episode? The hippie necklace, perhaps?

Mikey: "The Vulcan kid wear, the Small Intestine and the Giant Urn-Vase." Worst Grimm Brothers fairytale ever.

An Honest Fangirl: You know, the more I read about this, the more I'm not sure if I'm elated or heartbroken that I wasn't around during this time period. Tribbles, Vulcan Kid Wear, Small Intestine, and Giant Urn-Vase, oh my!

Mikey: All this considered, I'm going to give this a four out of ten glommer butts. I would actually have gone higher on the assumption that the stuff I didn't get probably made it better. Disappointing.

Billie: And I'd probably go with two out of four because I did get all the callbacks and was still disappointed. It's interesting that IMDb rates this as the third most popular episode. Maybe a lot more original series fans enjoyed revisiting the tribbles more than I did.

Mikey: I assume "Yesteryear" is number one. What's number two?

Billie: "The Slaver Weapon," episode 1.14. Here's the list. It does change, since anyone can rate these episodes at any time.

"The Magicks of Megas-Tu" is at the bottom. Looking forward to that one.

Mikey: I would not have called "Slaver Weapon" as a big favorite. I really like "Magicks" the one time I saw it, but I had had some wine.

Fun plug for the next review... Four words... Guest starring Ted Knight.

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