Written by David Gerrold and Gene Roddenberry
Directed by Joseph Pevney
The Enterprise is summoned to Space Station K-7 by a priority distress call, which is a disaster call. They arrive at the station armed for battle, expecting to find the Klingons attacking the Space Station. Yet, all is quiet when they arrive. Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) beam over and find the explanation to be an Earth politician, Mr. Baris (William Schallert), trying to protect a supply of Quadrotriticale, a grain being used to develop Sherman’s Planet.
Captain Kirk is annoyed, but cannot do much since Sherman’s Planet is a high priority for the Federation. He authorizes security guards as well as shore leave for the crew. Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) and Chekov (Walter Koenig) jump at the chance to get off the Enterprise. Uhura meets Cyrano Jones (Stanley Adams), who is selling a tribble. A tribble is a purring ball of fluff. Having helped Jones convince the bartender tribbles would sell well, Jones gives one to Uhura.
Kirk is charged by Starfleet with protecting the grain, much to his consternation. The Klingons arrive, putting everyone on edge. Captain Koloth (William Campbell) says they are only there for shore leave as well.
On the Enterprise, Uhura’s tribble has had babies overnight. Doctor McCoy (DeForrest Kelley) takes one to study and she gives away the rest. He figures out that most of their metabolism is dedicated to reproduction – the more you feed them, the more they reproduce.
Soon there are tribbles all over the Enterprise and the space station. Captain Kirk is irritated and confronts Cyrano Jones back on the space station. He hasn’t done anything against the law, but the tribbles have infiltrated the food stores on the Enterprise, causing alarm about the quadrotriticale in storage on the station, and rightfully so.
However, the tribbles are also the key to unraveling the mystery. Not only does their consumption of the quadrotriticale show that the grain was poisoned, but their reaction to Klingons shows that Mr. Baris’ assistant, Mr. Darvin (Charlie Brill), is a Klingon masquerading as a human.
This episode has so many things going for it, and its execution is pretty much flawless. There are many moments of levity throughout, and many of them at the Captain’s expense. Kirk seems to be the only person clueless about quadrotriticale among all of his crew. He’s also buried in tribbles who have become gorged on the grain near the end of the episode. There’s also levity with Cyrano Jones and his negotiations. The actor portrays him with a good degree of levity. I liked him much better than the character of Harry Mudd, although they were the same type of character. There’s also a great scene with Scotty (James Doohan) starting a brawl with the Klingons and then explaining it to Captain Kirk. Again, some humor at the Captain’s expense.
At the same time, it’s not an episode that can’t be taken seriously. The story is solid with the conflict between the Klingons and Federation over the development of Sherman’s planet in accordance with the Organian Treaty – a great reference to that first-season episode. Everyone can sympathize with Kirk as he’s dealing with an unrepentant, unbearable Federation politician whose single-minded devotion to the quadrotriticale borders on obsessive. William Schallert is another great character actor in that role familiar to those of us who grew up on reruns of this series and many others back in the day.
If I had to show someone one episode of the original Star Trek series to show why it was so loved, it would be this one. It’s got everything going for it. It’s fun without being ridiculous. The story works without it being in a setting that seems implausible, which will happen a number of times after this.
Previous episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Original Series – Wolf in the Fold
Next episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Original Series – The Gamesters of Triskelion