Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch

Tribbles Week Redux: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine‘s “Trials and Tribble-ations”

In 1996,Star Trek reached its 30th anniversary.Deep Space Nine celebrated this occasion with an episode called “Trials and Tribble-ations,” which was a direct crossover with “The Trouble with Tribbles.” With the DS9 Rewatch having reached that point, we’re celebrating by doing a redux of “Tribbles Week,” previously celebrated when the Star Trek Rewatch by Eugene Myers & Torie Atkinson got to “The Trouble with Tribbles” back in 2010. We began yesterday with a special rewatch of the episode that started it all, and we follow it with the actual DS9 episode today…

“Trials and Tribble-ations”

Written by Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler & Robert Hewitt Wolfe and Ronald D. Moore & Rene Echevarria

Directed by Jonathan West

Based on “The Trouble with Tribbles,” written by David Gerrold, directed by Joseph Pevney
Season 5, Episode 6

Production episode 40510-503

Original air date: November 4, 1996

Stardate: unknown

Station log: A ship containing two investigators from the Department of Temporal Investigations, Dulmur and Lucsly, arrives at the station. The pair of them talk to Sisko about their recent mission. Sisko assures them that his journey back in time on the Defiant was an accident, not a predestination paradox or a time loop or something that was meant to be. Dulmur and Lucsly are relieved to hear that. “We hate those.”

Two weeks ago, the Cardassian government contacted Sisko to give back one of the Orbs of the Prophets. This one turned out to be the Orb of Time—though they didn’t know that at first. They also took on a passenger on Cardassia: Barry Waddle, a human merchant in gemstones, kivas, and trillium. He was stuck on Cardassia when the Klingons invaded, and now can finally get home.

En route back to Bajoran space, O’Brien detects an increase in chroniton radiation, and then the ship is enveloped in the same glow we’ve seen during Orb experiences. When it settles, the ship has dropped out of warp, and is now two hundred light-years from their original position. The cloak is deactivated long enough for someone to beam off. O’Brien gets the viewscreen working, and they’re ridiculously close to another ship—which turns out to be the Enterprise, NCC-1701.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Trials and Tribble-ations

Dulmur and Lucsly shake their heads in dismay, as DTI views Kirk as a menace. He committed seventeen separate temporal violations, the biggest file on record. Sisko verifies that they went back about 105 years in time.

“Barry Waddle” is missing, and the guard on the Orb has been rendered unconscious, so it’s clear who’s responsible. Worf and Odo soon put it together: he’s Arne Darvin, a Klingon spy who was sent to sabotage Federation colonization efforts a century ago—or, rather, now. Eighteen hours from when the Defiant is, Kirk will expose him (as we saw in “The Trouble with Tribbles”). They don’t know if Darvin beamed to the ship or the station, so they have to check both without polluting the timelines. (Sisko comments that the last thing he wants is a visit from DTI when they get home.)

Sisko, Dax, Bashir, and O’Brien change into Starfleet uniforms of the era (and Bashir, O’Brien, and Dax change their hairstyles to blend in as well), while Odo and Worf dress in civilian clothes. The former foursome will try to find Darvin on the Enterprise, while the latter two will search the station. Kira, meanwhile, is tasked with figuring out how to use the Orb to get them home.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Trials and Tribble-ations

Bashir and O’Brien beam into a turbolift and try to get it to move, but it doesn’t respond to voice commands. A lieutenant enters and grabs a handle and calls for a deck, and then it moves. Bashir says he won’t tell anyone that they didn’t know how to operate the turbolift.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Trials and Tribble-ations

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Trials and Tribble-ations

Meanwhile, Sisko pretends to do maintenance while Dax checks her tricorder for Darvin. She waxes nostalgic on the subject of the black-and-silver tricorder—she used to have one.

Odo enters the bar just as Cyrano Jones is bargaining with the bartender while Chekov and Uhura look on. Odo orders a raktajino, but the waitress doesn’t recognize the Klingon coffee—and he’s the second person to order it that day. The waitress says an older human ordered it, and he said he’d be back.

O’Brien and Bashir are doing the same pretend-to-do-maintenance-while-scanning-for-Darvin trick, but O’Brien’s afraid to touch anything. Then another engineer shows up, and Bashir pretends he’s conducting a survey regarding stress in the workplace.

Worf joins Odo in the bar and is disgusted to see that Odo has procured a tribble—which reacts very violently to Worf. Worf explains that tribbles were a great enemy of the Klingon Empire, an ecological menace that consumed food and bred uncontrollably. An armada wiped out the tribble homeworld, and by the end of the 23rd century, they were eradicated as a species.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Trials and Tribble-ations

The I.K.S. Gr’oth arrives at the station. Dax recognizes it as Koloth’s ship, and she remembers him telling her (well, him, since she was Curzon at the time) about trading insults with Kirk on a space station near the Federation border.

Dax wants to beam over to the station to keep an eye on Koloth, but Sisko thinks she’ll be too overwhelmed by nostalgia, so he sends Bashir and O’Brien instead. While Dax and Sisko do another sweep for Darvin, Kirk and Spock come by as Baris contacts him. Dax talks about how sexy he is in person, and Sisko thinks she means Kirk, but she’s actually talking about Spock. Dax admits that she’s nostalgic because she was actually alive in this time, and she remembers it well.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Trials and Tribble-ations

Bashir and O’Brien arrive at the bar, where Odo and Worf have been sitting waiting for Darvin to come back. The former two are envious of their cushy-tushy assignment, since they’ve been crawling through conduits.

As they talk, Scotty, Chekov, and Freeman enter. Korax starts trash-talking, and the bar fight starts. Odo’s protestations notwithstanding, Bashir, O’Brien, and Worf get in on the fight. Darvin walks by the bar, and Odo and Worf spot him, while Bashir and O’Brien are rounded up with the rest of the Enterprise crew. They’re all brought before Kirk, and Kirk asks O’Brien who started it, and the chief says, “I don’t know, sir.” After Kirk dismisses everyone and confines them to quarters, O’Brien is giddy that he lied to Kirk’s face and wishes Keiko were there to see it.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Trials and Tribble-ations

Worf and Odo bring Darvin back to the Defiant, but he’s already performed his sabotage: he put a bomb in a tribble, which will kill Kirk and give him his revenge. When they return to the 24th century, he’ll be a hero of the empire.

Dax and Sisko risk going to the bridge to use the internal sensors to try to see if the bomb is on one of the tribbles on the ship (they don’t find anything). Bashir, O’Brien, and Odo go to K-7 to search the tribbles there. (Worf doesn’t go, given the tribbles’ adverse reaction to Klingons.)

Since the tribble isn’t on the Enterprise, it must be on the station. Odo, Bashir, and O’Brien keep searching, while Sisko and Dax stick close to Kirk, since Darvin would have planted the bomb where he knew Kirk would be at a particular time. When Kirk and Spock deduce that the tribbles might be in the storage compartments, Sisko and Dax overhear and immediately beam directly to the compartments. They find a lot of gorged dead tribbles, and poisoned grain. Dax also detects a tricobalt signature, so the bomb is definitely in one of the tribbles there. As they search, Kirk opens the compartment door and is inundated by tribbles. Sisko eventually finds the bomb and has Kira beam it into space, where it explodes harmlessly. History resumes as normal—though Sisko does indulge himself and, under the guise of being a junior officer handing over a report for signature, gets Kirk’s autograph.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Trials and Tribble-ations

Dulmur and Lucsly say that they’ll send a report in about a month, but they’re pretty sure there was no wrongdoing. Dulmur even admits that he might have done the same thing Sisko did asking for an autograph, which Lucsly is a little perturbed by.

After they leave, Sisko, Kira, and Dax head to the Promenade, which is overrun by tribbles. The one Odo procured has reproduced…

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Trials and Tribble-ations

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Both Sisko and O’Brien get to pretend to effect repairs while scanning for Darvin. Sisko whistles in appreciation of the old tech, while O’Brien is utterly intimidated by it, as he has no idea what to even touch—and when he does start “working” for the benefit of the engineer who catches him and Bashir, he kills power on the whole deck.

The crew is able to transport back and forth by taking advantage of a three-second window in the Enterprise’s old-fashioned duotronic scan cycle and transporting folks during those intervals.

The Sisko is of Bajor: Sisko has to play killjoy for Dax, who wants to talk to Kirk and Spock and see Koloth in his prime. She says it’d be fun, and he rebukes, “Too much fun.” His focus is on the mission. Of course, once the mission’s over, then he indulges himself to get Kirk’s autograph…

Sisko also gets one of the funnier bits in an episode filled with them, as he taps his combadge to contact the Defiant, before remembering he needs to use a communicator.

Don’t ask my opinion next time: Kira stays behind on the Defiant, since a pregnant Bajoran is a bit hard to camouflage in the 23rd century Federation. Her job is to coordinate everyone’s movements, beaming folks back and forth, and also identifying Koloth’s ship when it arrives. She’s the one who dopes out how to manipulate the Orb of Time to get them back home.

The slug in your belly: Dax gets to be the proxy for all the fans who grew up watching the original series by geeking out over everything, since she was the one who actually lived in this time period.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Trials and Tribble-ations

There is no honor in being pummeled: Early on, Darvin (as Barry Waddle) complains about how bad Klingons smell. To make him feel better and tease him at the same time, O’Brien and Bashir deadpan that Worf has a nice smell that’s peaty and earthy, with just a hint of lilac. O’Brien tries to get Dax and Sisko to go along with the gag.

Preservation of mass and energy is for wimps: Odo gets his very own tribble, and then gets to snark off Worf when the latter explains about how the cute little fuzzy creatures are blood enemies of the Klingon Empire, concluding with a delightfully sardonic query, “Tell me, do they still sing songs of the Great Tribble Hunt?”

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Trials and Tribble-ations

Rules of Acquisition: Quark doesn’t appear until the very end, where he, like the bartender on K-7, is chest-deep in tribbles, plus one on his head.

For Cardassia! The Detapa Council has found another Orb of the Prophets, and chosen to give it back to Bajor. It turns out to be the Orb of Time, which you kinda wish they’d said up front.

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: Emony Dax slept with McCoy when he was a student at Ole Miss. (Dax says he had the hands of a surgeon, wah hey!) Meanwhile, Bashir is convinced that he’s meant to sleep with Lieutenant Watley after she flirts with him, since his great grandmother was named Watley, she was in Starfleet, and nobody knew his great grandfather, which has to be the most tortured logic ever created to justify sleeping with someone ever.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Trials and Tribble-ations

Tough little ship: The Defiant cloak keeps them safe from Klingon raiding parties when they’re en route from Cardassia, and also from the sensors of either K-7 or the Enterprise or the Gr’oth. That whole only-use-it-in-the-Gamma-Quadrant thing seems to be a total nonfactor at this point.

Keep your ears open: “Wait a minute, aren’t you two wearing the wrong color?”

“Don’t you know anything about this period in time?”

“I’m a doctor, not an historian.”

“In the old days, operations officers wore red, command officers wore gold—”

“—and women wore less.”

Bashir confused as to why Sisko and O’Brien are wearing gold and red, respectively, instead of the other way ’round, O’Brien being snarky, Bashir channeling McCoy, Sisko explaining, and Dax showing up in her miniskirt.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Trials and Tribble-ations

Welcome aboard: In terms of present-day guests, we’ve got Jack Blessing and James W. Jansen as Dulmur and Lucsly. Jansen previously appeared as a Bajoran in “The Storyteller.” Deirdre Imershein played Watley; she last was seen as a Risan greeter on TNG’s “Captain’s Holiday.” Charles Chun and Leslie Ackerman played the engineer and the waitress, respectively. In addition, David Gerrold, the writer of the original episode, makes two cameos as an Enterprise crew member.

In the footage from “The Trouble with Tribbles,” we’ve got William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, and Walter Koenig as six of the big seven (George Takei was filming The Green Berets, and so didn’t appear in the episode; to make up for it, he was in Voyager’s “Flashback,” the sister show’s 30th anniversary episode, which we’ll cover tomorrow), as well as Stanley Adams, Whit Bissell, William Schallert, Michael Pataki, Paul Baxley, Guy Raymond, and David Ross.

And of course Charlie Brill shows up in both as Darvin.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Trials and Tribble-ations

Trivial matters: Obviously, this episode melds with footage from “The Trouble with Tribbles.”

The decision as to which episode of the original series to tie into was not made right away—both “Charlie X” and “A Piece of the Action” were considered—but they settled on “Tribbles” for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the writing staff bumping into Charlie Brill in a pizza parlor in Los Angeles, which made everyone decide it was kismet. (Ira Steven Behr joked that it proved that God was a DS9 fan, while Brill said he was just glad he didn’t go for Chinese that day.) The technique for inserting people into footage so seamlessly was pioneered only two years earlier in the film Forrest Gump.

The scene where Sisko fangoobers Kirk was taken, not from “Tribbles,” but rather “Mirror, Mirror,” specifically the scene where Kirk meets the mainline version of Marlena Moreau—Sisko was substituted in for Moreau. (That explains the look of shock on Uhura’s face, which doesn’t make much sense in the new scene, unless she’s totally checking Sisko out…)

The Department of Temporal Investigations is never seen or mentioned again onscreen, but they are seen in the tie-in fiction, most notably in two novels (Watching the Clock and Forgotten History) and an upcoming eBook (The Collectors) by regular rewatch commenter Christopher L. Bennett.

The DVD menu for this episode has tribble noises instead of the usual sounds.

Emony Dax’s encounter with McCoy at Ole Miss is chronicled in the short story “Old Souls” by Michael Jan Freidman in The Lives of Dax anthology.

This is the first time the disparity between the smooth-headed Klingons of the original series and the bumpy-headed ones of the movie era and the 24th century (and later the 22nd century) was addressed onscreen, though they addressed it by not addressing it, with Worf’s curt, “We do not discuss it with outsiders.” An explanation—one that actually makes both O’Brien’s and Bashir’s suggestions that it was either a viral mutation or genetic engineering correct—was finally provided in the Enterprise two-parter “Affliction” and “Divergence.”

Amusingly, especially given his relationship with Dax and that he appeared in “Blood Oath,” no footage of William Campbell is used in this episode, so Koloth doesn’t actually appear despite being discussed quite a bit.

Sisko mentions that he’d love to ask Kirk about his facing the Gorn on Cestus III, a reference to the episode “Arena.”

Dulmur asks Sisko to specify which Enterprise he’s talking about, as there have been five. Lucsly points out that it’s actually six, a reference to the Enterprise-E, which would debut one month hence in the movie First Contact.

“Barry Waddle” is a dealer in, among other things, kivas and trillium, the same goods that Spock claimed to be a dealer in when he was disguised as a merchant in “Errrand of Mercy.”

Dax finding Spock sexier than Kirk, to Sisko’s surprise, is a nice play on the fact that the producers were caught off-guard by Spock being the bigger sex symbol than Kirk. (History would repeat itself on TNG, where Riker would be cast as the stud, but Sir Patrick Stewart would be the one to be voted TV’s Sexiest Man in TV Guide.)

Patrick Stewart sexiest man TV Guide

In a similar vein, Bashir mistaking Freeman for Kirk is an in-joke to the fact that Paul Baxley, who played Freeman, was also William Shatner’s stunt double.

Director Jonathan West, whose background is in cinematography (which is why he was tapped for this one), filmed the episode as if it was 1967, using older-style lenses, lighting, and film stock.

Several lines from the original episode are repeated. Odo’s comment that humanoids like small furry animals that make pleasing sounds matches McCoy’s. Both Sisko and Kirk say, “Storage compartments? Storage compartments?” Dax comes to the same estimate as to the number of tribbles on K-7 that Spock does: 1,771,561.

The designation of the Klingon battle cruisers as being “D-7” was something that was assumed in fan circles for a long time, and used in several technical manuals and games, but this was the first time the designation was used on screen.

Dulmur and Lucscly are (more or less) anagrams of Mulder and Scully, the names of the two leads in The X-Files, which was a hit series on FOX at the time. The scripters managed to resist the urge to have one of them utter that show’s tagline, “The truth is out there” to Sisko.

This episode was novelized by Diane Carey, which also served as a de facto novelization of “The Trouble with Tribbles.” The book also had an introduction by Gerrold and an afterword by Ronald D. Moore.

In one of those weird connection things, Charlie Brill was in the midst of starring as the acerbic Captain Harry Lipshitz in the USA Network series Silk Stalkings when this episode was produced. One of his co-stars, starting in the 1996/97 season, was Janet Gunn, who is an old friend of Michael Dorn’s. As a favor to Gunn, Dorn will appear on an episode of Silk Stalkings the following season.

Darvin’s backstory was told in the second issue of the Blood Will Tell comic book miniseries written by Scott & David Tipton. In a nice touch, at one point when Darvin is walking through a corridor, you can see Sisko walking the other way.

Walk with the Prophets: “I think I’m going to like history.” Every single person who worked on this episode should have received some kind of award. It really is a textbook example of how to do an anniversary episode, how to do fan-service, and how to do it all while still telling a good (if not great) story.

What impressed me most watching it now is how well the SFX hold up. I watched it on DVD on a wide-screen TV, and you could only see the seams occasionally (mostly in the bar fight). You really felt like the crew was right there on the sets from 1967.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Trials and Tribble-ations

So many delightful touches here. The newly solid Odo falling under the same tribble spell that Uhura did. Dax being just as scientifically awesome as Spock while also spending half the episode geebling with nostalgia. Worf’s story of the Great Tribble Hunt, complete with Odo’s obnoxious commentary. The Bashir-O’Brien double-act, which is in rare form from the turbolift confusion to the stress test to Worf smelling like lilac to “your flap is open” to Bashir’s desperate attempt to get laid by his great grandmother to razzing Worf and Odo for spending three hours sitting in a bar. Worf’s non-explanation for the smooth-headed Klingons (which was way more satisfying than the overly complicated one provided in Enterprise’s fourth season). Sisko being all business when necessary and self-indulgent only when the crisis is passed. Odo, ever the detective, seeing the bar fight coming a mile off and refusing to participate.

The glue that ties it together, of course, is Charlie Brill, who plays a surprisingly small role here, but his main function is to be the catalyst, and he serves that function well. His entry to the Defiant is hysterical, gleefully crying, “Humans!” and bitching about Cardassians drinking hot fish juice in the morning. And then he goes full Klingon when Worf and Odo capture him, reveling in finally getting revenge after a century. (Though it’s really hilarious hearing him refer to the Hall of Warriors with his Brooklyn accent.)

That’s not even including the framing sequence, which includes one of the single best additions to the Trek universe: the Department of Temporal Investigations. Because of course there’d be such a thing, given how common time travel is in the Trek universe (Kirk’s crew alone traveled in time on more than half a dozen occasions). And Dulmur and Lucsly are the perfect bureaucrats.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Trials and Tribble-ations

There are flaws, of course, but as with the episode it’s spun off of, complaining about the doors being too slow or the turbolift lights not moving right or the sound effects not tracking a hundred percent, or the fact that we never see Chekov leave the lineup behind Bashir and O’Brien, is churlish. This is a fun episode, it’s good nostalgia, and the characters still are very much like themselves. Great great stuff.

Warp factor rating: 10

Keith R.A. DeCandido will be appearing at Balticon 48 this weekend. When he isn’t doing panels or readings or autographings, he’ll be in the dealer’s room at the Dark Quest Books table, peddling his books (and he’ll have a few copies of The Klingon Art of War for sale, too!). His schedule is here.


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