Friday, 13 September 2013

TOS - 2.15 - The Trouble with Tribbles

Star Trek - The Trouble with Tribbles
Dr. McCoy:  I think this furry frock looks rather      
dashing on you, Jim.
Capt. Kirk:  You don't think it makes me look fat?   
Mr. Spock:  It depends on whom you compare with.
If Jabba the Hutt, then no.
Dr. McCoy:  I think your frock is falling into pieces.
Capt. Kirk:  Please leave my frock alone, you two. 
There's a gradual evolution of TOS in diversifying its episodes from its mainstay of historical, cultural, philosophical, military and such typical sci-fi themes.

In the previous episode 2.14 "Wolf in the Fold", it's a murder mystery. In this episode, it's a comedy.

Actually, episodes in TOS Season 1 are serious, and contain few comic relief. There's a trend of gradually adding more and more light touches since Season 2, especially the last 10 episodes or so where the comic relief at the endings have become a Trek tradition.

This episode is a comedy from start to finish. In fact, almost borderline on farce. This should be obvious from the title.

So it would become fitting to have a full comedy episode like this one. The comedy being introduced seems to coincide with other changes that I indicated in 2.11 "Friday's Child". I think all these developments - more diverse genres, more subtle preaching, more comedy - point to the continuing trend of making TOS more entertaining and taking itself less seriously. They still deliver serious messages, just not with a straight face any more.

So would such a fluffy (no pun intended) light comedy contains any serious message? Actually there're 2.

The 1st one is captured in the following dialogues,

UHURA: But they do give us something, Mister Spock. They give us love. Well, Cyrano Jones says a tribble is the only love that money can buy.
KIRK: Too much of anything, Lieutenant, even love, isn't necessarily a good thing.

Who can argue with that? The same can be said about sunlight, darkness, exercise, rest, honesty, and lies.

The 2nd and more serious and complex message is indicated by the following transcript,

SPOCK: Surely you must have realised what would happen if you removed the tribbles from their predator-filled environment into an environment where their natural multiplicative proclivities would have no restraining factors.
JONES: Of course. What did you say?
SPOCK: By removing the tribbles from their natural habitat, you have, so to speak, removed the cork from the bottle and allowed the genie to escape.

I wouldn't be at all surprise if the writer was inspired by the story of the Queensland cane toads in Australia. In order to control the cane beetles that damaged the sugar canes in Queensland, Australia, the cane toads were introduced to the cane fields.

Just as Spock pointed out,  when the cane toads were allowed to roam free in Queensland, because the environment is free of its predator, the cane toads multiplied without restraint. Only over 100 cane toads were introduced to Queensland in 1939, by the 1960s, the population of cane toads had exploded. Today they numbered over 200 million. The cane toads can easily pose as a serious contender to the tribbles in the multiplication faculty.

While it's a very serious matter, causing serious ecological damages, the Aussies often laugh it off in a resigned manner, just like the tribbles trouble in this episode. At least the tribbles are fluffy and cute while the cane toads are anything but that.

Since cane toads are poisonous and tribbles are poisoned by Klingon spy, does this suggest another evidence that the tribble story may have inspired by the cane toads troubles. One more link between the 2 stories: produce - sugar cane and wheat grain. The poisonous cane toad are used to save the sugar cane, and the tribbles are poisoned by wheat grain that are supposed to be saved.

This episode could easily one of the most expensive TOS episode thus far with some 1500 tribbles being produced, as well as coming up with a model of the Deep Space Station K7.

The Klingons are simply increasingly looking like the Caucasian on earth. The one facial or makeup feature that marks the Klingons - they all have beards. But the wispy long beard that wore by the Chinese characters (in some cases, played by Caucasian) in Genghis Khan (1965) in their 1st appearance in episode 1.26 "Errand of Mercy" had given way to more Caucasian beards. It's all part of the evolution of Star Trek series.

Captain Koloth of the Klingons is played by William Campbell, who played Trelane character brilliantly in episode 1.17 "The Squire of Gothos". There're a few examples of actors playing more than one role in TOS. Mark Lenard who played a Romulan in 1.14 "Balance of Terror", and then ambassador Sarek is another notable example.

There's an interesting trivia associated with this script. The writer who wrote this script used a smaller font to type his script, and ended up with a longer script. He needed to remove 20 pages of the script (which is a lot) to get the script into the right length. Funny that.

I was old enough to apply a job by typing an application letter on a typewriter. No PC existed then. And as far as I knew, there's only one font size on a typewriter. Apparently, it wasn't so. Changing font size these days involving a click of the mouse, but changing font size on a typewriter involving buying a new typewriter. A mistake I imagine wouldn't easily make. The writer obviously used the wrong typewriter.

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