Trials and Tribble-ations
|"Trials and Tribble-ations"|
|Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode|
The episode digitally inserted the Deep Space Nine crew into the episode "The Trouble with Tribbles", although not all scenes were taken from that episode, with this scene originating from "Mirror, Mirror".
|Episode no.||Season 5
|Directed by||Jonathan West|
|Teleplay by||Ronald D. Moore
|Story by||Ira Steven Behr
Robert Hewitt Wolfe
|Featured music||Dennis McCarthy|
|Cinematography by||Kris Krossgrove|
|Editing by||Steve Tucker|
|Original air date||November 4, 1996|
"Trials and Tribble-ations" is the 104th episode of the American science fiction television series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the sixth episode of the fifth season. It was written as a tribute to the original series of Star Trek, in the 30th anniversary year of the show; sister series Voyager produced a similar episode, "Flashback". The idea for the episode was suggested by René Echevarria, and Ronald D. Moore suggested the link to "The Trouble with Tribbles". The pair were credited for their work on the teleplay, with the story credit going to Ira Steven Behr, Hans Beimler and Robert Hewitt Wolfe.
Set in the 24th century, the series follows the adventures on Deep Space Nine, a space station located near a stable wormhole between the Alpha and Gamma quadrants of the Milky Way Galaxy. In this episode, Captain Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks) and the crew travel back in time to prevent the assassination of Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) of the USS Enterprise by a Klingon using a booby-trapped tribble.
Moore had originally suggested re-visiting the planet seen in The Original Series episode "A Piece of the Action" but was convinced by Echevarria that the digitally inserted shots previously seen in Forrest Gump (1994) could be done on a small budget. After a test shot was completed, the rest of the production team were also convinced that it could be achieved. The budget was set at $3 million, with extensive work completed on matching the film techniques used during The Original Series.
Some original costumes were found for the Klingons while others were made from patterns created by Robert Blackman. Greg Jein created new models of the Enterprise as well as Deep Space Station K7 and the Klingon cruiser, while 1,400 tribbles were purchased from a company owned by Majel Barrett. Charlie Brill returned to Star Trek to appear once more as Arne Darvin, and Deirdre L. Imershein was cast in part due to her being friends with one of the production crew members. Walter Koenig, who portrayed Ensign Pavel Chekov in The Original Series, showed the Deep Space Nine cast how to work the consoles on the Enterprise sets.
"Trials and Tribble-ations" was warmly received by critics with praise directed at the nostalgia and level of detail seen on screen. It was the most watched episode of the fifth season. "Trials and Tribble-ations" was nominated in three Primetime Emmy Award categories and for the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation but did not win any awards. It was released on VHS initially alongside "The Trouble with Tribbles", and later as part of the normal release schedule. It was subsequently released as part of the season five DVD set.
On board Deep Space Nine, Captain Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks) is being queried by Department of Temporal Investigations agents Dulmer (Jack Blessing) and Lucsly (James W. Jansen). The Captain explains that he was on the USS Defiant, returning from Cardassian space with the Bajoran Orb of Time. They had picked up a hitchhiker on the way, a human called Barry Waddle. Suddenly the ship found itself some 200 light years away from its previous location and a hundred years in the past, near Deep Space Station K7 and found the USS Enterprise in orbit. They discover that the hitch-hiker was Arne Darvin (Charlie Brill), a Klingon agent who had previously been caught by Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) on K7 whilst trying to poison a shipment of grain.
Fearing that Darvin may be attempting to assassinate Kirk, the crew dress in period uniforms and investigate the Enterprise. They attempt to interact with history as little as possible whilst investigating Darvin. The crew does not initially recognize the Klingons of the time period, and when Worf (Michael Dorn) is asked about the difference in appearance, he replies that the matter is not discussed with outsiders. Doctor Julian Bashir (Alexander Siddig) and Chief Miles O'Brien (Colm Meaney) get involved in a bar brawl between the Enterprise crew and a number of Klingons on shore leave. Captain Kirk disciplines them on the Enterprise alongside Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott (James Doohan) and Ensign Pavel Chekov (Walter Koenig). Bashir and O'Brien notice that the ship is covered with tribbles. Lieutenant Commander Worf (Michael Dorn) and Odo (René Auberjonois) trail Darvin as he returns to the Defiant. There, Darvin admits that he planted a bomb in a tribble to kill Kirk.
Sisko and Lieutenant Jadzia Dax (Terry Farrell) board the Enterprise but can find no trace of a bomb. They travel to K7, and scans indicate that the bomb is in the grain storage compartments. They enter the compartments and discover that the poisoned grain has all been eaten by tribbles, who are now all dead. Suddenly Captain Kirk opens the compartment and is covered in falling tribbles. Dax and Sisko find the bomb before it can kill Kirk and the Defiant transports it into space where it explodes. The crew of the Defiant use the Bajoran Orb to travel back to the present time, and Sisko finishes explaining the situation to the Temporal Agents. The episode ends with Quark (Armin Shimerman) in his bar on Deep Space Nine's promenade, with numerous tribbles around him.
Premise and writing
As the 30th anniversary of Star Trek was approaching, a number of plans were being put into place. The film Star Trek: First Contact was entering production, a television special was planned to celebrate the franchise and George Takei had been cast to appear in the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Flashback". Producer Ira Steven Behr later recalled that he thought that Deep Space Nine might end up being missed out as he considered it to be the "middle child" of the franchise. However, Rick Berman contacted Behr and asked him if he would be interested in doing something to celebrate the anniversary. Behr agreed to discuss it with the staff writers. Initially, there was concern that if the proposed episode aired during the actual anniversary week (around September 8), that it would have to serve as the season opener, pre-empting the already planned opener.
The writers discussed potential ideas. Ronald D. Moore had previously brought back Montgomery Scott for the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Relics" and since Takei was appearing in Voyager, they felt that having a member of the main cast from The Original Series return would be repetitive. Some consideration was given by Moore to sending the DS9 crew to the gangster-type planet visited by Kirk in the episode "A Piece of the Action". It was René Echevarria who suggested a time-travel episode, which was seen as an expensive proposition. Echevarria, however, pressed for the idea. Moore suggested inserting the DS9 crew into "The Trouble with Tribbles", suggesting it could resolve the question of why a constant stream of tribbles kept hitting Kirk in the head.
When the discussion came to inserting the DS9 crew into the bar-brawl scene, Berman liked the idea but was unsure if it could actually be done. Visual effects supervisor Gary Hutzel created test footage and screened it for Behr and Moore, who thought that it was simply footage from the original episode. Once Hutzel revealed that an additional security officer had been seamlessly added to the sequence, the episode was green-lit. During the scripting process, "The Trouble with Tribbles" was regularly consulted, so the writers could decide where to insert characters. The Temporal Agents, Dulmer and Lucsly, were so named as they were anagrams of Mulder and Scully from The X-Files.
Original "Tribbles" creator David Gerrold was contacted by The New York Times, who wanted to interview him about the anniversary and the rumored "tribbles" episode. When he questioned Berman about the episode, Berman initially denied it. Gerrold responded that he didn't want to embarrass anyone, but would like to be able to endorse the project. Berman asked what the endorsement would cost, to which Gerrold requested public acknowledgement of his work and to be cast as an extra in the episode. Berman agreed. Gerrold compared inserting new footage into an existing episode to Back to the Future Part II (1989) and later said that he would have gone in a different direction had he written the story. Nonetheless, he felt the final product ended up being better than anything he would have created.
Directing, cinematography and music
A number of directors were considered for the episode, with Jonathan West being given the job. West had previously been the cinematographer on staff for both Deep Space Nine and The Next Generation, as well as directing several episodes of the franchise. He had nine days of preparation time before shooting began. He sought to match the same production values as The Original Series but found that lighting style and color saturation to film had changed in the intervening years. Visual effects supervisor Dan Curry directed some of the second-unit sequences, and together with West and cinematographer Kris Krossgrove worked to rectify these issues. This was achieved by switching to a finer grain of film, by utilizing different lenses as well as by shooting from specific angles. With Gerrold on set as an extra, West used him as an unofficial advisor on matching the scenes from "The Trouble with Tribbles".
The actual digital insertion of actors was conducted in the same manner as seen in the film Forrest Gump (1994). The original footage was remastered, and was seen as such an improvement that it inspired the subsequent clean-up and re-release of all of "Original Series" episodes. This remaster was conducted by Hutzel and was the first transfer since 1983, when a version was created for VHS and laser disc release. Hutzel identified 19 scenes from "The Trouble with Tribbles" which were matched in "Trials and Tribble-ations". The scene matching between the new footage and the old took nine weeks to complete with a budget of $3 million. It involved both two-dimensional and three-dimensional tracking shots as well as insertion of matte shots and the use of both blue and green screens for the actors. Not all shots seen in the episode were actually taken from "The Trouble with Tribbles". The scene where Sisko meets Kirk on the bridge towards the end of the episode was instead taken from the episode "Mirror, Mirror".
Due in part to the special effects, the costuming, the set re-constructions and the residual payments to The Original Series cast, Behr later described "Trials and Tribble-ations" as "probably the most expensive hour of episodic TV ever produced". The only member of The Original Series cast who was spoken to directly by the producers was Leonard Nimoy, who was enthusiastic about the idea and was surprised that it had taken them so long to come up with it. The remaining cast members were each contacted through Paramount's legal department. Dennis McCarthy wanted to re-work the Jerry Fielding score previously used on "The Trouble with Tribbles". He said that he intended to use the production equipment and orchestra available to bring the score up to the same scale previously seen on Deep Space Nine. However, the producers wanted a new score and so McCarthy explained that he composed it in a Fielding-inspired mindset. The only piece that was directly re-recorded by McCarthy was the Alexander Courage "Theme from Star Trek", which involved a 45 piece orchestra.
Design and makeup
Art director Randy McIlvain led the set re-creation for the Enterprise and K7, describing the excitement over working on the episode as "contagious". McIlvain spent a fair amount of time getting the window angles correct on the sets. Mike Okuda re-created the graphics seen on the Enterprise sets using a computer, whilst others were re-drawn by artist Doug Drexler. Some sets were not re-created in full, such as the bridge, which required parts of it to be later added digitally. The captain's chair from the bridge re-creation was later one of the Star Trek items to be auctioned by Christie's. Set designer Laura Richarz watched "The Trouble with Tribbles" carefully looking for small details to replicate on the new sets, such as the legs of benches in the bar on K7. However, she said her biggest challenge was tracking down the chairs seen on the space station. She contacted John M. Dwyer, who had worked on the original episode. He explained to her that the company which created the original chairs had gone out of business. After searching shops selling retro furniture, the production team found a single chair that matched those seen in the original episode. It was purchased and a mold was made to create more chairs. The actors were impressed when they saw the resulting sets, with Terry Farrell exclaiming "Wow, we're on the Enterprise!"
Greg Jein had already been working on a new model of the USS Excelsior for the "Flashback" episode of Voyager when he saw the test footage for "Trials and Tribble-ations". He promised to make a new model of the Enterprise too, but warned that he didn't know when he would have time to do it. He actually started work on it immediately, and together with his colleagues he not only built a 5.5 feet (1.7 m) long model of the Enterprise, but created a new model of Deep Space Station K7 and the Klingon cruiser as well. The Enterprise model was the first to be built of the original Star Trek starship in more than 30 years. Other props were also recreated, with around 1,400 tribbles created for the various scenes. They were purchased from Lincoln Enterprises, a company set up by Majel Barrett, widow of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. The rest of the era-specific props were newly created, and were made by Steve Horsch.
Costume designer Robert Blackman was concerned over the re-creation of the Klingon uniforms seen in The Original Series as he thought that the metallic material used would be nearly impossible to create accurately. He was subsequently relieved to have found four original costumes and an additional shirt in the costume archives, calling them a "godsend". His team created patterns from other costumes to remake them. Make-up supervisor Michael Westmore had previously worked on a television series during the 1960s and recalled what type of make-up was available at the time. He had the team restrict themselves to techniques of that era to ensure that the DS9 crew blended properly into the scenes. The hairstyles of the crew were also meant to be reminiscent of The Original Series, with Alexander Siddig sporting a style previously seen on James Doohan. René Auberjonois said that his new hairstyle reminded him of Jerry Lee Lewis.
Filming and casting
The cast and crew were enthusiastic on set, with editor Steve Tucker calling it a "giddy party". Behr said of the cast and crew in the episode that "They all were having fun. Just sitting on those sets, being on that bridge, it was a hoot, a real hoot." Deirdre L. Imershein was brought in at the last minute to play Lt. Watley, as she was a friend of one of the production crew and had previously appeared as a Risan pleasure girl in The Next Generation episode "Captain's Holiday". She was brought in because none of the actresses the producers had seen during the casting process could say the role's one line ("Deck 15") convincingly enough. Her involvement led to the role's being expanded into a second scene where she was revealed to be Bashir's great-grandmother.
Charlie Brill returned to film new scenes as Klingon agent Arne Darvin, while original series writer Gerrold was allowed to appear as an extra in two scenes as a crewman from the Enterprise. In one of those scenes he was holding an original tribble from "The Trouble with Tribbles". Walter Koenig was on hand as well during the filming of the episode to teach the DS9 actors how the consoles were operated on the Enterprise. Koenig later commented that he was paid eight times as much for this and the residual payment as he had been for the original episode. A string of other visitors came to the set during filming, including Majel Barrett and former The Next Generation producer (and TOS co-producer) Bob Justman.
Before the episode was shown, a half-hour special was shown on the Sci Fi Channel about the making of "Trials and Tribble-ations" on November 2, 1996. Paramount also promoted the episode by arranging the placement of around 250,000 tribbles in subways and buses across the United States. It received Nielsen ratings of 7.7%, placing it in sixth place in the timeslot. This meant that it had been watched by 7.7% of all households. It was the most watched episode of the fifth season during its initial broadcast. The last time the series had received similar ratings was nearly a year earlier with season four's "Little Green Men".
Two reviewers watched the episode for Tor.com. Torie Atkinson described "Trials and Tribble-ations" as a "perfect episode", and "one of the best Star Trek episodes ever made, in any series." She praised the humour and the references, and found Dax in her role as a stand-in for fans of The Original Series. She gave the episode a score of six out of six. Eugene Myers wasn't disappointed following the hype about the episode, saying that it was "steeped in nostalgia". He thought that the bomb-in-a-tribble plot was ingenious and allowed the episode to step outside of merely being good due to the success of "The Trouble with Tribbles". His favourite scene was the constant stream of tribbles hitting Kirk in the head because Sisko and Dax were throwing them out of the grain compartment while looking for the bomb. He also gave the episode a score of six out of six.
Zack Handlen in his review for The A.V. Club, called the episode a "delight" and a "lark". He thought that having Brill film new scenes showed some continuity between the old and the new, and thought that the special effects worked well enough. He summed it up by saying, "It's not tightly plotted, and once the initial rush of nostalgia fades, there isn't a lot of depth or suspense to replace it. But there are laughs, more than enough to justify the experiment, and the nostalgia never fades away entirely." In the book Deep Space and Sacred Time: Star Trek in the American Mythos, Jon Wagner and Jan Lundeen compared the temporal agents seen in "Trials and Tribble-ations" to the police detectives seen in the television series Dragnet. Gem Wheeler, in her list of the best episodes of Deep Space Nine for website Den of Geek, listed "Trials and Tribble-ations" as the sixth best. In a list of the top 100 episodes of the Star Trek franchise, "Trials and Tribble-ations" was placed in 32nd place by Charlie Jane Anders at io9.
"Trials and Tribble-ations" was nominated for three Creative Arts Emmy Awards in the Outstanding Art Direction for a Series, Outstanding Hairstyling for a Series and Outstanding Special Visual Effects. However, it was not successful in any of those categories. It was also nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, as "The Trouble with Tribbles" had been in 1968.
Home media release
The tie-in novelization of "Trials and Tribble-ations" was written by Diane Carey and published by Pocket Books. In 1998, a "Talking Tribble Gift Set" was released which contained both "The Trouble with Tribbles" and "Trials and Tribble-ations" on VHS. "Trials and Tribble-ations" was first released in the normal run of VHS issues as part of a two episode cassette alongside "The Assignment" in the United Kingdom on October 1, 1999. A single episode release followed in the United States and Canada on July 10, 2001. It was released on DVD as part of the season five box set on October 7, 2003.
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- Erdmann, Terry J.; Block, Paula M. (2000). Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion. New York: Pocket Books. ISBN 978-0-671-50106-8.
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- Wagner, Jon; Lundeen, Jan (1998). Deep Space and Sacred Time: Star Trek in the American Mythos. Westport, CT: Praeger. ISBN 978-0-275-96225-8. (subscription required)
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