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This article is about the furry creature of Star Trek. For other uses, see Tribble (disambiguation).
Polygeminus grex
ST TroubleWithTribbles.jpg
Captain Kirk in a pile of tribbles
Home world Iota Geminorum IV
Affiliation None

Tribbles are a fictional alien species in the Star Trek universe that first appeared in the episode titled "The Trouble with Tribbles". They are depicted as small, furry, soft, gentle, attractive, and slow-moving, and they usually produce a soothing purring or cooing sound when stroked, all of which are endearing traits to humans, Vulcans, and their hybrids. However, because tribbles reproduce incredibly fast, and consume exponentially larger and larger amounts of food as they multiply and crawl stealthily from one place to another, Starfleet considers them dangerous organisms and forbids their transportation. The Klingons, in whose presence tribbles produce a convulsive, shrieking reaction, go as far as to consider them "mortal enemies", as stated in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Trials and Tribble-ations".

While appearing in only four episodes and briefly in four of the Star Trek movies, they are one of the most popular and well-known species featured in the Star Trek universe, fairly well known even to casual followers of the series. In 2006, two tribble props from "Trials and Tribble-ations" were auctioned for US $900 to $1,300.[1]

Because of their popularity, the core episodes featuring tribbles ("The Trouble with Tribbles", "Trials and Tribble-ations", and the animated "More Tribbles, More Troubles") were collected on a single laserdisc, "Triple Tribble Troubles". This was the only Star Trek laserdisc to contain episodes from multiple series. The Blu-ray boxed set of Season 2 of the show used the same selection of episodes on disk 4, with the latter 2 episodes appearing as bonus features.

The expression "multiplying like tribbles" has also become commonplace in the context of science fiction or technology.[2]

A family of proteins which have a variety of roles, including involvement in the control of the cell cycle in the fruit fly, was named after these fictional animals.[3][4]


A tribble

According to Star Trek canon, tribbles are native to the planet Iota Geminorum IV. They are essentially small bundles of fur with no visible external features. The fur of live-action and animated tribbles ranges from solid white to grey, speckled light to dark brown, yellow to reddish orange, and black. According to Dr. Leonard McCoy's dialogue, their only two purposes in life appear to be to eat and to reproduce, and they perform both of these functions exceptionally well. McCoy concludes that tribbles use over fifty percent of their metabolism for reproduction and that they are born pregnant. A creature that was genetically engineered to hunt tribbles is introduced in the episode of Star Trek: The Animated Series "More Tribbles, More Troubles".


David Gerrold, in The Trouble With Tribbles: the Birth, Sale, and Final Production of One Episode[5] mentions that after the episode was aired, people asked him if tribbles were inspired by the flat cats of Robert A. Heinlein's novel, The Rolling Stones, which are a similar small, fuzzy creature. He writes:

Look — I thought I was telling the “rabbits in Australia” story. When rabbits were introduced to Australia, they multiplied at an incredible rate because there were no predators or natural enemies to keep them in control. It was an ecology story — and a spaceship is the perfect setting for it because a spaceship must be a balanced ecology.
When it came to designing the creatures though, I had to be simple — they had to be easy to build; they had to be cheap, and they had to be believable. We wouldn’t want to use rabbits for the story — we wanted something … well, gimmicky. We needed a science fiction animal. …
I had to think — what would be easy?
Holly ... Sherman had a key ring attached to a ball of pink fuzz. The more I looked at it, the more obvious it became. ...The ease with which a fluff ball could be manufactured made it a natural candidate.

The concept is an old one that predates even the Heinlein novel, since it is central to the story "Pigs Is Pigs", which was popular from its first publication in 1905 and beyond.

The name for the creatures was originally "fuzzies," but to avoid confusion with the H. Beam Piper novel Little Fuzzy, Gerrold brainstormed some nonsense words, arriving at "tribble" almost at random. The similarity of sound to that of the word "trouble" led him to attempt, unsuccessfully, to convince producer Gene L. Coon to change the title to "You Think You've Got Tribbles--?" before accepting "The Trouble With Tribbles" as the title.


Tribbles have also appeared in several instances in the Star Trek series and movies, arranged here in their order of production:

Star Trek: The Original Series[edit]

Viewers first saw tribbles in the 1967 Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Trouble With Tribbles" (season 2, episode 15). The episode was written by David Gerrold, and the original tribble props were designed by Wah Chang and, according to Gerrold, made by Jacqueline Cumeré.

A human named Cyrano Jones (portrayed by Stanley Adams), a small-time merchant, gave one to Lt. Uhura. A single tribble brought aboard the USS Enterprise quickly multiplied. Spock, who is half-Vulcan, explains that the species is not endearing to Vulcans, as they see no useful purpose for tribbles. However, he is caught petting one while claiming, "Fortunately, I am ... immune to its effects."

From Klingons, though, tribbles have what appeared to be a mutually allergenic effect; when Jones approached him with one, the Klingon Korax (actor Michael Pataki) yelled, "Get out of here with that PARASITE!!!" Later, this same mutual negative reaction unmasks Arne Darvin (actor Charlie Brill) as a surgically altered Klingon (posing as a human) who had tried to ruin the Sherman's Planet Development Project. According to a non-canon source, Star Fleet Medical Reference Manual, this is because Klingons and tribbles both have keen senses of smell (tribbles find food by scent) and each subsequently finds the other's "stench" revolting and upsetting.

Star Trek: The Animated Series[edit]

Tribbles returned in the Star Trek: The Animated Series (also known as The Animated Adventures of Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek) episode "More Tribbles, More Troubles". This time, the tribbles Cyrano Jones brings had been genetically altered so they would not reproduce when fed, but instead simply grow larger. They inevitably grow to amazing sizes and fill up the ship. David Gerrold, who also wrote this story, originally pitched it for the third season of Star Trek: The Original Series, but it was rejected by the producer Fred Freiberger who apparently hated the comedic elements that some writers had included in certain episodes.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine[edit]

In "Trials and Tribble-ations", the Deep Space Nine characters were edited into scenes from different episodes of the original series cast.

In this episode, the crew of the USS Defiant encounter tribbles when they accidentally travel back in time and participate in the events of "The Trouble With Tribbles". Worf reveals that the tribbles Scotty beamed aboard the departing Klingon cruiser were brought back to Klingon territory where they quickly spread off the ship and began multiplying. While Scotty had intended it to be a harmless joke, the tribbles spread like locusts and devastated the ecosystems of entire planets across the Klingon Empire. Tribbles did so much damage to the Klingon Empire's agricultural base that they were considered "a mortal enemy of the Empire", and ultimately they were hunted down and exterminated. Specially trained warriors were sent to kill every tribble in existence, and an armada of Klingon vessels obliterated the tribble's homeworld, planet number IV of the Iota Geminorum star system. Klingons are unique among Star Trek's races in their extreme hatred of the creatures as "an ecological menace". The feeling was apparently mutual, because tribbles emit a loud shrieking noise instead of their normal soothing purr in the presence of Klingons. Deep Space Nine Security Officer Odo, amused by the irony of the fierce Klingons hunting the gentle tribbles, dryly remarked, "Another glorious chapter in Klingon history. Tell me, do they still sing songs of 'The Great Tribble Hunt?'" A number of tribbles were accidentally brought back to Deep Space Nine from the past, and the species was re-established, undoing the Klingon Empire's efforts to bring about the extinction of the tribble.

Star Trek: Enterprise[edit]

The date of first contact with tribbles has never been established in canon. Chronologically speaking, the earliest known appearance of tribbles was in the 2003 Star Trek: Enterprise episode "The Breach" (which takes place in 2152) in which Doctor Phlox uses them as food for his medicinal pets in Sick Bay. Hoshi Sato, a human, sees a tribble being utilized by Phlox. Phlox remarks that their populations would be out of control if it was not for their homeworld's high reptilian population.

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock[edit]

A few tribbles make brief reappearances at a table when Leonard McCoy visits the bar.

Star Trek Generations[edit]

Tribbles can be seen during the evacuation of the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-D).

Star Trek (2009 film)[edit]

A tribble can be seen purring in a cage on Montgomery Scott's desk at the Star Fleet outpost at Delta Vega.

Star Trek Into Darkness[edit]

In Star Trek Into Darkness, the 2013 sequel to the 2009 film, Doctor McCoy is seen using a dead tribble to test John Harrison/Khan Noonien Singh's blood, ultimately using his discovery to save Captain Kirk's life and bring him back from the dead.

Video games[edit]

Tribbles are used as a form of trade in the computer game Star Trek: Armada II and as a weapon (transported to the enemy's ship to multiply there and fill it) in Star Trek: Starfleet Command: Orion Pirates. In Star Trek Online, tribbles are used as a healing device by petting them while on away missions. Tribbles can also be fed and bred to create rare tribbles with unique abilities such as increasing damage dealt by the player or increasing the player's damage resistance.

In the video game Elite and the play-alike Oolite tribble-like creatures called trumbles are repeatedly offered to players once their score exceeds 6553.6 credits. Once acquired they then breed, eat all cargo and fill up the complete cargo space, later even running all over the screen. They can be destroyed by flying close to the sun.

In the mobile app game Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff tribbles play an important part in collecting Dilithium. When tapped they make their trademark "cooing" and multiply.

In the video game Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic a batch of creatures known as gizka arrive on the Ebon Hawk ship without being requested by the player character. They look, behave and multiply like tribbles and a quest is activated called "The Trouble with Gizka" where the player character must find a way to dispose of them.

As of update 1.2.1, Disco Zoo added the tribbles as one of the animals obtainable during rescue missions to the Moon. Like all other animals in the game, once they are rescued, they will begin to earn coins, so long as they are awake, which in turn can be used to rescue other animals or purchase in-game items. Occasionally, some visitors to the zoo will say "TROUBLE" which is an indirect reference to Star Trek.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ On the trail of Trek Tribbles, BBC, 5 October 2006
  2. ^ Scott Ambler; Larry Constantine (2000). The Unified Process Elaboration Phase. ISBN 9781929629053. 
  3. ^ Tribbles entry on Interactive Fly database
  4. ^ Hegedus Z; Czibula A; Kiss-Toth E. (2007). "Tribbles: a family of kinase-like proteins with potent signalling regulatory function". Cellular Signalling. 19 (2): 238–50. doi:10.1016/j.cellsig.2006.06.010. PMID 16963228. 
  5. ^ David Gerrold (1973). Trouble with Tribbles: The Birth Sale and Final Production of One Episode. ISBN 0345234022. 

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