Sunday, September 15, 2013

5-6. Trials and Tribble-ations.

Kirk and Sisko: Captains of two eras, face-to-face.


The Cardassian government has decided to return a Bajoran Orb.  The Defiant is transporting the artifact along with a passenger: Barry Waddle (Charlie Brill), a human merchant who was trapped on Cardassia during the Klingon invasion.  They are about halfway home when there's a sudden power surge.  The ship drops out of warp - and Sisko and his crew quickly discover that they have been transported back in time.

The Bajoran artifact was actually the Orb of Time, and the human was actually Arn Darvin, a Klingon agent who fell into disgrace 100 years earlier when assigned to poison a supply of Federation grain.  Darvin's assignment failed when he was unmasked by Capt. James T. Kirk (William Shatner), leaving the agent in exile from his own people, wearing a human face and doomed to eke out whatever living he can manage.

The Orb of Time has provided him with an opportunity to get his revenge - by giving him a second chance to defeat Kirk at Space Station K-7.  Now Sisko and his crew must track him down, searching both the station and the Enterprise, all while taking care not to interfere with the course of history. But with a fetching Enterprise crew member taking a liking to Dr. Bashir, Tribbles taking a decided dislike to Worf, and Dax reveling in her memories of the first time she lived through this time period, that just might be easier said than done!


Capt. Sisko: Has a case of hero-worship toward Kirk, and is excited at being on Kirk's ship. Nevertheless, he sticks firmly to the mission, even reigning in Dax's own enthusiasm at several points. He only allows himself one, tiny indulgence after the crisis has passed.

Dax: Comes across particularly strongly in this episode. Dax's enthusiasm, humor, and playfulness makes her particularly winning in this lighthearted romp, and her rapport with Avery Brooks makes their scenes together a joy to watch.   Her nostalgia for an era that she actually lived through does require Sisko to drag her back on-task a couple times, but she doesn't ever really stop working on the mission - She just has a hard time not wanting truly be part of an era she associates with her younger years.

Odo: Paired with Worf for the bulk of the episode, essentially playing straight man to feed Worf's entertaining reactions to Tribbles and old-style Klingons. Odo likes the Tribbles enormously and mocks Worf for his hatred of them and for Klingons' "Great Tribble Hunt" that wiped them out by the end of the 23rd century. Odo's attachment to one little Tribble helps set up the episode's visual punchline.

Worf: Gets some amusing bits, particularly his reaction to the Tribbles and his acknowledgement of the TOS Klingons. "They are Klingons... It is a long story." Has little else to do in this episode, but gets enough material to register fairly well.

Bashir/O'Brien: Get some of the most amusing bits of the episode.  O'Brien, the miracle worker of the current series, can't make head nor tails of the 100-year-old technology on the Enterprise.  He struggles with something as simple as operating the old ship's turbolift!  O'Brien also gets to lie to Kirk at one point - not long after mistaking a random Goldshirt for the legendary captain.  Meanwhile, Bashir tries to come up with a convoluted rationalization that will allow him to take a pretty young lieutenant (Deirdre Imershein) up on her flirting.   


For Trek's anniversary, the production teams of Deep Space 9 and Voyager decided to make episodes that harkened back to the original series. For Voyager, that resulted in flashbacks to Sulu set during Star Trek VI.  Deep Space 9, as usual, was a bit more ambitious.  For their tribute episode, they decided to use visual effects and trickery to put their show's characters, Forrest Gump-like, into the action of a TOS episode. The episode choice: The old favorite, with fans and the general public alike... The Trouble with Tribbles.

The resulting episode is a lot of fun.  It's a good episode, with a smart script by Ronald D. Moore and Rene Echevarria that works both as a companion piece to the original episode and as a solid story in its own right.  The episode definitely gains (considerably) if viewed alongside the 1960's episode.  But Moore and Echevarria have written it with enough clarity, and enough going on among its own characters, that this would likely still hold up if watched by someone who knew nothing about The Trouble with Tribbles.  That person would miss out on a lot of the fun, but would still be able to follow the story.

I like the episode, but I'll admit that I don't find it as enjoyable as the original. The crisis never feels like much of one, and the plot is clearly just an excuse for everyone to enjoy themselves in sets and costumes that are decades out of date. Also, while it's probably unavoidable given the schedule and budget involved, it feels like a shame that interaction between old cast and new is so limited. There are only a few, very short bits in which the new cast does anything that approaches active interaction with the old footage. Mostly, they just look on while slightly-doctored clips from the earlier show are piped in. I'll allow that as much has been done as was feasible on a 1990's television budget with 1990's television technology... but when watching, I can't help but wish there was a little more.

Also, and more within the production's control, the episode makes a bad music choice that wrecks one of The Trouble with Tribbles' highlights. The 1960's episode was hugely enhanced by its incidental music, particularly in a barroom brawl sequence. The movement of the music from generic action to a jaunty comedy beat was brilliant, and lined up perfectly with the visuals on-screen. Here, we just get a generic action score.  This, along with too much cutting of amusing background details from the original, kills the humor of Cyrano Jones dodging brawlers with drinks in hand.  A great comedy scene is reduced to a generic action bit. 

I don't want it to sound like I'm carping about the episode, though. It is greatly enjoyable, both on its own terms and as a celebration of 30 years of Star Trek. The cast is clearly on-board with the concept, the characters are likable, and it's well-judged to appeal equally to fans of Trek from the '60's and Trek from the '90's

Rating: 8/10.

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1 comment:

  1. Love this episode! It's an ambitious and clever tribute to the TOS favorite. Although unnecessary to the enjoyment of the DS9 episode, I do recommend rewatching the original episode if it has been awhile. It's nice to have the refresher before seeing the blended show.