There’s no question that the original ‘Star Trek’ series, which ran on network TV from 1966-1969, was ground-breaking in many ways. Even though the show and its visual design seem a bit kitschy by today’s standards, the actors and the creative team took things quite seriously, and the series was always designed to skew much more towards a serious tone than a light-hearted one.
It should really come as no surprise, then, that one of the most well-known episodes of the series, the humor-heavy “The Trouble with Tribbles,” was actually not an enjoyable experience for cast & crew to work on, even though it was received extremely well by fans. In a recent interview, episode writer David Gerrold spoke at length about the genesis of the episode and the on-set disdain while creating the episode itself.
First, Gerrold elaborated on his ideas behind the episode itself:
“I loved animals, but all of those critters died on me. My original conception was, ‘Aliens are always scary. What if they’re cute but we don’t realize they’re dangerous? What if you had white mice or gerbils that got onto the Enterprise and got out of control?’ My attitude was that it would be whimsical but that we would have a serious threat.”
While he enjoyed writing the script, he stated, in no uncertain terms, that the creator of the TV series was not thrilled if any of the episodes showed any touches of comedic element:
“Gene Roddenberry had no sense of humor, and working with him was a joyless exercise. [Producer Gene L. Coon] knew you had to balance gravitas with lightheartedness [on TV]—that you can’t save the galaxy every week. Roddenberry never understood that.”
Surprisingly, “The Trouble with Tribbles” as Gerrold originally scripted was not meant to be all that humorous, but during the pre-production of the episode, he worked much more comedy into the script. Gerrold also recalled watching the episode when it aired with a group of friends, including ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ star actor Robert Englund:
“I never intended the episode to get that funny until we got into the development. I realized there was the possibility of a lot more humor. [Englund] said, ‘I had no idea you were such a good writer.’ And I said, ‘No one will remember this in 20 years.’”
Fortunately, Gerrold was wrong on that last point, as “The Trouble with Tribbles” celebrated its 50th anniversary of its first airing just last year.