For several decades, the most popular episode of the original Star Trek was, debatably, “The Trouble With Tribbles.”
Written by David Gerrold, the episode certainly has enduring charm, and created perhaps the cutest alien species of all time. And now, with the Short Treks episode “The Trouble With Edward,” Star Trek canon is reminding us that not only are tribbles cute, they’re also deeply weird.
Starring H. Jon Benjamin as the titular Edward, “The Trouble With Tribbles” manages not only to reference all of tribble lore, but also makes some interesting connections to Deep Space Nine and the rest of Discovery. Also, wait a minute, was that a Section 31 badge?
Spoiler ahead for Short Treks’ “The Trouble With Edward.”
Lynne Lucero promoted gives a clue to the timing
Captain Pike’s opening monologue says “our young science officer Lynne Lucero(Rosa Salazar) has been promoted.” Was she the science officer immediately preceding Spock? If so, it’s possible that the events of “The Trouble With Edward” happen either right before or right after the events of “Q&A.”
During the briefing scene, most of the crew of the Cabot are wearing the Discovery version of the original series color-coded uniforms we first saw in the episode “Brother.” But, some folks, including one crewmember sitting right next to Captain Lucero, are rocking more casual tunics which are the closet the new era of Trek has come to reproducing uniforms that look almost identical to ‘60s era Trek.
Previously, in the episode “Will You Take My Hand?”, when Burnham gives her stirring speech at Federation headquarters, some Starfleet officers are in the background who appear to be wearing this same kind of blue tunic. Notably, at the end of the “Trouble With Edward” when Lucero is being de-briefed, all the Admirals are wearing the Discovery-style uniform, very similar to the ending of “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2.”
During the briefing scene, and throughout the episode, we see a member of the Cabot’s crew who is clearly a Trill. The credits say this crewmember is named Sarah, and she’s played by Lisa Michelle Cornelius. With the Trill so prominent in the Discovery Season 3 trailer, it really makes you wonder if certain Trill in the future will remember everything that’s happened on Discovery. Previously, Leland disguised himself as a Trill in a deleted scene for the Season 1 finale, “Will You Take My Hand.”
Planet of origin of the tribbles
Edward Larkin (H. Jon Benjamin) says the the tribbles originate on the planet Iota Geminorium IV, which is 100 percent been established in canon before. On various star charts seen in Deep Space Nine, and in the episode “Trials and Tribble-ations,” this was the homeworld of the tribbles.
In that episode, Worf said the Klingon Empire destroyed the tribble homeworld. “The Trouble With Edward” gives this a new wrinkle though as it’s revealed here that tribbles don’t normally breed at this rate. Meaning, that the now, we’re meant to think that the tribbles the Klingons erradicted were, in essence, not the kind to worry about.
Using tribbles as food
While Larkin comes across as kind of a weirdo for wanting to eat the tribbles, there’s a canon precedent for it! In fact, in the Enterprise episode, “The Breach,” Dr. Phlox feeds a tribble to one of his unseen animals in sickbay, much to the disgust of Hoshi Sato. This scene muddies the waters slightly, if only because Phlox also said that tribbles were illegal at that point in the 22nd Century and that tribbles were known for their “prodigious breeding.”
Now, “The Trouble With Edward” seems to create a slightly continuity problem, because of this comment from Phlox. But maybe not? Enterprise takes place roughly 100 years before the events of Discovery, so maybe the tribbles of that time period did breed faster. And, if that’s true, maybe Larkin discovered a latent gene that rebooted the tribbles back to how they were in 22nd century.
Or, you know, by saying ““prodigious” Phlox just mean “abnormal”, but not super-fast.
Food slot ding
When Larkin is standing next to Noel, the food slot makes a ding which is exactly like the sound the food slots make in the original series. This is relevant because in “The Trouble With Tribbles”; Captain Kirk gets a tribble in what was supposed to be his lunch.
Does Larkin work for Section 31?
Just before Lakrin injects the tribbles with a hypospray that will change them forever, he’s wearing a black vest, which, appears to have an all-black Section 31 Starfleet badge. If this was intentional, the scene seems to imply that Larkin either created the tribbles under orders from Section 31, or, Section 31 planted him there knowing he might do something like this.
This actually makes a lot of sense if you think about it. We’re told at the beginning of the episode that the mission to Pragine 63 takes the Cabot right on the edge of Klingon space, so you gotta wonder: did Section 31 develop the tribbles on-purpose as a weapon against the Klingons?
At the end of the episode, the admirals tell Captain Lucero that “These creatures have made their way into Klingon space.” Considering the fact that the Klingons hate the tribbles by the time of The Next Generation, it feels possible that all of this was done on purpose.
Also, because Kirk, Spock and Bones have no knowledge of the tribbles roughly a decade later, it seems likely the tribbles were classified. Why classify something that was an accident, unless it wasn’t an accident?
Of course, the biggest canon change in “The Trouble With Edward” is the fact that Edward Larkin himself is the guy who genetically engineered the tribbles to be born pregnant. In “The Trouble With Tribbles” Bones found this revelation to be hilarious, but we all assumed it was just the way tribbles were. Nope!
Money shots from “The Trouble With Tribbles”
There are several visual homages to the original episode “The Trouble With Tribbles,” in fact, by the time the tribbles start taking over the Cabot, there’s almost too many to count. However, there are two notable moments. When the wall of tribbles knocks Larkin over, it’s very similar to all the tribbles falling on Captain Kirk in the Original Series episode. But, perhaps more tellingly, is the moment when Captain Lucero finds a tribble on her chair and holds it up incredulously.
Captain Kirk does the exact same thing in both “The Trouble With Tribbles” and, again, in “Trials and Tribulations.” In the second version of the scene, a time travelling Jadiza Dax shars a smile with Kirk about the tribble-under-the-chair situation. Dax, is a Trill and there was Sarah the Trill in this episode! Trills + tribbles! Twice!
The post-credits scene
In a Star Trek-first, this minisode has a post-credits scene featuring a breakfast cereal called “Tribbles.” Clearly, nothing about this faux-commercial is intended to be canon, or taken seriously. There is no USS Ravenous! Still having said that, it does suddenly feel like Stardate: Breakfast needs to be a thing.
The next episode of Short Treks, “Ask Not” airs on November 14. It is thought to be the last of the three Pike-centric shorts.