A few weeks ago, I asked one of my regular followers and friend Daryl if he would like to write a guest blog post for me. I didn’t give him any direction at all, just dropped him in at the deep end, the following is what he produced:
THE BIRTH OF A ‘CLASSIC’ EPISODE
When I was approached to write this ‘guest blog’, I had no idea about what to write. Should I write about the TV series’, the films, my favourite episode / character or any other combination?. In the end, I decided on this… I hope you enjoy the following.
In the 30th Anniversary year of Star Trek (1996), Rick Berman suggested, to Ira Steven Behr, the idea of doing a special episode of Star Trek Deep Space Nine to pay homage to the original series. Star Trek Voyager had made ‘Flashback’, which involved some of the USS Voyager crew meeting Captain Sulu, set during the events of ‘Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country’ and ‘Star Trek First Contact’ was going into production, so the stakes were high. Ronald D. Moore had previously brought back James Doohan for The Next Generation episode ‘Relics’ but there was no way that this would work with the likes of William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, due to the fees and other costs.
Looking back through the Original series, Ronald D. Moore picked, ‘A Piece of the Action’ and ‘Charlie X’, as two episodes that he thought might be interesting to revisit. René Echevarria liked the idea of a timetravelling episode, but was unhappy with the choices Ronald D. Moore had picked. More ideas were batted around before Ronald D. Moore suggested a fan favourite, ‘The Trouble with Tribbles’.
This proposition was deemed too expensive but, again, René Echevarria convinced Ronald D. Moore that it was possible to digitally ‘insert’ the crew of Deep Space Nine into an original series episode on a TV budget. Still unconvinced Gary Hutzel, the visual effects supervisor, screened a ‘test shot’ for Ira Steven Behr and Ronald D. Moore. The two of them thought that they were being shown a clip from the original episode, until Gary Hutzel showed them that a security officer had seamlessly been ‘slotted’ into the footage. Finally convinced that
it could work and, with a budget of $3 million, the fun soon began. Plus, they could also answer the question that many people had wanted to know the answer to…Why was there a continuous stream of Tribbles, falling out of the hatch, landing on Kirk’s head?
Due to the nature of the episode, Paramount’s Legal Department had to contact the original cast members, that would be seen in the ‘new’ episode. Of all the original cast, Leonard Nimoy was the only one to be spoken to directly by the producers, and gave the episode his blessing. Jonathan West (director), Dan Curry (visual effects supervisor) and Kris Krossgrove (cinematographer) quickly realised that this would be no ordinary shoot and, to match the images from 30 years before, had to use a finer grain film and different lenses to match the
lighting style, Also, certain camera angles had to be shot from as close as possible to the original shot, so that all the effects would work.
Meanwhile, the set decorators had the unenviable task of rebuilding the USS Enterprise NCC1701 set and Laura Richarz (set designer) put so much detail into the new sets that when Terry Farrell walked on to it, she exclaimed, “We’re on the Enterprise!” Then there were the sets
for Deep Space Station K7, as finding chairs that matched the original set proved to be a real challenge. This was resolved by a single chair being located in downtown L.A., of which moulds were taken, and then reproduced.
Uniforms were another issue that were proving to be a headache, until four complete original Klingon uniforms were found, in the costume archives, plus a spare Klingon shirt. The rest of the costumes were then made from scratch, from patterns designed by Robert Blackman.
New models of Deep Space Station K7, a Klingon Cruiser and, of course, a model of the USS Enterprise NCC 1701 (which was 5.5 feet long) were built by Greg Jein and his team, as the footage from the original episode didn’t have the necessary ‘quality’ for what fans expected from Deep Space Nine. Plus, Jonathan West wanted some different shots, to what existed in theoriginal episode.
Michael Westmore (makeup supervisor) decided that his team would restrict themselves to the techniques and products of the 1960s, so that the DS9 crew matched their ‘older’ counterparts.
The score for this episode fell to Dennis McCarthy, who wanted to use Jerry Fielding’s original score, but the producers decided that a new score was called for. So, Dennis McCarthy wrote a new score, but did keep it close to Jerry Fielding’s notes.
The most urgently required item, that would put a brake on the entire project if they were not located, were Tribbles. Luckily, Lincoln Enterprises, a company owned by Majel Barrett, had a few Tribbles and sold the production team 1,400 of them.
The episode ‘The Trouble with Tribbles’ was constantly referenced during the writing stage, so that the visual effects team knew where the DS9 characters were to be inserted. David Gerrold, who wrote ‘The Trouble with Tribbles’, requested the role of an extra, which he was granted and, since David Gerrold was there, Jonathan West used him as an unofficial advisor. In a scene, set aboard the USS Enterprise, David Gerrold (wearing a Red Shirt) picks up a Tribble, which was one from the original series.
Walter Koenig was onset for the majority of the filming and showed Colm Meaney and Alexander Siddig how to use the USS Enterprise consoles, while Charlie Brill reprised his role, of Arne Darvin, 29 years after first playing the part.
As the storyline took shape, the writers realised that ‘The Trouble with Tribbles’ did not have the
right footage for certain scenes, so footage from other original series episodes had to be used.
Most notably, the scene towards the end of ‘Trials and Tribbleations’, where Sisko meets Kirk, was taken from the original series episode, ‘Mirror, Mirror’. Also, three pieces of footage that had hit the cutting room floor, were ‘cleaned-up’ and reinserted.
1) Scotty and Chekov’s party entering, sitting at a table and being served.
2) The bartender fleeing to summon security.
3) Kirk asking his stunt double (now Chief O’Brien) who started the fight.
It was the quality of the ‘cleaned-up’ footage that led Paramount to remaster all of the episodes from the original series.
The episode took nearly nine weeks to complete and Ira Steven Behr was later quoted as saying:
“Trials and Tribbleations is probably the most expensive hour of episodic television, that has ever been produced.”
Much like the original series episode had been in 1968, ‘Trials and Tribbleations’ was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation.
Captain Sisko has to recount how he, and the crew of the USS Defiant, travelled back in time to the 23rd Century to stop the assassination of Captain James T. Kirk, during the USS Enterprise’s mission to Deep Space Station K7.
In my humble opinion, this is one of the best standalone episodes from any of the Star Trek series and, in some ways, is an almost perfect episode, as it has everything: Time Travel, An assassination attempt, Klingons, Fights, Tribbles, The USS Enterprise and The USS Defiant,
Jadzia Dax in a short red dress, Sisko meeting Kirk and lots of humour. From the Temporal Investigators, Dulmur and Lucsly (almost anagrams of Mulder and Scully) to Bashir contemplating a ‘predestination paradox’ and saying to O’Brien, “All right fine! But I can’t wait to get back to Deep Space Nine and see your face when you find out that I never existed!”. Then there’s Dax who wants to see Koloth, but can’t because of the timeline and O’Brien who can fix anything, but can’t get his head around the systems on a Constitution class
There are so many things that make this episode great that you forget how little there is to the story, because we know how it will end. All we really wanted to know was, Why was there a continuous stream of Tribbles, falling out of the hatch, landing on Kirk’s head? Now we know, Sisko and Dax were throwing them out of the hatch!
Thanks for a wonderful post about one of the greatest Star Trek episodes ever.