50 years ago tonight

Tonight at 8:30, 7:30 Central time NBC-TV played …

Vanity Fair tells the story of one of Star Trek’s favorite episodes, beginning with …

“The Trouble with Tribbles” was the first professional sale for David Gerrold, a 23-year-old California college student. An unknown budding writer in September 1966 when he saw Star Trek’s first episode, he almost immediately began thinking of story premises. One of them drew on his teenage experiences of raising frogs, mice, rats, and fish. “I loved animals,” recalled Gerrold, now an award-winning author of many science-fiction novels and stories, in a recent interview. “But all of those critters died on me.”

So in February 1967, he drew up a proposal for an episode he called “The Fuzzies.”

“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?’ ”

Gerrold envisioned a real ecological disaster. “My attitude was that it would be whimsical but that we would have a serious threat,” he said. Nowhere in his work was there to be found now-classic slapstick moments, like William Shatner’sCaptain Kirk getting buried in a mountain of tribbles. Gerrold also imagined the buffoonish and chortling Cyrano Jones, the interstellar trader who introduces the beasties to the Enterprise, as a Boris Karloff type. (“You can just see him stroking it and saying, ‘Can I interest you in a harmless little tribble? . . .’ ”)

That mix of comedy within an actually serious situation (as James Doohan observed, Captain Kirk could have lost his command for an admittedly stupdi situation), along with fantastic dialogue (see McCoy and Spock) is what makes this such a great episode.

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