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The Precursor to "The Trouble with Tribbles"
written by David Gerrold
STORY OUTLINE, dated June 17, 1967

report & analysis by Dave Eversole

TEASER

We open in the ship’s galley where Kirk, assisted by his young aide, Smith, is conducting a white glove inspection. Smith notes anything which Kirk says needs attention. The facilities are spotless, and as Kirk talks with Jay Fowler, the Mess Officer, we learn that the Enterprise will soon arrive at Topsy, an interstellar trading post in an area of space between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. The crew of the Enterprise is most looking forward to picking up their mail which has accumulated for some months at the station.

An emergency distress call from Topsy! No details are given, just the fact that the Enterprise is urgently needed to maintain the security of the station.

The Enterprise goes to warp five.

ACT ONE

The Enterprise arrives at the trading post, and Kirk contacts Mayor John Lurry, the elderly man who personally founded and runs the station. Lurry admits that they are not under attack, and tells Kirk it is only "an emergency of sorts," and asks him to beam over.

There Kirk meets Nil Baris, a "raw-boned farmer turned businessman," and his twitchy aide, Arne Darvin. Baris simply wants Kirk to post guards to insure his shipment of quadro-triticale arrives safely at Barger’s Planet.

Gerrold then switches to screenplay format and writes the entire office scene between Kirk, Baris, etc. The dialogue is pretty much as one would expect in a first draft script -- on the nose, not nearly as polished as the final, filmed script. In a so-called humorous exchange, Kirk at first thinks that Darvin’s name is quadro-triticale, despite the fact that a couple pages later he (Kirk) delivers the concise history of the hybrid grain, a speech which was rightfully given to Spock in the final draft.

As in the aired episode, Lurry convinces Kirk to post two security guards over the grain warehouse.

Uhura, Sulu and other crewmen beam over to Topsy to window shop. They pass Kirk and Spock on their way to pick up the bags of Enterprise mail, then enter a shop where they encounter Cyrano Day Jaymin, a roguish planet locator who sells twenty-five fuzzies ("the sweetest little creature known to man since the invention of the woman") to the shop owner and gives Uhura one for free.

Again Gerrold switches to screenplay format and writes the entire Uhura, Sulu, Cyrano, shop owner scene, which survives relatively intact to the finished program.

Uhura takes the fuzzy back to the Enterprise, and in the rec room, Smith and several others gather to admire and pet it. Scotty ignores them and continues to read his technical manuals in a corner. Kirk and Spock enter, take note of the fuzzy, and Spock absent-mindedly begins to stroke the creature’s fur, etc.

A warning call comes over the speakers. A Klingon ship has arrived at Topsy and two Klingons have beamed aboard the station.

ACT TWO

Kirk radios the Klingon commander and finds that he only wishes shore leave for his men. Kirk reluctantly agrees to this.

This act closely parallels the final draft script. The action is almost identical. Uhura’s fuzzies begin multiplying like crazy, Kirk and Baris argue over Kirk’s seeming lackadaisical attitude toward guarding the grain. Scotty and Smith get into a bar fight with several Klingons.

ACT THREE

Kirk and the Klingon commander meet on the station to retrieve their men and explain themselves in "oh so polite" words.

Gerrold scripts Kirk and Scotty’s post-dressing down dialogue -- no punishment for the old space dog this time.

McCoy becomes alarmed at the fuzzies’ rate of reproduction and warns Kirk that he must do something about it. Much more is made of the fact that fuzzies are parasites that align themselves with other creatures via their soft purring. When Kirk inspects the ship and finds just how out of hand the fuzzies are he goes to Topsy to confront Cyrano Day Jaymin.

Day Jaymin huffily walks out on Kirk, boards his small scout vessel and departs, despite Baris’ admonitions that Cyrano is most assuredly a saboteur who will attempt to interfere with his grain shipment.

Kirk returns to the Enterprise and is called to the galley. Fuzzies are everywhere in the food processing equipment. Kirk opens a large flour bin. The flour is gone and the bin is full of fuzzies. If they ate all the flour, what would they. . . ?

"The grain in the warehouse!"

Kirk and Spock beam over to the trading post.

ACT FOUR

Again, most of this act survived to be scripted. Kirk and Spock go to the warehouse, and when the large door is slid back, fuzzies roll out (but do not inundate Kirk). Spock precisely estimates the number of probable fuzzies inhabiting the station, etc. However, at this point, Gerrold has the Enterprise leave Topsy and pursue and capture Cyrano Day Jaymin’s scout ship.

When they return to Topsy, a final confrontation occurs between Kirk, Spock, Lurry, Baris, Darvin, Day Jaymin and the Klingons. At this point Gerrold was not sure how to reveal the Klingons as the saboteurs, thus he simply states that "Cyrano is able to point out Darvin as a Klingon agent." The only reason given is that Day Jaymin recognizes Darvin as the man who told him the location of the planet where he found the fuzzies.

Kirk orders Day Jaymin to clean every fuzzy out of Topsy, and we end with Scotty simply saying he beamed the entire lot of Enterprise fuzzies onto the Klingon ship before it departed. No attempt at a closing joke.

 

At 35 pages in length, this is by far the longest story outline I’ve ever encountered for a single one hour episode. The length is due to the fact that, as noted throughout my synopsis, David Gerrold breaks into script format with full scene setting stage directions and dialogue several times during the story. In his 1973 behind the scenes book, The Trouble with Tribbles, which details the creation and production of the eponymous episode, Gerrold explains that he was aware that this was not standard story outline procedure, but he wished to show the producers that he was comfortable using screenplay format, thus increasing his chances of being given the actual scripting assignment.

This outline stayed relatively the same when scripted, but many many small moments of humor found their way into the teleplay. Gerrold has always acknowledged that a few scenes (the aired episode’s teaser and the "ermine violin" and "lilies of the field" conversation between Spock and McCoy) were written by producer Gene L. Coon. The late Robert H. Justman, in his and Herbert Solow’s Inside Star Trek, called the script "heavily rewritten" by Coon.

Still, it is a fine effort and only feels false at one point:

MAIL! Accumulated sacks of mail on a space station! Jeez, Gerrold had been a life-long SF fan. Surely he could have conjectured, even in 1967, that we just might be beyond "snail mail" a few hundred years hence. I was three years old in 1967, and I’m sure I would have surmised that good old-fashioned letters would have been replaced by something a bit more high tech! Young aide Smith even gathers the crew in the rec room to hand out letters, fer cryin’ out loud!

But it is a small complaint. Science fiction writers, despite their forward views, their ability to envision the big picture, often fail in predicting the small things. As Robert A. Heinlein and Isaac Asimov have famously pointed out, predicting the automobile was easy for forward thinkers of the late-nineteenth century. Predicting traffic jams and urban sprawl into the countryside and the effect of the car on the sex lives of teenagers would have been true "science fiction."


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