As of Sept. 8, “Star Trek” celebrates its 50th year of boldly going.
In honor of that milestone, a new monster-sized Blu-ray set, the “Star Trek 50th Anniversary TV and Movie Collection,” is out now and packed with tons of goodies and extra features that will have any “Trek” fan salivated, including a new remastering of “Star Trek: The Animated Series” from 1973-74.
amNewYork spoke with David Gerrold, the writer of perhaps the most famous “Trek” episode ever — the comedic favorite “The Trouble with Tribbles,” where the furry little procreating, Klingon-hating creatures help reveal a crime — about the storied franchise.
What does 50 years of “Star Trek” mean to you?
Exhaustion. I’ve been competing with myself for 50 years. “The Trouble With Tribbles” was my first sale. I’m very proud that it turned out so well. It was a perfect storm of everything coming together the right way at the right time. And I thought if working in television was this much fun, and things turn out this well, I’m in heaven. Of course, television isn’t like that. But I loved working on the show. It wasn’t until a couple of years later that I realized this thing wasn’t going away. It’s going to be around for a long, long time. And I had said to a friend the night the episode aired, “It’s only one episode of one TV show. In 20 years, nobody’s going to remember it.” The universe said, “Challenge accepted, David.” No matter what I do, I’m always competing with that one show. I did a book I’m very proud of called “The Martian Child,” which is all about how I adopted by little boy and it got made into a movie, but people still talk about “The Trouble With Tribbles.” I wrote a book that is considered a classic of time travel and people still talk about “The Trouble With Tribbles.” So I’m happy, I’m proud of out. Over a billion people have seen “The Trouble With Tribbles” and laughed their butts off, so I’m happy. But there are days where I go, “Please notice my other stories.”
What makes the episode so memorable?
Several things. First of all, it’s a comedy, so that lets us see a whole different side of our characters and the cast is so good, that without breaking character, they can be hysterically funny: William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. And then the second thing is that it allows us to see more of our characters. We got to spend time with Lt. Uhura and Ensign Chekov and Scotty. So we got to see them be a major part of the story. And the third thing is the Tribbles are cute. They purr, make you feel nice and OK, so they breed a little. The Tribbles make you smile and laugh. It was just the perfect storm of everything falling into the right place at the right time and I think the audience bonded well to the idea that everything fits together so well to make a really complete story. Fifty years later, you want to introduce someone to “Star Trek,” sit them down with that episode and they’re hooked.
How has the “Star Trek” fandom embraced you?
Everyone is a “Star Trek” fan. I was at Johnson Space Center in Houston and I’m meeting astronauts and mission control people and they say, “Oh, you wrote ‘The Trouble With Tribbles!’ Oh my god!” When an astronaut asks for your autograph ... Everybody’s a fan of “Star Trek” because it’s such a positive view of the future. The future is a bright place, we’re all going to be doing well, we’re going to be thriving, we’re going to be building a better world for all and everybody’s included. I think people respond to the idea that we all do well together when we all do well together.
For people who enjoy your “Star Trek” work, what other things from your catalog would you recommend they check out?
I would tell people to go and buy my book “The Martian Child,” which is somewhat autobiographical. It’s all about how I adopted my little boy and I think it’s one of the very best things I’ve ever written. It’s so truthful and authentic to the emotions of what it is to become a parent and dedicate your life to the well-being of this little 3-foot-tall psychopath. That’s what children are! Come on! I think it’s a good book because it’s really about falling in love with your own family and a lot of people have responded well to that.
I read that you gave Captain James T. Kirk his middle name in the “Animated Series” episode “Bem.”
I’ll tell you exactly how that happened. I’m a big fan of World War II and Ancient Rome, because the world was always turning and I’m interested in the process. So I’m reading about Augustus and Tiberius and Caligula and Claudius. [Associated producer D.C. Fontana] and I were on a panel at a Star Trek convention in New York, and someone said, “What does the T. in James T. Kirk stand for?“ Without really thinking about it, I said, “Tiberius.” It became a running gag. And the next year, when I was writing an episode for the animated series, I had one of the characters address Kirk as Captain James Tiberius Kirk. I turned it into [Fontana] and she called Gene Roddenberry, and Roddenberry said, “Yeah, that’s OK.” And that was how we revealed James Tiberius Kirk. So I gave him his middle name.