The latest issue (21) of The Official Star Trek magazine is on sale now. Keep reading for 3 extracts from the magazine featuring David Gerrold, sound designer Ben Burtt, and Armin Shimerman!
David Gerrold discusses the origins of “The Trouble With Tribbles”
My original intention for “The Trouble With Tribbles” was to demonstrate
that not every problem a starship captain might have to deal with would be a
big problem, threatening the safety of the galaxy. Once in a while, the
little problems could be just as annoying. At the beginning, I had no idea
that “The Trouble With Tribbles” was a laugh-out-loud comedy. I thought we
were doing quiet whimsy, but moment by moment the comedic opportunities
started piling up.
Prior to this episode, we’d seen only hints that William Shatner could be a
great comic actor. The giveaway moment was the storage compartment scene. I
had written in the outline and the script that the tribbles fall on Kirk’s
head. I had always assumed that at some point, Shatner would say, “This
makes my character look too silly,” and I was prepared to have him step
aside just before the tribbles fell. But William Shatner has always been the
consummate professional and I believe he was eager to show off his comic
abilities as well. The moment when he is up to his neck in tribbles, when he
gives Dr. McCoy a very annoyed look – that’s equal to any expression that
Oliver Hardy ever gave to Stan Laurel at his most exasperated.
Sound Designer Ben Burtt talks about the elements of the original Star Trek
TV show that he tried to emulate in the new movie…
Two things in the original Star Trek effects were revolutionary: Roddenberry
had his team create lots of detail. Every room in the ship sounded
different. Every button made a noise, when you pressed a lever or a switch.
Not only were there sounds articulating all these things to make them sound
like they were real, but they were very musical sounds. Somebody pressed a
button, there was a little melody. That was not in the movie at the point I
came on: you’d just hear a little beep. If it was Star Trek, it needed to
sing a little bit and feel like it was alive. You really felt there was a
complex operation going on and it was fun to listen to. The ships and the
weapons and the ambiences of the places they went to were a form of music.
When they went to planets there was always a tone going on, like a ringing
bell, or chimes in echo. I tried to create sounds in that style.
The other thing that was used a lot in the original show a lot was shortwave
radio recordings and sounds off of transmissions and Morse code, things you
can pick up in-between the dials on a shortwave radio.
I love that sort of thing and I’ve collected it for years. There’s some of
that in the original Star Trek television show – and the whole beginning of
the movie, that first minute or two where the Kelvin is coming into view, is
all short wave radio sounds. It reads to the audience that you’re way the
heck out at the edge of the universe, barely in contact. Things are far
away: there’s these disembodied sounds that are being transmitted back and
forth. That’s not the way the sound was, but I wanted to make it seem like
the ships were way out there. They’re supposed to be encountering something
new so I tried to capitalize on this legacy in science fiction of using
Armin Shimerman talks about his initial role as a Ferengi on Star Trek: The
Next Generation’s “The Last Outpost”
The producers were very specific about what they wanted. There was no
mention of comedy whatsoever – rather, they said that they were like old
turn-of-the-century Chinese clipper captains. They were vicious competitors,
and were even capable of eating their enemies. They were envisioned as the
new Klingons and of course it never happened that way. They were supposed to
be evil, not comic people.
It changed almost immediately. There were several factors that changed the
eventual product. I’ll start with myself first: I gave less than a perfect
performance, and I regret that. I didn’t do what they asked me to do. I was
supposed to be vicious. The four of us were supposed to make your skin crawl
– instead we had you laughing. I take most of the blame upon myself, but
there were other factors that contributed as well.
The director, Richard A. Colla, was also a contributing factor: he asked us
to do comedic things. He asked us to jump up and down on these fake stones,
and I remember thinking that vicious people don’t do that. A number of other
things he asked us to do were less than serious.
Another factor was the makeup: Michael Westmore was brilliant. The original
sketches for the Ferengi were much more hatchet-faced, much more sinister
looking, but the addition of the Mickey Mouse ears made them less than
The costumes were comedic, in the sense that they were furs – like something
out of Year One! That was less than formidable.
And the props! They gave me this long strip of foam rubber painted blue, and
said, “Make this lethal.” It was really just a limp impotent piece of
rubber! It was a difficult situation.
All of those factors, but myself being the most culpable, factored into the
idea that we were never going to be serious.
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