“Trouble with Tribbles” Writer David Gerrold talks about the heritage of Star Trek

With Star Trek marking its 50th anniversary this week, all of fandom has been celebrating the launch of the television series that inspired generations of science fiction lovers and created a lasting legacy.

As part of the celebration, CBS Home Video is releasing a special collector’s edition blu-ray set that gives Star Trek fans a look at the series as they’ve never seen before. (I’ll be posting my review of the set in the coming week. There’s a LOT to check out!) They also had original series writers D.C. Fontana and David Gerrold doing interviews with different media outlets to talk about Trek and the new blu-ray set.

I was able to get a few minutes with Gerrold, who I must admit being a fan of for decades. In addition to writing “The Trouble with Tribbles”– considered one of the most popular Star Trek episodes ever – he’s also written the Hugo and Nebula Award winning novella “The Martian Child.” But I really became a fan when I got hooked on his “War Against the Ch’Torr” series, a tale of alien invasion that this geek discovered in high school after reading an excerpt in “Starlog Magazine.” (Gerrold informs me that he has finished the 5th book and is awaiting edits.)

Gerrold spoke to me by phone as he was on the road doing the Star Trek convention circuit:

Geek To Me: Have you had a chance to look at the set, and if so what do you think about it?

David Gerrold: I’ve looked at some of it. It’s 30 discs, you know, it’s going to take a while to get through the whole thing. But I am so jazzed by the blu-ray remasters. If you have a good TV set – and most of us have 42 inches and up now – you’re actually seeing Star Trek better than it’s ever been presented before.

I remember we would get the dailies for Star Trek the original series, and it was a 35 millimeter print, the same you would go to the movies (to see). It was crisp, clear, there was no grain, no jumping around, no scratches, and it was on a high quality projector, right?

What you’re seeing on the blu-rays is as if you’re seeing (the dailies) but it may be even better because it’s been digitally remastered. For instance there’s a shot in “The Trouble with Tribbles” where Leonard Nimoy has some coffee on his velour at lunch. And you can see it, the coffee stain. Nobody ever noticed that before.

So, I am so excited to actually have this high-quality version of Star Trek. Because Star Trek is iconic. It’s just one of the very best things that American television has ever created. As a science fiction fan, how can you not be enthralled?

I’m excited, did I say that?

More after the jump!

G2M: [laugh] Yes, you did. Speaking to your experiences of working on the show, I wonder what you’re hoping Trek fans today – let’s say folks who are discovering Trek for the first time – discover seeing the series in this format now?

Hugo and Nebula Award winning writer David Gerrold (from the author's website)
Hugo and Nebula Award winning writer David Gerrold (from the author’s website)

DG: I have met younger fans who are unaware of how much Star Trek there really is. In fact I just came back from two conventions – and I’m on my way to a third, because it is the 50th anniversary – and a lot of the younger fans have no idea of the heritage that Star Trek represents.

And what a lot of people do is that they introduce Star Trek by showing them “The Trouble with Tribbles,” which is an enormous responsibility right? But they catch fire, and I think the availability of the entire series – and all the movies – in one place, is a great opportunity for fans to dip into the Star Trek pool and discover some of these great episodes, like “The Man Trap” which is the beginning of it all, or “Turning the Tables” which tells you about Spock’s parents, or “City on the Edge of Forever” which is Kirk’s greatest dilemma.

And then you move on to Next Generation and you have “Measure of a Man”, and “Inner Light” and “Best of Both Worlds.” And you move on to the other series, and you’ve got the movies.

I think there is so much for the fans to discover. And the commentaries and the interviews give the insight and depth that was never available in any other way. I even recorded a new commentary for the “Tribbles” episode.

G2M: You mentioned three classic series episodes, along with “Tribbles.” Let’s say if you want to convert a new fan to Star Trek, what would be some classic series episodes that one could show them?

DG: Uh, “The Devil in the Dark”, “The Immunity Syndrome”, “The Corbomite Maneuver”, “Balance of Terror”, “A Taste of Armageddon” and “Errand of Mercy.”

ES: There’s been a lot of debate as to how Star Trek is interpreted now, for example in the current movies versus the series. What do you feel are the ingredients you would need to make an authentic Star Trek series?

DG: Well, first you have to have characters that you care about, that you like. And they have to be confident. They have to be intelligent. They have a quality of humanity that reflects the original dilemma to explore “strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.” So, you want characters who have that have ambition, to find out what’s over the next hill.

If you’ve ever met an actual astronaut, you know they have that thousand light-year-stare. It’s like being with Clark Kent, you know he could fly, he’s just not doing it right now.

And you want that quality, that these people aren’t just actors in a TV show. You want to know that they are heroes, they’re astronauts, they’re explorers. They are also compassionate and humane.

And if you start with that, then you give them challenges, ambitious challenges, that question what does it mean to be a human being? Where you actually have to look at the nature of humanity. What’s out there in the universe? What is the universe? What is our place in it? And who are we as a species?

So yeah, all of that.

ES: What did you think of “Star Trek Beyond”?

DG: I enjoyed it! I thought that the cast was finally coming together as an ensemble cast. And I thought that they were telling an old-fashioned Star Trek adventure. I had fun with it.

ES: There’s this cool new game out called “Star Trek Timelines” where you can collect characters from the different shows and timelines. Who would be your perfect Star Trek crew?

DG: Kirk, Spock and McCoy, Uhura.

ES: And your helmsman?

DG: Sulu. And Scotty. I go back to the original crew.


Order the Star Trek 50th Anniversary BluRay collection HERE

Visit David Gerrold’s Website!

Follow David Gerrold on Twitter!

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