Even people who have never seen Star Trek: The Original Series have heard of tribbles. The cuddly little hairballs have become a pop culture reference, though not always in a positive way. Some see them as a bridge too far in the original show’s penchant for hammy moments, while others find the light-hearted take on alien life to be a forerunner of the narrative’s incorporation of broad humor. But for good or ill—and we’re going to just to award it the “good” designation, because that’s where tribbles belong—they’re a familiar and oft-satirized creation.
Since the creatures’ first appearance in 1967, they’re appeared in multiple iterations of the franchise. And now, during the 50th anniversary, Mass Appeal sat down with David Gerrold, writer of the original episode, “The Trouble With Tribbles,” to talk about its lasting impact on not only subsequent Treks, but pop culture at large. He’s more than open to getting into the nuts-and-tribbles of his oddball invention—and Gerrold seems especially proud of owning a plush tribble that’s actually been to space, which, fair enough. It’s exactly the kind of quirky little interview tailor-made for aficionados of eclectic cultural oddities, and shows how even the weirdest, most absurd explorations in storytelling can result in far-reaching consequences.