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Recap / Star Trek Discovery Short Treks E06 "The Trouble with Edward"

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Captain Lynne Lucero takes command of the U.S.S. Cabot, and deals with an eccentric scientist named Edward Larkin who thinks he's found a revolutionary use for tribbles.


Tropes:

  • Abandon Ship: What the crew of the Cabot has to do in the end, as the tribbles are breeding so fast the ship is filling up with them to the point of structural collapse.
  • After-Action Villain Analysis: At the board of inquiry, Captain Lucero offers a very succinct one.
    Quinn: But according to your report, this entire calamity was all caused by one crew member. How do you explain that?
    Lucero: He was an idiot.
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  • Almost Out of Oxygen: The explosive reproduction of the tribbles threatens to overwhelm life support. Fortunately, from a certain standpoint, their sheer mass causes the ship's hull to buckle before that becomes a serious issue.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Like Barclay before him, Edward's total lack of social I.Q. is so extreme it comes across as almost pathological rather than just being a jerk.
  • Artistic License – Physics:
    • Notable for specifically contradicting prior continuity: in previous appearances, the tribbles have always been impossibly fast breeders, but it was portrayed as at least semi-plausible, being that they had an uncanny knack for tracking down food sources. Dr. McCoy even outright says that they require food to reproduce, and if you stop feeding them, they stop breeding. This episode throws that rule right out the window, having the creatures breed spontaneously, no food needed. Which is ostensibly fine from a biological standpoint, because Bizarre Alien Biology. The laws of thermodynamics, however...
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    • Assuming the tribbles really could multiply to the extent that they could collectively exert enough pressure on the hull to compromise it, they would crush each other with that same pressure long before they posed any threat to the ship.
  • Batman Can Breathe in Space: Exaggerated. According to the conclusion of the episode, not only can tribbles survive hard vacuum, they can also survive atmospheric reentry.
  • Beyond the Impossible: Tribbles, which are nothing but flesh and fur, apparently breed explosively enough that they are able to compromise the structural integrity of an entire starship — which, in-universe, consist of unobtainium-grade metal alloys reinforced with forcefields.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Larkin is said to be a brilliant biologist, and genetically modifying a tribble would require some expertise. The first time we see him, however, he looks like he dozed off during the meeting, and he does absolutely nothing to clean up the mess he makes.
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  • The Cameo: The episode begins with Captain Pike seeing off the newly promoted Captain Lucero as she prepares to take command of the Cabot.
  • Continuity Nod: A lot of the tribble-related shenanigans are similar to "The Trouble with Tribbles", such as The Captain sitting on a tribble and someone opening a compartment and releasing a barrage of tribbles.
  • Cuteness Proximity: When Larkin shows everyone at the briefing a picture of a tribble, they start cooing at how cute the little hairballs are. Larkin then explaining that he wants people to eat them sours the mood.
  • Eat the Dog: This is Larkin's idea — turning tribbles into a food source because under the fur they're "all meat".
  • Explosive Breeder: Not at first. But when Larkin mixes his DNA with them, they turn into the fast-breeding creatures we know.
  • Face Palm: Several members of the crew have this reaction when Edward reveals he spliced his own DNA into the tribbles.
  • Fan Disservice: When the lab breach alarm goes off, Larkin walks out of his quarters without his pants.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: The Parody Commercial advertises that there's a prize at the bottom of each box... if you can ever get past the never-ending tribbles to reach it.
  • First Day from Hell: The Cabot is Captain Lucero's first command, and due to a particularly troublesome subordinate, she is forced to Abandon Ship within days.
  • For Science!: Larkin clearly is more interested in proving his theory right than taking any sort of safety precautions or thinking through that creating an Explosive Breeder species in a confined space like a starship is a very bad idea.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: It's pretty clear no one on the Cabot likes Larkin all that much. His previous assignments were evidently not much better, as Lucero is informed that such behavior from him is entirely expected after his anonymous complaints.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Larkin wanted to increase the reproduction rate of the tribbles to make a prey species both easy to hunt and quick to replenish itself. He made the second part so effective that they overwhelmed the crew's ability to contain them, destroyed the ship through sheer mass, forced the evacuation of an entire planet, and somehow made their way to Klingon space and caused a diplomatic incident.
  • Implausible Deniability:
    • The Admiralty receives a series of anonymous messages complaining about Lucero. Everyone knows that Larkin sent them, despite his claims to the contrary.
    • After the crew finds the tribbles beginning to multiply, Larkin tries to act surprised at this turn of events. No one even humors him.
  • Introduced Species Calamity: The tribbles screw everything up for the Cabot, the Pragine civilization, and the Klingon Empire.
  • Karmic Death: Larkin is buried by a wave of his self-replicating tribbles, and if that didn't kill him, the ship being destroyed sure did.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: Larkin is buried by tribbles mid-rant.
    Larkin: I JUST MADE ONE OF THE GREATEST SCIENTIFIC DISCOVERIES OF ALL TIME! I'M NOT THE DUMB ONE! YOU—(gets buried by tribbles)
  • List of Transgressions: Admiral Quinn reads out one to Captain Lucero, starting with the loss of her ship and ending with a diplomatic incident as the tribbles have found their way into Klingon space.
  • May Contain Evil: The Parody Commercial for the tribble cereal advertises "Edward" as one of its ingredients, followed by a couple of text disclaimers.
    *Edward™ macronutrient currently not approved by Federation Food and Drug Administration.
    *Fur may present choking hazard. It is suggested you shave cereal with Edward brand Tribble Razor included in Tribble Cereal Super Salon playset (sold separately). Edward Cereals LLC not responsible if tribbles survive and replicate in digestive tract. Chew thoroughly.
  • Mildly Military: Even by Starfleet standards, Larkin is lazy, rude, inconsiderate, insubordinate and incapable of following even the most basic orders. Lucero is amazed his career has gone as far as it has with his obvious attitude problems.
  • No Conservation of Mass: Sure, they're just muscle and fur, but as these tribbles don't even need to eat to reproduce, just where is all that muscle and fur coming from?
  • Obliviously Evil: Edward has shades of this:
    • He sees nothing wrong with feeding tribbles to an unsuspecting colleague without the latter's knowledge or consent.
    • When asked if the tribbles are intelligent, he completely misses the point of the question; that if so, it would be unethical to eat them. When he is confronted with that point, he tries to sidestep it by expressing an intent to breed a brain-damaged strain.
    • He fails to see the problem with mixing what he intends to be a food source with human DNA, to say nothing of the potential illegality of such human-based eugenics.
  • Opinion Myopia: In-Universe — Larkin says that the crew doesn't like Lucero as a captain. The truth is that everyone except Larkin likes her.
  • Out-of-Genre Experience: Taking advantage of Short Trek's short and experimental format, The Trouble with Edward is a dark cringe comedy instead of the usual Star Trek straight science fiction.
  • Parody Commercial: A 90s style advert in The Stinger, complete with 4:3 aspect ratio and VHS scan lines.
  • The Peter Principle: Lucero is by all accounts an excellent science officer and, thanks to being a former science officer, as a commander she gets along swimmingly with her scientist crew. However, her lack of management and conflict resolution experience shows when she's faced with her ship's one problem crew member, starting with transferring a protein scientist to climatology for being kind of creepy and basically telling him to wing it even though those two fields are about as far apart as possible. Things only escalate from there. A more experienced manager would have had a better shot at either finding a diplomatic means of turning Larkin into a more productive crew member, or failing that, eliminating him immediately (i.e. confined to quarters until escorted off the ship) when it becomes clear he's insubordinate and a potential threat to the mission, instead of half-assing it and still letting him have the run of the ship even after terminating him in a manner that clearly leaves him humiliated and severely agitated.
  • Prequel: To "The Trouble With Tribbles", and by extension "Trials and Tribble-ations", explaining just how Tribbles became the famed Explosive Breeders of Trek lore.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: The rest of the crew on the Cabot see Lucero as this, since she's a former science officer, listens to everyone intently, and shows genuine interest in their work. Only Larkin sees her in a more negative light.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica:
    • Lucero tells Larkin he's not cut out for the work they're doing, and his attitude towards her doesn't help, so she's ordered him transferred off as soon as possible. Larkin ends up getting himself killed before that happens.
    • The whole mess starts when Lucero transfers Larkin, a protein scientist, to climatology, after (admittedly rather understandably) finding his taste in food to be rather creepy. Larkin doesn't take this well and proceeds to escalate the situation from there.
  • Senseless Phagia: Larkin admits he gave a shipmate tribble meat to eat. Said shipmate looks horrified at the revelation.
  • Series Continuity Error: The short suggests that Larkin's genetic manipulation is responsible for turning tribbles into the infamous rabbit-like breeders known to viewers. However, tribbles had a cameo in Enterpise, where Dr. Phlox was already familiar with them as "prodigious breeders".
  • The Stinger: After the credits, there's a Parody Commercial for Tribbles, a brand of self-replicating cereal (actually a never-ending box of furry, cooing tribbles).
  • Tastes Like Chicken: Apparently tribbles taste like scallops once you get rid of the fur.
  • Too Dumb to Live: When the tribbles finally overrun the Cabot, Larkin is too busy telling Lucero that he's not dumb to get to the escape shuttle. Eventually, he gets buried under a pile of tribbles.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Larkin's experiment to create rapidly-breeding tribbles leads to the loss of the Cabot, the destruction of Pragine 63's ecosystem, and a diplomatic crisis with the Klingon Empire.
  • Villain Has a Point: Tribbles have never been shown as being any more intelligent than a small house pet and TOS-era humans apparently still eat real meat (replicators won't be invented for another several decades); in fact, Dr. Phlox was apparently using them as snake food way back in Enterprise's time, so if tribbles are indeed edible to humans and can be produced at a reasonable rate, then looking into them as a potential emergency solution for a famine hardly seems as beyond the pale as most of the crew treat the suggestion. However, Edward did make his argument extremely poorly due to his lack of social and political savvy and also crossed the line when he started disregarding all procedure and safety protocols.
  • Walk and Talk: Pike and Lucero walk through the corridors while he gives her a Mission Briefing for her first command.
  • While Rome Burns: As the tribbles overwhelm the crew and ship systems start to fail, Larkin remains extremely calm, does nothing to help and spends his time petting a tribble. Even when he is buried under a mountain of tribbles, he seems completely unconcerned by it.

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