Star Trek Crew Still 'Troubled With Tribbles,' 30 Years Later

The Tribbles are back.

This week those cooing, cuddly creatures from the original "Star Trek" series return to television in a special episode of "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine."

That's bad news for Klingons - the furry fluffs don't care much for them - but good news for fans, who rate 1967's classic "The Trouble With Tribbles" as one of their all-time favorite episodes.

"It probably has the greatest recognition factor of any episode done by the original series," says Ira Steven Behr, executive producer of "Deep Space Nine."

Not only are they back on TV, but the rapidly reproducing Tribbles are also making in-person appearances. On Wednesday morning, more than 250,000 Tribbles invaded subways and buses across the country as part of a promotion for the new episode, "Trials and Tribble-ations."

The fur balls first appeared during the second season of "Star Trek," when they helped Capt. James T. Kirk foil a crafty Klingon plot. In the "Deep Space Nine" update, a tribute to the "Star Trek" 30th anniversary, the Klingon travels back in time to off Captain Kirk before he can ruin the spy's plans.

In the process, he brings the "Deep Space Nine" crew along with him. And through the wonders of modern technology - la "Forest Gump" - the old and new meet. Using some mighty fancy computer tricks, members of DS9 are in scenes from the original show as they try to find the vengeful assassin (and the exploding Tribble he's planted) before it's too late.

Besides fancy graphics, the costly show required elaborate sets, re-created costumes, residuals for the actors from the original series - and about 1,400 Tribbles. "It's probably the most expensive hour of episodic TV ever produced," Mr. Behr says.

After the original show, people began making homemade, bootleg Tribbles. Now, for $20, you can purchase your own "authentic" purring Tribble. The furry ones are traded at conventions and have been one of the best-selling "Star Trek" products, says Dan Madsen, president of the official "Star Trek" fan club.

The original Tribbles episode is one of Mr. Madsen's favorites, he says. "It's one of the most popular and warm episodes 'Star Trek' ever made."

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