How 'Star Trek' Accidentally Stole the Idea For "The Trouble With Tribbles"

Even 50 years after its debut, "The Trouble with Tribbles" is one of the most beloved episodes of any Star Trek. But, it turns out the episode's iconic aliens came from another sci-fi great.

David Gerrold wrote "The Trouble with Tribbles" and created the titular alien creatures. But the idea was seemingly borrowed from legendary science fiction author Robert Heinlein. Tribbles resemble "flat cats," which Heinlein created in his novel The Rolling Stones. Like Tribbles, flat cats are troublesome creatures known for rapid reproduction.

Heads of both Paramount and Desilu feared Heinlein would accuse them of plagiarism. They brought the issue to Heinlein's attention and asked for permission to continue. To their surprise, Heinlein granted it in exchange for a signed copy of the episode's script.

Heinlein realized that Gerrold hadn't meant to rip him off and gave the episode his blessing.

Today, Heinlein is considered a pillar of science fiction. His most notable works include Starship Troopers and Stranger in a Strange Land.

Star Trek has also become a pillar of science fiction. The franchise is currently undergoing a lot of change. There's Star Trek: Discovery on CBS All Access and Quentin Tarantino has a film in the works. Yet, Star Trek star Nichelle Nichols feels the future for Star Trek is bright.

"I think Star Trek is always going to be a window into what lies ahead of us," she said. "I'm happy to see another generation of actors and actresses leading the charge. And now there are so many fans being a part of it. If it weren't for the fans, there'd be nothing to do."


Star Trek revisited "The Trouble with Tribbles" in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. The episode "Trials and Tribble-ations" sent the cast back to The Original Series era. "The Trouble with Tribbles" may also hold the answer to one of Discovery's big mysteries.

[H/T] Inverse