“The Trouble with Tribbles” Seeks Out New Life in Classic Star Trek Episode

The Trouble with Tribbles
Presented by PMRP
Episode written by David Gerrold
Adapted and directed by Mindy Klenoff

 

Foley by Brad Smith

May 29 – 31, 2014
Unity Somerville
6 William St.
Somerville, MA
PMRP onFacebook

Review by Gillian Daniels

(Somerville) In her guest of honor speech at feminist sci-fi convention Wiscon, author N.K. Jemisin addressed the current social changes in the genre.  Prominent fans and writers in recent years have worked to promote more diverse stories in a field that most have believed to be largely dominated by white, heterosexual men.  “Go to sources of additional knowledge for fresh ammunition–” she advises those interested in broadening sci-fi and fantasy “–histories and analyses of the genre by people who see beyond the status quo, our genre elders, new sources of knowledge like ‘revisionist’ scholarship instead of the bullshit we all learned in school.” In this vein, The Post-Meridian Radio Players’ gender-swapped adaptation of The Trouble with Tribbles is not just a cute comedy but a revisionist take on one of sci-fi culture’s most beloved touchstones.

Most of the original 1967 Star Trek episode remains intact in this costumed radio adaptation.  Captain Kirk (Karen Sarao), Spock (Adria Kyne), Ensign Chekov (Caitlin Mason), and the rest of the crew find themselves embroiled in an off-world rodent infestation after Lt. Uhura (Michael Lewis) ends up purchasing a faceless, purring ball that turns out to be pregnant.  Soon, the ship is overrun with these so-called tribbles while Kirk exchanges heated words with dastardly Klingons (Rachel Schlow and Barbara Woodward).

PMRP does not skimp on the camp so beautifully built into the show.  A different set of jokes and observations, however, are built into Mindy Klenoff’s changes to David Gerrold’s script.  It’s an interesting moment when Lewis’ Uhura, the lone man on stage, describes, like the female Uhura in the episode, how much he looks forward shopping when he disembarks.  Even more interesting is when Ms. Scott (the hilarious Sarah Brinks) suggests that she can be the one to help (possibly supervise) him.

It’s even more startling when entrepreneur and smuggler Cordelia Jones (Amanda Britton in an enthusiastic performance) flirts with Uhura when selling him the original tribble.  She talks to him the way a man in the late-sixties might romantically pursue a woman rather than the way a contemporary woman might pursue a man.  It’s played for humor, yes, but it provides much-needed food for thought regarding gender performance and how we conceptualize appropriate romantic interest.

Beyond this academic reading, PMRP keeps the play funny and involving.  During the performance I saw, the microphones gave the crew some trouble, but the cast went forward undeterred.  It’s a cool idea and I’m glad the theater group decided to embrace it with the promise of another potential gender-flipped Star Trek episode adaptation in the future.

Jemisin, above, suggests looking for new sources of knowledge in order to rethink what our science fiction communicates to audiences.  This is important and I agree we need to boldly go where mainstream culture believes mainly white, heterosexual men have gone before. As The Trouble with Tribbles shows, however, we don’t have to look very far to reinvent, rethink, and reach new frontiers.

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