The pretext for tying this to Star Trek: Discovery is slim:
- It has Klingons in it
- It has a Harry Mudd stand-in character, Cyrano Jones
- It has a Klingon spy in it
Aside from that, the episode is a long way from Star Trek: Discovery. It is also brilliant.
I had feared that Trouble With Tribbles would let me down. It was easily one of my most favorite episodes as a child and I was apprehensive that it was not as good as I remember it. Truth is that it remains genuinely funny, partly because of some great physical comedy and timing from William Shatner but also some great ensemble banter among the rest of the Enterprise crew.
Other neat features is that the Klingon characters get a bit more to do than act villainous and also there is overt continuity with other episodes. The ‘Organian Peace Treaty’ is discussed as a shout out to the events of Errand of Mercy. I suspect part of the reputation of the episode is that it helps establish Star Trek as a story with continuity and existing in a wider universe. This also helps explain some of the love for Harry Mudd episodes that I otherwise find mystifying – TV audiences found that they liked when incidental characters came back and that one episode connected with another.
I shan’t recap the plot because for the most part it doesn’t matter. The stakes are low, there is a bar fight, there is a conman and the assistant of the obnoxious Federation bureaucrat is a Klingon spy in disguise. Luckily, Tribbles react badly to Klingons which leads to the spy being exposed. It is shallow and inconsequential but brilliantly establishes the Enterprise as setting in a broader universe. Kirk has to contend with Starfleet giving him not-unreasonable but vexing orders, managing relations with the vexatious Klingons, his own crew variously misbehaving or innocently causing trouble, not to mention a creeping infestation of cuteness.
A low stakes episode of a Trek series can do a lot of work in establishing that the cast is a crew. Trouble With Tribbles also demonstrates the capacity for Trek to do comedy without falling into parody.
One last note: Errand of Mercy and Trouble With Tribbles share plot continuity but another common thread is that they also both involve Kirk being taken down a peg or two. I suspect that is a common theme in the episode I like best. Sorry Kirk! (and again kudos to William Shatner who plays those moments very well).