How 'Star Trek: DS9' Was Able to Meet Up With Captain Kirk and the Original Enterprise Crew (Flashback)

The cast of 'DS9' chatted with ET about the making of their special tribute to Kirk and Spock's first contact with 'Tribbles.'

The Star Trek franchise has seen its fair share of celebrity guest stars over the years, but a very special episode of Deep Space Nine was graced with the presence of Starfleet royalty. In the crossover event of the 24th century, the DS9 crew traveled back to the time of Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) and Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) in “Trials and Tribble-ations.” 

ET chatted with the cast behind the scenes in 1996 about the highly anticipated TV event, which aired 25 years ago this year.

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“The script is hilarious,” Alexander Siddig, who played Dr. Julian Bashir, told ET on set. “It's a terrific way of nodding to the past and reaching out a hand and shaking that hand.” 

In this episode, Captain Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks) and company are thrust 100 years into the past and find themselves face to face with the USS Enterprise. After the crew uncovers a plot to kill Captain Kirk, they set out to prevent his murder by infiltrating the Constitution class starship. To do so, everyone dons '60s Star Trek-era uniforms as they brush shoulders with legends of days past. At the same time, everyone tries to avoid influencing events that could alter the timeline. (As the episode's temporal investigators note: "Starfleet officers shall take all necessary precautions to minimize any participation in historical events.")

“Tribble-ations” was also intended to be a tribute amid the franchise celebrating its 30th anniversary in 1996. “We were looking forward to this episode and we knew it was coming up. It's a special one,” Colm Meaney, who played Miles O’Brien, told ET on set.

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And that wasn’t hyperbole. The DS9 crew don’t find themselves in just any run-of-the-mill period of the Enterprise’s five-year mission. Rather, they end up in the middle of “The Trouble With Tribbles,” which saw the ship grapple with an invasion of small creatures that just so happen to reproduce at warp nine (GIFs and memes of the furry beings would, similarly, multiply across the internet decades later). Interacting with the infamous aliens was a highlight for the cast, who shared with ET their response to the age-old question: what do tribbles feel like? “Chinchillas might be a good comparison,” Terry Farrell, who played Jadzia Dax, told ET on the set.

Meanwhile, Siddig answered with a laugh, “It feels a little like a toupée.”

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Of course, the most important cameos in the episode were the OGs who kicked off a worldwide -- and very much ongoing -- pop culture phenomenon. To achieve this, technology considered cutting-edge at the time was used to insert DS9 crew members into four scenes from Star Trek’s flagship series. Gary Hutzel, the episode’s visual effects supervisor, explained to ET at the time that DS9 was permitted to use a total of 10 minutes of footage from the original series. He joked they used “every second” of the allotment. 

The cast filmed a handful of their performances against green screens and the footage was “married” to the episode’s original film negatives (in addition to “The Trouble With Tribbles,” a scene from “Mirror, Mirror” was modified to allow Sisko to pay tribute to Kirk in person). Luckily, the open-floor plan style on the Enterprise bridge provided some much needed room to work with.

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“When you see the final composite, it sort of feels like they shot [the scene] to have somebody put in it today,” Steve Fong, the episode’s visual effects compositor, told ET during post-production. In one moment from the episode, Dax is positioned in the background several feet away from Kirk. From a VFX standpoint, Fong said the empty space onscreen practically “begged” to have “somebody to be walking behind him.”

At the time, these special effects were made popular after Robert Zemeckis showed Tom Hanks meeting JFK and chatting with John Lennon in Forrest Gump (which later won the Academy Award for Visual Effects). Two years later, it remained a complex and time-consuming process. While some effects only needed “a few hours” of work, Fong noted the final shot of Dax walking across the bridge required “a few days.”

Recapturing the atmosphere of classic Star Trek has become a fun motif in the franchise. The Next Generation did it for Scotty (James Doohan) in “Relics.” As did season 2 of Discovery. In 2022, Strange New Worlds will be completely devoted to that pursuit. For the DS9 cast, it was a thrill to be walking through replicated sets from the era. “The wardrobe is an exact replica, as well. We're sort of like time traveling here in our heads,” Meaney told ET in between takes while filming the scene where O’Brien and Bashir are reprimanded by Kirk. 


Farrell believed the scope and technical achievements were far beyond anything the franchise had tried before. “It's not like a little teaser,” she said. “I think on every end of the [production], everyone's so excited and thrilled about trying to do their best to make it look authentic like we really are in the past.”

To bring even more authenticity onscreen, the producers invited one of the original guest actors, Charlie Brill, to reprise his character, Arne Darvin, over 30 years later after “The Trouble With Tribbles” first aired. For Brill, the role simply began as a favor from Nimoy, a longtime friend, who also introduced him to Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry on the set. But one of his co-stars made the biggest impression. “I was with [Shatner] for 10 days and all he did was sit-ups and push-ups,” Brill told ET in 1996. As for his pal, he recalled with a smirk, “All day long [Nimoy] looked in the mirror and rehearsed ‘the eyebrow.’”

He added, “I had no idea it was in the middle of history.” 

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, along with every Star Trek series, is streaming on Paramount+. 


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