June 1, 2021

028: DS9: Trials and Tribble-ations

Sisko and Kirk together? Yes, please!

On this episode, Jeff Akin reviews Star Trek Deep Space 9, Trials and Tribble-ations (Season 5, Episode 6). He will examine the leadership approaches of Captain Sisko.

We learn valuable lessons about job titles and conflict of interest. We also talk about a radical new concept in reporting structures: the flat org chart. 

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Welcome, everyone! Thanks for joining me today. I am so excited to be bringing this episode to you today. It is one of my all time favorites. We’re going to talk a lot about job titles, org charts and perceptions and I offer some pretty radical ideas on changing that all up. We’re also going to have a really good time as we watch season 5, episode 6 of Deep Space 9, Trials and Tribble-ations.




Two dudes just roll up into Ops. They’re with the department of Temporal Investigations. Kira greets them and takes them to Sisko, “You boys are always on time.” A run of time travel jokes commences, “This may take some time, is that a joke?”


He explains that a few weeks ago the Cardassians wanted to return the Orb of Time. When they picked it up, they also brought on a gentleman named Barry Waddle. Apparently a merchant that was stranded on Cardassia. He orders a Raktajino; Klingon coffee. I think Raktajino made its debut on DS9 and I always thought it was kind of overkill that everyone seems to want it all the time. It doesn’t seem that popular on other shows, just this one. Eh, maybe Mr. Waddle is just a fan of Klingon finery. Or, it’s life changing coffee…


But he’s not a fan of Klingons, I guess. He says they smell bad right as he walks past Worf on his way out. Bashir and O’Brien show they are great friends right away, “I don’t think you smell, Worf.”


On their way back to DS9, while cloaked, there’s a sudden surge of chroniton radiation, really out of nowhere. “Something is very wrong.” They get notice that someone has beamed off the ship, and then O’Brien clears all their instruments. And what’s right in front of them?? “That’s the Enterprise.” Yep! The NCC-1701, Constitution Class! Turns out they’re 200 light years from where they were, and “one hundred and five years, one month, and twelve days previous, on stardate 4523.7, a Friday.” In fact, they find themselves right at the beginning of the second season episode of the Original Series, The Trouble With Tribbles. I wonder if they can just go back and watch the episode like Riker did back in Encounter at Farpoint. Hmm.


They’re orbiting deep space station K7. They learn Mr Waddle is the one that beamed away. They also learn his real name is Arn Darvin, a Klingon. altered to look human. Guess that explains his thing for raktajino. Also explains some stuff that happens in Discovery that we haven’t gotten to yet on this podcast. Worf finds in security records that his younger self was present on K7 at the time posing as a federation official. He was found out by James Kirk and arrested. Worf, Odo and Dax assume that he’s going to try and change the past and possibly kill Kirk.


They don’t know where he is and they are assuming the worst, so Sisko decides they’re going to split up between Enterprise and K7 and start looking. “I suppose we should try to blend in.”


A super fun scene follows of the crew grabbing gear and getting into uniforms from the time period. This whole thing is so great! As someone who grew up on the Original Series, this still sends real chills down my spine! They even do their hairstyles to match; O’Brien and Bashir look incredible! And in a move they’ll pull a few more times in this episode, the show becomes eerily self-aware and starts calling out some of the inconsistencies across Trek. “Aren’t you two wearing the wrong color?” Worf does the classic, I’m a Star Trek alien that needs to look inconspicuous so he wears a hat that covers his forehead.


O’Brien figures out a way to take advantage of the old scanning tech used at the time and they beam over undetected. The humans head to the Enterprise while Worf and Odo beam to the station.


Sisko and Dax walk out of a turbolift into a corridor on Enterprise. They are me at this moment! Literally bathing in nostalgia! They have a genuine look of awe as they try to blend in.


Bashir and O’Brien beam into a turbolift and don’t know how to use it! They are so great in this episode! Hilarious back-and-forth through the whole thing. But it’s not cheesy funny; like, you can totally see people reacting like they do. They don’t know how to use the turbolift. Back then, you had to grab this handle and then tell it where it to go; they’re used to just saying it, “Deck 21.” It’s like asking a teenager to use a rotary phone! There are a lot of these fun moments peppered through the whole episode.


Speaking of fun, we meet up with Odo… He’s camping out in a bar. Checkov and Uhura head to the bar as the server comes up to him. He orders a raktajino; and she’s only just heard of that a little earlier when an older man ordered it. Sounds like Darvin! Back over to Uhura is she is introduced to a Tribble.


Tribbles show up a few times in Star Trek and we’ll learn all about them when we land on the Original Series episode this is paying homage to. For now what you need to know is that they’re super cute, and breed uncontrollably. “They must be born pregnant.”


The crew is trying to look like they’re doing simple work around the Enterprise as they scan for Darvin. Bashir helps avoid an awkward situation when O’Brien’s working on someone else’s job! “Job pressure’s been getting to him.”


Back in the bar with Odo, Worf comes in and we learn that Tribbles were once “mortal enemies of the Klingon Empire.” For more on this, check out the Short Trek, “The Trouble With Edward.”


Klingons approach the station, the “IKS Groth.” Dax is familiar and she also knows they aren’t a threat. She wants to go over to the station, but Sisko sends Bashir and O’Brien instead. This is a smart move by Sisko! In this case, Dax has a clear conflict of interest that could jeopardize the mission. When we get to the command codes, we’ll talk about what a conflict of interest means to you as a leader, both when it applies to and to a member of your team.


O’Brien and Bashir walk into one of my favorite moments in all of Star Trek. They meet Lieutenant Whatley; and she REALLY wants Bashir to handle her physical tomorrow. And, as expected with him, that sends him down a disturbing rabbit hole, “If I don’t meet with her tomorrow, I may never be born.” Everything about this scene is amazing!! This is what it looks like when you develop characters and build their relationships. I love it!


They meet up with Odo and Worf in the bar. Another great moment as they address the elephant in the room…or, the Klingon in the room, “We don’t discuss it with outsiders.” See, back in the Original Series, they just slapped a little makeup on the Klingons and maybe fluffed up their eyebrows. A far cry from the Klingons we’re used to. There’s a fun moment in the original episode where a Klingon is trying to pick a fight with Checkov and Scotty is talking him down…until he insults the Enterprise. “Should be hauled away as garbage.” Scotty throws a punch and it all breaks down! It’s the Royal Rumble with all 30 competitors in the ring! Chairs are getting thrown, tables busted, it’s pandemonium! Until Enterprise security breaks it up. As they’re getting basically arrested, Odo sees Darvin sneaking away.


A beautiful scene that shows the technical wizardry that went into this episode sees Kirk interrogating the crew that were fighting on the ship. O’Brien and Bashir are in the lineup and interacting with Kirk, and it’s seamless. Everyone keeps their mouth shut so they get confined to quarters. On their way out, they see the growing menace of the Tribbles. They’re littered all over the corridor.


In the confusion, Worf and Odo were able to apprehend Darvin. They take him to the brig on the Defiant where he shares he left a bomb for Kirk. He put it in a tribble, but he didn’t say where it was. There’s a clock on, in an hour, it’ll go off. Dax has a plan to scan for it; it’s either on the Enterprise or K-7, but they don’t know yet. They’re sure they can scan the ship pretty easily, but the station’s scanners aren’t sophisticated enough; they’ll have to scan tribbles individually. And there are likely over a million of them at this point! Sisko completes a scan of the ship. It’s clean. We also get a little history on McCoy, “He had the hands of a surgeon.” Dax’s host, Emony, knew him, um, well.


Odo, Bashir and O’Brien are feverishly scanning. Dax recommends shadowing Kirk since he’s the target. This takes them to the mess hall where they overhear Kirk, Spock and Scotty. This leads them to the storage compartments on the station. They’re storing grain and the tribbles are gorging on it. Kirk opens an overhead cargo bay door on the station and tribbles rain down on him. Sisko and Dax find the tribble and beam it out into space just in time. The day is saved! And, according to the temporal investigations guys, without any impacts to the timeline.


Sisko takes a moment of indulgence. He stays on the bridge of the Enterprise just long enough to get a sign off on a report from Kirk. He tells him, “It’s been an honor.” Kira figures out the time orb, and they head home.


Temporal Investigations leave Deep Space 9 and we’re back to normal. Or are we? Odo calls them down to Quark’s on the Promenade and he’s covered in a new product! Tribbles! Tribbles have come to Deep Space 9. At least for the moment.


<<Red Alert>>


This episode is basically perfect. It’s fun, it’s light-hearted, it’s nostalgic but not aggressively so. It’s just great. This was DS9’s way of marking and celebrating Star Trek’s 30thanniversary. Voyager was on the air during this time as well and they celebrated with their episode, Flashback. That one was a lot of fun too and focused more on the movies that featured the original series cast.


The movie, Forrest Gump had come out just a little while before this. They really brought this technology to prime time; the ability to put modern actors in classic footage. And the DS9 crew used it brilliantly!


A lot of lists out there call the Original Series episode this is based on, The Trouble With Tribbles, the best episode of Star Trek. Now, I don’t agree with that necessarily, but it was a super fun episode. But I prefer this take on it, though. The seamless melding of two great casts with a time travel story that is just for fun.


They have fun with a lot of the inconsistencies in the franchise too! Like the uniforms and the Klingons! The show Enterprise will actually explain why the OG Klingons look different than the movie and 90’s Trek Klingons, but up until this moment, it was just a thing that was never mentioned. The Voldermort of Star Trek!


There is endless trivia and notes about this episode out there. But I think my favorite nuggets is that the writer of the Trouble With Tribbles episode, David Gerrold, is in the episode! He’s a crewman in the background of the episode and at one point he’s petting a Tribble!


I can’t recommend this one enough. I’m so glad it came up. Absolutely any excuse to watch this one is good!


<<Command Codes>>


Even with all the fun going on, Sisko demonstrated some strong leadership qualities. Like many of them in Star Trek, they were brief moments, one was only one line, actually. But there is no denying the wisdom in them.


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When they’re suiting up in the 23rd century gear, Bashir comments on the rank on Sisko’s uniform, “Lieutenant, actually.” This highlights one the toughest contradictions of leadership that I often struggle to wrap my mind around.


Titles don’t matter. But titles do matter. Have I lost you already? I’ve said it before on this podcast, and countless times in conversations, but job titles, especially for leadership roles, really do not matter. They don’t! In fact, one of my clients, a few years ago, went to a conference and they listed their job title as “employee.” I love that! Now, their actual job title was Chief Technology Officer, but they really just saw themselves as an employee with a specific set of job duties.


I’ve recently become very interested in the concept of a flat org chart, where no one reports to anyone and everyone just has their job duties. They hold each other accountable to the goals and the mission of the organization. Period. No hierarchy. And in that paradigm, titles only matter to help define and differentiate your duties. But in the traditional, one person at the top many people at the bottom org chart, titles kind of matter. But not in the way they actually should.


Let me explain. My client, the CTO, looks at her title as a description of her duties. But you know, if she sends an email, or is in a meeting, or drops into the workplace, people are going to react. In fact, most everyone here works in an organization, or has worked in an organization with an IT department, right? Well, imagine a day in the office. And depending on the state of the world when you’re listening to this, that might be harder to imagine than it used to be. But, anyway, picture yourself in the office. You’re working away, your staff are working away. Hear the buzz of the office, the sounds of work. Put yourself in that moment. Now, imagine one of your desktop support techs comes into the work space. They’re going to fix some issue on somebody’s computer. What changed in the environment when they walked in? Did people stop working to see what was going on? Did it get a little quieter? Or was everything still pretty much the same?


Now, clear your head. Go back to your office before the tech walked in. You’re surrounded by the buzz of productivity. It’s beautiful. Then the CTO walks in. Now what’s changed in the environment?


That. That change. That’s how titles matter. Who knows? Maybe the CTO is helping cover shifts because they’re super backed up at the service desk. Doesn’t matter, people are wired to react to the title.


I struggle with this. I have a pretty decent title, one that people, including myself, have worked a long time for. But I honestly just see myself having a job. I’m no better, no more important than anyone I work with. But when I reach out to someone, it’s different. They know I have that title and sometimes, they treat me like the title and not like Jeff. To quote a colleague of mine, “CEO’s are humans too.” You can follow her on Instagram at business plan expert; expert with an X instead of the E. But, I mean, I get it. Society and the workplace have conditioned us to do this, but I want to be a part of changing that. Of helping people recognize that we all just have job duties and our titles are just meant to define and differentiate those. They do NOT make us more or less important than anyone else.


Sisko, dressed as a lieutenant, is just effective a leader as he is with Captain’s pips. And he’s just as effective with those as he was with Commander’s pips too! A leader is a leader. Let the fruits of your leadership define you professionally, not your job title.


Shifting to later in the episode, when the Klingon cruiser first arrives, Dax wants to head to the station and Sisko cuts her off. She’s excited she might see Koloth! “I might run into them. Exactly.” Sisko recognizes that countless ways this could go south. He recognizes the conflict of interest Dax has here.


Conflict of Interest. If you work in HR, you are very familiar with this term. If you’re a manager, you’ve probably seen it on some forms HR has sent you! Regardless of your familiarity with the term, it is something you should always be aware of and on the lookout for.


A conflict of interest exists when there is the potential for clash between personal and professional interests. This can be a situation where someone could gain personally from a professional decision. It could be using a position to grant favors or benefits to friends, family or others. Merriam-Webster defines it as a conflict between the private interests and the official responsibilities of a person in a position of trust


In the situation with Dax, her conflict arises because of her personal relationship with Koloth. If they were to run into each other and he recognized her, it could, at best jeopardize the mission and, at worst, shatter the timeline and cause massive destruction at a quantum level. Or somewhere in between.


You run into situations like this too. Maybe one of your staff get a loan application from their sister, or your old college buddy is the procurement officer at a big company you’re trying to sell into, or you have a family member applying for a job that reports to you.


I mean, the examples are endless. But here’s why they matter to you and why I’m bringing them up. When there is a conflict of interest, and you don’t do something about it, bad things can happen. That simple. Sisko giving the assignment to Bashir and O’Brien wasn’t a reflection on her; it was good business!


They way to manage these conflicts is to create an environment where people are comfortable bring them to you, and you are smart enough to do something about them! If they didn’t have a trusting relationship, Dax could have been offended. But she knows Sisko has the mission at the front of his mind and he’s not going to put that at risk. He’s helping her and she knows it. She might not like it, but she understands it.


So talk with your teams. Do not judge what they bring to you. Stay focused on the mission and be sure your staff know you are. When you do that, and you make a decision based on a shared conflict of interest, everyone wins.


And this goes for you as well. If a conflict comes up, tell your boss; tell HR. I suppose I should be responsible here and say to follow your company’s policy on this. But every policy basically says to tell someone. And then, when you get pulled off an assignment or have a task reassigned because of the conflict of interest you declared, be cool with it! No one is trying to slight you or take anything away from you. They’re protecting you and helping ensure a successful mission.


At the end of this episode, the Temporal Investigators tell Sisko it’s all good. No harm, no foul. Basically the most perfect possible outcome of the entirely unexpected situation they found themselves in. Had Sisko let Dax run into Koloth…well…this wouldn’t have just been a fun episode. This may have been the end of the Star Trek universe as we know it.


<<Hailing Frequencies>>


I really am interested in this concept of a flat org chart. Have any of you experienced this? Share what you know with all of us! We have a great facebook group. Join today and tell us your thoughts on the concept. I may share some of that discussion on a future episode.

And share your stories about this episode! Did you see it when it came out? Do you think it still holds up? Is it one of your favorites too? Let me know! I’m on Twitter: @ SFLA podcast and you can follow me on all the social media, @jefftakin Jeff, t as in Tribble-ations, a k i n.


Now let’s see what we’re going to watch next time….


Season 2, episode 12 of Enterprise, hey, our first Enterprise episode in quite awhile! The Catwalk. We’ve had some ups, and a lot of downs with Archer’s leadership so far. In this one, he further develops his relationship with T’Pol. Can’t wait to jump into this one with all of you.


Until then, Ex Astris Scientia!