We know from Star Trek TOS S2:E13 - The Trouble with Tribbles that the problem is that they keep reproducing, and the way to fix it is to stop feeding them. We see Captain Kirk 'discover' this 10 years after Star Trek Discovery.

In Star Trek Discovery S1:E3 - Context is for Kings, we see Lorca's collection of extraordinary items, including a Tribble.

It seems that Lorca has found a way to stop the Tribble reproducing. Either he doesn't feed it, or has found a way to neuter it.

But it seems strange that Lorca had no trouble figuring this out, but 10 years later, not only did Captain Kirk not know about it, but he had a big drama figuring it out as well.

My question is: How did Captain Lorca master the problems with Tribbles, only to have them befuddle Kirk 10 years later?

  • 2
    What if Lorca died (will die) with this secret? Nov 8, 2017 at 12:07
  • 6
    Many people did many things 10 years ago that not every single person on earth knows about. About 10 years ago, someone in Ecuador repaired some heavy machinery and someone else beat a Chess program on a really high setting. If you are not able to repair the same machine and beat the same chess program on the same setting, do not ask this question. Now imagine an interstellar federation. The wheel has to be reinvented every once in a while, not all knowledge is preserved, accessible or found when needed. While I do not want to defend STDs, this doesn't strike me as a problem.
    – Raditz_35
    Nov 8, 2017 at 12:10
  • He's starving it until he gets a chance to launch his final attack against the Klingon Homeworld - warp in, drop the Tribble and a ten metric tons of food, and warp out.
    – Petersaber
    Nov 8, 2017 at 12:52
  • In the novel "The Rolling Stones" by Heinlein, there's a similar animal called a Flat Cat, which reproduces like crazy, but goes into a kind of hibernation if it gets cold, and won't reproduce if you significantly restrict its diet. It would make sense if Tribbles needed a certain amount of energy to multiply, and you could keep it from multiplying by restricting its food intake. However, I don't seem to recall them eating lots of stuff on the Enterprise. Nov 8, 2017 at 17:49
  • 1
    @Raditz_35: While I do generally agree with your point, we are talking about Star Trek, where pretty much everything is digitally recorded and available. Secondly, I'd think that Starfleet is relatively interested in keeping a database of sentient species. If tribbles are stereotypical breeders, the knowledge of neutering them would be very relevant to add in such a database (similar to how you'd want to have records of how not to piss off the Klingons to avoid future conflict)
    – Flater
    Nov 9, 2017 at 9:02

2 Answers 2


The Short Trek entitled "The Trouble With Edward", which aired after S2 of Discovery, reveals that prior to genetic tampering by a Starfleet science officer over the course of that episode, Tribbles had a much slower reproductive cycle.

So it may just be that during S2 of Discovery, genetically modified tribbles had not yet been created; another possibility is that the tribble kept by Lorca was an unmodified tribble.


We cannot answer this, since we can't even know for sure if Lorca's tribble is intentionally neutered.

For all we know, Lorca could own a tribble that's unable to reproduce since birth. Given that tribbles are biological in nature, and biological creatures are generally subjected to the theory of evolution (e.g. the justification for Saru's fast running and ability to sense danger), it stands to reason that biological creatures can also be born with negative mutations, e.g. infertility.

It has not been proven yet that Lorca's tribble is neutered intentionally, which means that no one may know how to neuter a tribble yet. Which defeats the premise of your question.

This could even support why Lorca has the tribble. An infertile tribble, when no one knows how tribbles can be neutered, is a rare and extraordinary occurence, worthy of keeping in a collection of extraordinary items.

Update after the first season finale

We now known that the Lorca we know is from the other dimension. This can explain why (alternate) Lorca has knowledge of Tribbles while the original dimension has not yet discovered this information.

  • 3
    Tribbles' rapid reproduction and dislike for Klingons in Kirk's time could even be artificial traits, leftovers from Lorca's biological weapons program.
    – Gaultheria
    Nov 16, 2017 at 16:37

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.