Can Star Trek Be Funny? The Shuttle Pod Crew Say Yes, But Only On Tuesdays

Shuttle Pod 62 – Comedic Trek


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Inspired by the news of the animated show Lower Decks, which we discussed in our previous episode, the Shuttle Pod crew looks at a smattering of comedy-influenced episodes in the Trek franchise. Listen along as Brian, Jared, Kayla, and Matt chat about “The Trouble With Tribbles” (TOS), “Qpid” (TNG), “Little Green Men” (DS9), “The Magnificent Ferengi” (DS9), and then end with perhaps the most broadly comedic episode of the franchise, the delightful “A Piece of the Action” (TOS).

Break out your fizzbin cards and listen along.

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” Now, for the last card. We’ll call it a kronk. You got that? ”

“whath”

ML31

“Sorry.”

-Worf

“I object. I am not a merry man!” – Worf

TonyD

One of the many reasons TOS is still my favorite Trek is because the leads had some great range and could easily shift from drama to comedy that was genuinely funny but not cringe-inducing.

I’d advise ya ta keep dialin’, Oxmyx.

Locutus

There was a lot of unintentional comedy in TOS too, but I know what you mean.

CmdrR

In the DOESN’T WORK column: ‘Night in the Infirmary.’ They attempted comedy, but missed by lightyears!

CmdrR

Oops… I mean ‘A Night in Sickbay.’

Tiger2

I know I’m going to sound like a freak but I’m one of the few people that really liked that episode. No it wasn’t amazing or anything, I just liked it felt so different than the other episodes and I’m a Porthos fanboy. ;)

The River Temarc

I’m a bit of a contrarian when it comes to the comedic episodes: I actually kind of liked “A Night in Sickbay” and “Qpid.” But Ferengi and, Bella Oxmyx. No franx.

Garth Lorca

“I’ll do the breast I can.” LOL

Gotcha

“This must be manual override. [ZAP] That was NOT manual override.”
-Data

This is excellent!!!!

Cygnus-X1

There was a Friends episode that riffed on the Fizbin theme. Searching for a way to give Joey money without it seeming like charity, Chandler pretends to lose at “Cups,” a card game with strange rules known only to him:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vYhYJS7LC_Y

Yep, and the gag wasn’t brand new when Trek did it (though it’s probably only the second TV show to use it). There’s a similar gag card game called “kleebob” used on The Burns and Allen Show from 1950.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kXAcGiXbdjw

ML31

Now THAT’s good knowledge!

Cygnus-X1

Ha – very good.

Cygnus-X1

And I’ve only just now realized that the two humpback whales in THE VOYAGE HOME were named after George Burns and Gracie Allen.

Yep :-)

Nick

Data…that was NOT funny.

ML31

The funny thing about that sequence in Generations was that pushing Crusher overboard actually WAS funny. Removing the plank from under Worf was NOT funny.

Tiger2

Data pushing Crusher easily got the biggest laugh in the film when I saw it. I thought Worf removing the plank was pretty funny as well, at least it also got a big laugh.

ML31

When I saw it, the disappearing plank got little response but Data pushing crusher overboard got a big laugh. So the crowds in my showing felt LaForge was wrong over what was funny.

Legate Damar

What makes it funnt is that Data was honestly trying to follow Crusher’s instructions, and did something that a human would have known she wouldn’t have found funny. Riker was just being a dick.

ML31

She wouldn’t have found it funny but to anyone who listened to their conversation and saw the push would have. And yes. The plank thing wasn’t funny because it really was kind of a dick move on Riker’s part. “You go the hat? Well screw you. You’re going in the water anyway.”

Coltron

Voyager and Enterprise were a joke in of themselves.

Mark Calcagno

Seriously.

Those two first seasons of Enterprise were not good…

Tiger2

I still have fewer issues with Voyager than others. Agreed about Enterprise though, at least the first two seasons.

Support Your Local Salt Vampire

If anybody wants to visit Sherwood Forest from “Qpid” it was filmed at Descanso Gardens in the San Fernando Valley.

That’s very cool information, thanks. I’ll put it on my list the next time I’m in the SFV

albatrosity

TOS and DS9 are the only series with actual laugh out loud comedy that I can recollect. And the Kelvin movies can be pretty funny. I like lighthearted Trek! Looking forward to Lower Decks :)

ML31

I’m looking forward to Lower Decks as well. We aren’t going to have the luxury of doing genre specific episodes here in the days of season long story arcs and half seasons as full seasons.

albatrosity

Right true, which would be a perfect format for Lower Decks. Not to say they can’t have a Disco episode with a light tone, because I think this season might be good for one.

Marja

I think one of the reasons I’ve watched Disco’s “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad” over and over is because it’s funny. Shroomin’ Stamets, Burnham and Tilly’s interaction at the party; Tilly being Tilly at the party, Lorca’s many deaths, Mudd’s smugness … and how he is scotched by Stamets, Burnham and Tyler.

Land O'Calrissian

Deja Q has one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen on Star Trek: Data laughing uncontrollably.

Marja

I can still hear the sound of Data’s laugh!M

I tend to enjoy the more comedic episodes of Star Trek and believe the franchise can be exceptionally versatile. Rather than broad comedic episodes, though, I always preferred the genuinely comedic moments that come from organic character interaction.

denny

Trials and Tribble-ations was one of my faves from ds9.. when the crew in the past (from TOS) see that klingons look so weird they ask worf…

Bashir: “Those are Klingons?”
Odo: “Mister Worf?”
Worf: “They are Klingons, and it is a long story.”
O’Brien: “What happened? Some kind genetic engineering?”
Bashir: “A viral mutation?”
Worf: “We do not discuss it with outsiders.”

ML31

That was great because it acknowledged the change but did nothing about it!

Afterburn

Yep. A clear tongue-in-cheek humor, a simple joke, that ended up poisoning Trek fandom forever.

Danpaine

I love the scene right around then when O’Brien insists the generic guy in the gold shirt sitting with Scotty is Kirk. Some great chemistry with the actors sitting around that table…

Boze

The joke has an extra dimension: the guy was William Shatner’s body double.

albatrosity

🤯 NO WAY that’s hilarious

Danpaine

Nice, excellent.

Marja

Loved that!

Ale

Star Trek must be fun sometimes because sometimes life is fun. When Star Trek take himself too seriously we have Discovery.

Afterburn

An excellent show, I agree. I hope they continue taking themselves seriously.

Tiger2

Thats the issue with Discovery, it took itself waaaaay too seriously. Tilly was the only character relief and those felt forced IMO. But its clear they got the message they needed to lighten it up a bit with the new trailers. So maybe it will be a show that can actually have fun again.

Marja

I don’t agree. Tilly and Burnham had some good comedy chemistry, especially in “Magic ….” Mudd’s ep.

I sure hope they make the episode titles a little shorter this year

There were a number of humorous moments as well. Come on, that look Burnham and Saru exchange after Cornwell vaporizes the fortune cookies? Lorca getting salty with the Bridge crew? Lorca telling Stamets if he didn’t like being on the Discovery “Then get off.” Personally I found these quite funny.

Tiger2

Nothing wrong to agree to disagree. I do agree the Sanest Man had a lot of comedic moments and another reason why its my favorite episode out of the season. But honestly I didn’t laugh much at all beyond stuff with Tilly mostly. I don’t remember that fortune cookie exchange at all (and only saw that episode when it premiered.)

But why I’m looking forward to season 2. They actually had a few lol moments in that trailer. I probably laughed harder in that trailer than I did for the entire season of DIS. Another sign they listened to the criticisms of season one.

Danpaine

“Captain, I am NOT a Merry Man!” I got a good chuckle out of that one.

ML31

That and my afore mentioned “sorry” were the two biggest laughs in all of TNG.

ML31

One of my favorites…

“People have disrupted space stations before. Sometimes all they need is a title, Mr. Barris.”

I gotta say Shatner really shined in that episode.

Danpaine

Good call. Classic.

albatrosity

Shatner is just hilarious in general. As an actor. Separating the actor from the man, although he can be funny too.

VZX

I actually agree with Jared about Gene Coon. It’s a shame he left and the levity went with him. I heard there was plans for another tribble episode in season 3 but the new EP said that Star Trek should not have any humor, so he squashed it. It then ended up as an episode in the animated series.

Steve Gennarelli

I agree that Freiberger probably said that, but sadly Gene Roddenberry also put the Kibosh on episodes that had humor. Gene Coon was so talented…it’s a shame that he wasn’t allowed to do a few more.

Danpaine

Dr. Gillian Taylor: Do you guys like Italian?

Spock: No.

Kirk: Yes.

Spock: No.

Kirk: [at Spock] No, Yes.

Spock: No.

Kirk: Yes, I love Italian…

[looks at Spock]

Kirk: And so do you.

Spock: Yes.

That, and “LDS.”

albatrosity

When the Trek actors read the STIV script at Mission NY for the 50th it was one of the funniest things, like you really get a chance to see how clever the script is when it’s stripped down to just the jokes on the page 🤣

Marja

“I’m from Iowa. I work in outer space.”

and Spock’s solution to the music/noise problem on the bus … gold.

ML31

Disagree. It felt forced and just plain out of character. But then, the entire escapade felt forced and EVERYONE was out of character. I cannot think of one genuinely funny moment in all of TVH. In fact, the campfire scene at the beginning of TFF had more genuine heart and humor in in than the entire previous movie.

The young man playing the punk rocker on the bus – he actually wrote the music that is playing and he’s the lead vocal.
Another bit of super obscure trivia about that movie – when Kirk is crossing the street, it’s a three way intersection at Kearny, Columbus, and Pacific. The block of Pacific that starts at is the old Barbary Coast, and of course Shatner starred in a series called Barbary Coast.

ML31

I wasn’t a huge fan of A Piece of the Action but I was intrigued by the idea of DS9 returning to the planet to find essentially a planet of Star Trek fans. As how Ira Steven Behr described it.

John Bigbootee

Quark: “I’m a people person. I like to interact with my customers, like you and I are doing right now.”

Garak: “I can see the attraction….for you.”

Garak’s desert dry witand double-meanings always have me in stitches 😜

https://youtu.be/4hdiuRMK3UQ

Tiger2

That is still one of the funniest scenes of that show. I just love their interaction there and how each viewed their situations. It was also nice how neither saw the Federation in a great light but admitted it was better to have it than don’t. And I don’t think I ever looked at root beer the same ever again.

John Bigbootee

👍 It’s so warm, bubbly and happy 😜

tony

‘kiss the girl, get the key. they never taught me that in the obsidian order!’

John Bigbootee

😜😂

Marja

Odo’s dry wit and sarcasm never get old. And that smile of his!

Cygnus-X1

TNG Parallels, though not a strictly comedic episode, has some very funny scenes with Worf, beginning with his birthday apprehension at the start of the episode, to his trying to be polite when receiving Data’s birthday gift — “Ah[a beat]. A painting.” — and then, of course, Geordi walks up a few moments later and instantly recognizes the subject of the rather vague painting — “The battle of Hormos, right?” Later, when Worf is in a parallel universe in which (unbeknownst to him) he is married to Deanna, he peaks into his own bedroom where she’s sitting on his bed. Deanna beckons him to sit on the bed with her, to which Worf obliges. She starts massaging his shoulders, as he grows increasingly uncomfortable with the informal behavior. Finally, Deanna goes to kiss Worf and he leaps up off the bed in shock. It’s all played very straight, sandwiched between tense dramatic scenes, and works very well as comic relief.

Afterburn

When comedy works in Trek it’s usually at appropriately well-timed parts of a more serious episode, as in Parallels. The episode where Quark sells weapons with his cousin Gala has a lot of funny moments, but is not a comedic episode, whereas “Profit and Lace” is just cringe inducing.

Sure it can be funny. For example http://www.stnv.de/1701pa or http://www.stnv.de/tr

Tribbledism

The visual gag of Quark and Rom hand-carrying a cloaked Klingon cloaking device through DS9’s corridors, setting it down, and FORGETTING WHERE THEY PUT IT is absolutely mind-blowingly funny to me and my wife, every time we watch it.
So yes, Trek CAN be funny, if it’s written and performed well.

Disinvited

Speaking of funny people, Ken Berry, whose real life Army Sergeant was Leonard Nimoy, died at the age of 85.

Rest in peace.

Danpaine

Amen. Big weekend for losses.

Nachum

In the comics (DC second series), we find out that Sigma Iota hasn’t changed a bit, just hoarding a cut for Kirk and saving Bones’ communicator to give back to him.

In Shane Johnson’s Worlds of the Federation, the TNG-era Sigma Iota was full of people in TOS uniforms, the same as the pitch for DS9.

There were also differences in how the two treated Eminar VII. There were canon rules that Pocket and DC weren’t allowed to overlap any more.

Nachum

Whoops, I see some of this was discussed at the end.

Cygnus-X1

Another TNG episode that I found riotously funny is Season 2’s “Samaritan Snare,” in which an intellectually and technologically under-achieving species (the Pakleds) uses their uhh deficits to lure the Enterprise into a compromised position. The Pakled captain, such as he is, is named Reginod, which sets a comedic tone at the outset, along with the goofy smiles that the Pakleds all wear on their witless faces. Communications with the Enterprise are strained, as Reginod continually repeats the same childish phrases in response to Riker’s queries: “We search for things. Things to make us go.” I remember howling with laughter the first few times I watched Riker say to Geordi, “Don’t they seem a little slow?” When Geordi goes over to help the Pakleds with their technical issue, they trap him on their ship and hold him hostage for Enterprise technology. Geordi pretends to get angry at Riker pretending to leave Geordi behind with his captors. Geordi, in the acting style of an average 8-year-old, pretends to switch allegiances, to which Reginod remarks, “Good, he is on our side now.” Anyway, I’d characterize the A-story in “Samaritan Snare” as largely comedic. The brief moments of tension are quickly resolved, and we never really doubt that Riker et al will think of a way to outwit their half-witted opponents.

slider

Star Trek was always certainly capable of being funny, Sure the jokes were perhaps never laugh out loud but the jokes were mostly always clever to a degree. One scene that immediately comes to mind is in TNG where Riker shows Data a card trick and Data sees right through it and explains the trick to Riker. Great stuff!

And yes I did like Star Trek V’s humour, even the bit where Scotty hits his head.

ML31

“even the bit where Scotty hits his head.”

You know what? It’s kinda a lowbrow joke but I actually found it quite funny!

slider

I know some people hate the movie and use that one bit as one of the worst things ever but really it’s actually not a bad joke the reason being it comes out of nowhere and after Scotty is being very sure of himself.

Disinvited

The ship’s been retrofitted so much that I’m surprised it hadn’t happened sooner? Been long time since I’ve seen the gag reel…trying to recall if there’s any head banging from the early days? I recall walking into doors that didn’t open…

ML31

That wasn’t from a gag reel. It was an actual scripted gag. Scotty broke Kirk, Spock and McCoy out from the brig. When they decided what they were going to before sending Scotty off to do his part Kirk told him, “Scotty you’re amazing!” Scott started heading down the corridor quietly telling himself, “There’s nothing amazing about it. I know this ship like the back of me han..” (Bang) He hits his head on a low beam and falls to the floor.

Disinvited

ML31,

Oh, I knew the movie bit wasn’t from a gag reel. I was just curious if in all the set changes over the years if it possibly could have been inspired by real world laugh-getting head futzes possibly captured in the gag reel.

Hugues

Esscuse me, vere are se nuclear wessels?

Fabio

All this to justify that the animated series they plan to make will be comical.