Welcome to Warp Five, StarTrek.com's five question post-mortem with your favorite featured actors from the latest Star Trek episodes.
There are few voices in entertainment more distinctive than H. Jon Benjamin’s. His low, sardonic tones can be heard in everything from Arby’s and Coke ads, to a jazz album ("Well, I Should Have," 2015) to his starring roles in shows like FX's Archer and FOX's Bob’s Burgers. It’s rarer to see the man himself, but for Star Trek: Short Treks he couldn’t refuse.
Benjamin plays the titular Edward in this week’s Short Treks release, “The Trouble With Edward,” a disgruntled scientist passionate about his work on alternative food sources. The trouble is, as it always seems to be in the Trek universe, that that food source is the very furry, very sentient, and very slow to breed Tribble. In the 15 minute short (be sure to watch all the way to the end) that turns into a hilarious The Office-esque workplace disaster, Edward puts his coworkers and the ship they inhabit through their paces.
We had a quick Warp Five chat with Benjamin after the episode aired to discuss his Trek fandom, what it was like to step onto the research vessel set for the first time, and the time his own father had to fire him after causing a workplace disaster of his own.
StarTrek.com: What was your Point of First Contact with Star Trek?
H. Jon Benjamin: I can't specify the exact year, but I will say mid 1970s and it was The Original Series in my living room on the television. I watched when I was probably — I must've been like 10 years old. I remember a whole bunch of them [because] I'd watch pretty regularly when I was a kid. That was probably the first science fiction I'd ever seen. So I was fascinated by it.
What attracted you to Star Trek: Short Treks and "The Trouble With Edward" specifically?
HJB: I'd read the script and thought it was really funny and as I said, because I was a viewer of The Original Series, [I remember] the Tribbles episode being particularly iconic just because of how unique it was relative to the other [episodes]. So when I read "The Trouble With Edward," it was a really funny idea, based on the outside. That's sort of what got me interested. And then finding out later that a lot of people had no idea what tribbles were even; [as in] younger people who had come to Star Trek later. Some were not aware that tribbles came from TOS.
What was it like to step onto the set of your research vessel set for the first time and having to work with a bunch of inanimate co-stars?
HJB: It was really cool. I don't get that excited about stuff like that, but the sets are— they're so huge and so well done that it's really cool to see how expansive it all was. Basically they're literally building real spaceships. It was really impressive. I didn't honestly think I would kind of have that reaction, but I did. The doors even work; like they make the "shoop" sound and everything, except for a couple of times where somebody has to pull out a screwdriver. And [when that happens] you're shocked back to the reality that you're not in the [future].
Some of the Tribbles shook and purred too; probably less than one percent worked. They had to, I assume, make a ton of those and they were all over the set for some of the wide shots. But yeah, they had made like 15 or 20 that actually moved. There was like a scene where Edward was in the mess hall or the cafeteria and they were strewn all over the place— all the Tribble reserves from all the other rooms. I think there was a guy sort of vacuuming them up.
Edward really wreaks havoc aboard the ship— can you tell us about the worst workplace disaster you've ever caused?
HJB: Oh wow. There's so many. So, so many. It goes way back, [because] in entertainment I'm causing havoc all the time just by doing what I do. I'm thinking of jobs prior. I'm sure I got fired— Oh my God. I got fired by my dad. He owned a small business; an electrical supply company and I worked in the warehouse.
We used to have lightsaber fights with fluorescent light bulbs, which is exceedingly dangerous. I wouldn't suggest it because they really do break, and inside is this very toxic powdered substance. It was a total disaster when they finally broke, so, yes, my own dad fired me.
And, finally, how did you feel about Edward's ultimate plan for his furry research subjects?
If I were in a situation where there was food shortage, I could eat a Tribble. I'm not sure if it made it into the episode, but [we shot a scene where] Edward was eating a cross-section of a Tribble. Like really eating it. We used watermelon to make it look like meat. It ended up looking kind of like prime rib, so it seemed like it wasn't too bad!
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Star Trek: Short Treks stream exclusively in the United States on CBS All Access and in Canada on Bell Media's CTV Sci-Fi Channel and OTT service Crave.