Remember last week, when I said that a couple of my go-to “comfort food”-type episodes were coming up? Well, this was one of the ones I meant. (It’s not at the very top of my list — that’s not for another few weeks — but still pretty high up there. Maybe as high as #2, even.)
I really enjoy, overall, that even though there’s nothing really about the Dominion in this episode, it’s still very much a presence. Both the A and B plots relate to the changed atmosphere on the station now that the Federation is in, essentially, a cold war with the Dominion. It’s a cool little touch that helps to build a sense of continuity from episode to episode, a sense of a larger story and world that these characters belong to (but without, as a lot of TV these days ends up doing, making the episode incomprehensible if you haven’t watched everything before it). Having an episode so light in tone come from that, too, also feels…real, emotionally? Like, even in the midst of a pretty serious political situation, people don’t just switch off at the end of their workday; they still have problems and relationships and things that need to get done at home.
Apparently this is one of Armin Shimerman’s favorite episodes, too, because even as it’s pretty light and comedic, it also lets Quark be heroic. Coming so soon after “The Jem’Hadar”, it’s just a bit more in the way of development for the character. It also reinforces my opinion that Quark is nowhere near as much of a traditional Ferengi as he pretends he is, perhaps even believes he is — the Ferengi thing to do, as he and Rom both make clear, would’ve been to run when he had the chance and leave Grilka to her fate. Never mind how striking it is, given the treatment of women in Ferengi society, that he truly seems to appreciate the injustice of Grilka’s situation, and does everything he can — is even, in the end, prepared to die — in order to help her.
Also, as much as I love Natima Lang, I do friggin’ adore Quark and Grilka. Shimerman and Mary Kay Adams are just fantastic together. The moment when she says, appalled, that “D’Ghor has been plotting and scheming like a F — ” and actually catches herself before she can say “Ferengi” in front of Quark is just…a really nice touch, for instance? I like that both of them end up trusting and caring about one another, and even liking one another, in spite of all their own best efforts.
I also like the little “grass is always greener” touch of having Quark, at the beginning, tell Rom that his newfound popularity is about more than money, “it’s about respect…I’m not just some venal Ferengi trying to take their money”, then, at the end, when Rom points out that he has respect now, like he wanted, Quark grumbles that “respect is good, but latinum is better”. Oh, Quark, you friggin’ mess.
The lighter side of Klingons
I’ve been rewatching a lot of TNG lately, as well, in preparation for Picard next month, so one thing I noticed in rewatching this episode was how much the High Council scenes were echoing “Sins of the Father”, and how much this episode felt in some ways like an affectionate send-up of TNG’s Klingon Drama in general, and that episode in particular. According to Ron Moore, this is precisely what they were going for with it, so well done!
In fact, one of my notes is that it makes the Klingons feel more like people than a lot of previous Trek. DS9 in general lets the Klingons…loosen up a bit, maybe? Worf, who can be really fucking funny with the right writers, is the most obvious example, but in general, I feel like we start to get a lot more variety from the Klingons than previously, and like there’s been a realization that everything with Klingons doesn’t always have to be 100% serious all the time.
(Well, I mean. From our point of view, anyway. A huge part of the potential fun of Klingons is that they are incapable of not being extra about anything ever.)
Like — throughout the High Council scenes, Gowron’s general attitude seems to alternate between “what the actual fuck is happening” and “I made a huge mistake taking this job”, and it’s hilarious. Also relatable as hell, because good lord, can you imagine having to be in charge of the Klingons?
More conventional marriage challenges
As I mentioned early on, when she first set up the school, while I have some issues with how they solved the problem, the underlying issue Keiko and Miles were having — they moved from the Starfleet flagship to a barely-functional Cardassian station at a distant border of Federation space for the sake of one person’s career, and the other person is now at loose ends — was a wonderfully realistic one. I’ve noted before that the O’Briens’ marriage has some moments that feel very true to me, although the writers don’t always (or, arguably, often) pull off the execution. The school was a good example of both, in that, while the basic issue struck me as very real, it just seemed weird that the solution was to have her become a teacher, since that’s…not really something you just pick up as a hobby. Having her take a job on Bajor makes a lot more sense to me.
…except for the part where O’Brien helpfully tells her she can take Molly with her. Like…sure, thanks, buddy, dragging our toddler along on a field expedition to a previously-unexplored part of Bajor is a great idea??? I mean, given that it’s Station On Fire Trash Can, I suppose a remote part of Bajor might actually be a safer place for a kid to live than DS9 — and it’s an interesting, if probably unintentional, underlining of the fact that people don’t feel safe having their families on the station currently — but come on.
Honestly, though, an arboretum on DS9 doesn’t seem like an unreasonable way for Keiko to actually start working again? I don’t really see how it’s a misguided/slightly patronizing gesture that won’t solve the underlying problem, as Julian suggests. I mean, Miles actually designing the whole thing for her, yeah, that seems a bit silly, since she would know what the facility needed better than him, but she’d be doing essentially the same thing she was on the Enterprise, right? She was typically working in the ship’s arboretum, not going on a lot of away missions. While Julian’s advice isn’t bad in general, it just seems a bit unnecessary in this specific situation.
(Interestingly, I recently found, among my mother’s collection of Star Trek stuff, the early DS9 writers’ bible, which indicated that Keiko was initially supposed to show up now and then as part of the science team, working with Dax to figure out various Weird Alien Things or going on expeditions into the Gamma Quadrant with her, which would have been really cool.)
Apparently the main reason they gave her a job off the station was that they wanted to develop the O’Brien-Bashir friendship more, and…I guess Keiko didn’t let Miles have friends? I mean, I kind of get it, that without being able to go home at the end of the day and spend time with his family, Miles might end up doing more socializing in general, but it’s just kind of weird that they didn’t think they could do both. But, then, if they had kept Keiko on the station and just had Miles and Julian hanging out all the time anyway, I might be annoyed that he never seemed to go home and see his family, so who knows.
A few other notes
- Miles seems to have bought another blue shirt since the last one got destroyed in “Tribunal”! Excellent choice, Miles; as I said at the time, it’s very flattering. (I choose to believe Garak insisted on making him a new one as a low-key “heard u were on the recieving end of some bullshit from my people” gift.)
- Julian shows a shocking amount of insight in talking with Miles! Which…I get that they were trying to develop the friendship between them a bit more, but that amount of insight would have made much more sense from Jadzia, or maybe Sisko.
- On that note, Sisko having to kick Kira out of his office because Miles wants to talk to him one-on-one was a delight.
- Starfleet Medical’s stretchers seem extremely bulky and inconvenient. This struck me during my recent TNG rewatch, and seeing one in this episode I thought of it again.
- Odo face when Rom backs up Quark’s story is absolute perfection.
- Even in the midst of their problems, the O’Briens remain charmingly horny for one another.
- Quark, for Grilka, pretty much from the beginning.
- Grilka, a little, for Quark, in spite of her own best efforts.
- Julian, for not minding his own business.
- Kira, for same, albeit to a lesser extent than Julian.
One thought on “3.03: “The House of Quark””
It was an interesting choice to put this episode – which is basically light comic opera – after the full up onslaught of “The Search.” It works. The menace of the Dominion lingers in the background and is reflected in unexpected, but totally logical, ways. I’d actually completely forgotten the b-plot of this episode and how it originated with the Dominion threat, and on this watch the story really resonated with me. It’s an unusual thing for Trek to pause and focus on the day-to-day melancholy that can afflict someone you love and to study how that feelign impacts one of the main characters. I really sympathized with O’Brien, doing what an engineer does – trying to create a solution to a problem with the resources he has available to him, not landing it, trying again. The ultimate answer seemed kind of unsatisfying, though; it really came out of nowhere and it strains credulity that O’Brien would have stumbled across this expedition with the perfect role for Keiko and Keiko knew nothing about it. (I was also ready to pick on the very easy “you can take Molly with you” solution, but maybe as a family-oriented civilization the Bajorans are probably better at integrating child care with work than, say, the human race.) It would have felt more realistic if Keiko herself had discovered this opportunity. As with most of the B-plots on the show thus far I am left with the sense that they would have worked better if stretched out over several episodes; this one ultimately felt like they knew they had to invent a plot contrivance to move Keiko out of the narrative, and they didn’t want to spend more than one episode doing it. (You could argue I guess that the Keiko-as-schoolteacher story arc actually did stretch across lots of seasons 1 and 2 and this is how it ended.)
The A-plot is just a delight… combining the Klingons and the Ferengi in a way that showcases how Ferengi techniques can work in a Klingon context was inspired. Robert O’Reilly’s performance as Gowron was hilarious. I think they occasionally used him for marginal humor in TNG as the most over the top of a wide range of over the top Klingons, but he goes for broke here and it works really well. Grilka and Quark were an amazing pair; the actors play off one another perfectly, and the whole thing is just wonderful, like a refreshing ’50s comedy that’s unexpectedly culturally sensitive and not sexist.
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