4.08: “Little Green Men”

Synopsis: Quark, Rom, and Nog’s trip to Earth goes awry when they end up in the year 1947.

This is apparently widely considered one of the top 10 episodes of the show, which is…a little surprising to me? That’s not to say I don’t like it — it’s a fun story, the performances are great, and it zips along at a great clip! It’s a great episode, I just don’t know that I’d consider it one of the best; even just among the Ferengi episodes, there are some I’d put above it, like “Profit and Loss“, “Bar Association”, and “House of Quark” above it.

(The incessant sexualization of Nurse Garland may also have something to do with my not quite seeing what the fuss is about. Like, from Quark, it made sense, but when Rom and Nog joined in as well, it was just…tiring.)

This is intended as sort of an homage to 50s B-movies, but also, to a lesser extent, the Original Series; in my notes for this episode, I had written that the music for it was “extremely TOS”. While the B-movie angle doesn’t really hit any nostalgia buttons for me personally, though, I admit that the Roswell one does; I had a bit of a childhood obsession with Roswell, and at the time this aired, with the fiftieth anniversary approaching, Roswell was having something of a Moment in pop culture. DS9 doing its own spin on that was fun, and it’s still fun for me now.

(Even more fun is that, rewatching, I’ve come to appreciate even more just how much one of Futurama‘s best episodes, “Roswell That Ends Well”, is itself an homage to this one. With a bonus nod to TNG’s “Time’s Arrow” at the end.)

A nice Rom moment

I really enjoyed this exchange:

Quark: When did you get to be so smart?
Rom: I’ve always been smart, brother. I’ve just lacked self-confidence.

I’ve noted before that something I enjoy is how, while it’s not really made much of explicitly in the show, it’s also very clear that there’s a straight line between Nog’s desire to join Starfleet and Rom’s growing confidence and willingness to stand up for himself to Quark. Probably the best single example of this, “Bar Association”, is still a few episodes ahead, but we’ve seen it already, starting with “Heart of Stone“. Nog directly states in that one that his motivation for joining Starfleet is that he’s realized that he “doesn’t have the lobes”, that he’s never going to be a success by Ferengi standards — but Nog, who has a human best friend, who’s attended a school with a Federation curriculum, and who’s spent the last few years of his teens among Bajorans and Federation citizens, has realized that Ferengi standards aren’t the only standards, that he still has “something to offer”. Rom, too, doesn’t have much in the way of business sense, but having spent far more of his life among Ferengi (even after reaching adulthood, he remained on Ferenginar with his parents), it’s not until he sees his son taking a wider view of the galaxy and his own worth that he really thinks of doing the same for himself.

Also, Nog standing up for Rom to Quark was really sweet. As was the moment when the humans walked in, and Rom still sort of hides behind Quark — like Quark resignedly paying for Rom’s seat in “Family Business“, it was a fairly subtle moment that manages to say a lot about their dynamic.

(As I’ve noted before, this also makes it all the more annoying to me that for the most part, we don’t get nearly the amount of development for female recurring characters as we do for male ones, at least outside of their romantic relationships — Winn is the main exception here, and I really appreciate that even in the endgame arc there’s still a fair bit of push and pull between her and Dukat, and it’s clear that each of them views themselves as the central character in the drama, and the other as a supporting player. Interestingly, this was also just discussed during a couple of the panels at the Virtual Trek Con this week, with Ira Steven Behr expressing some regret about not having more women writing — I don’t really have much patience for his “it was a different time” excuse, since TNG managed it, but I appreciate that he at least recognizes that it was an issue — and Nana Visitor saying she wished there had been more development of Kira’s relationships with other women, Keiko in particular.)

A brief detour to talk about Worf

The scenes at the beginning were generally fun — Jake and Nog saying their goodbyes in particular was a lovely touch. Worf’s interaction with O’Brien was interesting, as well — his grumbling that Sisko very strongly hinted that he should attend in particular. This time through the show, I’ve been trying to pay a little more attention to the ways that they’ve been setting up Worf’s arc as an echo of Sisko’s, and the ways that Sisko is attempting to mentor Worf as he settles into a command post. (On that note, Sisko watching, amused, in the background during the tooth-sharpener bit was a fun touch.)

The Worf-O’Brien interactions have been good for this as well; as I noted previously, it makes sense that right now, when Worf is feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the changes in his life, he’d gravitate toward O’Brien, someone he knew from the Enterprise. The two of them weren’t particularly close there, so it’s cool to see them having drinks and talking about work now and then on DS9.

(Although Worf and Keiko are arguably closer than Worf and Miles, given that he helped deliver Molly, and now I’m imagining a Worf-Keiko friendship and the two of them having breakfast and chatting now and then, and gosh, that would have been a lot of fun.)

Also, Nog’s disapproving “Uncle, I hope you’re not thinking of doing anything that would disrupt the timeline” was a delight, and made me realize that he is really kind of a square, at least relative to other Ferengi, which is another little similarity to Worf.

Other notes

  • At the end, I irritably yelled “YOU HAVE NO EVIDENCE” at the TV at the same time that Quark said the same thing to Odo, which was fun. Well, almost the same thing; I might have prefaced it with a “FUCK OFF, ODO”. (On that note, I’d like to take this opportunity to link to a great feature on StarTrek.com, “How Should We View 24th Century Law Enforcement?“, which examines Odo in the context of the current protests against police brutality and systemic racism in the United States.)
  • The reference to “Past Tense” was fun, and I would really love to know what Sisko’s visit from Temporal Investigations looked like after that episode.
  • Honestly, this seems like a really elaborate — and expensive — way for Gaila to kill Quark.
  • I was a little surprised by how genuinely jarring all the smoking was to me now. That was what they were going for, however, so mission accomplished! A couple of the writers have noted that they might’ve gone a little overboard with it; it did get to be maybe a little over-the-top, but honestly, that’s also Star Trek, so I thought it worked.

Horniness rankings

  1. JUST LEAVE NURSE GARLAND ALONE, EVERYONE >:(
  2. Jadzia buying Julian porn was GREAT.
  3. Honestly, Sisko and Kira’s whole “no one warned Earth they were coming” interaction seemed…sort of horny? Pretty flirty, at the very least.

3 thoughts on “4.08: “Little Green Men”

  1. So one of my beefs with DS9 is that the writers are SUPER into mid-20th century pop culture, but revel in using it as an excuse to objectify women. You’ve got this episode, “Our Man Bashir”, big chunks of the Vic Fontaine episodes…

    (Voyager does it a little with the Captain Proton episodes, but is more self-aware and less sleazy about it.)

    And as for ISB’s “it was a different time” — DS9 did have female writers. It’s just that they only stayed for an episode or two, and then moved over to Voyager. Maybe he should be considering why that was.

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  2. Top 10 episode? No. Maybe in the top 10 of Ferengi episodes, although for me that’s a low bar. I do like when they use Quark/the Ferengi as a mirror for the most disgusting excesses of humanity, and it works well here. His immediate dismissal of the possibility that nuclear fission could occur within a planet’s atmosphere (and horror when Nog tells him yes that’s a thing) is wonderful.

    Also: “Doesn’t he look exactly like Captain Sisko?” “All humans look alike.” Ouch.

    The episode’s direction seemed slightly innovative. The gag with the universal translator was silly, but did present an interesting perspective when it showed us what human English sounds like to Ferengi – amplified, probably because their ears are so large.

    I had forgotten that the setup for this episode was Nog’s departure from the station for Earth and Starfleet Academy, which was handled really well. One of the series’ most effective character evolutions is well on its way.

    The “period” sexism, smoking, and so on is … well, I get that they were mostly going for shock value, I just think that doesn’t really carry for the length of an episode. A few years ago I watched the first 1 or 2 seasons of “Mad Men” on the recommendation of a friend and had the same reaction – every episode felt like they were showcasing “terrible shit we did in the 1960s” as a performative horror/shock of “terrible shit we did in the 1960s”. I didn’t really keep up with the show, mainly for that reason.

    I did find Charles Napier’s General Denning to be kind of a delight, if only because they did a great job of lampooning the general officer character in a hundred Cold War movies that I’ve seen. Knocked over in a fight scene, he stands up and still has his cigar in his mouth, and it’s still lit.

    Mostly forgettable, but entertaining.

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