RETROSPECULATIVE TV: Quark: “The Good, The Bad, and the Ficus” (Episode 4)

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Quark’s groove continues, and what’s working is pretty easy to define: They’re making fun of Star Trek. Last time out they ripped off “The Deadly Years,” and this time out they’re ripping off (And conflating) “Mirror Mirror” and “The Enemy Within.”

We start off with Quark walking into the control room, discussing fear of commitment with Dink, the little Cousin Itt-wannabe. The running gag here seems to be that the little guy has problems with the ladies. Palindrome is doing his standard episode opening meet-and-greet with starship commanders, both of whom are well-known heroes this time out.
“What do you do, Quark?”
“Well, mostly I read about you guys.”
They’re openly dismissive of him, probably with good reason. They’re sent off to do heroic things, and Quark is simply told “Garbage” and sent on his way. Benjamin actually has some people to play off in this scene, and he gets in a good couple of self-deprecating moments, and a neat funny bit where he’s goaded into telling one of his ‘interesting’ stories.

While en rout to pick up space baggies, the ship get sucked into a black hole, and - shades of the “Journey to Where” episode of Space: 1999, we see the ship clone itself via cheesy post-production effect. Gene/Jean once again attempts to take command of the ship as Quark is incompetent, but Quark just kind of dismissively blows him off as if this kind of thing happens every day, which it almost unquestionably does. Once out, everyone rejoices that they’ve survived.

The ship comes up on a United Galaxy starship to collect its space baggie, but rather than collect it, they fire their guns (Garbage scows have guns? I realize this isn’t the first time we’ve seen ‘em, but still…I mean, the Serenity didn’t even have guns, and that was a pirate ship fer gosh sakes!) and destroy the battleship entirely. (What? I know it’s a sitcom, but: what?) Dink wakes Palindrome up in the middle of the night to inform him Quark has snapped and is on a killing spree.

Admiral Flint (Character actor Geoffrey Lewis) shows up and demands the entire fleet pursue and destroy Quark, though Palindrome mentions that this doesn’t seem like Quark’s style: “He doesn’t have that much imagination.” Meanwhile, the scow takes out another battleship, and Palindrome orders Quark back to the station.

It quickly turns out that “The Dark Half” of Quark and his crew have taken form and are running amok in the galaxy, blowing things up willy-nilly and - more importantly - not picking up trash! Palindrome explains - accidentally - that the entire fleet is trying to kill Quark, and Quark attempts to explain that he’s in a battle with his dark half, which Palindrome more-or-less attempts takes this to mean he’s having psychological trouble. Quark blackmails Palindrome to defend him to Admiral Flint, which he does half-heartedly.

Quark’s crew were doppelgangered as well: The Evil Betties are boorish skanks, Andy is mean and insulting (And presumably brave), Gene/Jean is pretty much exactly the same jackass he always is, and of course Ficus is exactly the same. As both of him are quick to point out, “There are no good or evil plants, there are simply plants.” Evil Gene/Jean suggests chopping him up into a salad.

Anyway, Quark and Quark II: Armed and Fabulous agree to beam down to a desert and settle their differences with a frank and honest discussion of the facts, but Quark II immediately attempts to kill good Quark, thus setting up the best line of the episode:
Quark: “That’s not fair! I came here to talk! I’m unarmed!”
Evil Quark: “Ok, you’ve got a choice, then. Which will it be? A knife or a Gammagun?” [Pulls out weapons.]
Quark: “Ok, thank you. I chose the Gammagun.”
Evil Quark: “Excellent choice! I agree!” [Throws away knife and starts shooting at Good Quark]

So they duke it out in typical Shatnerian fashion, with some funny one liners:
Quark: “You’re the one who got me in trouble for writing all those rude words on the walls in school!”
Evil Quark: “You didn’t even know how they were spelled!”
Meanwhile, the fleet reports that there are *two* garbage scows, so they hold off attacking (Though Flint really wants to kill something!) until the situation resolves itself.

Quark wins the fistfight for no adequately explained reason, then has both of them transported aboard the Evil Garbage Scow, which Quark disables. The Evil Crew and their ship are towed back to the black hole and dumped in, though as they fall Evil Quark says he’ll be back.

Back on Perma One, Dink hits on the Bettys, who tell him they’re committed. Palindrome tells Quark that his crew’s a bunch of freaks, and he personally would have dumped the whole batch of ‘em into the black hole permanently. Quark says, “Yeah, but they’re mine.”

The End.

Oh, and as a running gag with no real payoff, Ficus has a gauge in his ear through the whole episode. Whenever he starts to explain what it’s for, they keep getting interrupted. When he finally reveals it (It’s to keep his moisture level from going down and causing his legs and lower torso to turn brown), it’s totally not worth all the buildup.

So: not as good as the previous episode, but certainly better than the first two.

The episode mostly manages to avoid costly split-screens by generally having the good and evil crews interact over the video-phone. They really did nothing to differentiate the good and evil crews visually. This is obviously a budgetary problem (But really, how much could it cost to slap some fake beards or a pirate scar on the evil ones? A Goatee on Evil Andy would have been a scream!), but what’s weird is that they debut a new uniform for (good) Quark and yet another new revealing costume for the Bettys. Why not have the good crew dress the way they always do, and have the evil crew wearing the new duds? Evidently they hadn’t thought that far ahead.

Likewise, both Gene/Jeans have the same personality, while the evil one is (Slightly) more aggressive. Since the Gene we normally see is mostly masculine, it might have been funnier if the Evil one was mostly female.

Admiral Flint is rather one-note, the bloodthirsty warrior, yawn. There was one understated gag that cracked me up: He’s got a different logo on his uniform than everyone else in the show: His is a nuclear mushroom cloud.

No real bickering between Palindrome and The Head, though once again we get a strong implication that The Head is just that: a disembodied head:

Palindrome: “Sorry to bother you, sir. Were you thinking?”
The Head: “What else can I do, Palindrome? I’m not very athletic.”

This episode is rather choppy. Several scenes seem to cut in the middle of a line, or jump into a scene partway through a line. It seemed obvious that there were several scenes missing, though obviously pretty minor ones, like a trim for running time or whatever. At first I just attributed it to slapdash 1970s “We really don’t care” editing, but there’s this scene where Quark is just about strangle Ficus, and suddenly he’s facing the other way, arguing with Gene/Jean. I’m taking this to mean that the negatives or master tapes or whatever were damaged, and those bits were either lost or too degraded to be used.

Neither here nor there, but I may have been wrong last time when I said I watched “The Old and the Beautiful” at my friend Mike Brooks’ house. While I do remember that vaguely, I distinctly remember watching this one, spending the night, and watching “The Deadliest Game” episode of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea the next day, after our cartoons were over. As that’s a pretty specific memory, I can only assume the other one was a hallucination, or else I was over at Mike’s house more than I remembered.

In any event, I also distinctly remember this episode being re-run at least once, because I watched it on my parents TV and took pictures of the screen with my crappy little Kodak 110 (Remember those?). My folks said they wouldn’t come out and I was wasting film, but they were wrong, and I had pictures of the Black Hole for years afterwards. Eventually I lost ‘em, however, so, I guess, ultimately they were right. I guess. Sigh.

Oh: here’s an example of how cheap this show is: We see the same scene of the battleship blowing up twice. It’s stock footage of the baggie pickup from the pilot, but with an explosion superimposed atop it. When the Evil Bettys fire guns, the shots we see of their fingers on the triggers are the same shots of the Good Bettys firing at the Gorgons from the previous episode.