RETROSPECULATIVE TV: Quark: “All The Emperor‘s Quasi-Norms, Part 1” (Episode 6)

Republibot 3.0
Republibot 3.0's picture

Remember how I said that Quark’s purpose in 1978 was to make fun of (Or rip off) whatever Star Trek had been doing in 1968? Well, as limiting as that was, it worked for them. You’re unwise not to go with what works. Unfortunately they got a little more ambitious this time out and, well, ambition and status quo are not friends, you know? The results are mixed at best.

First departure from form: We don’t get a Perma One scene with Palindrome giving assignments to three commanders. This time out, the scow is already out in space. Palindrome calls up to grouse about his career woes: He sent a ship off on a mission in the wrong direction, and it’s been going for seven years. He bought millions of helmets for an alien race, and they were the wrong kind (“I forgot Romulans have noses on the backs of their heads”). He’s in dutch with The Head.

Quark’s assignment is to head to the Starship Velcro (Dunno why, but I laughed at that), who’ve made a 27-year trek to the Milky Way as a show of friendship and peace. Quark thinks he’s going to be a good will ambassador, but, no, the Velcro is just really packed with trash after such a long haul. En rout, they come across a huge starship which won’t answer their hails. Quark gives chase and attempts to interrupt their course, until Ficus rattles off an impressive list of weapons and shields the unidentified vessel has on it, and concludes, “Commander, we couldn’t interrupt a small dinner party on that ship.”

During the chase, we finally get some new special effects - they’re really cheap. The ship is the same one we see briefly in the opening credits, but shot through a red filter for some reason. Then we get a stock shot from “May the Source Be With You” of the Scow being pulled into the Gorgon Death Star from that episode. We’re not supposed to notice that this ship isn’t the Gorgon Death Star, I guess.

It is a Gorgon ship, however. It’s a pirate ship under the command of Zorgon the Malevolent, total psychopath and brother-in-law to The high Gorgon (Who, you’ll recall, was played by Felix Silva in “May The Source Be With You”). Zorgon is played by the late, great, and in this case conspicuously overweight, Ross Martin. Quark attempts to negotiate his people’s release, but then Gene/Jean starts yammering about busting heads and ripping off kneecaps, then switching into female mode and yammering about how well she does in groups. “That one confuses me. Kill him.” Zorgon says. Meanwhile, Zorgon’s daughter, “Princess Libido” (A pre-Knotts Landing, pre-tragic plastic surgery Joan Van Ark) has taken a shine to Ficus, and begs to have them spared. They’re all thrown in the brig (Which appears to be a bank vault set from some other show) excepting Quark, who is inexplicably kept in Zorgon’s throne room to enjoy a private concert.

Following Libido’s virtuosic awfulness on her instrument (A kind of cross between a Theremin, a Casio VL tone keyboard, and a lot of plexiglass beakers with bubbling colored water and dry ice in ‘em - Very Space: 1999), she leaves and Quark and Zorgon the Gorgon chat about how much Zorgon likes Quark, and how unkind the things he hears about himself are.

“They say that I’m entirely too preoccupied with torture and murder, that I lay waste to entire planets when the mood strikes me, that I wipe out entire civilizations at the touch of a button.”
“Is it true?”
“Oh, yes!”

Just the same, Zorgon seems to genuinely like Quark (Though he’s clearly a little bit off his nut, and lonely, so very lonely…) and then abruptly demands Quark tell him where “It” is. No one’s mentioned “It” up until now, and Quark has no idea what Zorgon’s talking about, but then the pirate starts the old Steve Reeves Hercules bit Star Wars already ripped off - the squishing walls - and Quark claims randomly that “It” is on a specific asteroid. Zorgon is instantly as happy as an overweight immigrant clam born in Gdansk, Poland, and spares the crews' lives, then throws Quark in the bring/vault/clothes press too.

Gene/Jean actually does something useful for once: figuring a way to use Andy’s power supply to blast the door open. They all escape, but Quark immediately gets in a fight with a Gorgon guard played by Susan Backlinie (Best known as the skinny dipping chick who gets eaten at the beginning of Jaws) who somehow doesn’t look very good here. I dunno, I don’t get it either.

Anyway, Gene/Jean and Andy escape, but the others are thrown back in the vault. The Bettys conclude that Princess Libido is in love with Ficus, so they decide to use that to their advantage, and after some slapstick (They’re chained together), Quark makes out with one of the Bettys while Ficus attempts to follow along with the other one, since he’s never really done this before.
Quark: “First she’ll start saying your name a lot, then her eyes will close a bit, then she’ll start breathing really irregularly” Betty acts all this out, grinding up on Quark, and you know, for the first time in thirty-odd years, the Barnstable twins raised my pulse a bit. Just a bit, but still. “When this happens, you need to ask the princess for a gun.”
Ficus: “When that happens, shouldn’t I call a doctor?”
Quark: “No! This is how we animals love.”
Betty: “And don’t forget to bring her flowers!”
Ficus: “That would be a sin!”
Quark: “What?”
Ficus: “As a vegeton, flowers are our blood brothers. If I were to pin a flower to her dress, it would be like if someone attempted to pin a lamb chop on to yours.”

Meanwhile, back on Perma One, Dink wants to discuss his emotional problems with Palindrome, but he’s not having any of it, so Dink just mentions that Quark has disappeared. No sooner does this happen than The Head calls Palindrome to say that the Good Will quark was supposed meet has told him that he is no longer filled with Good Will, but rather he is filled with Garbage. Palindrome explains Quark has disappeared, and The Head suspends Palindrome.

The tenuous plan back on the pirate ship is this: Ficus will seduce Princess Libido, who will then hide a gun for him in her father’s throne, which Quark will use to hold Zorgon captive and thereby win their freedom. The making out goes not terribly well. Libido is somehow quite libidinous over the fact that Ficus has no real personality whatsoever. “You’re the most nowhere man I’ve ever met!” She kisses him, but nothing comes of it. She attempts to make out, but he’s having none of it.
“This is where we’re going to have problems, you see on my homeworld, this is how we mate” Ficus lays down on the floor with his hands and arms held up in the air and starts chanting “Beebeebeebeebeebee.” “Can you do that?” Libido lays down next to him, and does the same thing.
“Was it good for you?”
“Evidently.”
“What comes next?”
“Now we wait for the bee.”

Ok, I totally busted a gut over that one!

Anyway, Zorgon comes in and we get a fairly standard “What the hell are you doing?” scene. Meanwhile, Gene/Jean and Andy have KOed a guy in a lab coat and are trying to make their way to the Scow when they get intercepted by another guy in a lab coat who mistakes them for scientists coming to brief them on the nature of “It.” They get hauled off to give a lecture, which Gene/Jean attempts to fake his way through. It goes not well.

As the pirate ship is landing, Quark makes a play for the gun, yanking a box out of the throne cushions. It’s a music box. Ficus failed. The squishy-walls go to work on the Bettys again, and Ficus is strapped to a table, about to be cut in half by a laser. Then a technician announces that the moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter has aligned with mars and “The constellation poo-poo is rising!” and some such nonsense, thereby proving that “It” really *is* on the asteroid!

To Be Continued…

OBSERVATIONS

Not a lot to say about this one. There’s no real subtlety here, nothing much to talk about that isn’t on the screen.

It’s not as tight and focused as the previous three episodes. Individual scenes are tighter, and the one-liners are generally funnier, but on the whole it doesn’t work as well as the last batch, and some of it feels like it’s built from leftover gags that might have fit pretty well in “May the Source be with You.” There is, once again, a concerted effort to give everyone something to do, but it all feels rather padded out and vague.

They’ve also written back in Quark’s voiceovers and the tedious mugging that goes along with that. Might as well have put a big “Wah-wah-wah-wahhhhhhh” trumpet riff on the soundtrack by all the gags.

There’s one really good bit when Gene/Jean goes all feminine at an inopportune moment, and Quark gets really flustered, “Don’t do this to me, Jean, I need…I really need your masculine half right now!” Andy’s cowardice is pretty funny. Gene/Jean actually does something useful and doesn’t attempt to usurp command. Palindrome is suspended without pay. There’s a lot of funny bits, we’ve got Ross Martin, a young, hot Joan van Ark, and the naked chick from Jaws, all that should be great, you know? Hell, you could base an entire sitcom around Ross Martin hanging out with Joan Van Ark and a young skinny-dipper, and that alone would be good for thirteen episodes…but here? Somehow? Nothing.

Something I’ve been meaning to mention for a while now is the use of profanity in this show: there really isn’t any. Much like Battlestar Galactica, they invented their own space-cussing. No one says “Oh my God!” Instead they say “Oh my Galaxy!” There’s one or two others, but my personal favorite is “Grott!” which people say in stressful situations: “Oh, Grott!” “Don’t curse, Andy!”

I like that one. I think we should all use “Grott” as a profanity from now on, in much the same way as we’ve all adopted “Frack.”

Tags: