Thursday, November 10, 2016

Deep Space Nine 3x3 "The House of Quark"

rating: ****

the story: After Quark accidentally kills a Klingon patron at his bar, he is forced to settle matters for the dead warrior's family.

what it's all about: As the MVP, the most consistent presence, the glue of the second season, Quark could hardly have expected to follow that up with something so awesome the next season, but here it is, arguably the best Quark episode to this point in the series.  It's all about those pesky unexpected contrasts that the character was built to represent, not just against Starfleet norms, which of course he had in spades, but against Klingons norms, which are so obvious it almost seems unnecessary to dedicate a whole episode to exploring them.  Yet the results are brilliant.

After "Blood Oath" last season, it hardly seemed likely there'd be much cause for another Klingon episode in this series (the call to introduce Worf into the fourth season hadn't been made yet), and since Next Generation had already done the iconic aliens so well it probably seemed downright unnecessary.  And yet, "House of Quark" stands right up there with the best of Next Generation's efforts as one of the best Klingon episodes ever, one that revisits the matter of honor and rival clans previously mined in "Sins of the Father" in such a unique way that it hardly seems possible to work so well, especially since even fans of Deep Space Nine still tended to groan about "Ferengi episodes."  Which not only does a disservice both to one of the best continuing threads of the series, but the incredibly rich and diverse storytelling it represented, a direct reflection of the series itself.

All of which means, "House of Quark" is a lot of fun.  Seeing Quark get into trouble is always fun, because he's one of the cockiest characters in Star Trek and so it's always interesting to see him thrown for a loop.  Yet he recovers brilliantly, and never sacrifices his scruples, and still comes out looking better than he has any right to, coming up with one clever solution after another to the mounting series of complications from the premise roughly outlined above, not the least of which is another unlikely romance, which works better here than in the previous "Profit and Loss," which may in the end have tried too hard to subvert character expectations.  There are no such problems here, and the season is just getting started with Quark!

The B-story involves Keiko's continuing troubles in fitting in at the station.  She was never comfortable with O'Brien's assignment there, feeling every bit as isolated as Sisko did.  It was only fitting, then, that she take Sisko's place, now that the new season had finally helped him feel at home.  This was always a difficult and courageous thing for the series to explore, Keiko's discontent, because there was always the risk of her being dismissed as a nagging shrew, and yet instead just the opposite happens: she ends up joining the proud Deep Space Nine tradition of strong women.  As a character who first appeared in Next Generation, which tended to keep women in supporting, nurturing roles, Keiko's development in Deep Space Nine was a crucial sign that it really was a bold new era for the franchise, and this is yet another thing the third season took great strides at correcting.

(Those looking for parallels with later developments would note the synergy of the two stories, as Quark helps a woman claim head of household, which is something he'll struggle with later when it comes to his mother...)

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - Fans of Klingon episodes in general shouldn't miss this one.
  • series - Fans of Ferengi episodes shouldn't, either.
  • character - Nor fans of Quark, nor of Keiko.
  • essential - Just go ahead and watch it already!
notable guest-stars:
Rosalind Chao (Keiko)
Max Grodenchik (Rom)
Robert O'Reilly (Gowron)
Mary Kay Adams

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