Thursday, December 15, 2016

Deep Space Nine 3x23 "Family Business"

rating: ***

the story: Quark and Rom have an uneasy reunion with their mother while Jake sets his father up with freighter captain Kasidy Yates.

what it's all about: The lead story of "Family Business" is kind of a sequel to "House of Quark early in the season, hilariously reversed, in which Quark realizes all that revolution he brought to a Klingon's house has no place in his own...!

But this is one of the most important episodes of the season, introducing three important new characters to the series: Ishka (Quark's mother), Brunt (the Ferengi toad who becomes Jeffrey Combs' first recurring character of the series), and Kasidy Yates (who would eventually marry Sisko and thus give the widower the permanent grounding he'd been headed toward since the season premiere).

Ishka is a hoot, every bit the force of nature you'd expect behind such an ambitious troublemaker like Quark, who could conceivably also have given birth to Rom, who seems to contradict everything about his brother.  The big knock on the Ferengi is that they seemed to be such obvious parodies of capitalism, once Deep Space Nine had sold (heh) its revision of the Next Generation failures originally intended to be straight-up villains.  The term "Ferengi episode" became an epitaph in Deep Space Nine for instant duds, which to my mind was ridiculous, because they were always some of the best material, epitomized by "Family Business." 

At this early juncture, Ishka already presented herself as an iconoclast destined to revolutionize Ferengi society, a feminist who wouldn't sit still for her culture's sexist attitudes.  If you think that comes off as too in-your-face (as an allegory, it's actually almost too in-continuity to be embraced by general viewers; which the later "Profit in Lace" seeks to remedy in the most obvious terms possible, which alienated Star Trek fans so much it became lambasted as one of the worst episodes ever; clearly this was a very tricky subject even for theoretical progressive folk like these twenty years ago), just wait to see some of the best interactions between Quark and Rom of the series, a callback to their second-season-stealing glory days.

Brunt may not be Weyoun (the Vorta toad as opposed to the Ferengi toad Combs portrayed multiple times), but e helps ground the insanity of Quark's family without making it too serious; you never really expect his petty functionary to be anything other than a roadblock (though later appearances would surely challenge that).  But it's clear Combs had instantly become a beloved presence in the series after having found a character that truly suited him (his previous appearance as a one-off character this season was more off-putting than anything, through no fault of his own), only to quickly find another.  And eventually, he would find a third recurring character in Enterprise's Shran to solidify his place as one of the all-time most compelling recurring actors of the franchise.

Penny Johnson's Kasidy Yates, though, brings the greatest impact.  Following "Explorers," the father-son team of Benjamin and Jake Sisko were on a roll, and given how strongly the season had focused on Sisko, it was high time to find him a replacement for the dead wife who'd haunted him at the beginning of the series, and the lively Yates was exactly the unlikely candidate, who immediately connected with the baseball-obsessed Sisko when it's learned her brother actively plays the ancient Earth game (in Star Trek lore, baseball actually ended sometime in the early 21st century, presumably in the run-up to WWIII). 

It's hard to imagine all this working let alone fitting into a single episode, but it all does!

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - For series fans only.
  • series - But they'll love it!
  • character - Three important new characters!
  • essential - Did I mention "important"?
notable guest-stars:
Penny Johnson (Yates)
Max Grodenchik (Rom)
Andrea Martin (Ishka)
Jeffrey Combs (Brunt)

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