Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Deep Space Nine 4x16 "Bar Association"

rating: ***

the story: Rom finally has enough of Quark's constant lack of respect, and finally strikes out in his own direction.

what it's all about: This is one of those crucial turning points of the series that could very easily be lost in the shuffle of the huge Dominion War arc that, as I've said before, tends to encapsulate the whole perception of Deep Space Nine at its best.  But that couldn't be true if the characters in the story didn't matter, and because of that, episodes like "Bar Association" really are important, too.

The revolution of Ferengi society is ultimately an arc that revolves around Rom, who never managed to be as successful as his brother Quark.  By the end of the series, after Rom and Quark's mother Ishka had convinced Grand Nagus (read; Ferengi leader) Zek to enact radical reform, it's Rom who's named Zek's successor.

The odd thing about "Bar Association," and Rom's ultimate fate, is that he's a great supporting character, and easy to root for, especially the more he became his own man (it's crazy to think in hindsight that Max Grodenchik changed how he voiced the character along the way), the more he made Quark look bad in comparison.  No, not because Quark stubbornly clung to the traditional ways of his people, but because it robbed him of an opportunity to grow, too, the one character who was denied a conclusive arc in the series.  But it also gives Quark a unique role in the series, as the unlikeliest champion of the status quo in a Star Trek series that dared defy it, in a way even the original series never did, much as it mirrored the struggles of the countercultural revolution of the '60s.

But it's odd within this episode, too, because up to this point, Quark and Rom had always been inextricably linked, with Quark being the one who would subtly learn a thing or two about why things working as they typically do maybe isn't such a good thing.  And while this would continue ("Business as Usual" is easily the most effective of his later spotlights), having him effectively exist in a vacuum also deprived Quark of that essential suggestion that he wasn't as bad as he seemed, if Rom was willing to stick by him.

Still, Rom's defining spotlight is a triumph, right up to the point he joins his son Nog in finally casting off any notion of following Ferengi norms, quitting the bar and joining O'Brien's engineering team. 

We also have Worf reflecting on the chaos of the series, for the first time really seeming like what's going on around him actually matters to him.  "Bar Association" is as much a reflection of what the series once was and what it was to become.  Quark having to defend his business practices was one of the original defining elements of the series, one that survived every creative revision, and this episode proves its enduring appeal.

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - While there's a certain universal appeal to the story, it may resonate best with fans of this particular series.
  • series - It really shouldn't be too hard to see how relevant it is to Deep Space Nine.
  • character - Rom's definitive spotlight.
  • essential - Reflects on the past and present of the series.
notable guest-stars:
Max Grodenchik (Rom)
Jeffrey Combs (Brunt)
Chase Masterson (Leeta)

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