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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Body Parts (Review)

This February and March (and a little bit of April), we’re taking a look at the 1995 to 1996 season of Star Trek, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. Check back daily for the latest review.

Like The Quickening before it, Body Parts offers another glimpse at the humanism at the heart of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Body Parts plays into the broader themes of the fourth season. Zack Handlen effectively and memorably described Deep Space Nine as “Star Trek’s version of the Island of Misfit Toys.” In a way, that has been true since Emissary; the episode where the series got a bitter widower who wasn’t even a proper captain and a chief engineer who used to manage a transporter room on the flagship. Characters like Odo and Garak were always outcasts, while it never felt like the crew operating the station could claim to be the franchise’s “best and brightest.”

"Look, we're all exhausted after the season that's been..."

“Look, we’re all exhausted after the season that’s been…”

However, the fourth season really emphasises this aspect of the series. Worf joins the cast in The Way of the Warrior, and is promptly cut off from his own people. In Sons of Mogh, Worf is quickly cut off from his own brother. Kira brings Tora Ziyal to the station in Return to Grace, and she reflects on her isolation in For the Cause. Odo’s estrangement from his own people will be properly formalised in Broken Link, when he is cast into a wilderness between human and changeling. Body Parts simply puts Quark through his version of this arc.

Body Parts is essentially a story about how Quark is no longer a proper Ferengi. He has been exposed to the values and ideals of the Federation, corrupted and changed through his time on Deep Space Nine. Although this winds up costing Quark a lot, the final scenes of Body Parts suggest that Quark has also benefited from his time on the station. Body Parts suggests that wandering out into the winder universe and exposing yourself to different cultures is inherently a good thing, even if it does generate tension.

Bearing the Brunt of his wrath...

Bearing the Brunt of his wrath…

The so-called “Ferengi” episodes of Deep Space Nine were among the more controversial and divisive episodes of the show’s seven-year run. Although clearly favoured by showrunner Ira Steven Behr, they tended to grate upon the patience of even the most hardcore Deep Space Nine fans. There were complaints about the subgenre among fans even while the show was on the air. Veteran reviewer Jamahl Epsicokhan would dread the arrival of “Yet Another Standard Ferengi Outing” once or twice a season, like clockwork.

It is certainly fair to say that many of the show’s weakest episodes were centred on the Ferengi, particularly in the later seasons. Given that the last three Ferengi-centric episodes were Profit and Lace, The Emperor’s New Cloak and The Dogs of War, it is easy to see why the entire subgenre has been dismissed. More to the point, it is not as if all of the earlier Ferengi episodes were particularly brilliant either. Prophet Motive ranks as one of the worst episodes of the first three seasons, and Deep Space Nine was hardly the most consistent of shows in that stretch.

Speak no evil...

Speak no evil…

Even the production staff seem to have acknowledged that the Ferengi episodes were among the more difficult and troublesome to produce. Hans Beimler is responsible for the script for Body Parts, and he concedes the challenge:

“I think the funny Ferengi shows weren’t very successful. We never really executed comedy well,” Beimler told the Star Trek Magazine (via TrekWeb). “I’m not sure where the responsibility for that lies. The Magnificent Ferengi was as close to successful as we ever did, but there were some other things that should have been funnier. There are some that have very funny moments in them like The Little Green Men but even then they never fulfilled the potential of the scripts. You might say that’s just writers laughing at their own jokes, but I don’t think it’s true. I think the scripts really were much funnier that the shows. I can’t quite tell you why.”

Beimler has a point. There are succesful funny Ferengi episodes – The Nagus, House of QuarkLittle Green Men, The Magnificent Ferengi – but these episodes generally work best when there is some dramatic weight to them.



Arguably, the strongest Ferengi episodes where those that found some drama and heart in them. During the third season, Family Business essentially used Quark to stage its own take on Eugene O’Neill’s A Long Day’s Journey into Night. Earlier in the fourth season, Bar Association offered an insightful look at the relationship between Quark and Rom filtered through union politics. There were comedy elements to these plots, but there was a solid dramatic logic underpinning it all; certainly more than Little Green Men or The Magnificent Ferengi.

The basic plot of Body Parts walks the line between comedy and tragedy. The plot is absurd, but absurd in a way that is very firmly tied to real issues of identity. Quark is told that he is going to die and sells his remains to the highest bidder, only to find himself in a bit of a quandary when it is revealed that he was misdiagnosed and he is not going to die. This puts Quark in the awkward position of having to either find a way to deliver his remains in six days or run the risk of breaking a legally-binding contract with another Ferengi.

Bidding him well...

Bidding him well…

There is something very contrived about all of this. Quark receives his terminal diagnosis during his “annual insurance physical” during his trip to Ferenginar. However, he never pauses to double-check the results. When he places his remains up for auction, he receives an offer so generous that he accepts it immediately rather than waiting until his actual death. Almost like clockwork, Bashir stops by the bar to mention to Quark that he has received word that the initial diagnosis was incorrect. “One of the most expensive doctors on Ferenginar” got it wrong.

This is a lot of set-up to reach the heart of the story, which essentially finds Quark in a position where he has to deliver his remains to Brunt or face the consequences of reneging on a deal with the FCA official. The logic is contrived, and far from airtight. In fact, Body Parts arguably has to spend a lot of time and effort getting to the point where Quark faces this dilemma. It is the sort of loose plotting that might work for a comedy episode like The Magnificent Ferengi or Who Mourns for Morn?, but it does stain Body Parts a great deal.

All by myself...

All by myself…

Nevertheless, once Body Parts manages to get to that point, it is a fairly solid drama about a character who finds himself torn between his life and his culture. Deep Space Nine is a show that seems to be populated by expatriates and exiles, characters who find themselves on this remote outpost because they simply have nowhere else to go. Odo was the one member of his kind until he was reunited with his people in The Search, Part I. However, his murder of a Founder in The Adversary aliened him. The Die is Cast made it clear Garak cannot go home. Worf is cut off.

Quark reflects on this during his early conversation with Rom. Even before Brunt strips Quark of his business license, Quark confesses to feeling a lack of validation from his own people. “I’m a joke on Ferenginar. Starfleet’s favourite bartender. The Synthehol King. What a legacy.” Quark is an outsider, one who sits removed from his fellow Ferengi. Although the actual process itself is humiliating, Brunt’s brutal seizure of Quark’s assets (including literally the shirt off his back) just formalises Quark’s own sense of exile.

You know, I'd love to be called "the Synthehol King."

You know, I’d love to be called “the Synthehol King.”

Discussing the fourth season’s recurring tendency to have characters disconnect from their own people, Rene Auberjonois suggested that this was a central theme of the series as a whole:

I think that is really… I think that’s what Deep Space Nine is about. I don’t think anybody knew that’s what it was gonna be about. But it’s this object floating in space. It’s not part of any one world, it’s a satellite, and it’s a meeting place of people all searching for who they really are. And I think as the years go by, when we get some perspective on the series when it ends, I think people are gonna recognize that it has a very special place of its own in the Star Trek legend. So I think that’s good, I don’t think it overshadows, I think that’s part of the bittersweet feeling of Deep Space Nine, the sort of dysfunctional aspect of it that I find gritty and interesting.

The Ferengi might not have the same gravitas as the Klingons or the Founders, and Quark might be a more ridiculous character than Worf or Odo, but the comparison feels earned.

A snap decision.

A snap decision.

For all that the show tries to paint Quark as a comedic character, there is something fundamentally tragic about the station’s barkeeper. Quark desperately wants to be a good Ferengi. He places a lot of stock in the history and traditions of his people. However, the simple fact is that Quark will never be a good Ferengi. That is what made his refusal to leave with Pel at the climax of Rules of Acquisition. Quark clings to Ferengi tradition, oblivious to the fact that he simply does not have what it takes to succeed in Ferengi society.

Family Business suggested that Quark’s lack of business skills and ruthlessness runs in the family. Quark’s father was unable to run the family finances alone, and Rom is even less savvy than his brother. However, while Bar Association demonstrated that Rom was willing to broaden his horizons in pursuit of a place where he might belong, Quark steadfastly refuses to accept that he will never be the idealised Ferengi that he so desperately aspires to be. So Quark continues to toil in relative obscurity, eaking out a meagre living on a Federation outpost.

He hadn't a prayer...

He hasn’t a prayer…

(In some respects, it is worth comparing Quark to Worf, despite their occasionally frought relationship. Worf is another alien who lives apart from his own people, and who has come to idealise their culture and traditions. Worf tries to be a good Klingon in the same way that Quark tries to be a good Ferengi. However, there are clear differences. Worf’s arc centres on the character discovering that the Klingon Empire is corrupt and decadant, far from his romantic ideal. In contrast, Quark’s difficulties all lie within himself and his own personal attributes.)

As much as Body Parts might play as a comedy, it is a very black comedy with a very bleak punchline. There is, for example, a delightful subplot in which Quark hires Garak to murder him. The sequence is rather grim for a Star Trek episode, with Garak running through computer simulations to determine the best way to murder his colleague and friend. Of course, it seems that Garak is not serious in his efforts; the whole sequences seems like an attempt to scare Quark straight. Still, it is a very dark gag with a rather mean streak to it.

Plain, simple, terrifying Garak.

Plain, simple, terrifying Garak.

There is an underplayed gallows humour to the whole episode. The script repeatedly points out that Quark’s most exceptional accomplishment might be dying from an extremely rare illness. “It strikes only one out of every five million Ferengi,” Quark tells Rom of his affliction. “I finally beat the odds.” Indeed, Body Parts suggests that the only way that Quark will ever be able to turn a profit will be through commodifying and distributing his own dead body. “It took me my whole life, but I’m going to die a winner,” he remarks when the massive bid comes in.

It is ultimately revealed that the massive bid came from Brunt, the liquidator who hounded Quark’s mother in Family Business and who tried to dissolve the union in Bar Association. However, Body Parts marks the first time that Brunt has approached Quark; in both of his early appearances, Brunt was acting in an official capacity rather than as a private citizen. Body Parts suggests a more personal dynamic between Quark and Brunt, one that suggests Brunt is developing from a plot contrivance into a reasonably developed character.

Don't make a big deal of it.

Don’t make a big deal of it.

Part of this is down to the fact that Brunt is played by Jeffrey Combs, who does a lot of great work in the role. In fact, since To the Death and Body Parts were shot back-to-back, Combs actually got to play two different guest characters on two different episodes; the veteran character actor jumped between Weyoun in To the Death and Brunt in Body Parts. Combs has described the experience in theatrical terms, remarking, “That never happens in TV; theater, maybe, but not TV.” It is consistent with the argument that Star Trek has a more theatrical aesthetic for actors.

What is interesting about Body Parts, and which ties back into Quark’s anxieties about his status as a “true” Ferengi, is the reason why Brunt hates the bartender so much. Quark gives credit, allows his staff to keep most of their tips, and sold essential supplies at cost to the Bajorans. When Quark corrects him that it was “just above” cost, he continues, “It was still a generous, humanitarian gesture. You’ve gone Starfleet. You might as well be wearing one of their uniforms. It’s people like you that give honest Ferengi businessmen a bad name.”

Best part of Brunt's rant? He pronounces it as "hoo-manitarian."

Best part of Brunt’s rant? He pronounces it as “hoo-manitarian.”

In The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, writer Hans Beimler explains exactly why Brunt hates Quark so much:

“Brunt is intolerant,” Beimler says. “Quark grates Brunt because Quark has been able to do things that Brunt doesn’t think of as pure or quite right. It’s the way certain people view expatriate Americans who may have traveled and had a different life experience. They say, ‘How could you leave America?’ So he spent fifty-five years in Africa, that doesn’t mean he stopped being an American, he’s just an American experiencing another life. And that’s what Quark is. He’s gone out of the Ferengi world, but it doesn’t mean he’s stopped being a Ferengi. But people like Brunt are envious and jealous of him.”

It is an interesting idea, and very much the logical conclusion of the “root beer” conversation that Quark and Garak had back in The Way of the Warrior.

The root beer of all evil.

The root beer of all evil.

In a way, this gets back to the weird humanism of Deep Space Nine, particularly as compared to its sibling series. The show spends seven years developing Ferengi culture as a parody of misogynistic capitalist excess, in the same way that the Klingons have historically been treated as a warrior excess. In many respects, it could be argued that Deep Space Nine is the most culturally relativist of the Star Trek shows, the series most willing to engage with other cultures on their own terms. (For example, consider Odo and Lwaxana’s wedding in The Muse.)

It would be easy to read this culturally relative approach as a passive endorsement or support of these societies. After all, doesn’t Sisko enable the oppression of Ferengi women every time that he facilitates a deal for Grand Nagus Zek? Aren’t the Federation’s trade deals with the Ferengi Alliance propping up a regime that is horrific by just about any liberal standard? In some respects, it might be reasonable to compare the Federation’s support of the Ferengi to the realpolitik in the Middle-East that finds the United States supporting oppressive regimes like Saudi Arabia.

Benjamin Sisko. Nagus-maker.

Benjamin Sisko. Nagus-maker.

So Sisko never interferes in Ferengi politics; certainly not to the extent that he meddles in Romulan politics in In the Pale Moonlight and in Klingon politics in Tacking into the Wind. As a television show, Deep Space Nine is extremely wary of cultural imperialism, to the point that the later stretches completely ignore Sisko’s mission to bring the Bajorans into the Federation. In fact, A Call to Arms seems to suggest that Bajor’s independence is a vital and essential part of its survival during the Dominion War.

As such, it could be argued that Deep Space Nine is quite comfortable with the lack of Federation meddling in Ferengi affairs. Instead, over the course of the show’s run, the writers suggest that Ferengi culture is becoming increasingly tolerant and liberal on its own terms. Through exposure to foreign ideas and concepts, the Ferengi people are embracing change. The Ferengi did not just open their markets to the Federation, they opened themselves to what John Stuart Mill described as “the free market of ideas.”

The golden rule.

The golden rule.

In some respects, this is the strange optimism at the heart of Deep Space Nine. As much as the series suggests that history moves in recurring patterns, it also hopes that the great arcs of history swing towards liberal ideals. The themes of the show’s Ferengi arc suggest that Theodore Parker was correct in Of Justice and Conscience:

Look at the facts of the world. You see a continual and progressive triumph of the right. I do not pretend to understand the moral universe, the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. But from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.

The Dogs of War finds the Ferengi Alliance embracing radical change and hope after years of seeding the idea. The Ferengi are not alone. Garak and Kira suggest that Damar’s growth of a character might lead to “a new Cardassia” in Tacking into the Wind. That same episode sees a similar transition in Klingon society.

A Gint in his eye...

A Gint in his eye…

Deep Space Nine suggests that history does move forward. Sometimes it moves slowly, but there is a sense of progress amid all the cruel repetition. In some respects, this reflects the philosophy of President Barack Obama, who has been described as “a Hobbesian optimist” in his outlook. This is the moral philosophy of Deep Space Nine, as argued in The Quickening and restated in Body Parts. Quark has been changed by his exposure to foreign cultures and ideas, even as he refuses to admit it. Such exposure and exchange will ultimately lead to a better world.

This is an inherently positive worldview, in that it suggests that exposure to new concepts and ideas will ultimately lead towards a more liberal and inclusive society. After all, the Ferengi only truly began mingling with the wider universe in The Last Outpost, but already there is some indication that things are changing. New opportunities for growth and new ideas to explore, subtly and gradually eroding the misogynistic assumptions of Ferengi culture in episodes like Rules of Acquisition and Family Business.

Tailor-made assassination plans...

Tailor-made assassination plans…

Deep Space Nine believes that engaging with the universe and exploring new cultures is an enriching experience. This is not only true of Quark and the Ferengi. Odo has spent time among Cardassians and Bajorans, understanding the worlds of the aliens that his people describe as “solids.” In contrast, the Founders have kept themselves locked away in the Great Link, an incestuous and self-contained cycle that feeds their paranoia and mistrust. What You Leave Behind finds Odo bringing his openess back to the Great Link in the hope of broadening their perspective.

Although Ferengi culture is still years away from significant growth and development, Body Parts suggests that Quark is already a threat to the status quo. Quark would disagree, of course; Quark would argue that he lives his life according to strict Ferengi codes and that his time away from Ferenginar has not changed him at all. However, while Quark is unable (or unwilling) to embrace those changes, they definitely exist. His protection of Pel in Rules of Acquisition is one example, as is his concession to Rom in Bar Association.

"He also said something about his no-refund policy."

“He also said something about his no-refund policy.”

Brunt’s targetting of Quark in Body Parts is just a reactionary move. Brunt recognises the corrupting influence of the exposure to outside ideas, and the challenge that they pose to the status quo. That was part of his speech to the striking workings in Bar Association, which was predicated on the notion that even exposure to foreign concepts like equality and fairness might erode traditional Ferengi values. “You’ve been tempted by unwholesome Bajoran ideals, exposed to the twisted values of the Federation,” he argued. This is the threat as it appears to Brunt.

However, Brunt’s logic is ultimately self-defeating. In pushing Quark to the point where he has to break the contract, Brunt forces Quark to explicitly acknowledge something he had long denied. As Grand Nagus Gint argues in Quark’s vision, “I wouldn’t be here if you didn’t want to break the Rules. You just need someone’s permission. So I’m giving it to you.” The truth is that Quark knows deep down that he is not as pure and true a Ferengi as he would claim. He knows that he will have to break the contract instead of killing himself to deliver upon it.

Now the FCA won't let me be, Let me be me, so let me see, They tried shut me down on Cestus III, But it'd be so empty without me.

Now the FCA won’t let me be,
Let me be me, so let me see,
They tried shut me down on Cestus III,
But it’d be so empty without me.

This leads to the episode’s resolution. Brunt can shame and humiliate Quark, but the actual material harm that he can cause is immaterial. Brunt’s reactionary attitude has done nothing but reinforce those “twisted values of the Federation.” When Quark is cast out and exiled, it is the crew of Deep Space Nine who reveal themselves to be supportive of his enterprise, who all come together to find a way to let Quark continue on. This is the idealism of Deep Space Nine. Charity trumps misanthropy; hope trumps bitterness.

Body Parts is directed by Avery Brooks, who does some nice work with the material. In particular, the golden hue of Quark’s dream sequence feels entirely appropriate. Brooks is cleverly frames Quark so as to emphasise how trapped the character is, caught between his own self-preservation and the expectations of his culture. Quring his dream sequence, Quark is strangled by Brunt as an expression of how Ferengi culture is ultimately smothering him. When Quark closes the bar, the shot is framed as though Quark is locking himself away inside some sort of prison cell.



While the primary plot of Body Parts deals with Quark’s crisis of faith in the Ferengi system, the secondary plot is a lot lighter in tone. It is also a lot more practical, designed to solve a production concern. During a routine mission to the Gamma Quadrant, Keiko O’Brien is injured. Doctor Bashir has to transfer Keiko’s son from her womb into Kira’s. Once they get back to the station, it is too late for Bashir to transfer the baby back. As a result, Kira will be tasked with carrying the O’Briens’ baby to term.

This plot exists to write around the pregnancy of actress Nana Visitor. Visitor had married Alexander Siddig before the start of the fourth season. The couple were expecting their first child together. Towards the end of the fourth season, Visitor’s pregnancy was beginning to show. This presented obvious problems for the writers, who were not about to write the pregnancy into the programme. So Body Parts came up with the “baby transplant” idea in order to disguise Visitor’s real life baby bump.

Baby on board.

Baby on board.

Pregnancy has long been an issue for television production. Given that most long-running shows feature female actors in their prime, it is no surprise that producers and writers frequently find themselves improvising around a pregnancy. There are a number of tried and tested methods of dealing with such a situation. On Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager, the decision was made to disguise the pregnancies of Gates McFadden and Roxanne Biggs Dawson during the fourth seaosn of each show. Long coats were the order of the day.

It should be noted that pregnancy has long been used as a basis of discrimination against women in just about every industry. Historically, this has been particularly true of television and film production, both industries that rely heavily on the actor’s physicality and where women are subject to even great scrutiny with regards to their female appearances. Gillian Anderson has talked about how the studio “would have loved to have punished [her]” when she became pregnant on The X-Files. Lisa Bonet was actually fired from The Cosby Show during her pregnancy.

A minor bump in the road.

A minor bump in the road.

In a way, the problem has become easier to manage in the years since Deep Space Nine went off the air. In practical terms, shorter season orders make it easier to work around a pregnancy if the timing is right. Advances in CGI have also made it easier to use CGI to disguise a bump, such as in the case of Keri Russell on The Americans. The increased flexibility of modern television production also opens up other options, like writing the actor out for an extended stretch, as with Zooey Dreschanel out of New Girl.

Deep Space Nine certainly comes up with a novel solution to its problem. It improvises a pregnancy into the show, coming up with the very science-fiction premise of physically transferring the baby from Keiko to Kira. It is decidedly hokey and self-aware, to the point that Kira actually blames Bashir for it in Apocalypse Rising, leading to the cheeky scene of Nana Visitor warning Alexander Siddig that “this is still [his] fault.” However, while the plotting leads to some questionable decisions, it allows the show (and Visitor) the freedom of not having to disguise her pregnancy.

The golden rule...

The golden rule…

Body Parts is a relatively low-key penultimate episode for the fourth season. However, it is an effective and well-produced episode that demonstrates how fully Deep Space Nine has found its voice. Not only can the show articulate its philosophy in a Bashir-centric episode, it can follow up and elaborate upon that with a Ferengi show. Even in its less bombastic and spectacular moments, the fourth season demonstrates a sleek professionalism.

You might be interested in our reviews of the fourth season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:

20 Responses

  1. “They say, ‘How could you leave America?’”

    There is so much more you could do with that. Like, one of the Ferengi suggesting they implement a weather control system like the Riseans have, only to be shot down as a socialist.

    • Make Ferenginar great again!

      “When you look at the Federation they’re not the best and brightest of the quadrant. You’re talking about hew-mons, females, Bolians, and some, I assume, are good people.”

    • Yep. But then I tend to prefer the Ferengi stories when the political aspect is rendered in personal terms; where, rather than trying to change Ferengi culture, Quark and his family brush up against it. Family Business is horribly underrated, I think. As are Bar Association and Body Parts. I think those are much stronger than stories like Ferengi Love Songs or Profit and Lace, in which the scales are a lot larger.

  2. >There is something very contrived about all of this. Quark receives his terminal diagnosis during his “annual insurance physical” during his trip to Ferenginar. However, he never pauses to double-check the results. When he places his remains up for auction, he receives an offer so generous that he accepts it immediately rather than waiting until his actual death. Almost like clockwork, Bashir stops by the bar to mention to Quark that he has received word that the initial diagnosis was incorrect. “One of the most expensive doctors on Ferenginar” got it wrong.

    I like that the issues you identify are largely hand-waved with humour, such as Quark rejecting a second opinion from Bashir because “How could can he be? He doesn’t even charge.”

    Also, one of my favourite exchanges:

    “Do you know what that means, Rom?”

    “It means you’re going to live!”

    “It means I get to sue Doctor Orpax for malpractice. …And I’m going to live!”

    • “I like that the issues you identify are largely hand-waved with humour”

      To say nothing of Ferengi ‘patriotism’. Which isn’t even hand-waved…like, nobody ever calls out Brunt for being over-zealous in his duties in service to the FCA. He’s even described as a quintessential Ferengi by Iska.

      Also, he’s a mullah or something. Doesn’t like women wearing clothes or looking at him. Is this a parody of America or ISIS?

      • That always seemed strange to me. Why would a mercenary capitalist society enslave women and prevent them from having money or property? Surely the more they have, the more they can spend? Isn’t the criticism of capitalism that the system is so good at offering the illusion of freedom while rigging the system so the wealth tends to flow in one direction? I mean, there are valid criticisms to be made about the misogyny underpinning contemporary society, but I’m not sure that misogyny is particularly tied to capitalism more than any other system.

        Then again, slavery is arguably the ultimate expression of capitalism, the human body rendered as produce, so I’m probably being overly optimistic in my political theory. But Ferengi culture doesn’t seem to trade in their slave class, which would serve to divorce the misogyny from the capitalism critique, at least a little bit.

    • Yep, there’s something delightfully fun about the scripting of the episode. Like Family Business, there’s a charming blend of character-driven drama beneath a nominally comedic story. Which is, I think, the mode in which Quark works best. The scenes with Garak are among the funniest in the show’s run.

      Although I just like the idea of Garak as the station’s resident homicidal life-coach who uses his bad-ass murder skills to help Quark accept that he values his own life more than his status as a “good Ferengi.” (Next week on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Garak helps Odo hold himself together, with a side order of attempted genocide.)

  3. All through this episode, I thought that it was going to be revealed that Brunt had bribed the doctor to give a false diagnosis, but that never turned out to be the case.
    Since you are almost done with the fourth season, I wonder what your opinion on the season’s handling of Kira is. I know that there were many people, including Nana Visitor, who felt her role was negatively affected by the arrival of Worf.

    • I was kinda dreading a reveal like that the first time I watched the episode. I think today, in this era of “John Harrison” and “Franz Oberhouser”, you’d probably feel obligated to put that twist in there. In the twenty-first century, we’ve become obsessed with cause and reason in our drama, of connection and purpose. Everything has a design and nothing is an accident. It is the kind of logic that powers stuff like Everything Wrong With… and Cinema Sins, where anything not explicitly explained in the narrative of the film is a “plot hole”, and is treated as the worst possible crime. Personally, I think we’re the worse for this trend. But that’s another digression I’ll probably get to in Enterprise S4.

      With regards to Kira, S4 is not a great season for her. Although I don’t blame Worf. One of the things I like about the introduction of Worf is that he’s actually kept in the background for a while. Barring The Way of the Warrior, there are only three big “Worf-centric” episodes in the season. So he doesn’t steal too much ground.

      Personally, I’d argue it is the “Dukat-centric” episodes that are the biggest issue for Kira’s development, because both Indiscretion and Return to Grace are classified as “Kira-centric” episodes under the Michael Piller “every story is about out leads” model of Star Trek storytelling. However, Kira is more of a viewpoint character than a lead in those stories. (Much like was in Defiant.) I think that the focus on her as Odo’s object of affection in Crossfire also diminishes her agency in terms of the season arc, to the point where there are lots of episodes that heavily feature Kira, but in which she is also secondary.

      Part of me suspects that this is down to the fact that Kira’s arc is largely wrapped up at this point. The third season really mined the last of the “Kira as terrorist or military officer” plots with her supporting role in Defiant and her starring role in Shakaar. I’m not entirely sure the production team know what to do with her at this point in the run. That said, I think the fifth season has two really good Kira episodes in The Darkness and the Light and Ties of Blood and Water, even if I think the sixth season maybe pushes Kira’s “mommy and daddy issues” too far in Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night.

      • It’s certainly plausible that Brunt might engineer something like this to bring about Quark’s downfall but it’s more in character for Brunt to wait for something like this to happen and then just sits back and watches for Quark to bring about his own downfall; this twist is more vicious, that Quark is punished for doing the right thing.

      • Yep. I’d agree with that.

  4. I love this episode. Maybe because any Quark/Garak interplay is invariably a good thing.

  5. The whole Ferengi episode had been reduced to a subgenre by the time of The Dogs of War after the miserable failure of Profit and Lace, one of the few episodes that makes me cringe, especially when watched in the company of others (who are non-Trekkers).

    The idea of someone hiring somebody to kill them only to change their mind later and then can’t call off the contract sounds like the plot for a terrific black comedy; in the hands of someone like the Coen brothers, it would be hysterical, and the scene with Garak running off a list of Quark’s reasons why certain murder attempts can’t work is extremely Coenesque or perhaps something Woody Allen might have come up with.

    I described the Q Continuum as a way-station for lost souls in the Voyager episode Death Wish, but after reading your review for Body Parts Darren, I now feel that’s Deep Space Nine. The outcasts of the galaxy do seem to find their way to the station.

    The way DS9 incorporates Nana Visitor’s pregnancy into the show is inspired; usually on TV shows when a castmember gets pregnant the solutions they come up with are ludicrous, like when Jane Leeves became pregnant during the eighth season of Frasier, the writers chalked up her weight-gain by explaining it away as overeating.

    I wonder if Wallace Shawn was unavailable to play Zek so the writers invented Gint instead? Even The Star Trek Fact Files made the misnomer that it was Zek who resolved the situation but I think it works better with Gint really because it gives Max Grodenchik a chance to play the angel on Quark’s shoulder whispering in one lobe while Brunt is the devil talking into the other.

    Body Parts ends for the time being the run of episodes directed by the actors, it was Who Mourns For Morn Darren, and Quark the Synthehol King of Starfleet is way better then Abe Froman, the Sausage King of Chicago.

    • Thanks for the correction David! Duly noted.

      Profit and Lace is terrible, although I think that The Emperor’s New Cloak marks the point of transition, the abomination that is somehow both a Ferengi episode AND a mirror universe episode, as if the writing staff were trying to concentrate as much awfulness as possible into one place. (And I say that as somebody who likes Crossover and about half of the Ferengi episodes.)

  6. Great review again… Just a minor remark: You say “In contrast [to Worf], Quark’s difficulties all lie within himself and his own personal attributes.” I am not so sure about it. You could also argue that Quark is just one of the first Ferengi who happen to be confronted with the interal contradictions of the culturally rigid Ferengi state-capitalism (and with the corrupt parts of Ferengi society like Brunt…). A cause of this is his unique position: a bar in the Federation, his mother who just follows the logical conclusion from the capitalist ethos, etc. Quark always appeared to me also as much as a victim of (sometimes tragic, sometimes comical) circumstances as of his own character – which could be said for almost anyone maybe, but in Quark’s case those two causes seem especially interwoven. It all started with Nog being captured by Odo in “Emissary”.

    Thanks by the way for the references to directing decisions like Quark being trapped behind his shutting doors. It makes a lot of sense but I guess you need to have a trained eye to notice such things.

    • PS: I think Garak’s non-seriousness about murdering Quark should have led to one scene in the end where he himself wanted to collect on the debt… I do not need to have any “plot hole” explained, but this made the (heartbreaking and heartbreakingly acted) end a little lacking.

    • Thanks. I don’t think it’s a trained eye. You just attune to shots like that over time, framing and composition. And some people notice it, and other’s don’t. It just lies with whatever your interest in a given work happens to be, I think.

      • I try to have a trained ear and pay attention to the scores which are at least sometimes underrated even though a bit repetitive. 😉

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