|A Ferengi in a Strange Land:|
Quark on the Klingon Homeworld.
In the wake of the hostile contact with the Dominion, traffic on the station has slowed to a crawl. Keiko is forced to close the school, as the Bajoran families relocate to their homeworld in fear of the Dominion. She agrees to continue tutoring Jake and Nog, but at she tells her husband, "two students can't sustain a school." Meanwhile, Quark and Rom find themselves faced with an empty bar and mounting losses.
Until opportunity strikes, in the form of a drunken Klingon. Kozak (John Lendale Bennett) is the sole patron in Quark's bar. He's a typical Klingon: rude, drunk, and uncouth. Which is fine by Quark, until he announces that he is out of money and demands credit. When Quark attempts to refuse, Kozak attacks - and is so drunk that he falls on his own dagger, killing himself.
When Quark sees the crowds gathering around his place, he seizes on a chance to turn tragedy into profit. He announces that he killed Kozak in self-defense, and uses the telling of his story to draw patrons back to the bar. But he manages to draw two other visitors as well. D'Ghor (Carlos Carrosco) announces that if Kozak truly died in honorable combat, "like a warrior," then there is no need to seek revenge. Quark agrees... until Grilka (Mary Kay Adams), Kozak's wife, informs Quark that his story means that D'Ghor can take over Kozak's house. Grilka sees only one way open to her to preserve her station - to marry Quark!
Commander Sisko: Pushes Kira and Dax to work on battle drill efficiency, remaining convinced that the station will eventually need all its personnel and resources at peak efficiency to face the Dominion. Still takes time to speak with O'Brien about Keiko's problem, likely thinking of his own family when he reflects on how hard it is to see a loved one in pain.
Quark: "A brave Ferengi. Who would have thought it possible?" Chancellor Gowron (Robert O'Reilly) is nonplussed by Quark's courage in not only coming to the Klingon Great Hall to face D'Ghor's challenge, but in facing D'Ghor with dignity and courage. We've actually seen this from Quark before, so it comes across as in-character to us even as it surprises the Klingons. Quark is shrewd and calculating, both qualities which work in his favor as he investigates Kozak's and D'Ghor's finances. All of this, both the core of courage that most never see and the Ferengi guile that the Klingons so look down on, allows Quark to cut a heroic figure and do so without compromising his own essential nature.
O'Brien: Remains probably the most fundamentally decent character in Star Trek history. Seeing Keiko is upset after the school closing, he tries to cheer her in the usual ways: surprise romantic dinners, spending more time with her. He tries putting forth larger and larger efforts to make her happy, until Dr. Bashir helps him see what she really needs to be fulfilled. What she really needs calls for some sacrifice on O'Brien's part, but as he expresses to Sisko: "She gave up her entire career to be here with me. I owe her." As ever, Colm Meaney excels at bringing O'Brien's sincerity to life.
Dax: Though barely in the episode, she is present long enough for it to register that the dead animal has crawled back off her head. An enormous relief.
Writer Ronald D. Moore first really distinguished himself on Star Trek with Sins of the Father - a Klingon episode, in which Worf was forced to confront the corruption at the heart of the Klingon Empire. Moore showed a special affinity for bringing shading to the Klingon culture. Previous episodes had developed that culture as revolving entirely around honor, but Moore subverted that - showing a culture (effectively one in decay), in which the appearance of honor was more important than the reality. The TNG Klingons had already received more development than their TOS counterparts. But Moore's episode took what had been established and made it feel gritty, even authentic.
The House of Quark is a very funny episode, one of only a small number of "comedy" Deep Space 9 episodes that has actually worked. But one of the things that makes the script work so well is that Moore doesn't compromise on the decayed Klingon honor. We see a Klingon using lies and deceit to gain power. Quark is able to offer evidence of what he's done and, in a hilarious scene, attempts to walk the Klingon warriors through the complex financial maneuverings D'Ghor has engaged in. Despite the evidence, though, Gowron and the other Klingons on the council are quite eager to watch D'Ghor challenge Quark to combat, even though everyone in the room knows that such a combat is equal to an execution. It is only when Quark calls D'Ghor - and by extension, every Klingon on the room - on their hypocrisy that Gowron finally behaves with... well, honor.
I think that's a key to why this comedy episode works where so many others have failed. It may be a comedy, but Moore doesn't compromise on the very careful structure of his story, nor does he compromise on the nuances of Klingon society. The comedy arises largely from the clash of placing such an unlikely figure as Quark in the midst of a Klingon power struggle. The interactions between Quark and Grilka are wonderful, as Quark begins as something disgusting Grilka must tolerate and ends as an equal, having gained her gratitude and respect. Mary Kay Adams, who Bablyon 5 fans probably won't much remember for her ill-advised two-episode stint as "Na'Toth #2," is very good here, and the scenes between her and Armin Shimerman are the episode's best.
The "B" plot also works. O'Brien's concern for his wife is easy to relate to, and his sincerity is quite affecting. Interactions between O'Brien and Keiko, Sisko, and Bashir are extremely well-scripted, and each of those characters gets a strong moment, even with Sisko's scene being his only one of the entire episode.
A terrific "A" plot and a simple but effective "B" plot, with outstanding character writing across the board. I originally rated this a "9," but after some reconsideration I'm awarding full marks. Within its confines as a light-hearted episode, I can't think of any way this could have been better. I went in with fairly low expectations, and was greeted with a surprisingly fine show. Which, come to think of it, may summarize Deep Space 9 in a nutshell.
Overall Rating: 10/10