Monday, February 20, 2012

3-23. Family Business.

Quark and his dysfunctional family.
















THE PLOT

Liquidator Brunt (Jeffrey Combs) of the Ferengi Commerce Authority appears in Quark's bar and immediately posts a Writ of Accountability by the door. When a panicked Quark asks what the charges are, Brunt informs him that his mother, Ishka (Andrea Martin), has violated Ferengi law by earning a profit, something which is forbidden to women. Quark now has three days to get her to confess her crimes, or else she will be sentenced to indentured servitude and he will be responsible for making restitution.

But that's only the tip of the iceberg. As Quark looks into his mother's finances, he discovers the shocking truth: Ishka has assembled a financial empire. And if the FCA uncovers what Quark has, then he'll be broke forever!


CHARACTERS

Commander Sisko: A "B" plot sees Sisko finally meeting Kasidy Yates (Penny Johnson), the freigher pilot Jake mentioned in Explorers. The first half of the episode, we see some labored comedy scenes in which Sisko learns that Jake has told "everybody" on the station about Kasidy. But once the two characters finally do meet, they share a couple nice scenes that help keep this episode from being a total write-off.

Quark: Armin Shimerman gives a good performance, but this particular script focuses on all of Quark's worst characteristics. He is greedy and self-centered, concerned only about his mother insofar as her activities will affect him. He's rude to both mother and brother, while making a fawning display of himself around Liquidator Brunt. Where is the dignified Ferengi who stood up for his people as "better" than humans and who showed both cunning and courage before the Klingon High Council?  This version of Quark is a two-dimensional construct, a Frank Burns figure whose main purpose is to make clear that anything he stands for must be, by definition, Wrong.

Rom: Though Quark's characterization is poor, Max Grodenchik's Rom gets a rather good episode. Grodenchik is the saving grace of the "A" plot. He tries to act as the peacemaker between his mother and his brother, working to calm Quark while standing up for Quark's good qualities (unseen here). As the family conflict spins out of control, Rom finds his backbone again, the same way he did in defense of his son's ambitions to join Starfleet, and stands up to both of his family members.

Cassidy Yates: Penny Johnson's first appearance as freighter captain Kasidy Yates. Johnson, who went on to notable television success in 24, is terrific, conveying confidence and competence without ever showing that she's playing a part. She's completely naturalistic, and if anything slightly overshadows Avery Brooks in their scenes together. What we see here is pretty surface-level stuff, but I do look forward to getting to know this character better as the series progresses.


THOUGHTS

Ugh. A combination of labored sitcom material and heavy-handed drama on issues that may have been very relevant in the 1960's and '70's. After a run of pretty high quality episodes, including the previous Ferengi-centered one, Family Business lands like a lead weight.

I will give some marginal credit where it's due. Ira Steven Behr and Robert Hewitt Wolfe's script makes a legitimate effort to give us a Ferengi episode that isn't played principally for laughs. It starts out with weak comedy, but by the midpoint it has firmly transitioned to a serious episode that happens to be about Ferengi.

Unfortunately, weak drama isn't particularly preferable to weak comedy. Armin Shimerman, Max Grodenchik, and Andrea Martin are all very good, and they do their best to breathe life into this story. But a few clever side bits notwithstanding, the script alternates between cliched family dynamics and a message of Equality Between the Sexes that seems out of date for the mid-1990's. It's predictable, slow-paced, and more than a little dull - and it ends too easily, with a pat ending.


Overall Rating: 3/10







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