|Quark has a vision of the Afterlife.|
A trip to the Gamma Quadrant leaves Keiko injured. Dr. Bashir is able to easily stabilize her, but her fetus' lifesigns begin dropping. Bashir is left with only one option to save both mother and child, and he takes it - Transferring the baby from Keiko into Major Kira!
Meanwhile, Quark is diagnosed with Dorek Syndrome, a rare but incurable Ferengi disease. His doctor gives him less than a week to live. Faced with the prospect of paying off his considerable debt, Quark opts to sell his desicated remains on the Ferengi futures exchange. The full set is purchased, allowing him to go to his grave debt-free.
Predictably enough, it turns out Quark isn't dying after all. The entire set of events was set in motion by Quark's old adversary, Liquidator Brunt (Jeffrey Combs) of the FCA. When Quark listed his remains on the market, Brunt was the buyer. Now he has come to collect on his contract: "Fifty discs of vacuum-desiccated Quark available within six days." If he doesn't collect, the contract will be declared broken - leaving Brunt free to strip Quark's family of all property and status. To save his reputation, Quark has only one choice: Kill himself!
Capt. Sisko: Another episode in which he appears only briefly. Still, his brief appearance does show his shrewdness in dealing with people, as he finds a way to help Quark in terms that translate into Quark assisting him.
Quark: His imminent death snaps into focus just how much his fellow Ferengi see him as a failure. He remains in debt, his fairly petty successes and failures never really balancing the scales. His brother formed a union, his nephew has joined Starfleet, and his own business acumen is eclipsed by that of his mother - a female, who practices business despite it being forbidden by their society. Even after he learns that he is actually healthy, he remains vulnerable to Brunt's accusations that he is too much of a "philanthropist," not true enough to Ferengi ideals.
Liquidator Brunt: Jeffrey Combs remains a malicious delight as Brunt. What makes him work so well is that Combs isn't playing him as a comedy character. Brunt is a proper villain, a genuine threat to those within the influence of Ferengi society. He is as smart as he is ruthless, using the rules of his society to crush any opposition. His dislike of Quark isn't motivated by personal vengeance - As he observes, Quark's encounters with him have been annoyances to him more than injuries. No, he is a fundamentalist with regard to Ferengi culture, and he sees Quark's flashes of decency as signs of a cancer within their society. The trap he sets for Quark is masterful, allowing Brunt victory whichever path Quark chooses: Either Quark dies, removing the cancer; or he breaks the contract, allowing Brunt to make a public example of him.
Garak: With Quark determined to honor the Rules of Acquisition, even at the cost of his own life, he has one obvious place to turn for a quick assassination: our friendly Cardassian tailor. Though his role in this episode is fairly small, Andrew Robinson deftly steals every scene in which he appears. Particularly fun is the scene in which Garak uses the holosuite to demonstrate to Quark various methods of dispatch. He becomes exasperated at Quark's squeamishness: "You don't want to be vaporized because you need a body. The disruptor ruined your clothing, the knife was too savage, the nerve gas smelled bad, hanging took too long... For a man who wants to kill himself, you are strangely determined to live!"
One of the remarkable things about Season Four is that even its Ferengi episodes have been pretty good. Little Green Men was one of the most successful pure comedy Treks in the franchise's history, as well-crafted as TOS' The Trouble with Tribbles. Bar Association was not on the same level, but managed to take a potential "bad comedy" storyline and wring some decent drama out of it. Finally, this episode takes another potential "bad comedy" situation and uses it to move the character of Quark along from where he has been from the show's inception to a new point from which he can take any number of possible directions.
With the other Trek series, that would be a meaningless statement. After all, Worf can sustain a major spinal injury and have that all forgotten about come the following episode. But DS9 has a pretty good track record of actually following up on events. This episode itself is a direct followup to Bar Association and Family Business.This gives me optimism that Quark's epiphany about the Rules of Acquisition and his new relationship with Ferengi society will have consequences in future seasons.
The episode itself is suprisingly good, a decidedly unpromising teaser followed by a story that gets more and more complicated as it goes. Quark is boxed in by Brunt, but also by his own values. He can survive fairly easily, but to do so he has to accept a situation that goes against everything he has believed in his entire life. His struggle to come to terms with such a choice provides a wonderful opportunity for Armin Shimerman to show his dramatic range along with his comic timing. Avery Brooks directs, and he's once again on form behind the camera, leaving memories of Season Three's Fascination mercifully far behind.
The Kira/O'Brien "B" plot is a fairly obvious case of "writing in" Nana Visitor's pregnancy. Still, it works well enough thanks to the sincerity of the three actors. Visitor, Colm Meaney, and Rosalind Chao all project a basic decency that makes them very easy to watch, even if the situation feels desperately contrived. Even so, the Quark plot was far more interesting to me than the O'Brien plot, and it's a good thing that Kira and the O'Briens take up relatively little of the episode's screentime.
Overall Rating: 7/10.
Previous Episode: The Quickening
Next Episode: Broken Link
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