The Good: Funny, Character development, Acting, B-Plot
The Bad: Belabored plot (in the primary plot)
The Basics: Perhaps the archetypal average episode, "The House Of Quark" oscillates between a silly Quark plot and a very adult O'Brien plot.
One of the beautiful aspects of a serialized show is that sometimes a neglected episode is doing something more than it appears to be doing upon the first glance. "The House Of Quark" is one such episode. This episode has a surface episode, which is a convoluted murder plot, and an underlying story, which is a Humanist exploration of the threat of military conflict.
The Dominion Threat has been bad on Quark's business. As the episode opens, we find Quark and Rom mostly alone in the bar, while lamenting over the way the station has been abandoned due to the threat of the Dominion looming over the Alpha Quadrant. The sole customer is a drunk Klingon, who refuses to pay his bill and Quark confronts him, resulting in the Klingon's death by accident. Quark takes credit for the death to boost business and it works, until Grilka, the Klingon's widow, shows up and abducts Quark.
At least equally important is a plot involving Chief O'Brien and his wife, Keiko. Forgotten until I rewatched the episode recently, this plot finds Keiko without a job. All of the children have left the station, leaving Keiko with two students. O'Brien easily detects his wife's distress and seeks to ease her burden. Keiko finds herself lonely and pointless. O'Brien, being the wonderful husband that he is, tries to help her through the transition and finds himself forced to view her life through the sacrifices she has made for him.
It is the second plot that explores the unsung casualties of war, the stress on marriages, the loss of purpose of individuals. It's played out well and it is so character-focused that it's almost easy to miss what the episode is truly saying.
The reason the message is easily overlooked is that the A-Plot is so overbearing. Even the title suggests the A-Plot: "The House Of Quark." Quark is funny in the episode, but the focus is more than simply using Quark for comic relief. He has a purpose and despite the humor of Quark managing a Klingon House, he is vital in his way. His perspective works and he stands outside of what has been established of the Ferengi. That is, the Ferengi of Star Trek The Next Generation were rather flat. Quark - at this point in the series - breaks the mold of Ferengi, defining them as something other than villainous.
What didn't work is Rom. His point in the episode seems somewhat obvious. He witnesses the death of the Klingon and it seems that he does so only so later in the episode that may be used against Quark. Outside that, there's little that doesn't work in "The House Of Quark." It's not a superlative episode, but it's not horrible.
The b-plot, the O'Brien plot wherein Chief O'Brien focuses on his wife is quite accessible to people otherwise not familiar with Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It's refreshing to see a show that acknowledges that marriage is work. The main plot, with Quark, is difficult to absorb if one is not familiar with Star Trek.
[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Complete Third Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the breakout season by clicking here!
For other Star Trek episode reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!
© 2011, 2007, 2002 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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