Friday, December 16, 2011

Enter Ishka, Widow of Keldar, Ferengi Entrepreneur, Female: "Family Business"

The Good: Decent character development, Acting, Interesting enough story
The Bad: Trying too hard to be funny
The Basics: Quark returns home to deal with family problems, namely his mother.

One of the recurring subplots, and most developed, on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is the exploration of Ferengi culture. In Star Trek The Next Generation, they explored the Klingons, in Star Trek Voyager, the producers fleshed out - and ruined - the Borg and on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the Ferengi were made more than a flat race, they became a distinctive culture. "Family Business" continues that tradition by introducing Quark's mother, Ishka.

When Quark is visited by Ferengi Commerce Authority Liquidator Brunt, he learns that his mother is suspected of earning profit, a crime in Ferengi society. Women are not allowed to earn money in Ferengi society and Quark could be held liable for her crime. Quark returns to Ferenginar to confront his mother and be on his way. However, Ishka - Quark and Rom's mother - and Quark have unresolved issues between them and Quark's homecoming serves only to stir them up. As Brunt's bloodthirsty quest for Ishka's confession tears apart Quark's family, Quark learns Ishka has been far more successful than even the FCA suspects.

"Family Business" does two essential things that viewers of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and aficionados of the Star Trek universe want and need. The first is we finally see Ferenginar, the rainy, muddy planet where Quark grew up and the center of the Ferengi Alliance. As well, we finally meet Quark and Rom's surviving parent and Ishka is a welcome addition to the support cast.

In "Family Business," Ishka is played by actress Andrea Martin and it's no surprise the producers went out of their way to get her. She vividly brings Ishka to life, defining who Quark's mother is and how she acts. Despite being covered in one of the more elaborate headpieces of the series, Andrea Martin wonderfully expresses Ishka's feelings and moods using her eyes and voice. Indeed, Ms. Martin holds up better under the prosthetics than most in the franchise. Andrea Martin plays Ishka with resentment, irony and kindness, creating one of the most layered characters right out of the gate.

"Family Business" also becomes important because it marks the first appearance of Penny Johnson as freighter captain Kassidy Yates. Kassidy Yates is a woman who Jake encourages Commander Sisko to meet and here they finally do. As a result, their relationship begins with the two discovering they share a love of an obscure Earth game . . . baseball.

Penny Johnson wonderfully creates Kassidy as an independent thinking, headstrong character that is instantly likable and desirable. Johnson uses her strong bearing and forceful eyes to create the impression that Kassidy is not a woman to be trifled with. At the same time, her smile, when it graces her face, makes her demeanor instantly accessible and it becomes quite easy to see why Sisko would be drawn to her; the audience is right away.

The other major acting credits in "Family Business" go to Max Grodenchik, Jeffery Combs and Armin Shimmerman. Shimmerman brings new life to Quark, infusing outright shock and horror to the expressions Quark portrays when he realizes how deep his mother is in investing. Shimmerman expands the range of his character by pushing his facial expressions and body language. As well, here we see Quark vocally fight in a way he has not before.

Jeffrey Combs plays Brunt and it's easy to see why he got this role and later the recurring role of Weyoun. He's a wonderful actor and he manages to work with the make-up, but not be drown in it. Instead, he shines out in this episode as one of the slimiest, cruelest Ferengi we ever meet. Max Grodenchik rises to the occasion as well in "Family Business," pushing the envelope farther on who Rom is. Here he has the opportunity to stand up for himself and his performance reminds us how dynamic the characters on this series truly are.

The only serious drawback to "Family Business" is there are moments that it is clearly attempting too much to be funny. Some of the turns of phrase, such as when Brunt enters Ishka's house and Quark says, "My house is my house" and Brunt responds "As is everything in it," are clever, but many of them seem to be trying to twist how capitalist Ferengi society is so much that it comes across as parody of itself.

People who are not fans of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine are likely to find these attempts at humor more endearing but are likely to not understand the heritage of the Ferengi that has been established in the series up until this point. Thus they are likely to be somewhat put off by "Family Business." But for fans of the series, this is almost an essential episode for the important characters it introduces and where it fails to be absolutely integral to the overall story of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, it succeeds in being a necessary portion of the most significant subplot of the series.

[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, 2003 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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