Saturday, January 14, 2012

Deep Space Nine Gets Another Outcast With “Body Parts!”

The Good: Funny, Clever, Dark, Good character development, Nice acting
The Bad: Very last scene of the episode
The Basics: When Quark must choose between honoring a contract and death, one of the funniest and terrible debates erupts on the station.

Star Trek Deep Space Nine was a wonderfully accepting place: it was a station where a widower could command a man whose marriage is continually on the rocks, a Trill, a Bajoran terrorist at odds with the government, a Klingon who is not accepted among Klingons, a discommendated Cardassian spy, a doctor who does not get along with his parents and his son who is growing up without him in his day to day life. The series was all about outcasts. Now, one of the least likely to be a part of that group comes into the fold: Quark.

Quark returns from Ferenginar to reveal that he has been diagnosed with a rare and fatal disease. Finding himself to have very little time left, Quark decides to put his life in order. Meanwhile, Bashir returns to the station with bad news for O'Brien; there was a shuttle accident. And while Bashir was able to save Keiko, their unborn baby needed to be relocated and Bashir performed a fetal transport, depositing the embryo into Major Kira. As the O'Briens work to accept this change of plans for their family, Quark manages to sell his vacuum desiccated remains on the Ferengi future's market. It is then that Quark learns he is not dying and when he tries to get out of the contract selling his remains, he learns the buyer is none other than Brunt. The FCA liquidator will not be satisfied until Quark is dead or utterly ruined for breaking a contract with another Ferengi.

"Body Parts" is an episode that takes one of the most shaky possible stories and sells it like it happens every day. The fetal transport was the result of actress Nana Visitor actually becoming pregnant - via Alexander Siddig, for those keeping track - and not wanting to have to hide behind consoles constantly. But the writers were clever; they use Bashir to make this thing happen and then they almost entirely avoid the medical explanations and stick to the character aspects of the transformation.

And that makes the episode compelling. Suddenly finding herself a surrogate mother and O'Brien finding his commanding officer bearing his child, these are difficult things to deal with. "Body Parts" does not try to make an easy answer and the solution the O'Briens and Kira come up with is probably the most reasonable and equitable.

Ostensibly, this is the closest that Quark ever gets to having a season finale. Star Trek Deep Space Nine tended to use the entire cast in more broad, sweeping season finale stories. So, unlike Star Trek: The Next Generation where the finale would often be focused on one character, this series was more balanced. The second to last episode of the season belongs to Quark and here he rises to the occasion of making it worth our time.

Quark has always been a traditional Ferengi, in many ways an archetype of the greedy capitalist. In "Body Parts," he must balance between his idealism and his very life. It makes for a decent story and his decision to die at the hands of Garak provides some of the most morbid and funny scenes the series ever does. Similarly, his dream wherein he sees Grand Nagus Gint is funny and well conceived. In the end, the strength of Quark's character is both illustrated and crushed.

"Body Parts" hinges on the acting of two people, though the supporting cast is truly wonderful. Colm Meany and Rosalind Chao are excellent as Miles and Keiko O'Brien. They play their characters as sad, lost and scared in ways they have never been able to express them before. Chao especially rises to the occasion as a woman who has lost just about everything. In the main plot, Jeffery Combs once more dazzles as Brunt, infusing him with a villainy quite unlike that of the Vorta Weyoun, that Combs played in the prior episode "To The Death” (reviewed here!). Combs has a versatility to him that makes him wonderfully devious and insidious beyond the lines as Brunt.

Nana Visitor and Armin Shimerman are the saving graces of this episode. Visitor uses ambiguity of tone and body language to sell us completely on the idea that the baby in her womb has suddenly materialized there. She takes a weak concept and sells us on it with her acting. Similarly, Armin Shimerman uses his voice and rigid posture in key scenes to enforce what we've believed all along; Quark deeply believes in Ferengi Business Law. As a result, he is absolutely convincing as a man willing to die for those convictions and he makes us believe in him.

"Body Parts" is a transition episode in the Deep Space Nine storyline and may be somewhat inaccessible and far fetched for those who are not fans of the series. However, it's a great character payoff for Quark and part of the essential Star Trek Deep Space Nine for both its plot lines.

[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Complete Fourth Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the turnaround season by clicking here!


For other Star Trek reviews, please be sure to visit my Star Trek Index Page!

© 2012, 2007, 2003 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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