Deep Space Nine: s03 e03 – The House of Quark


It’s going to be one of *those* kind of marriages

Aye. Well. Mm.

I can’t say I didn’t expect an immediate return to an essentially trivial story – it was about Quark, he’s not there for the serious stuff – though there were elements about this episode that demonstrated that Deep Space Nine wasn’t going to immediately run away from what it had started over the last three episodes.

What was good was that the effect of the Dominion threat carried over in continuity. Quark’s bar is virtually empty due to the lack of people coming to the station whilst it’s under threat, and Keiko O’Brien has shut the station school down because the only pupils she has left are Jake and Nog.

That latter is the subplot, which I personally found more interesting, and certainly more serious than Quark’s shenanigans at the front of the house.

Let me explain, as briefly as I can. The last customer left in the bar is a drunken, penniless Klingon named Kovak, who pulls a knife on Quark, but who is too drunk to stand and falls on his own knife, killing himself. Quark, seeing notoriety as a way of attracting morbid – but money-spending – customers, claims to have killed Koval in self-defence, in personal combat. Kovak, it transpires, was Head of a Klingon House.

Shortly after, Quark is ambushed by D’Gor, Kovak’s brother. He quickly scares the truth out of Quark but insists he maintain the lie since it is important that Kovak should have died an honourable death. Quark’s next visitor is Grilka, Kovak’s widow. She also learns the truth, but she knocks him out and kidnaps him back to Kronos, where the first thing she does once Quark is revived is to marry him.

This move is to try to preserve the House’s existence. Kovak left no male heir and, under Klingon custom, the House is to be dissolved. Were there ‘unusual circumstances’, a special dispensation might be obtained from the Council to allow Grilka to lead the House, but an honourable death in personal combat.

Should the House be dissolved, its lands, properties etc. shall go to Kovak’s brother, D’Gor, who has been a sworn enemy for many years and is the House’s principal creditor, Kovak having been a wastrel. By marrying Kovak’s killer, Grilka can save the House, even if it has to be led by a short, cowardly, stinking Ferenghi. It becomes the House of Quark.

D’Gor then throws a spanner into the wors by producing the only witness to the truth of Kovak’s death, Quark’s brother, Rom.

Our comic relief Ferenghi does have some talents however, especially when it comes to money, and it doesn’t take long to establish that D’Gor has been waging a most UnKlingon-like economic war of the House of Kovak, essentially defrauding it into its current parlous state. Unfortunately, he can’t get the Council to see this and the accusation enables D’Gor to challenge Quark to personal combat.

Needless to say, Quark wishes to have it away upon his toes in dead of night, and Grilka contemptuously washes her hands of him. Nevertheless, he turns up on time, complete with ba’tleth. It’s Quark’s story, he’s going to be the hero of it, what do you expect? But what he does is to throw his weapon away and offer himself defencelessly to D’Rog. It won’t be a duel, but an execution, a ridiculously one-sided personal combat rendered completely without honour by Quark taking the gamble of stripping it down to what it truly is. It’s not D’Gor but the Council that he’s out to con, and when D’Gor takes the bait and raises his ba’tleth, the Council rises in disgust at it, and he is ostracised.

Chancellor Gowron recognises the ‘unusual circumstances’ and gives the House to Grilka, who promptly thanks Quark by giving him his requested divorce – and a serious snog as soon as he’s no longer her husband, a sight I shall be spending much of the next week trying to scrub from my mind. Actually, she did kiss him as the conclusion to the wedding ceremony, but she did spit rather disgustedly after doing to, which made it a lot more acceptable.

In and of itself, the story was an interesting one, especially for its revelation of Klingon  social customs and mores, and Quark’s method of overcoming D’Gor was both ingenious and entirely logical, but – and this is my problem, not yours – come on, I mean, it’s Quark.

I don’t dislike Quark, but I do find him excessive. He’s a comic relief character who, at any given time, exists at a forty-five degree angle to everything about him. Because Armin Shimerman is in the cast, Quark is continually wedged into stories that have nothing to do with him, and to which he cannot contribute anything except a derailment of the plot. That means that putting him at the centre of a story that’s meant to be in any way serious gives the story a mountain to climb to gain any credibility. Quark is a silly and trivial character who makes everything around him silly and trivial by association.

Much more important to me was the subplot. Keiko had closed the school down due to  circumstances beyond her control, which left her with nothing to do and feeling that intently. She was putting a very brace face on it, but Miles O’Brien knew, and it hurt him deeply that the woman he loved was unhappy.

Everyone sympathised and there were some good and decent lines that I took to heart, the more so for their being kept very simple, but I was unhappy with the solution,which was to send Keiko back to her profession/vocation as a botanist, on a Bajoran expedition that would be away for six months. So that’s the last we’ll see of Rosalind Chao this season.

It seemed like a counter-intuitive approach to resolving an issue that had the potential to undermine an otherwise very happy marriage – and the Chief is the only member of the cast who is married, or who is in a relationship at all (I am not counting Major Kira’s occasional shags with Vedek Bariel unless and until we learn that last season’s escapade hasn’t hindered their sexual relationship). Instead of a solution, it seemed more like a cheap way of writing out a character they had no real idea how to serve.

Still, considering the episode as a whole, it was well-constructed and performed, and Mary Kay Adams gave it plenty of wellie as Grilka, but it was the evidence that the incipient Dominion War was going to have an ongoing effect that I most welcomed. May this continue.

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2 thoughts on “Deep Space Nine: s03 e03 – The House of Quark

  1. I found this to be a very enjoyable episode, for many of the reasons you stated in regards to the clever way Quark worked his way out of predicament. It played upon the Ferengi elements perfectly while adding more the Klingon mythos and culture.
    Quark episodes aren’t too bad, it’s when other Ferengi(not counting Rom and Nog) involved that the comedy episodes they tried for fell flat, though there are a couple of exceptions.

    I might have mentioned this earlier, but DS9 played the Ferengi in comedic effect in their need for greed and profit. TNG and some of the first season of DS9 showed them as more serious than for laughs.

    And the Dominion War hasn’t started yet. Well kind of …

  2. Yes, I was aware that TNG had originally introduced the Ferenghi with the intent of their replacing the Klingons as prime enemies, but effectively found that no-one could take them seriously enough.

    This is another of these things on which we’re going to have to differ. Quark is comic relief, jammed all too forcefully into most episodes where he sticks out as a distraction, and he quickly becomes implausible since anyone else doing what he’s already done wouldn’t be tolerated for a second.

    Nearly five more whole seasons of him…

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