Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Body Parts"

***

Air date: 6/10/1996
Teleplay by Hans Beimler
Story by Louis P. DeSantis & Robert J. Bolivar
Directed by Avery Brooks

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"If you try the trousers on first, you'll see I've added some extra padding to the seat ... which should make swiveling on your bar stool much more comfortable." — Garak to Morn

Nutshell: A surprisingly decent Ferengi vehicle, and with an amiable subplot.

Well, it's the first one in a very long time, but "Body Parts" is a Ferengi episode that actually works. I guess it's a good indication that the season is going well when the writers can come up with a passable vehicle for Quark.

I'll admit it—I thought we were in really big trouble when I saw the lackluster and unfunny teaser where Quark reveals to Rom that he's been diagnosed with a terminal illness (the deadpan "I did this and that and, oh yeah, I'm dying" was just plain dumb and utterly predictable). Nor were my spirits raised with the absolutely typical reactions both Rom and Quark were making in the early acts concerning Quark's condition (Rom being seriously overstated and dreadfully overacted, and Quark being predictably stubborn). And then when Brunt (that obnoxious FCA guy played by Jeffrey Combs) showed up again, I was almost ready to shut down my brain for another Ferengi outing to go crashing-and-burning down along with the likes of "Family Business," "Prophet Motive," and "Bar Association."

But then a funny thing happened: The show came together and worked on its terms—even with its basic plot that can be summed up in one sentence. That sentence goes something like this: Quark is tricked into believing he has a terminal illness by Brunt, who buys Quark's remains in advance and then reveals to Quark that he's not going to die, forcing him to choose whether to kill himself to satisfy the contract's terms or to break the contract and live the rest of his life as a pathetic Ferengi outcast. The motivation for Brunt's actions aren't really important (he thinks Quark is a—gasp—philanthropist, and wants him destroyed, which strikes me as rather contrived motivation). What's important here is a decent character study for Quark—one of the few times the series actually uses the character in a semi-serious way.

The key words are "decent" and "semi-serious." While the show is an overall success, it isn't really anything approaching compelling or dramatic. And there is a lot of comic relief here—some of it's dumb, and some of it's effective. In any case it's enough to see that the show doesn't take itself all that seriously—which is fine for a comedy episode, but still worth mentioning in terms of comparing this installment to more serious shows.

Again, I found Brunt's presence and the Ferengi culture he represents less than interesting—I still think that analyzing a transparently greed-laden society is more often annoying and obvious than it is funny. Scenes like the one where Brunt is aghast when he learns Quark gives his workers—gasp again—vacation time seem as if they want to be funny based solely on the backward values Ferengi place on doing business at the expense of the individual. But enough already—the joke has been done so many times on DS9, and it was never that great a joke in the first place.

What I did find interesting in "Body Parts," however, was discovering that the show actually matters. Unlike most Ferengi shows, this one seems to have quite an impact on Quark, and a lasting impact at that. Usually, Quark is just a Ferengi caricature, spouting Rules of Acquisition and being greedy just because the guidelines the writers have set down for the Ferengi as a culture demands it. But this time, the writers address Quark's difference from the rest of Ferenginar. The twist here is the question: What if, despite how greedy and conniving Quark seems to humans, he is actually too generous and overly concerned with the well-being of his workers in the eyes of other Ferengi? And because of this difference he has to prove otherwise by killing himself—or live only as a disgrace to his people?

Despite all the comic mayhem the premise is milked for, this is not a lightweight issue. This requires some hard choices for Quark—and, for once, some tough consequences as well. Watching Quark go through his hardship is handled surprisingly well. While I may not like selfish Ferengi customs, it's quite clear that Quark, as a practicing Ferengi businessman, does. He wants to be successful and liked by his peers, but Brunt is determined to see to it otherwise.

So Quark considers killing himself so he can die with Ferengi businessman dignity—or, rather, in one of the season's best turns of comic inspiration, hiring Garak to do it for him (to which, for a rather brief and intriguing moment, Garak smiles ominously). This leads to two of the funniest scenes the series has done in months. First is the scene where Garak practices killing Quark in a holosuite simulation. (Garak: "How was that?" Quark: "No! Snapping vertebrae is out!") Second is the scene where Quark walks precariously into his darkened quarters expecting a surprise assassination. (This was great physical comedy that didn't wander too far into the realm of slapstick, and I was laughing hard.)

But when Quark has a bizarre dream involving Gint, the first Grand Nagus (who looks strikingly similar to his brother Rom), he realizes his life is not worth Brunt's price. This leads Quark to his decision to defy Brunt, accepting the stiff penalties that come with it—including complete loss of assets, exile from Ferenginar, and being forever forbidden to deal business with other Ferengi.

I particularly liked the show's ending. For once, there was no easy fix to the problem. Quark is faced with being completely ruined—period. He sits alone in his empty bar, which has been completely stripped of everything, furniture and all. The only assets he has are his friends—Sisko, Odo, Dax, Bashir, even Morn—who, to help him reopen his bar, donate furniture and supplies out of their own generosity. The final shot is a very reassuring turn of characterization. For once, Quark is actually speechless with gratitude, as if he understands generosity for the first time in his life. Reading into this, I'm hoping this will somewhat change his character's outlook. Being exiled from Ferenginar may cause him to be even more drawn into Federation values; and from now on, maybe he'll think twice before taking advantage of the people around him. That's the payoff of "Body Parts"—one I find quite respectable. Most Ferengi episodes don't even have a payoff, and it's nice to finally see one with some story and substance.

"Body Parts" also has a B-story in which pregnant Keiko O'Brien is injured in a Runabout mishap. As a result, Bashir is forced to perform an emergency medical procedure to save her baby. He has to move the baby to the only other womb available at the time of the accident: Major Kira. Bajoran anatomy complications dictates that Kira must carry the child to term.

I thought this worked quite well. Obviously, the only reason this part of the story even exists is because of Nana Visitor's pregnancy. But, implausibilities aside, I think the writers did the best they possibly could have under the circumstances. The characterizations are surprisingly absorbing, and handled well. There are possibilities here, too. Look for Kira to be viewing life in new ways, and experiencing a very intimate bond with the O'Briens. At the end of the show, Kira agrees to move in with the O'Briens, which makes for a rather fascinating family unit. And I thought the "Aunt Nerys" bit was, well, cute. I hope we see more of this, because it made for great character padding.

Bottom line: While the plot of "Body Parts" isn't the greatest and it takes a while to get going, it ultimately delivers on the character plane. Thumbs up.

Note: After viewing this episode, it came to my attention that many of the DS9 characters are outcasts among their own people. Quark has now been exiled, Worf stands alone against the Klingon empire, Odo is ostracized among Changelings for killing one of his own, Garak is exiled from Cardassia, Dukat is a rogue fighter flying around in a Klingon ship, and even Dax almost made a choice that would have resulted in her banishment from Trill. Most interesting. Perhaps the series is trying to say something about individuality and standing up for one's beliefs.

Previous episode: The Quickening
Next episode: Broken Link

◄ Season Index

41 comments on this review

Jasyson
Thu, Jun 19, 2008, 9:10pm (UTC -5)
I have to agree that this was probably one of the best Ferengi episodes in the run of the series except maybe Family Business, one of my favorites. The ending was surprisingly good even if it was very Capraesq. I half expected Quark to turn to Rom and say "Look Rom, everybody gave me stuff because I wouldn't kill my self"

I thought your assesment of exiled or neary exiled characters through the season was interesting. I'v watched season 4 several times and never picked up on that. Its a testiment to the writers that they didn't go out of their way to point that out, good subtle story telling. Btw by the end of the season Odo is not just exiled from his people but from his true nature and oh you forgot Worfs brother Kern who was exiled like Odo, from him self.
dan b
Fri, Dec 19, 2008, 3:41pm (UTC -5)
I really liked this episode. I have it 3.5 stars. I really liked the interaction with garak and the ending was a nice show of friendship
Larrylongballs
Thu, Nov 19, 2009, 8:42am (UTC -5)
It was also avery clever reworking of The Merchant of Venice. It is the Shakespearian Ferengi episode.

Nic
Tue, Nov 24, 2009, 9:26pm (UTC -5)
Definitely the best Quark episode to date. I actually cared about the character for once, and though I admit I half-expected Quark to somehow have his cake and eat it too, I was surprised to see that it wasn't that easy.
Anthony2816
Fri, Feb 12, 2010, 1:14am (UTC -5)
One problem: Wasn't Quark's contract with Garak left open?
Jay
Sat, Feb 5, 2011, 9:26pm (UTC -5)
Not sure I understand the point of Quark's bar being stripped of everything. Presumably not all of that stuff would be the FCA's to take (surely they couldn't, for example, rip out the holosuites). As far as what Quark did own, wouldn't the donated material at the end of the episode have become Quark's immediately become subject to confiscation as well? Plus, after this episode, it wasn't long before we once again found Quark employing Ferengi and doing business with Ferengi.
Jack
Sun, Oct 16, 2011, 2:44pm (UTC -5)
I thought voles were considered vermin (particularly by Quark, who has complained about them infesting his bar more than once), but here we hear of Quark closing a volebelly deal, suggesting they are a food commodity.
Duge
Thu, Jun 14, 2012, 11:31am (UTC -5)
@Anthony2816: I was wondering about that too. I expected Garak to follow through on his promise to "surprise" Quark after he decided to break his contract with Brunt but it was just like the whole subplot with Garak disappeared by the end of the episode without even a mention. I would have liked to have seen some kind of subtle nod between Quark and Garak that killing him (Quark) was off- though I'm sure that Garak eventually figured it out that Quark had called the plan off when his bar was sacked by the FCA and, well, Garak is smart enough to not want to be open about their plan.
John
Thu, Aug 23, 2012, 8:39pm (UTC -5)
I also like the bit about the Rules of Acquisition being all just a clever marketing ploy.
William
Tue, Oct 30, 2012, 10:38pm (UTC -5)
I'm generally a fan of the Ferengi episodes, but agree with others this is a standout among them.
Arachnea
Wed, Nov 21, 2012, 6:44am (UTC -5)
There is a lot of silliness in this episode, but there's also a lot we learn about Quark. What I liked is the underlining that Quark - despite what we take as obnoxious behaviour - doesn't cheat because he's a bad person, but because he follows a set of rules in which he believes.

And for once, it's nice to see other people and even Sisko being nice to him ! (which is incidentally sarcastic, knowing that they like him here for what they dislike him most: breaking a rule - ok, not a Federation rule, a Ferengi rule, but you get my point :P).
I would have liked more continuity about that in the following episodes.

On a sidenote, the writers don't really know what to do with Rom. In some episodes, he wants his brother dead (even tries to kill him); we see him not caring at all after Quark has been beaten savagely by Nausicaans but in this one, there's not even a hint that Quark's death is what Rom's being dreaming about for a long time.
Chris
Sat, Dec 1, 2012, 7:43pm (UTC -5)
Oh jeez...a per chance routine doctors appointment happens to reveal a disease (okay so far) that strikes only 1 in 5,000,000 Ferengi (quite a stretch) and will just so happen to kill Quark within six days (ridiculous).

So apparently we are to believe that had Quark not happened to visit the doctor while he happened to be on Feringinar, he would have suddenly dropped dead on DS9.

Oh, but actually it was a misdiagnosis of a disease that rare and that deadly.
Chris
Sat, Dec 1, 2012, 7:45pm (UTC -5)
and the reason to reject the second opinion from Bashir was ridiculous...we've seen Quark allow Bashir treat him before for myriad things.
lizzyann
Mon, Jan 7, 2013, 9:47pm (UTC -5)
@chris

But did you like it? Did you enjoy the ep? Did it make you laugh? And how about that b-plot?
Kevin
Thu, Feb 28, 2013, 9:15pm (UTC -5)
In this day and age, it's hard to read about the teaser and not mentally hear the line read: "I got the results of the test back -- I definitely have Dorek Syndrome."
Chris
Sun, May 19, 2013, 12:20pm (UTC -5)
This is a different Chris to the one above.

To the commenters speculating on Garak's contract with Quark. I think you are taking it too seriously. I don't believe Garak ever had any intention to kill Quark. Why would he risk getting into trouble with his Federation/Bajoran hosts? To do Quark a favour? He doesn't seem motivated by money. He probably just went through the assassination scenarios for fun and suggesting he could kill Quark at any moment, again for fun. Am I the only one who thought this obvious?
Nick
Tue, Jul 2, 2013, 12:22am (UTC -5)
@Chris. I had the same thought. The notion that Garak would put himself in the position to be tried for murder is ridiculous. In addition to him being one of the first suspects Odo would question (especially if the murder was committed very well) Rom would have been a witness that would have no reason to keep Garak's part in it a secret. I think Garak was just having a bit of fun with Quark while he waited for cooler heads to prevail.

Even if he was serious, just because we don't see Quark tell Garak that the deal was off, it is reasonable to assume that Quark would've done so the moment he decided to break the contract. He's not stupid.
Kotas
Wed, Oct 23, 2013, 6:30pm (UTC -5)

Decent Ferengi ep.

5/10
Chris
Thu, Nov 7, 2013, 2:37pm (UTC -5)
"But did you like it? Did you enjoy the ep? Did it make you laugh? And how about that b-plot? "

Well, no, because such a string of convoluted contrivances totally lift you (or at least me) out of the story.
William B
Thu, Nov 7, 2013, 6:07pm (UTC -5)
@Kevin, LOL. I just saw your months-old comment now. I can totally see it. QUARK: "Everything goes wrong all at once. Nobody wants to help me. And I'm dying."
eastwest101
Sat, Nov 9, 2013, 11:51pm (UTC -5)
I agree - a lot of silliness in this genuinely entertaining episode, Armin Shimmerman and Andrew J Robinson steal the show....

A script with a lot of heart
Jack
Tue, Nov 19, 2013, 11:41am (UTC -5)
I got a kick out of how the opening shot of the station in "The Quickening" was a tight closeup rather than a reveal of the whole station, so they can't be accused of "Voyager rapid repair" after losing the pylon the previous week. The closing scene does it again.

But here, the opening shows the whole station, looking pristine. Still pretty fast to have rebuilt it, considering that it's Cardassian architecture.
Jay
Wed, Jan 1, 2014, 11:51am (UTC -5)
Chris is right...it is pretty absurd that a disease would kill within six days without producing any notable symptom before that. What does Dorek syndrome do?...trigger an event (perhaps a stroke...the way the death unfolds is of course never addressed by the episode) that is at the same time sudden, discoverable ahead of time by a physician, and yet unpreventable by said physician upon discovery. It is just a bit much.
Jay
Wed, Jan 1, 2014, 12:02pm (UTC -5)
And...Brunt shows up almost immediately after Quark learns he really doesn't have Dorek's syndrome. We pretty much have to assume that Brunt was already in transit to DS9 when that news came. It seems to me that one can only conclude that the doctor had to purposely misdiagnose Quark for Brunt. The coincidence is too much (although, the whole episode is too much, so...). If so, the doctor is in on the fraud, and that, I think, should be enough to get Quark out of the contract.
Jons
Mon, Feb 3, 2014, 3:29pm (UTC -5)
I think it's quite obvious Garak never intended to actually kill Quark nor did he think for a second that Quark actually wanted to go through with it (as he slyly remarks when they're doing the holosuits simulations... And then proceeds to tease telling him that "he won't know what hit him").

I liked that episode, nice ending, very nice acting.
Jack
Sat, Feb 15, 2014, 10:23am (UTC -5)
Rule of Acquisition #17: A contract is a contract...but only between Ferengi".

That seems like an awfully early number (17) to involve races beyond Ferenginar. Are the rules of acquisition newer than first contact with other races? They've always been presented as being much older than that.
DLPB
Sat, Feb 22, 2014, 12:35pm (UTC -5)
If you ignore the absurdity of how Trek thinks capitalism and contracts work (and how they portray the Ferengi), this is a pretty fun episode.
DLPB
Sat, Feb 22, 2014, 12:42pm (UTC -5)
...though I'm sure that Garak eventually figured it out that Quark ...

=========

This is a work of fiction. Don't talk about it as if it is real. Address the writing and the writers, or it makes you look like an idiot.

The reason Garak wasn't shown is the writers got lazy. The other gripe aside from those mentioned here, is that the contract would be null and void. What advanced society would keep a contract on a man who was misdiagnosed with a terminal illness?

It's just laughable.
Dusty
Sun, Feb 23, 2014, 1:22am (UTC -5)
Well, that was a jarring opening. I immediately care about Quark's predicament and the way they worked Nana Visitor's real-life pregnancy into the storyline was pretty creative. Keiko's scene with Kira was her best acting yet. And Brunt is still a loathsome stain. xD

If this episode has any weakness it's that the pacing is a tad clunky, jumping back and forth between the A and B plots with little in the way of rhythm or transition. But Shimerman steals the entire show with his performance. The ending was inspiring without being maudlin, and I like the way Garak was used. An outstanding show.
Vylora
Tue, Feb 25, 2014, 3:32pm (UTC -5)
There's diseases/viruses/parasites in real life that can remain dormant and undetected until they activate or attack. So it's by no means a stretch of the imagination, especially seeing as Ferengi are physiologically different, that they would have potential for illnesses along those lines. Seems to me that Dorek Syndrome is one of those that remains dormant til activation and strikes hard afterwards. Also not all real life illnesses have visual symptoms. In this case it doesn't matter because Quark didn't have it anyway.

The how and why of Brunt getting there is a non-issue as well. Perhaps he was in cahoots with the doctor that made the misdiagnosis? Maybe he found out what was going on by other means? Who cares? Obviously Brunt has been keeping track of Quark since "Bar Association" and very likely before that.

Quark not wanting Bashirs second opinion wasn't a stretch either. The other times Bashir treated him was when he was physically attacked right there on the station. In this particular case, he was diagnosed on Feringinar by a doctor that right there in the dialogue stated he had more faith in because of shared Ferengi principles of money. I personally, in real life, would want another opinion, sure. But that's not Quark and this wasn't a stretch.

I think contrivances are sought after where none exist when one doesn't like an episode.

Speaking of which, I quite enjoyed it. I thought the change of familial situation for the O'briens and Kira was nicely handled and fun to watch. I don't understand how a baby that's obviously noticeable in size can just be transported into a new womb like that. But then I don't know much about Bajoran physiology. The transporter skill alone was probably pretty high for such a procedure, but it fits knowing what we know of Bashir.

The Quark story was fantastic compared to most Ferengi episodes and the scenes with Quark/Garak and Quarks dream were highlights for me. In fact the overall execution was well done and it didn't have the over the top silliness for silliness sake that tends to make these episodes completely face-plant. Loved your review as usual, Jammer, though I actually did like the opening scene, too. (:

Good stuff. Not stellar - just solid entertainment that had consequences for a few characters to boot.

High end of 3 for me.
Eric
Sun, Jun 8, 2014, 11:28am (UTC -5)
Doesn't it bother anyone else that the FCA somehow has jurisdiction over a bar on a Federation station? This keeps happening in this show: "Family Business", "Bar association", but it doesn't make sense. It would be like the Chinese government coming in and closing down a grocery store in Canada, just because the owner is Chinese.
Andy's Friend
Sun, Jun 8, 2014, 12:34pm (UTC -5)
^ The point is that the Ferengi Alliance considers all Ferengi her citizens, subject to her laws, regardless of their place of residence and work. A bit like some states on Earth today will automatically revoke your citizenship if you obtain another, while others will never revoke that citizenship, no matter what ― once you're one of us, you'll always be one of us, even if you live on the other side of the planet and don't plan on ever returning.

Since Ferengi citizens seem to take this very seriously and respect it, it follows that the Ferengi Commerce Authority maintains overall jurisdiction in financial/fiscal matters over all Ferengi everywhere, no matter what.

And apparently the Bajorans respect this practice as well and somehow exempt Quark of taxation, and merely charge some form of fixed rent. Otherwise, Quark would be subject to double taxation, which I doubt he would have agreed to.

So remember: Terek Nor/DS9 is a Cardassian-built, now Bajoran-owned, and partly Federation-operated space station ― with a Ferengi-leased bar, seemingly tax-exempted by the Bajoran authorities and subject only to FCA fiscal and labour law. But I'm betting the Cardassian tailor pays taxes to the Bajorans. Ahh, the intricacies of Alpha Quadrant dealings... ;)
2piix
Fri, Jul 11, 2014, 1:54pm (UTC -5)
I'm not so sure it's that complicated. The FCA probably doesn't have jurisdiction, as such, over Quark's bar. Quark "consented" to have his assets taken, because messing with the FCA would cause him and his family huge problems. Think "extraordinary rendition".

Also, we know the Federation lets Quark have a lease for free.

I don't know about taxation. But it's possible that Bajor and the Federation treat DS-9 as a duty free zone (like an airport, for example)
Yanks
Thu, Jul 31, 2014, 10:20am (UTC -5)
I think your review is spot on Jammer.

Couple points.

It was CLEAR to me that Brunt was in on this with the Doctor from the start. As soon as he showed up to the station and was revealed to be the "highest bidder" I knew this was his plan.

I love to hear Quark talk about Ferengi "heaven" :-)

"QUARK: Yes. And when I arrive at the gates of the Divine Treasury, the Registrar will accept my bribe and usher me inside."

...and of course Brunt played by Combs is great as well. I cracked up at this line:

"BRUNT: What I want is fifty two disks of vacuum-desiccated Quark. Nothing more, nothing less. "

lol

When both these great actors play off each other it really is a treat.

And once again, Garak's mere presence adds to this episode. I ROARED when Garak was demonstrating different methods of murder to Quark. They could have had an interaction between Quark and Garak after he decided he wasn’t going to go through with it, but I think just having Garak smile in the background when Quark tells Brunt he’s going to break the contract would have been sufficient.

Very interesting “B” story as well. Glad they figured out a way to keep Nanna. It’s my understanding that many times if a cast member gets pregnant in TV, they kill off the part.

I also agree; the ending made this episode. For a couple reasons. Quark now realizes his customers are assets, and more importantly he just might be coming to the realization that he IS a community leader as Sisko bribed him into becoming in ‘Emissary’.

The best “Ferengi” episode yet.

3.5 stars from me.
Robert
Fri, Aug 1, 2014, 8:12am (UTC -5)
"Glad they figured out a way to keep Nanna. It’s my understanding that many times if a cast member gets pregnant in TV, they kill off the part."

In Star Trek they tend to just give them a giant overcoat and stick them behind a desk (see Torres and Crusher).

I am glad we didn't have to see what random overcoat thing they would have given Kira though :P
MsV
Fri, Feb 13, 2015, 5:01am (UTC -5)
I actually liked Body Parts and Little Green Men. I haven't warmed up to Quark since his greed almost got Dax killed in Season 2.
Nebula Nox
Wed, Sep 2, 2015, 9:06am (UTC -5)
Over the years, I have come to appreciate the Ferengi episodes. Anyway, this one is lovely, with the end coming straight out of "It's a Wonderful Life."
methane
Mon, Nov 30, 2015, 3:29pm (UTC -5)
"FCA somehow has jurisdiction over a bar on a Federation station"

Quark probably has all of his assets not currently on the station in Ferengi assets (banks, stock funds, or whatever). You might also believe that his Ferengi employee salaries somehow go through Ferenginar. Just as the Obama administration has enforced US laws on overseas banks that use dollars (leading to large disagreements with US allies), the Ferengi could claim that Quark's accounts give them the right to enforce all sorts of laws on his financial activities.

Quark could likely shield his station-based assets (like his furniture) if he renounced his citizenship, but that would likely cause problems for his family back home, as 2piix pointed out. Regardless, his accounts on Ferengenar being confiscated would have been a far bigger financial loss than whatever they took from the bar.
William B
Mon, Dec 7, 2015, 11:57am (UTC -5)
I mean, not to say that the plot isn't silly (it is), but Quark says his doctor gave him his *annual insurance physical* on Ferenginar; it is clearly a regular exam and so it is not a coincidence that Quark visited his doctor at all. It is also very clear that Brunt set the whole thing up. I don't know if the doctor was actually in on it, or Brunt had a diagnostic system hacked into or some such. But actually, I don't think these details matter. Quark obviously expects that he will not have to go through with the contract he signed with Brunt, and the impression we are given is that under normal circumstances, not even Ferengi would expect a person would kill themselves to honour a contract. Quark is shocked and confused by Brunt's actions. As far as I can tell, though, the point is that the FCA is sufficiently powerful that Brunt can, with enough even mild legal maneuvering room, insist on the contract to the point that Quark's breach of contract would *still be sufficient to prosecute him* and bar him from Ferengi society. Now, one element of this episode missing is that I think Quark really *should have* attempted to contact the Nagus to at least try to advocate on his behalf, or to bribe some other FCA official. But the key thing for me is that Brunt is an extremely successful functionary who has enough clout to be able to seize Quark's assets if he has any cause at all, and Brunt is presumably powerful, wealthy and well-connected enough that Quark would never be able to fight him -- imagine the legal fees required to go against the FCA! Moreover, if Quark fights the FCA's decision Brunt can air Quark's dirty laundry -- Ishka earning profit, Rom's union and Quark settling with it. That Brunt would go to such lengths for purely personal reasons is of course very silly...but I *suspect* that (like, say, Eddington, or any other ideologue in this show) Brunt genuinely believes what he says about Quark being a festering disease on the lobe of the Ferengi Alliance which needs to be cut off, and that the Ferengi will be stronger for making an example out of Quark, who as a businessman on a fairly significant port (near the wormhole) is prominent enough for people to be aware of him but not powerful enough to fight Brunt at all. I think Brunt's claim that his attack on Quark is "personal" is then partly true -- it is personal in that Brunt is willing to spend his resources to make Ferengi society better, which in turn will allow Brunt to feel more secure that his society will allow him to profit.

Now, that Ferengi contracts are so fundamental to their society that breaking a contract is cause for exile, even when going through with the contract would mean one's death, would be ridiculous if it weren't that this is the same season where Kurn could only enter Sto-Vo-Kor by ritual assisted suicide because chancellor decree stripped his family of honour because of what Worf did, or where Bajorans as a whole seemed on the verge of reinstituting a caste system based on family birth because a religious icon told them to, to the point where the station's Vedek pushed a guy to his death for disrespecting him. The contract having a sacred value in Ferengi society makes perfect sense when Ferengi society eliminates the concept of honesty and fairness as necessary qualities for negotiations and currency exchange; with a society of people out to cheat each other, everything would collapse without fundamental lines that *cannot* be crossed, and having the contract as unbreakable allows the society to *otherwise* allow for all manner of self-interest. If there is a throughline to the season, it may be an examination of what the basic, underlying values are of each of the societies, examined in turn, and examined via what their Ultimate Crimes are; Dukat violates Cardassian rules about illegitimate children, Dax almost violates the Trill taboo on reassociation, Odo was the first changeling to harm another, the Jem'Hadar in "To the Death" emphasize disloyalty to the Founders as the gravest sin, there's Worf's family dishonour, and there's Leyton's attempted takeover of the Earth as a violation of fundamental cardinal rules for the Federation of democracy. This is Quark's turn, and Brunt is playing for keeps.

Brunt's presence in this episode largely did work for me by turning a problem in "Family Business" and "Bar Association" into something of a virtue. Quark basically folded in both episodes, but found a way to maintain the appearance of giving in. The same can basically be said of "Rules of Acquisition" as well, where Quark found a way to blackmail Zek into letting Pel go away unscathed. Now for Quark to be able to get away with this once or twice is one thing, but at some point he either has to stick to his guns and be a True Ferengi, whatever that means, or recognize that there is something rotten in what the Ferengi Establishment expects of him. Brunt forcing the issue has the benefit of making Brunt seem less stupid, suggesting that he did not "fall for" Quark's transparent actions in "FB" and "BA" but, I guess, wanted to see how things played out.

What is great is that the early segments of the episode do basically establish that Quark does view himself and his life largely in Ferengi dominant cultural terms: Quark is upset that he is dying, yes, but what depresses him above all that is that he is dying in debt, a small-time operator who never managed to successfully bring his life together. That he has the chance to end his life as A Success in Ferengi terms is the bait which Brunt uses to snatch Quark up...which means that Brunt maybe recognized that Quark fundamentally *does* want to be a Ferengi success. That Quark may die but that he will die with more assets than losses is a consolation -- and this starts to get at the reason for these values. The reason Ferengi Rules of Acquisition matter so much to Quark is not so much that he likes getting and having things, though Quark certainly does genuinely enjoy the thrill of a successful deal. But ultimately like all pleasures, it is temporary, and at some point Quark will die and be -- well, not dust, actually vacuum desiccated remains. What remains after death, or in the face of death, is Meaning, and Quark relies on the Rules of Acquisition to give his life meaning; he cares about the respect of Fellow Ferengi businessmen to "know" that his life was successful and worth it, and that is the thing that allows him to cope with the recognition that one day his life will be over.

Whether it's entirely consistent with the Trek ethos from previous series or not, this series in general and this season in particular has brought in religion in a big way, and the thing that all the fundamental rules that cannot be violated have in common, actually, have something to do with death: Trill reassociation violates the sanctity of the death/rebirth system of joining, and the idea that life can go on but only if a hard line is drawn between this life and past ones; the Bajorans seek the way of the Prophets, Klingons want to go to Sto-Vo-Kor and worship artifacts like the Sword of Kahless, Ferengi to the Divine Treasury, and the Jem'Hadar (and Vorta) worship the Founders, and the Jem'Hadar rituals in particular involve the possibility of re-earning life through good works in battle. The quasi-religious is even represented in the secular characters, where Earth as "paradise" is repeatedly invoked so that the Sisko/Leyton conflict (and later Eddington's Lucifer complex) are framed in terms of a battle to protect or undermine a kind of secular heaven on earth Earth in the present, and the Great Link remains just out of reach as the place where Odo stops being one and becomes part of many, the concept of heaven as death/life reexamined. Jake in "The Visitor" is obsessed with reuniting with his "dead" father who continues living on in some sort of Other Dimension and is willing to die for it; Bashir accuses the Teplans of worshiping death and their ritual death forms the backbone of their culture; Garak "lives in hope" that those probably-killed members of the Obsidian Order attack still exist ("Broken Link"); O'Brien ponders death as the possibility of escape from himself in "Hard Time." Belief and death are strongly linked, and the season reexamines over and over what it is that people will die for, what they hope to have after death, and what beliefs keep them alive.

So when Brunt forces Quark to choose between his life and his death, what he is really asking of Quark is to choose between how much Quark loves life, and how much stock Quark puts in the beliefs which provide him some sort of shielding from the reality of death. Quark is ecstatic at the possibility of living again, and Quark's genuine joie de vivre returns. Let's note here that while it's true Quark probably can sue the doctor for malpractice, Quark pretty immediately forgets about his concern that he was a failure as a Ferengi once he is reassured that he will continue living -- it was only when he thought that his life was over, and that he has to justify how he has lived, that he became maudlin about his life as is. Like anyone, Quark has some bad days and bad periods where things seem intractable, but mostly he is happy to be busy, happy when he gets a deal, happy to spend time with his friends and his idiot brother whom he very clearly in this episode loves. (I said "in this episode"; while the same contempt is here for Rom, I like that the episode avoids focusing on the conflict and does depict the genuine affection Quark has for Rom, and vice versa, in a nicely understated way.) And so Quark now has something like the options presented to Ekoria in The Quickening: do you choose a comfortable death, or an uncomfortable life? The discomfort here that Quark has as he lives is not minor; not only does he have his worldly possessions stripped away and does he have contact with other Ferengi revoked, but he has the security of "knowing" that he is a success by a socially accepted definition removed, which means that when he dies, or falls on hard times, he may not even know what to strive for or what to reach for. With an overbearing, mostly unloving mother, it's not a surprise to me that Quark largely allows the *meaning* in his life to be defined by social constructs, the Rules of Acquisition, and so on, rather than relying on some sort of "soft-hearted" conception of people, including himself, as intrinsically worth something.

But he does want to live. Part of the point of the very funny scenes of hiring Garak to kill him, then being squeamish about the various assassination methods, and then the OMINOUS MUSIC shot of the station followed by Quark running around terrified, is that Quark really does want some sort of out from his predicament and his desire to die is far eclipsed by his desire to live. (I will note in passing that I think Garak was mostly playing with Quark, and maybe even as a sort-of-friend pointing out to Quark that he does not want to die, because I don't see Garak actually killing Quark for no particular reason and getting in trouble because of it. It's not the same as killing someone for a greater cause, which I absolutely think Garak would do. I am not really positive about this though, and it's a weakness of the episode that it puts Garak in this super-weird position and then doesn't even bother having Quark call him off.) The dream sequence has its moments, but I do think it's mostly one of the weaker scenes in the episode's main plot; Max Grodenchik is amusing as Gint-Rom to some degree, but by having Gint-Rom spell out explicitly that it's stupid to die for a set of suggestions which mistake the spirit behind the rules for the rules itself takes Quark off the hook for being able to get to this realization himself. I think that it also obscures what I think is a bigger point here: the Rules of Acquisition are given the reverence they are because it is EASIER (at least for most) to follow a set of RULES than to be able to intuit the true meaning behind them. The Ferengi philosophy, such as it is, seems to be a matter of self-interest which manifests as a genuine desire to have a good life, with the assumption that if all people put their all into achieving something for themselves, society will be a good and happy place, which people like Brunt, who are petty and vengeful, twist into cruelty. It is not my philosophy -- self-interest is good, but not to the extremes Ferengi take it -- but I can see some good in it. And I think the idea here is that the rules are there to make people's lives better, as opposed to people being there to follow the rules. For Quark to realize that he does not need the "respect of his peers" and does not need to be a success on Ferengi terms to be alive -- and that he may well, some day, die a "failure", but that it is better to live as good a life as he can until then -- is in some senses quite profound, and goes to the heart of what this season is about.

And that I think is what we have seen from Quark in those previous episodes; I think "Family Business" and "Bar Association" were pretty bad, but basically Quark in those episodes and "RoA" recognized that happiness and success were more important than Ferengi laws, and that his default position is to agree with Ferengi culture does not mean that he was unwilling to bend to find the solution that kept him basically successful and allowed him to work with others. But no more half-measures; here he actually has to sever ties with Ferenginar. The very ending, the "It's a Wonderful Life" moment, is cute, though it somewhat undermines the depth of what Quark sacrificed in order to buy his life back, and that Quark really would rather be "a failure" on Ferengi terms and alive than successful and dead means a bit less when we immediately see him back to being a moderate success. I also think that by having Quark not talk to any of Dax/Bashir/Sisko over the course of the episode the episodes does not do too much set-up for it, which is mostly okay -- we can rely on the series as a whole; and Quark *did* start the episode by small-mindedly dismissing what Bashir could know since he does not even charge. I admit that I would have *loved* for Garak to drop off some cups and say "I was going to let you drink from this earlier, but I see that will no longer be necessary" or something, with the implication that he is giving Quark a gift that would have been a murder weapon.

So overall, yeah, I am a fan of the main plot, which is at times goofy but I think is written and acted well, with Shimerman being and having a blast. Then there is that subplot. As a workaround for Nana Visitor's pregnancy, it's not a bad SF idea, and is a logical extension of surrogacy. The "I can't move the baby again because Bajorans have a whole network of connections to their baby in a day!" was probably unnecessary (simply saying "it's a wonder the baby survived the transfer the first time at this stage in the pregnancy, and I wouldn't risk it again" would have been sufficient). Anyway, the plot does suffer from, after a season of mostly sidelining Kira and her POV, once again completely ignoring what Kira actually thinks of this major event which will significantly change the next couple months of her life. The episode starts purely in Miles' POV, then extends to Keiko, but besides a few scenes where Kira awkwardly talks to Keiko (and Miles), we don't get anything on what it's like to suddenly be someone's surrogate and to have a pretty large fetus suddenly inserted into your body, not even from zygote stage but a few months in. That Kira moves in with the O'Briens is another one of those things that we really should have gotten her perspective on. Pretty annoying.

Oh well, I really like the main plot, despite its flaws, even if the subplot mostly bothers me. A mid to high 3 stars.
Diamond Dave
Sun, Jan 3, 2016, 3:27pm (UTC -5)
'Body Parts', in which Quark loses everything but finds the most unexpected asset of all - friends. I suppose that at least this way the reset button isn't fully applied and we are left with an episode that actually means something to Quark's character. Garak's glee in being asked to assassinate Quark is a highlight, culminating in the marvellous holosuite scene.

But really this feels like an episode in search of a conclusion - it's obvious Quark is not going to die and really we are just sitting around waiting to see how that is resolved, which is mildly diverting rather than riveting.

The B-story is an interesting twist on the actor pregnancy conundrum, but again not exactly riveting. 2 stars.
Luke
Fri, Apr 22, 2016, 11:12pm (UTC -5)
Like Jammer I was ready to hate this episode based on how it began. We start with O'Brien, Dax and Worf talking about how Keiko insisted on going on a questionable trip to the Gamma Quadrant for some botanical exploration, even though she's very much pregnant. O'Brien can't believe that she wants to do such hazardous things, like also rappelling down cliffs on Bajor, and feels he has to remind her that she's pregnant. To which, and here is where I started to get worried, Dax responds with "yeah, I guess the extra weight, the morning sickness, the mood swings, the medical examinations, they aren't reminders enough." *sigh* Well, Dax, given that she wants to go fucking rappelling, I'd say they aren't enough! And, oh yeah, maybe if Keiko had listened to all those things like extra weight, morning sickness and mood swings, she wouldn't have fucking lost her baby! But, just stick your nose a little higher in the air there, Jadzia! *sigh*

Of course, that's all quickly (and thankfully) forgotten about when the A-plot kicks in. Hmm, so we have an episode with one plot involving a terminal illness, a possible need to kill oneself to satisfy societal norms and rejection of one's closest held beliefs and another plot which could basically be summarized as a sit-com version of "OMG, my office-mate is having my baby!". Which one is played for laughs? Well, the one about terminal illness and potential suicide, of course! All kidding aside, though, this is - surprise, surprise - a very well done Ferengi episode. I certainly did not think I would say that so soon after the abysmally bad "Bar Association". But, the reason is that, unlike "Bar Association" and virtually all other Ferengi episodes, "Body Parts" - GASP! - treats Quark (and by extension Ferengi society) with actual respect. While there are comedic elements present, they don't consist of unfunny stuff like ear picking and insect eating. And this is a serious issue that Quark has to face, and the episode manages to pull off that seriousness while still offering some legitimate laughs (like Rom saying the Nagus just uses Quark when it suits his purposes).

One thing I particularly liked about it was that it, in some ways, is the story of a man turning his back on his religion. The scene where Quark dreams that he's in the Divine Treasury I think shows that most clearly. Here Quark is dreaming about what he believes is the afterlife and yet comes away from it convinced and determined to walk away from the tradition and practices that that afterlife entail. Even as someone who has vigorously defended religion against Trek numerous times, I really enjoyed this. Mostly because it's a story about a man choosing individuality and his own well being over social convention which never once devolves into anti-theistic territory. There is no condemnation of religion even though Quark is essentially choosing to walk away from it. If only more "anti"-religion episodes could be like this. One person decides to not follow his lifelong beliefs anymore - I'm perfectly fine with that. Live and let live and all that good stuff.

If there is one problem with the A-plot it's how Brunt ultimately harms Quark in the end. How exactly was he able to leave him in utter destitution? Quark's bar, most of his property and (I would assume) most of his financial assets, are in Bajoran territory (and on a Federation-run space station). Brunt has no legal authority on DS9. I could see him stripping Quark of all he has back on Ferenginar (like any accounts he keeps on the planet instead of on the station or on Bajor). But stripping him of all his property (right down to the shirt on his back) on DS9, I doubt it. Would Sisko honestly let something like this happen? He's already shown a willingness to put Federation/Bajoran values ahead of Ferengi ones when it comes to business conducted on the station. So I have a hard time believing that Brunt would have been able to get away with literally stripping the bar clean like he does. However, having that happen led directly to one of the most touching scenes "Deep Space Nine" has given us to date - all the other characters helping Quark out of their own generosity. That moment has such a wonderful "It's a Wonderful Life" feel to it that I'm willing to forgive the questionable set-up. Dang ol' Quark, richest man in the world and he didn't even know it. :-)

As for the B-plot about Kira playing surrogate mother to the O'Brien's baby - well, it was pleasant enough for what it was. Obviously the only reason it even exists is because Visitor was actually pregnant and they needed a way to explain it. I'm glad they decided to give us some explanation instead of just shooting the actress in ways to hide the pregnancy (like they did with Gates McFadden and Roxann Dawson). It provides some nice moments (aside from the cringe-worthy opening with Dax) and opens up some nice avenues for character growth from Kira, O'Brien and Keiko. It's nowhere near as compelling as the A-plot, but it's enjoyable.

8/10

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