Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Who Mourns for Morn?"

**1/2

Air date: 2/2/1998
Written by Mark Gehred-O'Connell
Directed by Victor Lobl

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"I wonder who came up with the idea of suspending liquid latinum inside worthless bits of gold."
"Probably someone who got tired of making change with an eyedropper."

— Quark and Dax

Nutshell: Quite enjoyable, but also wholly forgettable, with characterizations and plot turns that can be predicted a mile away.

Over the years, Morn has become something of a DS9 icon—a "mascot," as Quark even calls him early in the episode, for the promenade bar. He's the resident barfly with an obscure life and past; about all we really know is that he's a guy who sits around, drinks, and talks a lot. At least, we think he talks a lot. He talks a lot off-screen.

It makes one wonder what the always-uncredited Mark Allan Shephard, who "plays" the popular seen-but-never-heard figure, thinks of his own role on the series. He's become almost a legendary figure of the Trekkian mythos, yet he has never spoken a single line. By the rules of the screen actor's guild, the producers are only required to pay him as an "extra."

For a while in DS9's early run, this guy didn't even have a name. He'd loom subtly in the background of shots until he gradually became a familiar, recognizable figure. Finally, the producers gave him a name (many say with the understanding that he is an interstellar version of Cheers' Norm, from whom his name was derived), and then, of course, the single joke that has become the embodiment of who Morn is: a guy who supposedly talks to everybody, yet a guy who's never permitted to say anything while the cameras are present.

I've always found the concept of Morn itself amusing and intriguing. His presence is "fourth-wall breaking"—he exists in that area that separates the self-aware television audience from the fictional DS9 universe. More specifically, Morn has become a running gag of permanence. No matter what is going on, there's Morn, sitting on that bar stool. Years later in the alternate future of "The Visitor," after the station was no longer under Federation control and Quark had moved on to other things, who was still in that bar? Why, Morn, naturally.

The legend of Morn as a piece of this series is what makes "Who Mourns for Morn?" an infectious hour. But what keeps the story grounded in the pedestrian is its surprisingly unimaginative plot—in which Morn is presumed dead when his ship is destroyed, following which Quark inherits Morn's mysterious fortune of gold-pressed latinum.

This episode is really a Quark story surrounding the plot device of Morn's death—and as Quark stories go, it's more or less routine. It's performed with a light hand of amicability, but there's just nothing here worth getting excited about. Quark finds out that Morn had 1,000 bricks of latinum stashed away somewhere (he's not sure where, so the hunt begins), but things get complicated when others show up on the station staking claim to part of the loot.

The plot itself is quite predictable, and so are the various characters' actions. Consider, for example, the first person who comes looking for Quark: Larell (Bridget Ann White), who claims to be Morn's ex-wife. As with all female seductresses, she makes an appeal to Quark's libido, hoping to con him out of a substantial part of the loot. This is a very, very tired slant on the material. In fact, I think just about any other slant would've seemed fresh in comparison. It's pretty obvious that she's lying through her teeth (and even Quark has his suspicions about her)—but he plays along because there's a chance he might get laid. Yipee. Bridget Ann White, alas, didn't impress me much; she fills the stock role capably, but certainly doesn't make it memorable.

The plot makes another predictable turn with the introduction of the two "heavies"—a couple of brothers, Krit (Brad Greenquist) and Nahsk (Cyril O'Reilly), who tell Quark that Morn owed them money, and that Quark has now inherited the debt. These two were substantially more interesting than Larell, mostly because they were portrayed with more amusing quirkiness. I particularly liked Nahsk, the "slower" of the two, who makes Quark "wear" Morn's favorite painting—and then later tells him how "sorry" he was for doing so.

The other guest character, Hain (Gregory Itzin), shows up claiming to be a security officer who intends to seize the latinum in the name of a distant royal government, to which Morn was apparently connected in unfathomable ways.

So what's really going on here with this myriad of characters and their alleged premises? The bottom line is hardly surprising. Really, I don't see how anyone couldn't see that all parties were playing Quark from the first step. It turns out they're all Morn's ex-partners in crime, who were long ago involved in a cooperative heist of—you guessed it—1,000 bricks of gold-pressed latinum.

Their plotting against Quark and each other comprises a series of watchable if not completely engaging cons. Quark plays the role he has played a dozen times before: the guy who has gotten himself in over his head, and just wants to get out while hopefully turning a respectable profit in the meantime. Shimerman plays this personality with his typically likable shtick, but his actions and reactions can nevertheless be predicted far in advance.

"Who Mourns for Morn?" is at its best when ... well, when everyone is mourning for Morn. Early in the episode Quark holds a service in his bar which is good for some affecting, low-key laughs. And the notion that "Morn's bar stool must never be empty" was particularly appropriate and thus reasonably amusing. Quark walking the line between sincere grief and canned melodramatic speeches for the sake of inducing his profits seemed pretty real—and even pretty sincere in a Quark kind of way. Similarly, hearing the bogus stories about Morn's secret lives from his old partners also made for amiable dialog, as the story toys with unlikely premises such as, for example, the notion that Morn was a prince.

Ah, but who watching this episode really believed Morn was dead, anyway? In my mind, the likelihood that Morn had actually been killed was about as probable as the likelihood of Bajor blowing up. You simply don't kill off your resident in-joke symbol of permanence for a comedy plot involving a bunch of greedy people holding out for a treasure. Since Morn is obviously not a guy who just goes away, I knew the plot was a con from the outset. That in itself isn't bad, but the use of Quark and Morn's old pals just wasn't enough to keep me interested. Diverted, yes, but hardly compelled. Ultimately, this episode could've benefited from more analysis of Morn as a symbol (or "mascot" or whatever), and fewer predictable money-grabbing schemes and double-crosses.

(Also, was it me, or did anyone else see elements similar to "The Nagus"? In both instances everyone wants something from Quark, but they also want him dead; and in both cases Quark finds himself alarmed when the supposedly deceased party turns out to be alive. Just a thought.)

So, while "Who Mourns for Morn?" scores points for its likability, there's very little unexpected that comes along with it. The Quark angle is absolutely nothing new, and as for Morn, I wouldn't make this show out to be character development for him, because Morn isn't really a character. He's an icon, or maybe just a mascot.

Next week: Speaking of fourth walls coming down, Sisko is a 1950s writer who invents a place called DS9 ... and then encounters a very un-24th-century evil: racism.

Previous episode: Waltz
Next episode: Far Beyond the Stars

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23 comments on this review

Remco
Sat, Jun 27, 2009, 4:55pm (UTC -5)
"In my mind, the likelihood that Morn had actually been killed was about as probable as the likelihood of Bajor blowing up."

It would have been so funny if you had used Vulcan in this comparison instead of Bajor... :D
Nic
Mon, Jun 21, 2010, 8:38pm (UTC -5)
The funniest part of the episode is when Quark asks a Bajoran played by Mark Allen Shepherd to fill Morn's seat.
Half-Blood Time Lord
Wed, Feb 2, 2011, 10:38am (UTC -5)
Funny that in "Little Green Men" gold isn't worthless, but here it is.
mike s.
Thu, Oct 13, 2011, 12:08am (UTC -5)
You make a good point review writer. When it all comes down to it, you should know that Quark is blinded by the obvious when it comes to profit, or even aware of the ploys when it comes to someone else trying to get a piece of his action. In the end he still makes out, doesn't he? If you are expecting some new plot twist when it comes to Quark you are sadly mistaken. He only has one goal in life, although hu-mon social encounters may have slightly affected his moral judgment, he still claims to be the only true Ferengi out of his own family. Quark is who he is. So as predictable as the episode may seem, would you expect any less? That sort of thing makes me wonder if you would expect Worf not to uphold his "honor". The Star Trek universe, when it comes to lifeforms other than humans, tend to stick to the stereotypes given with the alien race associated. I still say it's a good episode. "Predictable" or not. (btw I love the antispam answer)
Jay
Tue, Nov 22, 2011, 9:43am (UTC -5)
I prefer "Let He..." to this one. I'll let that speak for itself.
Elnis
Tue, Aug 27, 2013, 7:00am (UTC -5)
I really, really enjoyed this episode!

It's a hoot, a fun joyride with double-crossing scoudrels that had me both very amused and guessing right thorugh to the very end.

No, I didn't find it predictable. According to Jammer's review, that probably paints me as a simpleton - but then again, it might not.

I didn't take anything for granted in this episode. Why not? Because of Morn. Here's a recurring character that we actually hardly now anything about - and the writers used that to full effect. He could easily have been married to a femme fatale, been a crown prince, been a bankrobber. I was entertained by the twists and turns, because I could imagine any, several or none of the lies his former associates told could just have easily been true.

Morn has been a source for much enjoyment for me. The concept of this character is hillarious - he's sort of like the charcter we hear about, but don't ever see, just like Maris in "Frasier" and the neighbour in "Everybody Loves Raymond". Sure, we do SEE Morn, but apparantly we don't ever see him being himself - since we're told that he talks a lot and so on. That always makes me chuckle.

In addition, whenever we see him onscreen, his mere presence is so much fun! The make-up department did great here, making him look like a cute, grey potato, that noone could ever hate. The slightly scraed, uncomfortable expression in his eyes whenever someone wants something from him is fantastic - I just want to reach through the screen and hug this guy!
My favortie Morn moment is in "Doctor Bashir, I Presume" where he's included in the line-up of people interviewed about Bashir - he suddenly appears on the screen, staring into the camera with a blank expression, just as the interviewing doctor says something like "you're just not being any help here". Hahaaaa! Fantastic!

The creators of the show definately succeeded in making Morn a likeable character - a mascot, as Jammer and Quark mentioned - without him ever taking much fokus at all.

And now he's "dead", with everyone in the bar mourning him (great scene!). He leaves everything to Quark ... but who was he really?

This plot was ingenious, well set up and well executed. 3.5 stars from me!

And always remeber: "keep the seet warm for Morn!"
Kotas
Mon, Oct 28, 2013, 8:29pm (UTC -5)

I was laughing and smiling the whole time. Best Quark episode so far.

9/10
Nissa
Mon, Jan 27, 2014, 12:36am (UTC -5)
I was bothered more than I should have been by them saying gold is worthless. This seems really stupid to me. Even if it's not a popular jewelry choice (extremely odd, that), the lines on circuit boards are made from pure gold -- there's even businesses out there that scrap computers for the gold. Obviously gold is useful in both machines and for its beauty.
Jons
Thu, Feb 6, 2014, 2:56pm (UTC -5)
'You know how he is! He never shuts up!"

Tat really made me laugh. Anything beyond that, yuck. I skipped to the next episode a few minutes afterward...
eastwest101
Sun, Mar 23, 2014, 4:41pm (UTC -5)
I found this a nice light diversion and highly entertaining stuff, just enough twists and turns to keep the viewer interested.
Toraya
Thu, Mar 27, 2014, 8:31am (UTC -5)
I'm with Jammer. How many times has the ST franchise given us a female schemer whose tired MO involves prostituting herself for profit? And how many times have we seen Quark get his lobes stroked by young attractive women? Ugh.

I absolutely loved the first five eps of this season - riveting! - but that only makes me extra impatient with boring fluff like this.

Nick P.
Fri, Apr 18, 2014, 3:21pm (UTC -5)
@Jammer and Torayo, as to the sexism in DS9 and beyond, the reason there are female schemers using their bodies is because men desire them and women in real life use their bodies. That is life, too bad.
ShastOne
Sun, May 4, 2014, 10:57am (UTC -5)
This is a Quark episode, but if you appreciate the subtext, it's also a Morn episode: yes, Quark runs into shady people in the pursuit of latinum as always, but these people are ghosts from Morn's past that Quark inherited from him. Morn is the eternal question mark character of DS9 and we know nothing of his past, so these people are our only clues, each one showcasing an exotic side of Morn's life that we didn't know about.

It's a continuous joke at the shallowness of Morn's character, which is why I laughed whenever they said he was a chattermouth or a James Bond-esque type or a crown prince. Because they were all absurd, yet possible, given his blank history. And all throughout the episode, Morn's spirit lives on as he continues to burden Quark as each layer of his past is brought into the fold. If you love to laugh at Morn's ambiguity and the DS9 crew's mythos surrounding him, then you'll laugh at this episode.

It's not a great episode, but Morn's not a great character: it's about as deep as he is. And at the end of the day, we know little more about him than we did in the first place, except that he ultimately conned Quark (and everyone), effectively showing that there's wile behind that blank-faced visage of his, just as the DS9 crew have been alluding to us all along.
ShastOne
Sun, May 4, 2014, 11:47am (UTC -5)
I also thought that Morn was a fitting character to kill off: yes, he was an icon of the bar, but on the grand scale of the show, who better to kill off than someone who everyone likes but has no relevance to the show's ongoing story?
Vylora
Wed, May 7, 2014, 7:42pm (UTC -5)
A likable episode that gets from point A to point B with just enough pleasant diversion to make it worthwhile. If the only major flaw is its predictability then it's slightly overcome by the inherent lightweight and amusing nature. Good enough for a watch but DS9 has done better.

Not bad.

2.5 stars.
Yanks
Mon, Aug 18, 2014, 5:15pm (UTC -5)
It's a funny one and I'm glad Mourn got "an episode".

I would have hated to go the entire 7 years with nothing. He sat on that stool and was the topic of others' conversation many times.

Can't go over 2.5 stars though.
Brian S.
Fri, Feb 13, 2015, 3:17am (UTC -5)
"I was bothered more than I should have been by them saying gold is worthless. This seems really stupid to me. Even if it's not a popular jewelry choice (extremely odd, that), the lines on circuit boards are made from pure gold -- there's even businesses out there that scrap computers for the gold. Obviously gold is useful in both machines and for its beauty."

--------

@Nissa: Copper, Nickel, and Iron are all relatively worthless metals. I mean, yes, they do technically have a value and they are all useful materials for businesses, but if I handed you a 10-lb. brick of iron or copper, you'd probably just use it as a way to tone your biceps. If I handed you a 10-lb. brick of gold, you'd go buy a new house.

"Worth" depends on scarcity, availability, and general acceptance as a currency. I'm sure gold in the Star Trek universe is useful (heck, they use it to encase the latinum), but it's also extremely abundant compared to latinum. When you have the ability to travel to thousands of star systems, the ability to easily extract minerals on a large scale, and even the ability to replicate matter at will, a lump of gold is as "worthless" as a lump of iron.

Personally, I loved the little nod at our own obsession with gold and material wealth, which is what the Ferengi characters are supposed to represent. We care so much about this metal that futuristic alien civilizations regard as worthless, and they prize this liquid latinum as something we view as worthless. The idea of having gold-pressed latinum which both Ferengi and present-day Humans would obsess over but for completely opposite reasons is brilliant, IMO. And I loved Quark's little dig that there are probably some primitive cultures that would value it.
Transformer SWO
Fri, Mar 6, 2015, 8:27pm (UTC -5)
From the Ferengi's first appearance on The Last Outpost we know that gold is valuable to them. They were disgusted the use of gold in the combage as a despicable use of the valuable metal. Apart from that, a fun episode and quite a break from the intensity of Waltz.
Nathan B.
Sat, Sep 12, 2015, 5:37pm (UTC -5)
I have to say, Worf's reaction to Jadzia's teasing comment that she once had a crush on Morn was hilarious! It was a good self-parody of his usual tendency to jealousy.
Dusty
Sat, Nov 28, 2015, 7:09pm (UTC -5)
This one was okay. I couldn't really get into it, though. Morn doesn't do anything for me and while I like Quark a lot, seeing him in "fluff" episodes where he tries to get his hands on a fortune is just getting old.
William B
Mon, Jan 25, 2016, 11:45pm (UTC -5)
The thing that mostly sapped the fun out of this episode is how slow Quark ends up being on the uptake -- he genuinely seems to believe each story he gets told, right down to the "Crown Prince" deal. This is part of the problem with "Ferengi Love Songs," too -- Quark can be greedy, but it's fatal for an episode him to be this stupid. That, and the fairly uninspired stock characters attached to Quark for the episode, set something of a ceiling on how high I can go with the rating.

Still, it has pleasures. The episode is based around a belaboured but nevertheless pretty entertaining joke: Morn has this entire complicated life that has happened offscreen, without our seeing it, which nevertheless is "real" even as it becomes more and more absurd. It is to some degree an extratextual joke about the fact that we "know" that none of this Morn backstory had any reality before this episode, and will fade back into nothing after the episode ends, just as we are not ever going to hear Morn speak. It's a weird sort of dramatic irony, where the characters are unaware about the unreality of what they are discussing. But it also has meaning beyond just the meta-games, and the episode is somewhat asking: how well do we *really* know the bit players in our lives? That Morn of all people has this huge, complex existence is the signal that so does everyone we know.

The episode also in some ways spins out from the darkly funny opening idea of Quark 1) replacing Morn with a holo-image of him, with the knowledge that people really do basically feel comfort that Morn exists without any need to talk to him, and 2) immediately searches for the way to make Morn's death benefit him. This greed in exploiting the death of an acquaintance/friend is actually pretty brazen and a little shocking while also being wholly believable and nonmalicious. It is that treatment of Morn-as-prop that makes Quark an easy mark for Morn and what makes the rest of what happens follow fairly naturally. Too naturally, of course, from an entertainment perspective, but hey. That Morn was banking on Quark's greed somewhat normalizes it; Morn, like Quark, is willing to use other people, which does not mean he does not fully care about them. The episode is cynical but mostly forgiving about how we treat our acquaintances -- the feeling of satisfaction that O'Brien gets for keeping Morn's seat warm for him and Dax's remembering how she found Morn so cute are in some senses just as self-absorbed a reaction to the passing of someone they only sort of knew as Quark's direct attempt to profit, but it's just a reality of life that people on the fringes of our lives will not be that vivid to us.

I very genuinely like that Quark essentially tipped off Odo about the plan -- "1600 hours," he says pointedly -- and it marks this period in Odo and Quark's relationship which (while it should have been more seriously impacted by Odo's betrayal during the Occupation arc) shows definite progress post-"The Ascent." Quark and Odo have a sort of understanding now that they did not have all that much before.

I enjoy the somewhat gentle cynicism of the early scenes but find most of the episode pretty tedious. 2 stars.
Diamond Dave
Wed, Feb 3, 2016, 2:01pm (UTC -5)
The best thing about this is Morn himself - the running Morn gag is inherently and consistently funny. This is best played out in the memorial scene, which has a variety of genuinely funny bits.

But take that away and what are you left with? Actually a fairly pedestrian caper with a bunch of predictable characters, the gangster brothers being particularly on the nose. It just falls a little bit flat and when compared to the laugh riot that is The Magnificent Ferengi it falls well short.

"What are you doing in my mud?" indeed. 2.5 stars.
Luke
Sat, May 28, 2016, 3:36am (UTC -5)
While it's a somewhat enjoyable comedy, "Who Mourns for Morn?" certainly doesn't compare to the heights of "The Magnificent Ferengi".

Writing entire episodes about one-note side characters is an error that a lot of shows make in their later seasons. They can be mildly diverting or downright horrible - they almost never end up being classics. This one works well enough, I suppose. It does have some genuine laughs (mostly between Quark and Odo) but the cost of those jokes is the total over-extension of the Morn joke. Up until now what has made Morn so likeable as a background character was that he was just a normal guy trying to live a normal life in extraordinary circumstances. He was a guy who just liked to hang out in the bar with his friends and every now and then chase some women. But now, we find out that he's really a brilliant, master thief who dates supermodels, is an expert bat'leth swordsman who spars weekly with Worf and is really, really, really, really rich. If you really enjoy the joke that Morn is just DS9's resident barfly, you almost have to pretend that this episode never happened.

Add to that the fact that the plot - so to speak - is stretched remarkably thin. This was, at most, a story that should have taken twenty minutes to tell. Instead, it stretches over the entire forty-five minute run-time. The Hain character adds practically nothing to the mix other than to pad things out and make Quark look like a fool for falling for yet another obvious scam. "Who Mourns for Morn?" is an episode that desperately needed a B-plot of some kind in order to avoid all the padding.

Still, some of the jokes work, it's not offensive in any way and it was nice that Quark got to get a little profit at the end of the day for once (usually in these comedy episodes focusing on his greedy nature he ends up with nothing to show for his troubles or he ends up worse off than when he started). So, it's not a total loss, but it certainly isn't memorable.

6/10

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