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Retro Review: Body Parts

Posted by Michelle - 19/07/13 at 12:07 pm


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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Season: 04 Episode: 25 (s04e25)

Original US airdate: 06/10/1996

Believing that he has a fatal illness, Quark sells his body parts to pay off his debts, then is unable to break the contract when he learns that he’s going to live.

Plot Summary: Quark returns to the station from Ferenginar with a diagnosis of Dorek Syndrome, a rare Ferengi illness that gives him only a week to live. Since he is required by Ferengi law to pay off all debts before he dies, Quark puts his dessicated remains up for auction, where they are purchased for an exorbitant sum that Quark believes could only have come from the Grand Nagus. Believing he will die a winner, a jubilant Quark then receives the even better news that he is not dying at all. But he is visited by Ferengi Liquidator Brunt, who reveals that he purchased Quark’s remains and intends to collect them within the week even if Quark is not ill. Meanwhile, Bashir returns from a Gamma Quadrant expedition and orders an immediate emergency transport for himself, Kira, and Keiko O’Brien, whose pregnancy threatened her life after a serious accident. Because it was the only way to save the fetus, Bashir and Kira agreed that Kira would carry the unborn child to term. This is a difficult prospect for Miles and Keiko, who invite Kira to become a member of their family and eventually to share their quarters. Quark offers to pay Garak to come to his own quarters to kill him quickly and painlessly rather than breaking a Ferengi contract, though he is fearful of all the possible methods of death that Garak offers. Then he finds himself in the Ferengi afterlife and believes that Garak has done the deed, only to realize that he’s having a dream of meeting the first Grand Nagus, Gint, who tells Quark that the Rules of Acquisition are really only guidelines and that he should break the contract with Brunt. Though the consequences include exile and the liquidation of all his assets, Quark lets Brunt take all his property and is touched when his friends on the station arrive to help him restock the bar and his quarters with gifts.

Analysis: Speaking as a Jewish fan, attempts to make Ferengi-Jewish parallels have always bothered me. Yes, I know that many of the writers and actors involved with the creation of the Ferengi are Jewish, and no, it isn’t as creepy as the Jewish overtones to certain incarnations of Batman‘s Penguin, but when DS9 does something as explicit as rewriting The Merchant of Venice, it’s hard to pretend that I’m only seeing my own fear of stereotypes and not something explicitly built into the franchise. The fact that Quark in essence converts to a kinder, gentler version of his religion and is helped by good Samaritans at the end doesn’t make me feel any better. Of course, it’s possible to interpret the episode without any of that – to take the Ferengi as the comic relief for which they typically serve, to assume that the vision of the Divine Treasury is Quark’s way of letting himself off the hook psychologically for wanting to live outside Ferengi law, to put Quark along with Odo and Worf among the collection of aliens for whom the DS9 writers have created vibrant cultures, only to have them decide they prefer human values (which is also a big philosophical problem for the series, but a separate one). It’s not hard to read Quark’s storyline as symbolic of that old axiom about how your real people are the ones who love you, not the ones to whom you are related by blood. But then what’s it doing paired with a storyline that suggests exactly the opposite, that biological ties are so strong that people from different races, cultures, even planets, who previously shared mutual respect but not deep friendship, can become instant family by virtue of sharing a physical connection to an unborn baby?

It’s probable that I’m taking the entire episode too seriously, even if its tone is surprisingly somber for a Ferengi episode once it gets past the shrill, over-the-top beginning in which Quark loudly bemoans his impending doom while Rom hysterically considers life without his brother (though at this point it would seem more in character even for Rom to start planning immediate changes to the bar employment structure). The sequences in which Quark plots with Garak for a painless death are genuinely funny and utterly ridiculous, with Quark refusing neck-breaking as a means of death because he doesn’t like the noise, hanging takes too long, he’d be too suspicious for poison, etc. And I don’t believe for a minute that Garak really intends to kill Quark no matter how much money is in it for him, since I don’t believe for a minute that Sisko would let Garak stay on the station after such an act even if both Ferengi and Cardassian culture allow mercy killings in such circumstances, something I’m sure Garak is smart enough to realize. If the episode intended to make a statement about suicide, Quark would have gone to Bashir instead, since the doctor is certainly capable of painless euthanasia when he doesn’t have his hands full dealing with cross-species surrogate pregnancy. We know that Quark’s life is never in danger and it’s all an elaborate set-up to teach him generosity, the same way Worf, Odo, Garak, Dax, and now even Kira are being forced by the writers to fit into life on what looks increasingly like a Federation station. With Brunt as outsider Shylock demanding his pound of flesh from Quark (about whom “You’re a philanthropist” is the worst thing Brunt can say), we’re being smacked over the head with a specific subset of human values that seems to be culled from TV versions of “The Gift of the Magi.”

In addition to the half-hearted debate about values, there’s a serious discussion about intercultural notions of bodily integrity that never happens. Kira’s insta-pregnancy is a problem for the writers due to the fact that Nana Visitor and Alexander Siddig were expecting a child together while the fourth season was filming, something the writers felt they couldn’t hide with long coats the way they hid Roxann Dawson’s pregnancy on Voyager. So they can be forgiven for cobbling together this underdeveloped scenario in which Kira carries Keiko’s pregnancy to term. It’s harder to forgive a storyline in which it seems to be more something that happens to Bashir and Miles than something that happens to Kira and Keiko. The former, who has never expressed the slightest interest in being a mother or being pregnant, suddenly finds herself facing several months with a baby growing inside her, while the latter, who was looking forward to feeling her child move in utero, suddenly finds herself with what I assume to be the equivalent of post-miscarriage hormonal depression on top of great physical discomfort. I don’t have any trouble believing that Kira would find the value of a much-wanted birth worth the discomfort of a pregnancy, but the ease with which she settles into the situation seems artificial, like the writers assume that all women can snap into self-sacrificing mother mode with just a bit of stimulation to their maternal instincts via hormonal enhancement. This is a monumental change she’s facing, no less complicated than putting up an infant for adoption by strangers and more complicated than modern contracted surrogacy-for-hire since she had no time to consider or prepare.

I feel robbed of getting to see the decision, not just the results but the moment when Bashir tells Kira that he can only save the fetus if she is willing to volunteer her body, the moment when Kira chooses to accept the risks both physical and psychological of attachment to a baby whom for all she knows the O’Briens will take away from her and whisk off to Earth after its birth (as indeed they eventually do). Beneath the matter-of-fact way that Kira accepts the necessity of bearing the child lies a wealth of emotional baggage about how parenthood is constructed, not to mention the implications of the medical technology. Is abortion a non-issue in the 24th century because the woman’s life can always be saved by transplanting a fetus into another willing host or a machine? Do other issues (population explosions, fetal genetic damage) ever become reasons for terminating pregnancies? How do paternal rights work in an age of artificial wombs, where a mother is not necessary to have a baby, only an egg donor? What happens if a birth mother decides, as in our own century, that she doesn’t want to relinquish full custody of a child to whom she gave birth? Much of this season has been devoted to questions about what makes a family – now that Kira is a member of the O’Brien household, now that Quark has discovered that Dax and even Sisko consider him a relation, now that Worf has no family but the people he works with, and soon enough Odo’s ties to the Great Link will be shattered. What are we to make of the creeping Federation takeover of the lives of so many aliens – are we to celebrate the solidifying of a community or mourn the loss of individual cultural differences?

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  • Mike

    I guess that depends whether you’re a multi-cultural leftist who thinks individual cultures can co-exist, or whether you’re a melting pot realist who understands the only way to make a single people is to make that people a single culture… Star Trek, by the very nature of the Federation, is a melting pot. The outsiders conform to the basic tenants of human interactions while attempting to retain some base aspect of their previous heritage… It’s what most of us in America have done for two centuries now. My family was originally from Ireland. I don’t speak Gaelic around the house or with my friends… and my family, along with all the others from everywhere possible, did that same thing for two centuries adapting to American culture, not destroying it to supplant our own… Then, along come the 1960′s, a kneejerk reaction to WWII if ever there was one socially, and you get this crackpot idea that has never truly existed in the history of the world: Multiculturalism… ie the preservation of every culture EXCEPT our own. Nice. And now, you want me to feel guilty because the Ferengi on the station aren’t traditional Ferengi… Then again, were they, this review would’ve been all about the place of women in Ferengi culture. Again. No thanks.

  • SJStar

    All I’d like to see is desiccated dogpoo.

  • Mike

    Buy a mirror, Catpiss Kiwi… that’s your new designation, btw, since we have pet names for each other now.

  • Enterprise1981

    However ones looks at it, while it had comic moments from Quark being squeamish about every method of execution to Brunt’s delivery of his blacklisting speech, everything about this episode has poorly executed written all over it even considering such convoluted measures were not taken with B’Elana two years later. And throw in how Kira’s surrogacy is hardly talked about after she loses the maternity outfit. One of my fan-fiction character arcs addresses a similar issue. With Keiko, I assume the situation was so urgent, an artificial incubation unit wasn’t possible, as with Bashir lacking the medical resources on the Defiant to treat Kira’s neural degeneration, or Nog having a leg amputated. In any case, it’s another instance where Trek characters seem unbelievably stupid or careless when it suits the plot.

  • Enterprise1981

    As one would say to a recovering drug addict who fell off the wagon: “You were doing so well.”

  • SJStar

    WTF? I have no beef with you Enterprise1981 at all, so why the remark? (I’d only assume you have no sense of humour.)

    Dogpoo here consistently shows he is a xenophobic, bigoted turd – an example of the ugly American. Just look at the remark above!

    If anyone is showing signs of addiction it is this egotistical prick. This turd. He seems to think it is perfectly OK to have multiple avatars to support his own twisted and disgusting bigoted views. Frankly, how can you can’t trust this frackin’ stinking turd? Basically it sums up this turd of a person.

  • Mike

    What a lying piece of shit you are, catpiss Kiwi.

    I don’t post as anyone else here. Simple as that. If I do, what’s the other name? And if the answer is “guest”, then, again, you really, really are stupid.

    As for what I said above, it’s absolutely accurate… and you do nothing to show otherwise… so….

    And, as far as me being xenophobic? Not true… again, that’s you, chum. I don’t have any problem with anyone else because of where they’re from, particularly. I’m not afraid of the rest of the world. I’m also, however, not going to bend over and take the punishment some of you assholes want to heap on the United States.

    The only time I have said anything about my country, my nationality, what my country does, or anything of the sort is when someone comes in here, fundamentally doesn’t understand the nature of the entertainment industry, and then attempts to trash my country because they’re too stupid to get the facts straight.

    This happened with you complaining that videos from the US weren’t available in your shithole, and that was somehow America’s fault rather than the fault of your country not licensing the material. This happened the other day when someone suggested the US was misusing Netflix… in both instances, external ignorance triggered the response, not xenophobia…

    I have no problem with the rest of the world… I have a problem with dickless little twits accusing me and my country of wrongdoing when no such thing is the case.

    And, when you continue to accuse me and my country ad nauseum, on a site where the vast majority of visitors is undoubtedly American, and you’re shocked… shocked when other people don’t love your anti-American diatribes? Or that, after a dozen explanations of how you can post and then tell it to delete, resulting in the removal of a name attribution, you just won’t accept that? Yeah… it’s a real mystery why people think you’re an asshole, chum.

    Until next time, catpiss Kiwi.

  • SJStar

    Whatever you say, you still a stinking egotistical turd, doopoo.

    To you anything that is not American isn’t in your narrow little world, and that just makes you a xenophobe, turd.

  • Enterprise1981

    Good to know you have no beef with me. Mike may have a more conservative view of the world than I do, but I still know a cogent argument when I see it. I’m sorry, I just don’t see the humor in consistently calling someone dogpoo while not offering any rational rebuttal of anything that person that person says. Quite frankly, (and this is not an invite to discuss this specific subject matter here) you sound more like that person who’s been going around firing blind accusations of racism at anyone who agrees with the George Zimmerman verdict.

  • Mike

    Not remotely true. Because I defend the United States against scum like you and your unwarranted and uninformed attacks doesn’t mean I really have anything against any other nation. To be honest, for the most part, I don’t give other nations all that much thought. That’s not because I have anything against other countries, but it does probably have to do with the fact that I don’t require much from them, either… unlike you. You are reliant on your entertainment from Australia and the United States. Licensing between Australia and New Zealand is probably a lot simpler than it is between the domestic US market and international licensing… as such, you somehow feel the United States or its companies are colluding with each other to defraud, depress, or somehow deprive you of something… and none of that is remotely true. Were your shithole country to actually produce something I’d be interested in seeing, and were I attempting to see that streaming on the internet, indeed, I could not… Why? The same reason I can’t go to the BBC website and watch episodes of Doctor Who, when anyone from the UK can. Does that irk me? No. I’m a big boy and understand adult things like international licensing. You, do not. As such, you bellyache about my country and my country’s corporations, when, in fact, they aren’t the things you actually have a problem with… But, apparently, your country’s education system is also sufficiently lacking as to inform you of what you do not understand, even when someone has explained it quite clearly, and many times over.

    Now, have I referenced your country as a shithole? Sure. But if there’s anyone else here from New Zealand, rest assured, I don’t think you’re from a shithole… just catpiss Kiwi… It’s manifestly obvious he comes from nowhere other than a hole of shit… so… there you go.

    But, yeah, I don’t have any problem with any other country. I understand why I can’t stream stuff from the UK or France or anywhere else like the people therein can. So, if you can wrap your brain around it, it’s you that has the xenophobia problem, chum. But, I can’t imagine you’ll actually accept or understand that… So, until next time, catpiss.

  • SJStar

    It is not my problem that you have a little dick, narrow-minded, bigoted or a stinking xenophobe, dogpoo. Your plainly a stinking American turd whose bigotry has no bounds. The rest of the diatribe here is quite irrelevant, and almost certainly shows signs of some kind of inferiority complex.

    There are many things that is good and decent about America and its people, but frackn’ stinking American turds like you just give everyone else a bad name. Not be able to be trustworthy or acting like a coward by pretending everyone agrees with your crap, just shows how out of touch and how delusional you truly are.

  • Mike

    Wait, is Enterprise1981 my delusion, or yours? I can’t quite tell anymore.

    I don’t pretend everyone agrees with me. I’m not sure where you got that.

    A lot of people really disagree with almost everything I say on an intellectual basis… however, they far prefer a discussion on that turf and in those terms than you and me throwing household animal bathroom names at each other… but, you know best.

    That’s just it, though, if you would actually engage in a discussion, a lot of people would actually agree with you. The way you’ve been acting doesn’t sway anyone of consequence… So, no, I don’t expect anyone to agree with me, but I do hope to have a discussion. Sometimes, nay, almost always, I attempt to provoke a discussion, often with hyperbole. I want a reaction and a debate to ensue… and it did with you… until you decided you could no longer debate on the terms… so, somewhere between you not knowing what the Prime Directive actually means and being envious of my country, we lost you… and that’s a shame… but not my fault. If you could claw your way back to actual discussion, I bet a lot of people would actually agree with you. As is? Not so much.

    But, far be it from me to put words in anyone’s mouths… let those that rise in your defense do so.

  • William Dhalgren

    I’ve never thought that the Ferengi were based on Jewish stereotypes, but that may be because I’m not Jewish so don’t have a lot of experience of such things. Plus I always thought the Bajorans were the Space Jews because they were a very religious people who lost their homeland for a while but then got it back. The Ferengi just make me laugh. Wouldn’t want to do business with them, but they’d be fun to hang out with.

  • siskokid888

    I believe that this is the episode with the funniest inside joke in all of Trek – the scene where Kira screams at Bashir accusingly “you did this to me!” which was hilarious with the knowledge that Siddig had knocked up Visitor. Funny stuff.

  • SabreCliff28

    That scene was actually in the season 5 premiere “Apocalypse Rising”. After Sisko and the others went off on their mission to expose a Changeling, Siddig and Visitor had that scene with the inside joke. I agree though it was a good way to work that into what happened from “Body Parts”.