Body PartsBy Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 13, 2004 - 10:26 AM GMT
See Also: 'Body Parts' Episode Guide
Believing that he's dying, Quark sells his body to the highest bidder, which turns out to be Brunt, his old nemesis from the Ferengi Commerce Association. When he learns that he is not dying at all, Quark realizes that his only choices are to be killed so that he can fulfill the contract according to Ferengi law, or to break the contract and face eternal exile. Ultimately, he realizes that he has absorbed more Federation values than he's ever wanted to admit, and the crew demonstrates that they are "his people."
Meanwhile, Keiko, Kira, and Bashir are in a devastating runabout accident. Since Bashir can't save Keiko with her unborn baby inside her, and since he doesn't have an artificial womb handy, Kira volunteers to carry the fetus in her own womb for the remainder of its gestation.
The Merchant of Venice meets Baby M. This episode was so strange that I hardly know how to review it. It took two under-developed ideas about bodily integrity and threw them together, devoting much too much time to Ferengi platitudes about contracts and not nearly enough to the much more compelling drama about the ideology of parenthood. All this without any clear patented Trek Message attached.
The Quark story seemed to conclude that your family is comprised of the people who love you, not the people who are related to you. But the Kira-O'Brien story conveyed exactly the opposite message: blood ties are so strong they can bond people from different races and cultures, making cultural differences irrelevant.
I was bored during much of "Body Parts" as I often am during Ferengi episodes, but I must admit to chuckling over the plug for The Ferengi Rules of Acquisition - not merely the actual Rules recited on the series, but the overpriced paperback of the same title which was also created for shameless profiteering and promotion. The setup seemed ludicrous: surely someone else would have tried to knock off a rival or enemy by having a doctor misdiagnose a condition and then making a bid on his body.
But the Shakespearean parallels were compelling, albeit in an uncomfortable way which reminded me of the observation made often on the Internet that Ferengi strongly resemble anti-Semitic stereotypes of Jews. Brunt plays Shylock the outsider, demanding his pound of flesh from Quark who, while not human, is certainly closer to being a part of the human community we love than he is to being an ideal Ferengi. "You're a philanthropist" is Brunt's accusation against Quark...a do-gooder, a charitable man...a Christian? When the community poured into the bar to offer its charity, I couldn't help feeling a little like I was watching a bad Christmas special.
The baby storyline held my interest much more effectively during the far-too-brief amount of screen time it was given, while minutes were squandered on the not-funny sequence in the Ferengi heaven, the Divine Treasury. Kira seemed to become comfortable with the idea of pregnancy far too quickly - I'm not sure whether to celebrate the fact that she's out of the catsuit or to wring my hands that she's merely become a different sort of female archetype, the Self-Sacrificing Mother. I liked the fact that Keiko and Miles expressed resentment as well as gratitude at her taking over their pregnancy, and I wished we could have heard Kira discuss with someone the monumental change she made in her life when she agreed to carry their child to term.
Mostly, I really wanted to see the immediacy of the decision made by Keiko, Kira, and Bashir, rather than just he results. The question of what would impel one woman to volunteer her body to bear another's child goes a lot deeper than the superficial "it had to be done" explanation given here. I'm dying to know more about the medical technology involved - does this mean that in the Trek universe, abortion is never an issue, since babies can be transplanted from genetic mothers who don't wish to remain pregnant into birth mothers who wish they were? Is there precedent for this sort of surrogacy, and what happens if the woman who gives birth to the child doesn't want to let the genetic mother take the baby?
We all know that this issue was forced, rushed to the screen to accommodate Nana Visitor's pregnancy, but I really hope that these questions are focused on next season when the time for delivery approaches, and all the parties involved will surely be feeling the strain from months of dancing around the biological and emotional issues of family and parenting. If one of the producers' goals this year was to make Deep Space Nine's characters seem more like a family, they've certainly moved in that direction: Kira's become a member of the O'Brien household, Quark's discovered that Dax and Bashir and even Sisko like him, and Odo's well on his way to becoming a solid. The only outsider is Worf, who's lost his entire family and been shunned by his culture, so how long can he hold out?
I like the potential that this opens up, despite my shuddering at the Federation imperialism which seems to be wiping out individual cultural characteristics among the crew. It seems like for the past several seasons, the writers have been trying to find new ways to get the characters off the station. maybe now they'll finally settle down to the hard work of building a lasting community where they are.
Michelle Erica Green reviews 'Enterprise' episodes for the Trek Nation, for which she is also a news writer. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.