WARNING: Be of stout heart, sound mind, and intact spleen -- spoilers for DS9's "Body Parts" await below.

In brief: Mostly a wash. The last ten minutes had me intrigued -- at least, until the last two.

Brief summary: When Quark is told he has only days left to live, he decides to sell his corpse on the Ferengi market -- only to be caught with the contract when he finds out he's going to live after all.

"Body Parts" was something of a departure from many of the Ferengi-heavy shows, and immeasurably strengthened by most of its differences. In part, that's because it actually managed to build on those shows in ways I'm not sure I thought possible. In any event, it was a show that presented Quark with a reasonably hard choice (well, as hard a one as a character like Quark would get, anyway), and until the last couple of minutes managed not to back out very much.

Many past Ferengi-themed shows have had Quark knuckling under to pressure from Rom, his mother, or various regulars on the show, and somehow managing to sneakily be altruistic while proclaiming just the
opposite. This time, something came of it -- he's caused Brunt to hold a grudge. What's more, this time he was stuck with a situation he couldn't sneak his way out of; it was break a contract or die, period.

I appreciate the fact that the episode kept the choice that simple and that clear-cut, as I was expecting something else. All through the show, I anticipated finding out that Brunt had somehow bribed the doctor into a false diagnosis, that he had set up the entire situation, and that those actions would somehow invalidate the contract. Either that, or we'd find out this was all just a test by Brunt to see if Quark could behave as a true Kli ... er ... Ferengi when push came to shove. In other words, I kept expecting this episode to do what I think a lot of Ferengi episodes do: cheat. Fortunately, as far as Quark was concerned, it didn't.

Perhaps because of that (or perhaps simply because of Hans Beimler's hand on the teleplay, as Beimler seems to have a good ear for dialogue), I found the humorous parts of "Body Parts" a good deal funnier than I usually do for Ferengi shows. ("Little Green Men" doesn't count; I thought a lot of it was hilarious, but that was virtually in spite of Quark et al, not because of them.) I liked Quark's "...which explains the dying part!" reaction to Rom's statement that Dorek Syndrome was terminal, I liked Quark's glee at being able to sue for malpractice, I liked Quark's squeamishness at all the possible ways Garak suggested of killing him (though granted, Andrew Robinson got to do most of the talking there, and he's nearly always able to carry off anything like that) ... I actually liked most of the humor this time. That's rare.

[One entirely visual moment that had me laughing was in a late O'Brien/Keiko/Kira sequence; when Keiko tells Miles to tell Kira what "the idea" is, Colm Meaney's face changes in such a way that his ears start wiggling. I've no idea why I found that so funny, but it was great. :-) ]

The dream sequence was a mixed bag. I wasn't enchanted with the idea of it, even if it made some sense; it felt awkward. However, the concept of the Rules of Acquisition being "a marketing ploy" was such a fantastic double-meaning conversation given Paramount's willingness to market the damned things that I'm willing to overlook it. (Besides, the line "would you buy a book called Suggestions of Acquisition?" has a great ring to it.)

The primary area where the main plot of "Body Parts" fell down, however, was in the ending. While it was far better than I expected -- Quark actually was ruined by Ferengi standards -- I think having the bar suddenly managing to reopen due to generosity from Bashir, Dax, etc. is stretching plausibility a bit more than I can really deal with. If it turns out that this change is gradual, and that we'll see Quark gradually rebuilding a career over a few episodes or so, that'll be more realistic -- but the presentation of the final minutes of the show suggested that "aren't friends wonderful, they solved everything" was the message of the moment, and thus that we'll see nothing but the same old thing at Quark's from here on in. That's not so good. (What will be worse will be if Quark interacts with any Ferengi but family members. Many of his employees should be gone
at this point.)

That brings us to the subplot, the "Kira's having Keiko's baby" idea. This one actually fell very flat for me. That's possibly because I know this was an idea propelled by outside forces (namely, a decision to bring Nana Visitor's real-life pregnancy into the series), but I've known of other situations that didn't feel so forced. This one felt just paper-thin; Keiko gets depressed about the new situation for about fifteen minutes, then "Aunt Nerys" comes to live with them andeverything's hunky-dory again? Um ... sorry, I don't see it happening. [I'm also not at all sure I buy Kira agreeing to live with them. She's carrying Keiko's child, and so suddenly this fiercely independent person decides to give up her entire life?] I'll reserve judgment on the long-term idea of Kira's pregnancy until I see where it goes, but as an introduction to it this felt like a sadly deficient piece of patchwork.

That pretty much covers the major points; so, time for some minor ones. :-)

-- One of the reasons that the Kira angle felt so forced was the abundance of medical technobabble used to justify it, as if the writers felt they had to justify it somehow. A simple "the baby could take the strain of a move once, but twice would be unwise" could replace about four lines of dialogue in the actual episode.

-- Garak's line about his past was terrific. "I used to be a gardener; now, if you have something you want weeded, you let me know" is great in and of itself, but I was also reminded of some lines from the old Pythonesque movie "Yellowbeard" about gardening which made the scene even funnier. (Don't ask ... my mind does very strange things sometimes.)

-- I may not be thrilled with either Quark or Rom most of the time, but occasionally, just occasionally, they make a good comedy team. A moment towards the end worked really well: "How am I? I'm broke...ruined... destitute...a pariah. How are things with you?" "Not bad." "Glad to hear it." Hee.

That should do it. "Body Parts" isn't superb; the O'Brien stuff is pretty flat, and the ending takes away from the main plot. On the whole, though, it's surprisingly watchable. So, to sum up:

Writing: An actual non-sniggering Ferengi story. Some bumps (especially in the ending), but reasonable.
Directing: Quite decent, though nothing pops out either way.
Acting: Shimerman and Max Grodenchik manage to go the whole show without making me wince. Bestill my heart. (Nana Visitor played Kira as completely soft and squishy, though.)

OVERALL: 6, I think. Actually okay.

NEXT WEEK: (well, given that this is late actually later this week, but it sounds better)

Odo's day of judgment comes.

Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.) <*>
"Maybe I wasn't clear; I'm not dying."
"Maybe I wasn't clear; I don't care."
-- Quark and Brunt

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