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WARNING: The Martians are coming! The Martians are coming! Oh ... there are spoilers present for DS9's "Little Green Men", too.

In brief: Surprisingly decent; not great, but quite entertaining if you know when to turn your brain off.

Brief summary: A trip to Earth to drop Nog off at Starfleet Academy becomes a nightmare when an accident sends Quark, Rom, and Nog to Earth -- in 1947.

I'm stunned. DS9 managed to take characters I'm not overly fond of -- namely Quark, Rom, and Nog -- graft on a concept which struck me as among the dumbest ones I'd heard of in recent memory -- Roswell really revolved around Ferengi! -- and yet not make the episode an unbridled disaster. Given the characters involved and the
fact that I really detest all the exploitative garbage that's swirled around Roswell, the show really came in with two strikes against it from the start for me. I kept waiting for a third strike ... and somehow, over the course of the hour, it never came.

What I got instead was a surprisingly funny episode. DS9's tried to mix Ferengi and comedy before, several times -- and almost every time, they've failed miserably. This time they succeeded, for the most part, and I think it's because of a shift of focus. For once, the comedy didn't lie in "oh, look, Ferengi have some stupid tradition; let's contrast it with something else and make everybody look like an idiot." The comedy here was in the sheer lunacy of their situation, both in the actions of the Ferengi and in the actions of all the 1947 humans we saw. That seems to have made all the difference.

The episode felt like an homage to a lot of really bad 1940s and '50s sci-fi movies, as well. All of the typical images from an "aliens come to Earth" movie of the time were there and were acknowledged. We had the alien-friendly professor, admired by his fiancee (an irritatingly perky nurse, of course) and mocked by everyone else; we had everyone smoking enough to keep R.J.Reynolds in business for a year; we had the short-sighted and suspicious military men who'd believe anything that let them remain as paranoid as they wanted to be; and we had Nog's speech about the Ferengi coming to kill all the men and take the women as mates. While bad Trek often invites MST3K treatment, "Little Green Men" was virtually beating the 'bots to the punch -- and doing a reasonable job of it in the process. [This isn't to say one can't add a few MSTicisms of one's own, of course. As soon as Nog got the guidebook for Earth, several "harmless? Just one word, harmless?" jokes were heard around these parts. :-) ]

The show wasn't perfect, mind you. A few of the perennial Ferengi-related problems did manage to seep in here and there. Chief among them was Rom screaming towards the end; that's a sound that just annoys me to no end. Add in the all-too-necessary quoting of a couple of Rules of Acquisition (sigh) and some heavy doses of technobabble, and parts of the show did tend to grate a bit. On the whole, though, those parts were kept to a minimum -- and even the technobabble moments were improved a great deal when Quark admitted he had absolutely no idea what Rom just said. :-)

Given the nature of the show, there's not a whole lot of characterization to mention, really, but a few things do still come to mind. On the good side, we had Jake's and Nog's farewells, which remained true to both of them quite well, and the nice change of pace that absolutely no one believed Quark was flying to Earth out of altruism -- not even Rom. On the bad side, Bashir's and O'Brien's joint purchase of Nog's going-away present suggests that the tension we saw between them back in "Hippocratic Oath" is gone for good. That doesn't appeal to me.

Beyond that, "Little Green Men"'s appeal is in all the little moments, really, not in any particularly broad themes -- and that makes it somewhat more difficult to discuss coherently. In that spirit, then, here are some of the things that particularly jumped out at me, for good or ill:

-- The auction itself was somewhat nondescript, but Dax buying Bashir the holosuite program was somewhat entertaining. Beneath the actual dialogue, I was mentally hearing "Julian, I'm getting you laid, so shut up already." :-)

-- Rom: "I've always been smart, brother; I just lacked self-confidence." Snort. I still can't totally believe it, but it's a great line.

-- Nurse Garland's two Trek references: the "explore new worlds and new civilizations" bit and the reference to "a vast alliance of planets". (The fact that Megan Gallagher's appeared periodically on "Nowhere Man" sparked some interesting jokes here as well; we kept expecting Tom Veil to show up. :-) )

-- "Have you ever heard of the Bell Riots?" That particular in-joke had me on the floor. Much as the second half of "Past Tense" disappointed me last season, this bit was priceless.

-- "The more we talk, the more you remind me of my brother-in-law." Now there's a line that will describe Quark for years to come. :-) Similarly, I loved the Quark/Odo/Quark exchange about 20th-century humans: "They're crude, gullible, and greedy." "You mean like you." "Yeah!"

-- A nitpick that annoys me nonetheless: Quark mispronounces "nuclear" as "nucular", even after Rom has just pronounced it correctly. That particular mispronunciation has gotten on my nerves for years; ugh.

And, on a final moment: "You mean the Martians are going to invade...CLEVELAND?"

That pretty much covers it. "Little Green Men" wasn't exactly a standout in DS9 history, but it was new, it was different, and it was fun. That's enough for me in this case. So, on to the closing:

Writing: Humor that worked for a change; even if it drew on old movie cliches every other minute, it was so deliberate about it that it worked.
Directing: This time, a light touch was needed, and it was more or less provided.
Acting: I still don't like Rom's screams -- everything else worked well enough.

OVERALL: I think this is a 7. Not exactly the season's best, but the season still hasn't had a clunker. Amazing!

NEXT WEEK:

Very Bad Things [TM] happen to the Defiant.

Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
tly...@alumni.caltech.edu
"We forced them to help us with ... with ..."
"With your insidious mind control powers."
"That's not bad."

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