"Profit and Loss"
Airdate: March 20, 1994
37 of 173 produced
37 of 173 aired
An old flame of Quark's arrives on the station, but she's bringing more than fond memories with her. She is a Cardassian dissident, fleeing with two of her students. Shortly after their arrival, Garak sees them, and She needs to leave the station as soon as her ship is repaired, but Quark wants to rekindle the romance.
Hold me... like you did by the lake on Naboo...
Kevin: I like this episode. I just wished I liked it more. This, on paper, is a character-anchored look at various characters' histories and a look into Cardassian politics. I should love this episode to pieces, but it doesn't quite gel for me. It felt like they were going for a Star Trek take on Casablanca, and I will say I think any individual scene works fine, even very well, but by the time episode is resolved, I don't really feel like I get as much out of it as I could.
Matthew: I appreciate that they were trying to tell a relatively straight up love story, and I appreciate that they were doing it with a non-traditional romance character. Although I think the dialogue was a little purple in spots, I was invested in Quark's romance. The politics, yeeeeah.... we'll get there.
Kevin: The romance back story works fine, for itself. I like these portrayals of Quark's moral ambiguity. He's selfish and not above breaking the law obviously, but his misdeeds are not senseless or violent, they are just greedy, and I bought his qualified remorse at hurting and losing Natima. The romance scenes themselves play surprisingly well given the make-up, though I think credit for that goes as much if not more to the actors. I won't go so far as to say they had great chemistry, but the scenes still function better than a lot of Star Trek romances. The witty banter in the scene where she shoots him was pretty funny. "She asks if it hurts. It's a phaser. It's supposed to hurt," always cracks me up. I will say I like that over time, as much of a traditionalist as Quark claims to be, he seems to fall for decidedly nontraditional women.
Matthew: The romance works pretty well, but I did have questions about his betrayal. It seemed pretty foolish on his part given his apparent desire to be with her forever. I guess, similarly, I felt like her motivations were too apparently human. They went to a somewhat (if unsatisfying) alien place with Quark's behavior, I felt like they could have done the same with Natima. Also, aren't Cardassians insular racists? Or Ferengis, for that matter? Some explanation of why and how they could have kindled an interspecies romance would have been nice.
Kevin: The politics side of the episode also have some really great moments. The coded scene in Garak's shop was great, but overall, I thought it fell a little short. We seem to get some backstory for Garak but not a lot of detail which I think would have made it better. We haven't hit upon the Obsidian Order yet, and I think that will help gel Garak's character and story, but the ill-defined rivalry with the frankly uninteresting Gul Toran didn't help the episode. I liked Garak in the final scene in the airlock, but overall, the sins of Cardassian society, the nature of what it means to be a dissident, and where Garak's loyalties lie just didn't get the exploration I think they should have.
Matthew: The thing about the politics for me is that there weren't any. The Garak story was a lot of fun, but it didn't tell us anything about politics, per se. It told us about Garak. Natima's philosophies, that would revolutionize Cardassia? Nada. Zilch. I'm not saying we need a 20 minute presentation, but at least a vague outline would have been nice. Maybe her vision could have been more like Bashir's in the early conversation, while Garak's could have been the more Machiavellian one. Or heck, Natima's vision could have been an ultra-right-wing monarchic one that went too far for Garak. You know what would have been interesting? ANYTHING!
Kevin: I think in the end both plots together shake out to OK, but nothing more. If they had streamlined and beefed up the story behind the Cardassian ideology, I think this really could have sung. Still, I wasn't bored at any point, and I liked the opportunity for Quark and Garak to interact.
Kevin: Armin Shimerman and Andrew Robinsion and pretty much awesome., Whatever my issues with the script development are, you can't lay it at the feet of the actors. It's a credit to Shimerman in particular to do such a good job investing in the romance through the make up.The scene in Garak's shop remains one of my favorites for both characters.
Matthew: Yeah, the episode could have totally failed if Shimerman had not been a credible "leading man" and had instead been simply an object of fun. That wasn't the case. I was totally along for the ride with the character, feeling for him and rooting for him. When we get later romances for Rom, it never works as well as it does here. Quark could have been a human character, for all it mattered. Andrew Robinson was big fun as always, and he does a great job keeping Garak enigmatic and neutral.
Kevin: Mary Crosby also did a great job committing to her part as Ilsa, excuse me, I mean Natima Lang. I wonder if she was consciously channeling the obvious Casablanca reference. If so, I think it worked, because she definitely seemed anchored and invested in the alien political environment. I don't think she had blazing chemistry with Shimerman, but I think both actors really committed to the parts and made their scenes really interesting, if not necessarily incendiary.
Matthew: I never really got her as a Cardassian, you know? This could be a function of very few other Cardassian females being depicted (the only halfway memorable one being in TNG "The Chase"), but she seemed a bit too willowy to me to be a credible Cardassian. I'm not saying all Cardassian women must be tough as nails, but when the culture was characterized as cutthroat in the conversation between Bashir and Garak (loved that scene by the way), I just felt like the performance should have had a bit more steel. Some of this is the writing, too.
Kevin: I think Natima may be the second Cardassian woman we get to see in the show (after Ocet in The Chase), and I like the civilian take. The square cut necks and layered textiles really give Cardassian fashion a sense of cohesion and it achieves that rare feat for Star Trek alien fashion, it looks attractive in and of itself. I also loved the look inside Garak's shop. The costume people really outdid themselves.
Matthew: I agree wholeheartedly on the clothes and makeup for the character. Whether or not she seemed like a real political revolutionary, she was pretty, which helped the romance story. The students didn't get as much camera time, and I felt like their outfits were a little boring.
Kevin: The cloaking device prop was pretty generic. I do like that segmented Cardassian phaser. Beyond that, this was pretty much a bottle show taking place on the station on known locations. Michael Westmore does deserve credit for restoring Natima and Quark's make-up after each shot since, apparently the orange and gray mixed together after each kiss. It never showed on camera, and especially with that many close-ups, both characters always read as flesh and not latex and makeup.
Matthew: I liked the phaser and its effect in vaporizing the Cardassian. Do I have questions about how yet another fatal weapon was smuggled on board a station with weapons detectors? Of course. But that doesn't diminish the fact that the prop and the effect were neat looking. The small Cardassian ship looked good, too. We also got another Samarian Sunset drink, which was a neat little optical effect.
Kevin: I do enjoy this episode, but I don't know if I enjoy it enough for a 4. The glimpse we get into Cardassian politics is just too oblique for its own good. Still, this is still a good episode, and one I enjoy. I am going to go with a 3, but that should not be taken as a slight of the episode at all. It's good, and while I lament it not being great, that still doesn't make it being "good" a failure."
Matthew: To me this is an easy 3, simply because I was invested emotionally in Quark's lost love. Shimerman sold me on the story. The rest was just so-so, with no real Cardassian development beyond some tidbits about Garak's exile, and his moral grayness both ways. The "political revolutionary" story was disappointingly sparse. Nonetheless, our scores equal a 6, for a stoutly average episode.