Friday, November 15, 2013

Deep Space Nine, Season 4: Bar Association

Deep Space Nine, Season 4
"Bar Association"
Airdate: February 19, 1996
86 of 173 produced
86 of 173 aired


Rom leads a strike against Quark's management of the bar when his cuts and employee abuses go too far.

 I sense a dance number about the break out. "You ain't bad! You ain't nothing!"


Kevin: I enjoy this episode immensely for the reasons I'll get into below, but having to analyze it, it's a bit more difficult than I thought. I think there are two obvious tracks the episode can be analyzed on, plot and character. I'll start with character, where I think we can call it a pretty solid success on all levels. Rom and his relationship with his brother are explore and materially change over the episode. That's just good storytelling. No reset button, no magical forgetting by the next episode, and no one had to step out of their established characters to progress the plot. We've been seeding Rom as more competent that Quark believed since Necessary Evil, so this feels like a payoff, not a left turn out of nowhere. I also loved Rom calling Quark's belittling him for what it was, an attempt by Quark to make himself feel better. After Rom said that, you knew their relationship had to change, either by getting closer or farther apart, but it would not remain the same. Grodenchik initially felt, as apparently Eisenberg did with Rom, that the new tracks for their character would ultimately be the end of their time on the show or just not work out. Happily, they were both wrong. For both characters really, it's a very nice real world example of basically what the Federation is espousing. Given respect and support, these people will flourish. I think the internal growth of Rom's character, and the material change in his position on the station really keep this from being just a "Ferengi comedy episode."

Matthew: I definitely appreciate the character growth for Rom. He started out as a relatively annoying gag character who only seemed fit for comic relief. His rehab started a bit when he stood up to his brother on Ferenginar, but is finally close to complete here. The Nog comparison is interesting. Nog seems like a more consistent Ferengi, actually. His cultural attitudes seemed to be more of a piece with what we've seen, but I suppose he was raised by his father and thus could see the appeal of non-Ferengi cultures. In some ways, I still don't really get Rom. Why would it take so much of Quark's mistreatment (which, as he avers, is not really considered mistreatment according to Ferengi cultural norms) to react in such an atypically Ferengi way? I would have liked more development of the idea that either Rom was different all the time, or that his consciousness was raised by some event or other. I have a hard time believing that, even if Rom is a Ferengi social pioneer, that the other Ferengi on staff would have consented to form a union at all.

Kevin: I like the look we get into Ferengi culture and philosophy as well. More than any ham-fisted metaphors about Yankee traders, the idea that goal is to become the exploiter rather than stop the exploitation made me think of a parallel to human society. I think we tend to adopt policies for the small section of the population that is very rich at the expense of the people who are not because we think that might be us one day. I always like seeing Quark reconcile his actions with his Ferengi beliefs. Like Worf in many ways, I always thought Quark tended to, at least verbally, toe the party line a little more than the average Ferengi as a response to not living among them. Watching him try to navigate his cultural beliefs with his desire to not see Rom, and then himself, harmed is interesting. It also goes a long way to pulling the Ferengi just a bit further from comic relief. Union busting, in history, can easily be a bloody affair, and Brunt is the perfect vehicle to portray that.

Matthew: I liked Brunt as sort of a representative of a tyrannical social order. The kind of capitalism espoused by the Ferengi (apparently a particularly virulent brand of the robber baron capitalism of the 19th century USA) requires social repression to last for anything more than a few decades. The Ferengi seem to have elevated it to a quasi-religious status with their scripture (Rules of Acquisition) and their governmental bodies (the Nagus, the FCA). So it's nice to see what that would actually look like. It ends up being as totalitarian as the Soviet communism of the 20th century.

Kevin: The only parts of the episode that really bug me are similar the parts of Homefront/Paradise Lost. The show invites a look at the economics of Star Trek world but doesn't really answer them. It's a Bajoran station, but it's managed by the Federation, who apparently doesn't charge rent, though neither the Bajorans or the Federation have a minimum wage. There was an opportunity here to really draw some lines and make some sense out of why people, even while suffering deprivation or crappy employment practices might still not get on board with the Federation, and they didn't take it. All these people live on a station run by benevolent people with no scarcity. It does undercut the urgency of needing a union to get sick time. Also, isn't the infirmary always open for Rom? Shouldn't there always been someone on duty in a port of call in which there is no way all the spacefaring species are on a 26-hour diurnal schedule? It was a forced line to make a cheap (though I must admit decently funny) masturbation joke. Again, I don't really care too much what answer we actually get, but given the focus of the episode is how people earn a living, that invites questions about the Federation/Bajoran/Ferengi economy that the episode doesn't even try to answer. It's not fatal, because the comedy is good and the character development is great, but it is still annoying.

Matthew: I would have been really interested in seeing a story in which the holographic waiters were successful enough to eliminate the need for menial labor from living beings. That would be a sci-fi story worthy of sinking our teeth into.

Kevin: The Worf plot...was there. It's not voluminous enough to really derail the episode, but it is not really necessary to propel the A-story, and it's not terribly interesting on its own. I did love, however, Odo listing the security snafus on the Enterprise.

Matthew: This plot annoyed me if only for having already been done half a dozen times. Worf and Odo clash over operational style. We get it. It was superfluous.


Kevin: Shimerman always does a pitch perfect job of making the viewer believe that he believes in his Ferengi philosophy. He also has genuine rapport with Grodenchik, and it makes their interactions really great to watch. The look of horror on his face when Rom starts quoting Marx always slays me. Grodenchik really did a bang up job here too. It might be his best performance to date, if only for having the most material. He really did a great job of portraying someone fnding the internal resources to stand up for himself, and in particular, his take down of Quark was really powerful.

Matthew: Grodenchik was worried about transitioning his character from a nincompoop. He was wrong. Rom had finally stopped being annoying, and has actually started being interesting and identifiable. I definitely agree on Shimerman. His laughter was convincing, as was his irritation and disgust.

Kevin: Jeffrey Combs should be in everything. I really believed Brunt's ruthlessness, and his genuine disgust at what was going on. Like Shimerman, it really lends credibility to the orthodox Ferengi philosophy. He felt like a mobster, which is essentially what he was.

Matthew: I'm just going to have to come out and say it - I am not a fan of Chase Masterson, at least not in these early appearances. It remains to be seen whether she'll develop any depth, inner life, and ability not to appear totally fake on screen. Which, I guess, tells you how I rate her performance here. She's boobs and a bad haircut as it is right now.

Production Values

Kevin: Make-up and costumes were great for the Ferengi. They really have a clear sense of Ferengi tackiness that looks tacky without being unwatchable. Beyond that sheer number of extras, which was also good, this was pretty much a bottle show, but between the holding cell and the crew quarters, we were at least in a lot of places.

Matthew: At this point, I kind of tune out Ferengi costumes. Am I a cultural chauvinist? Maybe.

Kevin: The two pieces of effects work that stood out for me were the gag with the holo-waiters, which was well acheived, especially for the time, and the make-up job on Quark in the infirmary. I really bought his injuries. It gave a dark undertone the scene, which was well done.

Matthew: They did a great job on that optical doubling of Quark. The lighting was good enough to be convincing, and then there was some adequate use of extras with their back turned to seal the illusion in the backgrounds close-up shots.


Kevin: I am going with a three. We get some fun exploration and growth for primary and secondary characters, but a needless B-plot, and whiffing again on really answering the questions about Federation economics keep this from a 4.

Matthew: Despite my reservations, I agree on the 3 for a total of 6. I want more sci-fi, and I want more follow through on economics, too. But the episode as-is was moderately entertaining throughout, and the acting was at least adequate.


  1. Well I sort wish that you guys rated this a little higher. I think for me I am never bothered by no sci-fi. I just want a good and if possibly funny story.But reading your review I can totally see why you are nothing giving this a 7 or an 8. While I have wondered about the economics of the situation and why in a galactic world it matters if your home planet shuns you, I had never thought about the fact that Quark was abusing his workers on a federation station. So thank you for talking about that. I think what it comes down to for me is I always forget that for you guys a six means you liked the show and in theory it is better than 70% of what is currently on television today.

    1. I'd say 90% :-) But yeah, a 6 is right in the middle of the bell curve for us. So an "average" episode of Trek, by no means a bad one.

      We're trying to combat grade inflation, one rating at a time.

    2. I actually had originally wrote 90% and was like I know Matthew has said it was high but I decided to air on the side of caution and put it down to 70% or maybe I just have lower standards of current television than you guys do.

    3. I would enjoy hearing candidates for the 30% (or 10%) of television that is better than average Trek, if only to find something new to watch.

      I guess some of it comes down to category. If we were to categorize Trek, we could say Sci-Fi drama, which of course puts Trek in the 99th percentile (sorry BSG, Firefly, Twilight Zone, X-Files, and all other lesser series, Trek wins). If we expand out to serial drama, then I could maybe see an argument for some shows like Mad Men, Orange is the New Black, or something like that. I'm watching West Wing with Kelly right now, and I see promise, but I've also heard from her that it goes through some serious swings in quality. I haven't watched Breaking Bad yet, I know it's the hip thing right now. Same goes for Sopranos and Game of Thrones (I don't have Mitt Romney money).

      But I think, pound for pound, Trek easily trounces every other sci-fi offering out there, and stands toe to toe with the best dramas in TV history.

  2. Yeah. If all TV were as good as what Trek we give a 6, I would be very happy.