A United Galaxy Sanitation Patrol vessel commanded by Adam Quark makes its garbage-collection rounds in deep space, seldom – if ever – encountering anything that remotely resembles adventure or danger. Quark’s crew includes Gene/Jean, who has a full set of male and female chromosomes and abruptly lurches between extremes of masculinity and femininity, the voluptuous clones Betty and Betty, a cowardly robot named Andy, and crankly science officer O.B. Mudd, who’s itching for a transfer off of Quark’s ship. On space station Perma One, the hub of the space fleet that protects the United Galaxy, a catastrophic space explosion is detected, hurling a gigantic cloud of living protein into space, consuming everything in its path… including any and all life. Perma One’s chief bureaucrat, Otto Palindrome, consults with the enigmatic Head of the United Galaxy, and reaches only one conclusion: Adam Quark and his crew are the perfect people to undertake a mission to stop the cloud before it can consume all life in the universe. The one drawback to which Quark might object is that it’s a suicide mission. But Palindrome and the Head have that angle covered too: they’ll just neglect to mention that minor detail to Quark.
Cast: Richard Benjamin (Adam Quark), Timothy Thomerson (Gene/Jean), Douglas V. Fowley (O.B. Mudd), Tricia Barnett (Betty), Cibbie Barnett (Betty), Conrad Janis (Otto Palindrome), Alan Caillou (The Head), Misty Rowe (Interface), Bobby Porter (Andy)
Notes: Buck Henry, the creator and head writer of Get Smart, devised Quark as a satirical answer to Star Trek and other recent SF shows, and to drive the point home the series frequently used the well-known sound effects from the original Star Trek. Tim Thomerson, as Gene/Jean, would become a well-known fixture in movies and TV from the ’70s onward, racking up a mind-boggling list of mainstream credits; among his genre gigs were two episodes as has-been warrior Meleager on Xena: Warrior Princess, the short-lived Richard Dean Anderson/John de Lancie UPN steampunk series Legend, Sliders, Lois & Clark, and the first episode of Babylon 5 spinoff Crusade. The first episode of Quark ran to a half-hour with commercials, and aired as a one-off comedy on NBC; response was favorable enough for a series to be green-lighted, though it wouldn’t premiere until nine months later, by which time another science fiction saga that debuted mere days after Quark’s broadcast premiere would provide the show’s writers with a whole new target for satire.