Quark (Pilot)

QuarkA 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.

written by Buck Henry
directed by Peter H. Hunt
music by Perry Botkin, Jr.

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)

QuarkNotes: 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.

May The Source Be With You

QuarkThe approach of a gigantic Gorgon attack ship sends everyone aboard Perma One (give or take a small furry alien or two) swinging into action. The best United Galaxy captains are assigned to evacuate important heads of state and scientific minds from the station, and to relocate the most sensitive information to a safe location. Quark and his crew, on the other hand, are given the thankless (and, again, almost certainly suicidal) task of fending off the Gorgon advance, with nothing more than Quark’s garbage-collecting ship and a powerful sentient weapon known as the Source. The Source insists – in a voice that only Quark can hear – that belief in its power will shield him from all harm. Somewhere between watching his entire crew scatter or get captured, and being blinded by a laser blast to the face, Quark begins to realize that the Source is indeed with him – and that there’s a very good reason nobody has used it in over 200 years.

written by Stave Zacharias
directed by Hy Averback
music by Perry Botkin, Jr.

Cast: Richard Benjamin (Adam Quark), Timothy Thomerson (Gene/Jean), Richard Kelton (Ficus), Tricia Barnstable (Betty), Cyb Barnstable (Betty), Conrad Janis (Otto Palindrome), Alan Caillou (The Head), Henry Silva (High Gorgon), Hans Conreid (voice of the Source), Bobby Porter (Andy), Joe Burke (Gorgon Guard II), Chris Capen (Gorgon Guard I), Rick Goldman (Worker One), Vernon E. Rowe (Worker Two), Paul Schumacher (Gorgon Man), Melissa Prophet (Gorgon Woman), Larry French (Gorgon Assistant), Ann Prentiss (voice of Jean)

Notes: The series expands to a full-hour (the pilot was only a half-hour) with this, the first regular weekly episode of its extremely short run. A new title montage shows clips of the regular cast interspersed with very well-known NASA film animations of such subjects as the planet Saturn and the formation of the moon. The Barnstable sisters – more famous as the original Doublemint Twins than they were for this series – reverted to their real surname after using the stage name Barnett in the pilot episode. Where Tim Thomerson did both the masculine and feminine voices of his character in the pilot, here his feminine personality is dubbed over by actress Ann Prentiss. The sudden gender-switching of his character is toned down drastically here, leaning on dated sexist female stereotypes, whereas the pilot’s portrayal of his feminine personality was quite obviously based on gay male stereotypes, complete with a limp-wristed salute. (It’s entirely possible that NBC and/or its advertisers broke out in a cold sweat over that aspect of the pilot and insisted on the change.)

May The Source Be With YouAs if the title of this episode doesn’t make it clear, the influence of Star Wars – which premiered mere days after the Quark pilot episode in 1977 – is clearly on display here, from the Gorgons’ Vader-esque (but decidedly more velvety and less armor-y) helmets, to the spoof of Star Wars‘ seemingly endless corridor firefight (beating Spaceballs to the punch by almost a decade), to the music score’s obvious quotations of the movie’s Imperial March. Still, the classic Star Trek sound effects remain in use, and the new character of Ficus is clearly a spoof of Spock. Ficus is a member of the Vegeton species, and his skin is left temporarily discolored by brief exposure to extreme dry heat.

One other surprising Star Trek influence is the show’s more dramatic lighting, provided by cinematographer Gerald Perry Finnerman (1931-2011); frequently credited as Jerry Finnerman, he lit 60 of Star Trek’s 79 episodes, starting with The Corbomite Maneuver (the first regular episode filmed after Trek’s two pilots), creating that show’s signature ultra-colorful lighting scheme and its habit of soft-focusing close-ups on female guest stars; he had also been the lead cameraman for the series’ original pilot, The Cage. He was a frequent-flyer cinematographer on Kojak, the TV incarnation of Planet Of The Apes, Salvage One and Moonlighting, with numerous shorter stints on other high-profile series.

Andy the robot stays aboard Quark’s ship, while O.B. Mudd – May The Source Be With Youwho seemed to be his handler and perhaps creator in the pilot – has apparently gotten the transfer off-ship that he wanted. However, Andy also tells the Gorgons that Quark built him.

Guest star Henry Silva’s High Gorgon uniform is a humorous preview of his costume in the pilot movie of Buck Rogers In The 25th Century, in which he originated the role of Draconian warrior “Killer” Kane; while Kane appeared in further episodes of the series, Silva did not, handing the part off to Michael Ansara.

The Old And The Beautiful

QuarkAssignments are handed out to the United Galaxy’s finest starship captains – a 30-year stint on the frontier here, a high-risk disarmament mission there – and Adam Quark is surprised when he fails to draw the short straw for once. His assignment: a diplomatic mission to a world that hasn’t decided it it’s going to ally itself with the United Galaxy or with the Gorgons. But this planet’s idea of diplomacy is what’s euphemistically described as an “extended romantic interlude” with its female ruler, and men on this planet seldom live past the ripe old age of 25 due to the voraciousness of its women. Quark already knows Princess Carna from a previous encounter (which he managed to survive), so he’s fairly sure he can succeed in the ensuing negotiations and win a promotion to command of a starship that isn’t tasked with garbage collection. But it’s garbage collection that sabotages Quark’s ambitions: exposure to an alien virus begins aging Quark at the rate of several years per hour. With the years piling on, and Ficus unable to nail down an antidote to the virus, Quark is in danger of losing more than just a promotion.

written by Bruce Kane
directed by Hy Averback
music by Perry Botkin, Jr.

Cast: Richard Benjamin (Adam Quark), Timothy Thomerson (Gene/Jean), Richard Kelton (Ficus), Tricia Barnstable (Betty), Cyb Barnstable (Betty), Conrad Janis (Otto Palindrome), Alan Caillou (The Head), Barbara Rhoades (Princess Carna), Bobby Porter (Andy), Dana House (The Handmaiden)

The Old and the BeautifulNotes: Quark has not only inherited Star Trek’s sound effects, but its transporter technology as well. This episode also anticipates future Star Trek spinoffs’ reliance on a quick, too-easy wrap-up at the end of the episode, thought at least here it’s meant in good fun. The actress who plays the disgruntled United Galaxies starship captain at the beginning of the episode is uncredited here – we’ve been unable to track down any information on who played that part.

LogBook entry by Earl Green

The Good, The Bad And The Ficus

QuarkQuark’s ship stumbles into the gravitational pull of a black hole, and while the ship survives the crushing gravity, the journey has a strange effect: two ships emerge, each with Quark and his crew aboard. The new duplicate of the ship contains a version of the crew whose basest, most aggressive instincts are exposed – and the “evil” Quark immediately goes on a killing spree, destroying two United Galaxies starships with disturbing ease. At space station Perma One, the Supreme Head orders Quark’s immediate destruction. When Quark tries to prevent his double from further destructive behavior, he’s in the fight of his life against someone who knows exactly how he’ll respond. Even when he provides his superiors with proof that there’s another Quark, there’s a good chance that they’ll just see it as an opportunity to kill him twice.

written by Stuart Gillard
directed by Hy Averback
music by Perry Botkin, Jr.

Cast: Richard Benjamin (Adam Quark), Timothy Thomerson (Gene/Jean), Richard Kelton (Ficus), Tricia Barnstable (Betty), Cyb Barnstable (Betty), Conrad Janis (Otto Palindrome), Alan Caillou (The Head), Geoffrey The Good, The Bad and The FicusLewis (Admiral Flint), Sean Fallon Walsh (Commander Kroll), Lee Travis (Commander Stark)

Notes: The Good, The Bad And The Ficus is a riff on every “evil twin” installment of the original Star Trek, with special attention lovingly lavished upon Mirror, Mirror, with a side order of Arena once the two Quarks beam down to the asteroid for their showdown. It would also seem that Quark has made an old war story out of the events of the previous episode.

LogBook entry by Earl Green

Goodbye Polumbus

QuarkQuark returns to Perma One for his latest assignment, and after the excitement of chasing down his evil twin and “negotiating” with a beautiful female ruler, his luck runs out and he’s assigned another suicide mission. Quark and his crew are to visit the planet Polumbus – from which no United Galaxies ship has ever returned – and find out why no one ever leaves the planet. (Quark’s theory: it’s probably really crowded down there by now.) Once he arrives on Polumbus, Quark sees the woman of his dreams, Ficus sees the woman of his dreams (an equation-spouting math professor), and the Betties see the man of their dreams (a Quark for each of them). When Gene beams down, things get even stranger… and suddenly Quark’s crew is trapped, just like all the others before them.

written by Bruce Kane
directed by Hy Averback
music by Perry Botkin, Jr.

Cast: Richard Benjamin (Adam Quark), Timothy Thomerson (Gene/Jean), Richard Kelton (Ficus), Tricia Barnstable (Betty), Cyb Barnstable (Betty), Conrad Janis (Otto Palindrome), Alan Caillou (The Head), Denny Miller (Zoltar), Mindi Miller (Diane), Richard Devon (Captain), Maggie Sullivan (Teacher), Bobby Porter (Andy)

Goodbye PolumbusNotes: For the first time, Gene/Jean is identified as the chief engineer of Quark’s ship. Goodbye Polumbus is a spoof of the original Star Trek episode Shore Leave, and the Head even assigns one of Quark’s fellow captains to “a five-day mission to explore strange new worlds and seek out new civilizations” on “the final frontier” – one of the most blatant acknowledgements of Trek in the series, but also an indication that Star Trek had become a bit of a cliche via its endless syndicated reruns within a decade of leaving the airwaves.

LogBook entry by Earl Green

All The Emperor’s Quasi-Norms Part 1

QuarkQuark and his crew are assigned to trash pickup duty on a world whose garbage hasn’t been collected in years, but they’re intercepted by a Gorgon pirate ship commanded by the infamous Gorgon pirate Zorgon. He believes Quark is an undercover agent trying to retrieve a weapon to be used against the Gorgons, and demands to know its location on pain of death. To save his own skin and the lives of his crew, Quark names a random location on a remote asteroid, buying enough time to hatch an escape plan. But every part of that escape plan falls apart badly, and then Quark discovers something even worse: apparently he has led the Gorgons to something that will enable them to take over the universe.

written by Jonathan Kaufer
directed by Bruce Bilson
music by Perry Botkin, Jr.

Cast: Richard Benjamin (Adam Quark), Timothy Thomerson (Gene/Jean), Richard Kelton (Ficus), Tricia Barnstable (Betty), Cyb Barnstable (Betty), Conrad Janis (Otto Palindrome), Alan Caillou (The Head), Joan van Ark (Princess Libido), Ross Martin (Emperor Zorgon), Bobby Porter (Andy), Ned York (Bar-Tel), Jerrold Zimon (Professor Dinsmore), Susan Backline (Guard #1), Keith Atkinson (Guard #2)

QuarkNotes: In what may be the boldest Trek reference in the entire show, Otto Palindrome mentions the Romulans… and then states that they have noses on the back of their heads. The crushing walls of the Gorgons’ prison chamber is obviously a Star Wars riff. Even James Bond gets spoofed when Ficus is stretched out on a rack waiting to be bisected by a laser beam, a la Goldfinger.

LogBook entry by Earl Green

All The Emperor’s Quasi-Norms Part 2

QuarkZorgon thanks Quark for his help in finding “it” by having Quark and the Betties beamed down to the asteroid to become the next meal of a lizigoth. Fortunately, Zorgon hasn’t taken into account the asteroid’s Forest People, whose baron frees Quark and his crew and leads them to “it.” The item sought by Zorgon turns out to be a small crystal said to make its wearer invincible, and as Quark’s arrival has been foretold by prophecy, he becomes the bearer of “it” and returns to Zorgon’s ship to free Ficus and stop Zorgon’s quest for limitless power. But only when he finds himself staring down his mortal enemy does Quark realize that “it” isn’t all “it’s” cracked up to be.

written by Jonathan Kaufer
directed by Bruce Bilson
music by Perry Botkin, Jr.

Cast: Richard Benjamin (Adam Quark), Timothy Thomerson (Gene/Jean), Richard Kelton (Ficus), Tricia Barnstable (Betty), Cyb Barnstable (Betty), Conrad Janis (Otto Palindrome), Alan Caillou (The Head), Bruce M. Fischer (The Baron), Joan van Ark (Princess Libido), Ross Martin (Emperor Zorgon), Bobby Porter (Andy), Ned York (Bar-Tel), Jerrold Zimon (Professor Dinsmore), Gary Cashdollar (Guard #3), Barry Hostetler (Guard #4), Ron Burke (Guard #5)

QuarkNotes: The Baron of the Forest People is an uncanny prediction of Brian Blessed’s character in the Flash Gordon movie, which was still two years away from premiering. Quark says he and Ficus have served together for years, even though Ficus made his first appearance after the pilot. Arguably the weakest episode of the show’s short run, this installment is essentially a repeat of May The Source Be With You in a different setting.

LogBook entry by Earl Green

Vanessa 38-24-36

QuarkQuark is ordered to relinquish command of his ship to Dr. Evans’ new Vanessa 38-24-36 computer, which, according to Evans, can make all the decisions that a starship captain would encounter correctly and more quickly than any human. Unknown to either Quark or his superiors, however, Vanessa has been programmed with utter contempt for the human crew she is intended to replace. But since Quark’s crew has already forsaken him for the easy luxury of serving on a ship run entirely by Vanessa, the computer faces little opposition. She begins creating incidents designed to prove Quark’s inferiority, but this simply emboldens him to take action and remove Vanessa from the ship. Then Quark discovers that Vanessa is also programmed to defend herself…

written by Robert A. Keats
directed by Hy Averback
music by Perry Botkin, Jr.

Cast: Richard Benjamin (Adam Quark), Timothy Thomerson (Gene/Jean), Richard Kelton (Ficus), Tricia Barnstable (Betty), Cyb Barnstable (Betty), Conrad Janis (Otto Palindrome), Alan Caillou (The Head), Marianne Bunch (Dr. Evans), Bobby Porter (Andy)

QuarkNotes: An episode which spoofed the Star Trek episode The Ultimate Computer and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: a space odyssey in equal measure, this was the final episode of Quark to air on NBC. Even if the series had been picked up for a second season, that season would have seen at least one major casting change: actor Richard “Ficus” Kelton passed away in November 1978, mere months after this episode aired.

Quark’s pet Ergo puts in his first and only appearance since the pilot episode; while watching the episodes in rapid succession on DVD doesn’t make this seem very odd, it had been over a year since the creature’s previous appearance and audiences in the pre-VCR/DVR age had likely forgotten it.

LogBook entry by Earl Green

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