“Looking for par’Mach in All the Wrong Places”
Written by Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Andrew J. Robinson
Season 5, Episode 3
Production episode 40510-501
Original air date: October 14, 1996
Station log: Bashir and Quark pass by the O’Brien cabin, where they can both hear Kira and O’Brien arguing rather loudly. Keiko arrives—causing great chagrin to Bashir, who doesn’t want to be caught eavesdropping—and settles things, but it’s obviously not all sweetness and light with the new arrangement among the O’Briens and Kira.
Worf and Dax are discussing opera singers in the replimat when the Lady Grilka shows up on the Promenade alongside Tumek and a bodyguard, Thopok. Worf is completely smitten with her, and follows her and her entourage to Quark’s, where she warmly greets the proprietor with a big ol’ hug. Dax informs a shocked Worf that Grilka is Quark’s ex-wife. She tells him the whole story of “The House of Quark,” while Grilka herself tells Quark that the recent hostilities between the Klingons and the Federation have cost the House of Grilka quite a bit and Quark offers to look over her books. After Grilka takes her leave, Thopok threatens Quark—if he helps her, all is well, but if he fails to aid her, Thopok will kill him.
O’Brien is picking up some medications for Kira from Bashir, and Bashir is surprised to learn that O’Brien is helping Kira out of the tub and—because he’s twelve—wants to know if O’Brien peeked at her naughty bits.
Worf goes to Quark’s to flirt with Grilka. Him being Klingon and all, flirting means literally tossing Morn out of his seat (promising to apologize for that later), loudly ordering bloodwine, and insulting Thopok. However, Tumek cuts him off at the pass and takes him aside. Worf’s House has been dissolved, his name is a curse. Grilka could not even consider mating with him. Tumek also knows that he’s never courted a Klingon woman before, and politely, without insult, asks him to leave and not come back.
Worf sulks. Dax isn’t sure if it’s because his overtures were rejected or if it’s the reminder of his being raised by humans or if it’s the reminder that he’s an outcast. To twist the knife a little, Quark shows up asking Dax for pointers because Grilka has invited him to dinner in her quarters. Worf winds up participating, telling Quark of a ritual that is common among the people of her region of Qo’noS.
O’Brien is giving Kira a massage, while Keiko brings her yet another new, larger uniform straight from Garak, along with more comfortable boots. O’Brien tells Kira about Ireland, and the conversation wanders to a surprisingly flirty direction, before both of them cut each other off and feel all awkward.
Quark goes to Worf on the Defiant. The first date went really well. She said that Quark had the heart of a poet, which prompts Worf to mentally go “nyah! nyah!” at Tumek, and Quark asks for help with date number two. “We have work to do,” Worf says with determination.
Enlisting Dax, they go to the holosuite to re-create the battle at Qam-Chee, where Kahless and Lukara fought against five hundred soldiers, defeating them all, and beginning the greatest romance in Klingon history. Quark is having trouble with the whole thing—a vicious battle that ends with him covered in blood and surrounded by corpses doesn’t exactly put him in a romantic mood—until Dax reminds him that the story of Qam-Chee ends with Kahless and Lukara jumping on each other like a couple of crazed voles.
Kira winds up defending O’Brien to Odo, who is frustrated with how far behind the chief is on repairs to Upper Pylon 3, which has had a rash of thefts. Meanwhile, Quark and Grilka come out of the holosuite after acting out Kahless and Lukara at Qam-Chee. Grilka then asks Quark point blank why he’s pursuing her. Having playacted at being a Klingon all night, he goes full Ferengi on her: he pursues those valuable objects that he wishes to acquire.
That’s too much for Thopok, who declares that he cannot protect a House that would accept an honorless coward like Quark. So he challenges Quark to a duel, because Klingons.
Kira and O’Brien remain awkward around each other since their unintentional flirting, and Kira decides to spend a few days in a remote cabin on Bajor to relax for a while. O’Brien is relieved—but then Keiko insists that O’Brien go with her just in case, which just starts the awkward train rolling again.
Quark is in a bind. Heartsick, he consults Worf and Dax. “My choices are to not show up, be branded a coward, and lose Grilka—or die?”
“Yes,” Worf says simply, and Quark cries out, “Oh, come on now, there must be another way out of this!”
Dax has an idea: a telepresence device that allows Worf to control Quark’s movements. After a practice session—during which Quark, naturally, complains a lot—Dax asks Worf what he sees in Grilka, and his very poetic description sounds to her like a statue. She tells him he’d be better off with someone more fun and more attainable. Worf, amazingly, does not get the hint.
Quark goes to the holosuite and formally accepts Thopok’s challenge. With Worf controlling him from the holosuite next door, Quark fights Thopok, and it goes really well right up to the part where Worf accidently breaks a piece of the device with a show-offy bat’leth twirl. Quark stalls by pulling “the Ferengi Right of Proclamation” out of his ass, and Grilka allows it, given how respectful he has been of Klingon traditions (and how little she knows of Ferengi ones). He starts extemporizing a declaration of his affection for Grilka, parts of which are very clever, and parts of which really aren’t.
Then Dax fixes the device, and they’re back to fighting. Worf and Quark defeat Thopok, but Quark does not deliver the killing blow, much to Quark’s surprise. Instead Worf has him pick up Thopok’s bat’leth, bring it to Grilka and present it to her, grip-first. She returns the weapon to him, declaring his honor to be satisfied and his service to the House of Grilka at an end. Thopok isn’t happy, but he bows and departs. Tumek also leaves, and Dax turns the machine off, leaving Quark and Grilka to themselves.
Worf laments what Grilka sees in Quark, and Dax points out that at the very least Quark can see an opportunity that’s staring him in the face. Worf still doesn’t get it, so Dax has the computer give her a bat’leth and she recites Lukara’s lines from the Battle at Qam-Chee. Smiling, Worf finally gets the hint, and recites Kahless’s lines, followed by the pair of them sparring for a bit, ending with Dax on top of Worf.
O’Brien and Kira board a runabout. The awkwardness is now cranked up to eleven. Kira laments that the cabin she was planning to go to is the most romantic spot on Bajor. O’Brien says that there’s no way he’s going—he’ll deal with Keiko, but he won’t go. Kira also decides to instead go to the capital city and visit Shakaar. They also admit that it might’ve been nice in another life, before Kira kicks O’Brien off the runabout.
Quark checks into the infirmary with multiple scratches, fractures, and contusions, alongside Grilka. Bashir asks what happened, and then rescinds the question, not wanting that image running around in his head. Worf and Dax then enter in a similarly battered state, prompting Bashir to decide to never ask anyone what happened to them ever again.
Worf tells Dax that traditionally, they would now get married, but Dax is not a traditionalist—and, she points out, neither is he, really. They agree to take it one day at a time, though Worf isn’t a hundred percent happy with that arrangement. Dax does get him to admit that he stopped thinking about Grilka, at which point we’re treated to that rarest of sights: Worf laughing.
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Dax has a doohickey that never is even given a name that allows one person to manipulate the limbs of another. We never find out how it works or what it’s called or where Dax got it or if she just built it or what. It’s just there because the plot needs it to be there. And you know what? That’s okay.
Don’t ask my opinion next time: Kira is getting into the latter stages of pregnancy, and she’s mostly miserable, relying on O’Brien’s massages to keep her sane. She’s also continuing to sneeze a lot, despite every remedy Bashir tries. (At one point, Bashir says that Bajoran women have been sneezing their way through pregnancy for a hundred thousand years and he can’t be expected to cure it overnight.)
The slug in your belly: Dax, who has been flirting with Worf for a year now, turns it up a notch, though it still takes forever for him to get the hint. What’s especially entertaining is how totally smitten she is when Worf demonstrates what Quark should do on the first date with Grilka.
There is no honor in being pummeled: Worf is taken with Grilka from the moment he sees her, even though he doesn’t really know her. Of course, the more he knows, the more he likes what he sees, and if he can’t have her, he’ll at least prove to himself that Tumek was wrong and he totally could have wooed her given a chance by being Quark’s puppeteer.
Rules of Acquisition: Quark is obviously as taken with Grilka as Worf, if not more so, since he actually knows her, and goes to impressive lengths to win her. Of course, it’s as much Worf who wins her as Quark, but Quark’s the one who gets to have sex with her in the end.
Preservation of mass and energy is for wimps: Odo takes tremendous pleasure in giving Kira a hard time about how much more friendly she is toward “Miles” than she used to be toward “the chief.”
Plain, simple: Apparently, it’s been six months since “Broken Link,” since Garak is back in business, making new uniforms and boots for Kira.
Tough little ship: Living on the Defiant allows Worf to, when the ship isn’t in use, blare Klingon opera over the communications systems and sing along to it—the very thing Dax said he could do when he moved to the ship in “Bar Association.”
No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: Where to even start? Let’s put it this way, between Worf and Grilka, Quark and Grilka, Dax and Worf, and O’Brien and Kira, this episode was the sole item cited in Steve Lyons & Chris Howarth’s Completely Useless Unauthorized Star Trek Encyclopedia’s entry for “Sex.”
What happens on the holosuite stays on the holosuite: Quark re-creates, at Worf’s suggestion, the battlements at Qam-Chee for his and Grilka’s second date, and later it’s where Thopok’s challenge to Quark takes place.
Keep your ears open: “War. What is it good for? If you ask me, absolutely nothing.”
Quark, paraphrasing the great Edwin Starr song “War” (and also forgetting about the 34th Rule of Acquisition, “War is good for business”).
Welcome aboard: Mary Kay Adams and Joseph Ruskin return as Grilka and Tumek from “The House of Quark.” Rosalind Chao returns as Keiko.
But the episode’s Robert Knepper moment is Phil Morris, a favorite actor of mine since his days following in his father’s footsteps in the 1988 Mission: Impossible sequel series (Greg Morris played Barney Collier on the original M:I, and Phil played Collier’s son Grant in the sequel series). While I distinctly remember Morris’s other Trek roles—as one of the kids in the original series’ “Miri,” as the cadet in Star Trek III, as John Kelly in Voyager’s “One Small Step,” and especially his magnificent turn as Third Remata’klan in “Rocks and Shoals”—I had totally forgotten that he also plays Thopok in this episode.
Trivial matters: This episode serves as a sequel to “The House of Quark.” While we won’t see Grilka again on screen, regular rewatch commenter Christopher L. Bennett wrote a coda to the Grilka-Quark relationship for the Prophecy and Change anthology entitled “...Loved I Not Honor More.” Grilka is also part of the storyline of Star Trek Online.
The episode was very obviously inspired by Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac, a suggestion originally made by Michael Dorn. In TNG’s “The Nth Degree,” we saw Crusher directing a production of Cryano on the Enterprise, with Barclay in the title role.
This is the second mention of Lukara, Kahless’s mate, who was first named in “The Sword of Kahlees,” when Kor mentioned that Kahless used his bat’leth to carve a statue of her. Your humble rewatcher’s The Klingon Art of War expands on the battle at Qam-Chee, explaining how Kahless and Lukara met there, and the full circumstances of the battle against Molor’s forces. Qam-Chee is established, in the 22nd century at least, as being the site of the First City of the Klingon Empire in the Enterprise novels Kobayashi Maru by Andy Mangels & Michael A. Martin and the duology The Romulan War by Martin. The Qam-Chee River flows through the First City in the 24th century in your humble rewatcher’s A Burning House.
This is Andrew Robinson’s first time directing an episode of DS9, and the first time a recurring actor has directed a Trek episode. (By this time, plenty of opening-credits regulars had taken their turn in the director’s chair, and many more would going forward.) It was also Robinson’s first TV directorial endeavor. Fittingly, his first time was a riff on a stage play, since he’s an award-winning stage director, having won two Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards for helming Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming and Samuel Beckett’s Endgame.
This is the longest episode title in DS9’s run, and the second-longest in all of Trek, coming in second to “For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky.”
We’ve seen three of Worf’s previous onscreen relationships, and none have been full-blooded Klingons: K’Ehleyr, Ba’el, and Troi. And now Dax as well. Which confirms Tumek’s supposition that Worf has never courted a Klingon woman.
Walk with the Prophets: “You people have rituals for everything except waste extraction!” It’s easy to forget after watching the unending seriousness of Battlestar Galactica and Caprica, but Ronald D. Moore is hands down the best modern Trek scribe at doing humor. It’s mostly conversational humor, which makes it all the better, and this episode has all of it on display. The conversation between Kira and O’Brien when the former discusses how incredibly romantic the cabin is, for example, is just marvelous and hilarious and brilliant, aided by how straight Nana Visitor and Colm Meaney play it.
There are three love stories here, one a continuation of a previous tale, one the start of a great romance, the other a strange side road in an otherwise solid friendship. What’s great about all of them is that they’re each portrayed with a sense of fun, but are still all true to the characters.
Let’s start with O’Brien and Kira, which is a bizarre one, and one that seems wrong on the face of it—which is why it works. It’s one of those moments when two people who’ve been thrown into an unexpected intimacy by circumstance. After months of massages and baths and cohabitation, they suddenly have a moment where they’re getting intimate. Of course, they’ve been intimate, just not thinking about it that way, and the conversation wanders, and BAM! Instant awkwardness. It’s beautifully played. (It’s also something that could’ve been solved by a simple conversation with Keiko, who is, after all, a grownup, but I’ve often found that a mature relationship is the last thing one should expect from TV writers, especially the writers of the O’Brien marriage.)
Then we have Worf. He’s been kicked out of his homeland for the second time, only this time it’s worse. After “Sins of the Father,” he had Kurn in his hip pocket as a backup plan, since his being part of the House of Mogh was hidden. He doesn’t have that this time, and this particular exile feels more permanent. He’s tried to be an ideal Klingon and had those ideals thrown back in his face repeatedly. So when he sees Grilka, he sees exactly what Dax says he sees: a statue. Or, more generally, an idea. If he woos Grilka, maybe he can still consider himself to be the Klingon that Gowron says he isn’t.
As for Grilka, we’ve got a rarity in the empire: a woman who’s the head of a House. Things are going badly, and the only person she can really trust is the Ferengi who bailed her out last time. As for Quark, we’ve seen repeatedly that he desires strong women. After being raised on a world that devalues women, he has repeatedly gone after women who wouldn’t put up with Ferengi restrictions on females for a nanosecond: Natima Lang, Vash, Rionoj, Pel, Kira, Dax, and now Grilka. She’s his kind of woman, and he is a romantic at heart (we’ve seen that over and over), so he does what he has to in order to win her affection.
And then there’s poor Dax, who’s been flirting with Worf since they sparred with bat’leths in “The Way of the Warrior.” She obviously finds Worf hot, and has from jump, and all it took to get him to notice was a simple clubbing on the head.
Ultimately, this is a charming little Cyrano pastiche that works because the characters that we’ve gotten to know pretty well are all completely in character here. Plus, it gets the Worf-Dax relationship going, which will be tremendous fun going forward...
Warp factor rating: 7
Keith R.A. DeCandido reminds everyone that his latest Star Trek book The Klingon Art of War is now on sale. You can get the book at your local bookstore or order it online from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indie Bound, or directly from the publisher, or comment on this post right here on Tor.com to win a free copy of the book. He’s talked about the book on the podcasts Trek Radio, the G & T Show, and SciFi Diner. He’ll be doing three signings for the book in May: at Singularity & Co. in Brooklyn, New York tonight at 7pm, at Pandemonium Books in Cambridge, Massachusetts on Thursday the 15th; and at the Enigma Bookstore in Queens, New York on Saturday the 17th.