Reviews Logo
SearchHomeContents PageSite Map
Quark: The Complete Series

Quark: The Complete Series
Principal Cast
Richard Benjamin -- Adam Quark
Tim Thomerson -- Gene
Patricia Barnstable -- Betty
Cyb Barnstable -- Betty
Bobby Porter -- Andy the Android
Conrad Janis -- Otto Palindrome
Alan Caillou -- The Head
Richard Kelton -- Ficus
Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rick Klaw

As children, my sister and I fought over the TV. During the 70s when we had only one TV, five channels (ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, and an independent), and no VCR, we raced home after school to claim the television. The sprint only served as the prelude to the inevitable pitched battle. Like some eternal time loop, the combat re-occurred every weekday. At 3 PM everyday, one channel showed Looney Tunes and another The Brady Bunch. My sister in her insanity, preferred the latter. For a brief, magical period in 1978, Friday nights matched the after school chaos. Quark, the comedic adventures of the eponymous intergalactic garbage man, ran opposite my sister's favorite show, the musical variety hellspawn Donny and Marie. After just eight episodes, Quark went off the air and my sister returned to the bliss of The Dancin' Mormon Happy Hour unimpeded.

To many of my peers, Quark contains an alluring quality. In February, 1978 when the series premiered as a midseason replacement (the pilot first aired in May of 1977), science fiction dominated entertainment. Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind were both still playing in theaters. Wonder Woman was in the midst of its second season. The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman were nearing the ends of their successful runs. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy radio show would premiere in March. Mork & Mindy and the initial incarnation of Battlestar Galactica were but six months away. For the lucky few who saw it, Quark presented the first glimpse of original humorous science fiction TV series since the 1960s My Favorite Martian.

Adam Quark (the wry Richard Benjamin), captain of a United Galactic Sanitation ship, leads a group of space oddities: first mate Gene/Jean, a "transmute" with male and female characteristics; the über-logical and highly-evolved plant-man (a Vegaton) science officer Ficus; Betty I and Betty II, identical cloned engineers who argue over who is the clone and who is the original; and Andy, a cowardly, depressing robot, eerily reminiscent of Douglas Adams' Marvin. The crew receives their orders from "The Head," who appears floating on a video screen, and his assistant, the self-absorbed Otto Palindrome (veteran actor Conrad Janis). Mork & Mindy and 3rd Rock from the Sun both revisited the "head" concept.

Developed by Oscar-nominated writer/director (The Graduate, Heaven Can Wait, Candy) and co-creator of Get Smart, Buck Henry wisely relied on smart parodies of Star Wars and Star Trek, even matching the sound effects for the proper spoof. The series ages well and offers numerous humorous, still-relevant cultural insights on inept bureaucracies, terrorism, war, and the role of technology.

The weakest episode, and the only one written by Henry, the pilot relates an inane tale about a potentially universe destroying space enzyme. Quark and his crew defeat the plague through a series of coincidences and well-timed ineptitude. The substitution of Dr. O.B. Mudd, an inferior Dr. McCoy parody, for Ficus further weakened the episode. Thankfully, Ficus joined the crew in the second episode ("May the Source Be With You") and Mudd faded into one-shot character purgatory.

The relationship between the emotional Quark and the logical Vegaton supplied much of the narrative backbone. The literal and often insightful Ficus, brilliantly portrayed by the late Richard Kelton, had some of the most memorable quotes and the best scenes of the series. A superior example occurs in "The Good, the Bad, and the Ficus," a re-imagining of the classic Trek "Mirror, Mirror." When the crew comments that the alternate Ficus was no different than their own science officer, Ficus observes "There are no good or evil plants; there are only plants." In "Goodbye, Polumbus," a satire of Star Trek's "Shore Leave" and a title spoof of the 1969 Richard Benjamin-helmed film Goodbye, Columbus, Ficus engages in what is best described as "orgasmic mathematics."

The series achieved its pinnacle with the two-part "All the Emperor's Quasi-Norms." This heady mix of Star Wars, Star Trek, and Flash Gordon introduced Zorgon the Malevolent, and his daughter Princess Libido (the sexy Joan Van Ark at her vampy finest). The Libido-Ficus sex-pollination scenes -- the pair laying next to each other, head to foot, with legs in the air uttering "Beebeebeebeebeebee" -- afford several interesting and humorous moments. The magnificent Ross Martin (Artemis Gordon from The Wild Wild West) successfully apes Ming the Merciless as he seeks out the mysterious It.

Sadly, the series ended with the next episode "Vanessa 38-24-36". The title refers to an experimental super computer that seizes control of the garbage ship.

Previously only available on poor-quality, bootleg videotapes, Quark: The Complete Series collects the entire cult show for the first time legally on any video format. While the disc includes all eight episodes, the set lacks any related extras. Inexplicably, episodes of I Dream of Jeannie and Fantasy Island constitute the bonus features. The compilation lacks documentaries reminiscing about Quark's origins and why the short-lived show continues to resonate with fans is missing as well as some of the original promotional material.

Copyright © 2008 Rick Klaw

Rick Klaw co-writes the SF Site column Nexus Graphica and supplied countless reviews, essays, and fiction for a variety of publications including, The Austin Chronicle, The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy, Moving Pictures RevolutionSF, King Kong Is Back!, Conversations With Texas Writers, Farscape Forever, Electric Velocipede, Cross Plains Universe, and Steampunk. MonkeyBrain Books published the collection of his essays, reviews, and other things Klaw, Geek Confidential: Echoes From the 21st Century.

SearchContents PageSite MapContact UsCopyright

If you find any errors, typos or other stuff worth mentioning, please send it to
Copyright © 1996-2014 SF Site All Rights Reserved Worldwide