Quark (TV series)
Richard Benjamin and the Barnstable twins in NBC's Quark
|Created by||Buck Henry|
|Composer(s)||Perry Botkin Jr.|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||8|
|Running time||30 minutes|
David Gerber Productions|
Columbia Pictures Television
|Original release||May 7, 1977 – April 7, 1978|
Quark is a 1977 American science fiction sitcom starring Richard Benjamin. Broadcast on Friday nights at 8:00-8:30 PM on NBC, the pilot aired on May 7, 1977, and the series followed as a mid-season replacement in February 1978. The series was cancelled in April 1978. Quark was created by Buck Henry, co-creator of the spy spoof Get Smart.
The show was set on a United Galaxy Sanitation Patrol Cruiser, an interstellar garbage scow operating out of United Galaxies Space Station Perma One in the year 2226. Adam Quark, the main character, works to clean up trash in space by collecting "space baggies" with his trusted and highly unusual crew.
In its short run, Quark satirized such science fiction as Star Wars, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Lost in Space, Buck Rogers, and Flash Gordon. Three of the episodes were direct parodies of Star Trek episodes.
- Adam Quark (Richard Benjamin) is a Commander who longs for a glamorous, important assignment and ends up collecting trash instead. He is skilled and competent, but extraordinarily unlucky.
- Betty I and Betty II (aka The Bettys) (Cyb and Patricia Barnstable) are the navigators and pilots of the ship. They are completely identical, with identical red-hot passions for Quark. One of them is a clone of the other, but each claims the other one is the clone. They have a tendency to speak in perfect unison and have exactly the same thought at exactly the same time. Quark, when describing his crew, explains that he is in love with Betty, but he's not sure which one.
- Gene/Jean (Tim Thomerson) is a "transmute", a humanoid being with a complete set of both male and female chromosomes. He/she serves as the ship's engineer. The gender confusion manifests in a split personality — when Gene's macho male side is in control, he is gung-ho, angry and violent with a pathological hatred of the Klingon-like "Gorgons", while the much more mild-mannered Jean personality is stereotypically feminine and demure, pacifistic and a bit of a coward. He/she will frequently switch personalities with no warning.
- Ficus Pandorata (Richard Kelton) is Quark's Spock-like science officer and is a "Vegeton", a member of a race of sentient plant life (Ficus pandorata or pandurata is better known as Ficus lyrata, the fiddle-leaf fig). He is of completely human appearance although he tends to shrivel up when he gets dehydrated. While he is extremely intelligent, observant and always calmly rational, he is incapable of any sort of human emotion, including both fear and tact. He frequently finds the behavior of the rest of the crew difficult to understand, his curiosity leading him to have philosophical debates about the human condition with Quark, usually at the most inopportune moments. Kelton died of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning on November 27, 1978, only seven months after the series was cancelled.
- Andy (Bobby Porter) is a not-at-all-human-looking robot, made from spare parts, with a cowardly and neurotic personality.
- Otto Bob Palindrome (Conrad Janis) is in charge of Perma One, and gives Commander Quark his assignments. He is a stereotypical bureaucrat who gives new definition to the word "petty" — a nightmare tyrant to his underlings and a quivering toady towards his superiors. Palindrome seems to take a special delight in making Quark's life miserable, although deep down he does seem to have a certain well-hidden affection for Adam. His first name, "Otto", is a palindrome, as is his middle name, "Bob."
- Dink is a diminutive and very hairy alien aide to Palindrome who resembles a curly blond version of Cousin Itt. His voice is a xylophone-like electronic warble. He often provides a foil for Palindrome's concerns about his job and about Quark, both of whom he comes to for dating advice. There is another member of his species on Perma 1 called either Doot or Doop whose masses of long hair resemble brown and red wool.
- The Head (Alan Caillou) is the being to whom Palindrome answers. He is usually seen as a disembodied head with an enormous cranium. He is detached from day-to-day events, has a low tolerance for failure, and a tendency to come up with bizarre tasks for Quark to accomplish — usually at the worst possible time. His trademark sign-off: "The galaxy, ad infinitum!"
- Interface (Misty Rowe) A four-armed alien woman who functioned as an operator for all interstellar calls. The perfect example of a communications bureaucrat, she is more concerned about correct charges for lasergrams than about saving the Galaxy. Appeared only in the pilot but is mentioned in at least one later episode.
- Ergo A multi-eyed little blob that was Quark's pet, paralleling Pinback and the Alien from the movie Dark Star. In the pilot, the colorless and translucent Ergo seemed intent on killing Quark, but in the final episode when he appeared again he was much more subdued and pea soup green in color.
- "Pilot" (May 7, 1977): A deep space phenomenon threatens to destroy the galaxy, and Quark's ship is the only one in the area. Palindrome and The Head instruct Quark to go on a suicide mission to save their civilization, but he's so far away they can only contact him by telegram. The two of them argue over telegram costs and spend most of the episode trying to reduce the number of words in the message so as to keep the cost down. Meanwhile Quark and company accidentally save the day anyway. Ficus was not a part of the cast in this episode, and the "science guy" role was held by Dr. O.B. Mudd, a crotchety one-eyed old man played by Douglas Fowley (Mudd lost his eye while working at his science station when he fell asleep while using his microscope). It is mentioned that Mudd and Quark built Andy together. Mudd never appeared or was mentioned again in the series, and no explanation was given for his departure from the show, other than a gag about transferring. The Barnstable twins are credited with the last name "Barnett" in the pilot.
- "May the Source Be with You" (February 24, 1978): Perma One is in a state of emergency, as the Gorgons have created the ultimate weapon to defeat the United Galaxy. Palindrome gives Quark the secret weapon, "The Source" (voiced by Hans Conreid). Quark must believe completely in the Source in order to defeat the Gorgons. In the Spanish-language version the scene where the Bettys compare Quark to a god was removed so as not to offend Catholic viewers.
- "The Old and the Beautiful" (March 3, 1978): Expecting his usual garbage hauling assignment, Quark is excited to hear that the Head has authorized an "extended romantic interlude" with Princess Carna of Kamamor (Barbara Rhoades). Troubles ensue when the crew encounters a stray space baggy carrying a virus which ages Quark two years for every hour.
- "The Good, the Bad and the Ficus" (March 10, 1978): While on a routine mission, the ship is accidentally pulled into a black hole, which splits the crew into good and evil counterparts. The exception is Ficus, who remains the same because "there are no good or evil plants, there are just plants", leading both sets of crew members to scream at him in their usual exasperation. After Quark confronts and defeats his evil self on a nearby asteroid, he sends the evil crew back through the black hole. As the evil crew is being sent back we hear the evil Adam Quark say "Keep your deflectors up, do-gooder! You haven't seen the last of this face!"
- "Goodbye Polumbus" (March 17, 1978): Quark and his crew are sent on a suicide mission to Polumbus to discover why no one has returned alive. Quark and his crew fall prey to their fantasies as part of a fiendish plot by the dreaded Gorgons to drain the minds of the United Galaxy's most brilliant scientists. Quark encounters a beautiful dream girl, Ficus encounters a teacher, the Bettys encounter dancing clones of Quark, and Gene/Jean encounters his favorite comic book character "Zoltar the Magnificent". In order to save his crew, Quark must destroy the obelisk and free the shape-shifting "Clay People" it enslaved. The episode's title is spoof of the film Goodbye, Columbus, in which Benjamin played the lead.
- "All the Emperor's Quasi-Norms, Part 1" (March 24, 1978): While on a routine mission, Quark and his crew are captured by Zorgon the Malevolent (played by Ross Martin), the Most Vicious Gorgon Space Pirate and Half-Brother to the High Gorgon Himself. Zorgon tries to learn from Quark where to find "It"—which represents a problem as Quark has no idea what "It" is. Meanwhile, Zorgon's daughter, Princess Libido (played by Joan Van Ark), has fallen in love with Ficus. Ficus agrees to a meeting with Princess Libido in hopes of letting her down gently because, as he explains to her, "Where I come from, we don't kiss. We pollinate." This line of reasoning fails to dissuade her. The next scene finds both of them lying on the floor on their backs, sticking their arms and legs up in the air, and saying "bee bee bee bee" over and over again, increasing in rapidity and pitch in anticipation of the arrival of the bee. Andy and Gene/Jean escape and disguise themselves as Gorgon scientists and Gene/Jean is asked to give a lecture on "It". The episode cliffhanger has Quark horrified to realize that the location for "It" that he gave as a bluff has turned out to be absolutely correct.
- "All the Emperor's Quasi-Norms, Part 2" (March 31, 1978): Ficus sacrifices himself and marries Princess Libido to save the crew. Gene/Jean manages to impress the Gorgon scientists with its lecture, and it and Andy escape. Quark and the Bettys are sent down to the planet to be eaten by a Lizigoth, but are saved by the Baron of The Forest People. With the Baron's help, Quark locates "It", which turns out to be a small stone on a necklace. Subsequent events (a door being opened, a disintegration ray deflecting off the stone) lead Quark to believe he is invincible when in fact "It" is nothing more than a powerless rock. Quark returns to Zorgon's ship, survives a struggle with Zorgon's monster champion, and leaves the planet with his crew after Zorgon accidentally shoots Libido, freeing Ficus from his obligation to her. Unfortunately, when Quark tries to report on what happened, Palindrome has absolutely no interest. His assistant, Dink, however, is fascinated by the story.
- "Vanessa 38-24-36" (April 7, 1978): For "Holiday Number 11", Palindrome gives Quark a new ship's computer, named Vanessa, who will have complete control over the ship. Vanessa tries to destroy Quark and his crew to prove her superiority. Quark is able to disable Vanessa and throw her down the garbage hatch. In the last scene we see Vanessa drifting through space and singing Born Free.
The complete series was released on DVD on October 14, 2008.
- Decaro, Frank (December 24, 2008). "A Space Garbage Man and His Eclectic Crew". The New York Times.
- Universal Studios fined after carbon monoxide kills actor, published by United Press International (UPI) for the Lodi News-Sentinel (CA), January 11, 1979, retrieved March 16, 2016.
- "Studio Fined In Death". Associated Press (AP), for the Reading (PA) Eagle. January 11, 1979. Retrieved March 16, 2016.
- Harkavy, Ward (December 1, 1978). "Actor's death evokes mourning". United Press International for the Lawrence Journal World (KS). Retrieved March 16, 2016.
- "Quark The Complete Series". Quark.name.
- "Nominations Search". Television Academy. Retrieved 2017-07-24.