Wednesday, September 8, 2010
The Good, The Bad & The Ficus: QUARK (1977)
I hadn't seen an episode since that initial run when I discovered a year or two ago that Columbia/Sony had released the series on DVD. I ordered it, and while I still love the series, and think it's somewhat better than it's reputation, that love is no longer unconditional.
The cast was great; Richard Benjamin's idealistic "Adam Quark," a celestial garbageman who dreams of being a galactic hero; Ficus (Richard Kelton), a humanoid plant with a Vulcan-like lack of emotions and devotion to logic, Betty 1 and Betty 2 (Trish and Cyb Barnstable) the beautiful helmswomen, one of whom is clone; Andy the neurotic robot (Bobby Porter); Palindrome (Conrad Janis), the bureaucratic roadblock to Quark's potential heroism; The Head (Alan Caillou), a big, giant - uh - head; and Gene/Jean (Tim Thomerson), a "transmute" who's both male and female... and the one character that I just can't take.
And dammit, I'm a huge Thomerson fan, but the writers used the Gene/Jean character to make such sexist (and homophobic) jokes, that I just want to hunt them down and beat them aside the head with a brick. Neither the character, nor the lame jokes that revolve around him, are funny at all, and it drags down the show.
Aside from that, though... well, I think it's a pretty decent satire, and it got better and funnier as it went along. In fact, I think the last three or four episodes are quite strong, and if the show had been granted a full season, I believe it would be better remembered today. The Barnstable twins were certainly nice to look at, and the show had a solid comedic trio in Benjamin, Janis and Kelton - whose character of "Vegeton" Ficus Pandarota, was a brilliant spoof of Star Trek's beloved Spock.
The special effects were admittedly pretty rudimentary, but were certainly passable for a parody, and I did get a kick out of seeing all those Don Post Studios alien masks from the back of Famous Monsters magazine on the extras that swarmed the Perma One space station set.
If you've never seen it, or remember it only from your childhood, I'd suggest giving the DVD a rental from Netflix. Maybe you have to be a kid - or watch it with a kid's eyes - to appreciate it, but I think it's great fun.