Quark: The Complete Series

Quark: The Complete Series

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Quark

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In 1965, Buck Henry and Mel Brooks exploited the success and ubiquity of James Bond and the Pink Panther movies with the classic spoof Get Smart! Twelve years later, Henry—now flying solo—took notice of a massive boom in science fiction and created 1977's Quark, a Get Smart-style spoof that sets its satirical phasers on another outsized pulp genre which had already veered close to self-parody. Henry wasn't as successful this time around, and the show was cancelled after a mere eight episodes. Gone but not forgotten, Henry's romp piggybacked on the popularity of the science-fiction perennials it spoofed (three of the show's episodes are direct parodies of Star Trek, while a fourth spoofs Star Wars) to a small but loyal cult following. Consequently, hardcore Trekkies will probably get a lot more out of Quark's spaced-out shenanigans than people who regularly get laid.

Richard Benjamin took a break from playing Philip Roth surrogates—one of Quark's episodes is cheekily named "Goodbye, Polumbus"to star as the titular straight man, a space commander who longs for a life of adventure and derring-do, but is stuck commanding a motley gang of misfits on a garbage ship. Identical twins Cyb and Patricia Barnstable up the jiggle content—this was the era of Three's Company and Charlie's Angels, after allbut not the laugh count as Benjamin's scantily clad love interests, a gorgeous navigator and her clone.

Quark creaks out of the gate with a dreadful pilot burdened with setting up running gags that never pay off, like each Barnstable claiming that she's human and her double is the clone, or hermaphrodite "transmute" engineer Tim Thomerson switching between stereotypical male and female behavior. The show improved rapidly with the introduction of Richard Kelton as a sentient man-plant and Mr. Spock parody who looks down on his human co-workers from a regal, bemused distance; Kelton's relationship with Benjamin is simultaneously funny, weirdly moving, and oddly philosophical. Quark showed considerable promise with clever characters like a cowardly neurotic robot, as well as agreeably preposterous plots, which makes its premature termination even more regrettable. Quark is no Get Smart!, but it regularly reaches Spaceballs-like levels of mild amusement.

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