Judge Joel Pearce wants this series to go to a galaxy far, far away.
Starlog: This show isn't as funny as I would have hoped…
Quark fits into the genre in which the goal is to take the shortest path to the easiest laugh, every time. It came out hot on the heels of Star Wars, and so is quite liberal in poking fun at both series. It ran for only eight episodes before it was unceremoniously pulled from the air, disappointing a small but loyal crew of serious fans, who have proclaimed ever since that Quark remains an unsung masterpiece of comedy.
Well, now we can judge for ourselves. Quark follows the (mis)adventures of a space garbage crew. Their mission is to journey through space, collect garbage, and just generally keep things as tidy as possible. Why they would use such a small ship for this job, and not a large cargo vessel like Alien's Nostromo, is never explained. At any rate, we have a group of characters on the ship, each with exactly one funny trait:
• Captain Quark (Richard Benjamin, Westworld): acts a lot like Captain Kirk
The episodes run as simplistic parodies of Star Trek or Star Wars, taking aim at the largest targets of the two franchises. So it's exactly the stories you would expect, except, you know, on a garbage ship.
Whether you're a fan of the Trek universe or not, you have to admit that the series is self-important enough to deserve a good ribbing from time to time. Many shows and films have done just that, to a varying degree of success. My favorite of these spoofs is the remarkable Galaxy Quest, a film that highlights the silliness of Star Trek by placing ordinary people in the same situations. This also succeeds in giving the characters some depth, so that it also works as a film, not just as a parody.
In contrast, Quark tries to highlight the inherent silliness of classic sci-fi by cramming in more silliness than anyone else. Unfortunately, this humor has good-hearted goofiness in spades, but a severe shortage of creativity. Consider our cast of characters. It is a little funny that Gene switches from being male to female, at least the first few times that we see and hear the switch. As the series wears on, though, we know that the only humor from the character will be from these transformations. That single trait defines his entire character. All of the other characters have this problem as well, making the seven episodes after the introduction of the characters pretty redundant.
Admittedly, I've never been a big fan of this whole brand of comedy. Because the jokes all stem from simple character traits and easy jabs at the source material, the script often sabotages any real comedy opportunities. Any time that tension, real humor, or intelligence threaten to creep into the series, it's deftly denied by a tossaway one-liner. By the middle of the run, it's easy to predict each joke before it arrives, since there are only a dozen to choose from and each situation is laid out so obviously for them.
I realize that this criticism doesn't take into account the nostalgia factor, an element I don't share since I wasn't even born when Quark first hit television. I do understand why the series appealed to boys who were 12 years old in 1978. After all, science fiction was about to take off for real, on the wings of Star Wars, Alien, and a whole breed of new serious dystopic visions of the future. Quark was never more than a throwback to a more innocent era, when we still believed that everything in the future could be joyously triumphant.
I certainly can't argue that Sony hasn't pulled out the stops on the transfer for this DVD release. The series looks fantastic, especially for a television show from the late '70s. Colors are vivid, and the transfer is surprisingly sharp throughout. The sound is good as well, a clear stereo transfer that mixes the sound, effects, and music well. Fans will be thrilled by how good things look and sound. The same fans will be disappointed to see that no extras have been assembled for the release—this is strictly barebones.
While Quark did very little for me, I realize there are many nostalgia-laden nerds that are excited about this release. This review isn't for the fans, who have already purchased the DVDs and watched them several times. This is for the uninitiated, who are wondering whether this lost little sci-fi parody is really a comedy classic. It's not.
The crew of Quark can just keep picking up garbage for all I care.
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