In May, 1977, NBC premiered a [very] short-lived satirical science fiction series created by Buck Henry – one of the duo behind Get Smart. The series was called Quark and it ran for seven weeks before it was unceremoniously cancelled. The series was based around a United Galactic Sanitation Patrol vessel captained by Adam Quark [Richard Benjamin].
Most of the components of the series were based on Star Trek – particularly the relationship between Quark and his Vegeton science officer, Ficus [Vegetons, being plants have no emotions] – The Captain’s “Space Notes;” the transporter [or at least its sound effects], and even one episode, Goodbye Polumbus, which was a send up of the classic Trek ep, Shore Leave.
Henry took the Get Smart template [smart stories about less than brilliant characters in important positions] and transferred it to Quark. The crew of the USGP ship included Gene/Jean [Tim Thomerson], a “transmute” who exhibited both male and female behaviors; Ficus [Richard Kelton], the aforementioned Vegeton; Bettys I & II [Trish and Cybill Barnstable], a human and her clone, both of them second in command [and both of them crazy about their captain], and Andy [Bobby Porter], a cowardly android/robot that Quark built from spare parts. They received their missions from Otto Palindrome [Conrad Janis], commander of Perma Station 1 and The Head [Alan Caillou], a disembodied giant head seen only on a video screen.
Besides the show’s riffs on Star Trek, it also poked fun at all manner of SF and space opera conventions. The episode, May the Source Be With You, had a pretty obvious target [and skewered it pretty thoroughly] and set the tone for the series. But the show was just hitting it stride with the two-part Flash Gordon spoof, All The Emperor’s Quasi-Norms, when it was taken from NBC’s schedule.
Much of the series has held up pretty well, but there are instances where the silliness doesn’t quite make it. Overall, though, even some of the effects hold up – the transporter is more colorful than Trek’s and the series did show a fair number of actual alien lifeforms [some of which changed shapes disconcertingly – check out Captain Walker who is radically different in each of two eps].
Final Grade: B+