Sunday, February 12, 2006

“The Same Thing We Do Every Night, Nog . . . Try to Take Over the World.”

The Deep Space Nine episode “Little Green Men” presents the comical notion that Quark, Nog, Rom, and Odo were actually responsible for the infamous Roswell incident. As it turns out, it wasn’t a weather balloon at all. It was three big-lobed Ferengi and a stowaway changeling.

When Quark realizes he has traveled back in time and is dealing with primitive hu-monshu-mons he can relate too on one level, but disdains on another—he rattles off his plan to take over the galaxy. Sell his ship’s technology to the highest bidder, make contact with Ferenginar, and give the Ferengi a decisive advantage in the history of the Alpha Quadrant. He muses that the Ferengi will have warp drive ‘even before the Vulcans.’ As you would expect, his grandiose plans come to nothing, but the truth is, they may never had a chance, at least not in the way he envisioned them. Even assuming Rom could use his engineering expertise to manufacture twenty-fourth century gadgets with twentieth century technology, the chronology is off as well.

The Roswell incident occurred in 1947. According to the Enterprise episode “Carbon Creek” Vulcans were covertly observing earth in 1957 when Sputnick was launched. It’s difficult to believe that the Vulcans didn’t have warp drive at all in 1947 and, not only developed it, but were also out observing other civilizations in as little as decade.

Quark’s comments indicate that the Vulcans are recognized as among the first, if not the very first of this “generation” of Alpha Quadrant races to achieve warp drive. (I use the term “generation” to distinguish the warp-faring races of the Federation’s general time frame from the earlier, ancient races that had the technology and died out and/or moved on.) If he knew that even in approximate terms—for example the century in which they invented warp drive—wouldn’t he have realized that hu-mons of the nuclear age lived in more or less the same time period?

Well, perhaps not. He may not have had a clear idea of exactly where he was in Earth history, his grasp of Vulcan history may not be the strongest for that matter, not to mention that his thinking was probably clouded by his own avarice. In other words this is a soft inconsistency at best, easily explained as a misconception on Quark’s part. There is no reason to believe he could have beat the Vulcans to the creation of warp drive.

(Of course, other than the Vulcans, there must have been other warp-faring races around as well—although not necessarily Alpha Quadrant natives. Consider the aliens that kidnapped Amelia Earhart as described in the Voyager episode “The 37s”. Which brings up another curiosity: there were extraterrestrial encounters on earth at ten year intervals – the abductions in 1937, the Ferengi in Roswell in 1947, and Vulcans in Carbon Creek in 1957. That must be significant . . .)

It is amusing that Nog expresses concern that Quark is going to alter the timeline. In fact, their presence did not alter the timeline at all. This event was “supposed” to happen, at least in the timeline we live in. It wouldn’t be surprising if somewhere in Nog’s guide to Earth there was a reference to the Roswell incident even before they traveled into the past. (It’s probably cross-referenced with the entry regarding Gabriel Bell/Sisko.)

The end of the episode reminds me of Pinky and the Brain. Quark has Brain’s determination to take over the world, although in some ways Rom is actually the genius who has the technical expertise to pull it all off (in an idiot Pinky sort of way). But just like an episode of Pinky and the Brain, at the end of the day, Quark’s vision of taking over the world is unrealized (he has even lost his new ship), and he’s back in his cage, back in the bar again.

And Nog asks, “So Quark what are we going to do tonight?”