The Future Will Be Carpeted: An Analysis of ‘Deep Space Nine (S6E12)’

“You know Morn, he never shuts up.”
    -- Quark

Morn, the saturnine barfly, has been part of the show from the very beginning. Originally, he was little more than a distinctive extra in full-body makeup. In fact, some of the early publicity stills prominently featured him, as though to send the message that DS9 would evolve past TNG’s over-reliance on slightly different forehead wrinkles, featuring many more innovative (and expensive) alien designs. While this ended up being inaccurate, Morn had been indelibly imprinted on the consciousness of fans.

Because of his omnipresence in one of the defining locations of the show, the writers kept toying with the idea of giving Morn a line or two. For various reasons, these were inevitably cut, and soon it became a running gag. Morn would never get a line. His character emerged only in the chatter of other characters, playing off the silence that we see on screen by positing Morn as not just chatty but more loquacious than a roomful of drunk pundits. The writers got a lot of comedic mileage out of having one of the main cast roll their eyes at how much Morn talked. Meanwhile, Morn, looking a bit like the illegitimate offspring of the Michelin Man and a grumpy potato, would sit on his barstool and watch the series go by around him.

It would be inevitable that the writing staff would want to do a Morn story. It’s too good to pass up. But how do you do a story starring a character who never talks? Who would spoil the entire joke behind their character by speaking? That’s easy. You tell a story about them, revealing a bit of backstory, and as usual, making Morn far deeper than anyone would expect. By now, we should be ready. After all, Morn smuggled vital intelligence to Starfleet during the height of the Dominion occupation. This is a man with hidden depths.

The story begins, appropriately enough, with Morn’s apparent death when his ship was caught in an ion storm. At the funeral, everyone remembers him fondly, usually filtered through their own character. So, while Worf laments the death of an excellent sparring partner, Dax reminisces about her early crush on our favorite silent barfly. Worf is shocked, but let’s remember: after seven lifetimes, Dax has weird taste in men. She used to date Captain Boday, and he has a transparent skull.

Quark, meanwhile, discovers he has inherited all of Morn’s earthly possessions, which at first glance appear to be nothing but a mud bath, a shipment of rotting beets, and that matador painting he bought back in “In the Cards.” Quark is convinced that Morn has money somewhere, as he always paid his bar tab at the end of the month, and “that kind of money has to come from somewhere.” One can only imagine the staggering sum Morn pays while drinking his days away in a Ferengi establishment.

Sure enough, there is a cache of latinum about. Quark learns of this from Larell, a beautiful woman claiming to be Morn’s (amicable) ex-wife. She more or less throws herself at Quark and tells him there’s a fortune of a thousand bricks of gold-pressed latinum that Morn won in the Lissepian lottery. And, for those wondering, that’s a lot of money. Latinum denominations are, in order from least to most, the slip, strip, bar, and brick. Quark begins to follow the clues that he believes will lead to this fortune.

At the same time, other vultures are circling. There’s a pair of alien brothers who claim to be business associates of Morn, as well as a human (played by Gregory Itzin, most famous as the villainous president in 24) who claims to work for the Lurian royal family, and that Morn is the abdicated Lurian crown prince. All of them are willing to use, abuse, and generally inconvenience Quark to get their hands on the money.

They’re all lying, as though that was in doubt. All five of them -- Morn included -- are a crew of thieves, and the thousand bricks were from a daring job called the Lissepian Mother’s Day Heist, which occurred nine years before. They were supposed to split the take five ways, but Morn absconded with the money. The statute of limitations on prosecuting the crime recently expired, and now the old gang has resurfaced, hungry for their cash. These stories have to end with a gunfight and betrayal, and so this one does, with Quark hiding in a vault of latinum as phaser blasts whizz around him.

The irony, though, is that the bricks are empty. Earlier in the episode, Quark establishes that properly pressed latinum makes a pleasing clinking noise, and the bricks don’t. This is the episode that finally tells us sort of what latinum is: a liquid suspended in “worthless” gold. And yes, in an earlier episode Quark expresses a desire for gold, but this is classic Trek retcon. Just go with it. Besides, it allows for the ironic ending of a greedy man wailing about gold, and later mentioning that some primitive cultures still value it.

Morn faked his death and, in essence, set Quark up to take the heat from the gang. Quark is livid (of course), cutting Morn off when the big guy tries to explain or apologize. Morn does make it right, regurgitating a tiny bit of latinum (which Quark establishes to be one hundred bricks’ worth) into a cup as payment. The whole time Morn has been hiding the latinum from the heist in his second stomach. “That’s a lot of latinum,” muses Quark, “No wonder your hair fell out.”

The odd part about this episode, is that, while enjoyable, it doesn’t really fit against the backdrop of the Dominion War very well. Setting it earlier in the series wouldn’t have worked either. We needed six seasons of in-jokes to establish the Morn character enough so that you could hang an hour of television on him. It ends up being a weird, if fun, little orphan. Personally, I like the episode, but it’s a trifle. The truth is, it has no impact on the larger plot and practically floats right off the screen. In the darkness of war, though, sometimes that’s exactly what you need.


Next up: Sisko isn’t Sisko.

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