Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Little Green Men   Rewatch 
January 27, 2016 12:18 PM - Season 4, Episode 8 - Subscribe

A malfunction on Quark's new ship causes Quark, Rom, and Nog to crash in the year 1947 in Roswell, New Mexico.

All quotes, trivia etc. from the Memory Alpha page on “Little Green Men.”

Quotes :

"Ferengi at the Academy...I am not sure that is wise."

"Oh, I don't know about that...not so long ago, someone might've said the same thing about you."
- Worf and O'Brien

"Rom, you're a genius!"

"Think so?"

"How should I know?! I have no idea what you're talking about! Just do it!"
- Quark and Rom, after Rom has just explained his idea to force the ship out of warp

"We're helpless! We're harmless! We just want to sell you things!"
- Quark

Trivia :

* [A]s Robert Hewitt Wolfe explains, "All the characters are archetypes from those [B-]movies; the sort of Human nurse who sees beyond appearance, and the tough, cigar chomping general, and the sort of traitorous mid-level military officer, and the noble scientist, and it was just like so much fun just to play with all those archetypal science fiction characters, sort of give a nod even beyond The Original Series, but a nod to all these great movies from the fifties which made Star Trek possible in the first place." (Charting New Territory: Deep Space Nine Season 4, DS9 Season 4 DVD special features)

* The scene where all of the Humans observing the "Martians" behind the one-way mirror were smoking was a deliberate commentary on the use of tobacco in the 1940s. Indeed, the studio was originally against having anybody at all smoking in the episode, but Ira Steven Behr pointed out that they couldn't do an homage to '50s B-movies without seeing the characters smoke. A lot. In particular, he cites the 1951 Sam Newfield movie Lost Continent as taking cigarette smoking to an unprecedented extreme. According to Behr, "You see smoking in fifties movies all the time, from war movies to bug-eyed monster films, but Continent took it to an art form that is just jaw-dropping to watch. Every time there is a problem, everyone just starts handing out cigarettes." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)

* However, Behr was not entirely happy with how the commentary on nicotine came across in the finished episode. He feels that because nicotine is such an easy target for criticism, he and Robert Hewitt Wolfe should have been more subtle; "Knocking cigarettes is such an easy target. We thought it would speak for itself, but we actually verbalized it and I wish we hadn't. We got a little self-righteous, and it was like shooting ducks in a barrel." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)

* If Behr was unhappy with how the criticisms of nicotine turned out, he has no such reservations about the criticisms of the A-bomb. Behr says that while writing the teleplay for this episode he saw the 1994 James Cameron movie True Lies, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. According to Behr, the movie incensed him because an A-bomb is used as the backdrop for a kiss between the lead character and his wife. This led him to deduce that "the difference in movie-making between Dr. Strangelove and True Lies exemplifies a culture that has lost its way, where the blast of an atomic bomb literally seems to have lost its meaning. I thought that if the everyday coded messages of 'what things mean' has become so tainted, and so lost that we are no longer able to identify the world clearly and understandably because of our inability to use the language and the visualization of things, then let's just take it and make it even stupider." This is why, at the end of the episode, Behr had an atomic bomb save Quark, as a commentary on the absurdity of the scene in True Lies and on a society that accepts such a scene as perfectly okay; the greatest weapon known to man is employed in a deus ex machina style ending to save the hero. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)

* Both Jonathan Haze (from the 1960 Roger Corman film The Little Shop of Horrors) and Gregory Walcott (from the 1959 Edward D. Wood, Jr. film Plan 9 From Outer Space) auditioned for the role of General Rex Denning.

* Glenn Neufeld located an original negative of the footage of the nuclear detonation and cleaned it up substantially for the episode. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Official Poster Magazine, issue 6)

* This episode is directed by James L. Conway. In this episode, Quark's ship is stored in Hangar 18. Not coincidentally, Conway directed a movie called Hangar 18, a film about the Roswell incident. As soon as Conway heard about the upcoming "Hangar 18 episode", he expressed his interest to Ira Steven Behr. He noted, "Directing this was like coming full circle." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 287)

* This episode is a favorite of Armin Shimerman, who comments, "It's a favorite of the fans, it's a favorite of mine. It was a major catalyst in the investigation of the family relationship. It's one of the first episode where we see the Ferengi working together as a family, and that was the beginning of an avalanche of stories about that. It was a delight to work because the writers gave me wonderful, I can't put this any other way, Spock-like comments, where I'm outside of Humanity, as a Ferengi, and talking about how they act, having some point of view about what they do right, what they do wrong, and letting them know about it. There were more episodes where that happened, but "Little Green Men" was perhaps the most delightful. It also gave Quark a ship. It was the only time I got to captain a ship, even for a brief moment in time, but for a Star Trek actor, those little things can be very important." (Hidden File 02, DS9 Season 4 DVD special features)

* On the popularity of "Little Green Men", Megan Gallagher commented "Not to brag, but I've got a long resume. I've done six television series as a regular and recurred on a lot of other shows, and I have gotten more fan mail about that individual episode than anything else I've ever done, including the entire run of Millennium. Actually, I'd say "Little Green Men" and Larry Sanders are on a par with each other. But I think people loved "Little Green Men" because it was funny and different, and because of the whole mythology and mystery surrounding Roswell. When you mix Star Trek and Roswell, I think it just triggers various parts of the sci-fi brain simultaneously. And the episode was just really beautifully done, the way they shot it, the Dutch angles, all of the period stuff, the sort of It Came from Outer Space way it looked. It had all these great inside jokes. It just combined so many different and fun things about being a sci-fi fan".

* This is the first episode where entire sentences of Ferengi language are heard.

* Referenced Rules of Acquisition: #203 ("New customers are like razor-toothed gree worms. They can be succulent, but sometimes they bite back") and #62 ("The riskier the road, the greater the profit"). Note: only #203 is mentioned by number.

* This episode firmly establishes, via the universal translator, that Quark, Rom, and Nog are never actually speaking English in the series. It's reasonable, though, that Nog will have to learn at least basic common language of Federation (not necessarily actual English), in case of translator's malfunction.

* Based on Quark's line "Once we get things in order here, we'll contact the Ferengi homeworld and sell them our ship. The Ferengi will have warp drive technology centuries before Humans or Klingons or even the Vulcans.", it is established that Qo'noS and Vulcan had not yet become warp-capable by 1947. However, in Star Trek: First Contact it was established that Humans would achieve warp drive in only another 116 years from 1947, so not exactly "centuries" later. It was also established in ENT: "Carbon Creek" that Vulcans had warp-capable ships only ten years later. Moreover, it has been established in several episodes that Vulcans and Klingons possessed interstellar travel capability long before 1947. Based on ENT: "The Andorian Incident", the first known instance of Vulcan interstellar travel was around 850 BC, when the Vulcan P'Jem monastery was built outside the Vulcan system. According to TNG: "Rightful Heir", the Klingon monastery in the star system with the planet Boreth was built shortly after the death of Kahless. According to the episode VOY: "Day of Honor", Kahless lived in the 9th century. It has however not been established what propulsion technology was used for interstellar travel on these early voyages. The fact that Quark was inaccurate with his "centuries" statement might however indicate he was also inaccurate about the fact that Vulcans and Klingons were not yet warp-capable. Nevertheless, the only clear suggestion in canon that Quark is wrong lies in Soval's statement in "The Forge" that "it took my people nearly 1,500 years to rebuild our world and travel to the stars. You Humans did the same in less than a century"; since Humans didn't "travel to the stars" until they invented warp drive, if Vulcans "did the same" in 1,500 years from the time of Surak, that would mean they developed warp drive in the mid-19th century.
posted by Slothrop (17 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
That's two MST3K connections, by my count. They did Lost Continent in season...two?...and Hangar 18 is a KTMA episode.

On that topic, they totally should've gotten some Corman/Wood-level actors to be in this. I've always felt that something about the guest stars kinda prevents this episode from sticking the landing, and maybe that's it: they're not ridiculous enough.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 12:37 PM on January 27, 2016

I love this episode: it's 1947, it's Roswell, the universal translators don't work properly, the ship is in Hangar 18*... And at the end, Nurse Garland says "Earth will become part of an Alliance of Planets" and Rom corrects her. Man I am such a nerd for stuff like this.

* Although conspiracy-theory-technically hangar 18 is at Area 51.
posted by marienbad at 2:51 PM on January 27, 2016

Just a delightful episode, great fun. I've commented before that this was the era (late TNG to the end of Voyager) when Trek was really good at "gimmick" episodes, stuff that looked so weird and goofy in the previews that you had to see it. (Bashir as James Bond! Tom Paris as a 1930s sci-fi serial hero with a jetpack!) Quark's family as the 1947 Roswell aliens is a great example. You can tell that everybody involved is having a lot of fun.

Perhaps the most surprising factoid from the Memory Alpha page: Charles Napier played the musical and free-spirited Adam, in TOS's 3rd season episode "The Way to Eden"; a major contrast from the hard-nosed General he plays here. He's played a lot of tough generals and seeing him in TOS is always a trip. (But then, everything in The Way to Eden is pretty damn trippy.)

I got curious what Armin Shimerman had been up to lately, since I hadn't seen him in anything for a few years. Turns out that while he hasn't been a regular on a series for a while, the guy has been ubiquitous as a guest star and voice actor and he's played some surprising roles... including Superman and the Pope!
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:31 PM on January 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

I want to talk about this scene:

NOG: Nurse Garland, I'm having trouble with my ear again. Could you massage it some more?
GARLAND: Are you sure you don't want a doctor to look at that?
NOG: No. I feel more comfortable with you.
(So he gets some oo-mox.)
NOG: Ah! Much better.
ROM: You know, come to think of it, my ear's bothering me too.

Nog is treating Nurse Garland, (who knows nothing of Ferengi erogenous zones), not as as a fellow sentient being worthy of respect, but as an unwitting oo-max dispenser. And Rom wants in on that action. And it's played for laughs.

I find that absolutely disgusting.

On a Watsonian level, I stand behind my assertion that Sisko, in "Heart of Stone," should have told Nog in no uncertain terms that if he wanted to join Starfleet, Nog would have to treat all women, no exceptions, with respect. (Less than three months before, in "Life Support", Nog had been verbally abusive to a girl for no damn reason at all, and Sisko knew about that incident, so he had notice that Nog had issues with women). Obviously Nog could not be trusted to learn that lesson on his own, or he wouldn't have behaved so disgracefully here. That Sisko didn't address this issue with Nog before recommending Nog for Starfleet reflects very poorly on Sisko.

On a Doylist level, I stand by my assertion that the unthinking sexism of the show is its worst flaw, and the one that makes the show look the most dated. The show has a persistent LOL SEXUAL HARASSMENT theme, which was sexist and regressive even at the time it aired.

The episode aired in 1995. The Anita Hill hearings were in 1991, and outrage over the way the all-male Senate Judiciary Committee treated Anita Hill led to record numbers of women, from both parties, being elected to the House and the Senate in 1992, in "The Year of the Woman." All of these developments were widely reported in the mainstream media, so anyone in the U.S. who 1) wasn't in a coma, and 2) actually cared about women, had a big honking clue that women didn't think this shit was funny. At all.

The scene with Nurse Garland isn't plot related. It's there because the writers thought it was funny. And that is one of many reasons why I think the writers of the show thought that racism was Serious Business, but didn't really take sexism all that seriously.
posted by creepygirl at 5:33 PM on January 27, 2016 [18 favorites]

creepygirl, I'm with you on that scene. I think they could have written funny stuff even about oo-mox without the constant sexual harassment, and if the show were made now, they probably would have. This is one of my favorite episodes (love Odo randomly popping up especially) but that stuff squicks me out every time.
posted by thetortoise at 5:51 PM on January 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

It's worth pointing out that while oo-mox are clearly erotic to some degree and Nog and Rom are up to no good, it may be roughly parallel to a foot rub for humans. One of those things that people get swoony over without it being necessarily a sex act. Again, I'm not saying they were right to trick her into it, but if Nog is willing to do this in front of his dad I'm guessing this isn't at all on par with genital contact or something.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 6:07 PM on January 27, 2016

That oo-mox scene feels off to me, but I'm having trouble justifying my discomfort in terms of consent. The nurse is willing to massage his ear. There doesn't appear to be anything coercive about it. If anything, Nog is more in her power than she in his.

You can raise the bar to requiring not just consent but informed consent. I think the informed part generally assumed when consent is discussed in sexual contexts. The informed part usually shows up in medical contexts when people can easily make choices without understanding the consequences of those choices. But there isn't any bad consequence here that the nurse was unaware of when she agreed to rub Nog's ears again.

The closest comparison I can find is if I go to a masseuse, and then later masturbate while fantasizing about that massage, and never tell anybody about it.

I don't know. Given other things on this show, I suspect the writers didn't think at all carefully about this scene. In fact, they probably wouldn't have balked at writing much more explicit sexism, like the Ferengi refusing to talk to any female scientists wearing clothes and the Air Force just going along with it. You've pointed out, and I've agreed with, previous examples in this show. But as written, this scene seems not quite as clear-cut.

Maybe this is an idiosyncratic thing. Maybe this is just straightforwardly the rape culture talking. I don't know.
posted by d. z. wang at 6:52 PM on January 27, 2016

I'd agree the scene may play differently now than it did then... but if these were human creepy guys visiting some other planet and they talked an unsuspecting alien woman into a foot or back massage, would it play that differently? It'd be creepy, yes, but not that bad.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 8:58 PM on January 27, 2016

You can raise the bar to requiring not just consent but informed consent.

I think we may have bigger philosophical differences here than can be worked out in discussing a DS9 episode. I'm not speaking in a legal or medical ethics sense but in an individual one; yeah, covertly getting off while someone is performing some kind of nonsexual service for you is an awful thing to do to them even if you think they'll never ever know. The Ferengi characters are not embarrassed or caught off-guard; they're encouraging her to do it more. I realize the kind of joke the writers are going for here, but honestly it just pushes buttons for me of when you're a woman in a public service context trying to do your job and you run across a guy masturbating in response to something you're doing. It happens not super-rarely if you work in a library and it feels pretty violating. This combined with how Quark treats his female employees tells me they really weren't thinking deeply about this and assumed it just played as a light joke. Often the ways the writers address Ferengi misogyny feel more challenging and interesting to me (everything with Ishka!), but scenes like this one give me a skin-crawly Benny Hill feeling and make it a lot harder to like characters who are usually among my favorites.
posted by thetortoise at 9:22 PM on January 27, 2016 [5 favorites]

(also, didn't mean to sound like I'm speaking for creepygirl there, sorry. This is just my own reaction to the scene.)
posted by thetortoise at 9:37 PM on January 27, 2016

Imagine the scene in Star Trek VI where Kirk is fighting in the prison, but instead of a fight the alien conned Kirk or McCoy into massaging his "knee" before Marta told them what it really was. It's the same sort of thing. It's really a pity, because otherwise it's my favorite Ferengi/Quark episode.

Also, contrary to Behr and Wolfe, I didn't think that the comment on smoking was heavy-handed or an easy target. I think it's pretty easy to forget how smoking as a regular habit wasn't native to the Western world, or just how prevalent it was only a few decades ago. (I was reminded again of this when watching the movie Carol recently, especially when the title character is startled when the department store clerk tells her that she can't smoke in the toy department.) It's really kind of amazing that Gene Roddenberry made a TV show in the sixties in which, not only does nobody smoke on the Enterprise, but it's never even directly mentioned (there's a "No Smoking" sign in "Miri" and also on the Enterprise in STII, and a character on a colony smokes in STV, as well as Marta in STVI).

Also too, WRT Charles Napier, here's an AV Club "Random Roles" interview in which he mentions "The Way to Eden" and "Little Green Men." It's generally a great interview, if a little salty (he worked a lot with Russ Meyer).
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:35 PM on January 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

P.S. Here's the Memory Alpha page on smoking in Trek.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:37 PM on January 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

when you're a woman in a public service context trying to do your job and you run across a guy masturbating in response to something you're doing.

I'd argue there's a big difference between what we see in this episode and a guy in a library masturbating while he watches a woman. I'm not denying the Ferengi are being creepy, but again, this is something that Nog and Rom apparently don't feel weird about doing in front of each other. Unless Ferengi are a lot more twisted than we knew, that would seem to indicate oo-mox aren't a XXX activity. Maybe Ferengi ears are sort of like dog or cat ears, where it feels really good to have them touched but it's not exactly a sexual act.

I dunno. Maybe if you asked them now, the writers would say oo-mox were totally sexual and this scene was a very unfortunate product of its time and the whole thing makes them cringe now. But it may be that this isn't the black mark against the characters that some people see.

(Memory Alpha isn't canon, but looking up their oo-mox page they describe Ferengi ears as a "major erogenous zone" but also describe the act as "semi-erotic" and "not strictly sexual." So... that seems to prop up my argument at the same time it knocks it down.)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 12:04 AM on January 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

I agree with CheesesOfBrazil that they should have gotten some genuinely bad actors to play the 1950s hu-mans, rather than the generally well-respected character actors they did use. I also think they should have gone even further, and filmed everything set in the '50s in black and white.

Maybe even have a boom mike dip into the shot every once in a while.

I don't remember my reaction to the whole oo-mox thing when the episode first aired (or even if I saw that particular episode), but looking at it now- yeah, it's just gross.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:06 AM on January 28, 2016

Oo-mox is a pleasurable physical activity practiced on men, primarily by drop-dead gorgeous young women. That makes it read as sexual to me. If they wanted to make the case that oo-max was not primarily sexual, they should have had included scenes like Quark regularly enjoying oo-mox provided by Morn, or by some guy played by Wayne Knight (aka Newman from Seinfeld). I don't care what particular human sexual activity oo-max maps to; I find tricking someone into physical contact for your own physical gratification gross and reprehensible without needing definitive proof that it maps to XXX activity.

I expect a Starfleet recruit, especially one recommended by Captain Sisko, to behave with decency and honor even when nobody's watching or knows about it. Not to approach a first contact situation (which it was for Nurse Garland) with the selfish and opportunistic thought, "Hey, this is awesome! I can totally exploit this woman's ignorance of Ferengi anatomy and trick her into oo-mox for my own selfish physical gratification." And if said recruit fails in that regard, a lulzy "boys will be boys" treatment of that moral failure on his part is a sign of writers who don't really give a shit about sexism.

Starfleet is not a fucking charity for sad little Ferengi boys who lack the lobes to succeed in Ferengi society. It's a competitive academy--more people want to go than are admitted. And since Starfleet officers frequently engage with ignorant/vulnerable people, Starfleet officers should have genuine moral fiber and commitment to treating such people with decency and respect. Recruits should understand this and behave accordingly, or face some real consequences for their failures.

I suppose I have no reason to expect decent and honorable behavior from Rom, but that doesn't mean I think his attempted trickery is funny either.
posted by creepygirl at 12:28 PM on January 28, 2016 [9 favorites]

Mod note: One comment removed; I feel like this is getting well beyond FanFare discussion and into just-literally-ignore-someone-if-they-bug-you territory at this point, so instead of talking about personal strategies for not getting into scraps please just move straight to just skipping that part of the conversation entirely going forward.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:12 PM on January 29, 2016

I got the campy vibe from this, but I don't think I specifically realized it was a send-up of old monster movies. I think there's a lot that could have been executed better, but I really liked how the Earthlings and Ferengi were just not going to get each other. In an old monster movie, the alien invaders probably wanted to enslave or destroy humanity. That Quark wants to start an empire of used-car salesmen, and Rom and Nog want nothing to do with it--nice twist.

Re: the criticism of nicotine and nukes. I think this landed a bit differently for me than it did for the producers. Quark's criticisms of hu-mans are often valid but don't seem to carry a lot of sting as I see it. Like awhile ago he told Sisko that hu-mans were worse than Ferengi because at least the Ferengi never did any genocides. But really? It looks to me like Quark usually doesn't care who he fucks over or how hard they get fucked. Maybe Ferengi don't enslave anybody in their diamond mines, but they can't wait to sell you as many blood diamonds as you want from somebody else's slave operation. It's not really better.

Also, it seemed like the fact that they flew into the nuclear explosion at climax kind of trivialized the nuclear problem a bit.
posted by polecat at 8:34 PM on February 7

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