Little Green Men is Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's take on the Roswell Incident in July 1947. Aired during Season Four, this episode is amusing and clever, neatly explaining and wrapping up one of Earth's great mysteries in true Star Trek-style. The incredulous-alien point-of-view on human self-destructive tendencies gives the scriptwriters an opportunity for some wonderful one-liners. The real-life footage of an atomic bomb blast is shocking, and the viewer is left nodding in agreement with Quark, the alien narrator.
The episode gives the viewer a fascinating insight into what life was like in the paranoia-driven years of 1940s America. In a tribute to movies of the era, Professor Carlson lights two cigarettes then passes one to Nurse Garland, capturing the essence of old classics. We also learn how every alien in the Star Trek universe can speak and understand English: it's all thanks to an ingenious device called a universal translator which is placed in everyone's ears (if they have them). We get to hear the Ferengi language for the first time, because their universal translators malfunction, and 'primitive humans' don't have them. There's also footage of what English sounds like to aliens without their aural aids.
Little Green Men was voted one of Star Trek's best time-travel episodes by fans, and is featured on the 2006 DVD box set Star Trek Time Travel Fan Collective.
In the Star Trek Universe, 2371:
Quark - Played by Armin Shimerman, Quark is the Ferengi owner of Quark's Bar on the space station Deep Space Nine (Cardassian name Terok Nor). He was there during the Cardassian occupation of Bajor, (the planet around which the space station orbits), and accusations that he collaborated with the Cardassians were never proved. When the Cardassians left, Quark and his brother Rom remained to earn a living off the new tenants of the station, a Federation contingent working closely with Bajoran personnel and a mixed-bag of aliens. Quark regards himself as an entrepreneur who is always on the lookout for a (legal or not) bargain to turn into a quick profit, and revels in keeping one step ahead of his nemesis Odo. The ongoing battle of wits between Odo's 'cop' character and Quark's 'gangster' character provides some comic relief during darker episodes.
Security Chief 'Constable' Odo'ital - Odo, played by Rene Auberjonois, is a Changeling (his natural state is gelatinous and he sleeps in a bucket) from the Gamma Quadrant, which lies on the other side of the wormhole close by DS9. He is a solitary character who hates socialising, enduring relationships with others purely to maintain order. He jealously guards his privacy, rebuffing all attempts at friendship. The bane of his life is Quark, whom he watches like a hawk. Their cat-and-mouse relationship is based on mutual dislike and mistrust, but you can't help feeling that their lives would be poorer without the other in it. Odo's massive advantage is his shape-shifting abilities, which he makes full use of while trying to trap the devious Quark during one of his many illicit deals. In Little Green Men Odo changes into the form of an Alsatian dog to pass undetected through the American military base.
Rom - Played by Max Grodenchik, Rom is Quark's younger brother. He's smart and shrewd, but easily manipulated by Quark, who thinks nothing of invoking family loyalty when it suits him. Rom is one of DS9's maintenance crew, and a repair diagnostician extraordinaire. If he can't fix it, nobody can. Rom is also a bit soft: though he performs well under pressure in his capacity as an engineer, when stressed or under duress (like when Quark is being injected) he screams 'Moogie' (his nickname for their feminist-rebel mother). Rom's personality has interesting hidden depths. In later DS9 episodes he successfully woos and marries the drop-dead-gorgeous Bajoran Leeta and eventually becomes Grand Negus (the Ferengi leader).
Nog - Nog, played by Aron Eisenberg, is the son of Rom and his first wife Prinadora. Nog and his father assist in Quark's Bar because it's the 'family business', but they rarely reap the same profits as Quark. He likes to skive off as much as possible and spend time on the Promenade viewing platform with his best friend Jake, the teenage son of Captain Benjamin Sisko, commander of DS9. Nog doesn't have the lobes1 for business, but wants to be the first Ferengi to join Star Fleet Academy and become a fully-fledged member of Star Fleet2.
Gaila - Quark's cousin, who is talked about but not seen.
On a Military Air Base, Somewhere in the USA, Earth, July 1947:
- General Denning (Charles Napier)
- Nurse Garland (Megan Gallagher)
- Professor Jeff Carlson (Conor O'Farrell)
- Captain Wainwright (James G MacDonald)
- Several base guards/airmen/soldiers
Quark's Bar on the Promenade on Deep Space Nine is full to capacity as Rom is announcing Nog's imminent departure to Star Fleet Academy on Earth, thanks to his sponsorship by Captain Sisko. All Nog's possessions are being sold off to raise funds to finance his time away. A disgruntled Worf is watching proceedings with distaste, and when Chief O'Brien teases him about being there, Worf replies that he was asked to 'keep an eye on things' by Captain Sisko. Kira asks Nog where he got something from, and when he answers 'the replicator', she complains that it was stolen from her quarters two years ago.
Elsewhere, Quark is in a worse mood than Worf, which is surprising considering the full Bar, but he's annoyed at losing his nephew to Star Fleet and won't attend the traditional sale. Back in the Bar, Jadzia Dax buys Doctor Bashir a Holodeck programme which Nog wrote himself, featuring a date with a Pleasure Princess. Worf's attention is attracted by a small instrument and he examines it, prompting Jake to inform him that it's a Ferengi tooth-sharpener. Curious Worf switches it on and he tries it out on his incisor, recoils in pain3, then demands to know 'how much?' - eliciting a pointy-toothed grin from Nog.
Suddenly, Quark appears in the Bar and drags Rom off. A Ferengi shuttle has arrived from their cousin Gaila as repayment for a ten-year-old debt, and suspicious Quark gets Rom to check the ship over for faults. Finding none, the delighted new owner informs Rom that they will take Nog to Earth themselves, so they can spend more time with him, but after Rom leaves to tell Nog the good news, Quark laughs, which is always a worrying sign. As Nog is saying goodbye to his friend Jake on the Promenade viewing platform, a place where the boys have spent many a happy hour watching the DS9 visitor-arrivals and departures, Doctor Bashir and Chief O'Brien approach and give Nog a going-away gift 'to help him find his way round Earth'. Nog eagerly unwraps it and finds it's a guide book to Earth. Not just any old guide book: he is informed that it's a completely interactive programme detailing Earth's customs, cultures, history, geography - in fact everything you could ever want to know about Earth. Thrilled Nog squeals:
Do you mean it'll teach me how to attract human females?
O'Brien laughingly replies: 'Well, almost everything!'
Quark leaves the Bar in barfly Morn's capable hands, as he trusts him more than his Ferengi waiters, who he knows would rob him blind. The three depart for Earth in the newly-christened shuttle Quark's Treasure.
With Rom piloting, Nog navigating and Quark playing captain with his eyes closed, the journey is uneventful, save for Nog's constant observations on the information he is learning about Earth's history4 which Quark finds boring.
Quark orders Rom to go faster, but Rom replies that it would be unwise considering the cargo-hold is full of highly-volatile kemosite. When Quark asks how he knows that, Rom replies that he noticed the weight distribution change from his initial survey to taking off, so the last time Quark went to waste-extraction he checked the cargo-hold. For once Quark is speechless, but he grudgingly agrees to share the profits from the illegal sale with Rom and Nog in return for their silence.
When they approach Earth's Solar System, Quark instructs Rom to drop out of warp speed, but the shuttle doesn't respond. Rom reports that the command sequencer has failed, and Quark curses that the shuttle has been sabotaged by Gaila. He orders Rom to eject the warp core to slow them down but Rom has already tried that - the controls are frozen. As Quark starts to panic, Rom has a wild idea: they can vent plasma into the cargo hold which may start a cascade reaction in the kemosite, then they can modulate the reaction to create an inversion wave in the warp field and force the ship back into normal space! If it's timed just right they should end up close enough to Earth to make an emergency landing. Baffled Quark calls Rom a genius and orders him to do it, and during the operation they pass out.
Betty Grable and the Martians
When Quark awakes, he's laid on an examining table in a holding cell and he tries to rouse the still-unconscious Rom and Nog who are on adjoining tables. The camera pans around the room and momentarily rests on a Betty Grable calendar which is dated July 1947. Then the viewer sees the interior of the holding cell from the other side of the one-way mirror, where the three Ferengi are being watched by smoking air-force personnel. Captain Wainwright picks up a telephone and instructs the person on the receiving end to inform the General that 'the Martians are awake'.
The General appears and he enquires as to whether the farmer who found the spaceship has been locked up. Receiving an affirmation, he asks if Nurse Garland's fiancé, (Professor Jeff Carlson), has arrived to communicate with the Martians. He has, and he insists that the aliens can't be kept from the public forever, it's the biggest event in human history. The General laughs and tells him to get on with his job.
We're not in the Divine Treasury
The Ferengi discuss whether they're dead or alive and decide they can't be dead as where they are isn't the Divine Treasury (Ferengi heaven). They're still arguing when armed men enter the room with the Professor, but when the Professor speaks, the Ferengi can't understand him and start fiddling with the universal translators in their ears. The humans imitate their actions, mistakenly believing that they're trying to communicate by hitting their own ears. Quark looks at the men incredulously and asks what they're doing. When he starts making silly gestures, the humans imitate him again, and he realises what's going on. Nog informs Quark that he recognises the uniforms as mid-20th Century military uniforms. While they are deciding whether or not they can have travelled back in time, the Professor and Nurse Garland light up cigarettes, and Quark asks what the disgusting smell is.
Nog: I think it's called tobacco. It's a deadly drug5. When used frequently it destroys the internal organs.
Quark: If it's so deadly, why do they use it?
Nog: It's also highly addictive.
Rom: How do they get their hands on it?
Nog: They buy it in stores.
Quark: They buy it? If they'll buy poison they'll buy anything, I think I'm going to like it here!
Rom manages to fix the universal translators and one scene shows Nurse Garland standing behind Nog, rubbing his ears. She can't see his rapturous expression, but the viewer can, and also looking on with envy is Rom. What Nurse Garland is innocently doing is the equivalent of performing oral sex upon the adolescent Ferengi. When Nog says his ears are alright, Rom complains that his ears are aching too. Only those who know what rubbing Ferengi ears does for them would get the joke.
General Denning and the Intergalactic Car Salesman
Once Quark realises he can be understood, he demands to speak to 'someone in charge'. He is taken to see General Denning and he offers to do business with the Australian nation. Annoyed, the General corrects Quark and demands to know why they're here. Quark says he's a businessman willing to advance Earth's technology by 400 years. When Quark enquires what the currency is, he then insists dollars are no good, further angering the General. Quark asks for precious metals but when he asks for a million gold bars as a down-payment, the General loses patience. Quark then threatens to sell his weapons to Russia and the General orders Quark be returned to the others.
Informing the Professor that the 'Martian' is no more than an intergalactic car salesman, the General tells Nurse Garland to inject them with sodium pentathol (truth serum) but it has no effect on Quark, other than causing him to scream for mercy. As the General and the Professor are discussing the alien spaceship outside, an Alsatian dog walks past and into the room. When the Ferengi are alone, the dog jumps up at Quark and morphs back into Odo, who tells them where their ship is. When Nurse Garland discovers that the aliens are to be executed and dissected, she and the Professor arrange for them to escape, in the hope of intergalactic peace and co-operation.
The fugitives make good their escape and steer the ship towards the next planned nuclear test, which will give them the propulsion they need to escape the Earth's atmosphere. They had just enough kemosite left to recreate the first accident and Rom reverses the process so they're thrust 400 years into the future, their own time, where they deliver Nog to Star Fleet Academy and return home to DS9.