Armin Shimerman's Angry Improv Gave Star Trek Writers A New Quirk For Quark

"Star Trek" has no shortage of memorable characters to grace the halls of its starships, but perhaps none in the franchise's main cast has challenged the status quo as much as the Ferengi Quark on "Deep Space Nine." In lieu of representing specific ideals and principles in the tradition of "Star Trek," Quark is seemingly devoid of a strong moral compass, more interested in making a profit than he is in exploring new worlds. Yet the greedy alien shows surprising depth as the show goes on, thanks largely to actor Armin Shimerman and his frustrated insistence on turning the role into a more complicated character than originally planned.

As was the case with other alien races in "Star Trek" like the Klingons, the Ferengi went through numerous changes before their role in the series and their culture became more defined. They first appeared in the fourth episode of "The Next Generation," titled "The Last Outpost," as a new threat for the Enterprise and the Federation, with Shimerman starring as the head of the villainous crew. The Ferengi quickly lost their sinister aura, though, turning into buffoonish petty criminals at best. Later episodes like "Suspicions," which featured a Ferengi scientist, would try to make the case for other, more benign and intellectual corners of Ferengi society, but by and large, the alien race became a stereotype. It wasn't until "Deep Space Nine" and the return of Shimerman that the Ferengi would finally get their proper due.

The complexities and cries of Quark

Quark's role in "Deep Space Nine" is to provide comedic relief, but Armin Shimerman's lively, charismatic portrayal rises far above the bumbling Ferengi of "The Next Generation." Both snarky and silly, Quark is arguably at his most interesting when it's revealed that he shockingly has some semblance of compassion for others. The first season episode "Move Along Home" may be infamously maligned, but it does establish that Quark has a moral conscience when he's shown worried about the lives of his crewmates. That seems to be due to Shimerman's influence, as he discussed in an interview with Gamespot:

"They wrote on the page that I was a sniveling, cowardly sort of creature, much like the Ferengi in 'The Next Generation.' So I played against that in 'Move Along Home.' I tried to make him as troubled and conflicted about the dilemma in front of him as anyone would be. And that, for me, was the first time I had an influence on the writers, where they saw the quality that Armin Shimerman was bringing to the Ferengi."

Shimerman goes on to reveal that he also came up with one of Quark's trademark behaviors when the script called for him to make "a low, crying, moaning sound." After the two-hourlong makeup process, the actor had to wait even longer in the prosthetics chair while other shooting transpired. Shimerman grew more frustrated in the six hours that passed and eventually let out all his rage in his now-trademark high-pitched squeal. In Quark, "Star Trek" embraced its quirkier side, and Shimerman truly helped mine complexity out of comedy.