Retro Review: The Magnificent FerengiPosted by Michelle - 09/05/14 at 07:05 pm
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Season: 06 Episode: 10 (s06e10)
Original US airdate: 12/17/1997
When Moogie is kidnapped, Quark and a group of Ferengi agree to meet with Dominion representatives on Empok Nor to negotiate.
Plot Summary: Though things seem to be going well for Quark financially, he is shocked to learn that his mother has been abducted by the Dominion while traveling to have her lobes lifted. Grand Nagus Zek offers a huge reward for her return, so Quark puts together a rescue team consisting of Rom and Nog, cousin Gaila, and hit man Leck. Sisko asks Starfleet to trade their Vorta prisoner, Keevan, for Moogie, and Quark is forced to take ex-liquidator Brunt along when Brunt offers his ship in exchange for a share in the reward and an opportunity to get back into Zek’s good graces. The Dominion agrees to meet the Ferengi at Empok Nor, though Keevan warns that it’s a trap and they will all be killed. Although Yelgrin, the Vorta holding Moogie, brings Jem’Hadar troops and indeed threatens to kill everyone, Quark successfully convinces him that he should trade for Keevan to learn what secrets the Vorta divulged to the Federation. But when Gaila learns that Quark lied about the amount of the reward so that Quark and Rom could keep the largest share, he shoots at Quark, killing Keevan instead. Nog is able to use a neural stimulator to make Keevan appear to be alive for long enough to make the prisoner exchange, but just as Yelgrin becomes suspicious, the Ferengi kill the Jem’Hadar soldiers and capture Yelgrin so Starfleet will have another Vorta prisoner. Moogie is proud and the Ferengi all anticipate many benefits from the Grand Nagus.
Analysis: For viewers who love Ferengi stories or Iggy Pop – or possibly “The Magnificent Seven,” though the connection is very tenuous – “The Magnificent Ferengi” is a gift. For the rest of us, well, this is an extremely silly episode. I don’t just mean the standard Stupid Ferengi Tricks, like excessive discussions of money and pointless sexist remarks that both sound less like parodies of our own era than a desire to reinject it into Gene Roddenberry’s universe. I mean the entire storyline, from the idea that the Dominion would negotiate with a renegade group of Ferengi for a prisoner exchange to the fact that we get no backstory on why the Dominion is seizing transport ships and why Starfleet seems unaware and unconcerned, though they’re willing to trade their most significant Dominion captive just because Kira asked Sisko to ask them. I’m all for levity during the Dominion War, and I’m all for family bonding, but episodes that strain credulity past the breaking point make it harder to care about the characters or the war because they start to seem like such contrivances. There’s a war going on, yet Ishka – whom Zek fell in love with for her brains, not her sexiness – travels offworld for plastic surgery to make herself feel more attractive? Then she’s pleased rather than appalled to have both sons, a grandson, and a nephew risk their lives to rescue her? How are we supposed to take her seriously as the feminist voice of Ferenginar while at the same time seeing her as the most frivolous of damsels in distress?
Certainly there are humorous moments that make the episode watchable, particularly the reaction shots from the extremely talented actors who play the Ferengi: Quark and Rom getting lost crawling through the station’s conduits and “accidentally” ending up at Sisko’s office, Iggy Pop’s Yelgrin and Cecily Adams’s Ishka discussing skin lotion and investment plans, the Ferengi relatives all exchanging a “we’re going to die” look as they head into the fray, and the ongoing deadpan Vorta complaints about Ferengi. Still, it’s hard to see how the Ferengi could hold off the Dominion for long except by sheer dumb luck like the sort that makes Nog realize the neural stimulators that can’t bring Keevan back to life can nevertheless keep Keevan animated long enough to rescue Ishka. Christopher Shea does a great job with the Weekend at Bernie’s aspect of playing the dead Vorta in that he manages to be more amusing than horrifying, but there’s something very creepy about the Ferengi’s comfort with treating bodies as possessions, particularly when one remembers both that Brunt once tried to dismember Quark while he was still alive and when one recalls that most Ferengi females are treated just as much like property as corpses. The ease with which Leck shoots Ishka in a holosuite rescue simulation is only slightly less repulsive than the ease with which Nog cuts his grandmother’s hand to prove that she’s not a changeling. Why would the Dominion trade one of their gods for an insignificant Vorta? It isn’t as if they believe they have anything to learn from the Ferengi.
If the plot had a single surprise element to develop one of the characters, Ferengi civilization, Dominion tactics, anything, it might have redeemed itself. But it’s excruciatingly predictable except for the bloody parts, like Keevan – whom Sisko took prisoner in Rocks and Shoals after trying not to have to commit wanton slaughter of Jem’Hadar – getting shot to death in a stupid altercation that had nothing to do with him, and Rom and the others gleefully massacring Jem’Hadar soldiers. Professional hit man Leck describes the entire operation as the sloppiest, most amateurish operation he’s ever seen, and I am tempted to say something similar about the story structure. Does anyone ever doubt that Quark will get caught in his lie about the reward, or that the Jem’Hadar will end up pulling weapons? Why doesn’t Zek, who holds the bulk of wealth on Ferenginar, hire professionals instead of Ishka’s bumbling sons to rescue his lover? Why doesn’t Quark go to Sisko for help right from the start, and why doesn’t Sisko offer Quark more military assistance, since even a small humiliation of the Dominion by this group of Ferengi would be good for Federation morale? Why have neither the Cardassians nor Starfleet stripped Empok Nor of all its valuable equipment by now, so that someone can use the pieces to repair other past and present Cardassian bases and Dukat can’t later set up a colony there? Considering that we didn’t get to see the recent, crucially important sabotage mission that Dax, O’Brien, and Bashir carried out to cut off the Jem’Hadar’s supply of ketracel-white, it’s hard to watch an episode-long waste of time like this.