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The Trek Nation - Acquisition

Acquisition

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at March 29, 2002 - 9:25 AM GMT

See Also: 'Acquisition' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: A small band of big-lobed aliens take over Enterprise after knocking out the crew. Only Tucker -- sealed in a decontamination chamber -- remains conscious following the release of a noxious nerve gas. When they have stolen all the scanners, weapons, furniture and food they can carry, the aliens use a hypospray to wake Archer, and demand to know the location of Enterprise's vault. Though Archer initially says his ship carries no cargo, he changes tactics when he learns that his captors will abduct and sell all the female crewmembers if he can't offer them sufficient treasure. Guessing that the aliens expect everyone to be as greedy as they are, Archer haggles for a high percentage of the gold.

Ringleader Ulis takes underlings Muk and Grish to look for the hidden vault, leaving his hapless cousin Krem to supervise Archer as the captain loads the loot onto the docked alien vessel. Tucker gets Archer's attention and learns that he can wake others with an alien hypo, but the engineer only has time to wake T'Pol before he must hide again. She meddles with the thieves' bounty to encourage Muk and Grish's suspicions that Ulis might be trying to rob them of their rightful profit. Meanwhile, Archer baits Krem, asking why he doesn't abandon his selfish cousin and strike out on his own.

Tucker draws the attention of Ulis and stages a fight with Archer to gain the alien captain's trust. The engineer offers to show Ulis the location of the vault if he will leave Tucker's 'wife' Hoshi and the other women. Ulik agrees, so Tucker leads him, Grish and Muk through a maze of corridors while T'Pol prepares an ambush. Eventually Krem's lust and the others' greed lead them all into traps. Once Archer has the criminals in custody, he makes them return everything they stole and turns command of their vessel over to Krem, who is sad that T'Pol won't run away with him, yet delighted finally to be in charge.


Analysis: A Ferengi episode in which the word 'Ferengi' is never uttered, 'Acquisition' bows to continuity primarily by creating a scenario so typical of Ferengi episodes that one can predict the dialogue as well as the plot. Not that that makes it less entertaining; Ferengi episodes gain much of their humor from watching the greedy, lustful creeps get their comeuppance, and it's a lot more annoying when that doesn't happen than when it does. Here, in addition to Ulis ending up in the same handcuffs he placed on Archer, we get our intrepid captain pretending to be a mercenary, Trip pretending to be married to Hoshi and T'Pol pretending to have a sense of humor. Or maybe she does.

I missed this episode when it first aired because it was the first night of Passover, so I had a rare chance to read feedback by others before writing my own review. A number of people were bothered by the fact that Archer's crew never found out that the aliens were Ferengi...and considering the long Ferengi history of thievery, swindling and peddling flesh, this seems to be an enormous oversight. If I thought so seriously about Ferengi behavior, I'd find them too nauseating to enjoy as comic relief, so I didn't take 'Acquisition' as anything but a romp. I mean, Tucker spends half the episode in his underwear, and the one person to raise an eyebrow about it is T'Pol, who spends every episode in a catsuit! That's very funny! Almost as funny as the Ferengi trying to decide whether to negotiate with Porthos or try to cook him!

The Enterprise crew appears to believe that Ulis' gang must be a roving band of crooks, rather than representatives of their entire society. Since there are humans with just as few scruples as these Ferengi, I didn't have a problem with Archer's lack of concern about these folk as a future threat. In fact, the episode seems refreshingly non-racist, after all the allegations on Enterprise about how Vulcans can't be trusted; in this case, Archer decides not to hold a whole species responsible for the bad behavior of a few rogues. We know what he doesn't, namely that these aliens couldn't be more representative of their culture if they tried.

For long-time fans, Enterprise's first Ferengi foray offers a lot of nice nostalgic touches, even though it's set generations before the stories we've already seen. We hear Rules of Acquisition, we learn that latinum has been gold-pressed for centuries. 'Yes, cousin,' Krem whines submissively, sounding so much like Deep Space Nine's Rom that one half-suspects Max Grodenchik rather than Jeffrey Combs might be underneath the prosthetics. Long-time Trekkers might have been pleased by the cast list for 'Acquisition,' but because the makeup is so heavy and the first several minutes of the episode feature only Ferengi dialogue, it's rather hard to figure out who's who by face or voice. Ethan Phillips, who was marvelous on Voyager as Neelix, immerses himself in the role of Ulis, as does Combs as Krem, but any fan who didn't know they were supposed to appear would be unlikely to guess.

I wouldn't blame anyone in the audience for gagging instead of laughing at the 'lobe job' T'Pol performed on Krem (thanks, Jim Wright, for that phrase), but T'Pol's entire character underwent enough alterations to keep this episode light-hearted that I couldn't take it seriously. 'Acquisition' is intentionally silly; last week's 'Rogue Planet' is not, which makes it much more frustrating when the characters say and do stupid things. The actors' comic timing (regular cast as well as guest stars) works superbly. And Jolene Blalock gives a nicely nuanced performance playing a woman who has made a conscious decision to flirt with a man she finds odious, so she uses her aversion to play the part more convincingly, allowing the disgust and the shake in her voice to come through.

I should admit that I didn't much care for Ferengi episodes on the three previous Trek shows to feature the aliens, though I didn't dislike them either. Very few of them ever registered as consequential. The Ferengi made Picard look stupid first by trying to drive him insane by tampering with his memories, then by convincing him he had a long-lost son. They made Janeway look stupid first by robbing her of a way home, then by nearly kidnapping Seven of Nine. They were also central to my least-favorite hour of Deep Space Nine over its entire seven-year run, 'Prophet Motive,' in which the Grand Nagus provided the impetus to show Bajoran deities as narrow-minded, petty egotists.

So T'Pol playing Vulcan Love Slave (and possibly providing the raw material for Quark's later holosuite program of the same name) seems neither surprising nor distressing in an episode like 'Acquisition.' Her statement to Trip about wishing Vulcans hadn't renounced violence so she could throttle Krem also seems out of character, but it's my third-favorite line in the episode, following her threat to leave Archer in handcuffs if he won't make proper restitution for insulting her and his offer to give T'Pol to Krem in exchange for freedom. See what I mean about the difficulty of taking any of it seriously?


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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Michelle Erica Green reviews Enterprise episodes and Star Trek books for the Trek Nation, as well as Andromeda episodes for SlipstreamWeb. She has written for magazines and sites such as SFX, Cinescape and Another Universe. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.