the story: Quark's new business associate is hiding a considerable secret beneath his lobes...
what it's all about: The funniest thing about the reputation "Profit and Lace" gets is that no one seems to realize it's basically the opposite of an earlier episode. Well, this one, "Rules of Acquisition." The difference may be tone. "Profit" may be considered a farce, in some respects, but it addresses the same concerns and social messages as "Rules," the role (or lack thereof) of women in Ferengi culture. This was in fact a running theme of the series, the shortcomings of Ferengi culture in general, which was somewhat slightly always used as a running commentary on...the shortcomings of our own present culture. (Hence, a woman is only just now a serious contender for the presidency of the United States, the acknowledged superpower of the world for some seventy years.)
"Profit" had Quark in drag, an image few fans found possible to take seriously. "Rules" has a guest character, a woman, pretending to be the opposite sex. The whole story about her attempts to be taken seriously in the market, and while Quark believes she's a he, he certainly does, and so does the Grand Nagus, Deep Space Nine's version of Q, a character whose near-yearly visits always guaranteed great fun. The Nagus is actually the first person in the series who seems to take a serious interest in the Gamma Quadrant, which as of the end of this season was to become a defining element of the series. It's his efforts at establishing business relationships that may have alerted the Dominion to the Alpha Quadrant's existence and/or significance (it could be argued). This is one of the first times the Dominion is even mentioned, although certainly not seen (at least in any acknowledged way).
Still, it's gender equality that's the best reason to watch the episode, the start of a series arc that, yes, includes the later "Profit," and somewhat incredibly, given his sleazy reputation, Quark is the agent of reason. When Starfleet does it, you might consider such stories to be preachy, but when someone totally unexpected (and this would hardly be the last time, and not even last time this season!) like Quark exhibits such tendencies, it forces you to pay attention in ways that are new in the franchise. Again, that's what the Deep Space Nine premise was all about, and "Rules" is another instance where the young series was finally figuring out how to pull such things off.
- franchise - A valuable nod to the topic of gender equality.
- series - It's the first, but not the last, time the series touches on the topic.
- character - Quark, the unexpectedly nuanced Ferengi toad.
essential- Strangely, because it's a guest character who's never seen again, the impact is somewhat dulled. (Take that, "Profit and Lace" haters!)
Wallace Shawn (Grand Nagus Zek)
Tiny Ron (Maihar'du)
Max Grodenchik (Rom)