Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Deep Space Nine 3x16 "Prophet Motive"

rating: ***

the story: Quark is horrified when Grand Nagus Zek totally overhauls the all-important Rules of Acquisition against every known Ferengi principal.

what it's all about: This is one of the finest examples of a "Ferengi episode" you'll find, as well as one of the best appearances by Wallace Shawn as the mercurial Zek.  Shawn's legacy will always be found in Princess Bride, but his Zek was more or less the Deep Space Nine equivalent of Q, an oddball recurring character who more or less made one appearance a season throughout the whole series.  What works so well this time is that his part is minimal, completely dominated by Quark's outrage at his every decision.  An outraged Quark is a very fun Quark to watch.

"Ferengi episodes" eventually became derided by fans as counter to the dark tone of the series and thus irrelevant, but they were also essential to the series, a constant reminder that things are as complicated as they seem, but in ways that could have a far greater variance in tone than fans tended to admit.  In a lot of ways, "Prophet Motive" is the "Trouble with Tribbles" of Deep Space Nine, though I wonder how much general appeal it has, because it speaks so directly to a peculiarly Deep Space Nine element: the rules by which Ferengi govern themselves, a trademark of the series, something that was always being quoted (and eventually compiled for an actual book).

"Prophet Motive" is also the first time the series hints that Ferengi society is bound for a drastic overhaul, and yes, it will center around Zek.  As Grand Nagus he's supposed to represent the perfect Ferengi, but the more we see him, the less true this becomes, especially when he at last meets Quark's mom (whom we'll meet late in the season, in the only possible purely "Ferengi episode" that could top this one in the third season).

What's interesting about the episode is that it ties the Ferengi in with the Prophets (as the title suggests), the wormhole aliens who serve as the often-unseen center of the series, noncorporeal entities who periodically visit Sisko to let him know how things are going (basically).  It's a little odd seeing someone else visit with them, let alone Quark, but the Ferengi actually took the most active early interest in the Gamma Quadrant, thanks to Zek, traveling through that other signature element of the series, the wormhole that's technically the reason anything important happens at the station.

The B-story revolves around Bashir, once again showing how far he's come, now suddenly pessimistic about his career, having been nominated for what amounts to a career achievement award and not convinced in the slightest that he has a chance to win.  But no one else believes that, which becomes quite amusing, a signature look at how life aboard the station operates differently from a starship.

It's a pretty fun episode all around.

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - Another episode general fans don't necessarily need to worry about.
  • series - Although it spotlights Deep Space Nine at its most dynamic.
  • character - Works for Quark, Zek, and Bashir!
  • essential - It's one of those episodes ideal to sample if you want to see how interesting the series really is.
notable guest-stars:
Wallace Shawn (Zek)
Max Grodenchik (Rom)
Tiny Ron (Maihar'du)

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