Friday, March 17, 2017

Deep Space Nine 6x10 "The Magnificent Ferengi"

rating: ***

the story: Quark assembles the least likely commando squad ever.

what it's all about: "Magnificent Ferengi" is an interesting riddle.  On the one hand, it's an episode that might actually help convince reluctant fans to give the Ferengi another shot.  On the other, it may actually be the episode responsible for the dreaded "Ferengi episode" reputation.  What fun!

It's actually a nice culmination of the work Deep Space Nine had put into the Ferengi, tying together pretty much every significant representative of the species the series had introduced over the years, from the Grand Nagus (absent but crucial to the plot) to Ishka (Quark's mum) to Brunt (the evil would-be uber Ferengi) and even Gaila ("the one with the moon"), and even suggesting that the path to the future for even a perennially hopeless culture (in terms of the Federation ideal) wasn't as dim as it sometimes seemed. 

...On the other, the Ferengi were always going to be a hard sell.  These were the guys Next Generation botched so badly in its first season, so badly that even in a whole season filled with creative botches, the introduction of the would-be successors to the Klingons felt like the worst one.  Successors to the Klingons?!?  Surely not!  But at the time, they really did seem like they'd be more menace than punchline (see how one of their number was even set up to be Picard's archnemesis!), until fans actually saw them in action.  Their subsequent appearances in that series were concessions to the obvious conclusion that they hadn't worked out as planned, and so they became intergalactic weasels instead, comically obsessed with prophet and just as comically inept. 

Enter: Quark.  The station's resident bartender was a giant reclamation project, meant to showcase the heretofore unknown nuances of the Ferengi.  Actually, he succeeded so well it was almost impossible for any other Ferengi to measure up to him.  His brother Rom actually devolved into such a buffoon that the only direction left to go with him was actually to turn him away from Ferengi norms.  So it became with Rom's son Nog, too, and each subsequent new Ferengi had to either follow the norms or risk being swallowed by them.  Yeah, I don't know how that was supposed to work, either.

The results can be seen in "Magnificent Ferengi."  The ones trying to be true practitioners of the culture (Brunt, Gaila) have tellingly fallen flat on their faces since last we saw them.  This may be due to the effects of an aging leader (Zek) looking to consider reforms with the encouragement of his relationship to Quark and his family, or because of, you know, the Dominion War.

Speaking of that...Following the epic arc at the start of the season, no real fighting had been seen for three episodes, and then along comes this one, in which the fighters are...the Ferengi.  Who are laughably terrible fighters.  The whole episode is about how terrible they are.  I mean, it's a farce!  In any other context, they're so hilariously inept it would undoubtedly make a classic Star Trek farce (see: "The Trouble with Tribbles," although maybe don't because even the Klingons somehow emerge unscathed from that one).  But the joke almost seems like it's on them.  The whole episode focuses entirely on them, with no other species, much less Starfleet, around, except for a Vorta they accidentally kill and then motorize in order to try and complete negotiations with the Dominion.

It must seem like an epic lost opportunity for fans who have little patience for the Ferengi.  I'm hardly saying this is the only interpretation.  I like the Ferengi.  I think they gave necessary color to the series, and this is a great example of how they did so.  I mean, there were several attempts to lighten up the war ("One Little Ship" a handful of episodes later, "Take Me Out to the Holosuite" in the final season), and I think this was the most successful one.  And it does advance the overall narrative of the Ferengi. 

But it may also be the prototypical "Ferengi episode."

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - Whether you consider it a good or bad thing, this is arguably one of the definitive appearances of the Ferengi in Star Trek.
  • series - Their development as a species, as depicted in Deep Space Nine, reaches a crucial moment.
  • character - Quark, and just about every other Ferengi in the series.
  • essential - I think it's a terrific farce, but others may simply consider it a farce.
notable guest-stars:
Jeffrey Combs (Brunt)
Josh Pais (Gaila)
Max Grodenchik (Rom)
Aron Eisenberg (Nog)
Cecily Adams (Ishka)
Chase Masterson (Leeta)
Christopher Shea (Keevan)
Iggy Pop


  1. I think if we're to put this in perspective Garack is evenly matched aboard DS9 with his scolding spicey quips but even still Quark's nobodys fool either. TBH Nog and Rom couldn't fire a phaser if their lives depended on it but Quark's Dabbo girls are a nice touch.

    1. As a member of Starfleet, Nog was the only qualified soldier in this bunch.


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