the story: Stranded Ferengi perpetuate a hoax on an alien population.
what it's all about: Ferengi??? Well, there's a good explanation. These Ferengi are the ones who traveled through an unstable wormhole in Next Generation's "The Price," by far one of the most clever sequel episodes in franchise history. "False Profits" also bears similarities to Next Generation's "Devil's Due," in which a fraud pretends to fulfill a planet's prophecies using technology to pose as a figure from its mythology. Basically that's what the Ferengi are doing here, too, but the results are wholly different because, well, they're Ferengi.
Every time there's a Ferengi episode I feel the need to explain them all over again. Originally featured in Next Generation, they were a concept that totally failed as conceived, which made it hard for fans to take them seriously. But they kept showing up, eventually as prominent figures in Deep Space Nine, where "Ferengi episode" became an epitaph meaning "bad episode." It's funny, because Deep Space Nine went out of its way to flesh out and redeem the Ferengi. Just goes to show how hard it is to scratch out prejudice.
"Profits" is a wonderful addition to the Deep Space Nine version of the Ferengi, now better known for their outlandish devotion to, well, profit than their ability to scare as an enemy in battle. The two Ferengi who make their second appearances aren't really important; it becomes a matter of Neelix being able to successfully impersonate one (Ethan Phillips later appears as one straight-out in the last Ferengi episode, Enterprise's "Acquisition"). This has the effect of helping redefine Neelix himself, contrasting his apparent opportunism, as he originally appeared when joining the crew, with his ability to play nice, as it were. Entirely unlike the typical Ferengi, such as the ones who're fleecing the locals. This also plays nicely into his later third season spotlight, "Fair Trade," in which he fears his usefulness to the crew has run out. (Once again we see that much of the behavior the audience, and Tuvok, as in "Rise," considers annoying is actually Neelix massively overcompensating for his feelings of inadequacy.)
Oh, and about that wormhole. Like "Eye of the Needle" from the first season, it proves a dud, conveniently enough, as a means of getting the crew home quicker. A little cheat, but at least it's addressed in the midst of using it for other means.
- franchise - A "Ferengi episode" that's easy to enjoy.
- series - Cleverly links Voyager activity with stuff that happened in Next Generation.
- character - Neelix gets an unexpected and fun spotlight.
- essential - Foreshadowing the debut of the Borg later in the season, it's a clever way of bringing the rest of the franchise back into the series.