the story: The Ferengi unofficially make first contact with Starfleet.
what it's all about: Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know: fans had kittens about yet another thing Enterprise "wasn't supposed to do." And they weren't particularly amused about how "Acquisition" skirts canon, anymore than they were the next season when it was done with the Borg, too. But those fans can seriously stuff it. "Acquisition" is above and beyond anything else one of the best Ferengi episodes of the franchise. Maybe the best. Or most accessible anyway.
Those same fans, mind you, would call that faint praise. Part of the problem is that the Ferengi have a bad reputation. Originally conceived as a major new menace in the first season of Next Generation, they instead came off as goofy wannabes. While that series revised its depiction of Ferengi over the years, Deep Space Nine actually included one in its main cast, the bartender Quark, not to mention a whole host of recurring Ferengi around him. Now, Deep Space Nine is generally regarded, at least by a cult-within-the-cult, as the best Star Trek series. But even so, it became plagued, so these fans suggested, by "Ferengi episodes," an epitaph that means anytime an episode revolved around a Ferengi, any Ferengi, all Ferengi...it was probably regrettable.
Anyway, Voyager managed to do a few Ferengi episodes, too, mind you, despite featuring a crew flung far from home. I can only assume the amusement level of the fans. But let's move along.
"Acquisition" features a pack of Ferengi who aren't trying to be warriors or merchants but...pirates. It's really the first time they're ever depicted this way, and it's genius. Of course it fits into their wheelhouse, perfectly. And not only is the depiction perfect but the real treat is that the three Ferengi attempting to rob the Enterprise are all played by familiar faces (...underneath the rubber): Jeffrey Combs, Ethan Phillips, and Clint Howard. Combs had played a Ferengi before, the recurring IRS figure Brunt in Deep Space Nine, Quark's nemesis. Phillips, better known as Voyager's Neelix, had masqueraded as one ("False Profits," from that series, naturally). Howard, meanwhile, subsequently became the first actor to appear in every era of the TV franchise when he showed up in Discovery. He's a truly peculiar Star Trek institution.
Of them, it's Combs who's the lead, and like Quark's brother Rom, he's not especially happy trying to be a typical Ferengi. Since it's Combs, who also plays Shran in the series, it's a strong performance, and he gets to play opposite Archer (as he does in Shran's blue makeup, too), and once again draws out some of Scott Bakula's strongest Enterprise material.
Trip's running around, too, in a Die Hard scenario, so it's effectively a three-man drama. And the thing about it? In retrospect? It's kind of a warm-up for the series finale, "These Are the Voyages...," in which another caper involving Archer, Trip, and some invading aliens ends...differently.
Plus there's some classic comedy, because it's a Ferengi episode, and there's got to be comedy, too. Eventually Archer admits they do have the vault the Ferengi are looking for. But really, it's just their reaction to Porthos. Honestly, the importance of Archer's beagle can't be overstated in the series. He's not just a vague reference in JJ Abrams' later film reboot!
- franchise - Arguably the most accessible Ferengi appearance of the whole franchise.
- series - Foreshadows the final episode.
- character - Archer, Trip, Jeffrey Combs...you pick.
- essential - If you can get past your reservations about whether this should happen, you'll discover its immense pleasures.