May 28 2013 3:05pm

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: “The Nagus”

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Nagus“The Nagus”
Written by David Livingston and Ira Steven Behr
Directed by David Livingston
Season 1, Episode 10
Production episode 40511-411
Original air date: March 21, 1993
Stardate: unknown

Station log: Sisko wants to bring Jake to Bajor for the gratitude festival, and also to visit the Fire Caverns. Jake begs off, though, as he says he has plans with Nog to check out an Andorian freighter. Sisko is perplexed, since Jake has been bugging him about going to see the caverns.

Quark is pissed at Rom because a customer left her money pouch behind and Rom gave it back to her with all the currency. Quark punishes Rom by assigning him to polish all the railings in the bar. The abused kick downward, so Rom immediately goes to Nog and tells him that he has to polish all the railings in the bar.

After Quark finishes telling Morn a joke, Grand Nagus Zek, the ruler of Ferenginar, arrives, announced by his son Krax, and accompanied by Maihar’du, his Hupyrian bodyguard. Quark asks if he’s on the station for business or pleasure, and Krax asks if there’s a difference. While Zek spends some time in a holosuite, Quark is apprehensive, convinced that the nagus is going to buy the bar for a fraction of its worth, putting him out of business.

O’Brien is substitute-teaching for Keiko, who’s still on Earth with her mother for two more weeks. Nog hasn’t written his essay on ethics, and he says it’s because his padd was stolen (and apparently not backed up anywhere) by Vulcans, and he tries to prove he’s been paying attention by saying that they stole it because they don’t have ethics. Jake reluctantly backs his friend up to an incredibly skeptical O’Brien. Later, O’Brien tells Sisko that he’s concerned that Nog’s a bad influence on Jake, but Sisko doesn’t see any way to get between them that wouldn’t result in Jake resenting his father.

Zek invites Quark and Rom to have dinner with him and Krax. He compliments Quark on his instincts in opening the bar near a stable wormhole—even though he opened it several years before anybody knew the wormhole existed—though he’s less than impressed that Nog is attending a school run by a human female.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Nagus

Finally, Zek comes down to business: he wants Quark to host a conference about business opportunities in the Gamma Quadrant. Several Ferengi arrive at the station—piquing the curiosity of the station staff, especially Odo—and Quark closes the bar, kicking poor Morn out.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Nagus

Zek starts the meeting. Quark and his staff move to leave, but Zek wants Quark to remain. He compliments several of those present on their recent business successes. But he’s concerned that the Ferengi have gained a reputation in the Alpha Quadrant as being untrustworthy. The Gamma Quadrant, however, is a place where no one knows the Ferengi, so they can start anew. The Ferengi are thrilled. “Our word can be our bond.” “Until we break it!” “It’ll be the good old days all over again!”

But Zek laments that he’s growing old. He’s not as greedy as he used to be. But he’s chosen his successor: Quark. This comes as a huge surprise to both Krax, who expected to be so named, and Quark, who expected the same. Everyone stomps out of the meeting in disgust at the outrageous declaration. But Quark is thrilled.

Jake and Nog get into an argument after Nog announces that he’s not staying in school, but they eventually make up, even though both Sisko and Rom tell their sons that humans and Ferengi don’t have much in common.

Quark is loving being Grand Nagus, at least until Gral, one of the busnessmen, threatens him. Quark runs to Zek, but in the midst of giving Quark advice, Zek dies. At the funeral ceremony—during which Krax sells containers of the vacuum-desiccated remains of Zek—Quark asks Rom to be his bodyguard. Rom, however, was thinking he could now run the bar, which prompts a spit-take and raucous laughter from Quark. Odo has questions about Zek’s death, but Krax insists it was from a chronic condition he had. Quark also gleefully tells Odo that from now on if Odo wants to talk to him, he has to make an appointment, and also has to kiss Quark’s scepter. Odo snorts and walks away. Quark sees a coin on the floor and bends down to pick it up—which is all that saves his life from a locator bomb that was cued to Quark’s pheremones.

Odo and Sisko question Quark, who is less than forthcoming in discussing an attempt on his life, but he and Rom do reveal that Krax stands to gain the most by Quark’s death—he’d become Grand Nagus, then—and that Gral threatened Quark. Odo is also suspicious of the fact that Maihar’du didn’t attend Zek’s funeral (Hupyrian servants are renowned for their loyalty, apparently).

Sisko then gets to question his son, because Jake was out after midnight the previous night with Nog, but won’t say what he was doing. That night, Jake doesn’t come home for dinner, and—on Dax’s advice—Sisko seeks Jake out, finding him teaching Nog how to read in the cargo bay.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Nagus

Nava goes to Quark to try to grovel for the rights to introduce synthehol to the Gamma Quadrant, to which Quark agrees for half the profits. Krax is concerned that Quark is going to become immensely popular if he keeps making all these good deals, which will make it even harder for him and Rom to kill him, especially since their locator bomb attempt didn’t work. So they make up a business deal in the Gamma Quadrant that Zek allegedly started that Quark will get to complete. Quark is looking forward to his first trip through the wormhole.

But there is no trip through the wormhole, as Rom and Krax lead him to an empty airlock, which they then close. Quark begs for his life, but Rom and Krax are gleefully ready to send Quark to his death—before Odo shows up with Maihar’du and Zek. Zek faked his death to test Krax. Instead of quietly gathering power at Quark’s side, using the bar as a source of intelligence gathering while Quark was the figurehead, Krax went for the blunt response of grabbing power. “It’s like talking to a Klingon,” Zek concludes in disgust.

Quark turns the scepter back over to Zek, who says that Quark has done an excellent job. As for Rom, Quark is actually impressed, not realizing that his brother had the lobes for such treachery, and buys Rom a drink.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Nagus

The Sisko is of Bajor: Sisko comes around to the notion that Nog and Jake’s friendship may not be such a bad thing, going from disapproval to approval—at the end of the episode he embarrasses Jake in public by hugging and kissing him and calling him a good son, and then sends him off to be with his friend.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Nagus

The slug in your belly: Dax mentions that she’s been a mother three times and a father twice.

Rules of Acquisition: The Rules are first established in this episode, and will become a cornerstone of the series going forward (and also be used on both Voyager and Enterprise). We learn the First Rule, “Once you have their money, you never give it back,” and the Sixth Rule, “Never let family stand in the way of opportunity.”

This episode also establishes the Ferengi use of “lobes” as a metaphor for, among other things, virility, guts, greed, and other manly (Ferengi-ly?) attitudes; and also the funereal customs of high-ranking Ferengi, selling their vacuum-desiccated remains.

What happens on the holosuite stays on the holosuite: Quark offers Zek his choice of his five favorite holosuite programs. Zek decides to run all five, leading to Quark’s genuine fear that the elderly Ferengi may become exhausted or worse.

Preservation of mass and energy is for wimps: Odo turns to liquid in order to board Zek’s ship, which means the portal isn’t water tight, which is kind of a problem for a spacefaring ship....

Keep your ears open. “So, you were going to toss me out an airlock?”

“I never meant it!”

“Well, I do! Rom’s—nice name for a bar, don’t you think?”

Rom, growing some lobes while Quark grovels.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Nagus

Welcome aboard: Lee Arenberg makes the first of half a dozen appearances on Trek, though his only one on DS9, as Gral. He’ll appear as two other Ferengi on TNG, Prak in “Force of Nature” and Bok in “Bloodlines,” as a Malon in Voyager’s “Juggernaut,” and twice as a Tellarite, amusingly also named Gral, in two Enterprise episodes.

Lou Wagner makes his second appearance as a Ferengi, having previously played Solok in TNG’s “Chain of Command, Part I.” Barry Gordon plays Nava; he’ll appear on Voyager’s “Author Author” as a Bolian.

Finally, Wallace Shawn and Tiny Ron debut their recurring roles as Grand Nagus Zek and his bodyguard Maihar’du, and Max Grodenchik and Aron Eisenberg appear in their recurring roles as Rom and Nog (as does Mark Allan Shepherd as Morn). Shawn and Ron will return in the second season’s “Rules of Acquisition,” and appear once in each season but the fourth, though they will appear twice in season seven.

Trivial matters: This is the only time Krax ever is seen or even mentioned. However, your humble rewatcher did bring him back for the Ferenginar portion of Worlds of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Volume 3, in which Krax aids Grand Nagus Rom with a threat to his rule. (And he does it by finally learning the lesson Zek wanted him to learn in this episode.)

The scene where Nava meets with Quark is a riff on the opening scene of the 1972 film The Godfather, complete with blinds and an animal for Quark to pet.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Nagus

This is the first time the same person has been in both the writer and director credits of a Star Trek episode, as the story was pitched by David Livingston, who was then tapped to direct.

Molly O’Brien is described as being three years old, which is a neat trick since she was born only a year previous, in TNG’s “Disaster.”

Morn laughs at Quark’s joke about Andorians, which is the only time he opens his mouth and makes a noise at any time during the series run.

The Bajoran Gratitude Festival mentioned by Sisko at the top of the episode will actually be seen in both “Fascination” and “Tears of the Prophets.” The sentence Jake teaches Nog to read says that the Bajoran system has fourteen planets and that Bajor itself has three moons—the latter will later be contradicted, as Bajor will be established as having five moons.

Zek also appears in several works of tie-in fiction besides my aforementioned WoDS93, including The Big Game and The Long Night, both by Dean Wesley Smith & Kristine Kathryn Rusch; Balance of Power by Dafydd ab Hugh; The 34th Rule by Armin Shimerman, David R. George III, and Eric A. Stillwell; and I, Q by John deLancie & Peter David; and two issues of Malibu’s DS9 comic book.

Walk with the Prophets: “You failed! Miserably!” A delightful little episode that sets the tone for future Ferengi tales—for better or worse—aided by the letter-perfect casting of Wallace Shawn as the Ferengi leader and a superb performance by Armin Shimerman as a normal person being given absolute power and not having the first clue how to handle it. We also get our first look at Rom’s potential, as he shows a heretofore unknown capacity for treachery. There are no real surprises here—we know that Quark isn’t going to stay Grand Nagus, nor that he’s actually going to be thrown out an airlock—but it’s fun getting there, mostly due to Shawn and Shimerman (with some good supporting work by Max Grodenchik and Lou Wagner). Also the Godfather riff is hilarious.

But what gives the episode its heart is the B-plot with Jake and Nog. Up until now, the friendship has mostly been there because the scripts say it’s there, but this is the first time the relationship has been given any kind of depth. The revelation that Jake is teaching Nog how to read is heartwarming, and every scene between Avery Brooks and Cirroc Lofton just glows with wonderfulness.


Warp factor rating: 6

Keith R.A. DeCandido specifically asked to write the Ferenginar part of Worlds of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine because, after years of writing Klingon fiction, he wanted to do something that was 180 degrees from that.

Karen Morrell
1. karenm83
the ferengi are my favorite part of this show, I especially love the episodes with Quark's mother. I love that her being clothed is so awful to them lol
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
2. Lisamarie
I really wanted to hate this episode because it kind of strays into the over the top Ferengi-hijinks I don't like, as well as a tendency to make a culture alien by simply giving them a bunch of unsavory qualities to an extreme.

But I reallyl iked the Jake/Nog scenes, and I actually do really enjoy Wallace Shawn, even though the character is so ridiculous, he seemed to make it work.

I will admit I am not sure how I feel about him apparently being a recurring character though! Oh well, could be fun!
George Salt
3. GeorgeSalt
While developing DS9, the producers must have realized that the Ferengi concept was completely FUBAR so they decided to go with farce. Wallace Shawn's portrayal of Grand Nagus Zek goes a long way to achieve that. Shawn's acting is totally over the top and yet he somehow pulls it off. I smile every time I hear that demented tee-hee-hee.

The introduction of the Ferengi was one of the great train wrecks of the first season of TNG. We first hear of the Ferengi in the series premier when Picard tells Zorn that the Ferengi ate their last business associates. It seemed the Ferengi were slated to replace the Klingons and Romulans as the Federation's nemesis, but it all fell apart when we actually met the Ferengi in TNG episode five. I have often wondered if it was intended as a joke -- that the big, bad wolf everyone fears sometimes turns out to be nothing more than a yapping chihuahua. At any rate, the concept of Ferengi as nemesis was stillborn. For a while they were cast as space pirates and then they were repurposed for comedic relief.

One reason why the Ferengi as nemesis concept failed is that there was no room in Roddenberry's utopian vision for a mercantilist species. That is evident in the TNG episode "The Last Outpost" when Riker asks The Portal to spare the Ferengi because, as he smugly states, they are similar to ancient humans. It's a shame because there was such a great opportunity there. The Ferengi could have been portrayed as the leaders of a vast interstellar corporation that aggressively expanded its dominion through economic exploitation. They could have been every bit as otherworldly as the Borg if they were portrayed not as greedy merchants but rather cold, emotionless creatures who pursued economic expansion as their sole reason for being. The tragedy at Bhopal had occurred just a few years before and there were plenty of other examples of misconduct by multinational corporations in the Third World. There was lots of material from current affairs to construct the interstellar version of a malevolent multinational corporation; but frankly, neither Roddenberry nor the network executives had the cajones to go there.

There is no real sci-fi in this episode and that is usually a deal-breaker for me; yet, I find it enjoyable. Armin Shimerman, Max Grodenchik and Wallace Shawn seem to fully embrace the silliness that is inherent in their characters. They have some fun with their roles and that makes it a joy to watch. "It's like talking to a Klingon!" -- that's one of my all-time favorite lines from DS9.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
4. Lisamarie
Oh, and as for the Godfather homage, funny thing is, I kept thinking of the scene from Robin Hood: Men in Tights instead (which is a homage to that same scene).
Michael Burstein
5. mabfan
"The sentence Jake teaches Nog to read says that the Bajoran system has fourteen planets and that Bajor itself has three moons—the latter will later be contradicted, as Bajor will be established as having five moons."

It's probably from some ancient Bajoran holy scripture, written before they discovered their other two moons. If such a thing is possible...

-- Michael A. Burstein
David Levinson
6. DemetriosX
A solid, fun little episode, although the A plot doesn't quite get to where it wants to. A lot of the business deals don't stand up to much scrutiny and Zek's scheme is rather hard to swallow. Trek frequently has problems like this when it intersects with other genres; the clumsy handling of noir themes whenever TNG did a Dixon Hill episode is a good example.

Still, it is more than rescued by Wallace Shawn and Armin Shimerman. Their interactions over the years enrich the Ferengi storylines. This episode is also the starting point of quite a few things. We begin to see something of Ferengi culture, and more importantly it is the beginning of Nog's very long arc that will eventually put him in a Starfleet uniform.
Brian Eberhardt
7. Brian Eberhardt
A fun comedic episode.
Brian Eberhardt
8. Zabeus
How about the pheremone-locator bomb for scifi?
Christopher Bennett
9. ChristopherLBennett
Maybe Nog just misread the text and mistakenly said "three" instead of "five," and Jake didn't remember his Bajoran astronomy enough to correct him.

Worth noting that Barry Gordon (Nava) was the voice of Donatello on the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series, as well as the voice of the Nestle's Quik bunny in commercials. I always found it rather amusing hearing Donatello's voice coming out of a Ferengi.

Speaking of voices, I love Wallace Shawn's voice as Zek. It's so shrill and grating that it loops right around to being beautiful.

Also of note: This is the first of the two DS9 scores composed by John Debney, the other being "Progress." I always quite liked the music cue that accompanied Zek's arrival.

This is the episode that finally made the Ferengi work, and set the template for all that followed, but it's clear that they were still feeling their way with Rom. I have a very hard time reconciling Rom's willingness to kill Quark here with the gentle nature and family loyalty he showed in later seasons. I tend to assume he was swayed by Krax's peer pressure -- he was kind of a suggestible sort -- but it's an imperfect handwave.

As for Molly's abrupt increase in age (which happened sometime between TNG's "Disaster" and "Rascals," where Hana Hatae made her debut), I've always been tempted to pitch a TNG story in which the O'Brien family was trapped for a couple of subjective years in a pocket of accelerated time in the Soras Nebula.
Nick Hlavacek
10. Nick31
@3 - You nailed it. If not for Wallace Shawn and Armin Shimerman and their ability to take a farce and play it perfectly straight, the Ferengi would have been the biggest flop in the ST universe. (Which is exactly what happened on TNG.) On DS9 the writers stopped trying to make villians of the Ferengi and just focused on the characters, and in doing so provided the perfect comic relief to the dark nature of many of the DS9 stories. The Zek episodes aren't my favorites but thanks to Wallace Shawn they're always enjoyable.
George Salt
11. GeorgeSalt
@8 Zabeus: Yes, the pheremone-locator bomb is a cool sci-fi idea, but it is not an essential plot element. The writers could have substituted a knife-throwing assassin and that would have also worked; in fact, it would have worked better because it would explain how Quark escaped death by stooping to pick up a coin at the last moment. If the pheremone-locator bomb is damned-near foolproof, why didn't it alter its trajectory just as Quark stooped?
Christopher Bennett
12. ChristopherLBennett
@11: A scent-based tracking device would be limited by the speed at which scent molecules propagate through the atmosphere. It therefore wouldn't be able to adjust to its target's movement as quickly as something tracking by optics or sound.
George Salt
13. GeorgeSalt
@12: Perhaps the Ferengi should invest in multisensor fusion technology!
Brian Eberhardt
14. Happytoscrap
This was either a really good episode, or it just happened to be not a horrifically bad episode and followed a couple of real stinkers so we all thought it was good.

Nah, just kidding. This was a good episode. TOS introduced us Klingons but didn't do much with their development and then TNG made them awesome. TNG introduced us Ferrengi but didn't do much with their development and then DS9 made them awesome.

I dig Jake-Nog and I dig Quark-Rom.
Brian Eberhardt
17. Mac McEntire
It’s a pretty daring feat to try to make the Ferengi likable and interesting, but somehow this episode manages it, with a lot of the heavy lifting done by Wallace Shawn and Armin Shimmerman. I love that bit in the opening, where the mysterious hooded figure with the Ferengi-head cane shambles his way through the promenade – suspenseful and absurd at the same time.

It seems awfully out of character for Rom to try to kill Quark. Did we ever see this nastier, more murderous side of his personality again?

Because this is the big Ferengi episode, now’s a good time to remember this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gTAIET765Ts
Phil Parsons
18. Yakko
One thing I've always thought was a little amusing is that Armin Shimmerman twice riffs on classic Franci Ford Coppola directed Marlon Brando roles on genre television. Here as Quark he stands in for Vito Corleone and seven years later on Buffy the Vampire Slayer he would do Principal Snyder as Colonel Kurtz in an Apocalypse Now inspired dream sequence. Both directors, Livingston and Joss Whedon, very closely mimic Coppola's direction.
Lee VanDyke
19. Cloric
krad, I'm rather suprised you failed to mention that the trip to the fire caves essentially set up a future "enemy" and one of the culminating plots/locations of the entire series.
Chris Nash
20. CNash
Jake teaching Nog to read got me wondering how Ferengi children learn this normally. Perhaps on Ferenginar, there are schools, but obviously they're not free like ours, and so only children whose parents could afford it would be able to go there, while the rest of the population have to makedo with being home-schooled by their parents - if they can be bothered, that is. Rom doesn't show much interest in home-schooling Nog (at least, not with the characterisation of him that we've seen so far). And it seemed that Zek mostly objected to Nog attending a school run by a "hew-mon female" rather than school itself.
Christopher Bennett
21. ChristopherLBennett
@19: That's probably because at the time, the Fire Caves were just a scenic location. The Pah-Wraiths weren't conceived until the sixth season. So at the time, it wasn't meant to set up anything.

@20: I figure Ferengi children enter into apprenticeships, and if reading is a useful skill in their jobs, then they're trained to read by their employers.
Brian Eberhardt
22. Shalom Owen
One thing I've always noticed on rewatch is that the trip they never take is one to the *Fire Caves*. Which, when they resurface later, turn out to be a horribly bad place to go.

So every time I rewatch this ep, I wind up wondering if those Time-sensitive Prophets had anything to do with the sudden herd of distractions thrown Sisko's way.
Matt Hamilton
23. MattHamilton
I loved how the Ferengi, from this point on, are portrayed. Quark and Rom have their own characters and wonderful little relationships. Rom with O'Brien and Leeda and Nog and Quark with his rather unusual one with Odo. But a lot of the Ferengi episodes had me rolling on the floor laughing when I first saw them. Which is a nice change of pace, especially in later seasons, when it gets darker and darker.

@18, Snyder's turn as Colonel Kurtz was fantastic. He pulled double duty on Buffy and DS9 for a couple of years and when he came back in season 4 for that little dream sequence, that was great ("You know, I never told you how glad I was that you got eaten by a snake").

My question, though, is: How does one teach an alien to read? I have to assume that Nog is speaking in the Ferengi tongue and Jake in English and then it gets translated. So, what language is he teaching him? Is he teaching him English that somehow looks like Ferengi? I never quite got this. It's no wonder he was doing poorly in school, Nog I mean, but still. I don't think I would be able to teach someone how to read so mayhap I'm just out of my league, but, as heartwarming as that was (and that Jake was willing to lie to his father to keep Nog's secret), I don't know how he would go about it.
Keith DeCandido
24. krad
It's referred to as the fire caverns, rather than the fire caves, and while it's possibly the same thing, given how dangerous the fire caves turned out to be, I'm willing to bet that it's not the same thing, if Sisko's willing to take his 14-year-old kid there for fun.....

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Rob Rater
25. Quasarmodo
@23 How does one teach an alien to read?

The never mentioned universal translating contact lense makes another appearance.
Christopher Bennett
26. ChristopherLBennett
@24: Well, caverns/caves could just be a difference in the translation from Bajoran. And I thought the Pah-Wraiths were considered to be a myth until late in the series. Certainly Sisko wasn't a believer in Bajoran mysticism at this point, so he would've had no reason to avoid the cave(rn)s. Any legends of demonic spirits inhabiting them would just be something he'd dismiss as a quaint local superstition.
Mike Kelmachter
27. MikeKelm
The Ferengi shine in DS9 and in the first Daimon Bok episode because they stop inhabiting the planet of hats trope. Bok, Rom, Zekk, Quark, and Nog stand out because they aren't just whiny greedy merchants. They have nuance. Shawn Wallace as Zekk is an inspired choice and to a certain extent leans on his roll from Princess Bride as a genius character. As Nagus, Zekk should be a few steps ahead of everyone else (except for Quarks mom, but I digress) and Shawn Wallace makes it seem like he is in fact that.

As far as how do you teach a Ferengi to read, I suppose you do it in English. Given that English is the predominant language of the Federation and widely spoken, it's a good a choice as any to learn in. In all honesty, I figure that probably much of the known space is functionally illiterate anyways. After all, if you can do pretty much anything by talking to the computer or having it read it to you. So I figure most people (not starfleet) are probably not deep readers.
Brian Eberhardt
28. lvsxy808
@ 20, 21: re Nog learning to read.

I always assumed that Jake was specifically teaching Nog how to read English. Surely Nog would already know how to read Ferengi script to be able to help around the bar. But given Quark and Rom's attitude about sending Nog to Keiko's school in the first place, they undoubtedly would not consider learning other languages a priority (except maybe Cardassian, given where they lived). Whereas Keiko probably teaches primarily in English, which would leave Nog at a disadvantage. So Jake teaching Nog to read English is to help him get along in school. This is the first step on Nog's path to the Academy.
Christopher Bennett
29. ChristopherLBennett
@28: Lots of people are able to do that kind of unskilled labor without being able to read. Remember, it's only in the last few centuries that literacy has become widespread, and there are still high illiteracy rates among the workforce in the US and elsewhere. And "helping around the bar" wouldn't entail much more than cleaning up, following instructions to take a tray to a certain table, etc. If asked to bring a certain type of liquor from the stockroom, Nog could distinguish them by the shape and color of the bottles, say, rather than the writing.

Indeed, many Ferengi might not want their employees to be able to read, because then they could learn stuff and get ideas and maybe develop the skills to start their own businesses and become competitors.
George Salt
30. GeorgeSalt
@27 : For a long time I could not accept the notion that an advanced, spacefaring society such as the Ferengi could function with a large portion of the population functionally illiterate. However, after reading MikeKelm's comment I'm beginning to reconsider that.

With advanced computing technology, skills such as reading and writing may no longer be necessary. Consider the fate of cursive longhand. Once, schools taught proper handwriting in classses called pensmanship. With the advent of nearly ubiquitous keyboards the subject is disappearing from the curricula of schools across the country. With advanced AI capable of engaging people in complex conversation, reading and writing might become obsolete as computers become the primary medium for collecting, storing and disseminating information. Some societies, such as humans, may retain reading and writing for purely cultural reasons but other societies may not.

Nog may not need to know how read in order to find things in the stockroom. I can imagine "smart labels" that interact with the station's computer system. Nog simply says "I need a bottle of Saurian brandy" or "I need a bottle of Saurian brandy from the lot delivered by the Tellurite freighter last week, show me the one with the closest expiration date" and the computer locates it and the label on the correct bottle starts flashing.
Brian Eberhardt
31. lvsxy808
@ 29: Even so, what are the chances that Jake was teaching Nog how to read Ferengi, given that he probably never even met a Ferengi until a few months ago? Whether Nog could already read Ferengi or not, what Jake was most likely teaching him was English (or rather, Federation standard), because what else would he know enough to teach?
Christopher Bennett
32. ChristopherLBennett
@31: Given that they were reading a Bajoran astronomy text, maybe Jake was teaching him to read Bajoran. He's been living in Bajoran space for a few months at this point, so it stands to reason that he would've been studying the local language.

Although, yeah, it's either that or English.
Matt Hamilton
33. MattHamilton
Well, given that we've said Keiko is probably teaching in English (or as has been stated Federation Standard), Nog isn't the only non human, non-Federation student in the class. There are many Bajorans, so wouldn't they be at a disadvantage too? That would mean Keiko would have to teach in Bajoran because of the majority rule? Or just, to hell with it, everybody learn English because, well, we're the Federation, darn tootin!
Joseph Newton
36. crzydroid
I think the Jake/Nog interaction was what made this episode worth watching to me. Wallace Shawn certainly does a great job with Zek, but the character himself is a little annoying to me, in that his presence and speeches usually indicate that something cringe-worthy is to come.

To chime in on the "what language is he teaching him" discussion, another factor is that at this point, the computer should be able to instantly translate a text into any readable language in its database. We already have technology now that is attempting that with mixed results. Not to mention the Universal Translator (Interpreter) for speech being pretty reliable by this point. So the fact that Keiko teaches in English should be a total non-issue. Nog's terminal should be able to translate the text coming from her terminal into Ferengi. He can write his homework in Ferengi, and when he hands it in, the teacher can have the PADD translate it to English. So maybe Jake has an English translated PADD where he says, "the first word is 'the'" and Nog looks at his either English or Bajoran or Ferengi PADD and reads it accordingly. The problem is if he taught it exactly that way (ie, the first word) because if there are syntactical differences between the languages they are looking at, the words might not match up. But if the UI interprets his instructions in a way that the same thing comes across for the text, then ok.

@30: I've long been of the opinion that cursive itself was just a way of formalizing laziness. As more people learned how and had the means to write, my opinion is that cursive arose as a way to speed up the process. One method of connecting the letters was taught as the "proper" way to write without bothering to pick up your pen off the paper. One can lament the loss of cursive, but in a time when cursive was the norm, one could have as easily lamented the loss of caligraphy. Depending on the writer, cursive can be just as sloppy and illegible as any other form of printing, just as with enough training and practice (and the good handwriters), non-cursive printing can be just as uniformly legible. So if cursive was just invented as a way to formalize the process of writing quickly, then teaching keyboarding is just another step in the chain of technological advancement. A concern for writing is not only speed, but legibility. Even though I've learned cursive and what it should look like, I've tried to read many a card written in cursive and still had a hard time of it, because everyone's cursive is not the standard of the formally taught cursive. Don't even get me started on signatures. An advantage of a technology such as typing is not only speed, but every time you type, no matter who you are, the letters always come out as the idealized form, making it perfectly legible (depending on the font). In a world where typing and computers is the norm, handwriting can still be useful in that it prepares people for situations where they might find themselves without a typing device, but the form of that writing shouldn't matter so much as long as someone else can read it.
Brian Eberhardt
37. Tesh
@36 Agreed on cursive, and I'd take it a step further. I was set to skip 3rd grade (in the early 80s) but the principal nixed it just so I'd learn cursive in the 3rd grade class. I'll admit a grudge because of this, but I've never seen cursive as more legible than "printing". Like calligraphy, it might be more artistic and elegant on occasion, but legible? Not so much. For that matter, one of the express reasons I was taught to sign my signature in cursive is because it's *not* legible and therefore harder to reproduce.

No, cursive isn't about anything practical (except maybe being able to read past documents using it), it's more about hidebound adherence to tradition. Penmanship can be taught using any sort of script. Speed comes with practice.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
38. Lisamarie
I hate cursive so very very much. I hate reading it (unless it is very well done. But sloppy cursive is worse than sloppy print, in my opinion) and I hate writing it. I don't find it faster at all.
Brian Eberhardt
39. David Sim
Quark appears to be petting a Gilvos, one of the things Alexander made Riker go back for in the TNG episode New Ground.
James Pratt
40. JamesP
Absolutely love Wallace Shawn as Zek. It's been a while since I watched DS9 through. Do we ever get an "INCONCEIVABLE!" out of him?

I'll throw in my own cursive story. About 15 years ago, I was taking the GMAT in anticipation of applying for Graduate Business School. Part of the process for taking the exam was a written statement attesting that I was the person taking the test. I had to copy the statement verbatim, substituting only my name, and I was required to write it in cursive. At that point in my life, it had been years since I had written in cursive for any purpose other than signing my name. I'm fairly certain that whoever reviewed that statement was probably amused at the quite frankly amateurish level of my handwriting.
Keith DeCandido
41. krad
JamesP: Nope, Zek never said "Inconceivable!" on the air. The character has used it in tie-in fiction, however.....

---Keith R.A. DeCandido

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