Aug 2 2013 3:00pm

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: “Rules of Acquisition”

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Rules of Acquisition“Rules of Acquisition”
Written by Hilary Bader and Ira Steven Behr
Directed by David Livingston
Season 2, Episode 7
Production episode 40512-427
Original air date: November 7, 1993
Stardate: unknown

Station log: It’s late at night. Quark’s is closed, but he’s hosting a tongo game that includes a bunch of his Ferengi employees—and Dax. Among the Ferengi is the bar’s newest hire, Pel, who introduces Quark to sand peas, which make one thirsty without realizing it, thus making them drink faster and get refills sooner.

Their game is interrupted by Grand Nagus Zek, who assigns Quark to be his chief negotiator in the Gamma Quadrant. He’s opened relations with a race called the Dosi and wishes to meet with them on the station. Sisko and Kira are worried about whether or not they’ll be treated fairly, and Zek responds with a bribe: some fertilizer that Bajor could really use.

Zek’s plan is to get the Ferengi foot in the Gamma Quadrant door by buying tulaberry wine from the Dosi and setting up distribution for it. Rom is thrilled for Quark for getting this opportunity, but Pel preaches caution, as Quark is set up to be the fall guy if the negotiations fail. Quark decides to make Pel his assistant when he talks to the Dosi.

Later, Pel returns home to remove her ears. Pel is a female in disguise.

The Dosi announce their arrival by hurling their shuttle pilot through the airlock (“A minor disagreement”). The negotiations go tensely—the Dosi are very aggressive, and Quark is very much not. Zek makes it more complicated by raising the stakes, changing his request from 10,000 vats to 100,000 vats. Meanwhile, the Dosi are only offering 5,000 vats.

Dax sits down with Pel in the replimat. She sees that Pel is in love with Quark, but is surprised to learn that she’s a woman. Their conversation is interrupted by Quark, who takes Pel to continue the negotiations. But the increased offer scares the Dosi off, and they leave the station. Zek castigates Quark, but then Pel offers to chase the Dosi home and force them to sign the contract, using Zek’s ship. Impressed by the audacity, Zek agrees.

An overwhelmed Rom, left running the bar, decides to find out more about Pel (indirectly inspired by Odo). He tears apart Pel’s quarters, and finds her fake ears.

Quark manages to talk one of the Dosi, Inglatu, up to 10,000 vats, but he refuses to accept a deal for 100,000. Quark decides to stay the night and try again in the morning, which sends Pel into a tizzy—eventually resulting in a kiss. They’re interrupted (to the relief of them both) by the other Dosi, Zyree, who explains that Inglatu doesn’t have 100,000 vats, and neither does anyone else. For that much tulaberry wine they have to deal with the Karemma, one of the important races in the Dominion. Zyree makes it clear that if they want to do business in the Gamma Quadrant, they’ll need to deal with the Dominion.

Quark sees it all now: Zek wanted to find the real power in the Gamma Quadrant, hence the unreasonable demands for more tulaberry wine than it would be possible to fulfill. Zek is thrilled, having only heard rumors about the Dominion, and offers Quark a share of all Gamma Quadrant profits.

Then Rom tells Quark that Pel is female, and Pel herself confirms it. Quark bribes Rom to forget about it, because if Zek finds out he was fooled by a heretical female (she wears clothes! earns profit! quotes the Rules of Acquisition!blasphemy!), Quark will be ruined. He fires her, sending her as far away from the station as possible, giving her ten bars of latinum so she can start a new life.

Pel, however, hasn’t left, instead intruding on Zek’s dinner with Quark and Rom and ripping her ears off. Zek is disgusted, and threatens Quark and Pel with imprisonment for taking financial advice from a female. Quark points out that Zek would share the cell with them, as he also took financial advice from the same female. Zek is willing to let Pel’s true identity remain a secret, but at the cost of Quark’s Gamma Quadrant profits. Pel leaves after a kiss goodbye, and Quark pretends that he doesn’t have a care in the world. Dax, however, sees through it and knows that Quark will miss her as much as she will miss Quark.

The Sisko is of Bajor: Sisko has to talk Zek into making the fertilizer a gift to Bajor, rather than 25% off (his first offer) or at cost (his second). Sisko makes it clear that the alternative would be to be forbidden from doing business on the station. Zek compliments him on his business acumen (“for a hoo-man”).

Don’t ask my opinion next time: According to Zek, Kira’s eyes “shine with the brilliance of Kibberian fire diamonds.” According to Kira, Ferengi are “greedy, misogynistic, untrustworthy little trolls.” I’d say they’re both right.

The slug in your belly: Dax plays tongo with the Ferengi. It was Curzon who first learned the game, and who played quite a bit, but Jadzia is a much better player than Curzon ever was.

Rules of Acquisition: Fittingly, given the title, we get a whole mess of Rules: #21 (“Never place friendship above profit”), #22 (“A wise man can hear profit in the wind”), #33 (“It never hurts to suck up to the boss”), #48 (“The bigger the smile, the sharper the knife”), #59 (“Free advice is seldom cheap”), #62 (“The riskier the road, the greater the profit”), and the beginning of #103 (“Sleep can interfere with—”) but Pel was interrupted before she could finish quoting it.

What happens on the holosuite stays on the holosuite: Once, Quark invited Dax to the holosuite, where he re-created her childhood bedroom, based on an overheard conversation between her and Kira. He got most of the details wrong, and tried to kiss her, but she still thought it was sweet.

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: Pel is in love with Quark, and kisses him. He tries to forget it, but then when he finds out she’s female, he faints (a beautiful fall by Armin Shimerman).

Meanwhile, Zek hits on Kira throughout the episode, including sending her a gift of a latinum earring. Kira is, to say the least, not interested, but her disinterest bordering on revulsion doesn’t even slow him down. When she returns the earring, he asks, “I suppose a night of wild, passionate romance is out of the question?”

Keep your ears open: “Let me remind you that taking business advice from a female is a violation of Ferengi law.”

“I didn’t know she was a female.”

“Stupidity is no excuse. Now one more word out of you and you are going to share her cell.”

“Then you’d better make sure it’s big enough for three.”

“Are you threatening me?”

“I wonder what your associates will say when I tell them you allowed a female to represent you in a business negotiation.”

“I didn’t know she was a female.”

“Stupidity is no excuse.”

Zek threatening Quark and Quark giving Zek the exact same threat back at him.

Welcome aboard: Hélène Udy does a fine job as Pel, while Max Grodénchik, Tiny Ron, and Wallace Shawn all return as Rom, Maihar’du, and Zek, respectively. Emilia Crow and Brian Thompson play the two Dosi, the latter making his second of five appearances on Trek, the first being as Klag on TNG’s “A Matter of Honor,” his next being Lursa & B’Etor’s helm officer in Star Trek Generations; he’ll be back as a Jem’Hadar in “To the Death.”

Trivial matters: This is the first mention of the Dominion, the great power in the Gamma Quadrant, a nation that will become somewhat important as the show progresses. (Ahem.) The Karemma are also mentioned for the first time. “The Search, Part 1” will establish that the Ferengi do commence a tulaberry wine trade with the Karemma after this episode.

Zek and Maihar’du make what is now set as their annual appearance, having appeared in “The Nagus” in season one. The streak will be broken only in the fourth season (but made up for by two appearances in the seventh). They’ll be back in the third season’s “Prophet Motive.”

We get our first look at the Ferengi game tongo, which is part card game, part roulette, and in which players can acquire, confront, evade, or retreat. (Amusingly, the word tongo is a term in Spanish for cheating in a sporting event. I can’t imagine that’s a coincidence.)

The Dosi are never seen again, though they’re mentioned occasionally, and are fleshed out in Last Unicorn’s DS9 Core Game Book. Michael Westmore based the Dosi makeup on the colorations used by tribes in Borneo and the South Seas.

Pel is also never seen again onscreen, but she shows up in the novella “Reservoir Ferengi” by David A. McIntee in Seven Deadly Sins. However, Quark will take her advice and start stocking sand peas in the bar, as we’ll see Bashir and O’Brien eating them in “The Way of the Warrior.”

The first time this episode aired in November 1993, the title was spelled “Rules of Aquisition,” without the C. It was corrected in all subsequent reruns and on various home video releases. But I still have my VHS tape from 20 years ago with the typo....

Walk with the Prophets: “Shame on you!” There’s a lot to like about this episode: the triumphant return of Wallace Shawn as Zek, Brian Thompson playing Inglatu basically as Brian Thompson, the entertaining contrast of Kira’s and Dax’s responses to the Ferengi, Dax seeing that Pel loves Quark without realizing that Pel’s a woman (possibly the most gay-friendly moment in Star Trek screenhistory), and the sheer audacity of introducing so important a thing as the Dominion in a Ferengi comedy episode—but it doesn’t really cohere very well. The plot just sort of meanders from one point to the next.

The episode wants to address the absurdity of sexism, but it never really commits to any particular notion. Pel is an interesting character, who earns Quark’s respect (and Rom’s ire), but she ruins all of it by letting her infatuation with Quark get in the way of her mission, which is to earn profit as a female. It cuts the episode off at the knees by not letting her be what she can be because of a romance. Meanwhile, you have Dax—with the benefit of three hundred years of experience—taking a philosophical attitude (they’re assholes, but once you accept that they’re assholes, they’re kinda fun to hang out with), and Kira, who is repulsed by Zek’s advances. Indeed, we see Quark do this all the time, too, and Zek does it here: flirting heavily with women who are nothing like Ferengi women (Dax, Kira, the dabo girls, etc.) because their own society has rendered their women uninteresting. But the script never really commits to that, either, just sort of letting it lie there. (The show will do a little better with this when we meet Quark and Rom’s mother in “Family Business” next season.)

But the worst sin is the neutering of Quark. Armin Shimerman deserves so much better than this, and while he does have one shining moment (when he defends Pel to Zek and points out that Zek also took business advice from a female), he mostly spends the episode being utterly ineffective, mostly in order to make Pel look good. Even though we’ve seen Quark close plenty of deals, he falls apart in the face of the Dosi, and we never get any good sense of what his true feelings are toward Pel. He gets rid of her as soon as he realizes she’s female, and cares enough to defend her to Zek, but does he love her or does he regret losing a good advisor? Again, the episode doesn’t commit to it. Shimerman does do a great faint, though....


Warp factor rating: 5


Rewatcher’s note: There’s only a few days left for my Kickstarter campaign for a graphic novel based on the universe of my novel Dragon Precinct and its sequels. Art will be by JK Woodward (the artist on the Star Trek/Doctor Who crossover comic book). Please check it out and spread the word!

Keith R.A. DeCandido will be at Shore Leave 35 in Hunt Valley, Maryland this weekend. His schedule is here, including a self-defense workshop Saturday evening at 6pm. Among the other guests are fellow Star Trek prose stylists Lorraine Anderson, Christopher L. Bennett, Kirsten Beyer, Greg Cox, A.C. Crispin, Peter David, Michael Jan Friedman, Dave Galanter, Allyn Gibson, Robert Greenberger, Glenn Hauman, Jim Johnson, Paul Kupperberg, William Leisner, David Mack, Marco Palmieri, Aaron Rosenberg, Lawrence M. Schoen, Melissa Scott, Amy Sisson, Howard Weinstein, and Richard C. White, among many others. Oh, yeah, some obscure Canadian actor named Shatner will be there, too…

Chris Lough
1. TorChris
A quick note from production: Sorry for the lack of images in this post! Our usual source was unavailable and our secondary source was surprisingly finicky this week.
Justin Bailey
2. PaulAtreides
Is it 'hoo-man' or 'hew-man'? I believe Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens spellled it 'hew-man' in their Millennium trilogy.
David Levinson
3. DemetriosX
You really do have to give them credit for introducing the Dominion in what is, to all appearances, a silly, throwaway farce. It may have helped viewers to underestimate the Dominion at first.

It would have been nice for them to bring Pel back at least once. Quark does move on and develop interests in a number of different women over the years, but a recurring thing with Pel would have provided a lot of opportunities, too. Considering his eventual relationship with Quark's moogie, Zek also appears to have begun learning some of the disadvantages of Ferengi misogyny here.
4. tortillarat
The episode's mostly forgettable. However, I do appreciate when Dax sits down with Pel and still thinks she's male; at that point she thinks Pel is gay and reacts to it as a normal thing - no big deal.
5. bookworm1398
Personally I found Sisko's shakedown of the Grand Negus offputting - nobody should have to pay bribes to use the station's public facilities. Either they are allowed to use it or not, the station's officers should not be negotiating payoffs. And, yes, it did not benefit them personally, but still...
Matt Hamilton
6. MattHamilton
@3 and not only that but later in the series they have what amounts to a Three Stooges short with the Dominion on Empok Nor. They took some liberties with the darkness and seriousness of this show, which is a releif every once in a while
Charles Olney
7. CharlesO
Pretty terrible episode. Sure there's some fun stuff in here, but the plot is very weak and the social commentary even weaker. It's an awkward mix of goofy and trying to make a point without really selling either. It feels like an early TNG episode, and not in a particularly good way.
Matt Stoumbaugh
8. LazerWulf
I didn't think I was going to enjoy this episode, until Pel was revealed as a girl. Before that I thought that (s)he was just a typical Ferengi currying favor with Quark, only to backstab him to gain greater favor with Zek.

As to the "neutering" of Quark, I think that's more of an effect of Zek's presence than Pel's. It was pretty much the same as in "The Nagus". Quark wants to impress Zek so much that he has a fear of failing. If it was any other deal, if it fell through, he'd be like, "Oh, well, there's always another deal". If he blows an assignment from Zek, he's ruined.

Now that you mention it, I am kind of disappointed that the sexism storyline never went anywhere. Pel just gets put on a shuttlecraft (since there are no busses in space), and sent off, never to be heard from again.

Wallace Shawn is a gem, as always.
9. Ed7
@#5: Well, DS9 is a Bajoran station under Federation administration, so presumably they both contribute to its upkeep. So I can see why Bajoran and Federation citizens would get to freely use the station. But either the Bajorans or the Federation would have every right to charge a third party (like, say, Zek) for using the station. And if the cost to the leader of the Ferengi Alliance is some fertilizer, I'd say that's a fair price.
Bastiaan Stapel
10. Stapel
"It cuts the episode off at the knees"

That's indeed what it does. This could have been a very good episode, if several points in the plot would just have been written towards proper endings. As with many TNG episodes, we see a plot with great potential, but lacking the right finishing touch.

Ah, so easy commenting when having the benefits of a rewatch.
Christopher Hatton
11. Xopher
While all the criticism of this episode is completely valid, and it ultimately isn't that good (in several senses), there's one moment that's absolutely priceless.

Dax tells Pel she knows Pel is in love with Quark, then is astonished when Pel says "he doesn't even know I'm a woman." Note that PEL assumes that Dax knows her gender because she's in love with Quark (pointing to - surprise - a homophobic society among Ferengi) - but Dax thought Pel was male and thought it was sweet that "he" was in love with Quark.

I love that moment.
Christopher Hatton
12. Xopher
Which is also what tortillarat said at 4, in fewer words.

I'll be over here.
Christopher Bennett
13. ChristopherLBennett
What's interesting is how unconvincing Pel's fake ears are. You'd think the male Ferengi would notice that they don't look right, but -- like the characters in all those Shakespeare plays about young women disguising themselves as boys -- they just expect the person they're dealing with to be male because women don't act that way, and so they see what they expect to see and overlook the clues that tip off the person's real sex.

Also, come to think of it, since Ferengi ears are erogenous zones, a Ferengi male might avoid studying another male's lobes too closely lest it be misconstrued.

Has any tie-in ever offered an answer to just what it is that "Sleep can interfere with"? I think one has, but I don't remember it.
Kit Case
14. wiredog
Michael Ansara, who played Kang, has died. He was in TOS and DS9, can't think of any other actor who was in both.
George Salt
15. GeorgeSalt
Facepainting aliens. Marvelous. The Dosi would fit in with Elaine Benes' boyfriend David Puddy at a Jersey Devils hockey game. And no one would stare at them and shriek "aliens from the other side of the galaxy!" Tosk, the Hunters, the Wadi, and now the Dosi ... I am really starting to hate the Gamma Quadrant. The alien races that have been introduced so far are boring and unimaginative.
16. RobinM
I always thought there should have been more to Pel's story. I wondered what happened to her next . It also turns out Quark met a girl just like his mother, no wonder he freaks out.
Keith DeCandido
18. krad
wiredog: Charlie Brill was also in both, as Arne Darvin in both "The Trouble with Tribbles" and "Trials and Tribble-nation's."
Keith DeCandido
19. krad
And of course John Colicos and William Campbell, the other two Klingons in "Blood Oath".......
Matt Stoumbaugh
20. LazerWulf
I finally realized what the Dosi remind me of... Ahsoka from Star Wars: The Clone Wars!
21. Andy Holman
Another actor who'd appeared in both TOS and DS9 was Majel Barrett, albeit playing different characters. There are people out there with far more encyclopedic knowledge of casting than me, though, so she (and the others mentioned) could be merely the tip of the iceberg.

Keith DeCandido
22. krad
Oh, if you want to get into actors who appeared in both, there's also Joseph Ruskin, who was in "Gamsters of Triskelion" on TOS and "The House of Quark," "Improbable Cause," and "Looking for par'Mach in All the Wrong Places" on DS9. (He later appeared in Voyager, Insurrection, and Enterprise.) And you can make an argument for all the people who appeared in "The Trouble with Tribbles"..............

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
23. Zabeus
There's not much to complain about this episode. I don't like the Ferengi comedy episodes usually but this was pretty good considering. It would be better if (despite being female) Pel was a your typical scheming, backstabbing Ferengi and not just a girl in love. Maybe they would've made her recurring then. Quark was not at his best here. I'm looking forward to the next episode where he's in top form. (for about 5 minutes anyway)

They don't get any more interesting, unfortunately, until Jem-Hadar. One of the problems with DS9.
Peter Ramberg
24. Philalethes
Don't forget William Shallert, who was in Trouble with Tribbles, and played a Bajoran in an upcoming episode.
Chris Nash
25. CNash
I'll admit, I procrastinated a little on watching this episode, and so I'm playing catchup tonight on "Necessary Evil". I had it down in my mind as being one of the, er, less good Ferengi episodes, but really all I could remember of it was that Pel was a woman and that she and Quark end up in a bed together.

So I stuck the DVD on, fearing the worst... and found that it really wasn't as bad as I (mis)remembered! All of Zek's scenes are great - his despairing whine of "Shame on you!" as he exits getting the biggest laugh from me - though I've now started wondering how a planetary head of state can get away with "dropping in" on DS9 all the time with only a single manservant for security...
26. Reiko
@13 - They're all fake ears! Honestly, I didn't notice anything about Pel's ears any more than the other Ferengi (and there were a lot of fake ears in this episode, you must admit).

Mostly this episode was amusing fluff with a few great lines. But the subtlety of dropping in the first reference to the Dominion here was pretty brilliant, especially given how throwaway the references to or encounters with most other Gamma Quadrant races have been so far.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
27. Lisamarie
I'm sorry, but I really can't get past the whole, "Oh yeah, they lock up their women, don't let them read or earn money or wear clothes, or even have any kind of say in ANYTHING to the point where it is a crime to even listen to them, but they're REALLY FUN GUYS!"

From all accounts, the former coworker who drugged and assualted/raped a bunch of people I work with and then video taped it over a period of a few years was also a really fun guy. Doesn't mean I'd ever grace him with my presence!

Seriously, f*** you, Ferengi

Other than that, I actually did enjoy the episode (although I didn't even realize it was supposed to be a surprise that she was female, I pegged it right away!), mostly due to the acting.
Joseph Newton
28. crzydroid
I still think this episode dealt better with the issue than "Profit and Lace." You're right though, it's ruined by the fact that she loses her head over romance. I guess I didn't realize this was supposed to be a Ferengi comedy episode. I thought that it was going to be at first when Zek showed up, but it seemed like a pretty serious episode to me. Maybe I just didn't get what was supposed to be funny about it. But we've had some pretty bad over-the-top Ferengi comedy episodes, so this one wasn't that bad.

It's interesting to me that the Dominion is mentioned already. I'd had it in my head that the early couple of years of DS9 was all about the Cardassians, and then the Dominion comes in. But aside from the pilot setting the whole situation up, we didn't really see any Cardassians in the first season until the end. And then there was mention of them at the start of this season, and then there was "Cardassians" a few episodes back. And then BOOM!, we get the Dominion already.

@27: Seriously, I'm wondering what is with Dax in all these early episodes. I'm wondering now whether she isn't this disempowering to women in later episodes and I just never noticed. I don't think we've seen her, as the science officer, really ever do that much science yet. She usually just has girl talk scenes making episodes like "Melora" fail the Bechdel test. And here she says a rapist culture is fun people if you can get past the rape culture part. With the number of mentions of Curzon, too--now that I think about it--it's almost as if she still IS Curzon, instead of brand new Jadzia Dax who is a woman, and who had memories of being a woman before being joined.
29. Zabeus
I don't see how Jadzia was disempowering to women. She likes Tongo and drinking and humor. Her years of experience makes her wise enough to see that being angry won't change their culture. It doesn't mean she'd want to live on Ferenginar. What is the alternative? If any interaction with Ferengi is an implicit blessing of their behavior, then they shouldn't be on DS9 at all. Jake shouldn't be friends with Nog. The Federation shouldn't have any relations with them. Both sides should exist in a perpetual cold war, disgusted with the culture of the other.
If anything, this episode shows how she's already come into her own. She's not the wallflower of S1 and she has strong opinions even when everyone disagrees. If anything, I felt she exhibited sexism against men in a few later episodes. Maybe people complained about her role here so they moved her to the opposite extreme.
Joseph Newton
30. crzydroid
@29: A good point about the interaction, but I think Lisamarie above makes a good point as well. Maybe you can play Tongo with them without condoning their culture, but it can certainly beg the question. And I certainly haven't sat down and analyzed all of Dax's scenes for possible examples of sexism. So it's quite possible that at this moment, having been guided by certain points in the conversation, I am just remembering certain scenes above others. There are definitely times in these early episodes where I've found her character amusing. It's that with the recent episodes, I seem to recall scenes where she is just having the stereotypical "girl talk" about relationships, and I find it hard to recall many scenes where she actually functions in her role as Science Officer.
Christopher Bennett
31. ChristopherLBennett
It's hard to find a culture that doesn't have some prejudices or injustices. Lots of us have older relatives who hold sexual or racial or religious prejudices, not out of malice, but just because it was part of the culture they were raised with. Does that mean we should damn them entirely and refuse to have anything to do with them? Does it mean they have no worthwhile qualities we can appreciate even while disapproving of their prejudices?

Okay, so Ferengi are sexist. But what's the best way to change that? Being judgmental and damning toward them? That may let you feel self-righteous and superior, but it won't give them any incentive to improve. But maybe engaging with them, showing them how worthwhile and capable women can be, will get them to rethink their own prejudices and become willing to change. Indeed, DS9 pretty much proves that. Rom and Nog changed a lot of their views due to the relationships they formed with non-Ferengi men and women. Engagement and positive encouragement changed them in ways that rejection and condemnation never could. Even Quark, for all his determination to remain a "proper Ferengi," did soften in a lot of his views due to the influence of the non-Ferengi who engaged with him and, arguably, befriended him.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
32. Lisamarie
Very true, and being insular doesn't really help anybody, although Jax's handwavey dismissal of it (seemingly, I'm sure in her head she does not approve of such things) - but I suppose as a woman it's a little harder for me to watch that, nor would I feel comfortable/safe being around them. I suppose it would be hard to strike a balance between wanting to be a positive influence and good example indirectly, or feeling like I was condoning such things or even (in real life) putting myself in danger or in a position where I am going to be objectified. Obviously in Star Trek the Ferengi don't seem to make it a habit of holding other women to these standards (unless you count Menage a Troi) but in real life I would definitely keep my distance from such men.

I do want to clarify that I have no problem with playing Tongo and drinking!

Subscribe to this thread

Receive notification by email when a new comment is added. You must be a registered user to subscribe to threads.
Post a comment