Written by Louis P. DeSantis & Robert J. Bolivar and Hans Beimler
Directed by Avery Brooks
Season 4, Episode 24
Production episode 40514-497
Original air date: June 10, 1996
Station log: Quark is back from two weeks on Ferenginar with some pretty awful news from his annual insurance physical: he has Dorek Syndrome, which is incurable, and he’ll be dead in a few days. It’s very rare, afflicting only one in five million Ferengi—Quark comments morbidly that he finally beat the odds. Rom is beside himself, suggesting he get a second opinion from Bashir, but Quark dismisses the notion. How good a doctor can he be when he doesn’t even charge?
Quark’s biggest concern is the paying off of his debts so he can get into the Divine Treasury after death. Rom suggests selling his vacuum-desiccated remains on the futures market. Quark doesn’t think anyone will buy, as he considers himself a joke. Rom’s assurances that he’s a pillar of the community and an important businessman on the station fall on deaf (if very large) ears, because the only opinions Quark cares about are those of other Ferengi. To them, he’s just small-time, but he doesn’t have any other way of paying off his debts, so he goes ahead and puts his body up for sale.
Keiko has gone on a botanical survey to the Gamma Quadrant, accompanied by Kira and Bashir. O’Brien is beside himself with worry, and that concern metastasizes when the Volga returns early from its mission badly damaged. They had a collision with an asteroid, and Keiko was badly hurt; Bashir had no choice but to transfer the baby from Keiko’s womb to Kira’s. It was the only way to save them both. However, because Bajoran gestation periods are only five months, the ties between mother and fetus are stronger, so removing the child from Kira and putting him back into Keiko would be too risky for both Kira and the kid. So Kira must carry the child to term.
Quark is suffering considerable anguish, as there’s only one bid and it’s from Rom. But even as he bemoans the entire course of his life, a massive anonymous bid comes in: five hundred bars of gold-pressed latinum for the entire set. Quark thinks it was Grand Nagus Zek who made the bid, and while Rom suggests that he use that to stimulate further bidding, Quark doesn’t want to risk offending the nagus, and so accepts the bid as final. Then, while he and Rom are making funeral arrangements and disbursing the five hundred bars to his creditors, Bashir interrupts with a message from Dr. Orpax, the physician who diagnosed him: Quark doesn’t have Dorek Syndrome.
This news has several consequences. The first is that Quark is going to live. The second is that Quark has a great case for malpractice against Orpax. But the third is that the anonymous bidder wasn’t Zek—it was Brunt, who shows up at the station demanding his merchandise. He paid for a dead Quark, and he wants a dead Quark. He’s fully aware that Quark doesn’t have Dorek Syndrome, and isn’t willing to accept a refund, not even one that Quark sweetens by twelve more bars. This isn’t business for Brunt, it’s personal. He’s disgusted by Quark’s entire existence, at one point accusing him of philanthropy (an insult that cuts Quark to the very core of his being). The only alternative he’s willing to consider is Quark breaking the contract. If he does, the FCA will declare him an outcast. All his assets will be seized and sold to the lowest bidder, no Ferengi will be permitted to do business with him, and he’ll be shunned from Ferengi society.
Keiko is recovering slowly. She’s incredibly grateful to Kira for what she’s done—but she also misses being with her son. She hates having to make appointments to see her child. At one point, when Kira’s over—and after O’Brien has provided her with a back pillow that’s presumably left over from when Keiko was pregnant with Molly on the Enterprise—they invite her to come live in their quarters until the baby is born. Kira agrees, getting her own room in the O’Briens’ cabin. Molly immediately wants to play in “Aunt Nerys’s” room.
Quark goes to Garak to hire the former Obsidian Order agent to kill him. Rom is aghast, but Quark can’t be like his mother, or Rom, or Nog, who all defied Ferengi tradition. He’s a Ferengi businessman, and he can’t violate his contract.
Unfortunately, hiring Garak to kill him has just made Quark completely paranoid, expecting to see Garak around every corner. When he goes to sleep, he dreams that he’s in the Divine Treasury and is lectured by Gint, the first-ever Grand Nagus, who wrote the Rules of Acquisition. Gint (who looks a lot like Rom) tells him to break the contract because his life is at stake. Sure, it violates a Rule, but so what? They’re just guidelines—signposts, as it were. He just called them rules because no one would buy a book called The Suggestions of Acquisition. Brunt also appears in the dream and reminds him of the consequences, and then tries to strangle him. Quark wakes up, relieved to be alive, and immediately goes to break the contract. Brunt announces to the bar that Quark’s Ferengi business license is revoked, no Ferengi may be employed by or do business with Quark, and he places a seal of disapproval next to the door. Within a few hours, the bar is completely empty, cleaned out of all items. Quark doesn’t even have his jacket anymore, and he tells Rom that Brunt will be back shortly for his shirt. (When Rom offers his own shirt, Quark replies, “I’d rather be naked.”)
Then the parade starts. First Bashir brings in a case of brandy that a patient tried to give him as payment. Then Dax provides some hideously ugly glasses her sister sent her. Then Sisko announces that they’re doing some restructuring on the habitat ring and he needs to store some furniture. Quark now has the space, after all. However, Quark can’t allow it—at least not without a storage fee. Sisko just says, “Send me a bill.”
Quark realizes that Rom was right at the beginning of the episode: his being a pillar of the community is an asset.
Don’t ask my opinion next time: Kira is remarkably okay with carrying the O’Briens’ baby and moving in with them. It’s a massive disruption of her life, and it’s a testament to the strength of Kira’s heroism that she doesn’t even bat an eyelash at any of it.
The slug in your belly: When O’Brien complains about how active Keiko has been during pregnancy and declares, “It’s as if I have to remind her she’s pregnant!” Dax—who has been pregnant while in previous female hosts—has a magnificently sarcastic response: “Yeah, I guess the extra weight, the morning sickness, the mood swings, the medical examinations—they aren’t reminders enough.”
Rules of Acquisition: For the first time, we get the latinum scale: one bar is twenty strips, which is in turn two thousand slips. We also get two more Rules: #17 (“A contract is a contract is a contract…but only between Ferengi,” which is pretty much the plot in a nutshell) and #239 (“Never be afraid to mislabel a product”).
Plain, simple: Garak is still, for whatever reason, trying to maintain the pretense that he wasn’t with the Obsidian Order. When Quark says that he wasn’t always a tailor, Garak’s reply is that he used to be a gardener. However, once Quark makes it clear that he wants to hire Garak to kill Quark himself, Garak is more than happy to take the commission.
What happens in the holosuite stays in the holosuite: Garak demonstrates several methods of killing Quark on the holosuite, none of which are satisfactory to Quark. It’s either too loud, too messy, too savage, too ineffective (poison won’t work because he just won’t eat or drink anything), or not useful because there needs to be a mostly intact body left behind to provide for Brunt. Eventually, they agree that Garak should just surprise him with something out of the blue.
Keep your ears open: “I’m a businessman—and more than that, I’m a Ferengi businessman. Do you know what that means? It means that I’m not exploiting and cheating people at random, I’m doing it according to a specific set of rules—the Rules of Acquisition. And I won’t disregard them when I find them inconvenient.”
Quark showing his Ferengi orthodoxy.
Welcome aboard: It’s all recurring regulars this time around: Andrew J. Robinson as Garak, Rosalind Chao as Keiko, Hana Hatae as Molly, Jeffrey Combs as Brunt, and Max Grodénchik doing double duty as Rom and the image of Grand Nagus Gint.
Trivial matters: The O’Brien baby being placed in Kira’s womb was necessitated by Nana Visitor announcing she was pregnant (with a child conceived with Alexander Siddig). They didn’t want to make Kira pregnant when Keiko was already established as being so back in “Accession,” and they didn’t want to just shoot her from the chest up, as they did with Gates McFadden on TNG (and would do again for Roxann Dawson on Voyager), due to Kira’s more physically active role on the show.
Rom mentions that Quark was grand nagus once, albeit only for a week, which occurred in “The Nagus.” That episode also established the Ferengi practice of vacuum-desiccating remains of the dead and selling them.
Dr. Orpax will be seen in your humble rewatcher’s Ferenginar short novel in Worlds of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Volume 3, where he cares for Leeta when she’s pregnant with her and Rom’s baby. That novel establishes what this episode implies but never comes out and states: that Brunt bribed Orpax to misdiagnose Quark.
Among the sins Brunt enumerates against Quark are his covering for his mother’s FCA audit in “Family Business” and his secret settlement with the union of his bar workers in “Bar Association.” (Surprisingly, he doesn’t mention Nog joining Starfleet, though he does accuse Quark of practically having joined Starfleet for being so Federation-like.)
The seal that Brunt places on the bar will remain there until “Ferengi Love Songs” next season, when Brunt will restore Quark’s business license.
Quark is now the second opening-credits regular (besides Worf), and third regular character (besides Garak), who has been exiled from his own people.
Walk with the Prophets: “For a man who wants to kill himself, you are strangely determined to live.” It’s becoming increasingly obvious to me that the bad reputation the Ferengi episodes get is almost entirely an artifact of the depths of awful that “Profit and Lace” and “The Emperor’s New Cloak” sink to. Because honestly, you look at what we’ve got so far and we’ve got solid episodes like “The Nagus,” well-meaning episodes like “Rules of Acquisition” and “Prophet Motive,” and really excellent episodes like “Family Business,” “Little Green Men,” and “Bar Association.” I really think those two stinkers from the sixth and seventh season have had a warping effect on the view of Ferengi episodes as a whole. Certainly my own memory of such were tainted by those two for a long time, at least until I spent a week in 2004 re-watching the Ferengi episodes.
This one is also quite excellent, as it plays up the complexity of Quark as a character. On the one hand, he wants to be the ideal Ferengi. On the other hand, he really can’t be, because he’s on a Bajoran station run by the Federation in one of the biggest ports of call in the galaxy. Half his employees aren’t Ferengi, almost none of his customers are Ferengi. He’s not really going to be able to be the ideal Ferengi, particularly while being so proximate to the Federation and on a station administered by Starfleet.
Of course, both Brunt and Quark himself view this as a failing on Quark’s part, but Brunt takes it to an extreme. And ultimately, Quark has one instinct he simply cannot overcome: he doesn’t want to die. The scene in the holosuite with Garak is priceless, as Quark has an excuse ready made for why every possible way Garak could kill him doesn’t work, and then when he agrees to be surprised, he goes into full-on paranoia mode. He wants very much not to die, and that’s leaves him with only one choice: to break a contract.
Quark is, in many ways, the exact opposite of Worf. By living most of his life outside the Klingon Empire, Worf has been able to be the perfect Klingon, not affected by the necessary compromises to the ideals of honor that everyday life in the empire force upon one. But Ferengi ideals are ones of compromises and deal-making, and by living outside the Ferengi Alliance, Quark has been unable to live that ideal.
In the end, they both wind up in the same place: exiled from their people.
A lot of why this episode works is some superb acting by Armin Shimerman, Andrew J. Robinson, Jeffrey Combs, and especially Max Grodénchik. Rom has really grown as a character, and it’s been fun to see him crawl out of Quark’s shadow. In particular, what’s notable is that most of the interactions between Quark and Rom have been colored by the fact that Rom was also Quark’s employee. The only time that dynamic really changed was in “Family Business” when they were on Ferenginar and truly were brothers rather than employer and employee. With Rom’s shift to engineering, he gets to be in that role again, and Grodénchik makes Rom a good sounding board for Quark. (He also does an amazing job as Gint, the first grand nagus, just a hilarious performance.) And the banter between Shimerman and Grodénchik is simply superb, with the former doing such a stellar job as the latter’s straight man, from the opening where Quark pretends like he’s in a good mood to the conversation in the empty bar at the end.
Not much to say about the O’Brien-Kira subplot, as you can see the wires on that one. This is What They’re Doing To Accommodate Nana Visitor’s Pregnancy, and I’m glad they made it real rather than limit what Kira can do on the show with trick camera work, but the subplot itself was very obviously there to service a real-world need. Luckily, it didn’t take up much time. (And Molly asking if she can play in Aunt Nerys’s room was just the cutest damn thing…)
Warp factor rating: 8
Keith R.A. DeCandido’s birthday is today. Please congratulate him on another successful trip around the sun!