“The Magnificent Ferengi”
Written by Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler
Directed by Chip Chalmers
Season 6, Episode 10
Production number 40510-534
Original air date: December 17, 1997
Station log: Quark proudly announces that he has obtained syrup of squill. Odo thinks that means the drought is over on Balancar—but it turns out that there was never a drought, it was a story to allow the stockpiling of squill to drive the price up. But Quark heard that a prominent person on Balancar ordered a pair of Ferengi rain slippers, which he wouldn’t need if there was a drought. So Quark ordered several cases at a cheaper price, threatening to expose the scheme to the entire quadrant if they didn’t. (Of course, he just exposed it to the entire bar…)
Everyone’s thrilled with this story, right up until Dax, Bashir, and O’Brien walk in, having just returned from a dangerous mission on the Defiant. Quark is cranky because Starfleet just stole his audience.
Then he gets a call from Zek: Ishka has been taken prisoner by the Dominion while en route to Vulcan to get her ears raised. The grand nagus wants Quark to rescue her, and he’ll reward him with 50 bars of latinum. Quark recruits Rom to help for half the latinum, minus Quark’s 20% finder’s fee, of course. (Quark also explains to Rom about Zek and Ishka’s affair, and her unofficial role as his chief economic advisor, which Rom has a bit of trouble dealing with.)
They need a team to help rescue her. Said team will be told that the nagus is giving them 20 bars, and it will be split “evenly” among them, leaving the remaining 30 to be split between Quark and Rom.
However, Quark insists that the team only be Ferengi, that they can be just as tough as Klingons or Breen or Nausicaans. Rom is dubious, but goes along. Their first recruit is Nog, who actually has military training as a Starfleet officer. Next is Leck, a mercenary who isn’t interested in latinum, but loves a challenge, and is in it for the chance to go up against the Dominion. Then they recruit Gaila, who is destitute after the events of “Business as Usual,” and in prison for vagrancy. Gaila initially threatens vengeance on Quark for ruining him, but changes his tune once Quark pays his fine to free him and gives him a chance to earn some latinum.
Nog starts their training, but it doesn’t go particularly smoothly, made worse when they discover that Quark doesn’t have a ship that will get them to where they’re holding Ishka. They’re then interrupted by Brunt. He’s been fired from the FCA, and he wants to sign up (he figures rescuing Ishka will put him back in Zek’s good graces). Nobody wants him on the team, but he does have a ship, so they reluctantly let him join.
Unfortunately, Nog’s practice runs of rescuing Ishka go spectacularly badly. Quark and Rom can’t hit the broad side of a barn, Gaila throws up his hands, screams like a little girl, and runs away, Brunt surrenders, and Leck shoots Ishka (figuring they couldn’t rescue her, so he put her out of her misery). Quark and Rom realize they need a Plan B: they need to do what Ferengi do best, which is negotiate.
There is to be a prisoner exchange. Sisko and Kira agree to hand over Keevan to Quark to offer the Dominion in return for Ishka. Quark still takes the whole team, as he doesn’t trust the Dominion, and the exchange is happening on Empok Nor—Quark’s choice, as they know the layout, since it has the same design as DS9 (and Nog has been there before).
They set up base camp in the infirmary, arriving before the Dominion does. Keevan reveals that he’s not all that thrilled to be returned home, as he failed to follow the directive that all Vorta commit suicide when captured. To that end, Keevan escapes while being guarded by Gaila (who fell asleep), but they get him back just as the Dominion shows up. A Vorta named Yelgrun has arrived with a platoon of Jem’Hadar—and also Ishka.
Keevan tries to convince them to escape before they’re all killed, but Quark refuses to give in. He, Nog, and Rom go to the Promenade to negotiate while the others keep an eye on Keevan in the infirmary.
Quark’s terms are simple: all but two of the Jem’Hadar leave the station and their ship departs at warp nine. This will leave Yelgrun stranded for a few days, but it’s enough to guarantee the Ferengi’s safety after the exchange. Yelgrun points out that he can just have his Jem’Hadar storm the infirmary, but then Keevan will be killed without revealing what Dominion secrets he might have told the Federation.
Yelgrun agrees to the terms. The Ferengi are all celebratory until Rom accidentally reveals that the reward is 50 bars, not 20. An argument ensues, culminating in Gaila firing his rifle—but he shoots Keevan instead of Quark, killing the Vorta.
Luckily, they’re in the infirmary, which still has some working medical equipment. Nog attempts to revive Keevan with neural stimulators, which fails—but an impulse causes Keevan’s arm to flail. This gives Nog the idea of making it look like Keevan’s alive by copious use of neural stimulators up and down his body.
The prisoner exchange happens outside the airlock where Brunt’s ship is docked. Nog manages to Weekend-at-Bernie’s Keevan down the corridor, which works fine until Keevan walks into a bulkhead. But once Ishka is safe, Leck and Rom kill the two Jem’Hadar while Brunt and Gaila take Yelgrun prisoner. Quark figures they can turn Yelgrun over to Starfleet. (“They gave us a Vorta, we’ll give them a Vorta.”) Unfortunately, the neural stimulator signal is jammed, so even as the Ferengi and the Vorta depart the station, Keevan is still walking into the bulkhead over and over again….
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Rom disables the induction matrix on the impulse engines of Brunt’s ship so that Keevan can’t activate the ship and escape. Quark and the others still chase after Keevan when he does escape because sometimes Rom gets things wrong…
The Sisko is of Bajor: Quark and Rom spend a lot of time crawling through the station ductwork, and at one point they accidentally wind up in Sisko’s office. The look on Sisko’s face when they show up is priceless.
Don’t ask my opinion next time: Kira speaks to Starfleet on Quark’s behalf to convince them to turn Keevan over, in gratitude for Quark rescuing her in “Sacrifice of Angels.”
There is no honor in being pummeled: Quark convinces Nog to join the rescue operation by giving him the title of strategic operations officer—“Just like Commander Worf?” Nog asks eagerly.
Preservation of matter and energy is for wimps: Odo takes great glee in pointing out to Quark that no one wants to hear stories of economic triumph, especially during a war when there are real heroes. Quark’s reply that such stories are considered heroic on Ferenginar, which prompts Odo to remind Quark that they’re not on Ferenginar.
Rules of Acquisition: Ishka gives financial advice to Yelgrun even while she’s his prisoner. Yelgrun actually finds it useful, though it doesn’t alter his plan to kill Ishka unless Quark and Rom come through.
Tough little ship: The Defiant has undertaken a scouting mission behind enemy lines, the first such to succeed since the Dominion’s retreat in “Sacrifice of Angels.”
Victory is life: It’s never made entirely clear why the Dominion targeted Ishka…
What happens on the holosuite stays on the holosuite: Nog apparently borrowed Dax’s cave program that she practices with the bat’leth on for the battle drill (cf. “Blood Oath,” “The Way of the Warrior,” etc.).
Keep your ears open: “Family. You understand.”
“Not really. I was cloned.”
“No parents—that explains a lot.”
“No parents, no sweetheart, no investment portfolio—”
“—and no patience.”
Quark explaining things to Yelgrun, Yelgrun not really getting it, Rom and Ishka commenting on that lack of understanding, and Yelgrun shutting everyone up.
Welcome aboard: Back for their second and final appearances are Christopher Shea as Keevan (following “Rocks and Shoals”), Josh Pais as Gaila (following “Business as Usual”), and Hamilton Camp as Leck (following his brief cameo in “Ferengi Love Songs”). Shea will play three more roles, as a fish-like alien in Voyager’s “Think Tank,” as a Suliban in Enterprise’s “Detained,” and as an Andorian in Enterprise’s “Cease Fire.” Camp will be seen again on Voyager’s “Extreme Risk” as Vrelk.
Recurring regulars Cecily Adams (Ishka), Jeffrey Combs (Brunt), Aron Eisenberg (Nog), Max Grodénchik (Rom), and Chase Masterson (Leeta) are all here, as well.
But the big guest is the great musician Iggy Pop as Yelgrun.
Trivial matters: Ira Steven Behr, a longtime fan of Iggy Pop, had wanted him to play Grady in “Past Tense, Part II,” but the schedules couldn’t be worked out. This is for the best, as Pop’s role here was far more entertaining. It also marked the first time Behr was on set for shooting, as he wasn’t going to miss one of his musical heroes appearing on the show he ran.
The original intent had been for Zek to be the one kidnapped, but Wallace Shawn was unavailable.
Quark’s story involving syrup of squill and Ishka’s waxing rhapsodic on hypicate root futures are both riffs on the W.C. Fields film It’s a Gift.
Yelgrun’s comment that he thought the Breen were annoying is a minor bit of foreshadowing of the Breen’s eventual joining the Dominion next season.
This is the last appearance of both Gaila and Leck on screen, but both are seen in tie-in fiction. Both Gaila and Leck (and Brunt and Ishka for that matter) are part of the Ferenginar portion of Worlds of DS9 Volume 3 by your humble rewatcher, and Gaila also appears in my Demons of Air and Darkness and David A. McIntee’s “Reservoir Ferengi” in Seven Deadly Sins.
Yelgrun is seen in three games: The Star Trek Customizable Card Game, Star Trek Online, and Star Trek Conquest. (The CCG lists him as a musician, which is at odds with the Vorta having no sense of aesthetics, but is a reference to his being played by Iggy Pop.)
This is the second appearance of Empok Nor, following the station’s eponymous episode. It will be seen again in “Covenant.”
Walk with the Prophets: “I hate Ferengi.” What a fun episode. It doesn’t make any kind of sense on the face of it, but you don’t care because you’re laughing so hard. Sure, it’s absurd for the Dominion to capture the secret paramour of the Ferengi Grand Nagus. Politically speaking, I can almost see the kidnapping of Zek, as originally intended, but even that doesn’t have any obvious benefit for the Dominion except for a prisoner exchange—except, of course, the entire notion of a prisoner exchange comes from Quark, not Yelgrun. So why did they do it?
For that matter, Quark’s motivation for only using Ferengi for his rescue operation is pretty thin, and shows a level of pride that flies in the face of common sense that we don’t often see from Quark. Maybe the events of “The House of Quark” gave him a taste of how cool it is to be the hero of a story told in a bar, but while the fact that he’s being upstaged by Starfleet is an understandable motivator for the rescue in general, it makes no sense for him to limit the team to Ferengi.
But the above complaints require thought, and this is an episode that encourages you to turn your brain off for an hour and enjoy the ride, because the ride is spectacular. Armin Shimerman and Max Grodénchik’s double act is honed to a razor’s edge at this point, and every interaction is comedy gold, from crawling around the ductwork in the beginning to the negotiations with Yelgrun.
And their support is even better. As expected, Jeffrey Combs is magnificently oily as Brunt and Aron Eisenberg is hilariously earnest as Nog. Christopher Shea doesn’t quite engender the same levels of contempt that he did in “Rocks and Shoals,” but he’s still a spectacular douchecanoe, to the point where you don’t feel even a little sorry for him being shot and having his corpse desecrated (and points to him for giving us the awesome physical comedy of lurching down the corridor and constantly crashing into the bulkhead). Josh Pais as usual does an excellent turn as Gaila, still the same person generally, but completely broken by the aftermath of “Business as Usual” (his girly scream during the holosuite simulation was epic).
But the true find here is the great character actor Hamilton Camp, who gives us the best Ferengi ever in Leck. Camp beautifully plays Leck’s psychotic lunacy, adding a touch of true insanity to a situation that’s already pretty nuts. Leck is delightful (and his presence led to me writing the Mission Impossible-esque sequence where Leck breaks into a secure archive on Ferenginar, which was just so much fun to write!).
Mention must also be made of an impressively deadpan turn by Iggy Pop—one of the world’s most kinetic performers—as Yelgrun, and a script that plays to every single actor’s comic strengths.
Ultimately, this succeeds as a comic action piece because the action is really good, and all the comedy is genuinely funny. Even the parts that should be wince inducing (like the animation of Keevan’s corpse) induce belly laughs. Just a delightful romp.
Warp factor rating: 7
Keith R.A. DeCandido reminds everyone that his Sleepy Hollow novel Children of the Revolution will be out this month, just in time for season 2 of the FOX TV show on which it’s based to debut. You can preorder the novel from the SleepyReads web site, and Keith has this along with several other of his books (including a bunch of his Trek works) for sale as well.