Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch

Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “False Profits”

“False Profits”
Written by George Brozak and Joe Menosky
Directed by Cliff Bole
Season 3, Episode 5
Production episode 144
Original air date: October 2, 1996
Stardate: 50074.3

Captain’s log. Voyager has detected signs of a wormhole that has appeared in a region of space several times. That indicates that it may come back. Since it’s been there before, the other end may be fixed. It’s a long shot, but worth investigating. Tuvok also detects a nearby Class M world that has Bronze Age technology, but sensors are also picking up a replicator of a type in common use in the Alpha Quadrant.

After a probe examines the planet for dress codes and such, Chakotay and Paris beam down in native outfits. Chakotay detects the replicator in a nearby temple, but the locals inform them that they can’t even go near the temple without “ears”—necklaces in the shape of a very large ear. They trade their shoes for ears.

The two Great Sages emerge from the temple, and they turn out to be a pair of Ferengi, who dispense wisdom that matches several different Rules of Acquisition. They accept petitions, but their response to same is to preach exploitation of workers and riches for themselves.

The locals have a prophecy that the two Ferengi have inserted themselves into rather seamlessly (including their arrival in fire, which happened when their shuttlepod crashed), and so have become the Great Sages.

Tuvok does a Google search and finds the Memory Alpha entry for “The Price.” These are the same two Ferengi, Dr. Arridor and Kol, who were stranded in the Delta Quadrant at the end of that episode by the Barzan Wormhole. Janeway wants to beam the two Ferengi off the planet so they’ll stop exploiting the locals. Tuvok points out the Prime Directive issues, but Arridor and Kol were engaged in negotiations on a Starfleet ship, so Janeway feels justified in “rescuing” them from being stranded in the Delta Quadrant, especially if they can get through the wormhole.

To that end, Kim and Torres have figured out a way to attract the wormhole terminus back to this location sooner. They set to work at that.

Janeway beams Arridor and Kol up, and the Ferengi immediately accuse her of kidnapping. They also point out that just yanking their Great Sages without explanation will send the community below into a tizzy—basically the same argument Tuvok made earlier, except Janeway actually buys it from the Ferengi for no obvious reason and beams them back. Arridor immediately sets up a dampening field to keep from being beamed back up.

Janeway then decides to out-Ferengi the Ferengi. Neelix is surgically altered to look like a Ferengi, despite never having met a Ferengi and knowing nothing about them because, I guess, he’s short? He is sent down with a replicated Nagal staff to pose as the Grand Proxy, the messenger for the Grand Nagus. The wormhole, he says, has opened, and the Nagus has called for Arridor and Kol to return home, leaving their holdings on this planet with the Nagus. The pair are reluctant to leave their wealth behind, and eventually hit on the notion of attacking and killing the Grand Proxy.

Neelix folds like a cheap suit and admits he’s an imposter at the first sign of violence. However, Chakotay and Paris learn of the final verse of the song about the Great Sages which chronicles their eventual departure. Neelix changes his tune and says that he’s really the Holy Pilgrim, here to lead the Great Sages back into the black sky.

Arridor and Kol resist, but the Voyager crew re-creates the final verse of the song, including using photon bursts to re-create one of the omens. Unfortunately, the locals interpret the idea of them ascending by fire to burning them at the stake—not just Arridor and Kol, but the Holy Pilgrim, also, which doesn’t fill Neelix with warm fuzzies. Chakotay and Paris have to find and deactivate the dampening field (which they accomplish by the simple expedient of shooting it), thus enabling Voyager to beam everyone, plus the Ferengi shuttlepod, up.

Janeway puts the two in custody and then heads to the wormhole terminus, which Kim and Torres have managed to attract to them. However, Arridor and Kol overpower their security guard, er, somehow and steal their shuttle by shooting the shuttlebay doors. They head for the wormhole and put up a graviton pulse to keep Voyager from beaming them back. Said pulse messes with the wormhole, drawing the Ferengi pod in and then it disappears and Voyager can’t get it back because the episode is over.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Kim and Torres have the ability to summon the wormhole, but only for the 42 minutes of this episode, after which they lose it. When Janeway asks for options at the end, Kim says they have no options, which is the only time in the entire history of Star Trek that anyone has ever given up so thoroughly without trying anything.

There’s coffee in that nebula! Janeway doesn’t listen to Tuvok’s logical argument for why they shouldn’t kidnap the Ferengi, but does listen to Arridor’s bullshit one. Sure.

Mr. Vulcan. Tuvok’s security guards are so well trained that they can’t hold onto two Ferengi morons and can’t stop them from stealing their shuttle. Sure. 

Star Trek: Voyager

Screenshot: CBS

Everybody comes to Neelix’s. Neelix actually does a decent job of pretending to be the Grand Proxy right up until the part where he’s threatened with violence.

Forever an ensign. Just like in “Manuevers,” Kim is the most enthusiastic about the possibility of getting home, which makes you wonder why he went to so much trouble to not be home in “Non Sequitur.”

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. The Ferengi have several scantily clad women at their side regularly, who wear revealing outfits that would do William Ware Theiss proud.

Do it.

“I am in need of assistance. My sandal shop is failing. I can no longer feed my family.”

“Same old song.”

“My wife and her mother, my five children, the baby…”

“That’s seven employees—eight if you count the infant. How can your shop be failing?”

“You’re not paying them, are you?”

–A sandal maker petitioning the Great Sages, and Kol and Arridor giving very Ferengi advice.

Welcome aboard. Dan Shor reprises his role as Arridor from TNG’s “The Price,” while Leslie Jordan plays Kol. (Kol was played by an extra, J.R. Quinonez, in the TNG episode.)

Michael Ensign, last seen in TNG’s “First Contact” and DS9’s “The Forsaken,” and to be seen in Enterprise’s “Stigma,” plays the bard. Rob LaBelle makes his second of three appearances on the show, the other two being a couple of different Talaxians in “Faces” and the upcoming “Homestead.” Alan Altshuld, last seen in TNG’s “Starship Mine” and “Gambit, Part 1” and to be seen in the fourth season’s “Day of Honor,” plays the sandal-maker. In all three cases, it’s the only one of these actors’ roles on Trek where they don’t have any facial prosthetics.

Trivial matters: This episode serves as a sequel to TNG’s “The Price,” though many of the details from that episode are botched: the wormhole’s other terminus from Barzan was in the Gamma Quadrant initially, belying Kim’s comment that the terminus bounces all over the Delta Quadrant, and Arridor and Kol weren’t “minor functionaries,” they were the scientists assigned to examine the wormhole, a legitimate test of the wormhole that Data and La Forge did alongside them. Arridor and Kol weren’t trapped in the Delta Quadrant because they were attempting something underhanded, they were trapped because they were morons who didn’t listen to La Forge’s warning to go back before the terminus moved. Also all indications were that the wormhole would move from Barzan, though that doesn’t preclude it remaining in the Alpha Quadrant.

Like “Basics Part 2,” “Flashback,” and the upcoming “Sacred Ground,” this episode was filmed as part of the second season’s production schedule for budgetary reasons. It also was a prelude to Joe Menosky returning to Trek staff work. After leaving his job as co-producer of TNG following the fifth season, he returned as a producer on Voyager in this third season after writing this teleplay while still living and working in Europe. He’ll work his way up to co-executive producer before leaving after the end of season six. (He also served as a co-executive producer on the Discovery pilot, and also co-wrote the episode “Lethe.”)

This was not Ethan Phillips’s first time in Ferengi makeup. He played Farek in TNG’s “Ménàge à Trois” and will play another in Enterprise’s “Acquisition.”

All of the wisdom from “The Sages” comes from the Rules of Acquisition, first established in DS9’s “The Nagus” and quoted extensively throughout that show. (Your humble rewatcher listed all the known rules in his Ferenginar short novel Satisfaction is Not Guaranteed in Worlds of DS9 Volume 3 in 2005.) Neelix also makes up a rule: “Whenever you exploit someone, it never hurts to thank them. That way it’s easier to exploit them the next time.”

Star Trek: Voyager

Screenshot: CBS

Set a course for home. “Exploitation begins at home.” I’ve always believed that the idea matters less than the execution. It doesn’t matter how good—or bad—the idea is. If the execution of the idea is good, even if the idea itself is mediocre, then the story is good, and if the execution sucks, it doesn’t matter how good the idea is.

On the face of it, doing a sequel to “The Price” on Voyager is not only a good idea, it’s an inevitable one. I mean, you left Arridor and Kol in the Delta Quadrant, and now you’ve got a ship trapped in the Delta Quadrant. It’s too good an opportunity to pass up.

Unless of course you screw up the story, and holy crap did they shit the bed with this one. There is nothing redeeming in this episode, from the incredibly stupid Ferengi to the even stupider local aliens to the ridiculous technobabble regarding the wormhole to the idiotic ending. First the Ferengi manage to steal the pod (which crash-landed on the planet, remember) and fly off with it, because now it’s somehow in working order.

On top of that, it’s obvious nobody involved in creating this episode bothered watching “The Price” at any point, since so many details were wrong. And why is Neelix of all people the one going down disguised as a Ferengi? Why not someone who’s actually, y’know, met one? Especially given how quickly he blew his cover…

Even if the rest of the episode was worthwhile (and it really isn’t, though Dan Shor deserves credit for doing the best he can with the material, plus Rob LaBelle is always good to play a schlub), the ending is some of the laziest writing in the history of television. Arridor and Kol steal their ship because Tuvok apparently sucks at security, and they do a technobabble thing to stop the other technobabble thing, which then causes a different technobabble thing that sucks Arridor and Kol into the wormhole, but also makes it disappear. And then the crew just gives up trying to get at the wormhole because reasons. Absolutely pathetic.

Warp factor rating: 2

Keith R.A. DeCandido’s next Star Trek project was announced today: he’ll be one of the contributors to the forthcoming Star Trek Adventures Klingon Empire Core Rulebook. He’ll be part of the “Day of Honor” virtual conference on Saturday the 11th of July, as part of Modiphius’s panel at 3:15pm Eastern Time, alongside Rick Sternbach, Jim Johnson, and others. Keith will also be doing a panel on Yhe Mandalorian on Saturday at 1:30pm Eastern Time as part of the virtual “Shore Leave 41.5” this weekend.

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