Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch

Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch: “Acquisition”

“Acquisition”
Written by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga and Maria Jacquemetton & André Jacquemetton
Directed by James Whitmore Jr.
Season 1, Episode 19
Production episode 019
Original air date: March 27, 2002
Date: unknown

Captain’s star log. A Ferengi ship (which is never identified as such) docks with Enterprise, the crew having been rendered unconscious by gas. The Ferengi, who only speak in their language (the captions identify it as “CONVERSATION IN FERENGI,” which is the only use of that word in the entire episode), board the ship in gas masks, checking the place out. They are less than impressed with humans’ ears, though one of them, Krem, is intrigued by T’Pol’s ears, as well as the rest of her.

While the Ferengi gad about the ship, looting it of everything from weapons to chairs, Tucker sits in decon, wondering why Phlox hasn’t let him out. He jimmies the door and goes out into the corridors in his underwear, seeing the entire crew unconscious. Tucker observes the Ferengi on a security monitor in engineering. They take Archer and several of the ship’s female personnel to the launch bay. Using a hypo, they revive Archer and then point a translator at him until they all understand each other.

The Ferengi want to know where the vault is. Archer has no flipping clue what they’re talking about—they don’t have a vault. The Ferengi don’t believe him. After they casually mention bringing the women to a slave market on Stameris, Archer decides to play along with the notion that they have a vault. But when he tries to negotiate with them to keep some of the gold in the vault, the Ferengi decide to try to find the vault themselves, leaving Krem to load their spoils onto their ship. When Krem complains about having to do all the manual labor, Ulis, the leader, says to make Archer do it.

So Archer hauls his own ship’s stuff onto the Ferengi vessel at gunpoint under Krem’s direction. Archer gets to know Krem, learning more about the Ferengi (though, again, that word is never used), including some of the Rules of Acquisition. After moving several bits of contraband, Archer says he’s thirsty, and Krem handcuffs Archer to a bulkhead and heads to mess hall to fetch some water.

Star Trek: Enterprise "Acquisition"

Screenshot: CBS

As soon as Krem’s gone, Tucker comes out of hiding and talks to Archer, telling him that sickbay and the armory have been looted, so he can’t revive the crew or get weapons to fight back. Archer says the hypo the Ferengi used to revive Archer is still in the launch bay. Tucker heads there and uses the hypo to revive T’Pol, but that uses up all that’s left in it, so he can’t revive anyone else.

Between them, T’Pol and Tucker figure out what happened. Tucker did a survey on a moon, and brought an artifact back. Tucker was sent into decon while T’Pol examined the artifact—which was probably put there by the Ferengi, as it emitted a gas.

When Krem and Archer return to the launch bay, Tucker hides, and T’Pol feigns unconsciousness. Krem is again drawn to T’Pol, and Archer assures him that Vulcans are more trouble than their worth—no sense of humor, and always complaining. Krem is not swayed.

When the Ferengi are on the bridge, T’Pol observes from nearby, noticing that they’re squabbling over how to divide the spoils. She remotely activates a very loud comm signal that hurts the Ferengi’s sensitive ears. While they’re distracted, she removes three scanners one Ferengi had claimed, and then puts two of them in another Ferengi’s bag. This causes more dissension in the ranks.

They try Archer’s quarters, hoping the vault might be there—after all, that’s where Ulis keeps his vault—and also try the medical scanner in sickbay, to no avail.

Muk spots Tucker and hits him with an energy whip. He brings him to the launch bay, where Archer is still acting as Krem’s pack horse. When Ulis says to load the women onto the ship, Tucker says he’ll show them where the vault is if they leave the women behind, claiming that Sato is his wife. To help sell it, Archer upbraids Tucker, saying that he can always get another wife, but he’d better not give away Archer’s gold.

Ulis, Muk, and Grish go with Tucker while Krem is told to keep loading the ship with Archer. Krem actually stands up to Ulis for a second before backing down. Archer then fakes a water polo injury, leaving Krem to load the ship by himself. While doing so, T’Pol plays on Krem’s attraction to her to get close enough to hit him with a neck pinch. Then she grabs a phase pistol, as well as the keys to Archer’s cuffs.

Star Trek: Enterprise "Acquisition"

Screenshot: CBS

Tucker leads the other three on a merry chase throughout the ship before tricking them into entering the bio-matter resequencing section, where T’Pol calmly stuns the three of them.

After T’Pol frees Archer, the crew is revived, and the Ferengi have to give everything back at phase-pistol-point. Ulis, Grish, and Muk are manacled to chairs on their ship, leaving Krem in charge. The latter promises to give this area of space a wide berth and he goes off, now in charge.

The gazelle speech. Archer spends the entire episode working Krem, trying to get him to betray his cousin and actually think for himself. This eventually works out…

I’ve been trained to tolerate offensive situations. T’Pol doesn’t free Archer from his cuffs until (a) she gives him a hard time about his line to Krem about how Vulcans are so much trouble and have no sense of humor and such, and (b) Archer, completely unapologetic about what he did while captive, ordering her to free him, for crying out loud.

Florida Man. Florida Man Must Try To Help His Crewmates In His Underwear.

Good boy, Porthos! The Ferengi try to interrogate Porthos, assuming him to be intelligent because he has such large ears. They are initially confused by the fact that the translator can’t do anything with his barking. They then take Porthos as part of their spoils (but, of course, give him back in the end).

Star Trek: Enterprise "Acquisition"

Screenshot: CBS

Rules of Acquisition. Krem states that there are 173 Rules of Acquistion, which means that 112 more will be coined between the twenty-second and twenty-fourth centuries. We get a new one in #23: “Nothing is more important than your health—except your money.” In addition #6 is stated to be “Never allow family to stand in the way of profit,” where it was stated in DS9’s “The Nagus” as “..in the way of opportunity,” but the Rule could easily have evolved over two hundred years.

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. Krem is completely smitten with T’Pol, and asks her for oo-mox. To be clear, he explicitly asks a woman he’s just met for a hand-job.

I’ve got faith…

“What species is she?”

“She’s a Vulcan.”

“Vulcan…”

“They’re not really all that interesting once you get to know them.”

“I’d like to get to know this one. Maybe I won’t sell her—not right away.”

“Trust me, she’s got no sense of humor, she’s always complaining…”

–Krem taking an interest in T’Pol, and Archer trying and failing to deflect him.

Star Trek: Enterprise "Acquisition"

Screenshot: CBS

Welcome aboard. The only guests are the four Ferengi, three of whom are played by familiar faces (or, at least, familiar names, given the makeup…). We’ve got Clint Howard, who played the physical form of Balok in the original series’ “The Corbomite Maneuver” and Grady in DS9’s “Past Tense, Part II,” and who will play an Orion in Discovery’s “Will You Take My Hand?” We’ve got Ethan Phillips, whose first Trek role was as a Ferengi in TNG’s “Ménàge à Troi,” and who was Neelix on Voyager, as well as a holographic maître d’ in First Contact. And we’ve got Jeffrey Combs, who had the recurring role of Brunt on DS9 (and also played Brunt’s Mirror Universe iteration), as well as recurring roles of Weyoun on DS9 and Shran on Enterprise, and who has had one-off roles in DS9’s “Meridian” and “Far Beyond the Stars,” Voyager’s “Tsunkatse,” and Lower Decks’ “Where Pleasant Fountains Lie.”

The fourth Ferengi is played by Matt Malloy, who will also provide the voice of Omag in the game Elite Force II.

Trivial matters: Matt Malloy was cast in this as a make-good after he was unable to play the role of Kov in “Fusion.”

Muk’s energy whip is the first time that Ferengi weapon has been seen since the species’ debut in TNG’s “The Last Outpost” (unless you count the accessories for the Marauder Mo action figure Quark was playing with in DS9’s “Ferengi Love Songs”).

One of Quark’s holosuite programs was called Vulcan Love Slave, and the DS9 novel This Gray Spirit by Heather Jarman claims that Krem was one of the authors of the original novel on which the program was based, no doubt inspired by his meeting T’Pol in this episode.

Muk asks if he looks like a Menk. It was established in “Dear Doctor” that the Valakians and the Menk had had encounters with the Ferengi.

Star Trek: Enterprise "Acquisition"

Screenshot: CBS

It’s been a long road… “Everybody knows you’d steal the wax out of your own mother’s ears.” To call this episode a trash fire is being incredibly mean and unfair to hot flaming garbage.

I don’t understand the logic behind even doing this episode. Some of the worst hours of Star Trek have been aggressively unfunny Ferengi episodes, from TNG’s “Ménàge à Troi,” Rascals,” and “The Perfect Mate” to DS9’s “Profit and Lace” and “The Emperor’s New Cloak” to Voyager’s “False Profits.” And while there are good Ferengi episodes, the bad ones all have one thing in common: the Ferengi are portrayed in the most caricatured manner possible, as cackling morons with the brains of a flea.

In other words, the bad Ferengi episodes all fail to take the Ferengi as a concept in the least bit seriously, focused more on what will get the most cheap laughs rather than what will make a good story or on considering that the Ferengi are a space-faring species and that the Ferengi Alliance has a considerable amount of territory in the Alpha Quadrant.

The Ferengi in this episode are so dumb that I find it impossible to credit that they ever even learned how to operate their ship, much less fly it through space safely and sneak gas grenades onto Starfleet vessels.

The entire plot of “Acquisition” is predicated on Ulis and the gang falling for the oldest trick in the book, succumbing to bog-obvious ploys by Archer, Tucker, and T’Pol that wouldn’t fool a not-too-bright teenager, and not understanding—despite the fact that they’ve had contact with plenty of other non-Ferengi—that not everyone’s going to have a vault.

Honestly, that’s the thing that got me more than anything. Why do they assume that everyone has a vault? Everything they do in the episode comes back to that, and it just doesn’t make sense.

And then there’s the appalling scene between Krem and T’Pol. T’Pol has snuck onto the Ferengi ship unnoticed. In fact, she’s done a great job of avoiding the Ferengi all episode. Why does she have to then pretend to seduce Krem to neck pinch him when she can grab one of the phase pistols while Krem is busy unloading and just shoot him? The answer, depressingly, is so that we can have Krem request a hand-job, and T’Pol actually feign giving one before neck-pinching him, and then I have to pause the episode so I can go take a shower to wash the oogy off me…

I haven’t even touched on the biggest complaint about this episode—first made when the fact that Enterprise was doing a Ferengi episode was announced in advance of the release of this episode in 2002—which is that TNG’s “The Last Outpost” was established as the first contact between humans and Ferengi, an episode that (a) aired fifteen years earlier and (b) took place two centuries later. Because of that, the Jacquemettons have to twist the story into a pretzel to keep the word “Ferengi” from being spoken and to have Ulis, Krem, Grish, and Muk leave without consequence with a lame “we’ll warn people about you even though we don’t know who you are because we have to stick with continuity.”

Goodness knows, there are plenty of discontinuities in Star Trek, and sometimes it’s worth it for the right story. Just as an example, the Generations prelude had Scotty believing that Jim Kirk was dead in the Nexus in 2293, even though in the TNG episode “Relics” (produced two years earlier), Scotty spoke as if Kirk was still alive when Scotty was haring off to retirement. The logic there was that it wasn’t worth not having James Doohan in Generations just because of one line of dialogue—and that was the correct notion.

But this? Is having a dumb Ferengi comedy episode really worth the discontinuity?

Obviously, I don’t think it is. And it’s really too bad, because if you’re going to have an episode with Ethan Phillips, Clint Howard, and Jeffrey Combs playing your antagonists, you should really come up with something better.

I was tempted to give this monstrosity a 0 rating, but three things lifted the ranking all the way to 1. First is that there were several moments where I did laugh out loud. (For example, T’Pol giving Archer shit about his comments before uncuffing him, and Archer ordering her to uncuff him already.) Second is that I loved the touch that two centuries prior to DS9 there were only 173 Rules of Acquisition, which is in keeping with the notion that the Ferengi would regularly revise and update the Rules in order to sell more copies of the revised editions of the Rules.

And third, Combs totally sold me on Krem. I actually felt sorry for him, and was happy for him when he got to take over in the end, despite him being only slightly less of a jackass than his three crewmates, and that’s entirely on the back of Combs giving a more nuanced performance than, frankly, this episode deserved…

Warp factor rating: 1

Keith R.A. DeCandido has written the Ferengi many times, most notably the short novel Satisfaction Is Not Guaranteed in Worlds of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Volume 3, in which he coined a few Rules of Acquisition, including #20: “He who dives under the table today lives to profit tomorrow,” #25: “You pay for it, it’s your idea,” and #88: “It ain’t over till it’s over,” among others.

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