So, after the previous episode where I complained a little that a fairly harmless episode that didn’t seem to advance much of anything was a bit of a letdown after a few much heavier episodes, there’s an even more lighthearted episode up next. Granted, this one is a humorous episode involving the Ferengi, and while some intended comedic characters with giant, mostly mute alien servants are never particularly funny, Grand Nagas Zek is a whole different story. That guy I’ll gladly watch cause grief for Quark.
That’s certainly what he does here, but not in the way someone might suspect.
See, Zek shows up unexpected–as he tends to do–and moves into Quark’s quarters, but his silent servant seems…upset by something. Two days later after Quark and Rom have finally bickered enough in Rom’s quarters for Quark to force Rom to ask the Nagas to leave Quark’s room as nicely as possible, something seems off.
Zek is being…nice.
He has some new Rules of Acquisition too. Sure, Quark and Rom are excited at first, but then they read the first one that basically amounts to always giving a refund when the customer asks for one.
It seems Zek’s new rules are about being kind and generous and realizing there’s more to life than simply profit. Quark senses something is wrong, but Rom soon finds himself running the Ferengi Benevolent Society, a charity where Zek is just giving money to those in need. Quark may even be on the Board of Directors whether he wants to be or not. This is…really surprising, and Dr. Bashir can’t find anything wrong with the Nagas physically.
Now, surely a Ferengi culture that acts out of generosity is a good thing, right? Well, sure. Theoretically. But Quark’s main concern right now is turning the Nagas back if for no other reason than if Zek does as he plans and reads his new rules on the Ferengi homeworld, it probably won’t go over well with the other Ferengi. Enough that they might kill Zek…and Quark and Rom since they’d be Zek’s accomplices whether they want to be or not. A Ferengi society where Rom is suddenly a prominent man of power is not one Quark wants to live in.
Of course, that silent manservant could maybe say something if he wasn’t silent. He does help Quark and Rom search Zek’s ship to find a Bajoran Orb of the Prophets, and Zek’s log shows he got it, took it into the wormhole, and then…came out nice. These Orbs offer visions of other times, so surely Zek went in, tried to see the future for the sake of profit, and the wormhole aliens, AKA the Prophets, did something. Quark will need to fix that.
This whole episode is set up rather cleverly. Even the subplot involving Bashir’s being up for a very prestigious award he’s hesitant to get (it usually goes to people at the end of their careers and he is far younger than the other nominees) largely works because the characters are established enough to do comedy. Bashir doesn’t want to talk about it, but everybody else does. O’Brien’s use of such talk during a game of darts shows something of O’Brien’s antipathy cooling off a bit since he may just be doing it to win the game even if Bashir knows what to ask to throw O’Brien’s aim off as well. About the only odd point was Odo coming over to ask Bashir if he wanted some inside scoops on the other nominees because Odo had a friend somewhere with connections. Odo has friends? And he’s stooping to gossip? Well, it’s his only scene in the episode, possibly owing to Rene Auberjonois directing this episode, the first of eight from the actor.
As it is, Ferengi can be said to have two main personality traits beyond greed. The better ones are both clever and tenacious. Quark certainly has those skills, though the latter sometimes gets him in trouble anyway. Between the Orb and retracing Zek’s steps, Quark becomes the next person to get an audience from the Prophets, something they don’t really appreciate, though they understand a bit more thanks to “the Sisko”.
Also nice that Tiny Ron, the actor who played the silent manservant, got to be one of the faces of the prophets and actually speak some lines. Plus, it helps that Quark is so quick-thinking on his feet that he does manage to convince the Prophets to change Zek back. Apparently, Zek showed up looking for business tips, and the Prophets looked back in time and saw there was a period when the Ferengi were not all about profits. They just reverse evolved Zek. They almost do the same to Quark, but Quark notices something: the Prophets hate to be bothered, Ferengi are annoying, and if the Prophets really want to stop Ferengi from coming by and bothering them, then they need to turn Zek back or else there will be a never-ending parade of Ferengi poking their lobes into the wormhole.
Yeah, that works. Zek is his cranky old self again. Ferengi society will not be radically changed with new Rules of Acquisition.
Oh, and Rom managed to make some profit for himself for once, enough to make Quark proud: Rom was embezzling from the Ferengi Benevolent Society, all of it from Zek’s personal fortune, the entire time.
That takes some lobes.