May 27, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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Weekend Trek “False Profits”

Two Ferengi from the Alpha Quadrant took advantage of a less advanced planet. They need to go.

I’ll put in the casting bits here first.  This episode is a rare sequel to an episode from a completely different series that involved the Ferengi.  One actor, Dan Shor, reprised his role while the second was recast with beloved comedic actor Leslie Jordan (probably better known now than he was then).  Meanwhile, character actor Michael Ensign is a bard who can’t remember which of his two perfectly good eyes gets an eyepatch.

But that is all I will say about the casting.

Voyager is more of an episodic show like most Star Trek, but that doesn’t mean there’s no continuity.  The Star Trek the Next Generation episode “The Price” featured a plotline where two Ferengi went into a wormhole, found themselves somewhere else, and unlike Geordi and Data, didn’t get back through to the other side before the wormhole closed.  That would, in many cases, have been the last we would have seen of those guys.  “The Price” is, all things being equal, not the most memorable of episodes.  It’s a Troi-focused episode, one where the most memorable moment (at least for folks like me and my TNG chat partner Jimmy) is more memorable for the weird tights Crusher and Troi wore to work out in.

Heck, those tights what Star Trek Lower Decks remembered when they brought something from “The Price” up.

But Voyager‘s writing room must have realized realized that those two Ferengi might have been lost in the Delta Quadrant, so maybe the crew of Voyager could catch up to them.  I could point out that the Ferengi had, at this point thanks to Deep Space Nine, become better characters in that they were given a lot of good comedic episodes that expanded their culture and rejected TNG‘s efforts to make them more of a reoccurring threat a la the Klingons or the Romulans.  The Ferengi don’t really work that way, so their presence here fits a bit better with the DS9 development by showing they essentially landed on a planet that Tuvok describes as having bronze age-level development while doing what Ferengi do best and try to make as much profit as possible.

Voyager, meanwhile, has found the wormhole and theorized it moves around the Delta Quadrant while staying stable on the other end.  They do figure out that it may get them home, but they need to use some Treknobabble to keep it stable long enough to get through.  They do detect what looks like replicator energy on that nearby planet.  That doesn’t make sense, so Chakotay and Paris put on appropriate garb (and somehow remove Chakotay’s facial tattoo) to go down and look around.  And down there, they find a population that has “sacred ears” and will do almost anything for profit because the two Ferengi essentially took advantage of the local population’s religious beliefs to assume the role of demigods to milk the people for all their worth.

Janeway figures that ain’t right, and though the Ferengi aren’t part of the Federation and don’t need to follow the Prime Directive, she does attempt to talk them into leaving.  These are Ferengi who value profit more than anything else, and they don’t see the need to leave that behind.  They won’t leave and even put up a transporter blocker to prevent Voyager to take them away.  Janeway figures they need to scam some scammers, and that means sending a “Grand Emissary” to represent the Negas’s interests, supposedly.  The decision is to send the closest that Voyager has to a Ferengi onboard and send a disguised Neelix down to try to trick the Ferengi into leaving.

It occurred to me as I watched this episode that actor Ethan Philips had to sit in the make-up chair for who-knows-how-long to put on the Neelix prosthetics, and here he is with an episode where he doesn’t need to wear it as much, and instead, he has to put on Ferengi prosthetics.

However, Neelix only makes a decent Ferengi.  He’s a scavenger, not a scammer.  He doesn’t know the Rules of Acquisition quite as well as the two Ferengi do, and he gleefully gives out money to the locals.  Besides, Ferengi can be ruthless when it comes to keeping hold of their profit.  Neelix gets exposed, but I do love when the Ferengi plot unravels for other reasons that one Ferengi tries telling the locals that Neelix is a Talaxian like the locals, who have no space travel, know what that is.

Essentially, Chakotay and Paris learn there’s more to the religion than what the Ferengi know and use Neelix (still in disguise) in another role to ruin it.  The plan only works so far as it almost ends with Neelix’s being burned at the stake with the two Ferengi, but the trio are beamed away in time.  But this is still only season three, and Ferengi do tend to ruin everything, so the two idiots try going back for their profit, there’s a tug-of-war involving Voyager‘s tractor beam that is too close to the wormhole, a process that shoots the two broke Ferengi back into the wormhole but destabilizes it as a result, forcing Voyager to resume flying back the old fashioned way.

Oh, and the locals are celebrating more signs from their religion.

Let that be a lesson:  if you present yourself as the holiest of holies in someone’s religion, make sure you know how the entire song goes.