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Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine 2-07: Rules of Acquisition (Quick Review)

Episode:27|Writer:Ira Steven Behr|Air Date:07-Nov-1993

Today on Sci-Fi Adventures, I'm writing about second season Deep Space Nine episode Rules of Acquisition (originally known as 'Rules of Aquisition', without the 'c', but they fixed the title for later broadcasts).

I started listening to a Deep Space Nine podcast called The Rules of Acquisition a while back, and I was a little disappointed to discover that they're not just covering this one episode every week, over and over again. They could've Star Wars Minute'd it for the first 43 podcasts, then started to delve more deeply into its themes and philosophy over the next few years, but nope they had to move onto episodes people would actually want to hear about instead. Though they also keep spoiling Westworld and Game of Thrones, so I may have to pause listening to them until I've experienced all popular entertainment released up until the podcast airdate. But that's fine, as I've still got quality DS9 podcasts like Greatest Generation: DS9bOrgcast and soon Misson Log to listen to if I want to remind myself how redundant my own website is.

I've been giving Deep Space Nine episodes a full screencap recap up to this point, but there's 26 of the bloody things this season and I've got other things I want to write about too, so this is one's going to be a quick review instead (because it's a Ferengi story and I hate 'em). There'll still be massive SPOILERS for the episode and possibly earlier Trek episodes too, but I'll not spoil anything released later.

Rules of Acquisition is an episode about rules and acquisition, as a cross-dressing Ferengi female falls in love with Quark and decides she wants him. But their romance is doomed as he loves the rules of his sexist culture just a little bit more. Also, they go to the Gamma Quadrant to do a mission for the Grand Nagus.

Quark's one of the more romantic characters on the show, but he's also a true believer when it comes to the Ferengi way of life, so it wasn't a huge shock to me that he'd ultimately choose to stick to his status quo. What stood out as strange is that Dax seems to love his misogynistic culture too. I mean I'm glad to see her on the road to becoming her fun-loving later series self, but she actually outright says to Kira at one point that in all of her seven lifetimes, the Ferengi are the race she's enjoyed socialising with the most. I almost feel like writer Ira Steven Behr is speaking through her in that scene, telling us why he likes them so much (despite/because of their gross food and their gross habits). And Kira represents me, as I look back at him/Dax in utter confusion. Kira had the same expression on her face in that scene that I had on mine later when Dax told Pel the story of how Quark once brought her to a holodeck recreation he'd made of the bedroom she'd slept in as a child to seduce her. That's some Jessica Jones shit right there.

The A-plot features Grand Nagus Zek turning up at the station to personally send Quark to negotiate with angry red Brian Thompson of the Dosi for tulaberry wine from the Gamma Quadrant. There's a bit of a makeup sophistication mismatch here, as the episode has actors in full Ferengi prosthetics interacting with aliens who are basically humans with face paint, but I started to see the reasoning behind it when a whole room full of them showed up. DS9 could do one-off aliens great but it tended to struggle when it came making large groups of folks in masks; that's one department where Babylon 5 had it beat.

Meanwhile, Quark's waiter, Pel, has been offering him surprisingly cheap advice and acting very friendly, so he brings her to the wine negotiations as his assistant (over his brother Rom). The problem I have with this plot is that it makes Quark look dumb. Not because he can't figure out that Pel's a woman (those fake ear extensions are seamless), but because he continually needs her advice to get anything done. Though it does hammer home how the Ferengi's misogyny is counterproductive, as the two of them working together is what ultimately gets the job done.

Though weirdly the problem Quark and Pel hit with their negotiations isn't about how much the Ferengi are willing to pay, it's about how many vats of wine the Dosi are willing to sell. These folks will trade you 5,000 vats without even looking at what you're offering, but ask for 10,000 and you'll start getting death threats. Ask for 100,000 vats and they'll just walk away from the table and go home, which is a problem for Quark here as every time he makes an agreement with them, Zek increases the amount he wants! It's like he's deliberately trying to be unreasonable (because he is).

So Quark and Pel have to fly off through the wormhole to the Dosi homeworld in Zek's ship to try to make this deal work, which means we're finally visiting a proper Gamma Quadrant planet, with cities and a matte painting and everything! Sisko took a runabout into a planet's orbit in Vortex, and crashed one into a moon in Battle Lines, but this is the first time someone from the cast has set foot on an actual world over there on screen... and it's Quark. It's also the first time we hear a mention of the Dominion, who are apparently the people to do business in this corner of space when your tulaberry needs are excessive. They seem like a big player, yet they're also surprisingly hard to get in touch with, seeing as Zek had to basically trick Quark into finding them for him. He couldn't just look them up on the Dosi internet.

Quark and Pel end up having to spend an awkward night together over there in the same room, which leads to Pel having a couple of drinks, which leads to her kissing Quark while still disguised as a man which leads to Quark being in denial about the whole thing. Meanwhile, back on the station, Rom's been busy justifying his brother's lack of trust in him by breaking into Pel's quarters to find some dirt on her and discovering her set of spare ears. Man, this character's still got a long way to go before he becomes the guy I remember.

All these comic hijinks mean that there's only 7 minutes of episode left when Quark discovers that his new best friend who made a drunken pass on him is a woman (in a genuinely good scene shot from a distance, in silence). I was half expecting him to be relieved he hadn't been kissed by a man, but once he recovers from fainting he's actually pissed off... though not so much that he doesn't offer Rom his bar to buy his silence! Half because he cares, half because he's at risk of losing his vast Gamma Quadrant trade profits if this ever got out, because Ferengi women aren't allowed to earn money.

Dax's reaction to finding out about Pel made me smile though, as she figures out that he's in love with Quark on her own but is genuinely shocked to learn that he's a she in disguise. It's not just that Pel had the nerve and ability to pull it off so well, Dax is amazed to meet a Ferengi woman at all. And this is someone who considers the Ferengi her favourite people to socialise with! We haven't seen one up to this point either, as they're forbidden to leave their homeworld. They're not even allowed to leave the house or wear clothes, which is both comically absurd and depressingly similar to problems faced by some women on our own homeworld right now.

Quark does care for Pel, but he knows she'd never be happy being a Ferengi wife and he'd never be able to accept a Ferengi woman wearing clothes, so he gives her money to leave the station and make a new start. Of course, he'd be able to live happily ever after with Kira, Dax or any of the other women he's been interested in while they were wearing clothes and doing their jobs, it's just tradition he cares about. But the status quo's restored when Pel comes out to the Nagus before she leaves. He can't punish her without incriminating himself as he let her represent him in a negotiation, but he can take all of Quark's Gamma Quadrant profits away. So at the end Quark's alone and miserable, Pel's presumably still stuck wearing her disguise because her culture's still terrible, and Rom doesn't get the bar.

Oh, plus there was also a bit of a B-plot where the Grand Nagus tries to win Kira's heart with jewellery and fertilizer, but that's less of a story, more of a countdown to full interstellar war. I've seen the episode before so I was pretty certain she wasn't going to assassinate the leader of the Ferengi Alliance right there on the Promenade, but I was kind of hoping she'd surprise me.

And what's the Ferengi head of state doing just sitting there in a bar anyway? I know I complained about already this in The Nagus, and this is pretty much a sequel to that episode, but for a leader of an interstellar empire presumably spanning multiple worlds, he really doesn't give a damn about personal security. And when an episode doesn't take someone seriously, I can't take them seriously either. Especially when I can see a mark for the actors taped onto the carpet right there in the middle of the shot.

This is a shot they could've never done in season 1 by the way, as the upper level of the Promenade wasn't connected to Quark's Bar yet. Now the walkway actually goes somewhere, and the top floor of the bar is much more open, with a nice view of the windows and all the extras they had to hire to walk past.

Anyway, I wish I could say that rewatching Rules of Acquisition has given me a new appreciation for it, but I'd be lying. I can appreciate how it explores the misogynistic Ferengi culture that the series inherited from Next Gen and reveals that the 50% of the population forced to stay at home naked would be just as greedy and cunning as the men if they were allowed to be, but despite the Trek social commentary, it's still a goofy Ferengi comedy episode, and I don't like 'em. It's a shame really because I find that Quark's a great character when he's not in the spotlight. It's also a very skippable episode, aside from Quark's discovery that if you want to do business in the Gamma Quadrant, you've got to do business with the Dominion.

Deep Space Nine will return with Necessary Evil. But next on Sci-Fi Adventures, it's The Orville's Cupid's Dagger.

Thanks for reading my words. Share your opinions if you got them.


  1. Want to say Rom's characterization is all over the place in this series. Even later on, I don't think he behaves consistently toward Quark. But arguing my point would require me to spend some time looking into episodes prominently featuring Rom, and I just can't bring myself to do it.

    1. I think they eventually reached a point with him in season 2 or 3 where he started evolving naturally as a person. I guess I'll find out!

  2. I had no memory at all of the Dominion being introduced this early on. Wow.

    1. Probably because there's nothing here to remember. They're mentioned, we learn that Zek's pretty keen on getting in contact with them, but that's it.