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February 15, 2013

Star Trek: DS9 - Ep 26 - Rules of Acquisition

I'm not a big fan of Ferengi episodes. Some of them are funny, but a lot of them are lame attempts at humour that just don't work. The first Deep Space Nine Ferengi episode, "The Nagus," actually was quite good. However, the more the Nagus (Wallace Shawn) comes back, the more grating he is. This, coupled with Quark (Armin Shimmerman) acting like he's in love with no real indication of how he got there, knocks a couple of points off. Thankfully, "Rules of Acquisition" was a lot better than I had remembered it.

During a game of Tongo with Dax (Terry Farrell) and a bunch of Quark's Ferengi waiters, a young Ferengi named Pel (Helene Udy) brings himself to Quark's attention. He's fluent in the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition, which govern all Ferengi business practices. Their game is interrupted by news that Grand Nagus Zek is coming to the station. Zek is holding trade negotiations on the station with the Dosi, and he wants Quark to run these negotiations. This will give the Ferengi a great presence in the Gamma Quadrant. Pel insinuates himself into the negotiations by giving Quark some great advice, and Quark asks Pel to be his assistant. Unbeknownst to Quark (or anybody else for that matter), Pel is actually a female! Ferengi women are not allowed to leave the home or wear clothing, and they're certainly not allowed to acquire profit. Pel is determined to change that, even if she has to masquerade as a man to do it. Unfortunately, she finds herself falling in love with Quark, a complication she hadn't intended on.

I'm almost ashamed to admit that I actually enjoyed this episode, because I did not have good memories of it. However, this time there were no really offensive parts (offensive to my sense of humour, if not to my morality) other than seeing a close-up of Zek's ear hair being combed. I could have done without that. Hell, we don't even get any Ferengi screaming! There is some laughter, however, that felt like fingernails on a blackboard.

What we got instead was an examination of gender roles in Ferengi society and Quark learns a lesson. Except for the fact, of course, that he *doesn't* actually learn it, but that's beside the point. The whole thing is almost offensive in itself, but Dax's acceptance of (and actual affection for) the Ferengi as they are mitigates that a little bit. As in the quote below, she knows how they are and deals with them like that. I think she enjoys the attention and enjoys the interplay between them.

The acting is pretty good too, though nothing stellar. Shawn has his moments as Zek, but I did find him a lot more annoying this time around. Actually, he's at his best when his voice lowers and he is threatening somebody. When he's talking normally, he's almost so shrill that it hurts my ears. The final confrontation between Pel, Quark, and Zek is wonderful because of that. The two Dosi, Zyree and Inglotu (Emilia Crow and Brian Thompson) are pretty good, if a little too thug-like. (Fans of The X-Files will recognize Thompson as the Alien Bounty Hunter) Udy is actually pretty good, as it's sometimes hard to tell that she is a woman when she's got her full male Ferengi make-up on. She lowers her voice quite effectively. She also shows that she's in love quite well, with lingering glances at Quark.

The rest of the characters on the show get little or nothing to do. The scene where Zek first comes on the station is marvelous with Sisko (Avery Brooks) and Kira (Nana Visitor) requesting Zek's assurance that the Dosi will not be cheated. Sisko shows he has the mind of a Ferengi in backing Zek into a corner. However, this scene produces the sub-plot of Zek pursuing Kira, which doesn't lead anywhere interesting (other than producing Dax's line quoted at the end of this review). It's too obvious and not well-played at all by either Visitor or Shawn.

There is one thing that I found fascinating however, especially coming immediately after the "please hit me on the head with your message" episode Melora. In "Rules of Acquisition," we have a very effective indication that homosexuality is widely accepted in the 24th century. Dax realizes that Pel is in love with Quark and talks to her about it. She *then* finds out that Pel is a woman. The fact that Dax doesn't even bat an eyelash about Pel's feelings when she thinks Pel is a man speaks volumes and is a much more subtle morality statement then a bludgeoning episode like TNG's "The Outcast." Kudos to the writers for putting this in.

This episode also introduces the concept of the Dominion, which will have far-reaching effects on the show. We don't see the Dominion in action, but we get a sense of just how far the Dominion's reach goes, as the Dosi give Quark a link to them. Right now, there's no hint as to what they are. They could just be a trading consortium of some sort. But I do remember my alarm bells going off when I first saw this episode.

The main problem with "Rules of Acquisition," however, is Quark, or at least his abrupt feelings for Pel. He's clearly uncomfortable when Pel reveals herself to him, and he's clearly against everything that Pel has done to make herself noticed. I can understand Quark defending Pel to Zek, but the ending of the episode just doesn't to make sense. He acts like he has feelings for Pel when there's no way they could have developed that quickly. Unless, of course, we're seeing that Quark swings from that side of the fence too, which we haven't seen any sign of and never will again. I just found the whole thing unbelievable.

All in all, "Rules of Acquisition" is an enjoyable fluff episode. It doesn't say much, despite the fact that it deals with gender issues. Instead, it's a comedy that mostly works, or at least doesn't offend. I didn't laugh very much, but I did chuckle now and again. Is that all we can ask?

Memorable Quotes
"They're greedy, misogynistic, untrustworthy little trolls and I wouldn't turn my back on one of them for a second."

"Neither would I. But once you accept that, you'll find they can be a lot of fun." Kira & Dax, about the Ferengi

"You're…starting to *annoy* me." Inglotu to Quark, echoing the audience, perhaps?

4 Stars


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