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Friday, 7 October 2016

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine 1-11: The Nagus

Episode:11|Writer:Ira Steven Behr|Air Date:21-Mar-1993

This week on Sci-Fi Adventures, it's the first of Deep Space Nine's Ferengi comedy episodes, yay. Though it's also the first script written by Ira Behr, who would later take over as executive producer for the good part of the TV series, so that's... encouraging, maybe. 

I'm not actually one of the people who hates DS9's Ferengi episodes, mostly because I can't remember most of them. Because I stopped watching them. Because they're terrible and I hate them. But I am willing to give The Nagus a second chance because I'm endlessly reasonable... plus I promised I'd rewatch all of season one; if I have to write about it I might as well try to enjoy it.

Be aware that if you carry on reading past this point you'll encounter a wider selection of SPOILERS than in your average racing game. I may even mention events from earlier Trek episodes, but later eps are off limits.



It's another episode with Jake in! That's two in a row after his long absence ended in Move Along Home. The younger Sisko is currently running around with PADDs stacked so high that he's dropping them all over the floor, because in the future people will have forgotten how to open multiple files on the same tablet. On the plus side, in the future they don't break when you drop them.

His dad tries to surprise him with a trip to the Bajoran Fire Caverns, but he can't go because he has... plans with his friend Nog. So the Fire Caves first get mentioned all the way back in season one! There was originally a line in the teleplay which jokingly hinted that they were haunted by "Pagh-wraiths" but it was cut.

Hey it's Quark's nephew Nog as well! I don't remember seeing him since all the way back in A Man Alone. He's also got more PADDs lying around than he knows what to do with.

Elsewhere in the bar Quark expresses his annoyance at Rom's latest act of stupidity/generosity by making him recite the first Rule of Acquisition and telling him to polish every rail in the bar. He may have also mentioned something about throwing him out of an airlock. So Rom goes over to take his frustration out on his son, causing him to slip and knock his structure over. "Is this what they teach you at that human school of yours?" he asks, and with Rom it's hard to know if he's being rhetorical. Though he is cunning enough to pass his own punishment work onto him.

You know, I think this may be the first mention of the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition in the series, or any Star Trek series for that matter. They'll be turning up a lot from now on.

While this has been going on, a old man in a hood who looks like a cross between Yoda and Emperor Palpatine has been shuffling around the station in silence, making his way from an airlock to Quark's bar.

The episode's doing something I hate here, where it joins a pair of characters just as one's telling the punchline to a joke we never get to hear. Though it does mean that Morn gets a rare chance to open his mouth and make a noise (even if he's just laughing).

A Ferengi comes over to Quark and introduces himself as Krax, son of Grand Nagus Zek, the most important figure on all Ferenginar! Oh and speaking of Zek, he's standing right behind him.

So the Ferengi head of state, a man who rules over billions of people, has just turned up unannounced in Quark's bar. And he wants to have a go of all five of Quark's personal favourite holographic sex simulations in a row.

See, this is the trouble with Ferengi episodes, they're a huge strain on your suspension of disbelief. Not the holosuite part, the 'Ferengi President walks into a frontier town saloon' part. I dunno, maybe if he was surrounded by Ferengi secret service agents shoving people out of the way I'd have less of a problem with it.

As teasers go that wasn't bad though. It hasn't made me want to keep watching exactly, but it's shown me exactly what I'm going to be sitting through for the remaining 38 minutes or so.


ACT ONE.


Act one beings with kids playing around in the station's classroom. Possibly not the best thing to come right after the scene where a dirty old man rented out the sex simulator.

This is the first time we've seen the school since A Man Alone and aside from the chairs, carpet and door frame it looks basically nothing like it used to. For one thing the old classroom was painted orange. But I think I may have figured out what's happened here: they've filmed it from a different angle and confused me.

1-06: Captive Pursuit
Also the I'm fairly sure the school is a swing set that doubles as the holding cells (and possibly every other room you see those curvy light-up beams in), so they've just assembled it a little differently this time.

We don't get to see the school much because Keiko's always off-station, neglecting her job. In fact she's even missing in this episode, but that's okay because Chief O'Brien's finally back after his three-episode absence and he's filling in for her.

Wait, WHAT? O'Brien's the busiest man on the station already! He's not only a department head, but he also tends to get roped into fixing everything himself, which in fact is why he's late here today.

I don't remember seeing that picture on the wall before. It's nice to see that they're teaching kids the important things though, like how to recognise every Federation starship named Enterprise from above (Captain Archer's Enterprise was pre-Federation so no one cares about it any more).

O'Brien starts by asking Nog about the essay he was meant to write on ethics, but he doesn't have it. He claims it was stolen by Vulcans, which raises the question of why they'd do that. "Because... they have no ethics?" is the explanation he goes with. Nog then pressures Jake into backing him up, so now O'Brien gets to have a awkward chat with his boss later about his son lying to him.

Oh man they can hear the Nagus' cackling coming from the holosuite all the way down here. The sex simulators aren't soundproof!

Quark thinks that the Nagus has come to basically take the bar from him, as it's the only reason he'd come all this way, but he's going to be courteous to him anyway. Like letting him use his own... brother's quarters to sleep in. I guess Rom's room must be bigger than the average guest quarters (somehow), as a Bajoran terrorist and a Tosk who didn't even need sleep both got rooms easily enough and they didn't even have to pay for them.

Oh that's a nice angle of Ops. We don't often get to see that elaborate ceiling they've got up there. We also don't often see the turbolift stuck sunken halfway into the floor like this, but O'Brien seems to be working on it. I love that they actually built a practical working lift for this set, though I suppose the other Trek spin-offs had them too; tiny ones hidden down in Engineering.

O'Brien eventually comes out and says the thing that Sisko really didn't want to hear: Nog's being a bad influence on his son. Sisko doesn't want to force Jake to choose between him and Nog though, as he's worried he'd lose.

And just as I was thinking that was a really well acted scene, the comedy music comes on and the episode cuts to a close up of a bowl full of maggots. Thanks for that The Nagus, I really needed to see what Zek is having for dinner.

I'll spare you the screencap though.

Nog's being forced to hang around the table to pass Zek toothpicks and the like, and he'd obviously rather be anywhere else right now. He says that he wants to go and do homework, and Rom reacts with an 'oh shit' expression on his face. Now everyone knows that he's sending his son to school! Worse, a school run by those "Federation do-gooders". And they are shocked. So Rom punishes Nog for his problems again, sending him to his room... with no studying!

See, the joke here is that they hate the idea of his son going to school, but the kid actually wants to do his homework! It's funny because it's an inversion of what you'd expect adults to behave like!

I'm starting to remember why I don't like the Ferengi.


ACT TWO.


It's taken a good 15 minutes, but Kira's has finally shown up in a scene, and man is she being racist to Ferengi today. She literally says "My advice is to lock up the silverware," when she learns that another one of their ships has docked. The sad thing is that it's probably a sensible precaution as the Ferengi are total caricatures (Quark berated his brother earlier for giving someone her lost wallet back), so our heroes can't help looking bad here.

The visiting Ferengi are here to attend a conference that Zek's holding in Quark's bar, because the series doesn't have a better set for this kind of thing. In the first dozen episodes alone the place has been shut down and used for an auction, a bare fist boxing match, an extradition hearing, the historic first game of Chula in the Alpha Quadrant, and now a conference. Quark must really treasure the rare opportunities that he gets to use the place as a bar.

Oh man, poor Morn! He doesn't know about the conference and he's come here to get a drink like he does every day. But the bar's closed and now he's got nowhere else to go. Makes me wonder what he actually does on the station, seeing as I doubt the Bajorans let him live here rent free.

The Nagus finally arrives and the Ferengi get their conference started. Zek's explains that he's annoyed that the Ferengi's completely undeserved reputation makes it hard to find lucrative business opportunities in the Alpha Quadrant. But no one's heard of them yet in the Gamma Quadrant, so they'll be able to rip people off like it's the good old days all over again! Everyone's hyped.

Plus he also reveals that he's stepping down and Quark's going to be the Grand Nagus now.

That bombshell doesn't go down so well, as the gathered Ferengi begin storming out, throwing chairs aside in anger as they go. It's got me concerned to be honest, as any one of those chairs could be Odo!


ACT THREE.


The next morning Sisko notices that his son's become disenchanted with his oatmeal. Actually Jake's miserable because he had a row with Nog after his father pulled him out of school. This could finally be the opening Sisko needs to split these two apart! Though to his credit he doesn't immediately jump on the opportunity.

Sisko strongly believes that humans should make friends with people from other cultures and he's happy for Jake to do, but the fact is that Ferengi and humans don't typically get on all that well. They never get on in fact, due to the fact that their ethics are so different. The first duty of a Starfleet officer is to the truth, the first rule in the Rules of Acquisition is "Once you have their money, you never give it back."

Jake casually mentions a pretty important piece of information here: Nog can't read. He doesn't specify whether he means read Ferengi or just Federation Standard English, but either way it explains why Vulcans keep stealing his homework (and why he didn't know what to do with his PADDs earlier). You'd think that Keiko would've noticed that one of her students couldn't read during the last six weeks, but that's easily explained by the fact that she bailed after three!

Now that Quark's the Grand Nagus, he's wandering the Promenade in a purple cloak, waving at no one in particular like he thinks he's the Pope.

A guy called Gral comes over and offers him... protection, from those who'd want to take his place. The price of this protection being first pick of the most lucrative opportunities in the Gamma Quadrant. You know I'm not even sure they've even met anyone in the Gamma Quadrant yet aside from the Tosk hunters and the Wadi.

Quark's justifiably a bit concerned about this so he goes to pay Ex-Nagus Zek a visit for some advice. I mean he doesn't literally pay him anything, as the old man offers his advice for free, and that's really weird considering he's supposed to be the ultimate Ferengi. Well he was at least, until he went and died, leaving Quark standing there without a clue what he's supposed to do.

Krax soon begins selling his dad's vacuum-desiccated corpse in Quark's bar, which seems like a limited market, even with all these high ranking Ferengi around. Surely the body of the most important Ferengi of the 24th century is going to sell better on Ferenginar... or anywhere that isn't a bar on a remote Bajoran space station.

It's funny how they managed to get the guy into jars so fast that Odo didn't even have time to ask Bashir to examine the body, one of them must have had a portable vacuum-desiccater on board their ship. Quark's certainly finding the situation hilarious, laughing out loud when his brother reveals he wants to take over his bar. He can't have it though, as Quark needs him as a bodyguard. So... is Nog running the bar now?

Meanwhile Nog and Jake still aren't talking to each other... until they are. Neither of their fathers believe that humans and Ferengi can ever be friends, but screw them, they're going to hang out anyway! Jake has a brilliant idea and they both go off to do whatever that is.

Also Quark leans down to pick up a coin and narrowly avoids being assassinated by an explosive drone. The event measures about 9.5 on my bullshit'o'meter, but then it's supposed to be a comedy episode, so I'll let him have his implausible good fortune.


ACT FOUR.


Though the way this ruined piece of wall obviously wobbles about during the next scene is pretty bad.

The drone was a Ferengi locator bomb and they're damn near foolproof, so even Quark's likely not foolish enough to survive their second attempt. Odo questions him about who he suspects trigged the bomb, but Quark doesn't really have any idea. Though they do realise that Zek's servant didn't turn up for the funeral, and that's kind of strange.

Back in the Jake and Nog plot, Sisko knows that Jake and Nog are up to something again and he's not happy about it. Especially the part where his son came home after midnight and won't tell him why.

I've never seen The Godfather, but I'm sure I read somewhere that the way Quark's office is set up here is a reference to a famous scene from the movie. Or maybe just some famous window blinds, I don't know.

A Ferengi's here who'd really like the chance to introduce synthehol to the Gamma Quadrant, but Quark's well aware that the guy really hasn't been his greatest supporter so far. So the man offers him 50% of the profits and Quark accepts immediately. He didn't even try to negotiate an even better deal!

"I seem to have a knack for it, don't I?" he says afterwards. Bullshit!

After Quark leaves to check on his bar, his bodyguards Krax and Rom have a bit of a chat. Turns out that they were the ones who tried to kill him with the locator bomb, and now they're plotting to try something else! Wait, Rom genuinely tried to assassinate Quark? This seems like something I should've remembered.


ACT FIVE.


Oh wow, it turns out that DS9 has the same doorbell system as Babylon 5, where you just yell 'come in' after hearing the chime and the door automatically unlocks and opens for your unknown visitor.

Fortunately it's just Dax at Sisko's door, not a Ferengi here to steal his silverware. She dropped by his quarters to see if he wanted to play chess... sorry, Jokarian Chess, but he's really not in the mood. In fact he's playing with his baseball, spinning it around in a bowl. The bowl was supposed to have food in it, but his son didn't turn up for dinner so that didn't happen. The kid's almost certainly out doing something nefarious with that Ferengi boy and he's pissed about it.

We learn that Dax has been a mother three times and a father twice, and apparently sucked at it every time, but she's got some advice for him anyway: he should drag his son home and make him eat his Aubergine stew. Sisko leaves to do just that, giving Dax a chance to help herself to a plateful. She's slowly developing into a character!

Sisko storms off down the corridors and finds Nog and Jake hiding in a cargo bay. But before he starts yelling he spies on them for a minute and finally gets what's going on here: Jake's been secretly teaching Nog how to read! The poor guy's been stuck between helping his friend and being honest to his dad and he's been doing the best he can. Though he already let slip that the guy can't read so he may as well have just told him the rest.

Then the episode cuts from the heartwarming Jake plot to Quark's Ferengi comedy story, as he's rushing out to a docked ship to visit the Gamma Quadrant and complete negotiations with one of its worlds. Considering how much luck he had with the Wadi last week I'm not optimistic, especially as he's been an idiot for most of the episode.

Meanwhile Odo's been tailing Zek's suspicious servant back to the ship he came in on, which turns out to have a really crappy seal on its airlock door. Airtight? It's not even Odotight.

They did really well here with the effects though I reckon, matching the 3D model to the movement of the actor. You just didn't see better looking humanoid puddles on TV back in the early 90s.

At some other airlock, Quark's a bit alarmed to discover that there's no ship on the other side of the door, especially when Krax and Rom seal him in there. Then Rom mocks him over the intercom about that threat he made earlier about throwing him out an airlock.

Wow, people are always threatening to throw people out of airlocks in sci-fi series, but Rom's actually going to go and do it. And all because he wants a bar! Quark's been a dick all episode though so he probably deserves a bit of time in the hard vacuum of deep space.

But Odo rescues him at the last second, because it turns out the Nagus was alive the whole time!

Man there's a lot of people wearing latex masks in this shot.

Turns out the Nagus faked his death as a test to see if Krax was ready to take his place, but he failed miserably. Zek was hoping his son would have the sense to hang back in Quark's shadow, quietly accumulating power without drawing attention to himself. But nope he went straight to assassination, and he's very disappointed.

Quark on the other hand is happy with Rom for the exact opposite reason. He's surprised his brother had the brains to get so close to killing him off, and gives him a promotion for his treachery. So yeah, basically he's an idiot.

An idiot who has to say goodbye to the Nagus's ugly scepter now as it's returning to its rightful owner. It'll be back though.

The episode ends with Sisko embarrassing his son with a hug in public and telling him to go play with his friend. Aww. Should've ended with some shifty Vulcans secretly snatching a PADD from Quark's in my opinion. Except not really.


CONCLUSION

It was a smart move by the producers to schedule The Nagus to come after Move Along Home as it doesn't actually seem so bad by comparison! Not that I'd personally rate it much higher. I'd put it like... one place above in my rankings.

But it's a Ferengi story and they're usually love them or hate them episodes, depending on whether the broad comedy works for you. I like comedy in my Star Trek, the Odo and Quark scenes have been the highlight of most episodes so far for me, but when it becomes full-on farce I quickly lose my interest. It's just not... realistic enough for me. I could buy the crew putting half an hour's work in and managing to locate an ancient wormhole built by godlike non-linear aliens that can bring any ship to the other side of the galaxy in Emissary, but when the Ferengi head of state drops by Quark's bar to make him his heir it rings all the 'nope' alarms in my brain. Plus it has comedy music, and that just makes me want to turn it off and put Tom and Jerry on instead. It's mild comedy music though to be fair, as even here the soundtrack barely rises above sonic wallpaper due to a commandment from Star Trek's overall overlord.

Quark's great when he's put up against a straight man like Odo, but when he's with these other Ferengi in their exclusive A plot there's nothing to interrupt the weird voices, gross customs, and repetitive jokes about profit and greed. Worse, his IQ seems to have dropped a few points to match the dumb story. Quark may often be the comic relief but he's not dumb. Then again I wouldn't say Rom was a murderer either, but he outright tries to assassinate his brother twice! And he gets away with it! I can understand Odo considering multiple attempts to murder Quark to be a minor offence, but the guy still should've been locked away for blowing a hole in the Promenade.

But my dislike of the A plot is balanced by my moderate appreciation for the B plot, which has Jake and Nog teaming up for the second time this season. I was cringing at some of the dialogue, but then they're 24th century teenagers stuck on an alien outpost without anyone else their age around, so it makes sense that they're going to sound awkward. The two actors make every scene work regardless with their charisma and normality. Jake's the anti-Wesley Crusher, who deals with his own problems instead of solving the crisis of the week, and what makes him special isn't genius level intelligence, it's his close friendship with a Ferengi.

The weird thing is that this B plot builds from the school plotline in A Man Alone, Keiko's return to Earth in Dax and Sisko's racist concerns about Nog in Move Along Home, meaning that all the continuity in the series so far is tied into the Jake and Nog storyline! So The Nagus is actually a crucial part of the most important plotline running through season one. There really isn't much else going on at this point, as the writers seem disinterested in following up on anything set up in Emissary. Still at least the Ferengi are showing some curiosity about what's in the Gamma Quadrant, even if they're just trying to find a new market for their overpriced alcohol-free alcohol.


Deep Space Nine will return with Vortex. But next on Sci-Fi Adventures I'm going back to Babylon 5 with By Any Means Necessary. You shouldn't really judge an episode by how many words are in its title but I already have my suspicious about which of these will be the better story.

Thanks for reading, feedback is welcome.

1 comment:

  1. Crikey, I can't stand Ferengi episodes. Argh.

    According to Memory Alpha, Morn is the owner of a shipping company, so that explains how he has enough money and time to be in Quark's bar all the time without being arrested as a vagrant.

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