Thursday, June 03, 2021

3 in The Nagus (Deep Space Nine S01-E11)

Our word can be our bond...until we break it

The Ferengi I remember of Star Trek the Next Generation is a pirate. 

Two that come to mind are DaiMon Bractor and Letek. They both went against the USS Enterprise: Bractor went against the Galaxy-class starship itself as a Commander of a Marauder, and Letek, while part of a landing party, ambushed Commander Riker’s Away Team. Both were profit motivated attacks which were unlike the Romulans or the Klingons.

Now, The Nagus creates a different Ferengi interested in business and profit. The pirate becomes the businessman, who can be unscrupulous most of the time; the head on charge by Bractor or Letek gave way to the finesse player that is Quark. Oh yes trivia, all 3 Ferengis mentioned were played by Armin Shimerman.

Also in this episode is Grand Nagus Zek the head of a Ferengi power structure; social norms such as selling the remains of the dead; and of course the rules of acquisition, Ferengi business interests, and dreams of expansion. 


All the Ferengi that came together in this episode talk like a corporation or a cooperative with interests scattered all over the Quadrant. It cements a business culture, completing redesign of the species in the Star Trek universe.

Here are the 3 things that stood out in the episode. 

Best Friends Jake and Nog

You got it. Keep going.

This is a great Jake Sisko episode. 

Jake sees his best friend as only Nog. It’s the same with Nog, he sees only Jake; someone to have fun with, watch the girls, explore the world. But to the adults they see the Ferengi boy and the Human boy coming together when both races have learned the lesson not to.

It is the ideal of Star Trek – of Starfleet – to explore strange new worlds and meet new civilizations; to accept any differences in culture, to learn and grow from every encounter. But sadly with age comes pain, and pain is a reminder of boundaries and what cannot be done. 

I don’t know the Ferengi point of view but we’ve been with Commander Sisko for 10 episodes. Commander Sisko as a Starfleet Officer should have been more encouraging with Jake’s willingness to make friends with Nog. 

But he is alone in raising Jake having lost his wife to the Borg. Deep Space Nine has been a hardship post of late: unstable Provisional Government, a Gamma Quadrant he needs to explore or defend against, Cardassians lurking, and all of this having no starship in his arsenal.

Plus Odo may have briefed him on Quark or as a Starfleet Commander he has been briefed on Ferengi activity especially incidents involving the USS Enterprise. Commander Sisko has had a life that can make him over protective with his son. 


He is also busy running DS9 that I'm sure all he wants is alone time, so on that point he may also be jealous of the best friend. But that doesn’t excuse him for putting the sins of the father into Nog.

It is a hopeful scene that the best friends did not take the words of the adults as gospel and avoid each other. They stayed together and helped each other grow. Of course in some cases we would call children foolhardy, naïve, or rebellious for being friendly with “undesirable” people and in some cases we would be right. 

But what will the world be if the young merely accepted convention. Jake teaching Nog to read is not on the level of the Khitomer Accords but it’s a future that can be built on.


Greed and Humor

My piece of Zek

Whenever I see Quark I think of a clown wearing a tailcoat. In part because it is a far cry from the monstrosity that Letek wore in TNG. It helps that Quark has personality, not slapstick or stupid; although Rom can be slow but the Ferengi scenes thus far have been on the witty and amusing side. And this is a Ferengi episode on steroids.

So yes, I think the clown description fits. The Ferengi for Deep Space Nine are the comic relief in what is a darker Star Trek franchise. 

In The Nagus the humor comes from the contradiction. Greed is not presented with malice that one would expect but in dictums that do not make any business or societal sense, except for the Ferengi.

Quark once betrayed his cousin to the authorities in a money making scheme that both of them cooked up. Grand Nagus Zek informed him that that cousin Barbo has already been released from prison. Yet Quark isn’t at all bothered that the cousin would want revenge. Zek who is looking to recruit Quark isn’t at all bothered that the latter sold out his own cousin for profit.


How do they live like this? A biblical quote of a house divided comes to mind but then again Ferengi do not follow the Bible. You can’t help but smile as they talk of betrayal and profit matter-of-factly. 

Zek isn’t at all bothered that the money making scheme is about selling defective warp drives. That it’s a stain on Ferengi reputation. What’s even funnier is that what they want in the Gamma Quadrant is not just market expansion but a market unfamiliar with Ferengi reputation, that they themselves care nothing about.

In the Gamma Quadrant, their word will be their bond until they decide to taint it again. What the hell kind of a business culture is that?!?



Leadership in the Shadows

It's like talking to a Klingon

I noted this down because it is a long game that feels like a contradiction with whatever Ferengi business culture is. 

But if we consider the remark on ‘their word becoming their bond until they choose to break it’, Grand Nagus Zek’s view on power fits. Or at least the culture is different from the skill with which the Zek, or anyone else, acquires and maintains his power.

You don't grab power.  You accumulate it... quietly... without anyone noticing…You could have sat there at your leisure and gathered up all the information you needed about the Gamma Quadrant. You could have let "him" carry the scepter... while you controlled    everything from the shadows.  Then, when things were running smoothly...only then would you take over.

It is a philosophy on power that Little Finger or Lord Varys can be proud of. But coming from a small man with an annoying voice of Wallace Shawn, it is easy to forget how Machiavellian it can be.

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