Sunday, 21 September 2014

Rules of Acquisition written by Ira Steven Behr and directed by David Livingston


What’s it about: Quark is given the opportunity of a lifetime…

Tasty Terrorist: Kira catches the Nagus eyeing up some hot booty and then asks her to join him by sitting on his knee and when she refuses he pinches her ass (for the second time) as she walks away. The Nagus seems to confirm her opinion of the Ferengi and it's hilarious to see him taking such liberties with the sort of woman that would rip your arm off for looking at her the wrong way.

Nine Lives: The rehabilitation of Dax continues as we open this story with her having a great time gambling with Quark and his waiters, flirting with him and walking away with all the cash. There is a brilliant scene between Dax and Kira where she reveals that she has had more fun with the Ferengi over the years than any other race. It’s about time somebody spoke up for this race given they were the subject of so much casual discrimination on TNG. She doesn’t care what anybody says, she loves Quark, even when he tries to do something sweet for her and expect some nookie in return. As much as Quark pretends to get ovet his feelings for Pel in a hurry and immediately starts flirting with Dax, she knows him better than that and tells him so. 

Community Leader: Quark practically bursts like a big pus filled spot at the thought of becoming the Nagus’ chief negotiator in the Gamma Quadrant. Whilst I don’t for one second think that Quark is gay it is interesting to see him slowly falling for somebody that he thinks is a man. Clearly he is uncomfortable with the idea and yet something draws him very strongly to Pel. There is a much darker story that could have played out here that delved into the thorny subject of sexuality but not even DS9 was ready for that at this point in time. I’m glad that once her gender is exposed that Quark proves he really is a man by sacrificing his profits so the woman he has fallen for can go free. He's not irredeemable. 

Hairy Ears: Basically the Nagus is to DS9 what Lwaxana was to TNG, a really fun character who turns up every now again and causes chaos and whips up the regulars in a frenzy. He seems to be loved and loathed in equal measures too, just like Mrs Troi. However thanks to the talents of Wallace Shawn, the Nagus is ten times the better guest character as far as I am concerned and practically every one of his lines is a comic gem and extremely quotable. He’s a wonderfully lovable grotesque and I punch the air whenever he shows up. Go and watch the glorious scene in Sisko’s office where he tries to offer them drugs, trick the Bajorans out of a small fortune, flirt with Kira and sneeze all over the desk (‘little late, aren’t we?’)! He believes the Ferengi have a reputation for honesty, decency and reliability – you always know what to expect when you do business with the Ferengi. Maybe that last line is true, not sure about the rest. The Nagus knew all along that there was an alliance of planets in the Gamma Quadrant and he sneakily set Quark up to do this deal so he could find out more about them. He's a wily one, watch out for him. Could you imagine a day that he, Kai Winn and Garak joined forces? 

Secret Genius: Interesting that Quark was the shameless scene-stealer in the first season stealing the limelight away from the regulars and now in season two Rom is slowly doing exactly the same thing to Quark. Bless him, in this episode he is often to be found in the background of a scene framed by Quark and Pel being ignored and generally insulted by his brother. He prefers his ladies naked and submissive. Rom tries any opportunity to get Pel fired because he feels as if he is taking his place in his brother’s affections. Rom is still living in his brother’s shadow at the moment but over the next two years he will slowly start to gain his own independence. 

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘It never hurts to suck up to the boss!’
‘Once we get our foot in the door…they’ll never get it out.’
‘Then I suppose a night of wild passionate romance is out of the question?’
‘So you like my lobes?’ ‘Yes I do’ ‘Good then you can have them!’ ‘Arrrggghhh! It’s a female!’ 

The Good: When the comedy does work in this episode it really works and I always die of laughter when Rom discovers Pel’s huge ears and holds them up to the light in mock horror and also the very funny muted sequence where Quark finds out that Pel is a woman. And faints. The Nagus’ reaction to having done business with a female is priceless. Flaked splud fleas? Ugh! 

The Bad: There is no point in this episode where I was ever convinced that Pel was a bloke and so dressing up the reveal as a revelation felt a little awkward to me. Wowza, we haven’t seen aliens quite this badly made up since the half black/half white race in TOS and we never find out if these are simply ceremonial markings of their actual faces. Either way, it looks really cheap. I'm not sure that the Dozai ever needed to be referenced again but they are brought up on several occasions since because they are essential in the bridge between the Federation and the Dominion. For that, they should be wiped off the face of the galaxy. If you weren’t a fan of Star Trek and thought it was simply a lot of grotesquely make up people hamming it up in space you should probably use the first negotiation scene as your evidence. 

What’s Morn up to: I love Morn so much I want to add a little section to discuss his activities. Here he is squatting on the Promenade and trying desperately to get into Quarks for a drink whilst a late night Tongo game is being played. 

Moment to Watch Out For: When Zek pinches Kira’s bum outside the airlock waiting to receive the Dozai. ‘If you ever do that again…’ ‘Do what?’

Teaser-tastic: The Nagus is back!

Only DS9: When people praise shows like Lower Decks for focussing on the behind the scenes characters so effectively they happily forget the Ferengi episodes of DS9 which have an entire running story that is built upon over seven years. Whilst they might be comic episodes these are valuable insights into what goes on away from the important Starfleet business and helps to make DS9 feel like a place where people live.

Foreboding: ‘Lets just say if you want to do business in the Gamma Quadrant then you have to do business with the Dominion.’ Such an important line, this. The first mention of the enemy that would flood this series with great drama right until its last breath.

Result: Whilst I think it misses its mark as a comment on sexism by several miles and completely fails to acknowledge Quark's sexuality, there is a lot to like about Rules of Acquisition. One thing I have really noticed over the years is how little the US audience seem to think of the Ferengi episodes and how much the UK audience seem to like them and I think I have figure out why. US comedies are usually one joke wonders written by a committee of writers (for example Friends with its ‘the one with…’ titles but there are dozens of other popular sitcoms that you could point to with that style) which rely on the charisma of the actors to fill the time. British comedies on the other hand are often character driven affairs and often focusing on the less appealing areas of life and poking fun at them. More often than not I see a lot of clever British humour in the Ferengi episodes (go and watch an episode of ‘Allo ‘Allo and then go and watch Profit and Lace and you are pretty much watching the same thing) and I really enjoy them because the actors playing the Ferengi actors clearly love working together and that chemistry extends to the audience and you feel as if you are part of the family. It's a very comfortable place to be. So whilst Rules of Acquisition has some dodgy aliens, a painfully unfunny gay farce scene and hardly any purpose, the resulting episode is still a joy to watch because the atmosphere is so welcoming. If this isn't to your tastes then go and watch a DS9 comedy in the American style (the far more sexy and charismatic Take Me Out to the Holosuite and Badda-Bing Badda-Bang). The Nagus tries to bed Kira, Dax has a riot with her Ferengi friends, Rom gains even more sympathy than usual and Quark holds the whole piece together with his roguish charm. It’s not very clever but it’s a whole lot of fun: 7/10

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