Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Ferengi Episode That Is Not Funny Is Not Just "Business As Usual"

The Good: Good character work, nice acting, interesting plot, direction
The Bad: Somewhat confusing in the long run, obvious morality play
The Basics: When Quark's gun-running cousin offers him a job, Quark finds himself entangled in a very profitable and very bloody business.

The hallmark of the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine subplot involving the Ferengi is that it is funny. The episodes that involve the Ferengi tend to be humorous and generally less memorable than the a-plot episodes or the episodes in the other subplot of the series, the Mirror Universe. Along comes "Business As Usual," though, to shake up the formula of using the Ferengi as comic relief.

When Quark's famed Cousin Gaila arrives on the station, Quark finds himself feeling even lower than usual. Since his banishment from Ferengi society, he has been nearly bankrupted. But Gaila's timely arrival is more than just a visit to gloat; Gaila comes with a business proposition. Quark, hesitant to get into the gun running business that has made Gaila filthy rich, is reassured by Gaila and his menacing business partner Hagath that Quark's role would simply be to serve potential clients and so Quark agrees. As the money starts rolling in, Quark finds his debts paid off and his future looking bright. But when Hagath gets involved with a rather messy biological war on a small planet, Quark's conscience is picked and he has a serious ethical dilemma.

Outside the underlying principle of the episode, "Business As Usual" works and works well. The problem is, the episode should never have happened. Gaila is a successful Ferengi, presumably by following the Rules of Acquisition. By dealing with Quark, following his banishment, Gaila undermines the very system that presumably made him wealthy enough to own his own moon. Moreover, it makes no sense that Gaila would need Quark and the excuse that Quark is family runs thin. For a man who owns his own moon, one would think he would have plenty of space for hosting his own weapons sales.

Besides the practical invalidation of Quark's ejection from Ferengi Society, the episode comes across as thematically heavy-handed. When Sisko learns of Quark's activities, he cracks down on the Ferengi and Dax abandons him in a very fourth grade "I'm having nothing to do with you" way. So, it becomes a bit obvious as a morality play and that is somewhat disappointing to watch.

On the other end of the spectrum, "Business As Usual" illustrates well the desperate measures a person will go to when they feel they are drowning financially. Quark is the only outlet for such issues in the future society wherein there is no money. Moreover, being something of a shady character, Quark seems to be a reasonable candidate for a morality lesson like this one where he must learn to put people ahead of profit.

In the end, then, "Business As Usual" does more than simply erase Quark's debts that he has taken on since his banishment. Indeed, it allows us to believe that Quark's hospitality industry is something that might actually mean something to him and that his friendships are actually important. In the long term, it comes to make sense and it makes his role in "Favor The Bold" at the beginning of the sixth season a great deal more realistic.

"Business As Usual" works because of Josh Pais, who plays Gaila, and Steven Berkoff, who portrays Hagath. Pais does an excellent job working rather complicated lines out around the Ferengi teeth easily establishing a somewhat smarmy Ferengi character. On the other end, Berkoff's cold demeanor and stern facade make the viewer believe instantly in Hagath's lethal nature.

The episode hinges on the performance by Armin Shimerman and he does an excellent job presenting Quark as a conflicted character. Under the direction of fellow castmate Siddig El Fadil, Shimerman uses the full range of his voice and eyes to emote and make Quark's emotional and ethical journey resonate. As for El Fadil's directoral debut, it is a good outing, though it is one of only two episodes he would direct for the series. El Fadil's directing style fits in very well with the Deep Space Nine "look."

In the end, "Business As Usual" is enjoyable to anyone who likes a good morality play wherein the value of life is put above profit, where it ought to be. It is one of the few Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episodes that is appropriate to all audiences.

[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Complete Fifth Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the perfect season by clicking here!


For other Star Trek reviews, be sure to visit my specialized index page on the subject by clicking here!

© 2012, 2007, 2003 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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