Sunday, March 18, 2012

"The Magnificent Ferengi" Finds Quark Becoming An Action Hero!

The Good: Funny, Moments of character, Decent acting, Make-up
The Bad: Yelgrun’s character, Seems silly at points
The Basics: In a pretty wonderful tribute to the Star Trek episode “Spock’s Brain,” the Ferengi mount a rescue operation that is very funny.

There are very few “concept episodes” of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine where the point of the show is to pay homage to another work. In fact, whenever Star Trek: Deep Space Nine does that sort of episode, they try to put their own spin on it and make it work within the context of the overall arc of the series. So, an episode like “The Magnificent Ferengi,” which is a Star Trek reworking of The Magnificent Seven is more than simply an homage. The episode actually works to extend Quark’s character growth and it does that well, though the episode is hardly one of the most serious of the series.

Instead, in a comedic episode, writers Ira Steven Behr and Hans Beimler work to create a Ferengi episode that is vital and interesting. They manage to succeed, for the most part, though they toss in quite a bit of humor. When it is not being farcical or alluding to Star Trek’s “Spock’s Brain” (reviewed here!), “The Magnificent Ferengi” is actually a fairly serious action-adventure that gives Quark the chance to be an outright hero. And it works.

Quark is once more experiencing a slump when Rom begins to irritate him about how their mother appears to have vanished. It does not take long for Quark to confirm that Ishka has been taken prisoner by the Dominion. To secure her safe release, Quark needs a hostage of his own and when the Dominion decides they would like the Vorta Keevan returned to them, Quark prepares to make the trade. With Rom, Nog, Gaila, Brunt (who provides the shuttle) and a psychopathic Ferengi named Leck, the Ferengi make the journey to Empok Nor to trade Vorta.

As Ishka goads Yelgrun, the Vorta holding her captive, Quark and his family walk the gauntlet of Jem’Hadar. But when infighting within the Ferengi group leaves Keevan dead, the Ferengi must rise above all expectations of them. With the clock ticking and Ishka’s life in the balance, Quark fights for the honor of all Ferengi.

“The Magnificent Ferengi” is an episode that is very easy to write-off initially. What appears to be a fairly straightforward slapstick comedy – of which, I am not a fan – “The Magnificent Ferengi” is actually a worthwhile continuation of Quark’s character arc. In “Sacrifice Of Angels” (reviewed here!), Quark’s daring jailbreak helped to turn the course of the war. Yet, his heroism is often neglected when one recounts great moments of the Dominion War. But that moment when Quark rose above being a simple businessman left him itching for something more. “The Magnificent Ferengi” allows him to scratch that itch.

Quark’s defiance of convention in “The Magnificent Ferengi” reads as very true. Here he is characterized as a strong man with a real sense of racial pride. Cunning and clever, while Keevan gets under his skin, he soon realizes that despite Keevan’s motives, the Vorta is telling the truth. So, the diverse group of Ferengi that Quark assembles is actually one that allows Quark to show off his leadership abilities. While he manipulates various Ferengi (save Leck, who is not interested in profit) with their cut of the promised reward money, Quark is actually motivated far more by the desire to show the rest of the galaxy just what the Ferengi are capable of. It’s a good motivation and it “reads” as very true.

What looks like it could be a pretty straightforward hostage exchange becomes delightfully complicated as “The Magnificent Ferengi” turns into a farce episode. The writers have a clear love for Star Trek and the subtle allusion to “Spock’s Brain” with Keevan is very well-executed. But beyond the slapstick comedy, “The Magnificent Ferengi” is also smartly funny. Ishka’s wordplay with Yelgrun is hilarious and his responses to her recommendations are delivered with amazing cold humor by Iggy Pop. Unfortunately, Yelgrun does not seem very much like a Vorta at all. He overtly threatens Ishka and that does not “read” as right.

One of the last big Ferengi subplot episodes of the series, “The Magnificent Ferengi” does an excellent job of utilizing the whole guest cast. Josh Pais, Christopher Shea, Max Grodenchik, Jeffrey Combs (as Brunt) and Aron Eisenberg all play off one another expertly well. There is a great sense of chemistry between the performers in this episode, even if some of it is well within their established acting range. Cecily Adams is memorably funny as Ishka and she and Iggy Pop have great on-screen chemistry.

But the episode manages to focus well on Quark. While part of Quark’s journey has him swindling his peers over reward money, most of the purpose of the journey is to give Quark a chance to grow. Armin Shimerman presents that very well in his performance. The way he delivers his lines when he is dismissively talking about money versus the way he has Quark emote when talking about the Ferengi in general is a vivid contrast. Shimerman sells what could be a shaky episode as one that is subtly deep.

In the end, though, “The Magnificent Ferengi” is a loosely affiliated episode in the overall Dominion War arc. It is, however, the last Ferengi Subplot episode that it is easy to enthusiastically recommend.

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

For other works featuring Josh Pais, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
A Beautiful Mind
“Business As Usual”
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles


For other Star Trek reviews, please visit my Star Trek Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the episodes, movies and DVD sets I have reviewed!

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