Sunday, October 17, 2010

1-11. The Nagus

Introducing Zek (Wallace Shawn),
Grand Nagus of the Ferengi.


Quark receives a distinguished visitor: Zek (Wallace Shawn), Grand Nagus of the Ferengi. With the Nagus' arrival, Quark fears the worst - that the discovery of the wormhole has led the Ferengi leader to decide to "acquire" his bar. But Zek only wants the bar only on loan, with Quark serving as host for a Ferengi conference to discuss the opportunities for profit that the Gamma Quadrant has opened to them.

At the conference, the Nagus drops a bombshell. "I'm old," he proclaims, "I'm just not as greedy as I used to be." He then names his successor, a Ferengi whose avarice will exceed his own.



Commander Sisko: Is uncomfortable with his son's friendship with Nog, whom he sees as a bad influence.  However, he's smart enough to know that if he were to try to forbid it, he would put a strain on his own relationship with Jake. He wants to trust Jake and leave his son free to make his own choices. But when Jake begins missing his curfew to spend time with Nog, Sisko does go looking for him - and what he finds leads to one of the better nonverbal bits of acting Avery Brooks has done.

Quark: I question the placement of this episode right after Move Along Home, as it effectively gives us two Quark-centric episodes in a row. There are really no new sides shown to Quark's character here, as most of his reactions (greed, fear of physical harm, bantering with Odo) are pretty much the same ones we saw in the last episode. Still, Shimerman is always fun, and his performance helps to redeem a rather weak script.


Comedy Trek episodes are tough. Sometimes, the actors really enjoy a break from acting ludicrously seriously and respond to cutting loose. With a sharp script that balances the comedy elements against the need for the characters and setting to stay true to themselves, the results can be delightful. Other times, the silliness can overwhelm the series' own confines and result in a self-parody.

Then there are cases like The Nagus, a comedy episode that doesn't in any way stretch the limits of the show's characters or settings... but which also isn't particularly funny. Or interesting, for that matter. A few amusing bits aside (Quark's reaction to treachery, for example), this episode is a flat, dull exercise in lifelessness.

Pacing is a severe problem. The main situation to milk for comedy here is Quark acting as Grand Nagus. That's the episode's big concept - Quark as ruler of the Ferengi, dodging assassination attempts - and yet it takes almost half the episode to even get to that point! Once reached, the idea isn't played for even a fraction of its potential. What if multiple parties were trying to assassinate Quark, rather than just the one individual revealed at the end? That would have more comic potential, and allow the possibility of a climax in which Quark believes himself safe before stupidly walking into the ending trap.

The episode also commits the cardinal sin of wasting Wallace Shawn. Wallace Shawn as the ruler of the Ferengi seems like a natural - Yet he has little to do, and is only slightly funnier than the actor playing his son.

In the end, The Nagus is a grand sludge. It's visually uninteresting, slow-paced, and for all its attempts at humor, it's mostly unfunny. Disheartening, in a series that has maintained relatively consistent quality, that this installment ended up reminding me of one of those horrible early first-season Next Generation episodes.

Rating: 3/10.

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