Sunday, December 11, 2011

3-16. Prophet Motive.

Quark and Rom are appalled by the
Nagus (Wallace Shawn)'s latest scheme.


Grand Nagus Zek (Wallace Shawn) returns to Deep Space 9, moving into Quark's quarters to complete his great work: Revising the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition! Quark is literally atremble with anticipation to benefit from the Nagus' wisdom. Which makes it all the more shocking when he opens the book to read the first rule and discovers the following sentence:

"Rule #1: If they want their money back... Give it to them!"

The Nagus has become a philanthropist. He is setting up a Ferengi Benevolent Association, with Quark and Rom to act as co-chairs. As Zek determines to "move beyond greed" and focus on helping the needy, Quark decides that something must be horribly wrong. His suspicions seem to be confirmed when Zek announces that he will be presenting the Bajoran people with a gift - one of the missing orbs of prophecy!


Commander Sisko: Supportive Dr. Bashir's nomination for the prestigious Carrington Award. Otherwise mostly absent in this episode, though Quark does express respect for "the Sisko" when talking with the Prophets near the end.

Quark: When Zek expresses his new philanthropic philosophy, Quark at first believes this must be some part of a larger scheme. As it becomes clear that the Nagus's charity is genuine, Quark decides something must be wrong. He insists on having Bashir check Zek out for illness or mental incapacity. When Zek talks of a "gift" for the Bajorans, Quark investigates further - something which ultimately leads him to the truth. All his business acumen shows itself in his scene with the Prophets as he sizes up their weakness, moving from one "sales pitch" to another until he finds one that actually strikes a chord.

Dr. Bashir: He seems less than pleased at Dax having put his name forward for the Carrington Award. He then assumes a fatalistic posture, insisting that he is too young to have any chance of winning. At the same time, he continues to work on his acceptance speech and is anything but happy when he inevitably loses.

Grand Nagus Zek: Wallace Shawn's third appearance as Zek is the best yet. The contrast between Zek's normal foul-tempered shrewdness and his exuberant joy in most of this episode is striking, and Shawn throws himself into both variants of Zek with abandon. In a way, this is like A Christmas Carol in reverse. Zek has always been a Scrooge, but now is a decent and giving man. Through Quark's intervention, he finds his inner miser again.


Rene Auberjonois takes a turn at directing, and does a pretty good job of it. After the last comedy episode directed by a cast member, I was actively dreading this one. But Prophet Motive is a delight. It's all the things comedy Trek episodes usually aren't: fast, clever, consistent with both itself and the larger universe of the show, and - just as a side note - very, very funny.

I love the way the episode turns morality on its head. The script, cannily put together by DS9 stalwarts Ira Steven Behr and Robert Hewitt Wolfe, makes us really root for Quark. Like him, we want to know what has brought about this change in Zek. When Quark finds the answer and travels into the wormhole to set things right, it's a heroic moment. His success is a triumph, and we cheer for the tag as Rom shares a personal secret with Quark.

...But surely we shouldn't? The horrible thing that Quark is setting right is... decency. This changed Zek is setting out to do good in the universe, and he has the resources to do quite a lot of legitimate good. This is what Quark is fighting against. Quark's "Hero Moment" will mean that people who may have been saved will starve, that people who may have had a chance at a decent life will live in squalor. The episode doesn't shy away from this, either. Quark stops Zek just at the point when Zek is about to help a planet that has suffered devastation due to solar flares. And yet we laugh, even cheer, as Quark and Rom carry Zek through the corridors in a bag. Quark is standing for the integrity of venality - and the script makes us culpable, because we want him to succeed and this "new Zek" to fail.

In short, the episode makes us into Ferengi while watching it. And far from burying it for this, I come to praise it.  Making us fully complicit in Quark's stand for greed and selfishness?  That's this episode's greatest triumph.

Overall Rating: 8/10

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