|Liquidator Brunt (Jeffrey Combs) of |
the Ferengi Commerce Authority.
It's the Bajoran Time of Cleansing, a month-long period in which the Bajorans abstain from worldly pleasures... which puts a severe dent in the business at Quark's bar. Seeing his profit margin slipping, Quark decides to make up the difference in time-honored Ferengi fashion: By exploiting his employees. He gathers his workers and announces that he is going to cut their pay by a third, snapping at Rom when he dares to protest.
An offhand comment by Dr. Bashir leads Rom to consider a drastic means of retaliation. He holds an employee meeting and calls on them to create a union and go on strike. But Ferengi law does not smile on labor unions, and it isn't long before the dreaded Ferengi Commerce Authority turns its gaze toward this dispute. Quark's old adversary, Liquidator Brunt (Jeffrey Combs), arrives with a promise to end the strike - "by any means necessary!"
Capt. Sisko: When the strike begins to cause disruption among his officers, he sits down with Quark to push the Ferengi to settle the situation. Quark balks, so Sisko shifts gears and intimidates him instead. He threatens to hold Quark accountable for five years' worth of back rent, power, and maintenance unless the Ferengi sits down with his brother to hammer out an agreement.
Quark: The first half of the episode shows him at his most grasping, and his treatment of Rom is outright cruel. Quark never considers trying to deal with Rom's strike with violence, however. Once Brunt and the FCA become involved, Quark instantly worries about Rom. He begs Rom to give in before he gets hurt, and is clearly uncomfortable when Brunt begins musing about "sending a message." In the end, Quark is able to solve the problem he helped create by using his Ferengi ingenuity.
Worf: Continues to find life on Deep Space 9 "unsettling." When he catches a thief stealing from his quarters, he confronts Odo about the lax security on the station. Things like this, he says, never happened on the Enterprise - which hilariously prompts Odo to read from a datapad a few of the Enterprise's highlights during the time Worf was in charge of security. Worf resolves his issues, at least for now, by moving his quarters to the Defiant. Meanwhile, his flirtation with Dax continues to grow, as the writers wisely build on the chemistry Michael Dorn and Terry Farrell have demonstrated in previous episodes.
O'Brien: Gets a terrific little scene in which he responds to Rom's plan to form a union with enthusiasm. He recalls an ancestor who led a coal miner's strike in Pennsylvania. All the workers' demands were met - but O'Brien's ancestor didn't live to see it happen. The scene is still funny, particularly Rom's reaction to hearing about the union leader's fate, but it also has a bit of added texture that the rest of the episode lacks.
Rom: Season Four has been very good to Rom. He already worked as a sparring partner for Quark, but he has steadily emerged as a strong character in his own right. The show has gradually demonstrated since Season Two how strong Rom's technical skills are, and his Season Three appearances started to show that he was a lot smarter than his brother gives him credit for. In this episode, he finally stands up to Quark and shows genuine courage and leadership skills.
Leeta: Moves from a background character to a significant supporting role, acting as Rom's second once he forms the union. She admits to being surprised by Rom's courage, but she is entirely supportive of him throughout the show. Chase Masterson is appealing, and plays so well opposite Max Grodenchik that I wouldn't mind seeing this relationship developed further.
Last week, I reviewed False Profits, a Voyager episode centered around the Ferengi. This week, I find myself reviewing a Ferengi episode of DS9 - and the difference is stark, and really points to the difference between the two shows. False Profits saw two Ferengi guest characters behaving like pretty typical, one-dimensional Ferengi. Some of the gags were funny, some weren't, but with everything played for laughs there was no real added dimension to carry the show through the jokes that misfired.
Bar Association seems on the surface to be a typical Ferengi comedy. Quark is at his most greedy and selfish, and even Rom initially struggles to get the word "union" past his throat even as he forms one. But there's added depth here, and that goes beyond the regulars. Quark and Rom are established characters who have depth, but even the Ferengi guest characters show more dimensions than Voyager's guest Ferengi in the other show. One of the Ferengi employees reacts to the FCA's arrival by falling to his knees and begging for mercy - but the other Ferengi do not. Meanwhile, Brunt in this episode may be the first Ferengi to actually succeed in being sinister, as he plots violence in a matter-of-fact manner, all the while keeping a crafty grin on his face. Instead of one, monolithic personality for all Ferengi, each speaking Ferengi has his own persona.
The "B" plot with Worf also works well. Writers Ira Steven Behr and Robert Hewitt Wolfe build on issues Worf has had in previous episodes, principally his problems with being constantly surrounded by disorder. When Dax tells him that he will have to adjust eventually, Worf replies with strength: "Maybe it is all of you who will have to adjust to me." Even so, Worf gets a deserved smackdown from Odo when he tries to claim that Deep Space 9's security is more lax than Enterprise's. Like all the characters, the Klingon has his strengths and also his weaknesses.
This wasn't an episode I was looking forward to - but all in all, it was surprisingly entertaining. As with almost any Ferengi comedy, not all of the gags work. But with the character depth and the building character relationships, there is plenty of genuine interest to keep the episode going even when a joke falls flat - and the raising of the stakes, with Brunt and his Naussicans presenting a genuine threat in the latter half, keeps momentum building instead of letting it lie flat as so many "comedy episodes" do.
Overall Rating: 7/10
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