Sunday, February 23, 2014

5-20. Ferengi Love Songs.

Quark's mother, in love with the Grand Nagus.


With his bar closed due to a vole infestation, Quark falls into a deep depression. At Rom's urging, he returns home to Ferenginar, much to the dismay of his mother, Ishka (Cecily Adams, taking over for Andrea Martin). He has barely arrived before he discovers someone lurking in his closet: Grand Naguz Zek (Wallace Shawn), who is in a secret relationship with Ishka.

Quark senses an opportunity to use the relationship to have his FCA license restored. When the Nagus refuses, however, Quark falls under the venomous sway of Liquidator Brunt (Jeffrey Combs). Brunt promises to issue a new business license if Quark sabotages the relationship between Zek and Ishka. It's a despicable act, one Quark is all too happy to commit - until he realizes that Zek is slipping into senility, and that it is actually his mother's advice that is enabling the Nagus to hold the Ferengi government together.

Meanwhile, Rom and Leeta announce their marriage. Rom agrees to a traditional Bajoran ceremony. But when some ill-advised words from Chief O'Brien lead him to think that Leeta should agree to some Ferengi marital traditions as well, he picks the wrong one: a prenuptial agreement that would deny her the right to hold any property whatever. When Rom insists, Leeta announces that the wedding is off!


Capt. Sisko: Just to add insult to the injury that is this terrible episode, we get a quick aside in which Sisko is mediating between Worf and Odo. The issue at hand involves Klingon General Martok's difficulties adjusting to life on Deep Space 9. It's a fun little scene, well-performed by all three - and enormously frustrating, because that would have been a much better plot than either of the ones actually follows.

Quark: We discover here that he's actually miserable in the wake of the FCA blacklisting and hates his life... Which would ring far truer if he hadn't seemed emotionally fine in every other episode this season. Quark is horrified to admit that he has any sort of conscience, despite many previous episode showing him doing decent things in full awareness of what he's doing. But then, this isn't the real Quark, this isn't the Quark who stood up to Sisko for his people being better than humans or the Quark who wrestled with a hard-fought internal battle between profit and saving innocent lives just two episodes ago. No, this is Quark as caricature, reduced to a joke character to further some bad comedy. Armin Shimerman does his best, as always, but there's just no saving the material.

Grand Nagus: While I was never a big fan of Zek in previous episodes, there at least was a bit of an edge to him. He was genuinely shrewd and manipulative, which kept him from being an entirely "safe" comedy character. This episode reduces him to exactly that. Giving Zek Ferengi Alzheimer's isn't entirely without merit as a plot turn - but not when that concept is used solely as an excuse for "senile old man" humor, as is the case here. Making matters worse is the portrayal of the love affair between Zek and Ishka, with the two cooing at each other in a manner that's not simply undignified, but leaves both characters downright infantilized. I never looked forward to a Zek appearance before; but now, I suspect I'll be outright dreading future guest spots.


After Business As Usual followed in the footsteps of some solid Season Four offerings, showing how enjoyable a Quark-centric episode with a bit of edge and bite can be, Ferengi Love Songs helpfully reminds us just how tedious and soul-sucking a toothless Ferengi "comedy" can be. We revisit Quark's mother, last seen played by Andrea Martin in Season Three's dreary Family Business. The change of actress has not made the character any more endearing, though in fairness to actress Cecily Adams, the problem isn't her - I just find the character to be entirely grating.

The episode really is just two jokes, alternating back and forth: two old Ferengi in love (because old people in love = comedy, particularly when they act like children), and the Nagus slipping into senility (because real life senility is such comedy gold). The "B" plot is actually even worse, with Rom attempting to push Leeta into being a proper Ferengi wife... which predictable results, only to reach a predictable conclusion.

The ever-reliable Jeffrey Combs manages to inject a few chuckles into his too-brief appearances as Brunt. Even Brunt manages to be entirely neutered by this episode, though, reduced to hiding in Quark's closet while practicing his evil laugh. The end of the episode has Quark treating his threats as a joke.  What a way to treat the first and only genuinely menacing Ferengi in all of Star Trek: de-clawing him for the sake of a few cheap (and unfunny) gags.

All told, I would rank Ferengi Love Songs as the worst episode of the season. Yes, in my opinion, even worse than Let He Who Is Without Sin... I was reduced to watching this in installments, simply because I could only take ten minutes or so of it at a time, and I will be very happy to never go anywhere near this episode, ever again.

Overall Rating: 1/10.

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