|Quark takes on the Dominion. |
Or as Rom puts it: "We'll all die!"
Quark receives a message from the Grand Nagus: His mother, Ishka (Cecily Adams), has been captured by the Dominion. As if that wasn't bad enough, the Nagus has given Quark a directive - To personally rescue her.
Rom sensibly recommends they hire Naussican mercenaries to take on the task. But Quark is feeling slighted. The deeds of Starfleet officers get all the attention, while Quark's efforts on the station's behalf are all but ignored. That stokes his Ferengi pride, and he declares a course that strikes Rom as suicidal: To mount an all-Ferengi rescue mission.
Starfleet-trained Nog makes a valiant effort to make commandos out of a band of Ferengi outcasts, but it's clear that this group will never be able to get through Jem'Hadar soldiers. That's when Quark realizes that they must play to the strengths of the Ferengi. He needs to forget a military assault, and instead open a negotiation, using one of the few bargaining chips the station has to offer: The cowardly but slippery Keevan (Christopher Shea), the Vorta captured by Sisko months earlier.
Keevan is less than thrilled about being traded back to the Dominion. Vorta are supposed to commit suicide rather than allowing themselves to be taken prisoner - Meaning that the only welcome he can expect is a long and agonizing death...
Capt. Sisko: After Kira directly voices her support for Quark, Sisko grants permission for the Ferengi to use Keevan as a bargaining chip. Both Kira's recommendation and Sisko's agreement to give up a valuable prisoner demonstrate just how much their view of Quark has changed in light of his actions during the recent occupation.
Quark: Has always had an enormous sense of pride in being a Ferengi, which makes it believable that he wants to show that his people are capable of acts of heroism. Whatever else Quark may be, he is a natural leader. He doesn't come up with the specific ideas for the rescue. It is Rom who recognizes that they need to act like Ferengi to succeed, and it is Nog who comes up with the idea of fooling Yelgren (Iggy Pop), the Vorta in charge of trading Ishka for Keevan. But Quark is the one who keeps the group moving forward at every turn, and is the one who deals directly with Yelgren. He is the definite leader of this band of miscreants, and fully deserves it when his mother and brother express pride in him at the end.
Rom: Continues to follow his brother's lead, almost by default. He is able to steer Quark in the right direction - encouraging him to barter with the Dominion rather than try to fight, for example. But for the most part, he is there to support Quark in gathering his Magnificent Ferengi and in completing the mission. Rom can't lie to save his life, though, and almost destroys the entire exchange by letting slip that the reward promised by the Nagus is much larger than Quark is letting on.
Nog: Continually tries to execute the mission in the manner of a Starfleet military operation. He barks out orders, much to the scorn of the other Ferengi, and is taken aback when Quark gets his band to move "on the double" by promising latinum. Rom expresses pride in him, exclaiming, "My son, the soldier!" Quark is simply disgusted: "They've ruined him."
Brunt: No longer Liquidator, in the wake of his failed attempt to unseat the Grand Nagus, Brunt is now powerless enough to actually turn to Quark. Not surprisingly, Quark's first inclination is to tell his one-time nemesis where to shove it, but Brunt has something the rest of them do not: A ship. It's thin justification for adding Brunt to the mix; I find it hard to believe Quark couldn't lay his hands on a ship on very short notice, and he certainly could do so once Sisko gave the mission his blessing. But Jeffrey Combs is so much fun, I can't regret it. I'm just sorry that Weyoun couldn't have been in the episode as well, so that we could have had a double-dose of his two great DS9 villains.
Keevan: The memorably despicable Vorta from Rocks and Shoals reappears here. He's still driven by a desire to save his own skin, which now means resisting the attempts to trade him back to the Dominion. He tries to talk the Ferengi out of completing the trade, noting that Yelgren will certainly kill them all either before or after the hostage exchange. When that doesn't work, he attempts to flee - an attempt thwarted only by Quark's foresight in having Rom disengage key ship functions. Keevan's final words of the episode are a perfectly disgusted and, in context, hilarious sigh of: "I hate Ferengi!"
Readers of my reviews know that I have a rocky relationship with Ferengi episodes. I've enjoyed some individual pieces, such as Prophet Motive and Bar Association, but have found many others (such as anything involving Quark's mother) to be tedious and unfunny.
Even so, I found myself looking forward to The Magnificent Ferengi. It's an episode with a good reputation, scripted by the reliable Ira Steven Behr and Hans Beimler. Besides, the notion of almost all of the series' recurring Ferengi banding together for a mission against the Dominion is irresistible.
Fortunately, the episode easily lives up to its reputation. It is fast-paced, clever, and very funny. While the recurring Ferengi supporting characters only get enough time to establish themselves as "types," each does get a chance to amuse. I particularly enjoyed Leck (Hamilton Camp), a Ferengi psycopath who acts as an "Eliminator," who appalls Quark and Rom - not because he kills, but because he cares more for the challenge of the kill than for the money he is paid to do it. Brunt and Gaila (Josh Pais), Quark's gunrunning cousin, return, and both have suffered for their past encounters with Quark in ways that make them fit into this episode, but that are also entirely consistent with where we last saw them. Rom and Nog both get plenty of fun moments, while Quark makes as engaging an anti-hero as ever.
The snappy pace is a big key to this show's success. Unlike Ferengi Love Songs or Family Business, this script zips along, piling one complication on top of another. There's a constant forward momentum, with no wasted scenes and no chance for the action to drag. The gags are worked seamlessly into a tight, expertly-structured narrative; and while some have found the final gag involving Keevan and a bulkhead to be in bad taste, I have to admit to laughing uproariously at this final indignity visited on a man who is, after all, one of the most despicable recurring characters in Trek history.
I could carp about Iggy Pop's casting, as he gives one of the weakest performances on this show in recent memory... but even there, his low voice and bemused attitude somehow "fit." And what can be said against an episode where even Ishka didn't annoy me?
All in all, while this doesn't quite live up to the greatest Quark episodes, such as The House of Quark and Little Green Men, this episode remains a sprightly delight. Highly recommended.
Overall Rating: 8/10.
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