Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Rules of Acquisition"


Air date: 11/8/1993
Teleplay by Ira Steven Behr
Story by Hilary Bader
Directed by David Livingston

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Every once in a while we'll get an episode like this, which doesn't know what it's trying to be and simply resides in the realm of neutrality. As a story, "Rules of Acquisition" is pretty mediocre; it centers around Zek coming to the station and hiring Quark to establish a Ferengi business presence in the Gamma Quadrant. Along with his new business partner Pel (Hélène Udy), Quark opens negotiations with some terribly hokey and unrealized Dosi traders, who eventually reveal that the Dominion—a mysterious presence in the Gamma Quadrant (which, as we now know, will become a significant element of the series)—is a major force to be reckoned with.

The plot serves as a launchpad for the real premise: the revelation (if you can call it a revelation since it was revealed in the trailers) that Pel is a Ferengi woman masquerading as a man. The last act documents the fallout from Pel's admission, showing how sexist and backward Ferengi society is. But what is this supposed to mean? Are we supposed to take it seriously? Much of the episode seems to think we aren't, as it's filled with the usual Ferengi Rules of Acquisition, farcical jokes, and other such lunacy (like many of Zek's scenes).

Is this supposed to be a satire? If so, it doesn't have the teeth. A half-serious drama? If so, it suffers because it gives Quark no stand on the issue. As a Ferengi, Quark seems to disapprove of Pel's actions, but the story is never really sure what we're supposed to make of his opinions. What about a romance? The final scenes indicate Quark has fallen in love with Pel, but the reasoning seems either arbitrary or nonexistent. There isn't the slightest bit of chemistry in the characterizations, or even a hint of sincerity in Quark to take the "romance" at face value. All in all, this episode is a sometimes-entertaining farce with less relevance than even such a premise is worthy of.

Previous episode: Melora
Next episode: Necessary Evil

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13 comments on this review

Ingrid Rose Stonecipher - Sun, Dec 5, 2010 - 9:47am (USA Central)
Quark might not have chased after Pel but he did like her because she was funny and smart , brave and much better looking without those fake ears . Dax knew he liked her which was why she said he'd miss her. Because she knew he would but he wouldn't admit it. The episode wasn't a farce The price Quark had to pay for being tradtional no matter what was losing a great female like Pel . The price Pel payed for wanting more freedom was getting her heart broken . I thought it was a good episode and a wonderful tragic love story .
azcats - Fri, Sep 20, 2013 - 4:03pm (USA Central)
well said Ingrid. i liked this episode.
Kotas - Tue, Oct 22, 2013 - 3:36pm (USA Central)

A decent Fergeni episode. Feregni episodes are meant to be fun; this one was ok but not great on that front.

Cheyne - Sat, Nov 16, 2013 - 9:19am (USA Central)
While no classic, this episode is important on two fronts:

The first mention of the dominion, and the first Ferengi female (unless I'm mistaken).

While definitely a filler, at least it shows DS9 was working off a long term plan in terms of the dominion. This really contrasts with Enterprise over its 4 season run, which was one bizarre lurch in a wildly different direction after another, which surely part of what led to its early and unfortunate demise.

As for Pel, well, at least it gives us an original insight into a species that has always been rather two-dimensional... unfortunately though, even DS9 never manages to redeem the Ferengi... I still think there was a missed opportunity there with the Dominion and the Ferengis' role in the events that unfold.
Dusty - Wed, Feb 26, 2014 - 5:13am (USA Central)
Does Jammer approach Ferengi episodes determined to dislike them? It sure seems that way, and if so he's depriving himself. I found nothing wrong with this episode at all. It's a dramatic comedy that satisfied me on both front. Pel is an interesting character, and Quark did return her feelings to some extent (hell, the chemistry was there even before he knew she was a woman, he just tried to ignore it) but not enough to go against Ferengi tradition. I hope to see her again, though.

This is also the first time I remember the Dominion being mentioned.
Yanks - Wed, Jul 2, 2014 - 8:51am (USA Central)
I believe the first time the "Dominion" was brought up was in Sanctuary.

I'm not sure I side with Jammer on this one. While it's not an epic episode by any means, it obviously is there to bring into play Ferengi culture further on down the road. We all know what Moogie thinks of Ferengi law.

Why shouldn't we take this (woman’s rights) seriously? ... because it's the Ferengi? Not sure what Jammer is saying here.

Quark DOES have a stand on this "issue". He clearly is a Ferengi traditionalist that it torn because of his feelings for Pel. If he wasn't he would have gone to the GQ with her at the end.

I also HATE when the trailers for these episode give a key plot point away. I tics me off every time. Note to TV makers.... the guest appearance in the opening credits can also give away stuff. I just hate that.

2.5 stars for me because I loved Pel in this episode. Well done Hélène Udy.
Nathan B. - Sun, Jul 12, 2015 - 2:06pm (USA Central)
I *love* the Ferengi episodes. They provide a lovely break from the usual (though excellent) DS9 fare. The Quark actor owns every scene he's in, as does the Zek actor. Rom in time is portrayed with a lot of skill, too.

The Ferengi episodes provide nice world building, and serve as a useful counterpoint to the prejudiced portrayal of them in TNG. Then, too, it's nice to see a balance to the angry, violent honour of the Klingons, or the weaseliness of the Cardassians, or the warmongering of the Romulans.

For me, the Ferengi episodes really explore much of what we deal with on our own planet right now, from the traditional misogyny of certain demographic groups to the traditional rapaciousness of the capitalist societies to which most of us belong.

Quark loves making money, but his relationship with Pel falls through over his traditionalism, even though it hurts him both financially and on a, er, human level. And yet we see that Quark loves strong, clothed women. DS9 seems to be saying, in effect, that the presence of one very undesirable trait in a culture shouldn't blind us to all the more positive aspects of that culture. And, in the end, such negative aspects as there might be can be overcome through living together, building trust between cultural groups, and within cultures, by reliance on the basic bonds of love that exist between family members (thinking here of Moogie and Quark).

Anyway, this episode was in many ways light-hearted, but I'll never forget Zek's "shame on you!" to Pel. It was a tragic counterpoint to the humour in the episode, and a reminder of just how recent our own Western battles for women's right are. After all, women were only allowed to vote in many Western democracies within the last hundred years. There is some hope, then, for the outcome of similar battles in other parts of the world.

William B - Sat, Jul 25, 2015 - 4:07pm (USA Central)
I hope to say more later, but just want to say that I agree with the comments that this is a better episode than Jammer credits with. I don't know exactly how high I'll go -- I don't think it's a great episode by any means. But while I know that the two-star rating is meant to be a range, I feel like the difference between "Melora" and "Rules of Acquisition" is at least a star.
William B - Wed, Jul 29, 2015 - 12:28am (USA Central)
OK, so, the Ferengi's sexism (as a people) has already been established before this episode, and I think it's fair to say that most of the audience believes that women should be allowed to have jobs rather than being kept barefoot and pregnant, or, I guess, completely bare and pregnant. However, you know, it is true that much of the world is still deeply repressive in terms of gender norms, and it can still be hard for women in more egalitarian parts of the world who find their skill set matched to fields which are traditionally male-dominated, to say nothing of how *very recently* stark divisions of gender roles were enforced in the West. The way the episode broaches the topic of oppressive gender roles is by focusing small -- this woman, this man -- and letting the impact of an unfair society be felt by the characters.

Open on Ferengi guys (or so it seems!) playing Tongo, eventually revealing, all eyes on her, "cool girl," "one of the guys" Jadzia, who as a non-Ferengi gets to be in their boys' club of gambling despite her gender. Rom, whose masculinity is constantly called into question on Ferengi standards, is insecure and suggests their (his) losing to Dax is only because they are "really" losing to Curzon. Quark feels both camaraderie and lust for Dax. And so the episode hits the ground running in terms of establishing what the relevant character bits of this small Ferengi gender story is.

Pel is the most obvious tragic figure here, and the reveal early on of her true gender identity is not really a mistake but rather helps us get into her head early. The difficulty of living this double life obviously weighs on her. We know she's right, and she knows she's right, but she has to live a lie; she is not particularly comfortable *as a man* except insofar as it is necessary in order to succeed.

Pel's initial value to Quark comes in her ability to make profits -- she is a shrewd businesswoman, in ways demonstrated regularly throughout the episode (not just talked about). She and Quark bond, and there is the sense that Quark finds a kindred spirit in his new friend -- his brother is terrible at acquiring, Quark is a slight outcast as a Ferengi, living so far out on the frontier. That a woman can be good at acquisition is no real revelation to the audience, and indeed shouldn't even be to Quark, who knows Dax and does not particularly seem to view Ferengi as so very different from other humanoids. The thing that gets depicted, though, is that it's not just women, but society as a whole who loses because of the oppression of women. Even if naked self-interest is the only goal of society, as it is for the Ferengi, it is *still* better to have the most competent people available to make the most profits -- and that includes women. On a professional level, Pel is essential to Zek and Quark's schemes to make money.

On a personal level, we find what Quark is missing out on by being pushed into a Ferengi value system he doesn't *particularly* believe in. It's not that Quark is free of sexism, and his come-ons are frequently offensive, without even going into the overt forced-prostitution-clause at the beginning of "Profit and Lace." But he likes women and likes women to be involved in his life. With Ferengi women, though, he holds to tradition because he has deep respect and some bits of fear for Ferengi Culture as a whole, with Zek as its representative. That he forms a friendship to Pel which is soon cut short, and even finds himself attracted to her when he knows who she is, highlights the possibilities of life which are cut off for *him* as well as for her -- he loses out on the possibility of a real companion, his speed, who matches him. Quark tells Pel off and indicates that he genuinely believes she has no place in business, etc., but the sneaking suspicion that he is at least partly doing this to make her leave turns out to be well-fonuded when he comes to Pel's defense.

The loyalty Quark demonstrates is (almost) always local, personal -- he treats his family badly, is pretty gross to Dax in his come-ons, etc., but he really does side with them and demonstrate that he cares about them. Pel makes it into this category, and his willingness to rush to defend her even if it means losing profits both reveals something important about Quark's character, and the way prejudice works -- when it's someone he cares about, Quark cannot toe the party line the same way.

What actually impresses me is the way the episode even presents an argument, and allows sympathy, for the reactionary position. Rom seeks to expose Pel because his masculinity is threatened by her success; Quark neglects and abuses him and treats Pel like the (business-savvy) brother he never had. Rom's jealousy is rendered sympathetic because we see the abuse Quark heaps on Rom for not being the "true Ferengi" he is supposed to be, which is really a way of saying that he is not the true Ferengi *male* Rom is supposed to be. Rom's desire to see Pel taken down, exposed, and perhaps charged criminally is petty and cruel, but it is also the effect of a value system which punished anyone who deviates from the expected standard. Rom becomes a better person (whether he is easier for the audience to watch is a matter of some debate) when he accepts that he need never be the True Ferengi businessman he is required to be.

Zek -- capital, the patriarch(y), etc. -- is "revealed" as a hypocrite, willing to agree to conceal Pel's identity to protect his own image and his own position of dominance.

What does not quite work for me, oddly, is just how far Pel falls for Quark. Her kissing him and then trying to insist on the topic and her anger at Quark's sending her away I can get behind -- but Pel running up and tearing her lobes off before the Nagus out of frustration seems to imply *such* an intense devotion to Quark and the proportionate heartache that comes with it. Why should she be that invested in showing up/embarrassing Quark (and the Nagus) that she will go to prison and have her whole life stripped away? I gather that the point is that she cannot hide the truth of herself any longer, and Quark's sending her away pushed her over the edge, but there is also the suggestion that she is just made so crazy by love that she can't control herself -- which doesn't quite sit well with the gender politics the episode is overall kind of trying to convey. It is a farce, and so I can let that go to a degree.

Of note -- I like that Dax catches on to Pel being in love with Quark before catching on to her being a woman. Smooth. Also this is the introduction of the Dominion.

This episode is not nearly as funny as "The Nagus" and the theatrics of Pel revealing herself in the climactic scene hurt the final product for me. I was set to say this was a 2.5 star show, but I might have talked myself up to a low 3 stars. Ferengi episodes eventually start being awful, but I don't think that this episode is the start of the more and more severe decline.
William B - Wed, Jul 29, 2015 - 12:31am (USA Central)
Incidentally, I don't think the episode implies that Quark has fallen in love with Pel. Rather, I think he has become very fond of Pel, and then, once he realizes she is a woman in love with him, and once he comes to her rescue, and puts everything together, he recognizes *some* attraction to her, which could very well have become something more given time. But liking her and loving her are two different things, and I don't think either Quark coming to her defense or Quark giving her a somewhat chaste kiss before sending her off qualify as a reach.

Quark's refusing to go with Pel, relatedly, I don't think is just Quark having attachment to Ferengi culture and being a traditionalist, though that is some of it. He also has a whole life on the station. He doesn't actually want to leave his brother and nephew or his business he has spent time building or Odo.
Yanks - Wed, Jul 29, 2015 - 8:56am (USA Central)
William B,

Great observations. I only have one point.

I believe that Pel breaking down into tears in front of Zek was not just because of her eventual place in Ferengi society, but I think she feared what could happen to Quark.

Just my cut. Great post.
William B - Fri, Jul 31, 2015 - 3:16pm (USA Central)
@Yanks, thanks for the kind words.

I was talking more about Pel's initially going to show up Zek to begin with -- ripping off the lobes and so forth. Reviewing the transcript, she explicitly says "I'm sorry, but it's time he learned that when it comes to accumulating profit, women are as capable as men." So her motivation is not officially love-based after all...and yet, her going to the Nagus only *after* Quark rejects her and asks her to leave the station does suggest that she's motivated partly by heartbreak, which she then turns into a desire to bring on massive social change. Which...I don't know. It's noble and I don't want to dismiss it entirely, but Pel has surely gone incognito for years and I'm not sure if the episode totally justifies her showing off her female-ness at *this* moment.
Yanks - Mon, Aug 3, 2015 - 12:51pm (USA Central)
@ William B,

All done for dramatic effect I imagine.

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