Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Family Business"


Air date: 5/15/1995
Written by Ira Steven Behr & Robert Hewitt Wolfe
Directed by Rene Auberjonois

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"You know, the rate we go through Runabouts, it's a good thing the Earth has so many rivers." — Kira

The role of the Ferengi in the Star Trek universe is becoming a ponderous issue, as further demonstrated in this somewhat frustrating episode. When TNG began, the Ferengi were to be the major threat to the Federation. The idea was abandoned very early on and, over the years, the Ferengi have changed from their occasional lightweight threats (i.e., "Menage a Troi," "Captain's Holiday" and "Rascals") to the simple comic relief they have become on DS9.

When DS9 began, Ferengi Quark was to be a character that would presumably offer some depth to the primarily two-dimensional Ferengi culture while offering some comic relief. And occasionally Quark has some depth. Unfortunately, most of this season he hasn't. The high point for Quark this season came in "The House of Quark." There, he had the Klingons to play against and had the opportunity to supply some non-obvious, non-cardboard actions with motives less directed at his own benefit.

But with the recent Ferengi vehicles "Family Business" and "Prophet Motive," the Ferengi are beginning to wear quite thin—as is the character of Quark, despite Shimerman's always-lively portrayals. It's becoming increasingly difficult to sympathize with a character who cares about nothing but himself and his profit while exploiting the other characters in every B-story he can get the chance.

In this outing, Quark is investigated by the Ferengi Commerce Agency (FCA), who tell him he is responsible for the illegal actions of his mother Ishka. She's a female earning profit, and that is against the law. He must venture home with Rom to persuade Ishka to confess and return the profits she has made. (Quick aside: It's noteworthy that after eight seasons of Ferengi existence this is the first time Trek has visited the Ferengi Homeworld.)

Ishka (Andrea Martin) is rigidly stubborn on keeping the profit. It's a matter of principle. She is better at earning profit than most Ferengi males and believes it's downright wrong that the sexist laws of Ferengi culture prevent her from legally doing so. We are treading here on a rehash of "Rules of Acquisition."

She has a hidden fortune—a financial empire—with a startling number of false-fronts and laundering filters. If the FCA were to find it, Quark would be forced to pay for it and be ruined. Quark continues to persuade her to return it; she continues to refuse.

This leads to the true core of the episode—the family conflict. A lot of it runs like a cliche, such as Quark's line to Rom, "You always take her side." And although this apparently intends to be a character development episode of Quark and Rom, it does nothing for either character because both remain as rigidly transparent as usual. Quark only cares about his financial future. Rom is less selfish, but he says the dumbest things at the dumbest times that it's impossible to think of him as anything but an idiot. I for one was hoping Rom would be the type of character that looks like a dullard on the outside but through his actions proves otherwise. Unfortunately, that's not the case.

Another problem with "Family Business" is its indecision whether to take itself seriously or simply go over-the-top. It's mostly lightweight and dumb. There's a scene where Quark and Rom get into a brawl on the living room floor, but it's so contrived and goofy that it's hard to see it as anything more than comic relief. (Then you have to ask yourself, comic relief of what?)

The episode is sporadically humorous, mostly due to Shimerman's facial and vocal talents, combined with the gags of gratuitously expensive Ferengi customs. (I also liked the throwaway line referencing the computer display of the Ferengi stock market.)

The intent of the episode seems to be to somewhat change the Ferengi to fit better into the Roddenberry universe. "Family Business," however, completely misses its own point. Through the arguing, fighting and eventual reconciliation with Rom and his mother, Quark learns nothing—leaving him as much an unsympathetic and cardboard personality as ever.

Redeeming the episode is the very agreeable B-story of Sisko meeting freighter captain Kasidy Yates (Penny Johnson) at Jake's persistent insisting. The results of this time-restrained B-story are far better than anything in the main plot, as Sisko and Yates connect through—wouldn't you know it—a dead sport called baseball. If the writers choose to use her at a later date, it may prove to be the perfect addition to Sisko's continuously improving character. Kasidy Yates is definitely a character I would like to see return.

Previous episode: Explorers
Next episode: Shakaar

◄ Season Index

41 comments on this review

Mark Oates
Sat, Sep 27, 2008, 6:10am (UTC -5)
If you can get past the silly platform which this episode stands - a look into the goofy Ferengi culture - it's actually quite charming. I think your review asks for too much Human morality. "Prophet Motive," "Rules of Acquisition," and similar episodes have established quite firmly that the Ferengi do not share Human morals. This episode shows how their culture is able to have love and family despite that we see them as culturally "dysfunctional".
Wed, Jul 15, 2009, 10:30am (UTC -5)
I thought the answer was 42. I find that the Ferengi represent a stereotype of people not uncommon in our own world, with their attitudes about greed and women. We all know, or know of, people who almost fit that stereotype. We also know that those types are also extremely rigid, so we should not expect, or for that matter, even want Quark to change. Quark sometimes mellows especially when he's forced to see the error of his ways, but by the next episode, he's same old Quark, because if he weren't, we'd miss him.
Fri, Nov 6, 2009, 11:30pm (UTC -5)
Ira Steven Behr has said that while most Star Trek fans do not like the Ferengi episodes, people he has met on the plane who aren't Star Trek fans (but obviously have watched DS9) love the Ferengi episodes. I find this hard to believe (though maybe I'm forgetting just how low-brow the average American audience is). I've tried to imagine episodes like "Family Business" or "Bar Association" being set on 20th century Earth with all human characters, and wondered if I would find it interesting. The answer is: no, I wouldn't because it would be too mundane. So maybe the problem with the Ferengi is that they're TOO MUCH like 20th century humans... they have nothing new to bring to the table.
Tue, Mar 8, 2011, 9:04pm (UTC -5)
I'm mentioned before that you seem to dislike Ferengis and episodes heavily featuring them purely on principle. What principle that is, I can't say.

Before I looked at this review, I knew you wouldn't have given this episode even 3 stars, though it's worth that at least.

Your recurring critique of all things Ferengi usually centers on the one-dimensional nature of their personalities. Cardboard cutouts of selfishness and greed, written obviously with little growth for the characters who play them.

First off, I would argue this interpretation to begin with. But, for the moment, assuming this is true, I can't understand why I haven't seen you lambasting Vulcans, Romulans, or even Klingons.

Replace Ferengi with any of those, and change the adjectives from 'selfish' and 'greedy' to fit the stereotype of any of those races, and if your point is valid for Quark, it's valid for Spock, a Romulan, or any individual Klingon (perhaps save Worf).

For example:

"The role of the [Vulcans] in the Star Trek universe is becoming a ponderous issue, as further demonstrated in this somewhat frustrating episode. When [TOS] began, the [Vulcans] were to be the [guiding force behind] the Federation. The idea was abandoned very early on and, over the years, the [Vulcans]have changed from their occasional [sage and professorial teachers] to the simple [rationality-above-all-else counterparts to humanity] they have become.

When ]TOS] began, [Vulcan Spock] was to be a character that would presumably offer some depth to the primarily two-dimensional [Vulcan] culture while offering some [interesting counterpoints to the typical human condition]. And occasionally [Spock] has some depth. Unfortunately, most of this season he hasn't. The high point for [Spock] came in "The Wrath of Khan" There, he had [death and self-sacrifice] to play against and had the opportunity to supply some non-obvious, non-cardboard actions with motives less directed at [pure logic].

the [Vulcans] are beginning to wear quite thin--as s the character of [Spock], despite Nimoy's always-[professional] portrayals. It's becoming increasingly difficult to sympathize with a character who cares about nothing but [logic] and his [intellectual superiority] while [critiquing and reminding] the other characters [of this fact]in every B-story he can get the chance."

I believe it is a matter of you not liking the a-moral attitudes of the Ferengi, rather than having any real problem with 2 dimensionality or lack of character growth.

As you yourself say 'its hard to sympathize' with such characters. From my perspective, they aren't there to be personally relatable, they are there as a cautionary tale, a reminder of our own human avaristic past, and to representative of the financial antithesis to the Federation, just as the Klingons were to be the representatives of violence, the Romulans showcases for Imperialism, and the Cardassians wore the human rights abuses suit. Each major power was cast in a way that diametrically opposed some core Federation value. The Ferengis are playing their part, and it's no more two-dimensional than the parts any other races play.

In sum, I would argue that your personal animus towards selfishness and greed (laudably so I might add) unfavorably color your judgement of Ferengis and Quark in a way that it does not for other similarly situated characters and races.
Wed, Apr 27, 2011, 11:42pm (UTC -5)
Sexpun makes an entirely valid argument. Regardless of this, I also find episodes centering on the Ferengi dull and uninteresting. At least so far in DS9, the only non-human species which have received as much attention as the Ferengi are the Bajorans and Cardassians, both of which have a lot more dimension than the Ferengi. This, I believe, is why DS9 is far superior to the other series. Klingons, Vulcans, and Romulans are generally more interesting to me than Ferengi, but the Cardassian/Bajoran element of DS9 blows all of them out of the water. In the context of DS9, Ferengi-centered episodes often seem uncreative and dimensionless.
Wed, Apr 27, 2011, 11:50pm (UTC -5)
Though this episode deserves some credit for finally introducing a female Ferengi to counter the mounting mental image of the females as mindless, submissive waifs as perpetuated by male Ferengi.
Tue, Jul 10, 2012, 5:45am (UTC -5)
I thought this episode was really funny
Fri, Nov 16, 2012, 2:24am (UTC -5)
I agree with the anylisis of Sexpun.
The Ferengi are money-driven (the Cardassians or Romulans are power-driven) and they have their own morality and set of laws. Quark is very in character: he believes in the rules of acquisition and Ferengi laws. While this isn't a stellar episode, it does give us some insight about why Quark is Quark. He's grown up with having to deal with taunting, a strong atypical mother and a feeble father and had to fend for himself while his brother was overprotected. We realize that Quark is being generous with the latinum he sends to his mom and without him his brother wouldn't have much to live on (however obnoxious he can be to him).

Now, his general misbehavior has everything to do with his culture (not that I agree with it). But he stays true to his cultural heritage.

On the other hand, I can't say the same about Sisko ! I often grind my teeth about his character: he blackmails, belittles and threatens Quark (if he doesn't like or respect Ferengis, he shouldn't have blackmailed Q. to remain on the station) and others. He dares critisizing an officer while he's disobbeying a direct order. His handling of his son is often very wrong (for example, making Jake feel guilty for preferring staying on DS9 to see a friend he can't see often. In the same episode (explorers), he's willing to risk his son's life on a handmade and non-tested ship, etc etc). This is not to mention the (mostly) bad acting of Avery Brooks. In a nutshell, Sisko is not a true Trek-Federation officer, at least, he's been badly written and appears to me like an hypocritical preacher. I much prefer Quark's character. Well... You understood: Sisko is my least favourite character :-p.

Dont' get me wrong, I enjoyed DS9 (even if not for the same reasons I liked the other Trek series) and I like your reviews, but I wanted to give a different point of view.
Thu, Nov 29, 2012, 6:42am (UTC -5)
Arachnea, your assessment of Sisko is accurate. To put Sisko's interactions (and blatant bias!) against Feringi into perspective, consider this hypothetical:

"US Fort #11 in Turkey is run by Commander Smith. The President of Nepal, a tiny, ignored, irrelevant country, decides to pay a visit personally to the Fort to interact with a Nepalese bar tender. For sake of argument, let's say the man is obnoxious, loud, and a heavy smoker. Commander Smith ignores the President completely, belittles him in conversation, and snaps at anyone who suggests he should treat the President with any respect."

That is exactly how Sisko treats the Grand Nagus!

I picked Nepal specifically because it's tiny. Now substitute someplace like Switzerland.

And nobody questions this?!

Thu, Mar 28, 2013, 1:57pm (UTC -5)
Why is it acceptable to break into Quark's while he's not there? I doubt breaking into another facility would be tolerated, but here Odo and Sisko both even witness it and do nothing. And the excuse why they can't replicate another is stupid.
Wed, May 29, 2013, 1:25am (UTC -5)

because even in the 24th century, Je- I mean Ferengi - get no respect. They're just so funny looking and are only interested in profit; it's almost like they're people!
Fri, Jun 7, 2013, 7:22pm (UTC -5)
This is a very good episode. Well paced, good camera work, it has a certain tempo to it, and everything is played lightly and for comedy. Some of the sets are also fantastic. I think Jammer is bugged about the trite plot, but the direction sells it.
Sat, Jul 6, 2013, 6:03pm (UTC -5)
Agree with sexpun's analysis... I think that Nog and Rom give a little more depth to the Ferengi as the series goes on, but it is a bit of a shame to see them become so shallow and irrelevant... I would have liked to see them have a more interesting geopolitical role with the Dominion for example, to have seen more Ferengi ships, more of a (serious) role for the Nagus... the Ferengi clearly have warships and some kind of empire, why couldn't they be more than a parody?
Wed, Oct 23, 2013, 9:03am (UTC -5)

So-so Ferengi episode.

Mon, Dec 9, 2013, 5:14am (UTC -5)
The discussion in this comments section is far more entertaining than the episode or its review. Sexpun's post is quite remarkable. It is true that many of the races in Trek are portrayed as a mono-culture (even humanity when you think about it) and there could have been a lot more depth to the Vulcans, Romulans and Klingons.

I like the Cardassians, they are as a race mistrustful and hostile, but we see how their society conditions them this way and they are clearly a military society who are perhaps forced into new conquests in order to provide resources for a struggling empire.

As for the Ferengi, I love Quark, Rom and Nog, they embody different characteristics of their species and therefore I feel the Ferengi are well-handled. It's only when other Ferengi come into it behaving like cartoon characters that I would admit their race isn't brilliantly protrayed; however the Grand Nagus is always hilarious and Quark gets some of the best lines in DS9. If only the human characters had been allowed more freedom of expression.

After that rambling discourse, I am always wary of Ferengi episodes as I like stuff that is intense such as the war episodes and the galactic politics. "The House of Quark" is the best Ferengi episode I can think of, it was really funny and very well-acted, but it is not what I'd like to see every episode.
Wed, Dec 18, 2013, 3:30am (UTC -5)
Seems to me that the much vaunted tolerance that the Federation, and by proxy humans, are supposed to show for other races and cultures doesn't quite apply to Ferengis...

There's not really much I can add to what has already been said above, but I neither find the Ferengis distasteful nor amoral. They are who they are.

A major test of tolerance is to maintain it when dealing with something which runs counter to your own way of being. And it seems to me that the Federation, and indeed many of the Hu-mans on this site have failed that test.

Don't worry though, I remain tolerant of you! ;)
Tue, Dec 31, 2013, 4:42pm (UTC -5)
Of course Rom was just lying, but it was absurd that Ishka would expect Quark to change his mind when she hadn't budged at all...she was still insisting on keeping it is that compromise, and why did she suddenly think Quark would agree to it, especially since he's legally responsible for it.
Fri, Feb 14, 2014, 1:14pm (UTC -5)
The breaking in was played for humour. This whole episode was hilarious, especially the scene where the FCA agent see's their mother wearing clothes and is shocked as if an IRS agent saw your mother naked.

Personally I love Ferengi episodes, the sheer ludicrousesness of seeing unrestrained capatilism taken to the extremes is always fun.
Sun, Mar 2, 2014, 5:37pm (UTC -5)
When I first saw this ep I dismissed it as the typical lightweight Ferengi nonsense - somewhat cute, somewhat dull, entirely inoffensive. Twenty years later, it enrages me.

Ishka is a female Ferengi who has a pretty good life. Widowed and living alone on Ferenganor, she bucks tradition, dresses as she pleases, speaks to males outside her family, does the profit-earning work she loves, and gets a stipend from her well-off son. The legal and cultural enslavement of Ferengi women is, therefore, cast as a lightweight concern: we viewers are encouraged to see her as a middle-class lady whining because she wants to play in the boys' league. Unlike famous Treks of old which used sci-fi to make us think seriously about real social problems of today, this ep determinedly wants us to laugh at those problems.

Ferengi women live under the following restrictions: They are kept utterly dependent on male family members. They are told how to dress. They are not permitted to speak to unrelated males. They are not allowed to travel. They are also the repositories of 'family honor' as we see in Quark's words to his mother ("our family's disgrace...our family's reputation...")

These are not the cute problems of big-eared aliens on a tv show. These are the very real problems of hundreds of millions of real human women: Muslim mostly, but also ultra-orthodox Jew and certain Christian sects and in parts of India and much of Africa etc etc. I wonder what happens to Ferengi women who don't have kind male family members to support them. I wonder what happens when a husband, son, or brother feels like hitting his (utterly dependent) woman. I wonder what happens in any society to a class of people who are kept powerless and thrown on the mercy of others? I wonder if every Ferengi female besides Ishka is - as Quark believes and no one contradicts - docile, obedient, without opinions and totally happy to be powerless.

Not every episode has to has a heavy social commentary. Personally I prefer the adventure outings and the DS9 geopolitics to the moralizing that characterized a lot of TOS and TNG. But to portray a real and huge social problem that enslaves countless women today, and recast it as a giggle-fest? That is shameful, and unworthy of the Star Trek legacy.
Sun, Apr 27, 2014, 8:50am (UTC -5)
I don't mind the Ferengi episodes as much as I cringe from NextGen episodes when Picard and Riker basically say "Ewwwwww! Ferengis. Who let that thing on board?"
Thu, Jul 17, 2014, 10:04pm (UTC -5)
Interesting discussion.

It's the details of the Ferengi episodes that make them so cringeworthy. What kind of culture builds doorways where everyone has to duck to get through? It makes the Ferengi look stupid, both visually (because they are bobbing up and down to get through the doors) and intellectually when obviously they are a relatively major power with an advanced civilization.

As the B plot: the baseball shtick totally bugs me. Sisko's love of baseball is the equivalent of . . . I don't know, it's late, something really stupid. It's pandering to say that centuries from now our hero is going to think that the most exciting sport is . . . gosh, it's our favorite sport! We are so cool! We will live forever!
William B
Thu, Jul 17, 2014, 11:09pm (UTC -5)
@Quarkissnyder (great name),

Michael Piller is the big baseball fan, and I think that was the reason he wanted to make the protagonist share something in common with him. Frankly, I like it better when Dr. Stubbs in "Evolution" loves baseball -- there's something a little touching about our national sport being beloved only by lonely, friendless oddballs (even if genius ones).
William B
Fri, Jul 18, 2014, 12:06am (UTC -5)
I mean to put quotation marks around "our national sport," since it's not even *my* national sport. Anyway...
Fri, Jul 18, 2014, 7:39am (UTC -5)
"What kind of culture builds doorways where everyone has to duck to get through?"

Plenty of human cultures do or have done this... it reinforces each room as a *place*, and makes the act of moving into or out of it more meaningful.
Tue, Aug 5, 2014, 9:05am (UTC -5)
Everyone (writers included) relates the Ferengi with capitalists and that of course is correct.

But what never seems to get mentioned is their treatment of women is pretty much Muslim. That has nothing to do with Capitalism.

Not a huge fan of this one, but I'll give is a 2.5. It's an average episode. Lots of comedy.

"Moooooogy"... god I hate that...
Sun, Sep 14, 2014, 12:36pm (UTC -5)
I generally hate the Ferengi stories, this one included, even though i am a capitalist. However you can usually find very impressive or humorous moments, often understated, such as the preces and ritual welcoming of Brunt into Quarks home, performed with the perfect amount of rote lackluster you'd expect from two people who don't like each other yet begrudgingly respect their shared traditions:

Quark (handing Brunt a towell to dry his head, and giving the Ferengi gesture of piety): "Remember, my house is my house"

Brunt (in response, returning the gesture): "As are its contents."

A very well done moment, and hilarious to anyone who ever performs routine social or pious rituals.
Don Joe
Sun, Nov 2, 2014, 3:34pm (UTC -5)
It seemed a little weird to me that jammer gave so much relevance to the Sisko b-story, but then I understand some people don't really like the ferengi stories. No offense but I think some of the comments are much more interesting this time.

I myself thought, as I watched it, that this would be a thought provoking episode, what with the ferengi woman wanting to be a person. But... in the end, there was nothing gained. Clearly she couldn't just win her rights in the course of a forty minutes comedic episode, but the result was that her (also actual) issue was only used to give a context to the comedy, as has already been pointed out. It's unfortunate the ferengi have turned out so funny, because the way their society is built makes for very trekkish stories.

Maybe someone already mentioned that the black commander hooked up with yet another gorgeous black woman, and what do they have in common? Oh hey, it's baseball!
Sorry, I've got nothing against those things. I just thought that, maybe, in the vast universe... Perhaps Andorians have colored people too.
Wed, Nov 5, 2014, 8:53pm (UTC -5)
If Ishka was being remotely truthful with Rom about it not being about the money, but about the pride, then she shouldn't have minded at all splitting the money with Quark. It was her generous stipend from Quark that made all of her dealings possible after all. Ishka came off so despicably here that I couldn't stand her in any of her later appearances, even though she was played by another actress.
Sat, Feb 14, 2015, 3:50am (UTC -5)
I think the hatred for the Ferengi is because they look so different from humans. You can't call it "racism", but in Star Trek, the human-aliens are always similar to humans, but the more bizzare ones are always evil. The Ferengi, because they looked comical, were downgraded from evil to greedy ( a type of evil ).

Therefore the real reflection of human nature is humans are still racist, but in a PC world everyone has to pretend not to be, so Star Trek is an outlet for racial aggression.

As follows:

Klingons - black coloured people are violent

Ferengi - jews are greedy and comical

Romulans/Cardassians/Borg - too controlling and not tolerant of "human" rights like americans.

Federation - The ONLY truly moral AMERICAN types, who lead other aliens ( or human races ) into the right path to morality ???

As Quark mentions later, if the Federation knew struggling, they wouldn't be so moral. As for humans currently, most of the problems are caused by Americans keeping slaves in China, yet we expect them to act moral, yet ship cheap goods to us ???

Or Americans saying Saudis are cruel, yet we expect their oil to support our monetary system ???

Yet without cheap chinese goods shipped to us by Saudi oil, suddenly Americans are immoral.

Quark = TRUTH
Sun, Apr 12, 2015, 7:16am (UTC -5)
I like Rom
Wed, Aug 19, 2015, 4:22pm (UTC -5)
The problem I have with the Ferengi in general is that the writers rarely respect their culture. They show some respect to the Klingons, Cardassians, Bajorans, Vulcans, etc., even though they may also show faults within their cultures. But Ferengi in groups are mostly to be laughed at. 'Ha Ha! They care about profit! That must mean they're also corrupt & are always lying about their financial transactions!' Are you laughing yet?

[As an aside, "The House of Quark" is not a Ferengi episode; it's a Klingon episode which features Quark. That episode successfully makes fun of the Klingon culture. It works better than any Ferengi episode because the writers have successfully built up a Klingon culture that can handle teasing; something they failed to do with the Ferengi.]

All that said...I was OK with this episode on this rewatch, perhaps because for once they were respectful of a Ferengi making a profit. The fact that they were showing it's wrong to shun Quark's mother for making a profit, of course, runs counter to their normal comedy point with Ferengi; that making profit is wrong and must be mocked. I'd probably give it 2 stars.
Sun, Sep 27, 2015, 5:15pm (UTC -5)
@methane: my exact problem as well.

So the reason this one doesn't work for me is that A) they fail to cast Ishka as a sympathetic character B) they act like "Rules of Acquisition" never happened and C) there's no real character driven actions in the resolution. Like, we have a what should be a woman, being oppressed and denied agency by her species going under the oppressive and corrupt government's nose and someone make her the bad guy. Quark is all "Hey. You're going to completely ruin our entire family financially and doom us all to a life slavery and destitution" and she's like "I don't give a shit. I want my money." like, if they had made her part of some feminist movement intentionally flaunting her profits to make a point then I could get behind her. If they ever once implied she was torn about the fact she was going to screw Quark and Rom in doing this I could get behind her. But they don't. Also, the fact that Quark never once shows that he learned from Pel and is like "Yes. I know women can earn profit and all that. I dealt with one a few years ago. But here's the thing..." *points at arrest warrant showing they clearly already caught her and the jig is up*

And then in the end... something happens? I guess? They bond as a family and Ishka agrees to play along with the government (completely undermining her stance for the entire episode) Quark does nothing to accomplish any goals (making him an unsatisfying protagonist) Rom never really had anything to lose and doesn't really clearly have a plan for anything besides bringing his family together which he only kinda does? somehow? (making him also a failure as a potential protagonist even though he clearly isn't cast as one)

The ferengi episodes all have such potential (well, some of them have potential) and if the writers would just have the characters in universe take the culture seriously I could enjoy it, but they seem content to make everyone but Quark see the Ferengi the way the viewers do and it just doesn't work.
William B
Sun, Sep 27, 2015, 5:19pm (UTC -5)
Great comment, Easter. I just rewatched this episode and am going to write about it soon, but you have said much of what I'd like to say, and very clearly.
William B
Thu, Oct 1, 2015, 7:28pm (UTC -5)
I liked "Rules of Acquisition" more than I expected to, so I went into "Family Business" with something like an attempt at an open mind. There are some things I like about the depiction of Quark's family life. The intense, aggressive arguments between Quark and Ishka suggest a deep dysfunction in Quark and Rom's upbringing that goes some way to explain the unhealthy patterns that Quark and Rom have settled into, where Quark treats his brother badly most of the time and Rom responds by bottling until some occasion causes him to explode. That Ishka is headstrong and sometimes quite cruel to Quark, and that we gather that Keldar was mostly a pushover in business (and perhaps at home), suggests that the two models for behaviour were more or less taken on by Quark and Rom in the next generation (Quark behaving as Ishka, Rom as Keldar); Quark's nasty streak to Rom originates partly in his jealousy over his mother's doting over Rom, which, as it turns out, is specifically because Rom did not have the same nasty streak. The depiction of a family which is essentially *permanently* dysfunctional, without any real hope of being adjusted to a healthier state, is troubling but somehow right. There are quite a few families that are complex, painful, abusive and loving in similar measures, and sifting through what elements are dominant at a given time is very difficult. The general idea of that depiction interests me and there are a few moments with some power.

Still, the big climactic moment when Quark and Rom descend into physical fighting comes when Rom starts telling Quark that Keldar was really bad at profit, and this goes back to the tonal weirdness that makes many Ferengi episodes hard for me: we are sort of supposed to take this as both "serious family drama" and the broadest of "satires" which mostly consists of replacing common human institutions and values with "profit." That acquiring profit has a kind of divine significance for Ferengi *sometimes* has a satirical point, but sometimes it feels like the kind of simple one-to-one substitution that is reflected in, say, light comedy cartoons. It's as if The Flintstones did an episode where a semi-serious fight broke out between Fred and Barney over long-simmering issues triggered by Fred finding out Barney betrayed his trust by cracking the "combination rock" on Fred's safe; there are at least two frames the story is playing in, and one is so silly that it's very difficult to be invested in the other. Of course, the family material also plays *very* broadly, with Ishka and Quark even turning more or less "to the camera" in disgust with Rom's saying it's just like old times.

Mainly though, the big issue is that the episode goes very far out of its way to make both Quark and Ishka so unpleasant that it is hard (for me at least) to feel good for either of them. Quark, who in "Rules of Acquisition" seemed mostly to toe the line on women to avoid rocking the boat politically (and in terms of his business interests) and ended the episode supporting Pel, and whom we've seen be very supportive of strong women, is a complete chauvinist, insisting that Ishka's earning profit is axiomatically wrong with no difficulty. On the one hand, I do think that it does happen that people can be very open-minded about other cultures and families but have set, rigid customs for their own families, and I also get the impression that Quark has particular feelings of resentment toward his mother. But on the other, the contradiction is never brought up in this episode and it really does seem as if Quark is depicted as someone who is *always* toeing the line. Ishka, meanwhile, continues to act as if the consequences to her actions not even just to her family but to *herself* are irrelevant, and that she does not give a damn what the FCA gives to Quark. It is not even as if Ishka has much choice in the matter of whether to stop her profit earning, unless she plans to oppose the unfairness of the law more directly, which we more or less gather she doesn't do.

The whole episode relies basically on making the conflict between Quark and Ishka credible, and there are enough human cultures with restrictive and patriarchal laws that it is hard to cry foul as far as representation. Even the gag about the reversal of the usual rules (women are asked to be naked instead of covering up) has some direct analogues to the way women's bodies are pretty frequently "policed" (sometimes figuratively, sometimes literally) both for showing too much skin or for showing too little, and for the cultural signifiers that those carry. I guess showing the discomfort with women's bodies with clothes as visceral rather than following from any logical arguments is a way of showing their irrationality. And yet...Quark, in particular, is someone we have come to know over a few years, and I think it's important at least to give some indication of why he believes in these bizarre customs, to the point where a whole episode is built around the shock of his mother's defiance of them.
Rom's mediation convinces them to "compromise," which is to say convinces Ishka to give up all her profit, except the stuff that she kept in private. This is not really much of a resolution -- and, you know, that doesn't quite bother me as much as it could, because there are more episodes building on this story. I guess the real resolution is for Quark to admit that he got his profit instincts from his mother and for Ishka to admit that she sees a lot of herself in Quark. Touching, I guess, but they have both been so unpleasant this episode that it is hard to be too moved.

Ben & Kasidy: Well, it's okay. I like Kasidy fine. The crew's big interest in setting those two up is both cute and annoying. That their date seems to be going "badly" until it's revealed that she happens to know about baseball kind of bothers me too, since we have been told over and over again how there is no baseball, and the idea that Kasidy just *happens* to know a member one of the only baseball teams in Federation space is stretching it -- not to mention the bizarre idea that Kasidy was asked by her friend to listen to the audio transmission of the game RIGHT AWAY upon receipt. Really? Anyway, Jake's enthusiasm about helping his dad find love is I think partly meant to be the healthy (24th century human) alternative to the loving-under-it-all-but-often-horrible family dynamics in the A-plot.

Also, in this subplot, O'Brien and Bashir break a lock because they have a lucky dartboard while Odo mostly snarks. Remember how at the beginning of the season every episode mentioned the overwhelming sense of dread created by the Dominion threat?

I guess 1.5 stars. I did not enjoy it but found some merit.
Thu, Oct 1, 2015, 9:26pm (UTC -5)
William B: "...not to mention the bizarre idea that Kasidy was asked by her friend to listen to the audio transmission of the game RIGHT AWAY upon receipt."

Since I just finished watching the episode, by coincidence, I'll address this point. In fact, my leisurely re-watching illustrates the point: time-shifting entertainment is common now, but it was hard to conceive in 1995. Yes, we recorded shows for later (which is how I watched most of DS9's 2nd season, as I recall), but I don't blame the writers for not imagining that Kasidy's message would be waiting in her mailbox for whenever she gets to it. Seems so simple now.
Fri, Oct 2, 2015, 6:42am (UTC -5)
@William B

You've hit upon why Ishka is one of my least favorite characters in the entire franchise - she's so damn unlikable! And she only gets worse from here.

She so bad that she even harms the whole Ferengi Women's Liberation Movement (if that's the right term for it). Given that she's the audience's representative of this noble cause, why in the world did they decide to make her such a cold-hearted bitch? You would think they would want someone in that role that was at least somewhat appealing. Instead, she treats her own flesh and blood son like he's scum under her feet. And, from what we're given, it seems like she's always done so. Can anybody honestly be surprised that Quark has problems with women?!
William B
Fri, Oct 2, 2015, 8:04am (UTC -5)
@Grumpy -- heh. I hadn't thought about that. How things change in a couple decades.

@Luke, yeah. I wonder if the reason she was written as so unlikable is to add complexity to the situation; our inclination would normally be to support someone fighting for equal rights in an ultra-patriarchal society, so they make her unpleasant and mean in order to give us reason to sympathize with the people who want to keep her naked at home?
Tue, Oct 13, 2015, 9:03am (UTC -5)
I didn't think Ishka was unlikeable in fact (as someone somewhat fiscally conservative) I thought it was interesting albeit somewhat one-note to see a character earnestly believing in and trying to practice both capitalism and feminism and have the view that those were a lot more compatible than capitalism and sexism.
Quark in this episode OTOH was unlikeable and too inconsistent with how he had been before and Rom was mostly likeable but just a little too much.
Diamond Dave
Fri, Dec 4, 2015, 1:59pm (UTC -5)
Perhaps the most compelling parts of this one are in the little details - the house entering ritual being a particular highlight. It's true that this portrays Ferengi society in a somewhat broad way, and it is a failing that it never really commits to the comedy if that was the intent.

The Sisko-Kasidy meeting never really gets going this time. As a light-hearted and surprisingly heartfelt at times episode this nevertheless fails to fully engage. 2.5 stars.
Tue, Mar 22, 2016, 12:11am (UTC -5)
Ah, "Family Business". How I've been dreading this one. Let me just get this right out on the table as soon as possible - Ishka is easily my least favorite character on DS9 and is in the running for my least favorite in the franchise. She is a truly horrible, horrible person!

On other forums I have been called, and I quote, an "asshole", "scumbag", "dickhead", "sexist piece of shit", "dipshit who obviously wasn't paying attention", "woman hating fucktard", "misogynist douchebag" and told that I should "just shut the fuck up", "go away right now", "keep my violent, woman-hating shit off this forum" and "just do the world a favor and kill yourself" (among many, many other things) for daring to criticize this character. Well, none of those highly reasoned arguments has ever dissuaded me from doing so, so I'll continue to criticize her (though hopefully I won't run into anything like that around here - it's really getting old at this point).

I do not hate Ishka because she struggles for women's rights - who the hell would in the West today? I think she's a terrible person because of the way she treats Quark. Long story short - Ishka treats her own son like complete and utter dogshit and yet we're supposed to just ignore that and completely take her side of the argument. I'm sorry, but I'm not going to do that. If they're going to tell a story about how women should (and rightly ought) to be treated as equals to men, then they're going to have to accept women being held to the same moral standards as men. If the gender dynamics were reversed here does anybody believe it would be okay? Would it be okay for a father character to treat his daughter the way Ishka treats Quark? Suppose Dax went back home to deal with some family issues and her father acted like this. Everybody would think he was a horrible, horrible person and a monster (and rightly so!). But, apparently, this episode which is so focused on the struggle for female equality wants us to strip women of their moral agency and just pretend that they aren't responsible for their own actions. Well done! *slow clap*

And yes, I'm fully taking Quark's side in this argument; but not just because I really like him as a character or because I think he often gets treated unfairly by the writers, but because NOBODY in this episode does! Quark is presented here as a person who is taking care of his mother (he sends her money to live on), does everything in his power to keep her from being sold into slavery by the Ferengi Commerce Authority and is really put in the lurch by her actions (in addition to her being sold into slavery he'll be driven into the poorhouse and made an outcast from Ferengi society) and yet Ishka does everything in her power to run him down and treat him like he's little more than scum under her boots. Nothing Quark does is ever good enough for her, his legitimate concerns (not only for his own financial well-being but also for her potential enslavement) are dismissed without a second's consideration and his rather understandable reaction to her cold, indifferent treatment of him is met with outright hostility. And, according to both Quark and Rom, she's treated him this way ever since he was a child. Can anybody honestly be surprised that he doesn't hold her in high regard! Abuse of children (whether physical or emotional) is a real sore point for me, especially when it's done by their own parents, so I'm not going to just let Ishka off the hook here!

The only appealing aspect of her character is that she's fighting for better treatment of women. Again, who disagrees with that sentiment?! But even that is undermined. First, by the absurdly ridiculous depiction of Ferengi society. Why would any capitalist society so severely cripple a full half of their population? You would think capitalists would be happy that women are out there in the marketplace earning as much profit as humanly, or Ferengily (is that even a word?) possible. Is this supposed to be a reductio ad absurdum of some kind? Because there is no societies (even the most patriarchal ones) that come even remotely close to this in their treatment of women. Or are they just saying that capitalism is inherently sexist? If that's the case then why are capitalist societies often the very best ones when it comes to gender equality? Second, by the fact that Ishka is willing to make this strike against Ferengi patriarchy by dragging down Quark with her. Her desire to make profit is so important that she's willing to let her own flesh and blood son suffer the consequences, his rights and well-being be damned. If you're going to make a character be a moral crusader, you might want that character to be at least somewhat likeable! Just saying. Third, by the gross-out "humor." For an episode that is, I guess, supposed to be handling a very serious issue there is a remarkable amount of stupidity on display - ear picking, tooth sharpening, eating live bugs that Rom literally just finished scrapping off the cellar walls, etc.

Getting back to the treatment of Quark, it really bothers me that everyone (and I do mean "everyone") in this episode sides against him - Rom, Ishka, even Odo! Odo's statement of "this is your mother you're talking about" says it all. Ishka can treat Quark how ever she wishes and he's supposed to just sit there and take it. Even the scene at the end when Rom supposedly takes both of them aside and forces them to work things out is anti-Quark. Rom tells Quark that he should be ashamed of himself for treating Cardassians better than his own mother. Well, I doubt those Cardassians have spent the last few decades personally treating Quark like shit! He then criticizes Ishka by saying "if Quark can uncover your hidden investments, eventually the FCA will too and then all that profit will be lost; think about that for a moment." In other words, Quark should be ashamed for not appreciating his mistreatment while Ishka doesn't have to feel any shame over what she's done to him. *facepalm* And don't even get me started on Rom's utter stupidity for most of this episode. I actually like Rom as a character but he was absolutely insufferable here - from his dumbass inability to keep his mouth shut around Brunt to his constant "MOOOOOOOGIIIIIIIIIIIIIIE" bullshit. Not even Jeffrey Coombs could save this story. Oh, poor Jeffrey Coombs. He was in "Meridian" and now this train wreck. How much longer is it until Weyoun joins the show?

I would give "Family Business" a zero but it does have one saving grace - the B-plot. And thank God Almighty that I can talk about that now! In any other episode this introduction for Kassidy Yates would be fairly average at best. But here, surrounded by the absolute dreck of the A-plot, it's like a shining diamond floating on a sea of diarrhea. Every single time the episode cut back to it it was like a breath of fresh air. I can even forgive the rather disconcerting breaking and entering of Quark's bar by O'Brien, Bashir and Odo (yeah, I'm sure it would be okay for Quark to, say, break into the Infirmary when Bashir's out of town, right?) because at least it's not the A-plot. All I could think of whenever the A-plot was playing was "please Penny Johnson ride in on your white horse and save this..." (what's the male version of a damsel-in-distress, a lad-in-distress?). Taken on it's own, however, this story is actually fairly nice. Sisko and Yates don't meet and instantaneously fall in love with each other. They just have a cup of coffee and then bond a little over their shared love of baseball. That's surprisingly mature for a Star Trek "romance" plot, especially since it's in this episode.

BRUNT: "I sincerely hope I never see any of you again."

Oh, if only that were so. But, sadly, as bad as this episode is, it only gets worse with each of Ishka's appearances.

WTF HAIR - 26 (+1)

Thu, May 26, 2016, 1:00pm (UTC -5)
@Sexpun, I think you're right about your characterization of Jammer's prejudice against Ferengi episodes.

I really like Ferengi episodes. I do think they're funny. Rom and Quark are a hilarious Abbot and Costello routine. I also think a lot of people are delusional if they feel Ferengi don't aptly represent an aspect of the human condition and aren't relatable. Good god, even today in Iran women are treated horribly, and in Saudi Arabia they still can't drive cars! This is *2016*! In the Ferengi we have some of the worst of human misogynism, avarice, and amorality. And Star Trek takes such horrid sorts of people and belittles them for our enjoyment, as a way for us to laugh at our worst traits and see them for the ridiculousness that they are.

In response to Jammer and others, I would cite Quark to Sisko from end of last season, and I'm paraphrasing here, "You know why you don't like Ferengi, Commander? Because we remind you of how you used to be, of parts of your history you would rather forget." Something to that effect.

@Luke, I think your analysis of Ishka is great! But I think your ire is misplaced, in that you interpret the episode wanting us to conclude that Ishka is a moral hero. Hell no she is not! The point to be gathered is that Ferengi females can be just as mean, selfish, and thoughtless as the males. Quark is the hero! Just as you have determined. He saves the day and he doesn't like it one bit. Dumb as Rom his, he is a savant, and gets Quark and Ishka back together because he doesn't want either of them to suffer. Does Rom criticize his mother in that scene? No, he *loves* his moogie! haha. He criticizes Quark, who is always a jerk to Rom. It makes perfect sense.

"Why would any capitalist society so severely cripple a full half of their population?" Watching Mad Men helped me to appreciate just how sexist America was just 50 years ago. And you're right, of course; in fact, the Nagus and the Ferengi come to the same conclusion by the end of the series! The Ferengi aren't perfectly capitalist either; free market and open society is what leads to the utopian Federation anyway. The Ferengi are additionally affected by extreme self-interest and therefore paranoia, causing them to make bad business decisions that do not increase the wealth of their nation.

"Because there is no societies (even the most patriarchal ones) that come even remotely close to this in their treatment of women." I cite again the Iranian and Saudi examples, and add pre-2001 Taliban-run Afghanistan. And you're right, it is a reductio ad absurdum. That's the essence of the comedy. "Or are they just saying that capitalism is inherently sexist? If that's the case then why are capitalist societies often the very best ones when it comes to gender equality?" I never thought there was any intended connexion, other than these being traits associated with pre-Federation humanity.

Ferengi comedy works for big-picture reasons because it puts many of our worst human qualities in one race, and instead of making them a dire and cruel foe (such as with the Cardassians), they are an object of pity and derision. I think that's genius.

Submit a comment

Notify me about new comments on this page
Hide my e-mail on my post

◄ Season Index

▲Top of Page | Menu | Copyright © 1994-2016 Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved. Unauthorized duplication or distribution of any content is prohibited. This site is an independent publication and is not affiliated with or authorized by any entity or company referenced herein. See site policies.