A lightweight Ferengi comedy that plays its hand with jokes that are far to obvious and quite often hokey. Highly uneventful, "Prophet Motive" further demonstrates its trivial nature with a subplot involving Dr. Bashir and his nomination for a prestigious medical award—some strictly standard filler.
Nagus Zek (Wallace Shawn) comes to the station and moves in with Quark. He brings with him a gift (that's right, a gift, not a sale)—a Bajoran orb he obtained from one of his contacts on Cardassia. Zek acts very strangely for the Nagus—he's way too nice and cheery—and before long, Quark and Rom realize he's lost all interest in profit. Zek gives them a copy of his Revised Rules of Acquisition. Rule #1: "If they want their money back, give it to them." The entire rules list goes much like that, 180 degrees from conventional Ferengi thinking. Zek has apparently gone insane.
At first, Quark believes that the Nagus is doing this as some sort of master plan to harvest a killing of a profit. But as the episode progresses, Zek's actions consistently prove Quark wrong. Maybe the Nagus is crazy after all.
What we have here is a predictable comic trifle that fails because we know Quark all too well. We know how he will react to almost every situation to arise in the story, and what he will say when prompted for a one-liner by another character. This episode doesn't work for every reason "The House of Quark" did. In that installment, at least Quark had Grilka and the other Klingons to play off his dialogue, and at least he did something somewhat impulsive and selfless while remaining true to his character. Here, Quark is cardboardedly transparent.
Meanwhile, Zek comes across annoyingly goofy since, as Quark later learns, he has been converted by the wormhole aliens into a fun-loving philanthropist. This leads Quark to take the Nagus back into the wormhole, hoping he can persuade the inhabitants to change Zek back. This standout scene somewhat redeems the episode, giving Quark some much more subtle—and more effective—one-liners. It's also nicely photographed and completely consistent with Sisko's encounter with the wormhole aliens in "Emissary," now over two years old. It's a refreshing change of pace, giving Quark a chance to take a stand for good old-fashioned galactic greed. His exaggeration on the repercussions of eliminating greed is hilarious. Unfortunately, it takes until the final act for this to happen.
The B-story lacks urgency and does very little for Bashir's character. He is nominated for an award that most accomplished doctors can only hope to be nominated for after a lifetime of practice. The entire thread consists of little more than Bashir telling everyone that he has no chance of winning. And in the end when he does indeed lose to another contender just as predicted, it's hard not to wonder what the point of the whole idea was.