Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Bar Association"


Air date: 2/19/1996
Teleplay by Robert Hewitt Wolfe & Ira Steven Behr
Story by Barbara J. Lee & Jenifer A. Lee
Directed by LeVar Burton

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Maybe I don't know much about Ferengi culture, but I do know who holds the lease on your bar." — Sisko to Quark

Nutshell: An all-too-typical Ferengi "comedy" with a few redeeming moments.

When Quark cuts all his employees' pay, Rom takes the initiative to form a labor union and get the entire bar staff to strike. It's bad news for Quark, not to mention illegal by Ferengi customs.

Let it be said, "Bar Association" is far more entertaining and humorous than most Ferengi shows. It has a certain zip and pleasantness that was painfully absent in "Prophet Motive" and "Family Business." But, nevertheless, "Bar" is still just another Ferengi Comedy Episode—fairly diverting and occasionally worth chuckling at, but thin and generally devoid of any real substance. I'll rank a tad below "Little Green Men."

The plot, if you care, is nothing much; it centers around Rom finally getting fed up with his brother's nonstop exploitation of both him and the bar staff. Advice from O'Brien (who had a famous ancestor who was a "union man" in the early 1900s) prompts Rom to create a union, and Quark suddenly finds himself in a sticky situation with both Captain Sisko and the FCA (Ferengi Commerce Agency) breathing down his neck to resolve the situation.

The plot is merely a clothesline to hang the silly gags. Though not all of them work, a number them do.

Let's start with the ones that work. There's the idea of Quark using holographic images of himself to run the bar. I don't know why, but there's just something inherently funny about Quark talking to Odo in the foreground while three other Quarks walk around in the background. (Maybe it's the subtlety of the humor that's appealing.) The scene also features another one of Odo's hilarious double takes.

I also got a good laugh out of Worf and O'Brien's "brawl"—which ends with Bashir being hurled over a table and all three of them thrown into a holding cell. Sisko's reaction to his officers brawling on the promenade is equally amusing and appropriate: he lets them spend the night in jail. Sisko's subsequent action—persuading Quark into negotiating an end to the strike (by blackmailing him with huge back payments on his bar lease)—is a load of fun. The notion is so...Sisko.

Brunt, the FCA guy (Jeffrey Combs, reprising a stupid role from "Family Business") who threatens Quark with bodily harm unless he ends the strike, has a couple of heavies who make an unlikely comic duo in the goofily witty scene where the two play darts using each other's chests as the targets. This is simply zaniness at its best—it works magnificently.

Of course, the funny moments (and I think I covered most of them worth mentioning) are at the mercy of the usual Ferengi-show shortcomings of (A) lots of Ferengi gathering to discuss profit strategy (who is it that thinks putting a dozen Ferengi in a room together is funny by definition, anyway?); (B) Quark and Rom shouting at each other in their usual sibling rivalry cliched manner; (C) Max Grodenchik overacting in virtually every scene—making Rom look as dumb as ever, even though the writers seem to want to make him smarter than he appears.

There's also a scene that falls completely flat where a Ferengi crumbles to the ground to grovel in the face of the FCA. (Yes, ha ha; we know that Ferengi values are centered around their economy and that's supposed to be funny, but enough already.)

Leeta (Chase Masterson)—the attractive Bajoran character unseen since "Facets" some 16 episodes ago—has an agreeable role here as a Dabo Girl. But her presence, unfortunately, has practically no dramatic purpose in the episode (other than, I suppose, to provide compensation for the presence of a dozen inelegant Ferengi). She most frequently appears in the hokey and contrived union meeting scenes, which refuse to utilize the fact that she isn't a Ferengi to the plot's advantage.

While "Bar Association" is easily the weakest show DS9 has done so far this season, it still isn't that bad. I can tolerate the problems here, because they're not nearly as in-your-face annoying as they were in last season's Ferengi shows, and the episode makes up for it with some fairly original comic ideas.

The B-story? Something to do with Worf moving his quarters to on board the Defiant over his inability to adapt to the tone of the station. The results are sometimes amusing—though, like the rest of the show, not exactly pressing. However, I somehow doubt that Worf, being the Klingon warrior he is, would really have such a problem integrating into DS9. Like I said, we're not exactly looking at deep character material here.

Still, there is at least one lasting consequence from all this. As a result of his experience and strike victory, Rom decides to quit working for his brother and take a job as a station electronic technician. This was a long time coming, and I, for one, am sincerely glad it finally happened. Quark's constant exploitation of Rom has long since been exhausted, and has even longer since not been amusing. I guess the creators finally figured that out and acted on it.

Previous episode: Sons of Mogh
Next episode: Accession

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20 comments on this review

James - Mon, Jan 5, 2009 - 1:42am (USA Central)
I've always wondered if they intentionally named Rom that way, meaning it to be a joke on Read Only Memory. Certainly fits his character.
Vince - Sun, Aug 9, 2009 - 3:30pm (USA Central)
I'm a bit more inclined to like the Ferengi since I see their whole economic dogma as a set up, like ten pins, to be knocked down. And here we get what appears to be a lot of courage from Rom which is rewarded, and that is good to see. I like Rom's idiot/savant persona, fulfilling what Nog said, when he upbraided Sisko about his father.

Quark is again the fall guy, but that's what he's there for. I did kept hoping that Brunt's goons would run afowl of Worf, but Odo at least had the last word with them.

So, I have to give this episode at least another 1/2 or maybe even another full point.
Louie - Sat, Dec 5, 2009 - 11:35pm (USA Central)
You know, I liked this episode. I don't like most Ferengi comedies, but then this doesn't really feel like a comedy, compared to most of Quark's outings. It's got some serious issues at its heart. Actually, I felt that this episode was one of DS9's trademark "move away from Gene's vision" kind of shows, in that it brought up subjects of labor rights and exploitation that you'd think wouldn't fit into the Roddenberry ideal. Okay okay, we're not talking about the Federation here, but still, can you imagine a character on TOS quoting the Communist Manifesto?

And there were a lot of little moments that worked for me, from Sisko's scene with Quark, to O'Brien in the Infirmary: "he was more than a hero; he was a Union man!"

Yes some bits degenerated into your normal Ferengi fare, such as the mentioned groveling, but overall, I call this certainly not a classic, but a winner. Three stars.
Half-Blood Time Lord - Wed, Jan 12, 2011 - 9:14pm (USA Central)
The scene with Worf and Odo, regarding the break in to Worfs quarters, and his subsequent statement that "things like this never happened on the Enterprise", to which a smiling Odo lists things like this that happened on the Enterprise, is brilliant!
Occuprice - Wed, Apr 20, 2011 - 1:20pm (USA Central)
Just rewatched. Normally I don't mind the bad Ferengi episodes- there's something mildly entertaining in watching such cheesy, cliched, bad trainwrecks- a sort of "Only star trek..." reaction. But I've got to say I really hated this episode and couldn't enjoy it really on any level. So much of it was just cringe-inducing (chanting "union! union!") while the rest was just kind of bad. I grew to like Rom a bit later in the show once he showed some engineering skill and some believable backbone in standing up to the Dominion in early season 6.... but here I just couldn't stand him. And the backbone he grew standing up to Quark just didn't seem believable or in character. I also thought that, while the sudden cut to Worf/O'Brien/Bashir in jail was a legitimate laugh, the whole notion of them getting into a fight seemed wildly out of character and beyond the stakes which these characters seemed involved.

In short, it's an episode like this that makes me embarrassed for the show... not something that usually happens.
Justin - Wed, Mar 14, 2012 - 5:27pm (USA Central)
Victory strike limits frosted wake. Simple hesitation.

Sorry, I had to say that line I memorized from "Babel" after I read the words, "strike victory."

Oh, Leeta's presence (Chase Masterson) is absolutely necessary. She has gorgeous, er, scenery. And she's a real sweetheart. I actually got a chance to meet her at a Trek convention and not only is she wonderful to her fans, but she's quite involved with charity and many other worthy activities. Did I mention she's attractive?
Nebula Nox - Fri, Mar 30, 2012 - 11:54am (USA Central)
I rather like this episode, partly because I'm fond of Rom. Even those who are unattractive and slow by our standards can play the part of heroes. I also like how living on the station is influencing the Ferengis.

Anyway, I wanted to point out the double meaning in the title. It's an association of bar workers - but it is also an attempt to bar the union.
Jock Strapp - Wed, Aug 15, 2012 - 5:31pm (USA Central)
After watching this series again on DVD after over a year since the last time I thought there wasn't a character on here that I didn't enjoy in some way or another. I was wrong.

IMO, Leeta is absolutely annoying and useless. She always was and always will be. I do care how good looking she is. She has about as much depth as a bottle cap. Why did they have to keep her around DS9? She had no purpose. And the little fling with her and Rom was completely unbelievable.
John - Sun, Aug 19, 2012 - 12:59pm (USA Central)
I also think this one is significantly better than the average Ferengi caper.

Season 4 was kind to the little buggers.
Grumpy - Sun, Dec 9, 2012 - 11:51pm (USA Central)
Hypothetically, if Ferengi society were truly based on pure greed, laborers would have every right to exploit those who purchase what they sell (that is, their employers). Instead, this episode shows Ferengi motivated not by greed but by capitalism, with legal advantages given to the owners of capital.
T'Paul - Wed, Jul 10, 2013 - 5:45pm (USA Central)
The character development for Rom made this better than the average Ferengi fare...

Plus Worf and Odo were an amusing duo as usual.
Kotas - Wed, Oct 23, 2013 - 6:01pm (USA Central)

A decent Ferengi episode. Rom finally starts to grow a spine.

K'Elvis - Mon, Dec 2, 2013 - 7:28am (USA Central)
A good episode, but it didn't seem plausible that Quark could simply agree to the striker's demands under the table without the FCA knowing about it. A more plausible solution would have been Sisko creating station regulations for workers. This would allow Quark to say "I didn't agree to their demands, Sisko forced me to give them sick time, etc."
Dusty - Sun, Feb 16, 2014 - 11:46pm (USA Central)
This deserved more than two stars, I think. Well structured, the plot holds up, the script isn't bad at all. The Ferengi are interesting when not overdone, and here they had something useful to do. Leeta is not an interesting character, but at least here she was part of something interesting; that helps. Rom's character grew more in this episode than any other. He not only got a better deal for the workers, he started a career of his own and earned Quark's respect. It wasn't 'The Visitor', but it made me care. Three stars in my book.
Vylora - Mon, Feb 24, 2014 - 3:36pm (USA Central)
My problem with DS9 Ferengi stories is the tendency to push silliness and buffoonery for its own sake and in the process ruin any opportunity to really care about the characters. Fortunately, this is not the case here. And I do appreciate the DS9 writers at least trying expand on the Ferengi mythos over the series despite some storytelling shortcomings.

I'm also not usually one to comment on the placement of episodes in terms of airing order, but this was a breath of fresh air coming after the previous ep shooting itself in the foot. That being said, I've never really faulted or praised an ep on anything other than its own merits. It's just the timing, in this case, was nice. I suppose if I saw a whole bunch of one "type" of episode in a row as it were, I may complain. I don't know and I've never seen that happen in this show.

But I digress. This was a rather pleasant outing that had some good progression for Quark and Rom and furthered some insight into Ferengi customs in an amicable way. Showcasing the idiot/savant aspect of Rom here was done well and, like Jammer, am very glad for this step forward finally happening. The bumbling aspects of Rom when around fellow Ferengi was a neat contrast to his finding his bravery in, not only starting the union, but also in pursuing what he wants out of life. No doubt an influence from his son joining Starfleet. Whether implied or not, it's logical and Roms actions are far from out of character.

Overall, not only was this better than some other Ferengi episodes - it was a good episode in its own right.

3 stars.
Eric - Thu, May 8, 2014 - 8:34pm (USA Central)
All I could think throughout this episode was: Yikes! Ferengi society is extremely repressive!
Yanks - Wed, Aug 6, 2014 - 11:27am (USA Central)

That's about it for this one.

1 star, ...... for Rom.
Nonya - Sun, Aug 10, 2014 - 10:41pm (USA Central)
This episode went back and forth from boring to insulting. DS9 has never successfully said anything intelligent about capitalism, and this is one of their worst examples.
MsV - Thu, Feb 12, 2015 - 6:57am (USA Central)
I liked this episode because Rom finally won, hands down. Quark was beaten.
Easter - Sun, Sep 27, 2015 - 4:55pm (USA Central)
I feel my problem with this episode (along with Family Business) is that's it's predicated on me not liking Quark or sympathizing with the Ferengi nearly as much as I do. I don't agree with Klingon values either but when a klingon episode shows up I accept that their values matter to them and look at the characters as part of that culture. And the writers do the same. When a Ferengi episode comes up I still try to understand their point of view but the writers don't.

Like the last Ferengi episode with his mother, Quark is a model (Ferengi) citizen stuck between a ruthless government he CANNOT win against and someone going against that government and completely willing to throw him under the bus to get what they want and then he gets thrown under the bus despite being, narratively speaking, the protagonist of the story. Rom fills the role previously played by his mom and just decides "oh hey. I don't care about my entire species' ethos and culture anymore for some reason" which causes Quark to stare down the barrel of the government's gun. Rom/Mom continues to spit in the face of their own government, Quark get's in more trouble and then Rom/Mom wins despite facing no actual adversity. This is what I mean by Quark is the protagonist. He's the one with a problem to overcome who faces obstacles. Rom's story is "Rom decides he wants to strike. Rom strikes. Rom's brother gets beaten up very badly and almost dies and then, fearing for his life at the hands of his oppressive government, gives Rom what he wants. Rom quits his job." That's not a protagonist arc, Quarks story is "Quark's staff go on strike. Quark tries to run his bar without a staff and eventually Sisko comes in and strongarms him (yet again) into settling the dispute (Side note here: DS9 has been letting Quark operate rent free this whole time? Why? How? There's no way Quark has been going 4 years without a contract and Sisko has been failing to enforce payments from him. He hates Quark. I don't accept that premise) so Quark tries to bribe Rom and fails. The FCA show up and threaten Quark's brother so, fearing for his brother's safety, he tries to get him to listen to reason but his brother refuses. Quark goes back to the FCA and they almost kill him." now, if this was an episode about literally any other character this is the part where they would come up with some solution to get out of this problem but the show doesn't like Quark so instead he just capitulates to Rom's demands and loses. That's our protagonist right there.

Sorry, I don't suscribe to this Merchant of Venice, Shylock is the villain because he's greedy, crap. You can't cast Quark as the protagonist and as the antagonist and expect me to enjoy your narrative. You can't have Rom and Moogie being randomly Federation valued for no reason and just get away with it with no explanation or consequence and expect me to room for them. If you want a character to be part of an alien culture, they need to show appropriate respect for their own culture or an appropriate arc towards change or appropriate consequences for violating their culture.

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