Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Business as Usual"

***

Air date: 4/7/1997
Written by Bradley Thompson & David Weddle
Directed by Siddig El Fadil

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"WORKS FOR ME." — Sisko just being his awesome self

Nutshell: Not bad. Not outstanding, but quite respectable.

"Business as Usual" is a very respectable Quark vehicle that uses Quark's values reasonably and intelligently to mold a story that has a seriousness that we usually don't get to see from stories crafted for the character. I welcomed that. As the resident Ferengi, Quark has been saddled with more "comedy" episodes than probably any other regular character in the Star Trek universe, and I think that's an unnecessary and even misguided approach. There's plenty of potential for milking relevant drama out of Ferengi greed and profit—in fact, I've found drama about these topics much more effective than comedy, because with comedy they're treated with such one-joke superficiality that the joke has long since become quite old.

In "Business as Usual," Quark loses his shirt when his last stock hopes fail. He's in trouble. He's in debt. And since he put the bar up as collateral, he stands to lose everything he owns—and drown in debt as his brokers foreclose. Quark may even be in danger of receiving broken legs if his brokers run out of patience.

Suddenly, Quark's infamous cousin Gaila shows up and offers him an opportunity: If Quark helps Gaila and Gaila's gun-running partner Hagath (Steven Berkoff) deal weapons through the station, then Quark will profit enough to pull himself out of debt, and then some—Gaila promises that Quark would make enough profit to own his own moon within a year.

To sidestep the legal technicalities, Quark and Gaila devise a rather clever holosuite program of weapon samples. Quark's line of logic is that since all he's dealing are "holograms," Odo and Sisko can't touch him since he isn't really breaking any laws.

Well, needless to say, that's not the point. Once Odo discovers what Quark is up to, he hauls him in for questioning. In a scene that sets the tone for the episode, Sisko and Kira realize that they can't press charges (the Bajorans owe Hagath a favor because he offered them weapons during the resistance)—but they aren't going to let Quark off easily. They both come down hard on him, and once Quark realizes what he's done in the face of the people of DS9, the message becomes clear. In perhaps the most perfect touch in the episode, Quark looks at Odo with a blank stare—and all Odo can do is stare back with an expression that says all without using a single word: "Now see what you've gotten yourself into, Quark?"

The rest of "Business as Usual" is a morality play of how Quark deals with the fact that he's trapped in a sinister situation while he suddenly finds that he's developed…scruples. Before long, Quark realizes that he cannot simply distance himself from the fact that he's selling items that are helping people kill others—and in mass volume. "They're only used for defensive purposes!", Quark tries to rationalize on more than one occasion. He tries to draw pity from Dax, who is quite disgusted with the Ferengi's willingness to indirectly cause death for the sake of his own profit motives. It doesn't work—no one wants to talk to him, no one cares about his troubles, and no one visits his bar.

And yet the beauty of "Business as Usual" is that it puts Quark in a totally sympathetic position. Quark doesn't want to sell weapons, but he had no choice when he started—Gaila's option was the only way out of his predicament. But once Quark makes enough money to pay his creditors, he finds himself in a new bind. Hagath does not take betrayal or disappointment well, and there's a very uneasy sense that if Quark "crosses" Hagath by wanting out of the partnership, Hagath may suddenly cause a mysteriously fatal "accident" upon Quark. Such things have happened by Hagath's will before.

Steven Berkoff's rendition of the Hagath character is amusing to watch at times, and I think that he was perfectly cast in this comedic sort of villain personality. But, at the same time, Berkoff sometimes goes just a little too far over-the-top, to the point that his scenery-chewing becomes a little annoying. Berkoff's performance is very evidently stylized—he should've scaled it back just a bit. I couldn't help but constantly think of Hagath as an interstellar version of Beverly Hills Cop's Victor Maitland. (I was endlessly awaiting the line, "Goodbye, Mr. Quark.")

Still, it's very easy to see why Quark—or anyone, for that matter—could be intimidated by Hagath's always-conveyed "Don't cross me" evident behind that salesman's smile. It's when the stakes really start getting high that Quark truly realizes what he's gotten himself into and decides he has to do something to get himself out. The regent of a warring, non-Federation government (Lawrence Tierney) comes to Quark and Hagath, asking for a biological weapon that would help him achieve a death toll in the range of…oh, about 28 million.

Quark's conscience knows where he needs to go, but his Ferengi greed tries to talk him into rationalizing that his peripheral involvement in this deal doesn't make him responsible.

But that's the point of "Business as Usual"—and the "episode moral" is nicely realized because it's obvious, yet not spoon-fed for the most part. (Although, Quark's dream sequence was a tad excessive and probably unnecessary) What the show understands—and Quark, as well—is that if you have involvement in something that kills 28 million people and you could've prevented it, then you helped kill 28 million people. Both Quark's conscience (something we all know he has) and the greed that tries to dissuade him from doing the right thing are within the parameters of his character. Armin Shimerman's performance is on-the-money, and some of his grim facial expressions (apparent through the prosthetics yet still subtle) show that the character is really thinking hard—particularly in one extremely serious scene where Gaila tries to convince him that 28 million "anonymous" deaths is a small price to pay considering the number of warring worlds in the quadrant bent on destroying each other. Gaila's argument strikes me as a realistic notion. No, I don't agree with it, but I can see how a weapons dealer would come to live by it being in the business for 40 years.

"Business as Usual" was written by Bradley Thompson and David Weddle, the team who also brought us the teleplay for "The Assignment" earlier this season. Both stories are effective in that they center around individuals who are trapped alone in difficult, high-pressure situations. Both also end with the protagonist using sleight of hand to escape, but I definitely like the cleverness written for Quark's solution here better than the standard ending supplied for O'Brien's problem. Quark's solution is a rather underhanded trick on his partners and prospective buyers. He invites the regent's enemies to the station as prospective buyers…and then sets all of them up to meet unexpectedly in a cargo bay. The way Quark goes about this is fairly amusing. Of course, we all knew Quark would get out of his situation in a way that would preserve his image, dignity, life, and values—but since it was all inevitable, at least the ending was amusing in its chaos while also serious in the gravity of its implications. (Gaila and Hagath flee the station after the resulting mess and will likely not be heard from again; the regent is subsequently killed by his enemies.)

"Business as Usual" is nothing particularly audacious or original; it's mostly just decent and respectable. Woven into the plot is some standard but amiable fluff concerning Chief O'Brien's baby—lightweight, but at least an acknowledgement that the kid exists. As a Quark show it has unprecedented seriousness, which is a welcome change of pace. For the most part, everyone and everything comes off well. Not too shabby at all.

Previous episode: A Simple Investigation
Next episode: Ties of Blood and Water

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24 comments on this review

AeC - Sat, Jun 7, 2008 - 8:04pm (USA Central)
DS9's writers really do like to mine classic cinema for inspiration. They've adapted Casablanca for "Profit and Loss," The Searchers for "Indiscretion," and here they basically crib Harry Lime's speech in The Third Man about "one of those little dots" for Gaila's speech to Quark about "one of those lights." Not necessarily a criticism. Just some (usually) interesting homages.
Odon - Wed, Jul 2, 2008 - 2:03pm (USA Central)
Not to mention The Spy Who Came In From The Cold for "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges".
Vee - Fri, Sep 12, 2008 - 4:52am (USA Central)
And, as we all know, "The Magnificent Ferengi" riffs on "The Magnificent Seven".
Shannon - Fri, Sep 19, 2008 - 4:16am (USA Central)
How about "Field of Fire" as a nod to Hitchcock's Rear Window?
Connor - Mon, Jul 6, 2009 - 1:53pm (USA Central)
My favorite Quark episode.
Anthony2816 - Fri, Feb 26, 2010 - 11:55pm (USA Central)
I wasn't clear on just why Quark now has nothing to fear from revenge by Hagath...or by Gaila...who also should be fearing revenge by Hagath, since he vouched for Quark.
Jeff - Mon, Mar 8, 2010 - 7:55am (USA Central)
Steve Berkoff also portrayed the Bond villain Gen. Orlov in OCTOPUSSY. His Hagath is a more understated version of Orlov.
Nic - Tue, Mar 30, 2010 - 9:08pm (USA Central)
I was pleasantly surprised to see Laurence Tierny in this episode. "I want weapons. Are you selling weapons?" Ouch.
Travis - Fri, Feb 18, 2011 - 10:10am (USA Central)
I enjoyed most of the episode, but I thought Quark got off way too easy. Dax disowned him for being an arms dealer, but the moment he turned his back on the deal she was playing cards with him. How many deaths were caused from the weapons he sold in the first half of the episode?
Jay - Sun, Oct 9, 2011 - 11:57am (USA Central)
I agree with Travis...Quark did make enough selling weapons to climb out of debt...that doesn't change at the end of the episode.

Also ridiculous is the notion that the Federation suddenly cares about the financial cost (however that's calculated in a supposed post-currency economy) of repairing something (here the cargo bay) when the plot needs it. I don't recall it being mentioned when they had to reconstruct the pilon after the Iconian gate incident.


JD - Tue, Jan 17, 2012 - 3:48pm (USA Central)
I guess Quark could've handled everyone's disapproval, but not Jadzia's. Nice to see how she's once more the good hearth of the station. She was missed in season 7!
Chris Freeman - Sat, Mar 3, 2012 - 5:48am (USA Central)
This episode has really sloppy camera work (I assume it was Siddig's first time directing). The scene where Hagath first enters the bar is really awkwardly shot, with really crowded framing. There's a scene in somebody's quarters where Quark is in front of a candelabra so that it looks like it's coming out of his head. In the pre-regent banquet scene, the extra holding one of the food trays starts really shaking it just before it goes out of frame. And most noticably, Quark says "nobody from the federation has been in my bar all day" when THERE IS AN EXTRA IN A STARFLEET UNIFORM AT THE BAR IN THE BACKGROUND.
Justin - Mon, Apr 2, 2012 - 12:25pm (USA Central)
It seems DS9 could really use a day care center.

@Chris, the extra in the background is wearing a Bajoran engineering uniform.

Ian - Sat, Jul 14, 2012 - 9:35pm (USA Central)
Sorry, Ds9 does not work as a morality play. Considering it is one of the more serious minded and adult versions of Trek it falls flat when it over does it.
Also, as I have mentioned elswhere on these boards, considering that Star trek is the most successful television franchise in history, it really annoys me when they prattle on about how bad it is to make profit and how bad the Ferengi are in general for caring about it etc...
Gene Roddenberry was THE archtypical Ferengi history has proven...
Grumpy - Fri, Aug 10, 2012 - 9:34am (USA Central)
This episode proves, in case there was any doubt, that the problem with Ferengi episodes wasn't the Ferengi or Quark or whatever. Clearly, they only sucked when Ira Behr wrote them (with the exception of "Prophet Motive," which I liked, and "Little Green Men" and "The Magnificent Ferengi," which some others like). In the hands of other writers, Quark stories are tolerable-to-good, whereas Quark stories by Behr are a genre to themselves.

Note that the idea of using the holosuite to sell items by proxy pre-dates the advent of e-commerce. There were clearly precedents (the Sears catalog or Ron Popiel commercials) but the idea of selling merchandise without the merchandise present seemed prescient before 1999, when Amazon's Jeff Bezos was named Time's Person of the Year.
Peremensoe - Sat, Jun 1, 2013 - 8:39pm (USA Central)
The Federation does use money. Apart from transactions with Ferengi or similar, or gambling, it's usually credits rather than cash.
ProgHead777 - Tue, Jul 30, 2013 - 5:56am (USA Central)
The issue of currency in the Federation is actually a confusing one. On one hand, Federation credits were mentioned more than once in TOS and even a couple of times on TNG and DS9. On the other hand, characters from both eras have stated that the Federation doesn't use money (for example, Kirk to Gillian in The Voyage Home, Picard to Lily in First Contact).
Paul - Wed, Jul 31, 2013 - 12:57am (USA Central)
TNG is pretty steady in its stance that there's no money in the Federation. Occasionally, Starfleet officers acknowledge money (Riker in "Unification", Ro in "Preemptive Strike") but both are in sort of non-Federation situations.

I'm pretty sure there was money on TOS, but it was in the form of credits, not cash or coins. DS9 was a little vaguer on the point, but you could argue that DS9 wasn't like most parts of the Federation.

Now, Jake's discussion with Nog in "In The Cards" sort of discusses how humans don't use money. That works for the son of a Starfleet captain who doesn't interact with the Maquis, the Cardassians, etc.
Nick P. - Thu, Aug 22, 2013 - 6:28am (USA Central)
The episode wasn't bad, until its pompous star trek ending. People right here on this board have stated "what about the people that died witht he weapons Quark already sold"? Really? It is only wrong because it is a ferengi making profit. What about Kirk GIVING weapons in "A private little war"? How many died from that? How many died from Kirk, Picard, Sisko, etc....From DIRECT action? How many did Picard kill be inaction (I' Borg or Symbiosis)? Quark did not kill anybody, and if anyone died from those weapons it was indirectly. Further, if Quark had not sold those weapons, they simply would have gotten the weapons from someone else, it makes no difference.

I love Star Trek, but this is one of those issues that really makes me hate the underlying philosophy. Picard killing millions through inaction in I Borg is OK because it "feels nice" but Quark trying to make a buck where someone else will if he doesn't is somehow evil and wrong....Ridiculous.
Kotas - Sat, Oct 26, 2013 - 10:15am (USA Central)

Average Ferengi episode.

5/10
Ric - Sat, Dec 7, 2013 - 2:53pm (USA Central)
A nice character development for Quark, as he got one of the few serious episodes so far. Also, nice acting from the guest actors. Overall, good episode.

The only serious flaws, for me, are those that have become quite constant this season: the lack of consequence for misconduct of characters and the Federation/Starfleet looking not the Federation/Starfleet that exists in the standard Trek reality.

Not only is irritating to see, as someone recalled here, Dex playing with Quark just so fast as if he didn`t have helped killing thousands of people with the already sold weapons. It strikes me as dramatically stupid to the point of infuriating that is just that easy to Bajor (and the Federation next) to accept a guy smuggling illegal weapons in the DS9 just because he was the one who sold most of weapons for the Bajorian resistance during the occupation.

But let me put this right. Of course it is understandable that Bajor feel in debt with such smuggler and asks him not to be arrested after Odo finds out the illegal weapons dealing. It is credible. But really giving a free pass for the guy to keep negotiating the illegal weapons indefinitely in DS9? Common! So with they had kept with small business, not finding a 28million-death deal, would DS9 have become a well-known spot for illegal weapons?

This is ridiculous. And Federation accepting in easily and pacificly as with Bajor had just asked to paint the station wall with a different color, is preposterous.
eastwest101 - Thu, Dec 19, 2013 - 5:18pm (USA Central)
A passable to good episode, does not fall into the trap of becoming too "preachy" but still has something to say about Quark and the wider subjects of the arms trade/business and moral consequences.

Some prescient ideas in 1997 about "virtual/online" commerce as well...
Ash Pryce - Sun, Feb 16, 2014 - 11:34pm (USA Central)
Berkoff is rightly considered one of the greatest theatrical practitioners of the last 50 years. His plays are required reading on most drama courses (At least in the UK). As a wordsmith he is stunning, weaving a variety of styles together and as a director of theatre he was truly revolutionary and few come close.... However something has always let him down when he tries to do acting work that isnt his own on stage, heavily stylised mime based work- the man cant act. At all. His role in this episode was typical of that. If this was his Herod in Salome, or Mike in East it would have been great fun, but he really cant do "straight" acting. And thats disappointing. As a theatre worker I was happy to see one of my idols in DS9, but as a viewer I was dissappointed.
Vylora - Thu, Feb 27, 2014 - 11:51pm (USA Central)
"There's plenty of potential for milking relevant drama out of Ferengi greed and profit—in fact, I've found drama about these topics much more effective than comedy, because with comedy they're treated with such one-joke superficiality that the joke has long since become quite old." - Jammer

I could not have said it better myself. It's not a bad idea to do a Ferengi comedy episode per se. The problem is the over-blown silliness that happens one too many times. "Look at me - I'm a bumbling Ferengi getting into crazy antics and acting like a clown! Aren't I zany?" Har har. Snooze. No thanks. Unfortunately, this seems to be the downhill portrayal they'll have the last few seasons.

Fortunately though, this episode is most definitely not one of them. The review hit the nail on the head with this, too. However I didn't find the character of Hagrath over the top. I always saw him as that's who he is and is that way for a reason. If that makes sense.

Jadzia being seemingly too forgiving, according to some above comments, didn't occur to me as something that stood out as an issue. Quark did quit that position and did potentially, by proxy, save 28 million lives and risked his own doing so.

As for selling the weapons in the first place, well, he wasn't. He was an intermediary between the customer and the assistant to the weapons salesman. Quark's conscience got the best of him as he realized he didn't even want to be a part of it whatsoever no matter the degree of involvement. Plus Quark is known to have been a very despicable person during the Occupation. Quark has taken strides to better himself since. It makes sense that Jadzia would be that much more willing to forgive, not only to show good faith, but also to show Quark that good things come from not doing bad things. Plus it almost seemed Jadzia's cold shoulder was more along the lines of pretense rather than actuality. She was "going" to hate him if he didn't quit. Yah she was pissed, rightly so, but I didn't see it as friendship over.

Admittedly the ending was a little TOO happy but it wasn't glaring. The B-plot was more pleasant filler albeit pleasant filler I rather enjoyed. Worf holding baby = my huge grin.

I'm a softy. (:

High end of 3 stars.

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