Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Ferengi Love Songs"


Air date: 4/21/1997
Written by Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler
Directed by Rene Auberjonois

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Don't you think of anybody but yourself?"
"Of course I do. I just think of myself first."

— Ishka and Quark

Nutshell: Weak. A predictable Ferengi melodrama with very few laughs. A season low point.

Two weeks ago in my review of "Business as Usual," I pointed out that Quark episodes that treat his character seriously rather than simply going for the obvious "comedy" of a situation are usually, if not always, better. While there have been lighthearted exceptions like "Body Parts" and "Little Green Men" that have worked, most Quark-centered shows that take this comedic approach are shallow, nondescript, unfunny, or all of the above.

"Ferengi Love Songs"—by far the weakest episode all season (again, aside from "Let He Who Is Without Sin…", which doesn't count as a real episode)—fits the description of Yet Another Standard Ferengi Outing [TM]. It's goofy, annoying, trite, and all-too-sparsely amusing. I must admit that when I saw the preview featuring Quark's mother Ishka (a.k.a. "Moogie," recast since third season's Andrea Martin and now played by Cecily Adams) I wasn't particularly enthralled. And when the episode began, I tried to clear my mind of impatience and cynicism so I could enjoy myself. Alas, it was not to be.

"Ferengi Love Songs" is akin to the same sort of tiring pointlessness that third season's ponderous "Family Business" and last season's by-the-numbers "Bar Association" were. Again, the story doesn't really have a legitimate theme, it's just More Ferengi Farce, but without any solid laughs. In fact, I'd put "Ferengi Love Songs" on or near the bottom of the Ferengi episode list.

Surprisingly, unlike many Quark- and Ferengi-centered outings, this episode doesn't shove the joke of "Ferengi are greedy and economy-driven so they're funny!" down our throats. Instead, Behr and Beimler have scripted a Ferengi melodrama in which Quark runs home to Ferenginar to stay with his mother because he has hit a streak of bad luck and realizes his life is in shambles. Once he returns home, however, he discovers that his mother (apparently the only female Ferengi on the planet with any aspirations to tear down the sexist society a la "Family Business") has fallen in love with Grand Nagus Zek (Wallace Shawn, reprising a role that is really beginning to wear thin).

Ishka and Zek together are extremely annoying. Have you ever known a couple that was so syrupy and cute in public that it made you just want to walk really far away from them? Well, magnify that times ten and you get Ishka and Zek. Their cuteness emanates from the television screen in such farcical extreme that I wanted to walk away from my television. Fortunately, these scenes are in small, barely-tolerable doses.

But then again, that's hardly the fundamental problem with the show, although it sure doesn't help. One major problem with "Ferengi Love Songs" is that, as a Ferengi melodrama, it's predictable to the extreme. Just about everything that happens in the course of the episode can be called several scenes in advance. There isn't a single surprise or original idea to be found in the show. Does Quark try to take advantage of the Nagus' relationship with his mother to get his Ferengi business license back? Yep. When Zek refuses, does Brunt the FCA guy show up to offer to restore Quark's license in exchange for sabotaging Zek's relationship with this "troublesome female"? Yep. Does Quark lie to Zek about his mother's intentions and scare Zek off? Yep. Is Ishka crushed? Yep. Does Quark feel guilty afterward? Yep. Once it's revealed that Ishka is the key behind Zek's financial leadership (since he has chronic memory losses) does Brunt try to label Zek incompetent and seize power? Yep. Was this all Evil Brunt's master plan? Yep. Has Quark caused the mess of all messes and must now fix it by repairing his mother's and Zek's relationship? Yep.

Nothing in the plot has any sense of sincerity. It's 100 percent perfunctory. Is the conclusion to any of this in doubt for a second? Do we even care? No, and no. The storyline of a typical Ferengi show doesn't usually matter when it comes down to it; instead, what I look for is something amusing in the characterizations. It doesn't happen here. The only one who comes close to surviving the uninvolving mayhem of the plot is Armin Shimerman, who plays Quark just as adequately as usual. Quark isn't deep, but he's not really unpleasant to watch, either. Ishka, Zek, and Brunt, on the other hand, are puppets in a useless plot that has no need to give them any character beyond what little cardboardedness they need to fuel the useless plot.

As far as an analysis of Quark, Ishka, and Ferengi culture goes, "Ferengi Love Songs" leaves me somewhat perplexed. I thought the point of "Family Business" two years ago was to demonstrate how much the Ferengi don't fit in the Roddenberry universe, and that Ishka represented a wave of change. At times, this installment appears like it could've veered in that direction and followed things up. But it doesn't happen. All possibilities are abandoned as Ishka agrees to continue acting as Zek's secret financial advisor and the two live happily ever after. The "troublesome female" Quark lies to Zek about early in the episode is actually the Ishka that seemed to come out of "Family Business," and, quite frankly, that Ishka was a hell of a lot more interesting than this character, who promptly settles for status quo on Ferenginar so she can live out her days with the true love of Zek. Or something.

It may seem harsh the way I'm comparing Ishka with the Ishka that could've been; but, really, that's about all here that's worth scrutinizing. And scrutinizing leads to this conclusion. Other than the aforementioned, there's nearly zero substance. (I will add, however, that the Ferengi architecture and decor is terrible. No points for the production design department this week.)

Oh, yes. Then there's the B-story involving Leeta and Rom and their intentions to get married. Do I need to comment here, or is what I'm about to say as predictable as how this subplot unfolded? (I'll comment anyway, because that's my job.)

In brief: Please, no more. No more Rom, no more Leeta, no more any of it. This subplot was as much akin to shallow melodrama as was the main story, if not more so. And it was just as predictable, if not 100 times more so. I was practically reciting the lines before the actors.

Naturally, we get plenty more of Leeta being, well, Leeta. And plenty more of Rom being, well, Rom. I've had it with Chase Masterson's hollow performances. And I've had it with the writers' portrayal of Rom as Idiot of the Year. In this setting, a single (and complimentary, by the way) remark by Dax to Rom saying that he's the most un-Ferengi-like Ferengi she has ever met sends Rom on a hopelessly obvious attempt to suddenly become more Ferengi-like and begin treating Leeta in the sexist ways that a typical Ferengi man would treat any given "female." He begins by asking her to sign a prenuptial agreement. Give me a break. The handling of this is so terribly superficial and completely lacking in the behavior of real people (and more the behavior of cartoon characters) that it's practically agonizing to watch unfold. The only character to survive this aspect of the story is O'Brien (because Colm Meaney can work magic even with the worst material—then again, O'Brien's part in this is only peripheral). As long as Leeta and Rom are portrayed as cartoon characters, I have no desire to see them on Deep Space Nine.

I've said all I feel like saying about "Ferengi Love Songs." To the episode's credit, there are some amusing lines scattered throughout the show, but they're not nearly enough to overcome the bulk of the story's deficiencies. This installment is an average example of the DS9 Ferengi show and nothing more—but perhaps plenty less.

Previous episode: Ties of Blood and Water
Next episode: Soldiers of the Empire

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22 comments on this review

Andreas - Fri, Apr 25, 2008 - 5:16pm (USA Central)
I think you are too negative about Ferengi episodes. I actually enjoyed this episode a lot. I had a lot of good laughs. Yes, it's silly and dumb, but that's the writers's intention! Not to bring up serious questions or to have a profound meaning. Zek's voice is priceless, even after a couple of episodes, as is Rom's stupidity. Very lightweight and amusing, after the heavy emotional and serious episode of last week.
Blue - Thu, Mar 19, 2009 - 5:10pm (USA Central)
I have to disagree with you Andreas, this episode was awful. If anything, Jammer was being TOO generous with 1.5 stars. I watch DS9 on my computer, and I ended up switching to my web browser half-way through and just listened to the audio for much of the second half, it was THAT boring. The characterization is just so dull and stereotyped, and when you couple that with Super Lame Ferengi Plot, it truly is agonizing. I would forgive it if it was funny, but I smile more during O'Brien torture episodes or even the ones about Cardassian concentration camps. Bleh.
Jay - Fri, Sep 4, 2009 - 10:45pm (USA Central)
I agree with Andreas on Zek's voice...it's hilarious...especially back in Prophet Motive.

When he bellowed "I've got something foooooor yooooouuuuu" and "I can't help it...I liiiiike yoooouuu" and "You're wrinkling my suuuuuuiiiiit", I LoL'd.
Nic - Sun, Apr 11, 2010 - 9:35pm (USA Central)
I agree with Jammer and Blue, this episode is almost as bad as "let he Who Is WIthout Sin...". There is only one good scene, and it's the one about Martok. Everything else is pure cartoonish gag-inducing garbage. How I wish this series only had 24 episodes per season!
Milstead - Sat, Nov 6, 2010 - 12:16am (USA Central)
"Congratulations, Quark. You've not only destroyed my life and Zek's life, you may have triggered the destruction of the entire Ferengi economy!"

Yet, somehow, I didn't care.
Max - Mon, Dec 27, 2010 - 1:20am (USA Central)
I enjoyed Family Business and Bar Association, and generally like or at least want to like Ferengi episodes. But for me, this is when the Ferengi episodes start going downhill. This episode marks the tipping point where Zek began to become tedious. He works as a foil, and should be vaguely threatening by Ferengi standards. Here, I get the impression I'm supposed to find him adorable. I don't. I want to punch him in the face.

This episode is just relentless on the viewer. Most Ferengi episodes are grounded in realism for the viewer is some way (even if just by having Dax sit on the side and providing commentary). This one isn't. Most of the action takes place on Ferenginar, featuring only Ferengi. It looks like Whoville on crack. The B-story, while set on the station, is a second over the top Ferengi romance. The A-story didn't need a B-story to complement it. It needed a B-story to provide some relief. It's a complete sensory overload for me as a viewer.

Quark's best days are officially behind him with this story. After this it's Profit and Lace, and then The Emperor's New Cloak. The Ferengi are best represented by Nog from this point forward.

Chris Freeman - Thu, Mar 8, 2012 - 3:32am (USA Central)
Best part of this episode: Kira's "couldn't care less" attitude when Leeta is complaining to her. Now that's a character I can relate to in this episode!
Justin - Tue, Apr 3, 2012 - 11:22am (USA Central)
Yes, it's dumb. Yes, it's cartoonish. Yes, it deserves the review it got, but I don't really mind these Ferengi episodes all that much. They're mildly amusing background noise.

Now eventually turning Dukat into the cartoonish Anti-Emissary, that I mind...
Justin - Tue, Apr 3, 2012 - 11:25am (USA Central)
LOL @Max! Ferenginar = Whoville on crack, that's a good one!!!
Mario - Sun, Apr 22, 2012 - 2:53pm (USA Central)
The Ferengi homeworld looks very much like many others Trek planets. With all that technology they have you think some of this worlds would have invented the amazing art of producing windows.
The CGI of the starships and the space station always looks pretty descent, so why didn't the producers invest a little money for some simple matte painting? It would prevent the studio sets from looking like... Well, studio sets.
Arachnea - Sat, Nov 24, 2012 - 10:40am (USA Central)
I don't have the hate you have about Ferengis, but I agree with you about this episode. There are so many clich├ęs and the supposedly comic scenes are laughable (in the wrong way) because they are so ridiculous.

About Rom, I remember that in the first season, his view about marriage and females was completely ferengi: he said he likes his female to be naked and submissive. So, his falling in love with Leeta never rang true to me. But then again, I never understood why they introduced Leeta on DS9 in the first place..

On another note, I think that what Dax told Rom was very disrespectful, even if well meant. How would you like someone telling you: you're the most un-human-like human I know. But, I'm over-analysing an episode that doesn't need to be :p.
David - Mon, Dec 31, 2012 - 5:32am (USA Central)
Also re: "I think that what Dax told Rom was very disrespectful" from Arachnea, the situation gets even more confusing when you consider how much Dax seems to like the Ferengi.

I think Ferengi stories have a place, but I think they really fall apart when they become complete farce. I appreciated those Ferengi episodes that were somewhat comedic but at least took their own content seriously, or had *something* to say about Quark, or Rom, or...someone.

But I would give this episode a bonus star for the line "I was a scheming, profit-hungry female who couldn't keep her clothes off!"
Baron - Sun, Mar 17, 2013 - 4:12pm (USA Central)
The thing I find odd is how the Ferengi are always the bad guys that need to change. Rom is the only one sacrificing anything. What exactly is Leeta giving up for the relationship?
Elnis - Fri, Aug 23, 2013 - 1:57pm (USA Central)
To me, this episode was completely over the top - I agree that it was a farce that just wasn't funny.

There was one thing, however, that made me laugh out loud:

Quark opens his closet door: "Brunt, FCA!"

Somehow jeffrey Combs manages to make every single line he has a hoot, no matter which character he plays. That guy is awesome!
Kotas - Sat, Oct 26, 2013 - 10:17am (USA Central)

Another "meh" Ferengi episode. It has its moments.

Jack - Fri, Feb 21, 2014 - 12:36pm (USA Central)
So this Tongo tournament that Ishka was in...I assume she would have had to been nude to participate.
Jack - Fri, Feb 21, 2014 - 1:09pm (USA Central)
Nice nod to continuity that "Marauder Mo" has the phaser whip thing from early TNG.
Vylora - Fri, Feb 28, 2014 - 2:14am (USA Central)
There's four lines in this episode that actually made me LOL. There's two lines in Max's comment above that made me LOL. A whole episode versus a couple of paragraphs. Well you do the math. Max wins. So does this review.

I even agree on the Rom part. I generally like the idiot-savant character he is. But this was just out of left field stupid. I actually wanted to SEE something from out of left field hit him in the forehead.

A couple of laughs and a couple of actually sincerely good scenes save this from a complete farcical nonsense.

1 star.
Bravestarr - Tue, Mar 11, 2014 - 12:35pm (USA Central)
Ferengi episodes were always divise in Star Trek fandom. Super nerds hated them, casual watchers loved them. Now I like Star Trek as much as the next person, but I also love Ferengi episodes.

What Dax said about Ferengi also applies in real life. Once you accept that Ferengi episodes aren't really serious and never game changing you find that you can really enjoy for the light-hearted romp they are.
Rivus - Sat, May 10, 2014 - 6:03pm (USA Central)
Ferengi episodes, corny (and insulting, if you think too hard) as they are, still manage to entertain me more than whenever TNG tried some weird crap... Like Sub Rosa, or most of the Troi episodes. That being said, this isn't just a Ferengi episode, it's a two-fer relationship episode. And we all know how almost universally trite THOSE can be.

2 stars.
Yanks - Thu, Aug 14, 2014 - 12:01pm (USA Central)
I hate Zek and we see way too much of him in this episode.

Always a skipper for me.

.5 stars.
$G - Sat, Sep 20, 2014 - 1:46pm (USA Central)
This one straddles the line between 1-1/2 and 2 stars for me. I like the series-long arc that develops about the Ferengi way of life. On the other hand, I wish it involved more than four or five Ferengi (Zek, Quark, Ishka, Brunt, Rom). Not that I want MORE Ferengi episodes, but I see that the DS9 writers were going for an arc along the lines of Cardassia or Bajor. The difference is that those settings generally get serious face time in a dozen episodes a year and actually seem to exist in a universe with one another. Ferenginar is just... separate from everything. Not that I'd want it to factor into the Dominion War at all but it'd still be nice for it to have at least a bit more weight than, say, the Mirror Universe storyline.

I didn't hate this episode as much as everyone else. Probably because I recently watched some season 1 TNG starring the Ferengi and... wow. Not even DS9's worst episodes reach those depths. Mother of mercy.

tl;dr: A silly, pretty stupid episode that's (thankfully) insulated from the rest of the series. Still nowhere near as bad as "The Last Outpost".

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