Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Profit and Lace"

zero stars

Air date: 5/11/1998
Written by Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler
Directed by Alexander Siddig

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Drink Sluggo Cola, and keep your teeth that lovely shade of green." — Ferengi sales pitch

Nutshell: Watch this episode, and then promptly pray to the porcelain god.

DS9 has been anywhere from simply middling to good to great this season, so I guess the series was about due for a loser. Still, I'm not so sure if it was due for a LOSER, which is what we got this week. "Profit and Lace" is a loser with a capital everything.

Considering I've gone the entire season without a strong negative reaction to any DS9 episode, it seems only fitting that the Annual Ferengi Outing [TM] would finally spark that strong negative reaction. True, we had "The Magnificent Ferengi" earlier this season, which was silly and contrived, but at least it had a some amiable zip and was somewhat entertaining—not to mention the fact that it was an episode that revolved around inoffensive cornball action instead of the grating, tired, cliched Ferengi "profitics."

I tried, tried, tried not to prejudge this episode. After I saw the preview last week, I mentioned that I felt sick. But I still went into "Profit and Lace" with as open a mind as humanly possible. Unfortunately, I left the episode with an unmistakable desire to vomit.

This duller-than-dirt makeshift excuse for an episode is certainly the worst DS9 of the year, and ranks right alongside fifth season's abysmal "Let He Who Is Without Sin..." in the race for worst DS9 ever made. It's an all-too-obvious example of high concept ("Quark in drag!")—but why on earth anyone would want to see a high-concept premise fitting such a description is completely beyond my comprehension.

I've never bought into the idea that a man dressing in drag is inherently funny. In my not-so-humble opinion, it's not. Sure, I've seen it done time and time again—whether it was Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie, or Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire, or Nathan Lane in The Birdcage—and often the situations or the actors pull it off to make it work, but that certainly wasn't the case here. This episode was intended to be funny because Quark was dressed as a woman. I suppose maybe the premise could've worked if there had been any decent material to accompany the general idea, but there simply wasn't anything fresh in the writing. Heck, there wasn't anything in this story that didn't deserve to be hauled straight off to the nearest landfill. The story plods along from scene to scene, devoid of any shred of inspiration or even decent taste. If you're the type of person who likes Ferengi-induced silliness and stock gender-bending jokes, you might, maybe enjoy parts of this episode. As for me—count me out. I'd be content to play tic-tac-toe for an hour rather than watch this again. Or stick sharp objects into the palms of my hands.

If you care about the plot (I certainly didn't), I'll summarize the "essentials." Grand Nagus Zek, at the request of his true love Ishka, makes it legal for Ferengi women to wear clothes, therefore allowing them to engage in Ferengi business. As a result of this controversial initiative, the Ferengi government promptly votes Zek out of office. Brunt (formerly "Brunt, FCA") is named the successor. Zek and Ishka come to DS9 to ask Quark for help in some clever plan to remove Brunt from office before it's too late. Brunt follows them to DS9 for no other reason than to gloat. (Yeah, there you go—a brand-new leader of an entire world travels all the way from his home planet to stand around and poke fun at Quark, Zek, and everyone else. Uh huh.) Quark, Rom, and Nog convince a single Ferengi financial commissioner named Nilva (Henry Gibson), who has some political pull, to come to the station so that he can be convinced that women do indeed hold an important role in the future of Ferengi society. He's supposed to meet the well-versed, financial expert Ishka, but because Ishka is recovering from a heart attack suffered during a heated argument with Quark, it's all up to Quark to go through with the meeting—dressed in drag, of course.

It's a minimalist plot that is built upon cliche after mind-numbing cliche. And once Quark has been transformed into a woman, oh-so-awful and unrestrained mayhem ensues.

The underlying "story events" are a series of rehashes of rehashes. Zek and Ishka come to the station. Check. Quark expresses his irritation. Check. Zek and Ishka play lovey-dovey. Check. Rom and Quark argue over Whom Mom Likes Best. Check. Ishka and Quark argue about Ferengi sexism. Check. Zek (whose role is growing so old that I don't care if Wallace Shawn—as much as I like the actor—ever returns again) yells and hollers with that goofy voice of his. Check. Rom whines "Mooooogie" again and again. Check. Brunt shows up to scheme against, threaten, and mock Quark. Check, check, check, and just throw the clipboard away, already.

It's like a nightmarish smattering of every Ferengi episode cliche imaginable. And save maybe two lines the entire episode, I didn't so much as crack a smile.

And this is coming from someone who actually somewhat enjoyed "The Magnificent Ferengi."

Just about every scene in "Profit and Lace" was utterly annoying and humorless. Eventually, I was just hoping for a surprise, like perhaps a big explosion caused by a Dominion bomb (maybe as an act of revenge upon all those pesky Ferengi, who had double-crossed and captured their Vorta back in "Magnificent Ferengi"). Lesson of the week: When a viewer starts waiting impatiently for all the story's main characters to get blowed up real good, that's probably a telling sign that the story isn't working. (My preferred version of one scene goes something like this: Quark: "How do I look?" KABOOM! Scene over. The rest of the episode is about finding out how Dominion sabotage has penetrated the station, and why the saboteurs opted to take out a bunch of Ferengi rather than the entire ops staff. How little they all know what the Dominion's hidden strategy is ... that they're really working for me.)

Even the jokes are especially stale this time around. Take, for example, the whole gag of Brunt. I mean Grand Nagus Brunt. Oh, excuse me—I mean Acting Grand Nagus Brunt. I'm not sure how I could forget the "acting" part, seeing as the joke was repeated at least a dozen times in the course of an hour. The dialog was typical and hopelessly shallow, and scene after scene was utterly uninteresting ... until, of course, the "payoff" sequence, which simply turned downright unwatchable instead.

The last scene between Nilva and Quark in Nilva's quarters is so awfully executed that I was embarrassed to even be watching it. It consists of a lot of running around tables and ducking behind drapes, accompanied by a lot of growling, yelling, and other unintelligible noises. Thank you, Mr. Siddig, but I'll pass. I prefer my farce with a trace of humor, not simply unrestrained, anarchic stupidity. Henry Gibson, often an amusing and low-key character actor, is so far out of line as Nilva that the results are jaw-droppingly horrific.

And, by the way, the constant lobe references/entendres haven't been funny for a very long time, assuming they ever were. It's time for a new joke, because watching this one is getting to a point of redundancy comparable to playing that knock-knock joke—"Knock knock." "Who's there?" "Banana." "Banana who?" "Knock Knock?" "Who's there?" "Banana." "Banana who?"—where you repeat the repeating part 50 times or until the other person decides to stop being your friend.

The plot, such as it is, is resolved under a contrivance so transparent and unfunny that I just threw my arms in the air in defeat. Can someone tell me how one official can make the difference of whether Zek is reinstated or not—especially seeing that at least 400 other Ferengi wanted nothing to do with Zek's initiative? Besides, if Nilva is supposed to be a believable microcosm of Ferengi negotiators, it's a wonder that all of Ferengi society hasn't been conned out of everything it owns. I know, I know; I'm not supposed to think about any of that—I should just "enjoy" the comedy—but what's the point of using the Ferengi society as a quasi-allegory of progress if it can't be taken remotely seriously—and if we can't care in the slightest what happens to them? For all I care, their whole planet could be laid to waste by the Dominion next week. I probably wouldn't bat an eye.

I think I have little choice but to go with the dreaded zero-star option. I'm trying for the life of me to think of a redeeming value somewhere in this episode that might be worth even half a star, but I honestly can't think of a single moment worth even lukewarm praise. I thought "Let He Who Is Without Sin..." was the lowest of the low, and would never be approached again. To my dismay, I was wrong. "Profit and Lace" has given it some company.

I feel sincerely sorry for everyone involved in making this episode that it turned out as the terrible travesty that it is. All are certainly talented people who have enjoyed great success on this series. But here, they tried, and they failed. Miserably. I have no desire to look upon the likes of this episode ever again.

Next week: Deep Space "Nell."

Previous episode: Valiant
Next episode: Time's Orphan

Season Index

65 comments on this review

mauddib - Sat, Feb 16, 2008 - 6:29pm (USA Central)
Actually, I thought Worf's comment about if the Dominion invaded Feringinar, it wouldn't be a bad thing (or something to that effect) was amusing. After this episode, "Let He Who Is Without Sin" doesn't look quite so bad
Anthony2816 - Fri, May 2, 2008 - 6:23pm (USA Central)
Jamahl, I must disagree with you on this episode. I think watching it again would actually be preferably to having someone "stick sharp objects into the palms of my hands".

But apart from that, you're right.
AeC - Wed, Jun 25, 2008 - 8:31pm (USA Central)
I got one laugh from this episode. It was shortly after Quark was trying to get used to walking around in heels and Leeta was repeatedly chastising him for "lumbering." In walked Nilva and Zek, thinking fast, introduced him to "Lumba." It wasn't so much that it was a great or even good joke, just that, while I vaguely remembered Quark's female name from the first time I saw this, I'd either forgotten the context or else it slipped by me. It was a laugh of recognition more than anything, laughter at a connection that had somehow been missed but is suddenly made crystal clear, a sort of, "Oh, how did I miss that?" kind of laugh.

(Although, really, it was less than a laugh. It was more than a chuckle, decidedly more than a snicker, but not quite a full-fledged laugh.)

So I have now, for your readers, described the episode's comedic high point and explained in great detail just how it is the apex of this particular 45 minutes. No one who reads this page now need ever sully themselves by watching this episode in its entirety. No need to thank me.
Straha - Fri, Nov 28, 2008 - 3:34pm (USA Central)
Here it is: The worst episode of Trek ever, the absolute low. Actually, you'll never believe just HOW bad this episode is unless you watched it...
Kyle - Sat, Nov 29, 2008 - 1:04pm (USA Central)
Well, to respond to Straha's above comment, I wouldn't say it's the worst Trek ever. I give that honor to Voyager's "Threshold". But as someone who is debating with himself whether or not DS9 is truly the best Trek and went as far as to make collecting EVERY season of this awesome show in order recently, this episode might be the second worst Trek of all time next to Threshold. After going back through and watching all the episodes in order, there is no episode that makes me want to worship the porcelain God as much as this one. And yes, I hated "Let He Who is Without Sin..." too.
Jakob M. Mokoru - Mon, Feb 9, 2009 - 7:59am (USA Central)
This IS bad. Sincerely: Episodes like "Treshold" and "Let He Who Is Without Sin" are almost shining diamonds in comparison.

Profit and Lace is easily the worst of DS9!
Daniel Lebovic - Sun, Mar 15, 2009 - 1:06am (USA Central)
I think that as far as "worst episodes of Trek ever," TOS' "The Alternative Factor" is unfairly overlooked. That episode was so horrible it gave me a headache. My head was in too much pain for me to want to vomit. Yes, "Profit and Lace" was abysymal (probably the worst DSN ever), but TOS' "The Alternative Factor" AND "And the Children Shall Lead" (as well as "The Way to Eden") stand proudly beside it.

Another underachieving stinkbomb, a la "The Alternative Factor," is TNG's "Masks." "Spock's Brain" (and, yes, Voyager's "Threshold") were not quite the worst episodes made, because they were so ridiculous that they provided an Ed Wood "Plan 9 From Outer Space" kind of entertainment value. At least you got a laugh out of how bad these two were. "Masks," like "The Alternative Factor," (Voyager's "Twisted" falls into this category, too) was not only sub-abominable, it was terminally boring. These episodes were so boring that they denied me the satisfaction of filling myself with hatred over their sheer stupidity - which is why they are worse than "Threshold" and "Spock's Brain."

The three worst Enterprise episodes? I don't know if there is a general consensus here, but I offer "A Night in Sickbay," "Bound" and "Precious Cargo") (with "Sickbay" being the worst) for consideration.

Packa - Mon, Apr 13, 2009 - 8:26pm (USA Central)
Totally silly epp. Hey I liked it. If you are going to have fluff episodes then give me Quark anyday over Kiko or Jake.
PM - Wed, Jul 8, 2009 - 4:03pm (USA Central)
Worst episode of Trek ever? No way. That dubious honor has to go to Precious Cargo, one of the most painfully vacant episodes of TV I've had the displeasure of getting halfway through. Spock's Brain & Threshold profit greatly from being completely insane, and this episode at least has characters that can occasionally be likable (other weeks). Precious Cargo has no redeeming value.
Michael - Fri, Jul 17, 2009 - 3:13am (USA Central)
I enjoyed the numerous establishing shots of the station. Like a three-second conjugal visit during a 44-minute prison sentence.
Wilbur - Thu, Nov 12, 2009 - 8:15pm (USA Central)
I thought Aluura was nice.
Durandal_1707 - Thu, Nov 26, 2009 - 2:40am (USA Central)
Check out that look on Rene Auberjonois' face near the end — he's showing a lot more discomfort than Odo usually does in even the most awkward of situations. He's clearly thinking, "why the hell do I have to appear in *this* episode?!" Even though he's only in for a few minutes, you have to feel for the guy.
Destructor - Thu, Dec 3, 2009 - 5:25pm (USA Central)
Not just but, but actually horribly offensive. Armin Shimerman apparently refused to read some of the more awful lines- it's hard to imagine how much worse it might have been. He should have refused the entire enterprise as far as I am concerned.
Georgia - Thu, Jul 1, 2010 - 7:14pm (USA Central)
I bet if you only allowed people who were secure in their gender and sexuality to respond and rank this episode, the ratings and approval for this episode would skyrocket. "Zomg crossdressing and borderline homosexuality! THIS SUCKS!" No, it is actually refreshing, funny, and what more of late DS9 should have been about instead of selling out and going serial character drama where everything was predictable.

It isn't surprising that a panel at USC's film school found this to be one of the most provocative and original writing DS9 ever did.
Greg - Thu, Jul 1, 2010 - 10:54pm (USA Central)
No, Georgia, you have to take into consideration the acting, the rationalization, the writing, the message, what has been established before, and if this necessarily looks great as opposed to the "big picture" of Trek.

Obviously that panel does not take that into consideration when it is clearly to support minorites. I doubt many of them have seen Trek or even interested in watching the whole series.

As for "serial character drama," you will find yourself in a minority. Those that are comfortable with their gender don't necessarily forms of media which do, as much as mainstream media sources would make you think.

I'm being mean and harsh on you, but I am just saying supporting minorites in real life while establishing a great FICITONAL story does not always mix.
Nic - Tue, Jul 27, 2010 - 9:48pm (USA Central)
This is far, FAR worse than "Threshold", which at least had some funny dialogue (Wake Up, Mr. Paris!), and when the dialogue was not funny you could laugh at how ridiculous it was.

"Profit and Lace", on the other hand, is so badly written, acted, directed, and even scored that I couldn't even laugh at how bad it was, all I could think was "How can they turn out masterpieces like 'Rocks and Shoals' and 'In the Pale Moonlight' and absoloute garbage like this in the same season?'

Worst of all, it was horribly sexist. It basically said "in order to prove that women are as intelligent as men are, we need a MAN to DRESS UP AS A WOMAN and show his intelligence". Most Ferengi episodes are sexist, but this one outdid all the others in that regard. I can't imagine any episode of Trek being worse than this.

I have to second Michael's comment, though. The shots of the station had never looked so beautiful before.

P.S. to Georgia: I am very comfortable with my gender and my bisexuality, thank you very much.
Kevin McCaughey - Mon, Aug 16, 2010 - 11:31am (USA Central)
What are you all talking about?! This episode is fantastic! It's one of my favourites. Totally hillarious :) That bit where Roms wife says to Zek "I've heard... so much about you" and Zek gropes towards her with "Would you like to hear some more..." is comedy gold.

I love this episode and think everyone put in a top performance. I'm a DS9 addict (I watch it through every 6 months or so) and this will always be close to my favourite episode :)
Marco P. - Fri, Aug 20, 2010 - 12:43am (USA Central)
Not the best of DS9, no doubt... but ZERO stars???? Come on!!
Ken - Tue, Jan 25, 2011 - 11:40am (USA Central)
This is episode is pure drivel. The trek writers have no idea what they are trying to say, and do not understand enough philosophy to make the proper arguments for any of the positions/cases they are making here. The writers don't understand it, so how are the characters going to understand it?

A lot of the comedy just doesn't work, and a lot of it is overdone. Even if "acting grand nagus brunt" was funny, did they need to say it 7 or 8 times in the same episode? That's overkill, and it wasn't funny to begin with.

Quark in drag is just awful. What do you expect the actors to do?
Travis - Wed, Feb 16, 2011 - 7:38am (USA Central)
Gender issues aside, the dialogue in this episode spun Ferengi logic like a top. Quark had to explain in great detail over a couple hours that if women wore clothing and worked, then they'd have money to spend on the economy. No $hit. For an entire civilization of cutthroat capitalists to not realize this on Day 2 of business school was a terrible oversight on the part of the writers. Now if the Ferengi businessman had a decent comeback to Quark's assertions the episode could have been worth the effort. Star Trek is renowned for moral debates. This was a missed opportunity. We didn't need to be spoon fed another bad Ferengi comedy episode.
Mike - Tue, Mar 29, 2011 - 2:38am (USA Central)
This still remains one of the only two eps I hate from DS9's entire run.
Carbetarian - Mon, Apr 25, 2011 - 2:02am (USA Central)
Here are my nominees for the worst episodes of Trek:

TOS - Spock's Brain (which, yes, does benefit slightly from becoming an unintentional comedy), And The Children Shall Lead, The Way To Eden

TNG - Really, the entire first season would be a good choice here. But, I'll go with Code of Honor (I'm not sure if that's the right title. It's the one where they go to the planet where everyone is black and Tasha fights some girl to the death with a ridiculous poisonous glove thing), The Naked Now (which, again, benefits from lots of unintentional comedy) and Sub Rosa.

DS9 - This one, Let He Who is Without Sin and The Emperor's New Cloak. I actually think New Cloak is the worst of the lot on DS9. I've never cared for the mirror universe, and when you throw Zek in the mix... Ugh, deep hurting.

Voyager - Everything in season two, with the obvious choice for the worst episode being Threshold and my close runner up being Twisted. That episode where Chakotay takes over people's brains from season one is also a real loser.

Enterprise - Well, A Night In Sick Bay definitely takes the cake there. But, again, that one kept me laughing for all the wrong reasons. Precious Cargo and Bound are also exceptionally terrible. But, I think Marauders (the one where they fight a bunch of Klingons on some mining colony, but not really) is also a good candidate for the worst of the lot.

That's my two cents, anyway.
Aaron B. - Wed, Sep 7, 2011 - 7:46pm (USA Central)
I think the reason Quark in drag fails so completely (despite being accompanied by such unfunny writing) is that Quark isn't a human male in the first place. He already looks alien, so just putting him in a different alien outfit that has breasts doesn't even give you the weak "Har har, 'she' still looks like Robin Williams!" chuckle factor.

It's also never good when an episode makes you think of plot holes that have gone unnoticed for six seasons. Are there no other Ferengi females on DS9? I assume not, since A) we've never seen any, and B) Quark never suggested bringing one of them in to play the part. So all the Ferengi bartenders are single guys, and depend entirely on the holosuites for their female companionship? Come on, I know they're on the frontier here, but even the Old West had mail-order brides, which would seem to fit right into Ferengi society.

Also, how does Brunt go from being the kind of minor functionary who gets sent to the frontier to hassle bartenders over regulations, to being elected (Acting) Grand Nagus? Did the show even try to explain that?
Greyfeld - Tue, Oct 4, 2011 - 8:49pm (USA Central)
I can only assume that the collective Trek fanbase has sticks shove arm-deep up their collective poopers.

This episode wasn't nearly as horrid as everybody seems to want to claim. I found myself laughing throughout most of the episode.
Tessa - Sat, Oct 22, 2011 - 1:44pm (USA Central)

As someone who is transgendered, I hated everything about this episode. A couple of times my stomach tightened up so much I really did wonder if I was going to be physically sick. From the unbearable opening scene, where Quark's sexual harassment made me wish for Aluura to put a knife in his eye, to the "lumbering" scene where Quark is being judged on his ability to pass, to the scene where "Lumba" is being chased around the room and trying to interpose physical objects to keep from being sexually assaulted -- it was all just plain awful.

The whole thing was done from the standpoint of a smirking male gaze, specifically directed at a heterosexual male audience and trying to play on their discomfort with freaks like me, so the idea that this was some sort of positive statement bringing an outsider perspective to the Trek audience is simply obscene.

If USC likes this episode, they can keep it.
Jay - Tue, Nov 22, 2011 - 9:54am (USA Central)
Re: female Ferengi on DS9...by Ferengi tradition (or law?) they'd be kept naked and servile, which would surely run counter to Federation sensibilities and probably Bajoran law, which co-rule on DS9.
Lola - Fri, Dec 2, 2011 - 12:01am (USA Central)
I liked it, well I am 13 but I thought was good laugh. Quark in drag what could be better and at the end when he had to have a hug from odo lol. The beging was stupid with how iska fainted but I loved slugo cola lol. It is rightlous in the climb for women equality. Jammer, You just don't have the lobes for this episode.
Justin - Fri, Apr 27, 2012 - 12:37pm (USA Central)
According to Memory Alpha, Armin Shimmerman actually *toned down* his performance because he thought the script was too misogynistic. What's worse is that Michael Piller supposedly attached a memo after reading the script that said, "this is going to be a classic." OK, it's a 7-year run, bad episodes are bound to happen, mistakes are made, but SERIOUSLY???

These inane Ferengi episodes do nothing but a disservice to the characters of Quark, Rom, and especially Nog. Not to mention the actors who play them.
Krog - Sun, Apr 29, 2012 - 10:09pm (USA Central)
The first 20 minutes aren't bad. There are at least two solid jokes, including Worf's comment previously mentioned. However, the show immediately descends into 0 star territory the second Quark cross-dresses. Horrible. Just horrible. 2 star first half, zero star second half.
John (the younger) - Fri, Oct 12, 2012 - 1:50am (USA Central)
Irony 1: A show that's about equality for Ferengi women ends up being the most overtly sexist thing ever seen on DS9. I might've considered this a 1-star episode if it stuck to being just dumb and unfunny.

Irony 2: (I just finished watching this for the 1st time - it was the only one I inadvertantly missed back in the 90s.) The last unseen episode I will ever watch of DS9, arguably the most character-driven and thought provoking Trek (and also my favourite), is this piece of insipid and offensive trash.
william - Tue, Jan 8, 2013 - 6:23pm (USA Central)
I've been watching every episode of DS9 in order since late June. I LOVE the series. I think it's the best of the Treks. But I'm tiring of it six months later and ready to move on, with one season and change still to go.

I said I wouldn't do it, but I'm going to skip this one. Not a fan of men-in-drag movies. I kind of like the Ferengi episodes but the drag is going to drag it down.

Thanks for warning me off.
Clark - Wed, Jan 30, 2013 - 1:29am (USA Central)
If you see this episode for what it is, a more lighthearted departure from an otherwise depressing season, it's actually quite enjoyable.

For one, this season has to be the highest death count in any Star Trek series. Not to mention, the previous episode, "Valiant," basically ended with a starship full of kids being blown up.

Ferengi episode aren't particularly outstanding or good, but in my opinion, zero stars is a bit harsh. I'd rate it as 2 stars at least. I mean, we did just witness Ferengi culture shift from a patriarchal society that treated women as slaves to one that's at least starting to acknowledge women as living beings.
jkeisari - Mon, May 27, 2013 - 1:37am (USA Central)
This episode was quite horrible to watch, yes, but the idea about sexual harassment and women's rights was not that bad: As Quark learns what it is to be a woman, he thinks twice before asking for sexual-related services from his employees again.
Kyle - Wed, May 29, 2013 - 4:37pm (USA Central)
Is this a bad episode? Yes. Is it worse than Threshold or Spocks Brain? I think thats debatable. I did at least laugh once or twice when Quark was trying to avoid having sex with the other Ferengi near the end of the episode.
Frank Wallace - Tue, Jul 9, 2013 - 2:42pm (USA Central)
Trek never does sex stuff particularly well, and it doesn't do comedy particularly well. When you put both issues in the same episode, you are in trouble.
Nancy - Sat, Aug 3, 2013 - 4:08pm (USA Central)
One more disgusting element that hasn't been addressed yet:. The barmaid eagerly looking forward to having sex with Quark as a direct result of his sexual harassment of her in the workplace, playing into the whole "they all secretly want it" justification. Time to go visit that porcelain god....
T'Paul - Mon, Aug 5, 2013 - 1:06pm (USA Central)
I didn't think this was sooooooooo awful... it seems like a logical development for all the characters involved and Ferengi society. I probably wouldn't have given it more than 2 stars but certainly not zero.
ProgHead777 - Tue, Aug 6, 2013 - 4:00am (USA Central)
I can only assume that everyone up above arguing over which is the worst episode of Star Trek is forgetting about TNG's "Shades of Gray". You remember. The clip show? Yes, yes, all those episodes you mentioned were bad to one degree or another. But at least there was SOME amount of effort put into their production. "Shades of Gray" is an episode that's so bad, it almost doesn't even count. It's like the writers suddenly realized they were short an episode, so they scribbled something on a napkin over lunch one day. And I refuse to believe that it took more than a single afternoon to shoot and edit. It wasn't bad because the writers and/or the actors and/or the director failed at their respective jobs. It was bad because no one even tried. It was LAZY and CHEAP, and that's just unforgivable, IMO.
Paul - Tue, Aug 6, 2013 - 8:30am (USA Central)
@Proghead: 'Shades of Gray' was necessitated by the writers' strike in 1988-1989. Season 2 of TNG actually only has 22 episodes (compared with a normal 26) and 'The Child' was actually a reuse of a 'Star Trek: Phase II' script.

But about this episode ...

DS9 is my favorite Star Trek series because it is the most ambitious and layered. I'm not saying everyone should want those qualities in a Trek series, but I do and I did. So DS9 is at the top of my list.

That said, it's only SLIGHTLY at the top of the list ahead of TNG. TNG had three seasons that were really bad (1, 2 and 7) while DS9 *only* had two episodes of Ferengi drivel a year that were really bad. When I rewatch DS9, I won't watch any Ferengi episode other than "Little Green Men" or "The Magnificent Ferengi". There are a couple others that are passable ("Business as Usual"). But "Profit and Lace" and "Ferengi Love Songs" are just deplorable episodes and the Trek writers should be ashamed. As for a series-by-series list of the worst episodes:

TOS: 'And the Children Shall Lead' is just so boring and annoying. 'Spock's Brain' and 'The Way to Eden' are at least interesting in a couple spots and laughable in others. 'The Alternative Factor' is actually a good call for an entry in the really bad camp. It's often forgotten because it's in the middle of a lot of good episodes. 'The Apple' is pretty awful, too.

TNG: 'Sub Rosa' is amazingly bad, maybe the worst in all of Trek, IMHO. Honorable mentions to 'Code of Honor', 'Shades of Gray' and several Troi-centered episodes. Marina Sirtis is, hands down, the worst regular actor in Trek history.

DS9: 'Ferengi Love Songs' and 'Profit and Lace' are awful -- and 'Take Me Out to the Holosuite' was almost as bad. I'd rather watch 'Let He Who is Without Sin ... ", honestly.

VOY: 'Threshold' is ridiculous, but I've never understood why 'Spirit Folk' isn't considered worse. It gets my vote.

ENT: 'A Night in Sickbay', because it makes Archer -- whom the creators spent four seasons building up -- look like a petulant child.

I'd go with 'Sub Rosa' as the worst episode in the history of Trek with 'A Night in Sickbay' as a distant second.
Kotas - Sat, Nov 2, 2013 - 5:45pm (USA Central)

A very bad ep to be sure, but there are worse.

Ric - Thu, Dec 19, 2013 - 1:33am (USA Central)
Ok, this was another painful one. The second junk in a row. By the way, the luck of this episode was precisely to come just after the "Red Squad", "Red Squad", "Red Squad" chorus episode.

Compared to the absurdly annoying last episode this one became just bad, not fully atrocious as it could have felt otherwise. But what to say about an emperor deposition that is reverted because one guy agrees to support it?

My god, quality of the second half of 6th season has been falling abruptly.
K'Elvis - Tue, Jan 14, 2014 - 10:34am (USA Central)
I agree with Nancy. Quark takes his best employee, and attempts to extort her into having sex with him. Then at the end, he realizes he was wrong, and I thought the episode might have some redeeming quality. Nope. They undermine it by having her looking forward to having sex with him. In an earlier episode, one of the dabo girls went to Sisko to complain about Quark having it in the contracts that they have to have sex with him. Sisko of course struck down that aspect of the contract. Now Quark doesn't write it in the contract, he just uses extortion. Quark learns a lesson, but that lesson is instantly undone with the idea she secretly "wanted it".

As far as this episode being original, it's not even remotely orginal. It is stale, stale, stale. Dressing men in women's clothes for a gag is an old comedy standby. When Quark was being made to look female, I expected him to say "I'm not going to dress like a girl, and you can't make me, you can't make me, you can't make me," just like that episode of Gilligan's Island. It's a cheap gag that doesn't really address women's issues at all. Rolling your eyes at this episode is not a sign of being insecure with your own sexuality, quite the opposite. The people who yuk it up over a man in women's clothes tend to be ones who are uncomfortable with their sexuality.

Why did they need a woman at all? The Ferengi might have been willing to listen to an argument that allowing women to wear clothes and earn profit is good for business, but as they are so sexist, they would have been more likely to hear that message from Zek than from a female Ferengi. The idea that women don't have to be, in effect, barefoot and in the kitchen, isn't exactly a fresh idea. It might have been fresh in the 90's... and by that I mean the 1890's.

And what happened to Quark's ears? Did they have to cut down his ears to make his lobes look female? If so, that's a pretty radical surgery. Putting on false lobes to make a female look like a male is easy, removing tissue is a different matter.
Paul - Tue, Jan 14, 2014 - 2:28pm (USA Central)
@K'Elvis: I rewatch DS9 a lot, usually as background noise when I'm cooking or cleaning. It's a really good show and it usually holds up, even though it started airing more than 20 years ago.

But, I almost always avoid Ferengi episodes. I find, that way, I enjoy the series more.

There are a few decent Ferengi episodes in there -- I mostly liked "The Magnificent Ferengi", "Little Green Men", "Business as Usual" and "Who Mourns for Morn?" (not a Ferengi episode except that it stars Quark). But, generally, the characterization of every Ferengi but Quark and (later in the series) Nog is just awful. The writers rely too much on aspects of Ferengi that aren't remotely funny.

Don't get me wrong. Quark can be a good character, especially when he's paired with Odo or when he's offering a unique perspective (like in "The Jem Hadar"). But an episode featuring a lot of Quark where another Ferengi gets a lot of lines almost always sucked.

But you could usually figure that one or two episodes a season would 1) feature Quark and the Ferengi and 2) really stink.
Jons - Fri, Feb 7, 2014 - 6:49pm (USA Central)
The only bearable moment in the episode is Worf's "I cannot think of any" in the beginning (thanks to Dorn's perfect delivery).

Anything that precedes or follows that is an absolute nightmare of sexism. From the sexual harassment victim who LIKES IT, then the idea that women's personalities are defined by their 'hormones" (since Quark changes 100% as soon as he's been "transformed"), not mentioning the ridiculous plothole of "traditional female ferengi clothing". Everything is pathetic and transphobic / gay-baiting drivel (OMG! That's so funny that Rom says he wanted a ring from a man! Because he's a man!!! Get it??)

Matt - Thu, Apr 3, 2014 - 2:44am (USA Central)
Something good to say.. something good to say... Let's see...

I liked how everyone hated Slug-O-Cola.
Bravestarr - Fri, Apr 4, 2014 - 12:35pm (USA Central)
Jammer, I think you just hate comedic episodes sometimes...
eastwest101 - Thu, Apr 24, 2014 - 6:03pm (USA Central)
I usually like the Ferengi outings, and have seen that the DS9 guys can do comedy properly, but not in this case.

Once the cross dressing began it became unintentionally creepy, if Armin Shimerman chose to "tone down" his performance imagine what the original script looked like! I bet a lot of people regret this. Ultimately the episode failed because the comedy was not strong enough and the jokes were not funny, and not even due to the dubious lack of "political correctness" but they just were not executed well and had all been done better/earlier....
Vylora - Thu, May 8, 2014 - 7:02pm (USA Central)
*crickets chirping*


*silence, wind rustling leaves*

Well...ahem...I just...


*more crickets*

*stares blankly off into the distance*

*current status seems to indicate Vylora is broken*

*zero stars*
crackers - Wed, Jul 16, 2014 - 1:22am (USA Central)
What a piece of dreck. 51 minutes that i'll never get back. Makes "sin" look like a glittering turd as opposed to this unvarnished shinola. I wonder how this got the green light. It wasn't even Siddigs' direction. No body could have turned this script into something worthwhile. Worst of any trek universe.
Sean - Sat, Jul 26, 2014 - 11:36pm (USA Central)
The only redeeming factor in this entire shitty episode is:

Sisko: "A Dominion invasion of Ferenginar?"

Rom: "Think of the repercussions for the Alpha Quadrant!"

Worf:"I can not think of any."

That made me laugh so hard. Oh, don't tease me DS9. That would be the best thing to happen to this show. Just lay waste to the entire planet, Death Star style.
NCC-1701-Z - Sun, Jul 27, 2014 - 4:52am (USA Central)
@Sean: My thoughts exactly- that was the only good line (I stopped watching after 15 minutes and rewatched In The Pale Moonlight twice in a row before I felt recovered)

Someone call the people who made that doomsday machine Kirk ran into back in TOS, or Species 8472 (they blew up a Borg planet once) ;)
Yanks - Wed, Aug 20, 2014 - 1:22pm (USA Central)
Season 6 has offically tanked... my God what has happened to DS9?

No discussion necessary.

ZERO stars.

E - Tue, Sep 16, 2014 - 9:31am (USA Central)
I remember very distinctly not finding it funny, whatsoever, when Elmer Fudd fell for Bugs Bunny in drag. It actually made me angry.

Skip ahead a few decades, and this was a whole new level of awful. I'm embarrassed for everyone even remotely associated with that episode.

Zero stars indeed.
Dave in NC - Tue, Sep 16, 2014 - 7:08pm (USA Central)
This is even more horrible than the DS9 Risa installment.

Painfully unfunny jokes abound in this implausible P.O.S. episode. I've read that Armin Shimerman had huge problems with this script and refused to do some of what they had asked of him. I shudder to think how this could be any worse.

I hated how Quark became a tired female cliche once Bashir was done with him. Aren't we past these types of cinematic "farces"? This painting of women/transgendered people in a bad light is SO pigheaded. Why was Star Trek sending such boneheaded messages this late in the game?

Couple that with some of the lamest Ferengi dialogue ever, a saccharine soundtrack and some very lackluster acting performances and what do you get?

A very stinky turd.

0 Stars

Dave in NC - Tue, Sep 16, 2014 - 7:11pm (USA Central)
Oh, and way for the writers to regress Quark back to his Terok Nor days: I really was shocked when he sexually harassed his employee and at the very end it turned out she was into "oo-mox".

Just awful.
Ian - Wed, Oct 1, 2014 - 2:09pm (USA Central)
It saddens me to think you all found that episode crap, for god sake lighten up. If you couldn't see the funny side of it, then well I feel sorry for you, you missed the whole point OF the humour.
As someone who has been into Trek since it started here in the UK back in 1969, Trek has had its ups and downs, for me "The Omega Glory" (TOS) was a pile of crap, Star Trek: Into Darkness was crap, but "Profit and Lace" was actually making a social point - that you all missed!!
Dave in NC - Wed, Oct 1, 2014 - 2:50pm (USA Central)

"Profit and Lace" was actually making a social point - that you all missed!!

@ Ian

And what point was that?

I must also let you know that most people have a very wide berth when it comes to what is funny: I can laugh at 3 Stooges, Frasier, Woody Allen, Cheech and Chong, Oscar Levant, Sarah Silverman, Marx Brothers, Dave Chapelle etc etc . . . yet for some reason, I still don't find this amusing. Stale and trite, yes, but funny? Nope.

The thing about humor and what is personally funny is it's something that can't be quantified. Just because YOU find it hilarious doesn't mean anyone else has to, or that anyone else should (or would).

Robert - Wed, Oct 1, 2014 - 3:23pm (USA Central)
The social point that it was making was that you gain a perspective walking in someone else's shoes. It was showing someone who, at the beginning of the episode was harassing and marginalizing a female employee what it was like to be her.

I ACTUALLY think it was clever idea. It's just that...

1) Quark may be a shade of grey on this show, but he's still one of the good guys and watching him sexually harass his employee was pretty awful.

2) The fact that Doctor Bashir performs sex change surgery so that they can trick a Ferengi corporate kingpin is just.... insane?

3) The stereotypical portrayal of women might have worked better in the 70s Trek alongside such masterpieces as "Turnabout Intruder".

4) But no, what REALLY torpedoes the hell out of the episode is that at the end, the employee Quark sexually harassed WANTS to screw around with him. So the lesson that Ian touts is actually tossed out the airlock, because the new sensitive Quark doesn't get a chance to fix his mistake, the old jerk Quark wins.

It did have a few cute moments. I personally loled at the scene where Rom was teaching him how to walk... but I like Rom/Leeta and their weird relationship... I know the majority of fans don't. And Worf's line about how a Dominion invasion of Ferenginar would have no repercussions for the Alpha Quadrant was one of Michael Dorn's finest one liners (shame it was in THIS episode). And the fight between Quark and his mother was decent character development for that relationship. But those few shining spots are not enough to recommend it.
$G - Tue, Oct 14, 2014 - 1:09am (USA Central)
The best part of this garbage is Worf's legitimately funny one-liner. I like that the camera doesn't even emphasize him; it's comes and goes like good banter should.

See, I like the *idea* of the Ferenginar arc. It's KIND OF well done, even though it only seems to involve six or seven individuals. The problem is that most of the Ferengi characters are annoying, and lots of their scenes are cartoonish and cliched.

The first couple of acts aren't unwatchable, but after Ishka has her stroke the episode takes a nosedive into concrete. This is some of the most unfunny, laborious TV I've ever seen.

Everything else has already been said, but I just want to echo everyone else.

This is a legit zero star episode. That it doesn't get REALLY bad until 20 minutes in is the only thing that keeps this episode from being the absolute worst DS9 has to offer (for the record, I give "Move Along Home" that distinction).
Nick - Wed, Oct 15, 2014 - 8:39pm (USA Central)
You know that episode of Voyager where Janeway and Paris hyper-evolve into space salamanders and mate? Yea.... that one was Emmy material compared to this drek.

I admit, I couldn't bring myself to watch more than five minutes of it. If we're lucky, this episode in the DS9 cannon will spontaneously blink out of existence.
Jack Bauer - Tue, Nov 18, 2014 - 2:19pm (USA Central)
"Lesson of the week: When a viewer starts waiting impatiently for all the story's main characters to get blowed up real good, that's probably a telling sign that the story isn't working."

Huh, so does 7 years of Voyager count in all this?

I thought this episode should have been Negative 5 stars. The 6 minute rape scene near the end was atrocious.
Moegreen - Wed, Jan 7, 2015 - 8:04am (USA Central)
Is this worse than 'Spock's Brain'?
NCC-1701-Z - Wed, Jan 7, 2015 - 11:50pm (USA Central)
@Moegreen Yes.
Del_Duio - Tue, Mar 10, 2015 - 1:52pm (USA Central)
I rewatched this the other day, thinking it couldn't possibly be as bad as I remember but sadly it was.

I think there was one funny part to the whole episode, and luckily it happens in the first 4 minutes. Rom says something like imagine the rammifications if Ferenganar falls to the Dominion and Worf says I cannot think of one. LOL, but otherwise yeah this is a terrible episode.

You have almost everything you'd never want all rolled into one!

Character assassination: What the hell is up with Quark at the start of this episode?? I know he's a small-time criminal but here he's way WAY out of line with that Dabo girl, even for him. It takes all the wonderful character building with Quark they've done over the course of 6 years and craps all over it.

Catchphrase Overkill: How many times did they say "ACTING Grand Nagus!" in this?? It wasn't funny the first time let alone the next 50.

Lumba "herself": Poor Armin Shimmerman, I hope they paid him OT throughout the taping of this one :(

Yet STILL it isn't as bad as TNG's Mrs. Troi and the mudbath planet. That is probably impossible to top. Er, bottom.
DVMX - Wed, Mar 18, 2015 - 12:48pm (USA Central)
This is probably the one DS9 episode that I have never seen in its entirety. And hopefully I never will. The synopsis alone makes me want to stay away.

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