Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"The Magnificent Ferengi"


Air date: 12/29/1997
Written by Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler
Directed by Chip Chalmers

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Family. You understand."
"Not really. I was cloned."

— Quark and Yelgrun

Note: This episode was rerated from 3 to 2.5 stars when the season recap was written.

Nutshell: Silly, slight, and extremely low on plausibility, but a fresh and enjoyable comic piece nonetheless.

Every once in a while you've got to just turn off your brain and go with the flow. That seems to be the best advice I can give a viewer of "The Magnificent Ferengi," an amusing comic episode that's beyond any realm of conventional plausibility and exists in a universe of its own.

"The Magnificent Ferengi" is an amiable hour of television; the best "Ferengi outing" in years. Sure, it has some problems and doesn't always seem to know exactly what it's trying to say, but it's light, has some respectable zip, and proves genuinely amusing—a breakthrough considering past Ferengi outings like "Ferengi Love Songs," "Bar Association," ""Family Business," "Prophet Motive," et al.

The plot is scarcely believable. It involves the kidnapping of Quark and Rom's mother Ishka (Cecily Adams)—better known as "Moogie"—at the hands of the Dominion. The Grand Nagus then asks Quark to get her back (offering the reward of 50 bars of gold-pressed latinum), leading Quark to recruit an all-Ferengi "task force" to get the job done. The first question, of course, is just WHY the Dominion, unprovoked, would kidnap a Ferengi civilian in the first place. Sidestepping the rules of war by resorting to such a blatantly terrorist yet apparently fruitless tactic strikes me as rather silly—and inexplicable. What does the Dominion hope to gain by kidnapping Ishka? And even if they do stand to gain, why would they arrange meeting Quark and his band of Ferengi recruits for a prisoner exchange? Don't ask, because the story has no answers.

No matter. This is a comedy, and in comedies we're often asked to forego logic. That's fine with me if the show is entertaining in the long haul. "The Magnificent Ferengi" is a likable episode with admirable comic timing on the part of director Chip Chalmers. Although, I must admit that I'm not a comprehensive encyclopedia of westerns, so any reference within this show in homage to John Sturges' The Magnificent Seven (other than the title, I suppose) went right by me. Nevertheless, the intentions here seem to be good, and in and by themselves many of the gags are funny.

Who's to say what's funny, anyway? Is it enough that this show made me laugh? I think so, especially considering that the jokes in "Magnificent" worked for every reason that jokes in most Ferengi episodes don't. The cliche of the greedy, scheming Ferengi has been worn incredibly tired over the years, and for once we have a departure from the "Ferengi profit ideology" in favor of a more action-oriented plot. Sure, the lust for latinum still plays a part in the story, but this time it feels like incidental, true-to-character motivation rather than the driving concern of lackluster comedy. In small doses, the Ferengi greed and scheming makes sense and works; these guys are, after all, Ferengi.

Yet there's also another agenda working here—the sense that, yes, even Ferengi strive to be something more than they are. They want to be heroes, too. An early scene in the bar sets the stage nicely. Quark explains to his patrons how he discovered some beverage exporters who were cheating the market at the expense of customers. Quark's discovery, as a result, led to a moral victory and a free supply of a beverage called "syrup of squill." But when Dax, Bashir, and O'Brien walk into the bar after having completed a dangerous mission behind enemy lines, everyone's attention is instantly shifted away from Quark. People are more interested in heroes whose victories count for something important (namely the war effort) than they are in a fresh supply of some new beverage.

So what the meat of this story (slight as it may be) is really about is Quark wanting to be a hero—to prove that Ferengi can be as heroic as anyone else. So he recruits his task force from a number of familiar faces. His brother Rom and nephew Nog are the first to come aboard the mission; the former for a cut of 50 bars of latinum, the latter because he gets to call the shots as strategic operations officer (I was just waiting for Nog to say, "Something else I can put on my Starfleet resume!")—and also a cut of 20 bars of latinum. Why 20? Because by the time Nog is recruited into the mission, Quark and Rom have decided to lie to everyone else about the amount of the reward. (Like I said, Ferengi greed does figure into the story).

Quark recruits the rest of his team one by one in some mildly entertaining scenes, including Leck (Hamilton Camp), a knife-wielding assassin with "unique priorities"; the now-ruined cousin Gaila (Josh Pais), whom Quark bails out of jail in exchange for his help (he had been imprisoned for vagrancy); and of course "Brunt, FCA," or rather now just plain and simple Brunt (the Nagus fired him following his treachery in "Ferengi Love Songs"), who cons Quark into letting him in on the profit opportunity since he's the only one with a ship.

With the help of Major Kira's recommendation, the Federation grants Quark's team custody of prisoner Keevan (Christopher Shea), the arrogant Vorta captured earlier this season in "Rocks and Shoals." The plan is to trade Keevan for Ishka—but also to be ready for anything the Dominion might do to go back on the agreed trade.

First, a couple gripes: While I liked the fact that the writers remembered Keevan from back at the beginning of the season, I'm unsure about the way he comes into the plot here. I find it unlikely the Federation would be so willing to grant a non-Federation person custody of a Dominion prisoner of war for use in such a "dangerous" plot (even considering the plot itself bears little logical scrutiny on story terms). If this weren't war times, I could see it happening, but given the delicate situation I have some serious doubts.

But as I said before, it's probably not prudent to concern oneself with plot in an episode of physical humor where Ferengi run like madmen through corridors (watching Armin Shimerman sprint past the camera was one of the comic highlights of the show), rig a cadaver for strategic purposes (more on this later), and bargain with the most annoyed Vorta in the quadrant.

What this episode is about is comic set pieces. These Ferengi constitute the most inept action team I've ever seen, and the results are often quite funny. Take, for example, the scene where they engage in combat simulations in the holosuite. Rom runs into a wall. Brunt surrenders (all too easily). Gaila is shot. Leck shoots Moogie. And Nog is just a big pain as drill sergeant. Oddly, much like first season's "The Nagus," more Ferengi on-screen at once turns out to be more fun. I'm not sure why; it must have something to do with snappy, rapid-fire dialog and the manic energy of all the actors combined.

Some of the humor, like the sly scene where Quark and Rom roam the shafts of the station to suddenly and accidentally find themselves in Sisko's office, work because they're clever and understated. But more often than not, it's the go-for-broke banter and slapstick that is put to the test in "The Magnificent Ferengi." The plot takes the Ferengi to the abandoned station Empok Nor where they're to meet and negotiate with a Vorta official named Yelgrun (Iggy Pop)—a man with lots of Jem'Hadar at his disposal and not a whole lot of patience.

There's plenty of dialog between Quark and Yelgrun, much of it ending with Yelgrun making a reluctant concession and/or sarcastic remark. Some of this works, though some of it doesn't. While Iggy Pop delivers deadpan reasonably well (Quark: "Family. You understand." Yelgrun: "Not really. I was cloned."), he just can't keep up with the whimsically engaging performances of Shimerman and the other Ferengi players. A Vorta character portrayed more along the lines of Jeffrey Combs' Weyoun would've worked better in this role. At the same time, few of Yelgrun's concessions strike me as plausible for a member of the Dominion. He puts himself at so many disadvantages for the sake of driving the plot turns that it becomes very obvious that there's little in this episode that we should take seriously, let alone can.

Meanwhile, prisoner Keevan plays the part of the annoyingly keen observer—adding his two cents to the Ferengi problems whenever he feels the need. Much of his dialog is delivered straight, used to explain the plot rather than fuel the humor; but he is the central figure in many of the show's biggest laughs. He's the victim—in the biggest and funniest display of Ferengi ineptness in recent memory—of being caught in the crossfire of one Ferengi (Gaila) infuriated at learning he has been cheated by another Ferengi (Quark). Only Ferengi negotiators could inadvertently kill the prisoner they brought along to use as their bargaining tool.

In a move that borders on gallows humor (but which proves uproariously funny), Nog rigs Keevan's corpse with neural stimulators in order to create the illusion Keevan is still alive long enough for the rest of the Ferengi to gain the upper hand on Yelgrun and his two soldiers. The use of Keevan in an idea spawned by Weekend at Bernie's is about as low as the writer's probably could've gone. But I've got to hand it to them—it manages to work as portrayed. Seeing the dead Keevan standing like a statue with eyes wide open and head lodged at an unnatural angle was still a hilarious sight. (Yelgrun: "What have they done to him?" Indeed.)

But to end on a critical note, I think the biggest underlying problem of statement in "The Magnificent Ferengi" is the Catch-22 of the Ferengi ineptitude. Sure, everything works out for them in the end and the net result of the episode is a lot of laughs. But at the same time, the episode can't get past the reputation the series has built for the Ferengi—that they're still too light and silly to be taken remotely seriously no matter the situation. I liked the amusing characterizations and the initial sentiments of people trying to strive higher, but when all's said and done, are they really "heroes"? I still can't help but get the feeling that a better title for this episode might've been "The Cheerfully Inept Ferengi."

Next week: Sisko, Dukat, and The Truth. I'm already intrigued...

Previous episode: Statistical Probabilities
Next episode: Waltz

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37 comments on this review

Anthony2816 - Sun, Apr 27, 2008 - 3:39pm (USA Central)
Jamahl, you owe it to both yourself and your readers to watch "The Magnificent Seven", and then do a slight rewrite of this review. You'd then catch things like the finger-counting of new members, the addition of a knife throwing member, and several other references that add a lot to the humor.
AeC - Tue, Jun 17, 2008 - 8:34pm (USA Central)
Just seeing Iggy Pop in Vorta makeup is worth several laughs. He's probably the least convincing actor ever to play a Vorta, but even that works in the episode's favor, in kind of a so-bad-it's-good way.
Zeus - Fri, Sep 12, 2008 - 5:01am (USA Central)
Until this episode, I never realized that just having a bunch of Ferengi scamper down corridors was pure comedy gold.
dan1981 - Sat, Jan 3, 2009 - 1:11pm (USA Central)
This is without doubt the worst episode of Trek I've ever experienced.
Everything about it betrays the foundations of the Star Trek universe.
I was appauled by it, and this is where Star Trek well and truely jumped the shark.
Blue - Mon, Mar 23, 2009 - 11:33pm (USA Central)
As Jammer wrote, this was a ridiculous episode, but finally the writers had the guts to go so over the top that the show becomes genuinely funny. It was good stuff, and well deserving of 3 stars, in my opinion. And much, much better than most other Ferengi episodes and other comic crap like the TOS fan-wank Trials of Tribble-ations.
Mischief Maker - Fri, Apr 24, 2009 - 2:48pm (USA Central)
Weekend at Bernie's? Try "Spock's Brain!"
Jayson - Sun, Jul 12, 2009 - 8:39pm (USA Central)
Mischief Maker, "Spock's Brain" wasn't a comedy episode and this one was definately a comedy. Watching this episode again its probably the funniest Ferengi episode today. All of the actors crack me up in one way or another.
Aldo Johnson - Thu, Oct 22, 2009 - 5:12am (USA Central)
In Memory-prime they mentioned that the prisoners was supposed to be the Grand Nagus, not Quark's mom. But the actor, Shawn Wallace, was unavailable. Maybe it would've make more sense if it was the Grand Nagus, and Star Fleet would probably be more amenable to giving them Keevan, if only to avoid the Ferengi going to the Dominion's side.
James - Mon, Mar 1, 2010 - 9:32pm (USA Central)
Favorite quote from the episode: Quark, "We'll use just Ferengi." Rom, "But then we'll all die!" At least the writers seemed to know what they were getting themselves into.
Anthony2816 - Sun, Mar 7, 2010 - 11:02am (USA Central)
So, Jammer, have you watched The Magnificent Seven yet?
Nic - Mon, Jun 14, 2010 - 10:23pm (USA Central)
This is definitely the funniest Ferengi episode of the series! That might not be saying a lot (it's certainly not nearly as funny as "In the Cards") but it was enough for me to enjoy it, despite its ridiculousness.
Max - Sun, Jan 9, 2011 - 11:59pm (USA Central)
This episode is a hoot. It's great to see the Ferengi back in form. Casting them as the underdogs works. We're back on their side, even Brunt's. Yes, it's obvious that Ishka is being substituted for the Nagus, but since everything else about this story is so over the top it doesn't hurt the tone at all.
Ken - Wed, Jan 19, 2011 - 9:33pm (USA Central)
2.5 stars is low for this. It should have been kept to at least 3. The ending payoff is just so funny. The way Kivan looks as he cross the corridor, and as he slams into the wall is just priceless. I laughed for minutes straight and had a smile on my face for most of the episode. Lots of good lines and not really a dull part.

Sure, the whole setup is contrived, but considering the payoff was so good, I forgive them.
Neil - Tue, Feb 1, 2011 - 1:01am (USA Central)
"Until this episode, I never realized that just having a bunch of Ferengi scamper down corridors was pure comedy gold."

Did you never watch TNG? I always *hated* Ferengi because in TNG they were always portrayed in this 'keystone cops' bumbling-idiot way, and I just found it irritating. I find most Trek attempts at comedy episodes pretty annoying, but the constant Feregeni-as-idiot joke really got on my nerves.

Voyager was almost as bad, but finally in DS9 we found the role of Quark which kept the Ferengi's ultra-capitalist habits but built a much more rounded and realistic character around them.

Rom was plagued at times by the same old bumbling idiot, but by this point in the series he had acquired some very serious attributes. And the journey of Nog from idiot Ferengi child to starfleet cadet was a real growth in the nature of the Ferengi portrayal.

So to me this episode is actually a crappy return to old habits by the writers, I didn't find it funny and I really thinki Quark, Rom, and Nog deserve better than this from the writing team.

I'm not a humorless jerk, either. I love comedy when it's done right - in my collection of TV shows, the cartoon and comedy section is much larger than my drama and sci-fi collection. But comedy in Star Trek has never worked for me. The 'Q' episodes are annoying as hell. The 'alternate universe' and other 'evil twins' episodes that are done as comedy are never funny either. And the ferengi keystone-cops stories are just rubbish.

I *do* like the small bits of humor that occur from time to time in all trek series. These are fine, and all good drama has a joke or two. But the attempts at comedy episodes always fall flat on their face. Trek just isn't a comedy show.
Ken - Tue, Feb 1, 2011 - 1:44am (USA Central)
Ordinarily I would agree with you Neil. I never really loved the Q episodes, the mirror universe episodes, etc. They all seemed like a waste of air time. Most of the Ferengi ones are pretty bad - DS9 and Voyager included.

But this episode is genuinely funny. It is very contrived and not at all believable, but if you can forgive that, it is very enjoyable. It is an exception.
Neil - Tue, Feb 1, 2011 - 8:25am (USA Central)
Ken, I actually concede your point. When I wrote the previous comment I was only about 20 minutes into the episode, but by the end I have to admit I laughed out loud a couple of times.

But it was much less 'bumbling Ferengi morons' and more like real people having a comedy of errors.

It emphasises, I guess, that DS9's writers had done a really good job of making the Ferengi less cartoon-stupid than in previous series.
Alexander - Wed, Mar 2, 2011 - 2:14pm (USA Central)
This episode deserves a minimum of 3 stars just for providing so many laughs within an hour. This is without a doubt the funniest Star Trek episode ever. Period. Never once was I bored. Never once was I looking at the time to see when it was over. Though I was sitting with pure enjoyment waiting to see what happens next. Jammer is no huge fan of Ferengi themed episodes so it's pretty easy to see his judgement is a little clouded when rating these episodes.

But coming from me, this episode would get 3 1/2 stars. Not a full 4 stars simply because it does take some "easy way out's" when it comes to the plot. But overall, this is my favorite Ferengi episode in all of DS9.
Jock Strapp - Sun, Sep 9, 2012 - 11:45pm (USA Central)
I don't care what anyone says. This episode deserved a minimum of 3.5 stars just for not only being the funniest DS9 ep but the funniest Star Trek ep of all the series combined.

When it comes to Jammer's reviews, I take his opinion of ferengi eps with a grain of salt. Giving this one a 2.5 his ridiculous.
Duge - Thu, Oct 18, 2012 - 7:22pm (USA Central)
Saw this ep for first time last night. As Ferengi eps go, this one was one of the better ones IMHO (perhaps the BEST one, actually). Taken at face value and without any sort of critical examination, it was entertaining and amusing. I laughed out loud when I saw them pull a "Weekend At Bernies" with Keevan and I thought that it was "hilarious" when Keevan's last words were "I hate Ferengi!" before keeling over and dying. It's too bad they killed him off because I kind of liked his character.
Nancy - Fri, Aug 2, 2013 - 12:52am (USA Central)
I love the fact that Moogie was coming back from getting her "ears lifted." LOL. This episode was hilarious. I'll overlook a lot of plot holes for a good laugh.
ProgHead777 - Sun, Aug 4, 2013 - 12:44am (USA Central)
I had to pause the episode after Leck shot Moogie in the holosuite simulation because I was laughing so hard. For a split second I thought he was finally going to score one for the team because he was the assassin of the group, the only real killer present. Yep, he's a killer all right. But no less inept than everyone else. Pure. Gold.
Elnis - Tue, Aug 27, 2013 - 7:13am (USA Central)
Great fun!

This episode is certainly one of the most entertaining comedy episodes of DS9 - although it IS over the top. But hey, who cares, we get a laugh a minute, and I certainly was smiling :)

It's funny - there's a cluster here of comedy episodes that are all wel above average as far as story, laughs and thrills are concerned. I'm talking about "You Are Cordially Invited", "The Magnificent Ferengi" and "Who Mourns for Morn?" - these three episodes aren't far apart, and they are probalby the three funniest episodes in DS9 ... in my eyes, that us.

It seems the creators get a better and better handle on the "fun joyride" episodes as the series progresses - particularly the ones centered around the Ferengi.
jerodast - Sat, Oct 5, 2013 - 3:10pm (USA Central)
"Jammer", you fool. If you're having a great time watching a clearly comic episode, it seems absurd to grade it down because it's not enough of a not-comic episode. Even ignoring some of your specific plausibility complaints which are less severe than you've described, do you really feel that the silliness of this episode hurts the credibility of the "serious" episodes? Or are you simply beholden to the idea that series must choose one or the other and never try something new?

This was flat out funny, and it sounds like you basically agree. Scoring an episode 62.5% for that "crime" seems like poor reviewing.
Kotas - Mon, Oct 28, 2013 - 6:54pm (USA Central)

Funny Ferengi episode.

Niall - Tue, Dec 10, 2013 - 8:36am (USA Central)
Funniest episode of Star Trek and a total classic.
Jack - Fri, Dec 20, 2013 - 9:20am (USA Central)
It was a bit odd that Bajoran officers seemed to be hauling Quark's freight around for him at the beginning of the episode...I don;t see how they'd be working for him...
Nissa - Sun, Jan 26, 2014 - 11:50pm (USA Central)
Jammer, I think I can help. It may very well be that Ishka was captured only as collateral: the Dominion was fighting somewhere, and a group of ferengi surrendered, leading them to have a bunch of useless prisoners. Or maybe they intended to attack a different group, and they caught some ferengi in the mix. Collateral capture happens from time to time.

What bothers me is that in one scene Rom and Quark are wandering through tunnels for some reason, basically all for a cheap gag where they accidentally end up in Sisko's office. That always felt out of place.
Sunil - Fri, Mar 14, 2014 - 1:19pm (USA Central)
A funny episode esp. the time when Keevan is being exchanged with moogie. I burst out laughing and laughed for sometime after the episode.
eastwest101 - Fri, Mar 21, 2014 - 10:49pm (USA Central)
After being intitially dubious and suspicious about DS9 I am now a real convert! Agree with a lot of the other posters - a contrived, unbeleivable but darkly hilarious (gallows-esque?) episode with lots of nods and winks to The Magnificent Seven and Weekend at Bernies.

A real episode for the fans, and a sign that the writers were not afraid to take risks with the genre and really go for some comedy and break out of some of the "orthodoxies" about sci fi.

Vylora - Wed, May 7, 2014 - 5:24pm (USA Central)
While some onscreen explanation of Ishka's kidnapping would seem prudent, this is an overall successful comedy episode. Too many funny scenes and well-realized wit in the dialogue overcome its own shaky premise. I would prefer to have seen Keevan utilized under different circumstances but is a minor quibble and more for self-interest rather than any fault by the writers.

3 stars.
Negus2 - Thu, May 22, 2014 - 9:36pm (USA Central)
Nog once again annoys me. I don't know why people like him. Rom and Quark ask him to help. They say you have to help save your grandmother and the negus who all ferengi are loyal too. He says he has duty to starfleet. So he doesn't have duty to his family or his negus. He's so wrapped up in starfleet he doesn't even care about his family. He only agrees to do it so he can boss people around. And yet so many fans think he's a good character. Yet in other episodes the writers try to make him a good ferengi even though he told Sisko he's not a good ferengi. The writers were all over the place with this character. They wanted to make him as human as possible until they wanted him to be a ferengi again. Funny ep though. Quark saves the day and the ep
Nissa - Thu, Jun 26, 2014 - 12:23am (USA Central)
I agree with Negus2. Nog was very annoying this episode.

But the one thing that really bugged me about this episode, despite the fun comedy, was the broken trust. Quark very honestly meant to trade a Vorta for his mother, and arranged for a trade that apparently the Vorta meant to keep. The deception that Quark ended up using saved his mother, but it also destroyed the trust between the Dominion and Ferenginar, possibly with huge consequences.
Yanks - Mon, Aug 18, 2014 - 1:08pm (USA Central)
This episode does have it's hilarious moments.

But I normally skip it as I do with most "Moogie/Zek" episodes.

Iggy Pop? .... lol

2.5 stars for comedic value only.
$G - Sat, Sep 27, 2014 - 10:54am (USA Central)
Yeah, I'm going to be the wet blanket again. This one is fine but I just don't care about any of it. 2 stars for being watchable, which already puts it above "Prophet Motive" and "Little Green Men" (no, I don't like LGM either. You know what else? "Our Man Bashir." I'll see myself out.).
TrekMeow - Tue, Nov 4, 2014 - 5:01pm (USA Central)
I am rewatching the series but for some reason had never seen this episode prior to now. I never laughed out loud in a trek episode as much as I did with this. I was sorry to see Keevan killed off but the payoff was more than worth it. The part where Nog tests Moogie with a knife to see if she were a changeling had me in stitches! best ferengi episode ever.
Del_Duio - Thu, Jan 22, 2015 - 10:13am (USA Central)
A good episode, and one my 13 year old had this to say about:

"How are they getting the Vorta out of jail by paying his freedom, I thought the Federation didn't use money?"

This is a REALLY good point. Why on Earth would they ever allow Keevan out of jail #1 and is he really just there until somebody shows up and posts bail? Sisko alone should've been so pissed off at what Keevan did during "Rocks And Shoals" that he should have made it a personal point to keep him locked away (at the very least).
Del_Duio - Thu, Jan 22, 2015 - 10:27am (USA Central)
Wow, what a brainfart haha!

I meant bailed Gaila out of jail, not Keevan.

Kind of makes my whole 2nd part of the post moot, but still it's weird to see the Federation taking bail money.

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