Every once in a while we'll get an episode like this, which doesn't know what it's trying to be and simply resides in the realm of neutrality. As a story, "Rules of Acquisition" is pretty mediocre; it centers around Zek coming to the station and hiring Quark to establish a Ferengi business presence in the Gamma Quadrant. Along with his new business partner Pel (Hélène Udy), Quark opens negotiations with some terribly hokey and unrealized Dosi traders, who eventually reveal that the Dominion—a mysterious presence in the Gamma Quadrant (which, as we now know, will become a significant element of the series)—is a major force to be reckoned with.
The plot serves as a launchpad for the real premise: the revelation (if you can call it a revelation since it was revealed in the trailers) that Pel is a Ferengi woman masquerading as a man. The last act documents the fallout from Pel's admission, showing how sexist and backward Ferengi society is. But what is this supposed to mean? Are we supposed to take it seriously? Much of the episode seems to think we aren't, as it's filled with the usual Ferengi Rules of Acquisition, farcical jokes, and other such lunacy (like many of Zek's scenes).
Is this supposed to be a satire? If so, it doesn't have the teeth. A half-serious drama? If so, it suffers because it gives Quark no stand on the issue. As a Ferengi, Quark seems to disapprove of Pel's actions, but the story is never really sure what we're supposed to make of his opinions. What about a romance? The final scenes indicate Quark has fallen in love with Pel, but the reasoning seems either arbitrary or nonexistent. There isn't the slightest bit of chemistry in the characterizations, or even a hint of sincerity in Quark to take the "romance" at face value. All in all, this episode is a sometimes-entertaining farce with less relevance than even such a premise is worthy of.
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