Sunday, September 28, 2014

Deep Space Nine, Season 5: Business As Usual

Deep Space Nine, Season 5
"Business As Usual"
Airdate: April 5, 1997
114 of 173 aired
114 of 173 produced


Quark finds himself in dire financial straits and is tempted to deal weapons with his cousin Gaila in order to recoup his losses. But his personal ethics are tested when a client wants to kill millions.

Look at all these cool guns you'll never get to see on Star Trek!


Matthew: It seems like I've been bagging on DS9 a bit of late. I know this show is capable of very good things, so I'm interested in trying to dissect why several recent shows have been lackluster, while by comparison, this one largely works. I think the problems with the run of 2's I've given recently are story logic issues ("For The Uniform," "Doctor Bashir I Presume"), pacing issues ("A Simple Investigation") or issues with an errant B story ("The Begotten").  All of these problems are absent here. I think the story flowed briskly from setup through resolution. The basic plot line made sense and did not require much suspension of disbelief to allow it to progress. It gelled into a good ethical dilemma for Quark, which is always fun. It's all really solid, which puts those episodes mentioned above into stark contrast.

Kevin: There are a few places where I think the story pulls punches, but overall, I agree. It's an interesting dilemma for the character with a solution that they could only really explore on this particular franchise, and the result is an interesting episode both as a thought piece and as 43 minutes of entertainment. I am going to get my tiny quibble out of the way now. If it is illegal to sell weapons in the Federation, it is illegal to conspire to do so. The fact that the actual trade may take place outside Federation space is meaningless. And no one is allowed to say "Well it's 24th century laws and those are different," to me, cause that would also make no sense. If they were just plotting a murder on the station that would take place in neutral space, would that really not be a crime? Yeah, exactly. It's just one of those clever writer lines that makes no sense under even superficial legal analysis.

Matthew: The B story was innocuous, nothing more. I didn't hate it, but I wish it weren't taking time away from the A story. I do think the A story could have benefited from a bit more interaction between Quark and some of the rest of the crew. I would have liked to get a few more scenes like the one between Gaila and Quark, in which Gaila talks about the vastness of space and the "more where that came from" mentality that seems necessary to an arms merchant. It would have been nice to see Quark try to recapitulate that to his Starfleet neighbors, and perhaps fail to internalize it.  The zombie scene with the main cast was also pretty good, but I think they should have amped up the horror element and shown or almost shown the baby. That could have made Quark's emotional journey a bit more full bodied.

Kevin: I liked that they muddied the waters with the tacit Bajoran support for Hagath's actions. He was certainly not helping them out of a sense of altruism, but that doesn't mean he didn't help them. He may have done more to help them than the Federation's high-handed neutrality ever did, so that's a fun, complicated, unanswerable question. I liked Gaila's speech because it managed to turn his position slightly from one of a "lack" of morality to exploring how this is simply the way Gaila views the world. And Quark too, at least so he claims off and on, though maybe to a lesser extent. The episode should have driven that home more, that this isn't simply Quark being weak, but maybe Quark fundamentally viewing the universe differently than maybe either the Federation of his fellow Ferengi. The B-plot was cute enough, and at least if we are engaging in baby tropes, "bumbling incompetent father" was off the list.

Separately, I am surprised you liked the dream sequence. I liked it okay, and I get what they were going for, but DS9 long ago ran out of goodwill on dream sequences for me, and you haven't exactly loved them over the years.

The overall solution to the story left me a bit incredulous, personally. I liked that Quark arranged a dust-up between the two factions in order to prevent the mass slaughter. What I didn't like was that Hagath and Gaila escaped unharmed. Hagath is portrayed as someone who will punish past associates at the drop of a hat, up to and including killing them. How is it that he would not eventually visit some awful thing upon Quark for this obvious betrayal? I would have liked it better if Quark had figured out a way to guarantee that they would themselves die, whether in a firefight or by just exploding a bomb or opening the airlock of the cargo bay.

Kevin: The solution that left me wanting was the ease with which Quark was accepted back into the fold. I liked the tension of Quark losing the relationships he had built, particularly with Sisko, where it seems they reached a real understanding of each other's positions, and even if they weren't friends, they understood one another and were happy to benefit from that understanding when they needed to. I think the last scene with Dax in particular felt almost like an inappropriate laugh out to the credits. I would have liked it to take a little more time for relationships to normalize.


Matthew: This episode had a lot of strong guest stars. I loved Steven Berkoff as Hagath. His voice is just terrific, and he projects a palpable menace in his scenes. He also projects the sort of greed and desire for "the finer things" that such a merchant might have. Josh Pais was an atypically good one-off Ferengi. His scene at the window with Quark was great, too. And of course, very few people play "irascible" as well as Lawrence Tierney.

Kevin: Everyone nailed the gravitas that the parts required. It's the first time in a while that a one-off villain felt really menacing. Berkoff really pitched it at a simmer and not a boil, so the few times when he did yell, it was really effective. I agree on Gaila. He really gave some life to the point of view. Again, it's more interesting that his is a coherent but extremely different morality rather than merely a lack of morals.

Matthew: Armin Shimerman had a lot of subtle shades of emotion to portray, and was somewhat underserved by the script (especially with the half-hearted zombie scene and the fact that he didn't get to arrange the deaths of the baddies). He did a great job with what he had, and his comedic beats (especially the gem scene) were really good.

Kevin: We've said it before, and we'll say it again, Shimerman can really act anything. I did like the bit of him talking himself up before going into that last meeting. He really is a master at finding the comedy in a serious moment in a way that doesn't undercut the drama.

Production Values

Matthew: This was a bottle show. For the most part what we have to look at are costumes and makeup. Everything was pretty good all around, with understated makeup on the warring factions (a hook on the nose). Gaila's clothes were really good, suggesting the regular Ferengi taste for opulence multiplied a few times over, but not seeming really tacky.

Kevin: The holosuite scene was well done. There were no seams that I could detect. I did like Gaila's jacket as well. I also liked the scene with presenting the food. I know it probably doesn't look like real food, but like that scene in Matter of Honor with the Klingon buffet, I always enjoy it when the prop people really let themselves go.


Matthew: If this episode had a bit more ambition, it would be a 4. But it pulled a few too many punches to ascent into loftier territory, and remains a 3 for me. Solidly entertaining, and even thought provoking to a degree, but not superlative in any one way or other.

Kevin: Yeah, even more so than say "Invasive Procedures," this leaves the viewer wondering how they let Quark stay on the station let alone not put him in jail. Still, anchored by some really good performances, I am always entertained and intrigued by this episode. The lack of external consequences do keep this from a 4, but the internal journey Quark portrayed definitely keep my interest enough for a 3. That makes a total of 6.


  1. Oh no another lousy rating :( Why oh why do you guys not like it ? (ok, I think it is unfair to say this about things that are about taste, but still).

    This episode is soooo great. So entertaining. I could watch it, rewind and watch it again. I loved seeing Quark go from being desperate for money that he becomes partners with his sleazy cousin to having developed a conscience and feeling bad about what he did. Great character development for him - showing us once again that he is not your typical, greedy Ferengi who would sell his mother - literally - for a few bars of latinum.

    I loved how deliciously wicked Hagath was and also the guy they were going to sell those WMDs to. They way he casually picked how many people he wants to die - like he was catering for an event "oh, I wanna start off with ten bottles and throughout the event increase the number to 200." I can almost guarantee you that quite a few war mongers in our midst have had similar conversations. I think it was a great commentary on the weapons and arms trade. Especially how his cousin said "look at all these stars. Half of them is intent to kill the other so who will miss it when one of these stars no longer shines." I loved how they eluded to similar discussions we have right now in that regard, where it is argued that hey - from a business stand point we cannot let such issues of morality be in our way. We are just doing "business (as usual)" and business is business. We cannot let larger issues of morality get in the way of that. I mean these are the exact same issues we, as humanity, have had to deal with when it comes to the ethical consequences of selling arms to entities that then may use them to do horrible things to others.

    Just look at our nauseatingly strong support of Israel's genocidal apartheid regime. I mean what....2000 Palestinians massacred and Obama cut them another check of 250 million (of the money we said we dont have to take care of our own) a few weeks later. That guy talking about how high he wants the death doll to rise may as well have been netanyahu.

    We helped built Iron Dome for them. And not just Israel. We armed Hussein 30 or 40 years ago and gave him chemical weapons to use against Iran (and which they did use in a the Kurdish village). Arming rebels is what got us into Vietnam and i think we even supported bin Laden during the cold war.

    This episode was so relevant and again, this is what i love about Star Trek: they take issues that we, as humanity, talk about, care about and have struggled with and co-opt them into an alien setting and critically discuss them through that prism. I once read Roddenberry did that a lot during the run of TOS: take cold war issues he wasnt allowed to talk about directly, and discuss them via some alien story. So for that alone, this episode was brilliant to me.

    I dont know why you guys are always bothered by stuff like the logic, for example, the Fedration allowing or not allowing weapons trade. That always seems to be in the way of your enjoyment of episodes - and also why you rate it lower. I mean look, I get it. The fact that Quark "owns" the bar on a Federation/Starfleet base that has done away with money and material wealth and such things, is absurd, too.

    Or why does Sisko ask him to pay this much money to fix what was damaged when money is no longer an issue on Earth and this Starfleet. Pay restitution to whom? What bank account? The Starfleet Federal Reserve? It all doesnt make sense to me so rather than be disappointed that they didnt follow through on the logic, so choose to tune out. And i acknowledge that not everyone may want to do the same. If it bothers you, it bothers you. I cannot tell you to not be bothered, i can just recommend it :)

    Anyway I found the episode very entertaining. One of my most favorite DS9 episodes. As you guys say, i liked how the lines of right and wrong were blurred with the part abt Kira saying they shouldnt stand in Hagath's way as he helped arm the resistance etc.

    1. A six is a solidly average rating. We seek a standard distribution in our scores, and all the sixes you see are solidly average, entertaining episodes. They just don't for various reasons reach the lofty heights of a Yesterday's Enterprise or a City on the Edge of Forever.

  2. I dont know - 60% out of 100 is a grade of what...? C-. Sounds pretty bad to me :)

  3. Yeah, but that's the model where the only acceptable grade is an A. Anything less than an A must be wrong in someway. A C should be "average" where the appellation average is not pejorative. If every episode is the "best," then that word loses its utility as a distinction.

    If nothing else, our central thesis is that average Star Trek is better than most television. I would kill if all TV were in spitting distance of this episode in terms of quality and entertainment value.