Saturday, October 11, 2014

Deep Space Nine, Season 5: Ferengi Love Songs
Deep Space Nine, Season 5
"Ferengi Love Songs"
Airdate: April 21, 1997
116 of 173 produced
116 of 173 aired


Quark, depressed by a vole infestation in his bar and dejected by a general sense of malaise in his life, heads home to his mother for support. When he finds her enmeshed in a love affair with the Grand Nagus, he must decide whether his fortunes or her feelings are more important.

When It's Time For A Rewrite, Exhibit A: This is the best scene in your episode.


Matthew: From the outset, I have an issue with this story's setup. We just had, a mere two episodes no less, a story in which a down-on-his luck Quark is challenged by a big life change and a thorny ethical dilemma. But where "Business As Usual" was interesting if somewhat undercooked, this is just stupid. You know what, that's not quite right. It had the potential to be at least a little bit good. A leader losing his wits is potentially interesting. The angle of a woman using this to push her agenda could also be quite interesting. But what do we get? A pointless, stupid, and formulaic romantic comedy that completely sidesteps the most interesting aspects of the plot in favor of low brow humor. Perhaps most egregious is the "scene" (I hesitate to call it such) in which Zek and Quark talk about how they outwitted Brunt's and his investigators' attempt to prove Zek was mentally unfit for his rule. Why in hell would you not show this? It could be tense, engrossing, even funny if done right. Most disappointing, outside of the bland predictability of the romantic misunderstanding and resolution, is that we learn nothing about Ferengi society, yet again. This is getting tiresome.

Kevin: I know that the Ferengi stories as a whole are among the weakest in the series, and they, of course, have always tended to go for the cheap comedy over doing something interesting with rare exception, but....I can't help it. I really enjoy watching this episode. I admit it's probably the acting and only the acting, but I can't stay mad at these episodes, except maybe Profit and Lace. I can stay mad at that one. I think the really sin of the episode is not using it to explore Ferengi society in more detail. I enjoy the apparent contradiction of a society that prides itself on free enterprise being held the capricious whim of an all powerful plutocrat (a contradiction I think we could find easy examples of in the real world), and it would have been fun to see more about it's actual mechanics. As for the romantic comedy bits, I did enjoy it more as a child than I do now, but again, I just can't be mad at it too much. It's formulaic, but for me, it's sufficiently carried by the acting.

Matthew: Aargh. Another Rom-Leeta plot. I can't think of a whole lot of things I'd rather watch less. Many of the reasons for this are acting reasons (discussed below), but the story itself is inane in the extreme. Rom and Leeta's epic, world-shattering love is completely undone by... an offhand remark from two interesting characters, Dax and O'Brien. Both Rom and Leeta act like complete simpletons in response, never deigning to actually talk to each other, as opposed to just flying off the handle. Both characters are completely morose about the "breakup," yet somehow avoid doing anything to remedy the situation. Then, the interesting and intelligent characters make a brief appearance and fix everything in the space of two minutes. If Rom could be motivated by an off-hand remark to ruin his romantic life out of some notion of Ferengi-ness, could he also be induced to give up his entire fortune by the same off-hand sorts of comments? These blithe actions seem intellectually incompatible. Why am I supposed to be interested in this again? I can't identify with the romantic dyad, because they' so intellectually handicapped, but I also can't identify with any of their superiors, because they're so oblivious to the damage their remarks cause. I'm just left feeling vaguely insulted by the whole thing.

Kevin: Here, I am in agreement. I just never cared about this couple. It's odd and a little sad that they get more on screen development than maybe any couple save Tom and B'Elanna, but I just don't care what happens to them. I am fine with Rom's lack of traditionalness being sporadic and sometimes contradictory, but it comes out of left field that he should suddenly want a more traditional bride. They cemented their relationship at a union meeting, for crying out loud. You hit the nail on the head with the idea that everything turns on off-hand comments. Relationship dynamics like that work in sitcoms where that's the setup, but as we have stressed here, Trek is at its best when the internal dynamic of the universe feels real, and even if it were funny (which it's not) it certainly doesn't feel real.


Matthew: Well, we're sure getting our dose of Jeffrey Combs lately. I'm not going to complain about that, though Brunt is my least favorite of his roles. Armin Shimerman does a fine job here. No matter how stupid a Ferengi episode gets, he always hold up his end. He gets a few solid laugh lines, and his overall presence threatens me with actually caring about the unfolding story.

Kevin: I love the two of them throwing insults at each other, and I think both certainly make you believe the side of the argument their selling. I've been re-listening to the excellent History of Rome podcast by Mike Duncan, so I've been seeing everything through the lens of Roman imperial politics for a while, and you could easily see these two as senators going after each other in a production of I, Claudius. (Note to the universe: please make that happen.)

Matthew: I frequently try to temper my criticism in the acting sections of these reviews. I'm not an actor myself, and I do not know what sorts of emotional investments performers make, and how they might respond to harsh critique. But I've had it. There are not one, or two, but three terrifically bad performances here. Wallace Shawn's grating, fingernails-on-chalkboard turn as Zek is one. I do not find him compelling, I just want him to be off the screen. There is no depth behind the cartoonish facade he puts off. His simpering, caterwauling scenes with Cecily Adams' Ishka are nearly intolerable. Her scenes with Shimerman are quite a bit better, so I blame Shawn.

Kevin: I do find the Nagus better in small doses, but I find the writing to be the culprit here. The man who can do "My Dinner with Andre" is clearly capable of restraint if asked. If nothing else, there was a ton of "old people having sex is disgusting and therefore funny" that we got with Lwaxana, and I don't know if there is acting to overcome it. Cecily Adams, particularly in her scenes with Quark did a good job for me, and I found her to be a worthy successor to Andrea Martin, who declined returning because the prosthetics were too burdensome. I always laugh when she says, "I'm sure your problems are very important to you...but right now I don't give a damn about them."

Matthew: Max Grodenchik has been variously good and bad. He's bad here. Granted, the story is stupid, but Armin Shimerman can sell crap material. It is apparent than Grodenchik can't. When the script is stupid, he does not add any shading to his character that makes it less stupid. But the worst of the bunch, and this is saying something given Wallace Shawn's turn here, is Chase Masterson. I don't believe a word that escapes her lips. I don't buy even a lick of chemistry between her and Grodenchik. When she is talking, I want her to shut up. Rom and Leeta's full-on makeout session is disgusting and awkward. I'm quite sure she's a lovely human being off camera, but I kind of can't believe she has gotten work anywhere else, before or since, in any acting role.

Kevin: I will agree on Leeta and not really buying the chemistry. Especially after his reveal as a savant in Necessary Evil, I've always had a soft spot for Rom. I think he is better used in his scenes with Quark where the brother dynamic feels for more genuine.

Production Values

Matthew: Apparently, the planet Ferenginar has a population of six people when Quark is visiting. Believe me, I get it that extras and makeup are expensive. But the plot issues were exacerbated by this lack of people on the planet. The story already felt disappointingly small in scope, but then we also see no other Ferengi to round out the portrayal of the world. The sets remain the same pretty good interiors we've seen before, but they lack any sense of connection to the matte painting/diorama we get of the world. Don't Ferengi believe in windows?

Kevin: I get that the prosthetics make the idea of a room of extras impractical, but yeah, some distant pan of a spaceport of something would have gone a long way. I found the Nagal Throne Room to be oddly small and bare. It's the Oval Office, and they should have taken a page from the President's Office from Homefront/Paradise Lost or Undiscovered Country.

Matthew: I enjoyed Moogie's home yet again. One little detail I haven't noticed before was the little shelf with rain-cloths on it. Quark uses them to wipe off his head when he enters the home, which makes so much sense on a planet that rains all the time. Is it the kind of detail that's going to save this stinker? Certainly not. But I really appreciate the thought that goes into touches like this. Speaking of which, the Marauder Mo figures are great, especially with the blue whips.

Kevin: The small details are great. I forget where I read it, if it was a producer or one of the recurring fiction authors that posits that Ferengi doors are so small because after encounter other races and realizing they are among the shortest, the built their homes to give themselves the false impression of being too tall, which I always thought was a neat idea. I do wonder where they got the figures. At first I thought they may just be the Playmates actions figures of the Ferengi (that I own) but they are too large.


Matthew: I wanted to give this a two, because I feel like I've been kind of rough on this season. But my natural integrity and critical eye just have me stuck on a one. The story is insultingly simplistic, asking us to believe and care that four separate characters, from the dumbest to purportedly the wiliest alive, can fall prey to the slightest rumor-mongering and off-hand remarks of their peers, upending their lives as a consequence. Why should I invest care into characters who behave so unbelievably? The episode tells us nothing interesting about Ferengi culture, which is something it really needs to do to justify these stories' continuing existence. And the acting is reprehensible on the parts of the majority of the players. So yeah. It's a one. And not a "so-bad-it's-good-one," either. A "This-is-crap-and-I-don't-want-to-watch-it-again" kind of one.

Kevin: I think the acting picks this up to at least a 2, and I know I can't really justify a 3, what with the B plot alone, but damnit, I do enjoy rewatching this episode. Just watching Armin Shimerman and Jeffrey Combs get so much screen time is a treat. It's not high art, but I can't find it in me to hate it. That makes a total of 3.


  1. I used to always hate Ferengi episodes when I first started watching DS9. They went on my last nerve and I didnt care for them. But it is interesting how one's likes and dislikes change over time because the Ferengi episodes are my most favorite ones. Seriously - just light an herbal cigarette and play close attention to Quark. He is marvelously hilarious. This episode is no exception. Quark is great and the entire Ferengi society and the little things like dropping a few strips of latinum when entering even your mom's house and all that is always enjoyable to watch. I swear the Ferengi are modeled after the gos damn republicans. It is like the world as envisioned by the GOP or something. LOL.

    Anyway I think in the end it is a matter of preference ultimately. I can see why people would hate these Quakr themed episodes and overall find the Ferengi stuff distracting. But I have really come to appreciate them and, in fact, always look forward to this episode.

    1. I like "Quark shows" quite a bit, because they let a great actor play a morally gray character. This is a "Ferengi show," though, and they are two distinct categories. So while Quark is by far the best thing in it, the rest of the episode is just awful.