DS9: S1E10: “The Nagus”

In which several questions are raised about how the Ferengi socio-economic structure actually works.

Someone is smuggling someone with an ornate golden Ferengi-headed staff on board. Jake is looking for his shoes. Sisko planned a three-day vacation for them to go to a Bajoran festival and see something called the ‘fire caverns’, but Jake is really looking forward to checking out some anti-gravity tractors with Nog instead.

"We have to get this Bajoran fetish of yours under control, brother."

“We have to get this Bajoran fetish of yours under control, brother.”

Quark is upset at his brother Rom for returning a wallet to a patron without even pre-selecting a finder’s fee. The first Rule of Aquisition states: “Once you have their money, never give it back.” This is something like the Ferengi bible. As Quark hangs out in the bar, the Grand Nagus is instroduced as a horny old man who’s going to run through Quark’s five most… energetic… programs.

O’Brien is filling in for Keiko in class. The frontier school is a multi-age as well as multicultural, and you can tell things are rough when Nog says that Vulcans stole his essay about ethics. He also manages to get Jake to lie to O’Brien about it. You can tell this is going to go over real well when O’Brien mentions it to Sisko at the next stand-up. Speaking of which, is O’Brien teaching a full day in addition to his Chief of Operations duties? O’Brien can’t catch a break. If someone wants to trawl back episodes and come up with a counter, I might just use it.

Quark is worried that the Nagus is here to buy out the bar, at a fraction of the value, because the Nagus is the economic equivalent of a 900-pound gorrilla and does basically whatever he wants. His bodyguard is even his food-taster. The problem with the Business Pope showing up is that those in the house can’t do any tradition-bucking things like ‘going to school.’ But really, the Nagus is here to set up business opportunities in the brand new untapped market of the Gamma Quadrant.

I’d say that Sisko and Odo are being a bit bigoted by profiling all the Ferengi that are showing up for the conference, but given the track record the Federation has had so far, it’s hard to fault them for being a little extra wary. Thus we observe the slow descent into a police state. In future seasons, we shall look back on this as the beginning of the end, I’m sure.

Quark, gambling on a fart and losing.

Quark, gambling on a fart and losing.

The question that comes to me during this conference is: Do the Ferengi believe their own hype? The Nagus talks about how the big problem facing the Ferengi Business Empire is that they’ve acquired a reputation as untrustworthy in the Alpha and Beta quadrants. A human might say that such is well-deserved, but the Nagus disagrees loudly. It takes all of six lines of dialogue before someone talks about how cool it will be to be able to lie so easily again. Being so old, the Nagus has selected a successor to lead the Ferengi in this new endeavor: Quark. The others don’t take it very well, but Quark is so pleased he starts giving himself a handjob in the middle of his bar.

Inside, Sisko may be cheering about Rom pulling Nog out of school, but he’s being pretty good about not showing it. He’s not trying particularly hard to get Jake and Nog back together, but he’s trying to explain the position without impugning an entire species.

With the brand new title of Nagus, Quark finds that it’s not all sunshine and roses. His first hint thereof is when one of the Ferengi at the conference threatens his life for the first pick of the Gamma quadrant trade contracts. Quark goes to Zek for advice, and Zek dies basically immediately.

According to Ferengi custom, Zek’s body is immediately ground up, vacuum-dessicated and sold as souvenirs. While Jake and Nog defy the wisdom of their parents by remaining friends, Quark narrowly avoids getting blown up by a particularly ineffective drone. The drone targets based on body odor, and it seems that Ferengi explosive devices are either incredibly weak, or basically perfect for use aboard a space habitat, since Quark only had to duck and didn’t even have his ears blown out by the explosion. Probably made by the lowest bidder.

Some of Quark’s duties and responsibilities include being able to arbitrate and permit business deals that he has no means to actually veto, other than social power. In a human power structure, command is ultimately enforced by the existence of a sufficiently loyal force of arms  – if the Admiralty couldn’t send the Enterprise after Captain Maxwell to enforce their orders, Federation treaties would have no force. From what we see, which is admittedly a very superficial look at Ferengi culture, it’s difficult to picture the Ferengi as maintaining a fleet which could militarily veto any attempt at unilateral expansion. The Nagus may command economic power to choke off a supply chain, then. The only other option for a means of control that doesn’t rely on force is religion.

Oh, seems like Nog is the one behind the assassination attempts. Just FYI.

Now here’s a question. Jake doesn’t wear a commbadge. The computer is able to find Jake. When Bashir took off his commbadge, however, the computer could only find the badge, not Bashir. This is a common device, in fact. Does he have a locator sewn into his uniform? If so, why doesn’t everyone have a locator sewn into their uniform? Privacy is all well and good, but that’s why you have civvies. Sisko has gone to find Jake, but finds out that Jake is tutoring Nog after hours since Nog’s dad won’t let him go to school. Jake’s a good kid and a credit to the culture of the Federation.

There’s all sorts of sneaking going around, which culminates in Nog and Krax trying to space Quark and being rescued by the Nagus, who orchestrated the whole thing to see if Krax was ready to inherit. Zek’s test was to see if his son was smart enough to see that the bar was a great way to accumulate power slowly and quietly with no risk. Instead, Krax failed by acting like a Klingon. But at least Quark is proud of his brother for having the stones to try.


2 thoughts on “DS9: S1E10: “The Nagus”

  1. Pingback: Worlds in a Blender | DS9: S2E08: “Necessary Evil”

  2. Pingback: Worlds in a Blender | DS9: S2E07: “Rules of Acquisition”

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