Synopsis: Quark and Rom return to Ferenginar when their mother is charged with a serious crime. Sisko goes on a date.
I love that there’s so much genuine, serious family stuff, resentments and raw wounds and personality clashes, going on here underneath the sci-fi trappings and general Ferengi silliness. This one brief exchange, when Quark and Rom first arrive home, tells me so much:
Rom: Look, brother, the latinum tooth-sharpener I used when we were children!
Quark: All I had was a wooden chew-stick.
(This was the point, watching with my mother, when she said to me “yeah, the oldest child always gets a raw deal, sorry about that.”)
Because it’s very clearly not just about this one family crisis, perhaps not even primarily about that — that was just the catalyst. Every interaction the people in this family have in this episode makes it obvious that there’s a lot more going on, that this is about much more. Rom says, in the moments leading up to his fight with Quark, that “you went off as soon as you reached the Age of Ascension, but I stayed here for ten more years”; by that point, they’ve given us so many hints about the family dynamic already that he’s simply making explicit what was already implied.
Armin Shimerman in particular is bringing his A game here (apparently the episode hit him hard based on his own family history, and he found himself working through some of his own issues in the process of making it, bless him). The moment when Ishka says that she always saw herself in Quark — his reaction, a startled “I never knew you felt like that”, gives away that this isn’t really about the law or Ferengi tradition. He’s not appalled by the comparison — he’s just genuinely moved to learn that his mother is proud of him, and able to connect with her for the first time in years.
And oof, poor Rom — the peacemaker, the kid who seems clueless but is in fact much smarter than he’s given credit for, because his intelligence lies in areas that his society doesn’t value. Again, a few little interactions tell me so much about the characters — the scene outside Brunt’s office, when Rom doesn’t even think to haggle, just asks Quark to cover the cost of a seat for him, and Quark resignedly gives him the money — just reinforces so much how Rom just…doesn’t quite fit in as a Ferengi, so that when his mother says to Quark that Rom may know the Rules of Acquisition, “but you understand them — Rom never did”, she’s just saying out loud what’s been subtext up until that moment.
It’s also really wonderful to think, in light of Rom’s scenes in this episode, of Nog’s final scene with Sisko in “Heart of Stone“, when it becomes clear that he, a young man who’s spent a lot more time among non-Ferengi, who’s even befriended a human, has come to understand that just because he doesn’t have much business sense doesn’t mean he has no value. His father, Nog admits, “doesn’t have the lobes — and neither do I”, but that’s not the end of the conversation — if anything, it’s only made him more determined to make his own way: “I know I’ve got something to offer. I just need the chance to prove it.”
Some Ferengi musing
This episode was, in general, a deliberate choice by the writers to do a more serious Ferengi episode — which, perhaps, explains why, despite the Ferengi having been introduced way back in the first season of The Next Generation, this is the first time we ever see Ferenginar. I’d argue that Deep Space Nine takes the Ferengi seriously as a race in a way that TNG didn’t, even if it doesn’t always take individual Ferengi characters seriously. DS9 gives them a culture, with laws and traditions, in a way that TNG did not.
Quark, for instance, when he starts telling his mother that “without law, society would descend into chaos” — it’s funny, to hear someone who comes into near-constant conflict with the chief law enforcement officer on the station now stressing the importance of law and order. It’s not an inconsistency in his character — he grew up with, understands, and respects the laws of his people; Ferengi laws are a part of him the way Bajoran or Federation laws aren’t.
That, after all, is why Sisko, who’s brilliant at reading people and knowing what he needs to say — and how he needs to say it — to get what he needs from any given person, made a point of learning the Rules of Acquisition. It’s why, when he needed Quark’s help making contact with the Dominion at the beginning of the season, he went so far as to obtain the Grand Nagus’s staff to reinforce to Quark how serious a matter this was, the lengths he was willing to go to to ensure Quark’s cooperation. Sisko doesn’t always like Quark, doesn’t like most of what he does, but he’s come to respect him as a person, and the culture he comes from.
The last episode introduced us to Leeta and to Sisko’s beard, and brought us the first mention of a character who now shows up on-screen for the first time: Kasidy Yates! I feel like she ultimately gets a bit more development than the female recurring characters typically do on this show. Also, Penny Johnson is just really pretty.
Things I like about the Kasidy subplot in this episode:
- How much her very first scene tells us about her: she’s practical and no-nonsense, she works hard, she’s used to scraping by and being resourceful — it’s a really solid introduction, packing a great deal into one scene.
- The awkward pauses and stilted small talk at the beginning of their date, and also the way Sisko’s face lights up at the mention of baseball.
- The implication that apparently the Federation have worked something out with the Gorn, since there are multiple cities on Cestus III.
- How completely invested in each other’s social lives everyone on the station is.
And, of course, this is also the first appearance of Brunt, who will be a recurring thorn in Quark’s side. And goodness, Jeffrey Combs just steps in as if Brunt’s been here all along. Combs and Shimerman play off each other in really fun ways, and Brunt is, in general, interesting because he’s far more a part of the Ferengi establishment than even Quark — Quark is embarrassed by his mother’s behavior, but Brunt is truly shocked and appalled. Brunt and Rom are, perhaps, the little cartoon devil and angel sitting on Quark’s shoulders throughout the course of the show — although Quark and I would probably disagree on which is the devil and which is the angel.
A few other things I enjoyed
- Ishka’s thumbs up on “high-quality beetles — the best!”
- Odo just hanging around to watch Bashir and O’Brien try to break into Quark’s, and the fact that, when Sisko runs across them, he joins them in trying to seem innocent.
- Quark and Ishka’s identical “that boy ain’t right” faces when Rom interrupts their argument by saying he wished Keldar were still alive.
- Everyone on the station is deeply horny for gossip and drama. Even Odo.
- Jadzia’s horniness for Kasidy deserves a mention, as well.
2 thoughts on “3.23: “Family Business””
I enjoyed this much more than I remembered enjoying it, although some of the plot resolution struck me as clumsy and awkward. I almost never think it works when Trek has characters try to resolve personal conflict through physical confrontation, and with the Ferengi it’s even less convincing than usual, although Armin Shimerman and Max Grodenchik, bless them, give it their all. Shimerman is stellar throughout this entire episode and Grodenchik really steps up his game this season, to an extent I had forgotten.
One of the things I think sets DS9 apart from the other, more episodic Star Trek series, is that it really takes the time to dive in and develop the alien cultures we see throughout the show. By the time it’s all done, this show has, bit by bit, and mostly in sensible and relatable character-driven ways given the viewer an encyclopedia’s worth of history, tradition, law, religion, and societal norms for a really staggering number of species: the Bajorans, the Cardassians, the Ferengi, the Klingons (some of which was already in place but a lot of which was adapted, made new, or advanced by this show), the Trill, the Jem’Hadar, the Vorta, the Founders, even the dang Breen (maybe not as much on the Breen). For them to spend this much time developing the Ferengi instead of keeping them as a one-note joke (through Quark, a more complex character than anyone probably imagined based on his early appearances in the show) is really something to appreciate.
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