Star Trek Voyager: False Profits

"When no appropriate rule applies, make one up!"

Might Voyager have found a way to get home? It's only the fifth episode of season three - have a guess...

N.B. This episode is a sequel to The Next Generation third season episode ‘The Price’, and this review contains spoilers for that episode.

A Neelix-heavy episode about a couple of Ferengi posing as gods following up a Next Generation story that aired seven years earlier does not sound like a promising basis for an episode – I have to confess, the Ferengi are among my least favourite things in all of Star Trek, and stories about aliens posing as gods are among my least favourite tropes in science fiction (Stargate SG-1 notwithstanding). However, this episode is actually pretty decent, and probably one of the franchise’s more interesting uses of the Ferengi.

One of the things that make these two interesting antagonists is that they are portrayed not as stupid – indeed, Arridor, who tends to lead Kol, is pretty clever. Too often in early episodes of The Next Generation the Ferengi seemed far too stupid to be much of a threat, and while Arridor and Kol showed some intelligence in their tricks in the earlier episode, they became stranded in the Delta Quadrant in the first place because they didn't realise which quadrant they were in and were too suspicious to listen to Geordi when he tried to tell them. Here, though, they’ve been able to co-opt an existing mythology successfully, overturning society in their favour in the process, and when Janeway tries the simple solution of simply beaming them out, Arridor points out that she has no idea what the sudden disappearance of their gods will do to the society left behind and she feels forced to return them.

This falls down a bit when Neelix is able to convince them that he is the Grand Proxy (an invented position) of the Grand Nagus. The presence and opening of the wormhole at least makes contact with Ferenginar vaguely plausible, but really, they should have questioned Neelix more, especially when he starts making up Rules of Acquisition. Still, they get there in the end, making up a few of their own, and Neelix makes a rather good Ferengi, so the sequence is quite fun to watch.

The episode's ending is a little too neat. The Ferengi return to the Alpha Quadrant so Voyager no longer has to worry about them, keep an eye on them, stop them causing trouble, take them on, etc. But Voyager itself doesn’t make it through, so there can still be a show. Once again, Janeway’s determination to help a strange alien species has stranded Voyager in the Delta Quadrant (granted, the Ferengi share some of the blame there, but still). It might actually have been fun to hang on to these two for a few episodes (my un-fondness for the Ferengi notwithstanding).

Still, it's lovely to see the Next Gen episode followed up on. When it was written, the writers couldn't have known that an episode about a wormhole that pops up every now and again in the Delta Quadrant and a couple of missing Ferengi would be crying out for a sequel, but with Voyager's stated aim of looking for wormholes it's only logical that they would find this one, and the use of the Ferengi to damage the wormhole so it no longer has a stable base anywhere solve the problem of why they don't just hang around on the planet for seven years and wait it out. Overall, this is a fun episode, and one that rewards longtime Trek fans in a nicely subtle way.

Bits and pieces

 - Tuvok quite correctly points out that the Ferengi are not bound by the Prime Directive, and the Prime Directive forbids Voyager from interfering in this pre-warp civilization. Janeway argues that, since the Federation hosted the negotiations for ownership of the wormhole that led them there, the Federation is partly responsible for the Ferengi ending up exploiting these people and should put it right. Tuvok looks seriously impressed with this ‘logical’ line of reasoning.

 - Janeway flirting watch: See above. He looks really impressed.

 - Shuttlecraft count: The Ferengi mess up the wormhole with their own ship, so Voyager's shuttles are unaffected.

 - The Ferengi’s hareem looks like something straight out a Carry On movie, though I suppose we should just be grateful the women are wearing any clothes at all, considering the Ferengi’s laws about the importance of female nudity.

 - Other than the hareem, today's alien species are dressed a bit more colorfully than many and have managed to get hold of the ultimate Star Trek alien species fashion choice, the waistcoat. However, they still, like most alien species in the galaxy it seems, have not discovered patterned fabric.

 - And why is everyone on the planet obsessed with shoes? I realise our heroes don't have any of the local currency, but shoes? They should really keep some watches or jewellery around for when they're in civvies, which would make far more sensible currency.

 - I like the way Rob LaBelle's Kafar sees an opportunity to get rid of the 'Sages' who have made everyone's life worse, not better, though I wish he hadn't decided that meant they should be burned at the stake. It was probably necessary to create enough dramatic tension for the climax, but it's a bit of a cliche.


Various: Exploitation begins at home!

Kafar (watching Voyager warp away in the sky): The Holy Ones are going home!

The technobabble in this episode is really terrible, not so much because it's incomprehensible but because it makes no sense. "Shields are optimal", closely followed by "Shields to maximum" (optimal what? performance? is this their best time of day? maximum on what scale? why would they be at anything other than maximum, ever? when would you need just a little bit of shields but not full shielding?) are real low points for the series, technobabble-wise.

Inconsequential fun. Two and a half out of four made up Rules of Acquisition.

Juliette Harrisson is a freelance writer, classicist and ancient historian who blogs about Greek and Roman Things in Stuff at Pop Classics.


Juliette said...

Summer is here, so Voyager (and West Wing) reviews are back! The aim is to get them out once a week, but I have a really heavy workload this summer, so please forgive me if I fall behind a bit.

Anonymous said...

Hooray! Welcome back!

Juliette said...

Thanks! :)