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Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Profit and Lace

Quark: “That can't be the good news. If Ferengi females can wear clothes in public, then they can leave their homes. If they can leave their homes, they can go to work. If they can go to work, they can make profit.”
Ishka: “What's the matter, Quark? Afraid of a little competition?”

Deep Space Nine finally makes it possible for female Ferengi to wear clothes by having Quark undergo a sex change.

One of the awkward decisions by the Star Trek powers years before this episode aired was when, in the TNG episode “Ménage à Troi,” Lwaxana and Deanna Troi were captured by a Ferengi. He promptly removed their clothes, because in Ferengi culture, the females were not allowed to wear clothing.

This creative decision, done for laughs at the time (and to titillate the audience, because Marina Sirtis was the show's hot chick), was not funny. The Star Trek franchise has always struggled with anything with Lwaxana Troi and often with Ferengis. "Ménage à Troi" was one of its worst episodes; the women being kidnapped and threatened with rape and slavery made it especially unfunny. And, the choice to have Ferengi females be naked meant that it became extremely difficult to have any Ferengi females in any episodes. This episode, at long last, seeks to correct that.

I love Deep Space Nine. But not this episode. And yet...

We have to recognize that many cultures for millennia have been strict about what people may and may not wear. This practice, although sometimes difficult for men (in the 1960s, many guys were beaten up for their long hair) was particularly hard on women. So although the creative choice was started for laughs, it’s a real issue. And I appreciated the earlier attempts to change this by Ishka and others (Pel in “Rules of Acquisition”).

Ishka persuades the Grand Nagus to let females wear clothes. And, promptly, predictably, the Ferengi Commerce Authority (FCA) tells the Grand Nagus he’s no longer the Grand Nagus and they make Brunt the Acting Grand Nagus. The good guys have only three days before this becomes permanent.

So far, it’s not that bad. And our heroes’ plan to reverse this is not that bad either. They intend to use a female Ferengi – Ishka, as she is a financial genius – to persuade the commissioners that females are capable of finance. They arrange for one to come to DS9. However, Quark – who loves his mother, but is angered by these changes – has a yelling match with Moogie and she collapses from a heart attack. They don’t have another female available, so they make Quark undergo a sex change and convince Nilva while playing Lumba.


Nevertheless, this is a classic trope in so many comedies throughout the millennia, as characters pretend to be the opposite sex. Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon in Some Like It Hot. Julie Andrews in Victor/Victoria. Even Disney’s Mulan.

So – am I judging this episode too harshly?

Some of it works. I enjoyed Rom and Leeta as they gave Quark lessons in femininity. I also enjoyed Quark’s arguments about the advantages of pockets (however, the fact that females contribute to the economy is better).

Some of it doesn’t work. It may be karmic for Quark to be hit on by Nilva after Quark hit on Aluura, one of his own employees (Aluura was great). However, many of the scenes with Quark and Nilva are awkward and slow.

And although we are willing to suspend our disbelief for this show, some of the decisions are so far-fetched as to make it impossible. If there are really 400+ members of the FCA, can we really expect a single businessman to make all the difference? And is it plausible for Acting Nagus Brunt to come to Deep Space Nine? Of course, the reason for these decisions is what is convenient for TV and not what is most likely in reality. Working with only one Ferengi oligarch means having only one actor (and I did enjoy Henry Gibson), which is convenient, and as long as we’re doing Ferengi politics, we have to have the talented Jeffrey Coombs show up in his role of Brunt – Acting Grand Nagus. I suppose if Nilva is so influential, as he appears to be, that Brunt would come to play defense.

Yet this is a problem with most series, in which a single character is used to represent the point of view of a large segment of society. However, television series need to employ the actors they have and don’t want to confuse audience by adding many more. These conditions create limits to many stories.

Title musings. "Profit and Lace" is the title, and it does not have especially deep meanings. Lace is traditionally feminine, and Quark wears lace when he's transformed to Lumba.

Bits and pieces

Going from one gender to another is so easy in Bashir’s infirmary!

Rom did a great job doing a dainty female. Max Grodénchik can play baseball and do a lady.

It is kind of depressing that they didn’t have another female who could give good business advice. I wish they had said not enough time to find one and to get her to Deep Space Nine.

Although allowing clothing was at the center of this, we should remember the Betazed culture was pretty relaxed about clothing ("Cost of Living" was a TNG episode when Lwaxana got out of a marriage by going naked).

Times change. I have a DVD of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, made in 1976 and starring Marc Singer. It’s a beautifully choreographed, wonderfully acrobatic interpretation. But because it is so sexist, and the abuse of women played for comedy, I no longer find it funny and I cannot watch it.

I liked how Aluura was open to oo-mox. Although I certainly agree that sexual harassment is wrong, there are times when people at work are legitimately attracted to each other. Aluura’s reaction was fun because it was not expected.

Doesn’t the station or Bajor have laws against sexual harassment?


Aluura: Oo-mox for Fun and Profit?
Quark: It's a quick read.
Aluura: Oh. You want me to be nice.
Note: I included this because her delivery of that line was spot on.
Quark: Let's face it. The customers, the dabo girls, the Ferengi waiters, they didn't hire you. And they can't fire you.
Aluura: You wouldn't. Would you?
Quark: Read the book.

Sisko: A Dominion invasion of Ferenginar?
Rom: Think of the terrible repercussions to the Alpha Quadrant.
Worf: I cannot think of any.

Rom: And this is my wife, Leeta.
Leeta: I've heard so much about you.
Zek: Would you like to hear more?
Ishka: Remember, she's Rom's wife.
Zek: Meaning what?
Ishka: Meaning she's broke.
Zek: She doesn't look broke to me.

Quark: We're all facing banishment from Ferengi society and he wants to play tongo?
Ishka: He wants to play tongo, I want to have a late night snack, you want to lie here feeling sorry for yourself. We all deal with stress in different ways. Any fresh tube grubs around?

Nilva: Let me see if I understand. Giving females the right to wear clothes allows them to have pockets. Once they have pockets, they're going to want to fill them with latinum.
Quark: Which means they're going to need jobs.
Nilva: And once they start earning latinum, they're going to want to spend it.
Quark: Which means Ferenginar will be expanding its work force and its consumer base at the same time.
Nilva: There will be plenty of profit for everyone.

Quark: I hate Slug-o-Cola.
Nilva: So do I.

Overall rating

I love Deep Space Nine. I did not, however, love, this episode; for the most part I did not even like it, although I respect some of what it is trying to do. For the most part, however, the episode lumbers along and what may have been funny in the past is not funny anymore. It does, however, move the Ferengi culture forward. My rating: one and a half out of four Slug-o-Colas.

Victoria Grossack loves math, birds, Greek mythology, Jane Austen and great storytelling in many forms.


  1. I don't think you're being too harsh, Victoria. It wasn't all that funny, even in its own time. It's probably one of the weakest of all DS9 episodes, though in a way that highlights the quality of the show. I think it had by far the fewest stinkers of any Trek. Certainly nothing as bad as Sub Rosa.

  2. I think you did well to find that many positives. Definitely one I skip in a rewatch, but then I then to skip most of the Ferengi episodes.


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