The Great Star Trek DS9 Rewatch: Rules of Acquisition

The Grand Nagus has a plan to start trading with the Gamma Quadrant, and he wants Quark to be his lead negotiator with the alien Dosi. Quark is ably assisted by his new waiter Pel, but what he doesn’t know is that Pel is actually a Ferengi woman, who has broken their race’s laws by leaving their homeworld to seek profit.

It’s time for season two’s Ferengi episode with Rules of Acquisition, which mixes a handful of decent threads with the usual tediousness surrounding Ferengi capers. On the good side, we explore some gender issues with Pel, who is forced to dress as a man just to be able to, well, dress at all. We also get our first ever mention of the Dominion, a major player in the Gamma Quadrant who will shortly be coming to the forefront of DS9’s main plot. Unfortunately, we also have a laughable alien race, tedious negotiations over tulaberry wine, and Rom being a dislikeable idiot once again. Since I quite liked where Rom ended up over the course of DS9, it’s sad to be reminded of the time when he was selfish and stupid.

Gender and the Ferengi

As we know from TNG, the Ferengi are so extremely patriarchal that they don’t even let their females wear clothes, let alone leave the house without permission, go off-world or leave the planet. In this climate, Pel is somehow able to obtain clothes, fake lobes (female have naturally smaller lobes) and a means of getting off-world. Was it latinum that let her get these things whilst others turned a blind eye? Given Quark and Zek’s reaction to Pel being female, it seems like even the Ferengi can’t be bribed to break this particular law. However, as Pel is both smart and resourceful, it’s entirely plausible that she somehow managed to obtain these things on her own. Maybe she just ordered everything she needed online, and charged it to her father’s credit card.

  • Dax is fine with Pel being in love with Quark before she discovers Pel is female – this may be a historic moment in which being gay in Star Trek is absolutely fine and no one bats an eyelid. In fact, in such a male-dominated society, I could imagine Ferengi apprentices and their masters often having close relationships. Of course, it would be shameful and kept quiet, but it would definitely happen.
  • Kira hates the Ferengi because they are “greedy, misogynistic little trolls”, whilst Dax finds them quite fun in spite of these qualities. I feel like the proper attitude to the Ferengi should be somewhere in between – they should definitely be made aware that sexually harassing women is unacceptable on places like a Federation-run space station (Zek, stop groping Kira, ffs), but we shouldn’t be racist towards all Ferengi just because it’s the done thing.
  • Even though he ultimately protects her and clearly does care for her, Quark’s attitude in wanting a traditional female for a wife is probably the most disappointing aspect of the episode.

Other points

  • This episode marks the first appearance of tongo, a Ferengi card game which looks a lot more involved, complex and fun than dabo.
  • Zek gives Kira a latinum earring, and earlier in the series, Lwaxana had a latinum hair clip. Later we’ll learn that the latinum in gold-pressed latinum is a clear liquid which gets encased in worthless gold. Are solid latinum objects actually an alloy of latinum with other worthless metals?
  • Knowing how dangerous it would be if her secret would be exposed, why didn’t Pel hide her fake lobes better? After all, she also knows that Ferengi can be cunning and backhanded, and might be better suited to ferreting out her secrets than any other race. Also, given how trivial surgical alterations are in the Star Trek universe, she could have had her lobes altered once she got off Ferenginar, to pass as male without prosthetics. Obviously this would have ruined the plot, however, and I can understand why she might not have wanted to take such a step.

Summary – Rules of Acquisition: Sneak reveal of the Dominion inserted into a comical Ferengi episode.

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