Episode 1.11: The Nagus

One of my higher praises for DS9 is its ability to develop substantial depth to so many characters throughout it’s 7 season run.  A mechanism it uses to do this is to run parallel storylines within a single episode.  This is the first instance where this mechanism is employed to great effect.  Often these stories are lighter in theme, because each plot gets half the screen time.

The first is the Ferengi.  The so-called “Ferengi episodes” give DS9’s arcs two advantages.  First is humor.  Ferengi are easily and rightfully mocked for their actions and attitudes.  Second, the Ferengi are specifically written to be caricatures of 20th century humans.  If the humans of the Federation are paragon humans enjoying the fruits of Roddenberry’s paradise, the Ferengi are us humans watching the show before the triumphs of the future have been earned.  When it comes to finding the paradise, the struggles of the Ferengi are what we current humans must overcome.  They place the acquisition of material wealth above all things, and their leader the Nagus is more a pope than a president.  I don’t think it’s a large jump to claim greed is its own religion.  The Nagus himself is cunning, deceptive, power-hungry, and inconceivable (get it?).  The rest of the Ferengi (including Quark) show us a side of humanity we either are ashamed of or despise when we see it in other people.  Rom pawns off his punishment from Quark onto his son.  The great Ferengi around the table shamelessly brown-nose to the Nagus.  They speak bald-faced lies to the group while internally knowing the truth (they say their name is unrightfully besmirched, but they totally know it’s well-earned).  They willfully intend to backstab the Gamma Quadrant people with their word.  The Nagus lacks trust by having Maihar’du taste-test his food.  When Quark becomes Nagus, he is quickly drunk with power.  He knows how to be greedy, but he has no idea how to wield power.  He lets himself be controlled instead of doing the controlling.  And in the end, once the Nagus reveals himself, we are told the bar was the key all along.  Quark had the greatest jewel right under his nose, and he never saw it because he always wants more, never being content with his station in life.  What of those above doesn’t make you squirm uncomfortably if you yourself are doing it or see it in someone else?  The only positive quality I see from the Ferengi is they value instinct (the lobes!).  Scoundrels, the whole lot of them.

The second storyline is Jake and Nog.  I have come to appreciate Jake’s story more recently.  It’s a classic story of a boy becoming a man.  And to start that journey, a boy must move away from his father.  Many will say that men seek independence.  I would say this is only partially right.  It’s not independence men seek, but rather confidence in ourselves that we have what it takes.  We can do it, whatever ‘it’ is.  Boys rely on their fathers to do what needs to be done.  So to be men, we must move away from that certainty.  One of the first challenges to standing in the world as our own men means we have to withstand the winds of peer pressure.  Jake fails miserably!  But, and this is very key, this is NOT failure as a man.  Failure is our best teacher and life is riddled with it.  Coming back to his father, Jake realizes his mistake.  But he also realizes the advice his father gives isn’t correct.  Another sign of becoming a man is evaluating a situation independent of our authority figures.  Sisko’s mistake is common among society.  He presumes that influence will flow from bad to good, or from Nog to Jake.  I heard this ALL THE TIME in my Bible school classes.  He fears Jake being corrupted.  Nowhere in his mind does he consider Jake influencing Nog.  Thankfully, Jake sees his father’s error.  Maybe unconsciously, but he does nonetheless.  Instead, Jake listens to some of his father’s previous advice about accepting other cultures.  He ends up teaching Nog how to read, even though Nog cannot go to school anymore.  Influence can absolutely flow from good to bad, or from Jake to Nog.  And naturally, the final scene between the two involves the most important part of being 14…discovering girls…

Random Thoughts: 1) Morn is directly interacted with, and he even laughs!  I think this is his only sound, but don’t quote me on that yet.  2) Bajoran Fire Caverns are mentioned for the first time.  3) Two Rules of Acquisitions, the 1st and the 6th, are quoted.  4) O’Brien returns and the silhouettes of the various Enterprise ships are seen in the back of his classroom.  5) Though it is obvious, don’t miss the irony about the essay topic and Jake & Nog’s behavior.  6) Jake and Nog hanging out in “the spot.”  7) If you didn’t get my joke from above, Wallace Shawn plays the Nagus, who is Vizzini from Princess Bride.

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~ by Joshua Black on August 3, 2012.

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