Star Trek: Enterprise: Acquisition   Rewatch 
December 9, 2018 9:46 PM - Season 1, Episode 19 - Subscribe

Enterprise is raided by a group of Ferengi, but continuity is fine because nobody says the word Ferengi.

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Background information
Story, script and cast
> The final draft script of this installment was issued on 14 January 2002.
> This episode features actors who have guest-starred on every previous Star Trek series (in addition to several starring and recurring roles):
- Clint Howard previously played Balok in the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Corbomite Maneuver" and Grady in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Past Tense, Part II".
- Ethan Phillips (Ulis) previously starred as Neelix in Star Trek: Voyager, in which role he also played the Grand Proxy in the episode "False Profits". He also played Dr. Farek in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Ménage à Troi" and the holographic maitre d' in Star Trek: First Contact.
- Jeffrey Combs had previously played several other roles, most notably Brunt, Weyoun, and Shran. Combs guest-starred on Star Trek: Voyager as Penk in the episode "Tsunkatse". This was his only appearance on Star Trek: Enterprise not playing Shran.

Continuity
> This episode goes out of its way to not reveal the name of the race to which the marauders belonged, since official contact wouldn't occur until well over two centuries later in Star Trek: The Next Generation's "The Last Outpost". The same happened with the Borg in the episode "Regeneration".
> Muk references the episode "Dear Doctor" when he asks, "Do I look like a Menk to you?" In "Dear Doctor", the Valakian astronaut informs Archer that his people had made contact with the Ferengi, a species unknown to either Humans or Vulcans, and who had refused to help the Valakians and Menk cure the genetic plague devastating their planet.
> The Ferengi Rules of Acquisition which are referenced herein consist of numbers six, twenty-three, and forty-five. We learn there are only 173 Rules of Acquisition at this point in history, as opposed to 285 by the 24th century. By that reckoning, 112 rules will have been added by the time of TNG and DS9.
> This episode states that the sixth Rule of Acquisition is "Never let family get in the way of profit." By the 24th century, it will have changed (slightly) to "Never let family get in the way of opportunity," as is revealed in DS9: "The Nagus".
> The energy whip is seen here for the first time since its introduction in TNG: "The Last Outpost".
> T'Pol's masquerade as a "Vulcan love slave" might be the genesis of the Ferengi fascination with the idea, and the resultant holosuite program. DS9 Relaunch's novel This Gray Spirit claims that Krem, who received oo-mox from T'Pol, is one possible author of the original Vulcan Love Slave novel.
> We learn that there are fourteen weapons lockers on Enterprise.
> The Ferengi PADD used in DS9 appears here, with added LEDs, as a Ferengi scanner.
Being without his own uniform, Tucker borrows a junior science officer's uniform and wears it throughout the episode. Tucker is the only crew member to wear all three division color versions of the Starfleet uniform in the series as he later wears the gold, command division uniform in the episode "Twilight".

Reception and aftermath
> This episode was criticized by some fans for allegedly abusing established continuity. In an interview, series writer Mike Sussman responded to these criticisms, remarking, "Meeting the Ferengi was probably one of the more controversial choices this season, but I think we structured the show in a way that preserves Picard's first contact with them. Besides, every Star Trek: Deep Space Nine fan knows Earth's real first contact with the Ferengi was in Roswell in 1947 [in the episode "Little Green Men"]." (Star Trek: Communicator issue 139, p. 50)
> Brannon Braga admitted "There's no excuse for the Ferengi, no excuse. That was an act of desperation. I hated it." ("To Boldly Go: Launching Enterprise, Part III: First Flight", ENT Season 1 Blu-ray special features)
> Star Trek Magazine's "Ultimate Guide" rated this episode 4 out of 5 arrowhead insignias. (Star Trek Magazine issue 164, p. 79)
> The unofficial reference book Beyond the Final Frontier (p. 366) comments about this installment, "An episode that starts with the Ferengi being rather sinister, like they were originally designed to be – but which soon reverts to a fun story about outwitting them. Leaving aside the objection that the Ferengi really shouldn't be around this early in Star Trek history, it's a fun episode that gives Scott Bakula the chance to be funny for once."
> The Ferengi vessel later reappeared in "Stigma", as a Dekendi ship that carried one of Phlox's wives, Feezal, to Enterprise.

Memorable quotes
"This is a vessel of exploration, not a cargo ship. We don't do any commerce."
- Archer, to the aliens.

"What do you need all this for, anyway? You seem to already have plenty of technology."
"One can never have too much! The Rules of Acquisition say 'Expand or Die.' "
"Rules of Acquisition?"
"That's rule number forty-five. I've memorized all one-hundred and seventy-three, including the most important one: 'A man is only worth the sum of his possessions.' "
"Back on my home world that kind of thinking almost destroyed our civilization."
"You should've managed your businesses better."
- Archer and Krem

"'Never allow family to stand in the way of profit.'"
"Another one of your rules?"
"Number six."
- Krem and Archer

"Just because a guy's in his underwear you think the worst."
- Trip, to T'Pol, when he sees she's startled by his lack of clothing

"There are times I wish Vulcans hadn't learned to repress their violent tendencies."
- T'Pol

"Rule of Acquisition number twenty-three: "Nothing is more important than your health… except for your money.""
- Ulis, to Muk and Grish

"Do I look like a Menk to you?"
- Muk, to Ulis

"Are you calling me a thief?"
"Everybody knows you'd steal the wax out of your own mother's ears."
- Ulis and Muk

"I'm surprised your friend didn't get electrocuted. You can't just yank out an antimatter injector like it was a light bulb!"
- Archer, to Krem

"Where is the vault? Do you understand me?"
- Grish, interrogating Porthos

"I can't lock onto its language."
"It's a lower life-form, you fool! Probably the captain's next meal."
"Don't be so sure. Look at the size of its ears!"
- Grish and Muk, sizing up Porthos in the captain's quarters

"What's your wife worth? Five bars of gold, maybe six? Let them take (her), and I'll give you ten."
"What!?"
"All right, fifteen!"
- Archer and Tucker, attempting to deceive the aliens

"Do you have the key?"
(T'Pol shows Archer the key, but hesitates to use it)
"'Not that interesting. No sense of humor. Always complaining'?"
"I'll make it up to you."
"How?"
"Five bars of gold? (He pauses.) Open these things, Sub-commander. That's an order!"
- Archer and T'Pol

This Week In:
* Pointless STO Comparisons: The Ferengi Energy Whip is obtainable in the MMO. Also noteworthy: by the 25th century, the Ferengi are officially allied with the Federation and frequent members of Starfleet.
* Vulcans Are Superior: T’Pol knows the Vulcan nerve pinch.
* Non-Catastrophic Equipment Failures: Enterprise’s scanners did not pick up whatever trap the Ferengi laid for them, nor did their ventilation system screen the stuff out. I don’t know how fast air moves through a ship that size, but it seems like someone should’ve had time to do something.
* Aliens Outclass Enterprise: Four Ferengi nearly defeated the entire ship.

Poster’s Log:
I normally hate Ferengi episodes. DS9 had some good ones, but even they were hit and miss. Acquisition... did not rise above. For me, this was a demoralizing hour. Some particulars:

* More objectification.
So the pile of women to be kidnapped and sold was pretty unfortunate, as was the focus on T’Pol in particular. I was also pretty put off by her ‘I’m a slave here’ routine toward the end - she is the physically strongest person on the entire ship, and could’ve dispatched him a lot faster. So yeah, frustrated.

* Their business plan doesn’t make any sense.
I’m going to leave aside the whole post-scarcity economics thing for a second and just focus on the heist a minute: a good criminal cases the joint first. They want to hit a fat target, and they want to do it in a way that lets them get in and get out fast. These guys? They knock out the crew and then begin to comb through the ship by hand in the hope that it might have something they want, without any idea of what technology or even species are present. I mean, they are literally just dropping random shit into literal looter sacks.

That’s... just sad.

* The whole Planet of the Hats thing really frustrates me.
I’ve been on about this before, but the idea that every culture has a specific set of defining traits is an inherently racist worldview because it encourages stereotyping as a timesaver.

* Going to the well for the Ferengi was lazy.
I don’t really care about the continuity issues myself, not really. Them reusing TNG stuff early bothers me more because it’s one more episode where I don’t see anything new: no further Andorian backstory, no further exposition about Bad Vulcans, no new alien race, just.. reruns from better shows.

* I laughed a couple times anyway.
I enjoyed most of T’Pol’s work this episode, apart from the ‘I’m a slave’ garbage. Her hiding the scanners to start a fight was fun. I wanted more of Trip pulling a Die Hard (one of my favorite episodes of TNG is Starship Mine, and I really could’ve gone for that this week). Archer and Trip’s fake fight over how much his wife was worth was funny. I also loved the scene with Porthos, because it felt like the most honest bit in the whole thing: ‘is it food? Can I sell it? Can it talk?’

This wasn’t the worst thing ever or anything, but it was pretty weak. I often wonder why they bothered to make this spinoff at all. Like, I get the impetus behind VOY or DS9, but ENT is presently baffling to me.
posted by mordax (8 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Brief late Sunday night (well, very early Monday morning) comment: About the only thing that would have been lost of any real value by having the Ferengi be random new alien pirate/looter crew would be the joke about Porthos obviously being the brains of the operation because of his big ears. And the need to preserve continuity by not associating the name "Ferengi" (which was already mentioned in "Dear Doctor") with these aliens results in the NX-01 crew seeming really, really dumb by not searching their ship databases for information about these obviously dangerous and actually kind of evil people (remember, they're not only going for theft but also slavery--something that Quark would later claim that the Ferengi never did, although I suppose that they could try to weasel out of that by saying that it was really indentured servitude, or say that they never kept slaves themselves, just traded them). Seriously, why would they not do that?
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:15 PM on December 9, 2018 [4 favorites]


Call me crazy, but I've always liked this episode because I feel like it knows that it shouldn't work, that they know they shouldn't be doing it, but it's happening anyway. Casting Trek alumni as the Ferengi was a great idea and I love the fade in at the beginning with the Ferengi lobes rising up against the viewscreen. It's just stupid fun.
posted by Servo5678 at 5:59 AM on December 10, 2018 [6 favorites]


One of the things that I was thinking about this morning in the shower was this: Brannon Braga admitted "There's no excuse for the Ferengi, no excuse. That was an act of desperation. I hated it." Desperation? We're not quite ¾ of the way through the first season, and they're desperate already? I'm starting to think that the burn-out at the top (Berman and Braga) was probably worse than we know. They may have been under budgetary pressures as well, and maybe wanted to go with an existing alien race instead of designing a new one-off species, although, if they'd done the latter, they could have always brought them back.

They could have also made the point that these were basically rogue Ferengi, which explains why they're so un-Ferengi-like; the Ferengi of DS9 (I'd prefer to just ignore the TNG version, thanks) might have been willing to offer incredibly shitty deals on generally worthless crap, but they didn't outright steal stuff. (Having Krem have misgivings about being a pirate and slaver would have been another wedge between him and Ulis.) They also wouldn't have just randomly looted stuff, including (and this is the bit that really got to me) dumping pieces of pie directly into the loot sack. If there's something that Ferengi should know, it's the relative worth of things; with the very limited space aboard their ship, they shouldn't have been prying chairs out of the bridge, they should have been figuring out how to steal antimatter. Another tack that they could have taken would be to have done a riff on the space pollen from "This Side of Paradise"; they coax the Ferengi into emptying their loot out of their ship because they want to make room for the real treasure, the one that will solve their money problems forever. They get taken down to lower decks, where they're shown big tanks of brown sludge, and told that it's a form of slime mold that the crew have a symbiotic relationship with and which has spread to Earth and Vulcan, creating a space socialist paradise, where no one goes hungry or cold because they've abolished money. Cue the Ferengi scrambling back aboard their empty ship and going back to Ferengi space, swearing to tell everyone about the crazy hew-mons and to avoid their area of space entirely.

It wasn't an entirely bad episode as it was; as I mentioned before, the bit with Porthos was funny, and while I wished that they'd done a bit more MacGyvering with Trip (and maybe a bit more with him and T'Pol working directly together, just to nurture that seed some more), that worked as well, ditto Archer nudging Krem's resentments.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:55 AM on December 10, 2018 [4 favorites]


Call me crazy, but I've always liked this episode because I feel like it knows that it shouldn't work, that they know they shouldn't be doing it, but it's happening anyway. Casting Trek alumni as the Ferengi was a great idea and I love the fade in at the beginning with the Ferengi lobes rising up against the viewscreen. It's just stupid fun.

I'm kind of between you and mordax here. What I enjoy most about the episode is Combs, Howard, and Phillips obviously having fun, and Bakula's comedy chops being on display. (That said, whenever he tries to "subtly" manipulate adversaries, it always comes off as really obvious. Not sure if that's deliberate characterization or not—I never saw Quantum Leap.)

But they really should have known better w/r/t the slave-women stuff (honestly, it's reason enough for ENT to have specifically AVOIDed returning to the Ferengi). And the continuity aspects strain plausibility juuuust enough to diminish what's enjoyable here—diminish, but not quite ruin.

And the need to preserve continuity by not associating the name "Ferengi" (which was already mentioned in "Dear Doctor") with these aliens results in the NX-01 crew seeming really, really dumb by not searching their ship databases for information about these obviously dangerous and actually kind of evil people[...] Seriously, why would they not do that?

It might've been good to address this, yeah.

ARCHER: So, T'Pol, does your Vulcan database have anything on these guys? Their planet, their species' collective hat?

T'POL: Captain, based on their haphazard approach to looting Enterprise, it seems safe to say that they are not worthy of expending time or effort in concerning ourselves with them any further.

ARCHER: Fair enough.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 7:50 AM on December 10, 2018 [4 favorites]


LIke mordax, I normally dislike Ferengi episodes. They are usually depicted as too stupid to really be a menace, their presentation is always slightly offensive, and this episode does nothing to help that problem. The Ferengi come across as too stupid to even properly loot the Enterprise of valuables.

Jeffrey Combs had previously played several other roles, most notably Brunt, Weyoun, and Shran. Combs guest-starred on Star Trek: Voyager as Penk in the episode "Tsunkatse". This was his only appearance on Star Trek: Enterprise not playing Shran.

Seeing his name in the credits really had me hoping that the issue of the day would be solved by Shran showing up and kicking some Ferengi ass. Realizing he was one of the Ferengi was a let down, though they were all obviously having fun.

Anyways, yeah - the slave woman thing was annoying. What I was left with after this episode, knowing the sexual nature of ear touching for the Ferengi, was seeing Krem caress T'Pol's ears while she was unconscious - basically, we got to watch her get sexually assaulted. So that kind of really soured my taste for this episode.

Agreed that the bit with Porthos was likely the best bit of the episode, though I couldn't help but wonder why the amazing Ferengi knockout gas didn't take out the smallest being on the ship pretty damn hard. But hey, that bit actually worked, so I won't look too closely at it.

"Rule of Acquisition number twenty-three: "Nothing is more important than your health… except for your money.""
-


Really, that should have been: Nothing is more important than your health...except for your wealth. Rhymes make things easier to remember.
posted by nubs at 8:01 AM on December 10, 2018 [4 favorites]


Oh, and one other thing - where is the decontamination chamber in relation to sick bay? Is it really necessary for anyone who uses it to walk through the ship in their underwear before they get back to sick bay?

I mean, I guess it was nice that the show let one of the male crew run around half naked for a chunk of the episode where the women are piled up unconscious waiting to be sold into slavery, but I have some questions about the design of Enterprise now.
posted by nubs at 8:05 AM on December 10, 2018 [2 favorites]


Continuity, as an end to itself, doesn't really bug me here all that much, but returning to the Ferengi and then carefully not discussing them feels detrimental to the show's overall emphasis on exploration and discovery: we're seeking out old (to us) civilizations and then not exploring (to them) strange, new worlds. Narrative, this would have made sense as a TNG/DS9 plot (setting aside for a second the problematic parts of the story itself, since those have already been well covered), but here, it's a dissonant rejection of Enterprise's core thematic arc: the viewer is being given the known and familiar in a show that's supposedly about people engaging with the new and exciting, and to reconcile those ideas the show itself has to sidestep around all the things that Archer & Co. would do otherwise. We don't see anything new here, and -- for all intents and purposes -- neither does the crew, who learn more about the Ferengi when they're casually discussed in Dear Doctor than they do having met them.

Desperation? We're not quite ¾ of the way through the first season, and they're desperate already? I'm starting to think that the burn-out at the top (Berman and Braga) was probably worse than we know. They may have been under budgetary pressures as well, and maybe wanted to go with an existing alien race instead of designing a new one-off species, although, if they'd done the latter, they could have always brought them back.

Another possible pair of readings is that they were desperate to win over support from the network -- whose worry about the show being a prequel already led to the entire invention of the temporal cold war plot, as we discussed a few episodes ago -- by showing that Enterprise could continue to deliver on 'core' Star Trek concepts from prior shows (where 'core concepts' is 'those seen as core by the network execs,' regardless of whether or not those really are the core concepts of the show); or to win viewers, who they thought -- and this is pure speculation -- might welcome some familiar Star Trek-ness. At the the point when this was scripted, the show was slowly losing viewers, and was doing worse than Voyager at a comparable spot in its first season -- which makes sense given all the stuff that was going on at UPN at the time, and fits roughly the same pattern as Voyager, and is totally understandable against the backdrop of the increasing fragmentation of the American television media market: but I could absolutely believe that having the show do well wasn't doing well enough for the people involved in production.
posted by cjelli at 8:32 AM on December 10, 2018 [4 favorites]


I mean- I’m a DS9 junkie so I do love me some bumbling ferengi- but Enterprise just manages to turn something mildly sexist into something crazy gross every time. Quark (as noted) specificaly says the ferengi don’t take slaves/trade slaves and ARrrgh.

The Porthos joke was choice though.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 12:16 PM on December 10, 2018 [3 favorites]


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