Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Bar Association   Rewatch 
February 24, 2016 6:17 AM - Season 4, Episode 16 - Subscribe

Quark's employees, led by Rom, form a union against Quark's unfair labor practices and promptly go on strike.


You don't understand. Ferengi workers don't want to stop the exploitation. We want to find a way to become the exploiters."
- Rom, responding to Bashir's suggestion that he form a union

"I tried to protect you, save you from yourself."

"How? By telling me I was an idiot my whole life?"

"I had to be tough on you, I was trying to make you a better Ferengi."

"What you were trying to do was make yourself feel important. Making me feel dumb made you feel smart. But I'm not dumb and you're not half as smart as you think you are!"
- Quark and Rom

"Just get me two mugs of synthale, a double order of hasperat ... and hold the conversation!"
- Kira (only line of the episode, upon breaking her cleansing fast)


* The two Nausicaans were played by professional dart players James Lomas and Shawn McConnell specifically for the scene in the episode where the two Nausicaans throw darts at each other. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion p. 317)

* When this story was originally pitched by sisters Barbara J. Lee and Jenifer A. Lee, the producers saw it as a possible B-story for either "Rejoined" or "Crossfire". However, after they began trying to insert it into an existing story, they realized that it was too rich a subject to be sidelined and so they decided to give it an episode of its own. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)

* This episode is a favorite of Armin Shimerman because it deals with a subject that is close to his heart: union problems. Shimerman sits on the Board of Directors of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), and he is very passionate about labor related disputes. "People think of this as a comic episode. And it is, of course. But in truth, it's really about union-management problems. The irony of it is that I play management in the episode. So, I thought that to make Rom have a reasonably hard job as a union organizer, I would have to be tough about it, to show the struggle to the audience. Although you don't see it on TV very often, this is something that goes on in America all the time." Director LeVar Burton is also of the opinion that this is not a completely comic episode. "The execution of the idea was whimsical, but the situation was absolutely serious. It's serious drama, a power struggle between two brothers. And that's family ties." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)

* When Max Grodénchik saw that Rom was leaving his job at the bar, he initially reacted in much the same way as Rene Auberjonois originally reacted to Odo finding his people and Aron Eisenberg to Nog joining Starfleet Academy – he felt it was a huge mistake and would ruin the character. Just as they did with Auberjonois and Eisenberg however, the writers convinced Grodénchik that the change would not ruin, but rather enhance his character by adding a deeper level. In all three cases, the actor ultimately came to feel that the drastic change in their character was one of the best things to happen to them during the entire seven-year run of the show. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)

* Jeffrey Combs commented "["Bar Association"] was pretty good. I particularly remember the big scene where I break up the union meeting that Rom has organized. I enjoyed that scene very much, watching Rom crumble right before my eyes. Max [Grodenchik] was just great in that scene. He really nailed his character in the show". ("Double Trouble", Star Trek Monthly, issue 33)

* In his conversation with Worf, Odo references the events of TNG: "A Matter of Time" and "Rascals".
posted by Slothrop (13 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Is there an Armin Shimerman Fan Club? I'm in it, if there is one. To me, the Mount Rushmore of great Star Trek performances/performers is Spock, Worf, Quark, Garak and Kira.

Unfortunately there was some more problematic "oomox" stuff. I don't think it's bad to present oomox or to have characters like the Ferengi be sexist, but it doesn't seem like the other characters ever push back or contextualize their points of view much (except Moogie, who is not a recurring character). Brunt's objectification of Leeta was also keeping with Ferengi character, but still added to an overall thoughtless atmosphere.

Also, big props to Jeffrey Combs! The range between Brunt, Weyoun, the gullible Ferengi pirate [Enterprise] and the Andorian commander [Enterprise] is a terrific demonstration of his skills.
posted by Slothrop at 6:23 AM on February 24, 2016 [4 favorites]

The biggest thing I learned from these posts is a lot of TNG alumni tried their hand at directing with DS9 episodes.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 3:47 PM on February 24, 2016

I am immensely entertained by the fact that Shimerman is a SAG board member, and also appeared in a (by all reports terrible) adaptation of Atlas Shrugged.

Also, Brunt is one of my favorite recurring Ferengi characters.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:11 PM on February 24, 2016

- Speaking of oo-mox, there's a bit near the beginning where Rom admits to Leeta that he's had to administer oo-mox to himself; if there's a closer allusion to masturbation in the franchise, I'm not aware of it. This is also the first sign, I think, of some affection between Rom and Leeta.

- Love the bit where Odo is citing security breaches on the Enterprise-D. You really get the feeling that he's been waiting for the right moment almost since Worf came on the station.

- As unconvinced as I am that O'Brien, Bashir, and Worf would have actually come to blows over Worf's crossing the picket line, the idea of the three of them being stuck in one of those closet-sized holding cells overnight is kind of funny.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:14 PM on February 24, 2016 [5 favorites]

Having had a little longer to think about the episode, something that was kind of bothering me was the bit near the beginning where everybody is freaking out over Quark cutting their pay, and later when Brunt and the Nausicans walk in and rough up Quark and throw their weight around, with Odo, who was quick to toss three Starfleet personnel in the pokey, is nowhere around. Granted, Brunt can threaten to confiscate accounts on Ferenginar and there's nothing that the Federation can do about that, but do he and his thugs have carte blanche to assault Quark? For that matter, for the people who are freaking out about losing money, how difficult would it be for them to join the Federation and suddenly it doesn't matter how much latinum they have, really? This is an especially pressing question for Bajorans like Leeta, since Bajor is in the process of petitioning to join the Federation, but I also wonder just how easy it is for individuals to join (or leave) the Federation. Maybe Nog has dual citizenship; maybe Rom has some kind of status on Bajor due to his joining the operations branch of their militia by the end of the episode.

tl;dr--nerd nitpicks, no holovid at 11.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:05 PM on February 24, 2016

Organize Motherfuckers.

So great to see Rom finally come out of his shell. The episode gets at why capitalist opposition to collective bargaining is bullshit. So if you're a Ferengi, you're supposed to do whatever you can, use any leverage available to you, to maximize your profit. Except collectively bargain, which is a group of people recognizing that they have greater leverage if they negotiate as a group, and coming together to maximize their profits.

Okay, I'll stop before we get way derailed. 
posted by dry white toast at 5:53 AM on February 25, 2016 [5 favorites]

Halloween Jack - in re: Odo's absence, that brings up something my wife asked when watching DS9 - why do they kinda pretend to have day and night on the station? Perhaps they follow day and night on the ISS, but in a situation like DS9, it seems like people would set up their own shifts (approved by Sisko, if it's Starfleet personnel) and that there would be constant activity on the promenade. In fact, why would Quark ever shut down? There's money to be made at all hours! Surely there are species on DS9 adapted to some sort of 24 hours awake and 24 hours asleep or longer, based on the length of time their home planet takes to orbit its star...
posted by Slothrop at 6:14 AM on February 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

I was thinking about this a bit this morning- it's interesting that while the portrayal of Ferengis on DS9 has mostly be shaped by Jewish actors, the Ferengi belief system is much more Neo-Confucian than Jewish. Both religions have an emphasis on legalism, which Ferengi beliefs share through the Rules of Acquisition and various commentaries. However, rather than being focused on obligation to maintain a covenant with a deity, the Ferengi system places much more emphasis on order, right behaviors, hierarchy, and filial piety. They even have their own bureaucracy of the afterlife (although in the Chinese example, this is mostly borrowed from Mahayana Buddhism). It's just that rather than these beliefs being oriented towards scholarship and governance, they are oriented towards commerce, in an idealized sense.

This is how, in a belief system that values entrepreneurship to such a high degree, there can still be an FCA which can issue sanctions against business practices that do not conform to a realm of perfect commerce.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:08 AM on February 25, 2016 [4 favorites]

Unfortunately there was some more problematic "oomox" stuff.

Funny, I thought this was the least problematic Ferengi episode so far when it came to oomox -- Leeta wasn't being tricked into performing it, Rom asked her directly and she turned him down. Maybe I've just been worn down by the show, but, I thought the misogyny level was pretty low for a Ferengi episode.

I didn't see the plot twist of Rom quitting the bar coming, that seems promising.
posted by oh yeah! at 6:29 PM on February 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Having had a little longer to think about the episode, something that was kind of bothering me was the bit near the beginning where everybody is freaking out over Quark cutting their pay, and later when Brunt and the Nausicans walk in and rough up Quark and throw their weight around, with Odo, who was quick to toss three Starfleet personnel in the pokey, is nowhere around. Granted, Brunt can threaten to confiscate accounts on Ferenginar and there's nothing that the Federation can do about that, but do he and his thugs have carte blanche to assault Quark?

Worf, O'Brien and Bashir are all Starfleet and are thus Sisko's problem. They spend the night in the cell and then he deals with them. Brunt and his thugs, on the other hand, are picked up by Odo after Quark's assault (in a scene I would have loved to have seen) but Quark knows he can't press charges against them.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:10 AM on May 18, 2020

I love that O'Brien is so worked up that he's willing to jump a Klingon barehanded.
posted by tofu_crouton at 9:18 AM on September 10, 2020 [1 favorite]

> why do they kinda pretend to have day and night on the station?

Huh, I've wondered the opposite -- why the lights don't dim on the Promenade. Maybe it doesn't make sense given that it's a 26-hour day, and so unless you're also from a planet where days are that long having an artificial night and artificial day wouldn't help your sanity.

People on Star Trek sleep with lights on right over their heads, too. Maybe lighting is different in the future.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:48 PM on February 3

I think this must be the best Ferengi episode yet. It treated labor concerns very seriously and I felt a lot more drama than comedy. All that interpersonal stuff between Quark and Rom was intense.

the Ferengi belief system is much more Neo-Confucian than Jewish

You present some very interesting ideas, but I think I might be too dense to appreciate it. What I've absorbed from these Rules of Acquisition is that greed is good and you should cheat whenever you can get away with it. Probably a canonical rule #1 has been stated somewhere, but I'm just going to head-canon that rule #1 has to be "Don't let any rules get in the way of acquisition."

So whereas I've previously wondered why Quark is beholden to Ferengi rules when he seems to be outside of Ferengi jurisdiction, here we have it spelled out they'll seize your assets back on Ferenginar. So why do you have assets on Ferenginar? Wouldn't the first thing that real Ferengis do be to set up Swiss bank accounts? And move their families off of Ferenginar to get away from all this damn government regulation?

I'm also suspicious that unions have been stifled on Ferenginar for 10,000 years. Since they are such great capitalists, the number of exploited should be much greater than the exploiters (and the exploitation would get more and more efficient). How many hundreds of years would pass before they realize the only way to satisfy their greed is to organize?

Also the fact that Brunt is so quick to do a little murdering makes it ever less plausible to me that "at least Ferengi never did any genocide."

I guess in conclusion I treated the episode pretty seriously.

I do blame Odo for not putting Brunt under surveillance as soon as he showed up. But also, as soon as Rom was told that Brunt was going to get violent, Rom should have run to Odo for help.
posted by polecat at 3:39 PM on February 27

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