In the eighteenth episode of the fifth season of Deep Space Nine, Quark is forced to do some genuine soul searching. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of genocide
Well, shit. This was an unexpected one. While the ending fizzles out a bit too much for my liking, I can safely say that I enjoyed a Ferengi episode. It helps that “Business as Usual” is not as the title describes. This episode forces Quark into a predicament that requires him to have a conscience, though… it’s a pretty extreme moral conundrum, isn’t it??? Like, it took twenty-eight million people for him to finally realize that his actions had repercussions that he couldn’t ever see firsthand.
Though that’s the whole point of the commentary on capitalism, war profiteering, and selfishness that’s at the center of this episode. For Quark, business as usual really is anything that can earn him a profit. This episode provides a nice follow-up to previous Ferengi plots (which I didn’t exactly hate, so maybe I’m being a little unfair) concerning Quark’s financial difficulties. It’s through this that his character finally gets to grow in a significant way. How, you might ask???
War profiteering. Galia’s arrival provides Quark with a means to reasonably pay off his debts, but it’s not like Quark is ignorant of the means by which he’ll do so. Galia is in the weapons industry, and his plot to make boatloads of money involves a man named Hagath, who is played with utter terror by Steven Berkoff. Seriously, his performance is part camp and part actual viciousness, and I loved it. He had to be over-the-top, you know? That’s what it took for Quark to finally understand why his behavior was so despicable. And there’s something to be said for that! When Quark sells weapons to a number of shady and shifty people, he knows that they’ll use them to kill other people. But these other people are ambiguous; they are mere ideas in his mind. Plus, none of these buyers ever actually say what they’re doing with the weapons that Quark sells. Therefore, he can stay in denial. He’s just doing business! Isn’t it his right to make a living?
Except what if that living is at the expense of other people? That’s why everyone on DS9 turns against him, especially Jadzia. Unlike him, they cannot rationalize or justify what he’s doing. It’s horrific to them; he’s benefitting materially from the suffering and death of others. Thus, it’s only when the Regent of Palamar arrives and proudly announces that he’s going to wipe out a rebellious force that Quark suddenly questions what he’s doing. Again, the sheer volume of people the Palamar wants exterminated is the only thing that activates Quark’s guilt. He now can no longer ignore the fact that he is selling weapons to someone who will commit genocide with them.
I respect Quark’s decision to pit the Regent, General Nassuc, Hagath, and Galia against one another, but there’s a part of me that still wishes that this had been taken a bit further. It’s why I said earlier that the end of this episode doesn’t thrill me. I feel like Quark made a huge, character-changing decision in “Business as Usual,” but how much does it change him? Yeah, he might be in debt to Sisko, and his relationship with Jadzia is repaired, but will he rethink his business techniques? Will he stop pursuing profit at any cost? Perhaps that’s for later episodes, and perhaps I’ll have to re-think how I ultimately felt about Quark here. Still, I thought this was a disturbing look at the ways in which people ignore how they are complicit in monstrous things… as long as they’re making money.
The video for “Business as Usual” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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