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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Business as Usual (Review)

Business as Usual is, appropriately enough, a very typical Star Trek morality play.

It is a relatively rare example of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine engaging in the sort of pointed social commentary that many fans expect of the genre, the rather straightforward moral lesson couched in science-fiction trappings; The Devil in the Dark as a commentary on “the other”, A Taste of Armageddon as a condemnation of the Vietnam War, Let That Be Your Last Battlefield as a critique of racism in general. There are all but expected in a Star Trek show, but Deep Space Nine rarely plays them particularly straight.

Disarming conversationalists...

Disarming conversationalists…

Deep Space Nine has told issue-driven stories before, with In the Hands of the Prophets serving to explore the gap between creationists and those who believe in evolution or Past Tense, Part I and Past Tense, Part II constructed as a direct commentary on Los Angeles’ plans to lock up their homeless population. However, the series tend to favour broader commentaries about grander themes. The show arguably as a timeless quality because it tends not to dwell too heavily upon specific ideas, instead meditating on particular themes like authority and conflict.

Indeed, Star Trek: Voyager is a lot more traditional in this respect. That writing staff has a clear fondness for the archetypal Star Trek morality play, constructing episodes as metaphors for contemporary issues; Remember explores Holocaust denial, Distant Origin deals with creationism, Displaced offers a reactionary take on immigration. Even non-issue-driven episodes like Darkling and Fair Trade make a point to stress the franchise’s utopian values in a manner much more overt than Deep Space Nine.

The hard sell.

The hard sell.

With that in mind, Business as Usual feels strangely old-fashioned. It is very much an episode of Deep Space Nine in terms of setting and character, in that no other Star Trek show would have a lead character knowingly and willingly become an arms dealer. However, it feels very much like an archetypal Star Trek show in that it is an episode about how the arms trade is implicitly immoral and horrific. It is a very worthwhile message, and in no way diminished by its obviousness, but it does feel surprisingly clear cut when compared to episodes like The Ship or Rapture.

Business as Usual is essentially a very conventional Star Trek story that is elevated by one of the best guest casts in the history of the franchise.

"No, Mister Quark, I expect you to buy!"

“No, Mister Quark, I expect you to buy!”

Deep Space Nine has historically done quite well when it comes to casting. The primary ensemble is arguably the most talented lead cast in the franchise; Terry Farrell and Cirroc Lofton are probably the weakest performers in the bunch, and both would be among the strongest actors had they appeared on any of the following shows. The supporting cast is phenomenal. Marc Aliamo and Jeffrey Combs are perhaps the best antagonists in the franchise’s history, with only Ricardo Montalban coming close. Andrew Robinson and J.G. Hertzler are amazing.

Deep Space Nine has also done rather well with more minor roles, with performers like Lawrence Pressman and William Sadler appearing in a handful of episodes across the show’s seven-year run. Harris Yulin lit up the screen in Duet. Tony Todd was phenomenal in The Visitor. Robert Foxworth was phenomenal as Admiral Leyton in Homefront and Paradise Lost. However, perhaps because it had such a deep bench, Deep Space Nine seemed to have fewer high-profile and memorably one-shot guest stars than Voyager.

Staying in his good graces.

Staying in his good graces.

Kurtwood Smith was great in Things Past, but he had more room to breath in Year of Hell, Part I and Year of Hell, Part II. Ed Begley Junior provided a fantastic one-shot villain in Future’s End, Part I and Future’s End, Part II, a two-parter that was also elevated by a guest appearance from Sarah Silverman. Andy Dick made quite an impression in Message in a Bottle. Jason Alexander was suitably memorable in Think Tank. Len Cariou didn’t get much to do in Coda, but he was still a memorable presence.

To be fair, a lot of the guest casting on Voyager was obvious stunt casting. After all, the show managed to bring in the Rock and a significant cadre of Deep Space Nine actors for Tsunkatse. A significant portion of these guest appearances happened around sweeps and were arguably quite cynical in nature. In fact, one of the big differences between Deep Space Nine and Voyager can be seen in how the two shows handle their guest stars. Deep Space Nine tends to favour long commitments from its guest performers, while Voyager opts for a one-and-done approach.

Left holding the baby.

Left holding the baby.

With this in mind, Business as Usual is quite a striking episode of Deep Space Nine. It might feature pound-for-pound the best one-off supporting cast in the history of the franchise, with Steven Berkhoff playing the terrifying arms dealer Hagath and Lawrence Tierney playing the ominous Regent. Josh Pais even plays a supporting role as Quark’s oft-mentioned but never-seen cousin Gaila, a role that he would reprise for The Magnificent Ferengi early in the sixth season. By any measure, that is a fantastic guest cast.

Indeed, Business as Usual is elevated by these performers. Berkhoff is one of the most distinctive and memorable actors of his generation, even if he never quite broke out in the same way that some of his contemporaries did. Hagath is something of a stock character, the manipulative and volatile arms dealer who presents a charming exterior to mask an incredibly ruthless streak. However, Berkhoff lends the character a great deal of weight. Hagath might be a crudely drawn archetype, but he is one who can hold the screen.

His word is his bond.

His word is his bond.

Berkhoff has always had a very theatrical delivery. Most movie fans will recognise his unique delivery style from his supporting performance in Octopussy. There are many problems with Octopussy, but one of the most severe is the decision to hire Berkhoff as the supporting (rather than the primary) antagonist. Berkhoff has a very staccato and stilted delivery style, avoiding obvious rhythms to ensure that each syllable lands as intended. As a result, even the most generic of threats seems particularly ominous.

“I’m sure we’re going to accomplish great things together,” Hagath assures Quark during their first meeting. “Just one thing. Don’t cross me, Quark. Don’t…. ever… cross me. Understood?” This is a textbook introduction for a character like this, presenting a disarming façade before reminding the audience how dangerous he truly is. However, Berkhoff exaggerated performance heightens the moment just enough that the scene works and the character makes the right impression.

"There's going to be a lot of bold in quoting from this particular episode."

“There’s going to be… a lot of bold… and ellipsis… in quoting from this particular episode.”

Everything that Hagath does is taken from the big book of supervillain clichés, from the brutal dressing down (and subsequent murder) of an employee during a celebration to the presentation of an ostentatious gift to court loyalty. Berkhoff has a great deal of fun with the character, particularly during a sequence where he mocks the tendency of such characters to fly off the handle with minimal provocation. “This?” Hagath rages as Quark presents the menu for the Regent. “He’s going to like this?” Hagath pauses, and takes a bite. “Well, he should. It’s delicious.”

This is not to suggest that Berkhoff’s performance is just pantomime. There are a few small moments when Hagath seems almost human, hinting that his grandstanding is just a well-honed performance. At one point, Quark arrives to find Hagath trading commodities on a terminal. Hagath is distracted. “Who would have thought that so much money can be made from Andarian glass beads?” he idly muses. Hagath seems almost banal in that moment, willing to sell anything that’d turn a profit; Hagath just sells weapons because they are easier and more profitable.

Hagath's Al Pacino impression was a joy to behold.

Hagath’s Al Pacino impression was a joy to behold.

Berkhoff’s performance seems perfectly pitched to Deep Space Nine. The Star Trek franchise has a very heightened and theatrical performance style, which fits quite well with the fantasy universe and the stylised production design. As sensitive as fans might be about William Shatner’s exaggerated performance style, it remains on the franchise’s most iconic elements. More than that, Patrick Stewart was the perfect lead actor for Star Trek: The Next Generation because of his stage training and sensibility.

Deep Space Nine pushes that aspect of the franchise even further. Avery Brooks has perhaps the most stylised performance in the history of the franchise, halfway between the honed theatricality of Patrick Stewart and the grandstanding of William Shatner. However, that theatricality runs through the rest of the primary cast. Alexander Siddig has a very stagey performance style, as showcased by his monologues in Doctor Bashir, I Presume. Both Rene Auberjonois and Nana Visitor also tend towards a very manner theatrical delivery.

"YouTellBerkoffThatIfHeWantsAnActOff He Can Go Through ME!"

“YouTellBerkoffThatIfHeWantsAnActOff He Can Go Through ME!”

In fact, Business as Usual features some great work from Avery Brooks in an admittedly tiny supporting role: his epic mile-a-minute rant at Quark in Odo’s office; his deathly serious whispering to O’Brien in Ops; his deadpan nightmare delivery in Quark’s dream; his energetic “works for me!” It is almost as though Brooks looked at the cast list for Business as Usual and decided that he would match his performance to the intensity of his co-stars. Sisko is by no means an important character in Business as Usual, but he is a memorable one.

To be fair, Brooks isn’t competing solely against Berkoff. Business as Usual has other impressive guest stars. Perhaps the most obvious is a brief appearance by Lawrence Tierney as “the Regent of Palamar.” Tierney is one of the most memorable actors of his generation, with an impressive filmography that runs from the 1945 biography Dillinger to Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs to an appearance as Cyrus Redblock in The Big Goodbye. Tierney only appears in a handful of scenes in Business as Usual, but he makes an impression.

I fought the Law(rence).

I fought the Law(rence).

Like Hagath, the Regent is not a particularly memorable character in his own right. Business as Usual is an episode about arms dealing, so it makes sense that the episode would need an intimidating customer who would push Quark well outside his comfort zone. The Regent is a ruler trapped in a brutal civil war with one of his generals, looking to orchestrate mass murder as a way to assert his own strength and terrorise his opposition. In any other episode, the Regent would be entirely forgettable.

However, Tierney is an actor with a lot of gravitas and presence. He holds the audience’s attention as he repeats the generic back story that explains his desire for an especially brutal retribution. There is nothing original or insightful there, just the standard rationalisations that character invoke in situations like this. “Betrayal,” Hagath muses, trying to close the deal like a good salesman. “It’s the one unforgivable sin.” And yet Tierney sells his lines just as well. “I am here to buy weapons. Are you here to sell them?”

Chewing over his offer.

Chewing over his offer.

Business as Usual was one of Tierney’s last screen roles, with perhaps the most notable being an unaccredited appearance in Armageddon. In fact, Tierney had suffered a stroke shortly before filming the episode, an incident that caused a great deal of trouble for first-time director Alexander Siddig:

On my first day directing – I’d directed a lot of theatre – I got a call from the wardrobe department, saying, “Uh, Sid? Could you come to the wardrobe department? We’d like you to meet Lawrence.” And I said, “Sure. Yeah.” And I left my office, which was just a table with paper and posted notes everywhere and nothing else. And I ran down to the wardrobe department, my first job as a director. I walked into the wardrobe, and Bob Blackman – who was the head of costume department – met me at the door and was like, “Uh, Sid. I think maybe you should just come with me. Lawrence is… maybe you should see for yourself.”

So he parted the curtain, and Lawrence was sitting there – this lovely gentleman – in his chair. And he was like this. [slumps over] And there was a young man whose name I can’t remember, but it was his son and assistant for the day. And his son said, “Hi, lovely to meet you, love you to meet my father. He’s very happy to be here.” And I was like, “Lawrence! Great!” Pulled up a chair. “So how are you? Are you looking forward to this? I’m really looking forward to this.” And he was like this. [slumps over] And Bob Blackman took me out and said, “Lawrence… he had a stroke yesterday.” He’s our lead actor!

So I said, “Lovely to meet you Lawrence.” Stepped outside. Got on the phone to the head office, was like, “Lawrence Tierney had a stroke yesterday, did you know that?” “Oh yeah, we know that.” “… Okay… so how is he going to say all his lines?” “Um… oh, you’ll find a way.” And his son, bless him, said, “He’s gonna be great. He can’t talk now. The left side of his face is a little weird. But he’s gonna be fine. We’ve three days. I’ll get him into shape.” This is real. This is a real story.

And we started filming. And I had another actor called Steven Berkhoff, who was really famous actually and had quite a reputation for being a wild child. Quite difficult to work with. Quite hot-heated. Could really fly off the handle at people. Steven Berkhoff was no problem. I could deal with ten Steven Berkhoffs. He ended up being charming, actually. Lawrence did get his act together. He was talking. We had a big dinner table scene, but he couldn’t remember more than two words. After two words, he would stop.

So I went under the table. Down here, looking into Lawrence’s crotch. I had a script. And I would say, “They’re coming tomorrow to land…” And he’d say, “They’re coming tomorrow to land…” “They’re going to land in Dock B…” “They’re going to land– Who is the director here?!” And I would pull out from between Lawrence’s legs and be like, “That’s me.”

Still, whatever behind the scenes issues complicated the episode, Siddig managed to do a great job with Berkhoff and Tierney. Siddig seems to have worked very well with the performers; his experience in theatre seems to have helped a great deal. It is a shame that his second (and final) directorial credit on Deep Space Nine ended up being Profit and Lace towards the end of the sixth season.

"So, what was Roger Moore really like?"

“So, what was Roger Moore really like?”

Berkhoff and Tierney are among the most memorable guest stars, but Business as Usual also features a memorable supporting turn from Josh Pais as Gaila. While not technically a one-shot guest star, in that he joins Quark’s rescue team in The Magnificent Ferengi, Josh Pais offers a very effective supporting performance. While Berkhoff and Tierney were already established performers with their most iconic work behind them, Business as Usual arrived quite early in Josh Pais’ career.

Before Business as Usual, Pais had taken a number of relatively small on-screen roles scattered over ten years; perhaps his most memorable performance was his voice work as Raphael in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. However, Pais has enjoyed considerable success in the year since. In particular, Pais is a veteran of the Dick Wolf’s iconic franchise, holding down separate recurring roles on both Law & Order and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

Throwing a Gaila party.

Throwing a Gaila party.

Pais’ biggest moment in Business as Usual comes when he tries to convince Quark to sign off on the murder of twenty-eight million people through a fairly blatant homage to The Third Man. It is a reference that has aged quite well, given Donald Trump expressed (and unironic) affection for Orson Welles’ other masterpiece, Citizen Kane. Staring out a window, Gaila asks Quark, “Do you think if one of those twinkling little lights suddenly went out, anybody would notice?”

It takes a certain amount of screen presence for an actor to channel Orson Welles so overtly, particularly while wearing some quite ridiculous prosthetics. It is to Pais’ credit that he pulls it all off, that Gaila seems reasonably convincing as a character in his own right rather than simply as Hagath’s toady. Gaila is essentially portrayed as Quark without a conscience, a version who is willing to completely abandon any principles in pursuit of profit.

Light of his life.

Light of his life.

Of course, that little speech is not the only classic movie reference buried in the episode. One of the weapons sold by Quark is the CRM-114, a reference to the work of director Stanley Kubrick; the device appears in Dr. Strangelove and the number appears attached to a serum (“crm”) in A Clockwork Orange. Reportedly, director Alexander Siddig had originally considered casting A Clockwork Orange star Malcolm McDowell in the role of Hagath, although that did not work out as originally planned.

Still, outside of these little references and a light-hearted subplot focusing on Kirayoshi, Business as Usual is a relatively serious episode. After all, it is a story about the arms trade, in which Quark finds himself weighing the deaths of twenty-eight million people against his greed. The middle of the episode features an extended dream sequence in which Quark imagines the cast and crew of Deep Space Nine (including Kirayoshi!) brutally murdered by the weapons that he sold.

Keeping the Pais.

Keeping the Pais.

Business as Usual is a story that takes Quark (and his Ferengi values) relatively seriously, much like Bar Association or Body Parts in the fourth season. Actor Armin Shimerman acknowledged a preference for these sorts of episodes:

“I’m particularly proud of the fifth season story Business As Usual because it shows Quark as much more of a thinking, deeper person in the sense that he has a real problem to solve.”

“There are a number of episodes in which he must face moral dilemmas, such as Bar Association and Looking for Par’mach in All the Wrong Places. I always saw Quark as much more of a dramatic character than the show’s writers, who always saw him as sort of comic relief. They did give me some dramatic episodes, but there was always a lot of comedy mixed in,” he explains.

Shimerman has a point. Part of what makes Deep Space Nine so effective is the seriousness that it affords its characters, taking its leads at face value and being willing to engage with cultures as far outside the Federation’s frame of reference as the Ferengi.

"I'm kind of a big dealer."

“I’m kind of a big dealer.”

At the same time, Deep Space Nine did better with Ferengi-centric comedy episodes than most would concede. Rewatching the series from beginning to end, it seems as through the one-two punch of Profit and Lace and The Emperor’s New Cloak retroactively sapped the goodwill generated by earlier episodes like House of Quark or Little Green Men. Shimerman is a gifted comic performer, even if it is not within his power to check the absolute worst of the show’s impulses.

Still, Shimerman is also a fine dramatic actor, and capable of rising to the material given to him. He does great work in Business as Usual, even if the script struggles to get past the basic idea that “selling weapons is bad.” Shimerman plays Quark as a character whose desperation is palpable and whose desire is understandable, a character who can rationalise his decision to sell weapons as something that happens at a remove. Quark can wipe his hands clean because, as Gaila explains, there are “no actual weapons coming in or out.”

Rifling through the bargain bins.

Rifling through the bargain bins.

The arms trade garnered considerable national and international attention during the nineties, following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War. Weapons trading had been seen as a necessary evil in the midst of that ideological war between two superpowers, with the public less likely to focus upon it because smaller scale land wars like those in Afghanistan or Nicaragua were seen as justifiable efforts to protect capitalism from the encroaching threat of communism.

In the late eighties, the Iran-Contra Affair proved embarrassing to the Reagan administration, but the matter would not really come to prominence until the middle of the next decade. After all, the nineties was supposed to be a decade of peace and prosperity. The United States was the sole global superpower and liberal democracy stood triumphant at the end of the twentieth century. As such, there was no perceived ideological justification or rationalisation for allowing the movement of such large quantities of weapons to global trouble spots.

The Long Black Friday.

The Long Black Friday.

In some ways, this spoke to the decentralisation and diffusion of the nineties, a recurring theme on Voyager that was somewhat obfuscated by the introduction of the Dominion into Deep Space Nine. It increasingly felt as though world was increasingly chaotic and disorganised, following the breakdown of the power structures that had been in place for during the Cold War. Many Americans and Western Europeans came to see the world in the same way that Voyager saw the Delta Quadrant, as a turbulent place filled with small-scale violence.

The developed world was relatively stable during the nineties, but there were plenty of smaller raging in regions coming to terms with the end of the Cold War. Africa and Eastern Europe were particularly troubled regions spots. In many cases, these wars were fueled by arms left over from the Cold War; the AK-47 is the most abundant weapon on earth. With that in mind, questions of culpability and responsibility quickly arose. People in war-torn regions were killing each other with weapons manufactured (and even sold) by developed nations.

Dead to rights.

Dead to rights.

Many of these international arms traders, like Viktor Bout, were effectively selling surplus stock they’d “acquired” from the two major powers. Even ignoring the black market, many of these weapons came from the developed nations; Russia and the United States remain the largest arms traders in the world. Asked about this reality by The New York Times in 1998, one anonymous western diplomat responded, ”We don’t regard it as a subject on which to make a fuss.”

The late nineties saw a renewed interest in the mechanics and the morality of the trade. International arms smuggling into Bosnia, in contravention of a United Nations embargo, generated news coverage in November 1994. The United States would lift the arms embargo against South Africa in February 1998. Samuel Cummings, described as “the philosopher-king” of the arms dealing community, passed away in April 1998. That same year, the United States approved the sale of 500,000 AK-47s by Jordanian officials to Peru.

No need to make such a big deal of it.

No need to make such a big deal of it.

As explored by the media during the nineties, the mechanics of the arms trade very much resemble the workings of Hagath’s operation in Business as Usual. Obfuscation and misdirection are key, with the business taking place through relatively legitimate channels while the materials moved outside this framework:

An athletic-looking Dane, with blond hair, blue eyes and an arrest warrant for armed robbery, hires a British arms dealer with a Walter Mitty complex. In Latvia, they buy a Russian cargo plane and have it flown to Bulgaria where it is loaded with 77 cases of weapons, including 300 assault rifles, ammunition, pistols, hand grenades and rocket launchers.

The lumbering plane then heads east to India. When it gets over the village of Purulia, near Calcutta, the weapons are shoved out, drifting down under parachute rigging purchased in South Africa. The deal is financed out of Hong Kong. The intended recipient is a violent religious sect.

However fictional it might sound, this was a real-life arms shipment, one that reveals the circuitous measures terrorists and rebel groups employ to get weapons, and how relatively easy it is for them to do so. It also illustrates the almost complete lack of international controls on the small-arms trade. [In Oslo on Monday, the United States and 20 other governments opened a meeting to discuss measures to deal with the spread of assault rifles, pistols, grenades and other so-called small arms.]

Generally it is not a crime for a weapons dealer to get around the arms-control laws of his country by having the weapons shipped from another country.

These transactions were so flagrant in their manipulation of the system and their flouting of international safeguards that the men behind them became international celebrities of a sort. Sarkis Soghanalian, Viktor Bout, Oleg Orlov; these figures (active in the nineties) all influenced the central Andrew Niccol’s 2005 gun-smuggling drama Lord of War.

Everything is topsy turvy.

Everything is topsy turvy.

Unsurprisingly, Business as Usual is quite unambiguously opposed to the arms trade. For all that certain hardcore Star Trek fans criticise Deep Space Nine for being morally ambiguous or compromise, the show unfolds within a very ordered moral universe. Deep Space Nine very rarely embraces true ambiguity in terms of its morality, most notably in episodes like The Darkness and the Light. In most cases, the series has a very firm moral compass, and is decidedly unambiguous on matters of right and wrong.

Bashir is perhaps the best example of this, the character in the ensemble who comes closest to embodying Gene Roddenberry’s ideal human. The series spends quite a lot of time mocking Bashir for his sense of superiority and his reluctance to consider other perspectives, but it also embraces and encourages his humanism. He is proven right about unaddicted Jem’Hadar being fundamentally decent in Hippocratic Oath, he is proven right in his commitment to save the crew in Our Man Bashir, and he is proven right in saving a planet’s population in The Quickening.

Gunning for the top spot.

Gunning for the top spot.

Deep Space Nine might adopt a more pragmatic and cynical perspective, but that should not be mistaken for amorality. The series comes under a lot of fire for introducing Section 31 as a challenge to Gene Roddenberry’s vision, but the show repeatedly condemns the organisation’s worldview and tactics by throwing it into competition with Bashir’s idealism. Sloan wins a round in Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges, but Bashir wins the round in Extreme Measures.

As such, Deep Space Nine is a show that acknowledges that moral complexity exists, but that does not mean that concepts like “good” and “evil” are outdated. In this respect, Ronald D. Moore’s Battlestar Galactica makes a compelling contrast. With Battlestar Galactica, Moore embraces the politics of pragmatism more readily than Deep Space Nine ever will. At points, Deep Space Nine can lean too heavily on a binary distinction between good and evil, with the characterisation of Dukat in Waltz feeling more than a little heavy-handed.

Canon fodder.

Canon fodder.

So it is no surprise that Business as Usual comes down against the arms trade. The closest thing to ambiguity comes when it is revealed that Hagath sold arms to the Bajorans during the Cardassian Occupation. “The Bajoran government insists that Deep Space Nine not interfere with the lawful transactions of Hagath or his associates,” Kira states. “Hagath supplied arms to the Resistance. Without him, or people like him, we’d all be dead. The Cardassians would still be in power. We owe him.”

There is a hint of moral complexity there. The revelation that Hagath supplied weapons to the Bajoran Resistance allows for the possibility that the arms trade is value neutral; the suggestion that the moral weight of the atrocities committed using firearms lies with those who would use them rather than those who supply them. It is not a particularly strong argument, but it does open up interesting questions about the necessity of the trade. How many nations owe their very existence to the work of arms smugglers?

"You know, I've got a good feeling about the next two years."

“You know, I’ve got a good feeling about the next two years.”

This leads to other even more complicated moral questions. For example, consider the complicated political wrangling surrounding the Ottawa Treaty. In theory, this treaty would ban landmines, which is something very much encouraging. However, for years, the United States refused to sign. When the United States eventually did agree to halt production and application of these mines, they made a rather pointed exception for South Korea. After all, these landmines are the only thing that stand between South Korea and invasion by North Korea. It is complicated.

Business as Usual faintly gestures towards that sense of ambiguity, but rather firmly comes down on the moral side of the argument. Bajor’s protection of Hagath is more like a plot point than a complication, an explanation for why Sisko doesn’t simply have Quark thrown off the station instead of a source of debate or ambiguity. Kira certainly doesn’t seem particularly fond of Hagath, despite her impassioned defence of total warfare in The Darkness and the Light. After all, this is an episode where Quark finds his conscience when he is haunted by dreams of a dead baby.

Food for thought.

Food for thought.

There is certainly nothing wrong with this, but it does feel a little trite. The fifth season finds Deep Space Nine pushing away from the boundaries of conventional Star Trek storytelling, while Business as Usual feels very much like a typical Star Trek story. In fact, the episode feels rather like an episode of Voyager, in how studiously it works to avoid any long-term consequences. Business as Usual is an episode of television that very neatly cleans up after itself and puts all the pieces neatly away at the end.

Quark agrees to join Hagath and Gaila in order to work his way out of debt. However, the episode is careful to ensure that Quark does not actually profit from his temporary career change. “I took the liberty of transferring your earnings directly to your creditors,” Hagath states. “You’ll be happy to know they were most appreciative.” The episode tries to make this a little character beat for Hagath. He explains, “I don’t doubt your intentions, but money does strange things to people and I can’t afford to have an associate distracted with financial difficulties.”

Bad deal.

Bad deal.

However, it feels very much like an effort to avoid shaking up the status quo, a very convenient resolution. In fact, Quark even closes the hour back in debt; although this time to Sisko rather than to his other creditors. For his part, Sisko seems to pretty quickly forgive Quark for staging a massive fire fight on the station, displaying the sort of casual indifference that Janeway demonstrated when Neelix became an accomplice to murder in Fair Trade. There are some firm (but not harsh) words and a punishment that affects the character entirely off-screen.

Business as Usual even makes a point to emphasise its episodic nature. Quark closed the episode by betraying two arms dealers, one of whom seems to value loyalty above all. However, Sisko assures him, “I wouldn’t count on seeing your former business partners again.” To be fair, Gaila pops up in The Magnificent Ferengi, but Quark doesn’t have to worry about any potential consequences from his big moral decision at the climax of the episode. Business as Usual seems to acknowledge this fact, closing on an ending that features to characters laughing together. It’s all fun!

Dabo.

Dabo.

Business as Usual is a stock episode, but that is no bad thing. An episode centring around the arms trade and attempted genocide fits much better with the tone of the season than the lighter stakes of A Simple Investigation; it certainly keeps the sense of dread building across the second half of the season. More than that, there is an appeal to an old-fashioned morality play brought to life by a fantastic cast. Business as Usual is not one of the strongest episodes of the season, but it demonstrates just how efficiently the fifth season of Deep Space Nine is running.

You might be interested in our reviews of the fifth season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:

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4 Responses

  1. “Marc Alaimo and Jeffrey Combs are perhaps the best antagonists in the franchise’s history, with only Ricardo Montalban coming close.” I agree with that, but I feel as if Salome Jens, the female changeling, does not get enough credit. She has to play a character who is completely inhuman, and as such rarely shows any signs of happiness or anger. Yet, Jens creates a character who alternates between being menacing and oddly sympathetic.

  2. I’m surprised that no-one thought to mention this isn’t Quark’s first encounter with the arms trade. He supplied weapons to the Maquis back in S2 and this is probably one of the examples that Sisko brings up in the security office of how he’s looked the other way in the past in regard to one or two of Quark’s business dealings. But on that occasion, Quark himself seemed to look the other way and ignore the implications of what he was doing.

    It’s another example of how Quark has become so acclimatised to living aboard a Starfleet installation in the past five years, to the point that he’s a Ferengi with a conscience, something he privately confides in Ishka in Ferengi Love Songs later in the season.

    Quark’s nightmare recalls Odo’s in Things Past, right down to the station being depicted in much more sinister lighting. At least it doesn’t resort to anything as heavy-handed as Quark’s hands covered in blood at what his weapons dealing will eventually lead to.

    “Hagath presents a charming exterior that masks an incredibly ruthless streak”. That reminds me of Saul Rubinek’s performance as Kivas Fajo in the TNG episode The Most Toys. It’s difficult to strike that balance but Stephen Berkoff just killed it, much as Rubinek did.

    I’m glad you likened Quark to Gaila Darren, except Gaila is the Ferengi who was never exposed to Federation values. It’s like Neelix and Wixiban in Fair Trade. Wix seemed like the Talaxian Neelix would have been had he never encountered the Voyager crew. The same is true of Quark had Terok Nor never become Deep Space Nine.

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