Star Trek: Voyager – 3×05 – “False Profits”

Star Trek: Voyager
“False Profits”
Originally Broadcast October 2nd, 1996
Reviewed by Chakoteya

The Story

Stardate: 50074.3

‘Captain’s Log, Stardate 50074.3. We have detected evidence that a wormhole recently appeared and then disappeared in a nearby solar system. We’re on our way there to investigate.’

Kim and Chakotay have been examining the sensor readings and concluded that wormhole last appeared 6 months ago, but isn’t fixed at this end. Janeway is optimistic that because it keeps turning up in the same region here, it might be fixed at the other end. They start looking for neutrinos and inhabited planets where they could get more information. Tuvok picks up signs of Alpha Quadrant replicator use on a Bronze Age planet nearby and Janeway’s eyes light up. However, she first orders a scan of the planet so that Chakotay and Paris can go down there disguised as natives to find the replicator, while Kim and Torres examine the wormhole signature to see what else they can learn about it.

‘Captain’s Log, Stardate 50074.5. Based on information provided by the probe, we have replicated local attire for Commander Chakotay and Lieutenant Paris. They have gone to the surface to investigate.’

Chakotay surreptitiously uses his tricorder in the market place to try and track down the replicator, when a wandering poet, patch over his right eye, comes reciting the first verse of the ‘Song of the Sages’. He is after money for the next verse, but is pushed away by another merchant who has spotted Tom and Chakotay’s top quality shoes. They turn down his offer to sell them a house, or transport, but when he tells them they must be wearing ‘ears’ to approach the temple – source of a dampening field – they end up trading Tom’s clogs for two necklaces.

‘Captain’s Log, Supplemental. I’ve been asked to join Lieutenant Torres and Ensign Kim in the Science Lab to hear what they’ve termed as “very exciting news”.’

The two technical wizards have worked out that the wormhole does lead to the Alpha Quadrant, and that their best move would be to make it appear where they want it to, rather than have to go chasing after it all the time. They just haven’t figured out how to do that yet.

A gong sounds in the market place and the temple door opens. Out walk three scantily clad women, followed by a man pushing a large box, then two Ferengi! The box turns out to be the replicator, and the two officers move away to confer with Captain Janeway whilst the crowd is instructed in the Rules of Acquisition. A petitioner asks for food and medicine, only to be sold a cheap copy of the Rules which he really does not want and cannot afford. They see the replicator in action before the group retreat back into the temple again.

‘Captain’s Log, supplemental. The away team has returned with some very disturbing observations about the situation on the planet.’

Chakotay and Paris brief the senior staff on the situation. Before the Ferengi arrived and claimed to fulfil the local legends, the society was flourishing. Now the people are in poverty while their Sages take all the wealth for themselves. Tuvok has found the logs of the Barzan wormhole negotiations seven years ago, and how Arridor and Kol went into it never to be heard from again. Captain Janeway has no intention of leaving the two Ferengi here to continue contaminating the Takarian culture, and Torres and Kim’s plan to get the wormhole back by using verteron particles is going to plan, but the slightest thing could throw it off and anyway it won’t stay very long once it does open. Tuvok points out that the Ferengi are not bound by the Prime Directive, but they are as they should not interfere with what is now the natural course of this society. Janeway points out that the Federation hosted the negotiations which led to the Ferengi being here in the first place and therefore they are duty-bound to correct the situation.

Arridor and Kol are mid-argument about the lack of profits from Ga’nah province when they find themselves standing in Voyager’s transporter room. Captain Janeway informs the pair that they will be returning with her to the Alpha quadrant, either back through the Barzan wormhole or the long way around. Kol is deeply dismayed at the prospect of losing their profitable situation, but Arridor is a quick thinker. He points out to Janeway that their arrival did match the prophecy in the Song of the Sages, and who is to say that they are not fulfilling that prophecy by their presence? With no way to counter his argument, she orders them returned to the planet.

The senior staff come to the conclusion that they need to persuade the ‘Sages’ to leave voluntarily, thus avoiding any trauma to the Takarians by having their ‘gods’ suddenly vanish without explanation. Arridor has rigged a force-field around the town square to prevent any more unexpected beam-outs when there is a banging on the temple door. Kafar, their major domo, is sent to see who it is. Another Ferengi, carrying the staff of the Grand Nagus, pushes his way in and announces himself as the Grand Proxy. He claims to have come through a temporarily stabilised wormhole to inspect their operation and take them back with him to see the Nagus. Kafar looks delighted at the news. Arridor tries to persuade the Proxy that one of them needs to stay there to administer the planet and ensure continuing profits. He could take Kol back? This is turned down and they are told to prepare the people for their departure, including thanking them for their generosity – 299th rule of acquisition ‘Whenever you exploit someone, it never hurts to thank them. That way it’s easier to exploit them the next time.’ Kol points out that there are only 285 rules, but they have been gone a very long time. They have 20 minutes to prepare their farewell speech. The Proxy picks up a couple of bags of coins and goes outside, taking Kafar with him.

Chakotay and Paris, back in local attire, are watching the Grand Proxy give away money to the people in the market square. They admire Neelix’s performance as a Ferengi while Kafar and the sandal maker look on in amazement. Inside, Kol and Arridor decide what to do when they don’t like the message – kill the messenger. When Neelix walks back into the temple they attack him with two very large swords, totally failing to make contact with their wild swings. In fear of his life, Neelix confesses who he really is, and flees out into the market square to break the bad news. The trio are heading for the shuttle when they are confronted by the poet, patch over his left eye this time, who recites another verse and demands money. Caught out about his bad eye by Paris, he offers yet more verses but Chakotay interrupts him, asking what happens to the Sages at the end of the poem. In return for his shoes, they hear about 3 lights in the sky and a Holy Pilgrim coming to take the Sages back to the sky on wings of fire.

So Neelix goes to the temple steps and announces himself as the Holy Pilgrim. The commotion brings Arridor and Kol outside to meet a crowd which, at Paris’s instigation, begins to chant ‘lead them back, lead them back.’ When Arridor claims that he is a false Pilgrim, Neelix proves his credentials with 3 lights in the sky – actually 3 photon bursts from Voyager. Kafar comes forward to bang the gong, causing pain to the Ferengi’s ears, and persuading the crowd to prepare the wings of fire for the Sages to leave on.

The wings of fire turn out to mean being burnt at the stake, so Chakotay and Paris dash into the temple to disable the dampening field by the simple method of destroying the machine by phaser fire. Tuvok is able to get a lock on the away team and the Ferengi, and they are beamed out as the flames catch on the bonfire. The prophecies have all been fulfilled and the Takarians are free and happy.

Arridor does not want to leave without his possessions, but Chakotay curtly tells him that his is lucky to be alive, and his shuttle has been beamed into the shuttle bay. With only 7 minutes before Voyager enters the wormhole the pair are taken to secure quarters. They never get there. Murphy is found unconscious on deck 2 and the shuttle bay door is phasered as the Ferengi make their escape back to the planet. Chakotay tries a tractor beam but the wormhole’s gravity prevents him from getting a lock and the transporters do not work either, but Arridor creates a graviton pulse to block them anyway, just in case. All this does is attract the wormhole to them and they are pulled in as it moves away from Voyager. The starship cannot get to it in time and it closes. Kim reports that the graviton pulse has caused the wormhole to jump erratically on both ends now.

As Kafar give back the rest of the money that the Ferengi had taken from the people, Voyager jumps to warp, leaving a trail in the sky. The Holy Ones are going home.

Review

You can almost hear the discussion in the story breaking session. ‘We need a comedy, but not with the Doctor.’ ‘Well, we usually use the Ferengi for comedy these days, there aren’t any on Voyager. Are there?’ ‘Wasn’t there a Next Gen episode where two Ferengi went off into a wormhole to the Delta Quadrant?’ ‘Yes! The Price!’ We’ll use that as our start point.’

And so they did. Just to keep the trivia fans happy they got Dan Shor back to reprise the role of Arridor, and also got Michael Westmore to dig out Ethan Phillips’s Ferengi mask from ‘Ménage a Troi’. Then set about having fun. The result is nothing spectacular however. This is a holdover from season two, made before Flashback, so Janeway is still bound by Starfleet regulations and incapable of telling Arridor and Kol that she doesn’t care a fig about the Takarians losing their gods. Chakotay plays token spiritual advisor, with cheeky chap Paris as his sidekick on the away team jaunt. Poor Ensign Murphy (object of Torres’ romantic attentions way back in Prime Factors) has to get hit on the head in order to get the EMH and Kes on screen for 10 seconds. Three precious photon torpedoes are wasted on a light show as well.

Although the Ferengi scenes are fun, they are nothing special. Anyone who has encountered Deep Space 9 will recognise a pale variant of Quark the greedy and Rom the idiot in Arridor and Kol. Ethan has fun with the Grand Proxy/Holy Pilgrim scenes, but the best turns are the Bard with the mobile eye patch, and Kafar the Sages assistant with his subtle manipulation of the situation and his great pleasure at getting rid of them. As for the reason for the episode, getting the wormhole open so they can go home, well, when it comes to it there is very little urgency about it. Which is no surprise, as there is no chance of Voyager getting home by a short cut just yet. I wonder where the Ferengi ended up?

In conclusion, an average show, light-hearted, but suffering from being shown out of sequence in the production run as it wrecks the flow of Janeway’s development.

Grade: 5/10

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