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Recap / Star Trek Deep Space Nine S 03 E 16 Prophet Motive

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Quark and Rom display a typical Ferengi reaction to the Nagus's newfound opinions on charity.
Quark is in his quarters in the midst of some very erotic negotiations with a woman named Emi, who is after Quark's supply of self-sealing stembolts. Rom suddenly bursts in telling him he needs to leave. It turns out that Grand Nagus Zek has unexpectedly arrived and wants to use Quark's quarters. The Nagus and his manservant Maihar'du arrive and bust up the party, driving everyone out. Quark is left bunking with Rom, and the two brothers quickly descend into squabbling.

Meanwhile, the crew throw a surprise party for Bashir to announce that he's been nominated for a Carrington Award. Bashir is embarrassed and assures everyone that he won't win. Dax later confronts him on his negative attitude. He explains that the Carrington is effectively a lifetime achievement award, and he's far too young and unaccomplished to win.

Quark tires of his exile from his quarters and pushes Rom to confront the Nagus. But rather than be offended, Zek is in good spirits and happy to receive company. He welcomes both brothers inside and reveals that he has been working on his magnum opus, an updated version of the Rules of Acquisition. The brothers are overjoyed at the opportunity to be the first to receive the Nagus's wisdom and profit from it. But their excitement turns to horror when they see that the Nagus has rewritten all of the Rules to support charity, empathy, and family values rather than greed, ambition, and ruthlessness. With no other rational explanation, Quark decides that the Nagus must have gone insane.


Quark takes the Nagus to Bashir, who can't find anything wrong with him. In fact, the Nagus has quit all of his vices, so he's in better shape than ever. Zek announces that he's going to set up a charitable foundation to give away his riches, including a special gift for the Bajorans. He installs the brothers as his right-hand men in the endeavor. Rom throws himself into the role, but Quark realizes that if the Nagus were to reveal his new Rules of Acquisition on the Ferengi homeworld, the irate citizens would kill them all. To save their skins, the brothers must take desperate action to determine what's wrong with the Nagus.

Meanwhile, Odo meets with Bashir to tell him that he's received intelligence that the front-runner for the Carrington won't get the award, meaning it's up for grabs. Bashir reiterates that he does not expect to win, but Odo deduces that he's in the middle of writing an acceptance speech. Maybe the doctor is a little more invested than he lets on.


The Ferengi boys try to break into the Nagus's ship, only to get caught by Maihar'du. But instead of wring their necks, he lets them inside. It seems the silent manservant is just as concerned as them about the Nagus's behavior. He shows them the gift that Zek is planned to give the Bajorans: an Orb of Wisdom. Quark accidentally gazes into the Orb and has a vision of Zek taunting him. Afterwards, he and Rom figure out through the Nagus's logs that he went into the wormhole to gain insight into the future from the prophets, who instead made him charitable. The trio kidnap Zek and take him into the wormhole to convince the prophets to change him back.

Inside the wormhole, Quark receives an audience with the prophets, who speak to him in the guise of people he knows. They admit to changing the Nagus after finding his Ferengi outlook to be aggressive and obnoxious. They threaten to do the same thing to Quark. The barkeep gives a passionate defense of Ferengi values, arguing that greed is good, and without ambition, nothing would ever get done. The prophets are unimpressed and would rather just be left alone. Quark points out that continuing to change Ferengi will only increase curiosity in the wormhole and bring more people looking to find out what's going on. The prophets relent.

A big group of supporters all gather to watch the Carrington Award presentation. It goes to one of the dark horse candidates, and everyone groans in sympathy for Bashir. In private, Bashir admits that even though he really didn't think he was going to win, he still can't help but be disappointed.

The Nagus is back to his old grouchy, greedy self. He tells Quark to make sure that every copy of his updated Rules of Acquisition is destroyed. Reflecting on recent events, Quark laments that he's once again come out empty handed. Rom, however, reveals that he made quite a windfall by shamelessly embezzling from Zek's charity. An impressed Quark tells him that their father would be proud.


  • Anything but That!: When the Prophets decide to alter Quark like they did Zek, he says more Ferengi will come to investigate. But they'd never have to deal with another Ferengi again if they just fix Zek. The Prophets make the obvious choice.
  • As You Know: Rom reminds Quark that Hupyrian servants can only speak to their masters.
  • Became Their Own Antithesis:
    • Grand Nagus Zek, Dirty Old Man extraordinaire and paragon of Ferengi avarice and business acumen, spends most of the episode as a cheerfully optimistic, ridiculously generous philanthropist. He was de-evolved by the Prophets to become so, and, under threat of interacting with more Ferengi, they restore him to his old self at the end of the episode.
    • According to the Prophets, the Ferengi weren't always obsessed with profit, only becoming so over time. If Zek's state after they de-evolve him is any indication, the Ferengi were once altruistic to a fault.
  • Beneath Notice: Rom and he knows it. He is so looked down and ignored by people Quark doesn't even realize he has been carefully embezzling from the bar until Quark stays in Rom's home for a time.
  • Breather Episode: After the back-to-back-to-back-to-back seriousness of the "Past Tense" 2-parter, "Life Support", "Heart Of Stone" and "Destiny", this episode is a comical romp focused on Quark.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • A prophet in the shape of Sisko notes that Zek wanted to see how the game ended. "The game" was how Sisko described the concept of linear time to the Prophets.
    • Quark is still trying to sell off those self-sealing stem bolts.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • When Quark moves in with Rom at the start of the episode, he finds his brother had been pilfering from Quark's bar. Later, Rom embezzles money from the Ferengi Benevolent Association, which was being financed by Zek's personal accounts.
      Quark: Father would be proud.
    • Zek referring to the new Rules as a gift. Quark realizes later he meant they weren't a gift from Zek to his people, but rather to Zek from another force.
  • The Comically Serious: The Prophets' usual serious, godlike detachment being contrasted against Quark's usual antics makes for some interesting comedy.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Quark and Rom react to Zek's Hallmark-level aphorisms about charity and friendship like the ravings of a madman.
  • Dramatic Sit-Down: When Quark hears number 285 of the revised Rules of Acquisition, ("A good deed is its own reward") he has a severe attack of the vapors and has to sit down while fanning himself.
  • Dissonant Serenity: While being hauled around in a sack after being abducted, Zek is humming cheerfully to himself.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The Prophets here are depicted much as they were in the pilot episode, namely Sufficiently Advanced Aliens who don't like a lot of the facets of corporeal existence (in this case, greed). In all their following appearances, they were shown as Benevolent Precursors who were actively taking an interest in and guiding both Sisko and the Bajorans.
  • Easily Forgiven: Before being restored to his old self, Zek is cheerfully forgiving of Quark, Rom, and Maihar'du kidnapping him and stuffing him in a sack. He even admits that he should be mad, but finds Quark too darn likable to get angry at him. Even once he's restored, Zek doesn't seem to hold a grudge, instead gleefully telling Quark about his plan to sell the Orb of Wisdo back to the Bajorans for all it's worth and then some.
  • Fantastically Challenging Patient: When Dr. Bashir is unable to figure out what's wrong with Grand Nagus Zek using standard tests, Quark asks him to perform exploratory surgery. Bashir refuses to do so, believing it to be unneccesary.
  • Heel–Face Brainwashing: The Prophets admit to doing this to Zek (having taken offense to the unbridled greed that defines Ferengi society), and announce their intent to do the same to Quark. They back off when Quark explains that that would only result in more Ferengi poking around the wormhole trying to investigate.
  • Inelegant Blubbering: Maihar'du spends the whole episode doing it. This is because Hupyrian servants are allowed to speak only to their masters and no one else, so he can't just tell them what happened.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: After Zek buys Quark's bar a round of drinks, Maihar'du pours himself one and downs it.
  • Let Us Never Speak of This Again: When all is said and done, Zek, Quark, and Rom all agree to never bring up the Ferengi Benevolent Association or the revised Rules of Acquisition ever again. Zek nearly has Maihar'du strangle Rom for admitting that he remembers the revised Rules, but backs off when Quark assures him that Rom will forget it all before too long.
  • Oh, No... Not Again!: The Prophets' reaction to another Ferengi bothering them.
    Propher Bashir: It is corporeal.
    Prophet Jadzia: A physical entity.
    Prophet Kira: Not another one...
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: The Grand Nagus is supposed to be the shining example of avarice to Ferengi society. When Zek prepares to revise the Rules of Acquisition to promote charity and philanthropy, Quark takes it as a sign of the apocalypse.
  • Opt Out: Quark plans to take Zek back to the Prophets and get them to fix whatever they've done. Rom warmly says he wishes he was going too, then says he's just not, and scurries off.
  • Out-of-Character Alert: After Zek tries to learn the future from The Prophets, they return him as an overly generous rube.
  • Patrick Stewart Speech: Subverted. Quark launches into a defense of greed that would make Gordon Gekko proud, but the prophets are unmoved, and Quark has to try a different tactic.
  • So Proud of You: Quark says this to Rom after Rom embezzles from the Grand Nagus himself. He even says their father would be proud of him.
  • Spell My Name with a "The": As with The Sisko, the Prophets refer to Zek as "The Zek".
  • Suddenly Voiced: The first (and only) time we hear Maihar'du speak, even though he's a projection of the Prophets.
  • Take That!: At one point, Quark and Rom try reading the first word of every page of the new Rules of Acquisition, and just get a bunch of incomprehensible nonsense. This is likely a jab at the "Bible Code" theories that were popular in the mid-1990s (and eventually resulted in the film The Omega Code), which involved taking certain words or letters from verses in the Bible, putting them through a "decoding" process, and coming up with predictions of the future. Critics of the theory pointed out that it was useful for "predicting" events that had already happened, but less so when it came to actually predicting the future.
    Quark: It must be some kind of code. Read me the first word of every Rule.
    Rom: If... never... keep... profit... a... good... smile... honesty...
    Quark: [stops Rom right there] Aha! If never keep profit a good smile honesty.
    Rom: What does it mean?
    Quark: It means... absolutely nothing.
  • The Thing That Would Not Leave: Zek takes over Quark's quarters, and Quark takes over Rom's quarters in turn.
  • We Want Our Jerk Back!: Naturally; Ferengi society is based around being a jerk. Not only does Quark want the old Nagus back as a matter of personal preference, but the Nagus's proposed changes would likely get them all killed.
  • You Just Told Me: When Odo accuses Bashir of writing his acceptance speech, the shocked doctor asks how he could have know what he was doing. Odo admits it was a guess that Bashir just confirmed.