Business as Usual
Deep Space Nine
Disc No :
First Aired :
7 Apr 1997
Quark claims he hasn't had a single Starfleet customer all week. Yet we saw O'Brien and Bashir playing darts a couple of scenes ago.
Quark is very resistant to the idea of selling weapons in this episode, and everybody treats him as a pariah for doing so. But back in The Maquis, he arranged an arms deal for Sakonna with no hesitation, no problems, and no fallout.
Gaila's speech to Quark about "putting out one of those lights" (meaning stars) is heavily based on Orson Welles' speech in the movie "The Third Man".
The Breen weapon Quark demonstrates is a "CRM-114"; this is a reference to the radio encoding device employed by the B-52 bombers in the Stanley Kubrick movie "Dr. Strangelove", which was also a CRM-114.
This was the first episode directed by Alexander Siddig/Siddig el Fadil, aka Dr. Bashir. He is reportedly quite satisfied with how it turned out.
It's also one of the very favourite episodes of Armin Shimerman, who plays Quark. Shimmerman was one of the first actors ever to play a Ferengi in TNG season 1, and was long disappointed with the very poor way the race turned out as a threat, and their subsequent relegation to comic relief. Throughout Deep Space Nine he resisted playing Quark purely for laughs, and was delighted that this episode gave the character a serious problem for him to play out. He was also pleased with the way Alexander Siddig directed, since he was very open to accepting suggestions for how Quark should be played.
Guest star Lawrence Tierney suffered a stroke shortly before this episode began filming. Although he could deliver his lines just fine, he had great difficulty remembering any of them. Each line had to be read to him right before he said them, with the resulting snippets cut together afterwards.
Quark is deep in debt after being black balled by the Ferengi Commerce Authority. His cousin Gaila offers him lucrative business as an arms dealer - but the moral implications turn out to be deeper than Quark had realised.
I'm a little unhappy with this episode. Everybody acts as though selling weapons is an inherently immoral thing, and Quark is automatically in the wrong to do so.
Starfleet is an oddity in that they seem to build their own equipment - we see places like Utopia Planitia, where the ships are built, which are apparently staffed by Starfleet staff. So it may be that Starfleet never has to buy weapons from anybody, since they apparently just build their own. But is that really the difference that the moral disdain is based on? Is their condemnation of Quark really that his clients are purchasing weapons rather than building their own? It seems unlikely.
Rather, the episode seems to be making the argument that simply owning weapons of warfare is wrong. This on a station that is so heavily armed that it can hold off an entire Klingon battle fleet all by itself... attended by one of the most powerful warships in the entire Alpha Quadrant... staffed by a crew that regularly carry hand weapons on missions. Why is it right for Sisko to carry a phaser rifle around, but wrong for Quark's clients to do so?
Of course, the episode tries to simplify this issue for us by making out that all of Quark's customers are Bad People who want to fight wars of aggression with mass civilian casualties. But this is an absurdity, written in purely so that the situation becomes an artificial one in which the "selling weapons is bad" message works. Notice that at no point in the episode does anybody so much as suggest that it is the nature of Quark's customers that is the problem, mind - the fact that Quark dealt in weapons at all is simply assumed to automatically put him in the wrong.
Ask yourself what if some planet on the Cardassian border was terrified by the Dominion takeover there, and wanted to up-gun their defence forces? Would everyone on the station still be condemning Quark for helping such a planet? Or for that matter, consider that Hagath sold weapons to the Bajorans during the occupation. Would Sisko and Dax have come down on him for providing the Bajorans with the means to resist a tyrannical force of occupation?
It's a shame, too, because it would be an easy fix. They already spend time having the characters discuss the morality of the situation. They could easily have noted that Hagath was known only for supplying weapons to "bad guys" who nobody else would supply or something. Instead, the message here seems to be nothing more than "selling guns is bad and you shouldn't do it".