“They’re greedy, misogynistic, untrustworthy little trolls, and I wouldn’t turn my back on one of them for a second.”
Even a backward culture, such as the Ferengi, has to acknowledge their trail-blazers. Pel is one such trail-blazer; a small, willowy little thing with a high voice who has all the right instincts for profit and negotiation. When the Grand Nagus, the disgusting little troll Zek (Wallace Shawn), visits the station, he has a business proposition for Quark. He wants Quark to host meetings with a horrifying race from the Gamma Quadrant called the Dosi (led by the great Brian Thompson) so that he can export something called tulaberry wine. In my imagination, tulaberries taste like strawberries, perhaps with a little more bite.
Zek tries to grease the palms of the Bajorans so he can use the station to host the meetings. He even gives Kira a latinum earring which she refuses. Quark is so impressed with his new waiter, Pel’s business acumen, that he requests his services as a consultant in exchange for 20% of Quark’s profits from the deal with the Dosi. Pel isn’t really interested in money, though. I mean, he is, but not to such a black and white, rich or poor edge as other Ferengi. Pel is in love with Quark. I know what you’re thinking. No, this is not a Ferin-gay fantasy.
Pel is a woman. Again, I know what you’re thinking. How can you tell? Well, she wears prosthetic ears. Ferengi females have smaller ears than the males. They also have breasts, but the bizarre tuxedos they wear tend to cover their umm … honkers. This is a Ferengi version of Yentl with Pel subbing for Babs. The Ferengi meter their capitalist prowess by the size of their ears, which probably indicates why their society is so rigidly patriarchal. If the females have small ears, they obviously have no ear for opportunity and profit. The females are not permitted to have jobs, wear clothing, or leave their homes, so you can imagine all the infractions Pel has accumulated over the years. Of course, we know the real story, the between-the-lines thesis of the Ferengi: they’re supposed to be us, right now. More accurately, ugly little men (with over-active libidos to boot) devoted to making as much money as they possibly can before they kick the bucket because there is a special place in their coffin where they can hide all their money and take it with them into the after-life. Their perception of females is one of jealousy and fear, not any notions of superiority. Great strides would be taken in Deep Space Nine’s run to make the Ferengi more progressive, but I can’t imagine the revolution occurring in so short a time.
Pel and Quark take Zek’s ship to the Gamma Quadrant to track down the Dosi who have refused to supply something like a hundred-thousand vats of tulaberry wine. The Dosi don’t have a hundred-thousand vats of tulaberry wine, but they know how to get it, and this is when we get the first inkling of the real power in the Gamma Quadrant. If the Ferengi want a hundred-thousand vats of tulaberry wine, they’ll have to deal with … THE DOMINION! Pel makes an advance on Quark, and Quark (hilariously) blocks it out like it never happened. Ferengi can be willfully obtuse when they want to be. Even Dax knows there’s something fishy about Pel. She doesn’t come right to the conclusion that Pel is actually a female.
It might be interesting for a 300-year-old Trill to consider a possibly gay Ferengi, but she’s almost floored (and delighted) to see that Pel is a chick! I think it’s darling, but Zek’s reaction, upon her discovery, is appropriately cringe-worthy. Quark protects Pel by threatening to make public Zek’s previous approval of her. Zek agrees to Quark’s peculiar brand of blackmail, but he rescinds his offer of a revenue split from profits garnered from the Gamma Quadrant. The “love story” aspect of the episode feels a bit forced, but other than that, this is a very entertaining episode.
Twice a week, Star Trek Rewind explores the Star Trek universe. From Archer to Janeway, Kirk to Picard, and Georgiou to Sisko — boldly read what no one has read before!
For more insane Star Trek babble, check out my podcast (with co-host David B. Anderson), Ship to Ship: A Star Trek Podcast.