WARNING: This article contains spoilers for DS9's "Family Business" -- unless spoiler information is your business, I recommend caution.
In brief: Avoid this. The few reasonable Sisko moments do not even begin to outweigh an unwatchable main story.
Brief summary: Quark returns to the Ferengi homeworld to confront his mother, who is guilty of earning profit on her own.
I'm short on time this week, and also am looking forward to getting my memories of "Family Business" purged, so I'll keep this quick.
Ferengi episodes, at least for me, have gotten progressively less and less enjoyable over DS9's tenure as a series. Although season 1's "The Nagus" was hugely entertaining, the best one since then is probably "The House of Quark", which was no more than adequate -- and what with "Rules of Acquisition", "Prophet Motive", and now "Family Business", I'm coming to the conclusion that trying to work cultural shows around Quark and his fellow Ferengi is an experiment gone wrong.
Here, after all, is a race that was originally intended to be TNG's major villain -- an idea abandoned about two seconds after "The Last Outpost" aired, it seems. More than that, the race is very explicitly a caricature, specifically of capitalist ideas. Regardless of the wisdom of creating a long-term race merely to serve as a caricature, it means that any "cultural" show about them has to either milk or defeat that caricature -- and with the exception of "The Nagus" (which milked it, and how), no show has managed it.
"Family Business" certainly didn't, but I'm at a loss to explain how anyone thought it would have a chance of doing so. The attempted message about the role of Ferengi women was very nearly the same one we saw in "Rules of Acquisition", after all -- and it didn't work there, so why should here be any different? The rest of the show was basically showing off Ferengi traditions (the entering-a-home ritual, the coin-boxes at everything, the FCA) or exceedingly bad "she loved you best" soap opera dialogue. (This last element was brought to a head in the Quark/Rom fight, which in light of the Picard/Robert battle in TNG's "[[Family]" made me acutely aware of the differences in quality between the two episodes.)
Speaking of the "message" on women here, it seems to be a little poorly handled. Both here and in "Rules of Acquisition", we had Ferengi female characters that "were the match of any male" in their abilities. All well and good. But in placing them in the middle of shows that are such caricatures of society, it rather subtly suggests
that independent and able women also deserve ridicule -- in short, it can in some ways be used to justify exactly the sort of treatment that we're supposed to be laughing at here. Doesn't strike me as a particularly good idea, that.
I'd love to say something positive about the Ferengi elements of the show, but quite frankly I can't -- I found that side of the story very nearly unwatchable. The dinner scene with Ishka and her two sons was unpleasant (and Rom's "hey-yup, this is just like the old days" effectively removes any chance the episode could have of giving
him depth, which was clearly what the ending was trying to do); the rest of the Ferengi we saw were no more than one-note examples of greed; the "she loved you best" moments were trite; and the idea of making Rom the grownup at the end, while not a bad twist to the story in and of itself, is more an example of bringing all the other characters down than of bringing him up to a more interesting level. To sum it up, Lisa walked out in the middle of the show (coming back for the Sisko scenes), and I was tempted on several occasions to join her.
Fortunately, the B-plot was somewhat better. It wasn't, alas, fantastic -- but unlike Quark's plot, it didn't have two strikes against it from its conception. Although the Sisko-meets-Yates, Sisko-gets-along-with-Yates, Sisko-connects-with-Yates story was about as hard to predict as tomorrow's sunrise, it had the benefit of some nice dialogue and actually being about a character. From Jake's line about Sisko's cooking habits ("you only cook Hungarian food when you're in a really good mood"), to the baseball connection used to provide Sisko and Yates with a link to each other, there were signs that both the writers and directors (not to mention Brooks et al.) understand Sisko fairly well and know how to write for him. That may not sound like much, but it's enough to take the sharpest edges off my annoyance with the rest of the show.
[And, of course, the image of O'Brien and Bashir trying to break into Quark's to get their dart board back was priceless. The way the scene turned around and put Sisko back in the glare of the lights was good, of course, but I just like the concept of the chief engineer and CMO of an entire space station trying to crack a lock on a bar without success. It was the only successfully silly moment of the show.]
That pretty much covers the show as a whole, I think. A couple of very short takes, then, and I'm off:
-- The phrase "oh, joy. NAKED Ferengi females. Now I can truly die happy" was, in fact, not even remotely close to being said this week. Something like "I can't believe the show's stooping this low" would probably be more appropriate.
-- Back when TNG's "Aquiel" aired, someone wise (I'm afraid I've forgotten who) made the point that the most annoying word ever used repeatedly on a Trek episode would have to be "pooch". I pretty much agreed then. However, "pooch" has now been dethroned. In a word: "moogy". I'd rather not ever hear it again.
That's it. So, all in all:
Writing: Well, Behr & Wolfe seem to have a handle on Sisko (as well they should!), but exactly where the concept of writing talent went to for the rest of the show escapes me. Bad caricaturish soap opera that does not, alas, even have the saving grace of being particularly funny.
Directing: It's difficult for me to tell when the base to work from is this weak. I don't recall anything jumping out at me as bad direction, but I don't recall much on the direction at all.
Acting: Good from most of the station personnel. The Ferengi -- better left unsaid.
OVERALL: A 2.5 -- DS9's worst of the season, save "Fascination". With only three episodes left this season, I really really hope it stays that way.
Kira, her old resistance leader, civil war -- and who will Winn?
Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
"You only cook Hungarian food when you're in a really good mood."
-- Jake Sisko