Star Trek: Ferengi in Review
IDW wisely tapped My Little Pony and Femme Magnifique author Christina Rice for the Ferengi edition of alien-oriented one-shot comics released by IDW in April 2022. The psychedelic cover showing Ishka, Quark’s mother, triumphantly raising a fist in front of the ’70s queer feminist slogan “The Future is Female” is a poignant and clear indicator of the comic’s contents… but more on that later.
Easy on the Eyes
The fluid composition of the beginning is a high point, both from a storytelling and artistic perspective. The banter between Chief Medical Officer Bashir and Quark is a testament to how studied the author is of the source material, as so many great Deep Space Nine episodes open with Quark’s charming opportunism clashing with Starfleet’s principles. One classic scene in DS9’s “The Way of the Warrior” is referenced here, with Quark sneering at Bashir’s preference of root beer over Slug-o-Cola, with root beer becoming a metaphor for the “cloying” and “insidious” nature of the Federation.
The forward movement of the story is triggered organically when Quark believes he spots his mother aboard the station and proceeds to follow the mysterious cloaked figure, pushing everyone out of his way. This gives narrative logic to a series of run-ins he has with the other well-known cast members of Deep Space Nine. However, it’s odd to see Captain Sisko in a baseball uniform in the middle of the page, not saying anything, as if he’s a static piece of a mural in a deli.
In this comic, the other members of the Deep Space Nine crew besides the Ferengi are rendered as little more than static images. I wish they interfaced with the story beyond a cameo. As for the Ferengi?
Ill-Conceived Beginnings: A Background
The comic’s deep exploration of Ferengi culture obviously has a wealth of televisual precursors. In particular, it was something of a tradition for DS9 to have episodes centered around the comedic, ill-fated hijinks and schemes of the Ferengi. But when it came time for a feminist revolution on Ferenginar where the planet’s women were pushing for access to public life by having access to clothes, the episode “Profit and Lace” decided to make a joke of their struggle in a transphobic and sexist fashion. Quark wearing drag to convince a potential business partner that he was a woman was not the hilarious joke the writers believed it was. The episode is one of my least favorite installments of DS9.
In reality, the Ferengi practice of forcing women to be nude as a means of subjugation is one of the most deplorable concepts associated with aliens allied with the Federation. However, the Federation values the strategic relationship with the Ferengi over ethics, and conveniently bypasses cross-examining this oppressive practice by way of cultural relativism and plausible deniability, hiding behind the Prime Directive.
The Future is Actually Female This Time
In this comic, Christina Rice has deftly taken “Profit and Lace” and reimagined it to finally make the premise as impactful as it originally should have been. Thankfully, Rice has removed any trace of the problematic elements that robbed “Profit and Lace” of its potential. Ferengi women in this issue are not pleading their case to Ferengi men for freedom from their homes. Ishka remains conscious and actively present throughout, the hero of the story. Rom is far more than just a plucky bystander, commenting on how well Quark “passes” as a woman. Quark remains significantly involved, albeit for a predictable reason: profit. The stakes remain appropriately high. In this issue, Ishka doesn’t revolutionize Ferenginar so that she too may have access to the same oppressive capitalist power as Ferengi males have.
Another glaring omission in this iteration of the tale is Grand Nagus Zek. Ishka’s goal in the comic is instead inextricably connected with another Ferengi revolutionary: Pel. In an episode called “Rules of Acquisition”, she is shown in drag as a Ferengi male, in order to conduct business. Access to business — therefore access to money and power — was strictly for men in Ferengi society, so this was… risky business. The result of her gender being found out was not the “hilarious” yuck-fest that was Quark’s drag performance in “Profit and Lace”. Despite the financial success that her negotiation skills created, Pel was banished to the Gamma Quadrant by none other than Grand Nagus Zek. This creates a natural landing pad for any other Ferengi women looking for a new start. Unsurprisingly, there are many.
Without Ferengi women being consigned to illiteracy and domestic servitude, Ferenginar itself would cease to function. The frightening oppression of this patriarchal system was highlighted by setting most of the comic on Ferenginar rather than the space station. The consequences of being found out as refugees are as clear as the waters of the famous Great River.
For me, the story presented in this comic is now head-canon’d in place of “Profit and Lace”. It is just that good.