(written from a Production point of view)
Voyager discovers a pair of Ferengi who control the economy of a primitive world; nearby is an unstable wormhole that leads back home.
The crew of USS Voyager find evidence of a wormhole having recently appeared and disappeared in a nearby solar system, and reason that since it's been there at least twice then the other end may be fixed. However things take a mysterious turn when Tuvok detects evidence that a nearby primitive planet, whose civilization is still in the Bronze Age, contains an energy discharge consistent with those that come from Alpha Quadrant replicators. Commander Chakotay and Lieutenant jg Tom Paris are sent to the planet to investigate.
Beaming down to the planet, Chakotay and Paris are accosted by people asking them to either buy or sell things. Chakotay detects the energy signature coming from a nearby temple of sorts, however a merchant tells them they need to wear a set of 'ears' (a necklace with ear-shapes charms) and manages to get them to sell their shoes. Meanwhile, on Voyager, Ensign Kim and Lieutenant Torres confirm to Captain Janeway that the wormhole does lead to the Alpha Quadrant and are working on a way to attract the entrance back to their position.
As Chakotay and Paris continue to explore the town now wearing 'ears' around their neck. Suddenly, a commotion begins when it is announced that the two Great Sages are about to emerge. The two emerge and Chakotay and Paris are shocked to recognize them... the two sages are Ferengi! The two Ferengi lead the townspeople in chanting "Greed is Eternal" which is one of the Rules of Acquisition before accepting pleas from the crowd. It is soon clear that the Ferengi use the replicator they possess to rule over the townspeople, keeping themselves in obscene luxury while everyone else is destitute and struggling to even feed themselves or keep a roof over their heads. The two Ferengi listen as a man, a sandal maker, begs for food and medicine to help him care for his wife's ill mother and young children. Instead of helping, the Ferengi rebuke him for not putting them to work and provide him with a copy of the written Rules of Acquisition then force him to pay for it. After that, the two swindlers decide to retire for the day.
Chakotay and Paris report this to the rest of the Voyager crew, explaining how the Ferengi have exploited the local myth, which fortold that Great Sages were prophesied to come from the sky in a ball of fire, using their advanced technology. Tuvok has solved the mystery of how the Ferengi arrived in the Delta Quadrant; several years earlier, while the USS Enterprise was hosting negotiations for the rights to the Barzan wormhole (which collapsed when it was discovered that one of the points wasn't fixed) the two Ferengi, Arridor and Kol, who were minor functionaries, became trapped in the Delta Quadrant during an ill-thought out attempt to secure it for themselves. Janeway decides that they're not going to just leave the innocent Takarians to be used and exploited any longer, feeling that the Federation is partially responsible for what has happened since they were the ones to host the negotiations in the first place. The plan is to take Arridor and Kol back to the Alpha Quadrant and turn them over to the Ferengi authorities.
As Arridor and Kol celebrate another good day's lack of work, they are beamed up by Voyager, and Captain Janeway explains that they're trying to attract the Barzan Wormhole back, but even if they don't succeed the Ferengi are leaving the Takarians for good. Arridor and Kol, obviously unhappy at being snatched from their opulence, explain that they could easily actually be the Great Sages.... their burning ship provided the ball of fire, their replicator provides 'miracles' and for the Takarians, if their gods were to just vanish it could lead to disaster for the people. Realizing that just removing the Ferengi could completely destroy the Takarian's religious beliefs, Janeway orders them beamed back down. The crew discuss the situation, agreeing they can't kidnap the two Ferengi but can't leave them behind either. Janeway suggests thinking of a way to get them to leave voluntarily; not only would the Takarians be prepared for it but they may also think its part of the legend about the sages. This leaves the question of how to get the Ferengi to voluntarily leave behind a planet which they've completely monopolized, and come to the conclusion that since a Ferengi is driven by profit they need to make it profitable to leave... or rather, less profitable to stay.
Neelix then attempts to imitate the Grand Proxy, representative of the Grand Nagus, and tells Arridor and Kol that Zek has recalled them but to no avail – the Ferengi on planet invoke the 'unwritten rule' – if no rules apply, make one up. The Ferengi discover his plot due to this rule (the new rule was if the Proxy attempts to take them to the Nagus, kill him). However, his Ferengi disguise would still pay off, as he was believed to be a "holy one", or "Greater Sage." Once Chakotay paid off the Takarian bard who tried to collect money from them before for the tale of the fate of the Sages, Neelix was able to enact a plan. Posing as the Holy Pilgrim, Neelix drew on myth in the Song of the Sages about their departure. Voyager utilizes three photon bursts to further fulfill the part about the appearance of three new stars in the sky. The Takarians attempt to burn Arridor, Kol, and Neelix at the stake, as the song states that the Sages will go "riding on the wings of fire". Fortunately, Voyager beams them out in time, fulfilling the Takarian prophecies about the Sages returning to the skies.
Voyager is now ready to pass through the wormhole and return in the Alpha Quadrant, but Arridor and Kol manage to overwhelm two security guards and to escape from the ship with their shuttle. Voyager tries to beam them back, but they emit a graviton impulse in order to avoid transport. The two Ferengi are pulled into the wormhole, Voyager tries to pursue them but soon discovers that the graviton impulse has definitively destabilized the wormhole, knocking it off its axis so that it begins jumping erratically on both ends. This not only allows the Ferengi to flee, but also leaves Voyager and its crew stranded in the Delta Quadrant.
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Log entries Edit
- "Captain's log, stardate 50074.3. We have detected evidence that a wormhole recently appeared, and then disappeared, in a nearby solar system. We're on our way there to investigate."
- "Captain's log, stardate 50074.5. Based on information provided by the probe, we have replicated local attire for Commander Chakotay and Lieutenant Paris. They have gone to the surface to investigate."
- "Captain's log, supplemental. I've been asked to join Lieutenant Torres and Ensign Kim in the science lab to hear what they've termed as 'very exciting news'."
- "Captain's log, supplemental. The away team has returned with some very disturbing observations about the situation on the planet."
Memorable quotes Edit
"My sandal shop is failing. I can no longer feed my family."
"Same old song."
"My wife and her mother, my five children, the baby."
"That's seven employees - eight, if you count the infant. How can your shop be failing?"
"You're not paying them, are you?"
- - The sandal maker, Arridor and Kol
"What are we going to do?"
"What a Ferengi always does in a situation this grave."
"No, you idiot! He goes to the Rules of Acquisition. Unabridged and fully annotated with all 47 commentaries, all 900 major and minor judgments, all 10,000 considered opinions. There's a rule for every conceivable situation."
- - Kol and Arridor
"Grand proxy, avoidance of... Mm-mm."
"Grand proxy, censure by..."
"Grand proxy, encounters with..."
"See... 'hopeless situation.'"
- - Arridor, trying to find a way around following the Grand Proxy's orders
"I told you there was no rule."
"Then it's time to invoke the unwritten rule."
"The unwritten rule?"
"When no appropriate rule applies... make one up."
"That's a very good rule."
- - Arridor and Kol
"Who's to say we aren't their sages, captain?"
"Don't be ridiculous."
"You mean... we really are the sages?"
- - Arridor, Captain Janeway and Kol
"We won. We won!"
"No, my friend. Not exactly. To be precise... we won again."
- - Kol and Arridor
"But how do we get two Ferengi to just walk away from a monopoly on an entire economy?"
"What motivates a Ferengi?"
"Then we must find a way to make it more profitable for them to leave."
"Or less profitable to stay."
"How do we do that?"
"We have to out-Ferengi... the Ferengi."
- Tom Paris, Captain Janeway, Tuvok and Neelix about the plot with Neelix pretending to be Grand Proxy
"And may I say gentlemen, you both have very fine shoes."
"Well, the sages say you can tell a great deal about a man from his shoes, and I can tell from your shoes, you're men of refinement."
- - Merchant to Tom Paris and Chakotay
"What is it now?"
"We had seven years of pure profit."
(laughing) "We did, didn't we?"
- - Kol and Arridor while being burned
Background information Edit
Introductory details Edit
- This episode is essentially a sequel to the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Price", which also features the characters of Arridor and Kol.
- This episode was the second (in production order) of four episodes that were written and produced during Star Trek: Voyager's second season but intentionally held back for inclusion in its third season, the other episodes being "Sacred Ground", "Flashback" and "Basics, Part II". (Star Trek: Voyager Companion)
Story and script Edit
- This episode had the working titles "The Visitors", "Penitence", and "Untitled Ferengi Story". 
- This was the first episode that returning Star Trek staff writer Joe Menosky was involved in writing after a four-year stint of working and living in France, he having previously served as a staff writer on Star Trek: The Next Generation. (Star Trek Monthly issue 20) In fact, this Star Trek episode was one of several that Menosky wrote while still in Europe, prior to him joining the writing staff of Voyager for its third season. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, No. 6/7, p. 90)
- The development of this episode was an attempt to appeal to the popularity of the sinister Ferengi and to utilize their comedic potential. Director Cliff Bole explained, "This was the producers' attempt to get some of the little, evil Ferengi into the series because they're so well-liked and accepted by the fans. We call them the 'Peter Lorres of space,' you know? The producers wanted some lightness, some comedy." (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine, issue #15)
- This episode's final script draft was submitted on 15 March 1996. 
Cast and characters Edit
- For this episode, the producers of Voyager went to the trouble of bringing back actor Dan Shor to reprise his role of Arridor but – because Kol is portrayed, in "The Price," by uncredited, non-speaking extra J.R. Quinonez – the role had to be recast; actor Leslie Jordan plays Kol here.
- Because Neelix poses as the Ferengi Grand Proxy in this episode, Neelix actor Ethan Phillips portrayed the faux Ferengi. Phillips previously played a real Ferengi, Dr. Farek, in TNG: "Ménage à Troi", and would later play another one, Ulis, in ENT: "Acquisition". Phillips said of this episode, "It was a lot of fun to do. I actually played a Ferengi before [...] so it was funny to get the Ferengi make-up on again." (Star Trek Monthly issue 20) On the other hand, Phillips also recalled, "I was sick as a dog right throughout the filming of that episode, which was a shame because I wanted to have more fun with it than I did." (Star Trek Monthly issue 21) Cliff Bole said of Phillips' performance here, "Ethan was fun as a Ferengi." (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine, issue #15)
- Other than appearing as Kafar here, actor Rob LaBelle also portrayed two Talaxians in Star Trek: Voyager, portraying an unnamed Talaxian prisoner in the first season episode "Faces" and Oxilon in Season 7's "Homestead". LaBelle, who had been an avid watcher of original series Star Trek reruns while in graduate school, enjoyed appearing in this installment. "It was terrific yet again to be part of the show," he said. (TV Zone, special #23, p. 17)
- The marketplace set for this episode was built on Paramount Stage 6. According to set designer Richard James, the set was "practically constructed in 24 hours." (Star Trek: Communicator, issue #111, p. 54)
- The exterior of the Ferengi shuttle in this episode was a reuse of the Ferengi shuttle studio model. (Delta Quadrant, p. 141)
- According to the unauthorized reference book Delta Quadrant (p. 141), most of the Ferengi props in this episode were also reused items – specifically, from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
- Richard James and Star Trek: Communicator visited the marketplace set during a break from filming, at which time the actors wearing Ferengi makeup were reading magazines, the scantily-clad female extras playing the Takarian females were anxiously waiting at the sides of the set, and main cast members Robert Beltran and Robert Duncan McNeill were standing around, laughing and playing practical jokes such as McNeill making rabbit ears over James' head at one point. (Star Trek: Communicator, issue #111, p. 54)
Continuity and trivia Edit
- This episode's in-universe connections with the other Star Trek spin-off series do not only include the fact that Arridor and Kol appear in both this episode and TNG: "The Price"; the Barzan wormhole also features in both episodes, whereas the Rules of Acquisition and the Divine Treasury were introduced in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It should also be noted that much of the premise of Voyager is based on references from TNG: "The Price", the first show to purportedly refer to the "Delta Quadrant" (Picard refers also to the Gamma Quadrant as the location of the other terminus of the Barzan wormhole in his opening Captain's log in TNG: "The Price", where the wormhole was originally believed to lead to) and establish its extreme distance, and tendency for unstable spatial phenomena, such as wormholes. Furthermore, the concept of Ferengi posing as gods harkens back to "Ferengi Gold", an abandoned two-parter planned by Gene Roddenberry to be included in Star Trek: The Next Generation's second season. (Star Trek Monthly issue 26, p. 27)
- It is revealed here that there are 47 commentaries on the Rules of Acquisition, and over 10,000 interpretive opinions derived from the Rules.
- Referenced Rules of Acquisition: #95; a #299 was referenced but is fake.
- Arridor's Unwritten Rule of Acquisition: When no appropriate rule applies, make one up.
- The events of this episode represent the seventh time (aside from the series premiere) that the Voyager crew has a possibility of returning home.
Reception and aftermath Edit
- This episode achieved a Nielsen rating of 4.3 million homes, and a 7% share. 
- Cinefantastique rated this episode 1 out of 4 stars. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, No. 6/7, p. 90)
- Star Trek Monthly scored this episode 2 out of 5 stars, defined as "Impulse Power only". (Star Trek Monthly issue 24, p. 59)
- The book Delta Quadrant (p. 143) gives this installment a rating of 8 out of 10.
- After having directed this episode, Cliff Bole came to the opinion that he had made the installment somewhat too silly. "That one is 'Cliff's Folly,'" he said of the episode. "In fact, everyone should join in on that." Moments later, Bole remarked that this episode's level of comedy "went overboard." He continued by saying of the installment, "I don't think the studio was too happy with it, but they did get a lot of positive mail on it. It's not one of my favorites [....] It just got a little bit too silly. I'll take the hit for it, because I let everyone go a little too far. We were all enjoying the fact that it wasn't another new villainous character. And those damn Ferengi are so much fun to work with." (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine, issue #15)
- This episode was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Costume Design for a Series (Robert Blackman).
- Among the items from this episode which were sold off on the It's A Wrap! sale and auction on eBay is a Ferengi ear jewelry lot.  
Video and DVD releases Edit
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 3.3, 24 February 1997
- As part of the VOY Season 3 DVD collection
Links and referencesEdit
- Robert Beltran as Commander Chakotay
- Roxann Dawson as Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres
- Jennifer Lien as Kes
- Robert Duncan McNeill as Lieutenant Tom Paris
- Ethan Phillips as Neelix
- Robert Picardo as The Doctor
- Tim Russ as Lieutenant Tuvok
- Garrett Wang as Ensign Harry Kim
Guest stars Edit
- Dan Shor as Arridor
- Leslie Jordan as Kol
- Michael Ensign as the bard
- Rob LaBelle as Kafar
- Alan Altshuld as the sandal maker
- John Walter Davis as the merchant
Uncredited co-stars Edit
- Christine Artecona as Takarian female
- Kimm Collinsworth as Takarian female
- Tarik Ergin as Ayala
- Shepard Ross as Murphy
- Bob Shuttleworth as Takarian
- Unknown performers as
47; Alpha Quadrant; annular confinement beam; Barzan wormhole; binding; Bronze Age; child labor; class M; concussion; containment field; dampening field; Delta Quadrant; Divine Treasury; Enterprise-D, USS; epic poem; eyepatch; Federation; Ferengi; Rules of Acquisition; Ferengi shuttle; frang; Ga'nah Province; Grand Nagus; Grand Nagus' staff; Grand Proxy; gravimetric shift; gravitational eddy; graviton; Great Sages; Holy Pilgrim; impulse burst; ionic disruption field; lawsuit; logic; messenger; metallurgical analysis; Milky Way Galaxy; mining; phase profile; photon burst; plasma; pre-warp; quadruple lobe rub; reconnaissance probe; replicator; sandal maker; solar flare; Song of the Sages; subspace axis; subspace carrier wave; subspace frequency; subspace instability; Takar; Takarian; Talaxian; verteron; wormhole; Zek
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