#DS91sttime: Season 4, Episode 16, “Bar Association”

May 4, 2014 in #DS91sttime, General Topics

Deep Space Nine, Season 4, Episode 16, "Bar Association"

Workers of the bar, unite. Season Four, Ep. 16: “Bar Association”

One aspect of Deep Space Nine that makes it different from the other Treks is its vast ensemble cast of characters. The fact that this isn’t the adventures of the station’s main officers every week is both its strength and a point of contention many have with it. Personally, I find that uniqueness gives the show a special place in Trek canon.

The show’s fourth season has been one of relationship-mending, of resolving loose ends (or, in some cases, making some), arranging the characters for what’s going to be the main Dominion War dish that will be served later on. It’s interesting that as part of this, we’re given two back-to-back episodes that examine brotherhood, allegiances to societal systems, and the tough decisions one sibling must make when pushed by both his people and his family. Worf and Kurn parted ways (regrettably) in “Sons of Mogh”. It’s ironic that “Bar Association”–even with its almost-campy premise–does a better job with its family-centered conflict.

Due to yet another Bajoran religious event, sales are way down at Quark’s, severely impacting his profits for the quarter. Never one to take a loss, Quark decides to mine his employees’ paychecks for the missing latinum, instituting sweeping salary cuts. There’s some lightweight political commentary over the course of this episode, but the more important moments concern Rom’s choices given the situation. When Bashir casually suggests that Rom might want to consider forming a union, the Ferengi reluctantly takes him up on it, in a move that will set himself against not only his brother, but the infamous Ferengi Commerce Authority as well.

In the capitalist-cum-religious doctrine governing Ferengi financial law, the mere mention of the word “union” is enough to have one facing severe penalties, even death. But Rom finds the courage to go forward with forming a union out of the disgruntled bar workers, and they present their demands to Quark, who naturally refuses to grant their terms. This leads to Quark trying all sorts of tricks, such as holographic servers, while the workers go on strike. Then the Commerce Authority’s representative arrives and begins making threats, and suddenly Rom and those he care about are in real danger.

The B-plot is all about Worf and his challenges adapting to life on his station. I would have thought that–given the events of the last episode–his greatest challenge would have been guilt over what he’s recently done to his brother. But no, Worf’s main source of angst comes from having his own quarters robbed, and he spends the episode boring us with his complaints (though the reality check from Odo is an enjoyable scene).

The upside of Worf’s dilemma is that we get to see continued hints at Dax’s attraction to him. Worf is still too dense to notice her overtures, in a way that will remind many TNG watchers of his fling with Troi. By the end of the episode Worf has made a decision that is likewise congruent with what we know about the character, while also seeming to be something of an admittance by the writers that he’s a little out of place. He chooses to move aboard the Defiant, a ship not designed for long-term residence, but which Worf sees as at least an island of Starfleet order.

There’s so much irony in taking a character that hasn’t yet found his fit on the show–some would say Worf was brought in to help resuscitate the series–and depositing him in a ship that was brought in to help resolve constraints imposed by the series’ static setting. Hopefully the Defiant‘s presence will be spun in a way that serves the plot going forward, as opposed to continually being a source of convenient outs away from issues in the series as a whole.

So yeah, back to Rom. His dilemma wraps up after Quark gets served a beating by the Commerce Authority agent. Quark agrees to meet Rom’s demands, on the condition that Rom quit, thus allowing Quark to save face and satisfy the Commerce Authority’s desire that Rom be ruined.

Only, Rom isn’t. In what had been hinted at before as a much better trade for Rom to take, the Ferengi signs on as a station technician. Celebrating his moment of triumph, he gets to demand a drink at Quark’s, but as a customer, not a lackey.

Some might say the episode wraps up with too few consequences for Rom, but I don’t. It’s completely appropriate, given Ferengi wheeling and dealing, for this all to be swept under the rug if certain parties are allowed to save face, and one must remember that Rom’s ability to be involved in commerce is severely damaged by all of this. It’s not like there aren’t long-lasting consequences, even if he doesn’t care much about them. Plus, his having formed a union is still an easier “blight” for the Commerce Authority to get past than the scandal that was handled with a similar shady deal back in “Family Business”. Finally, one must remember that this union was formed far from Ferengi space, as opposed to Ferenginar itself, which I’m sure factored in the Commerce Authority’s decision making.

This was an enjoyable, fun episode about a regular Joe’s struggles with family and his own place in an extraordinary universe. Every episode couldn’t follow this format, but it’s good that some do.

Rating: 3/5 stars.

See the rest of the review series here.

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