The Ferengi energy whips made their debut appearance in "The Last Outpost". The whip was designed by props master Alan Sims, who noted, "It was a variation of the Star Wars light saber." (Star Trek: Aliens & Artifacts, p. 102)
The energy whip was one of the most challenging props Alan Sims had to deal with in the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. This was largely because it was meant to easily transform from a coiled position to an unfolded, hardened one. Sims later explained, "It had to work mechanically on the set [....] I initially intended it to be something extremely magical, but I was never able to do that because of the time pressures. I had maybe 10 days in which to get it designed and made [....] My first idea was to create a basic skeleton of linkage – think of it like a bicycle chain – so that it could coil up. Then ideally I wanted to be able to release some sort of a tension spring that would send it out forward. Then all these links would lock themselves, and it would stay straight. Remember, we're talking about something that was about six feet long. That would have to be coated with a latex form that looked sort of like a boney structure; basically like a spine. The other dream I had," Sims laughed, "was that I wanted to see this thing coil back up automatically too!" (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 2, Issue 12, pp. 5 & 85-86) However, Sims clarified, "I realized that even if I had to have the Ferengi coil it by hand I wanted the whip to snap out automatically. That was the sine qua non of the prop: automatic snap."
After being sketched by Andrew Probert, the whip was submitted to be assembled, one week before the prop was to be used on-stage. "I brought the Andy Probert sketches to the [Paramount prop] shop to have them manufacture the device," Alan Sims reflected. "And with a seven-day lead time, we all thought this was feasible. As the week passed and I checked in with the shop, I was getting uneasy with the progress being made."
The night before a morning when the whips were needed for their first on-camera usage, Alan Sims learned that they had to be redesigned, news he received from the prop shop. "They called me and told me I'd have to take it somewhere else," Sims stated, "because they couldn't produce it. I thought I would die. How could I take this outside in one night when the cameras roll tomorrow?" (Star Trek: Aliens & Artifacts, p. 102) He reasoned, "We just couldn't get the mechanical effect down, so we had to start from scratch." (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 2, Issue 12, p. 86)
Alan Sims thereafter issued new instructions to the manufacturers. "Now knowing that there would be no automatic function from the grip of the whip, I talked with the studio prop shop about making the whip end out of a band of flexible coiled spring steel that would automatically snap out to its full length when released. The characters would hold it coiled up and then release it, so that it would snap out. Then we'd coat the spring steel with latex to make it sort of organic-looking. But, nonetheless, the effect of the prop had to be that it would snap out and look like an electronically controlled menacing device." (Star Trek: Aliens & Artifacts, pp. 102-103) The prop was then made in such a way. "We took a six-foot length of spring steel and the molded casting went over that," said Sims. "It became really simple. We coiled it up, and, of course, there was a ton of tension on it, so all the actor had to do was release the tip part, and the thing would just uncoil; boing! But it had a recoil effect to it; so instead of snapping out like a stiff salute it would move like a springboard!" (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 2, Issue 12, p. 86)
The fact that the whip reverberated in the air upon Alan Sims first trying out its extension function made him extremely nervous, and further frustrations regarding its uncoiling were to follow, Sims later noting, "It looked kind of funny, actually, like a kid's toy [....] Rick Berman saw me walking up to the set and saw me holding the whips. He stopped me and said, 'How's our Ferengi whip?' I simply showed it to him and uncoiled it. You could tell he was disappointed. This wasn't the way I'd described it. I told him what problems I had with the manufacturer and promised him I'd never let this happen again." Berman accepted the explanation Sims had given him. (Star Trek: Aliens & Artifacts, p. 103) Sims himself remembered, "I learned from that prop that I'd always give myself more time to scout around for just the right material and not rely on the promises of others that they could deliver." (Star Trek: Aliens & Artifacts, p. 103) He also admitted about the uncoiling of the whips, "In the dailies it didn't look that great." (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 2, Issue 12, p. 86) This was despite him believing that smoke on the set was one of two elements that helped cover up the release of the whips. (Star Trek: Aliens & Artifacts, p. 103)
Alan Sims noted that, while the energy whip was undergoing the design process, the decision had been made that "visual effects in post would create this bolt of energy that it fired." (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 2, Issue 12, p. 85) For "The Last Outpost", the blue glow of the energy whips was indeed generated in post-production, by Visual Effects Animator Steve Price and associate Helen Davis. (Cinefex, No. 37, p. 14) Sims concluded, "That bolt of energy covered a million sins." (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 2, Issue 12, p. 86) He cited the visual effects as the second of the two aspects that helped hide the uncoiling of the whips. (Star Trek: Aliens & Artifacts, p. 103)
Along with the fur sash, the energy whip was envisioned as a staple of the Ferengi ensemble. However, the producers felt both contributed to the unintended "silliness" of the Ferengi, and dropped both after the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation in favor of more militaristic uniforms and weapons. (Star Trek Universe)