(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 has been there at least twice, the other end could be fixed. Events 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 Junior Grade Tom Paris are sent to the planet to investigate. When they get to the town, they are soon accosted by people asking them to either buy or sell things. These people also reference "seers" and the "Sages" as they speak to them. Chakotay detects the energy signature coming from a nearby temple of sorts, but a merchant tells them they need to wear a set of 'ears' (a necklace with ear-shaped 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, in fact, lead to the Alpha Quadrant, and they are working on a way to attract the entrance back to their position.
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. Chakotay and Paris are shocked to recognize them: the two Sages are Ferengi! The Sages lead the townspeople in chanting "Greed is Eternal", which is one of the Rules of Acquisition.
The Ferengi then accept 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, forcing 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 used their advanced technology to exploit the local myth, which foretold that Great Sages were prophesied to come from the sky in a ball of fire. Tuvok has solved the mystery of how the Ferengi arrived in the Delta Quadrant: several years earlier, while the USS Enterprise-D was hosting negotiations for the rights to the Barzan wormhole (negotiations that collapsed when it was discovered that one of its endpoints 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 have hosted 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 Takarians' 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 might also think it's part of the legend about the sages. Begging the question of how to get the Ferengi to voluntarily leave behind a planet which they've completely monopolized, the Voyager officers come to the conclusion that since a Ferengi is driven by profit, they need to make it profitable for them to leave, or at least less profitable to stay.
Neelix then attempts to imitate the Grand Proxy, representative of the Grand Nagus, telling Arridor and Kol that Zek has recalled them. They are shocked, but their servant, Kafar, is pleased. The Ferengi are told the Grand Nagus wants to appropriate their holdings and replace them on the planet. The two try to argue they are themselves required for their endeavor, and they will give the Nagus a cut of their profits, but the Proxy has his orders. He orders them to give a speech in which they intend to leave, so as to not upset the local population. Arridor is determined to use the Rules and all its commentary to find a loophole, but to no avail. Arridor decides to invoke the 'unwritten rule' – if no rules apply, make one up. In this case, he wants to kill the messenger.
Outside, Neelix is giving out part of the profits to the local people, then comes back in to approve their speech. Shockingly, he finds that the two now are trying to kill him with swords. Neelix immediately drops his cover and admits he is a Talaxian from Voyager. The Ferengi let him go instead, then announce happily that they've won again.
Neelix leaves the temple and informs Chakotay and Paris of his failure. However, his Ferengi disguise would still pay off, as he was believed to be a "holy one", or "Greater Sage" by the Takarian bard they met earlier. He recites the songs to them, hoping for payment, however, Chakotay suspects this could help them. Once Chakotay paid off the bard, they realize there's a verse about the Sages' departure from the planet. The bard excitedly points to Neelix and knows who he is, and this gives them a plan.
Later, the three get ready and Neelix steps up to the temple entrance. Posing as the Holy Pilgrim, Neelix drew on myth in the Song of the Sages about their departure. The Ferengi hear the commotion and come out, though, fortunately, they don't know the whole song. Arridor tries to convince the people Neelix is a false Pilgrim, but then Voyager utilizes three photon bursts to further fulfill the part about the appearance of three new stars in the sky. Arridor then appeals to Kafar, however, Kafar has had it with how he's been treated and starts ringing the gong, as per the song.
The plan goes awry, soon, though, when Kafar also recites the part when the Sages will go "riding on the wings of fire". The Takarians attempt to burn Arridor, Kol, and Neelix at the stake. Unfortunately, the Ferengi's dampening field is preventing them from being able to beam out.
Chakotay and Paris hurriedly ask where the field is being generated from, and they successfully find it and destroy it. They are all promptly beamed out, and Kafar announces they've left, 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. As the two Ferengi are pulled into the wormhole, Voyager tries to pursue them, but soon discovers that the graviton impulse has further 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 still stranded in the Delta Quadrant. The Ferengi however are lost in space between the Quadrants.
- "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."
"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
- This episode is 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
- 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
- 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 – that 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 a 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 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
- Despite being the 5th episode in this season, the stardate establishes the events of this episode as having occurred after the season premiere "Basics, Part II" but before the next three episodes ("Flashback", "The Chute", and "The Swarm"). The stardate also places the events of this episode after those of the 7th episode "Sacred Ground".
- Arridor and Kol previously appeared in Star Trek: The Next Generation in its third-season episode TNG: "The Price". The Barzan wormhole also featured in that episode.
- This episode features several aspects of Ferengi culture introduced in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, including the Grand Nagus and Rules of Acquisition, both introduced in the first-season episode "The Nagus", and the Ferengi afterlife the Divine Treasury, introduced in the fourth-season episode "Little Green Men".
- Much of the premise of Voyager is based on elements from TNG: "The Price", the first episode to refer to the "Delta Quadrant" and establish its extreme distance (Picard suggests it would take 80 years to reach Arridor and Kol).
- 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)
- Reference to 47: It is revealed here that there are 47 commentaries on the Rules of Acquisition, along with 900 major and minor judgements and over 10,000 interpretive opinions derived from the Rules. Obviously, these figures would have been accurate only as of the time that Kol and Arridor became stranded in the Delta Quadrant.
- Referenced Rules of Acquisition: #95 ("Expand or die"). Rule #299 is also cited ("Whenever you exploit someone, it never hurts to thank them. That way, it's easier to exploit them the next time") but this is invented as a deception.
- Kol states that there are 285 Rules of Acquisition. This number is also given in the Deep Space 9 episode "Rules of Acquisition", implying that no further rules had been created between TNG: "The Price" and that episode.
- Arridor claims that "there's a rule for every conceivable situation", but later invokes "the unwritten rule" ("When no appropriate rule applies, make one up"), which conveniently allows for itself.
- A Ferengi replicator is seen for the first time in this episode.
- This is the fifth time the crew of Voyager discover a direct connection between the Alpha Quadrant and Delta Quadrant, having previously discovered a wormhole connecting the two quadrants ("Eye of the Needle"), descendants of human abductees ("The 37's"), descendants of aliens who have visited Earth ("Tattoo"), and a Cardassian weapon ("Dreadnought").
- The Barzan wormhole represents the seventh time besides the series premiere (after "Eye of the Needle", "Prime Factors", "The 37's", "Cold Fire", "Threshold", and "Death Wish") that the Voyager crew has a possibility of returning home.
- While Dan Shor reprises his role of Arridor, as well as the Ferengi shuttle exterior appearing the same as in "The Price", the interior cockpit of the Ferengi shuttle is completely different from that seen in the prequel episode.
Reception and aftermath
- 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". Additionally, Lou Anders, a writer of the magazine, wrote a review of the episode, in which he stated, "'False Profits' is a wonderful premise that doesn't quite live up to its expectations. There are some great comedic moments, but all in all, 'False Profits' seems more in keeping with Star Trek: Voyager's first two seasons, and does not match the bold work done in the rest of season three to date." (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
- 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 references
- 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
- 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
- Christine Artecona as Takarian temple woman
- Kimm Collinsworth as Takarian temple woman
- Maria Dykstra as Takarian
- Tarik Ergin as Ayala
- Angela Lloyd as Takarian temple woman
- Shepard Ross as Murphy
- Bob Shuttleworth as Takarian
- Linnea Soohoo as Takarian
- Unknown performers as two Takarians
- Doc Charbonneau as stunt double for Leslie Jordan
- George Colucci as stunt double for Dan Shor
- Rick Sawaya as stunt double for Ethan Phillips
47; Alpha Quadrant; annotated; annular confinement beam; Arridor's shuttle; Barzan wormhole; bell; binding; Bronze Age; child labor; class M; cloud; concussion; containment field; dampening field; Delta Quadrant; demigod; discount; Divine Treasury; dog; duty bound; ear (fetish); Eastern lights; Enterprise-D, USS; epic poem; eyepatch; Federation; Ferengi; Fetish; Rules of Acquisition; Ferengi shuttle; frang; Ga'nah Province; Grand Nagus; Grand Nagus' staff; Grand Proxy; gravimetric shift; gravitational eddy; graviton; Great Sage (aka Greater Sage); Holy icon; Holy Pilgrim; Holy Sages; hood; impulse burst; ionic disruption field; Lesser Sage; lobe rub; logic; matter-antimatter generator; messenger; metallurgical analysis; Milky Way Galaxy; mining; minor functionary; miracle worker; mother-in-law; ointment; phase profile; photon burst; plasma; pre-industrial civilization; Prime Directive; quadruple lobe rub; reconnaissance probe; replicator; ribbon; sad; sandal maker; seer; sentry; shuttlebay door; sky; solar flare; Song of the Sages; subspace axis; subspace carrier wave; subspace frequency; subspace instability; sue; tail; Takar; Takarian; Takarian city; Takarian homeworld; Talaxian; technology; temple; temple square/town square; verteron; wagging; white; wormhole; year; Zek
- "False Profits" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "False Profits" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "False Profits" at Wikipedia
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