(written from a Production point of view)
Grand Nagus Zek assigns Quark to initiate negotiations with a planet in the Gamma Quadrant, but Quark's new associate is not what he seems.
In Quark's, a group of Ferengi are playing a late-night game of tongo – as is Lieutenant Jadzia Dax. She informs Quark and his friends that Curzon used to play the game, but she is a better player than Curzon ever was. One of the newer waiters, Pel, makes a profitable suggestion to Quark during the game and introduces him to sand peas, which he says Quark can use to double beverage profits. While Rom is threatened, Quark is impressed, but before the conversation can continue, an alarm goes off to indicate a subspace communication on Grand Nagus Zek's personal channel. The Nagus offers Quark the chance to make "more profit than you ever dreamed of" – all he has to do is earn it.
Zek is seated in Commander Sisko's office, accompanied by his Hupyrian servant Maihar'du. Zek offers Hupyrian beetle snuff to Sisko and Major Kira, but they both decline. Zek announces that he has made contact with a species from the Gamma Quadrant called the Dosi and plans to hold a business meeting with them aboard Deep Space 9, but Sisko and Major Kira warn Zek not to cheat their guests. As a goodwill gesture, Zek attempts to make another deal by selling Bajor 50,000 kilos of brizeen nitrate, something Bajor could very well use, at a reduced rate. With the purpose, Sisko suggests making it a gift instead, and Zek then compliments his negotiating skills and agrees.
With Maihar'du at his side and Quark at his feet taking his shoes off, Zek explains that tulaberries and tulaberry wine are the secret to the Gamma Quadrant. He claims they will help the Ferengi Alliance get its foot in the Gamma Quadrant, making it the greatest deal in Ferengi history, and Quark instantly takes to the idea.
However, when Quark goes back to the bar and tells his brother Rom about the new proposal, Pel quotes from the Rules of Acquisition: "The bigger the smile, the sharper the knife." The young waiter seems to think Zek is setting Quark up in case the deal falls through. Over Rom's objections, Quark takes Pel on as his assistant for the negotiations for 20% of the profits. He sends Rom to serve tables, instead.
The Dosi turn out to be an extremely aggressive people. On first contact with station crew and the Ferengi delegation, the first thing they see is one of the Dosi thrown onto the station during a "minor disagreement" that occurred between themselves just prior. At the meeting with two Dosi named Inglatu and Zyree, Quark, with Pel by his side, opens the deal by buying 10,000 vats of wine with some equipment. However, the Dosi are insulted they are not talking to Zek himself, and offer 5,000 vats instead. Pel helps Quark emphasize the deal and the fact that Zek wanted Quark to represent him. Inglatu eventually says he'll think about the 10,000 vats.
Meanwhile, Maihar'du silently presents Kira a gift from Zek in Ops. He leaves before she realizes what it is and refuses, but Dax says it's nice. Dax has a kinder opinion of Ferengi than Kira does, and Kira makes it known she does not understand why. Dax says she actually enjoys herself around Ferengi more than any other race, thinking through her past lifetimes, even though she admits their primitive attitude toward women and extreme focus on profit. However, she notes that once one accepts this, the species can be quite enjoyable to be around.
It's another night of tongo, now with Zek playing. There is more of the typical jostling, but Zek challenges Quark on the deal. Quark doesn't mention he has, so far, failed to acquire the 10,000 vats of wine that Zek requested, but before he can tell him the bad news, the Nagus decides he wants 100,000 vats instead. While Quark seems to believe this is impossible, Pel compliments Zek on his decision, since it will let them know they mean business. Quietly, Pel now reason to suspect he wants the negotiations to fail. Away from the table to get Zek more tube grubs, Pel encourages Quark, with complete loyalty and faith in him. Quark is glad to meet such a partner.
After the game, Dax meets up with Pel at the replimat. She's observed there's something different about Pel from other Ferengi, for example, the loyalty shown to Quark. Dax admits that, in a certain way, she kind of loves Quark, and Pel does, too. Dax pushes that observation, and then Pel admits she is actually female and for Dax to keep her voice down. Quark arrives and brings Pel for negotiations, leaving Dax to ponder Pel's situation.
Zek is having a drink on the upper level of the Promenade looking at women walking by with Maihar'du. Kira comes to return his gift, though at first he supposes she wants to thank him for the nitrate. Also refusing his offer of a night of "wild passionate romance" she hands him the gift and leaves, but not before getting a tap on her rear again. Quark and Pel take her place, reporting that the Dosi have left without signing the contract. Just as Zek erupts at Quark for the failure, though, Pel intervenes, announcing a plan to take the Nagus' ship to the Gamma Quadrant and pursue the Dosi. Quark follows the lead and says he'll pilot the ship.
On the way to the Gamma Quadrant, Quark wonders aloud why Zek insisted on so many vats, and the possibility that he is purposefully sabotaging the deal. Pel doesn't think so, but does believe Zek knows more than he is letting on. Quark says he's glad to have Pel as his consultant, which makes Pel quite happy. Pel tries to say something to him, but Quark interjects, thinking Pel wants more than 20% of the profits, but he will not change that arrangement.
Meanwhile, Rom is tending the bar and is becoming frustrated about Pel's partnership with him. Odo comes to him to inquire about Quark's whereabouts, but Rom doesn't know. After a quick exchange about not letting someone come between family, Rom gets the idea to go through Pel's quarters. He turns it upside down, and eventually finds the synthetic lobes. He's stunned at realizing Pel is actually female and at the same time pleased now he has something to use against her.
Quark and Pel reach the Dosi homeworld and travel to some common area, finding several acts of brawls, deals and disagreements among the various inhabitants. Zyree finds them and explains that the Dosi are very serious about profit. They find Inglatu, and Quark reiterates his demand for 100,000 vats of tulaberry wine. Inglatu continues to refuse until Quark declares that he does not plan to leave, and even overturns a barrel of some drink. He agrees to 10,000, but says 100,000 is impossible and leaves.
Quark and Pel stay the night, and obtain quarters. Now, Pel is very anxious about sleeping alone next to Quark, and tries to get out of it. Quark is exhausted, and wants to be near Inglatu in case he changes his mind. Pel stalls with a toast to Quark, but then falls into it and kisses Quark, obviously having fallen in love with him. Just then, Zyree comes to their and reveals that neither Inglatu nor herself nor any Dosi can sell the Ferengi 100,000 vats of wine. Instead, she offers to put them in touch with the Karemma – an important member of something called the "Dominion" – for a price.
Finally, Quark and Pel realize the plan was not to buy wine but to get in contact with the Dominion. At the same time, Quark decides to forget about Pel's attempt to kiss him. They return to Deep Space 9, having bought no wine but with contact information about the Karemma. Zek is very pleased, and gives Quark a percentage of any future deals with them. Rom tries to interrupt with his newfound discoveries about Pel. After leaving Zek, he reveals this secret to Quark, his brother declares that it must remain a secret, as females are not allowed to earn profit and associating with a female like Pel would land him in prison. He faints near the dabo table from the possible consequences.
Waking up in the infirmary, Quark makes sure Rom hasn't told anyone about Pel, and says it must be kept a secret. Rom wants to tell Zek, but Quark "convinces" him not to. He then goes to Pel and tells her to leave the station before he gets implicated in doing business with a female.
Pel has other ideas about the secret. During dinner between Zek, Rom and Quark, Pel barges in. She confronts the Nagus and reveals her true identity, to Quark and Rom's amazement. A "clothed female" disgusts Zek, and he threatens Quark with imprisonment until he realizes that he was represented by Pel as well. Zek allows Quark to go free so long as the secret remains secret, but it will cost Quark his Gamma Quadrant profits. Ultimately, Quark and Pel share a heartfelt goodbye, but Quark decides not to go with her when she leaves the station to start a new life.
Quark finds Dax sitting at the bar and offers another game of tongo, but Dax responds that Quark has lost enough today, referring to Pel. He feigns ignorance, but Dax says she knows him enough to know he misses her. She leaves, and Quark begins to lament his lost opportunities in both business and love.
"All right, Morn. You know the rules. No sleeping on the Promenade. Go home."
- - Odo, finding Morn asleep outside Quark's
"Is that really how you prefer your women— naked and submissive?"
"You find such a lifestyle appealing?"
"Ah… don't you wish?"
"I do… I really do…"
- - Jadzia Dax and Quark
"I don't plan on being a waiter forever."
"Good, then you're fired."
"Shut up, Rom."
- - Pel, Rom, and Quark
"A little late, aren't we?!"
- - Zek, after Maihar'du hands him a handkerchief several seconds after a long sneeze
"If you ever do that again…"
"If you ever do that again, I'll stick those 50,000 kilos of brizeen right up your—"
"Here they come!" (An alien is thrown out and against the wall, then a large male with red skin and white decoration comes out.)
"Don't worry. Just a minor disagreement."
- - Kira Nerys, Zek, Quark and Inglatu – file info
"You always know what to expect when you do business with the Ferengi."
"Which is why, if you're smart, you don't do business with the Ferengi."
"I think you've made your point, Major."
- - Zek, Kira, and Sisko
"They're greedy, misogynistic, untrustworthy little trolls, and I wouldn't turn my back on one of them for a second."
"Neither would I. But once you accept that, you'll find they can be a lot of fun."
- - Kira Nerys and Jadzia Dax, on Ferengi
"Actually, I just stopped by to return this."
"Why, is something wrong with it?"
"No, it's lovely, I just can't accept it."
"Then I suppose a night of wild, passionate romance is out of the question?"
"T— that's right."
"Just thought I'd ask!"
- - Kira Nerys and Zek
"Who's the Karemma?"
"An important power in the Dominion."
"The Dominion? What's that?"
"Let's just say if you want to do business in the Gamma Quadrant, you have to do business with the Dominion."
- - Pel, Zyree, and Quark
Story and script
- This episode was originally to be titled "Profit Margin". It began life as a TNG pitch. Hilary J. Bader's original story had Pel involved with Will Riker. Beverly Crusher would subsequently find out, and she and Pel would develop a kind of sisterhood. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- In the The Birth of the Dominion and Beyond documentary on the DS9 Season 3 DVD, several of the writers give their views on the need to create a specific identity for the Gamma Quadrant:
- Michael Piller: "I can remember that once we decided that we were going to go deeply into the wormhole, that we essentially were forcing ourselves to decide for ourselves what we were going to find there."
- Ira Steven Behr: "We just felt that having done a year and a half of the show at that time, that we had such a rich backdrop that we hadn't yet explored. What's on the other side of the wormhole? Is it just more space?"
- Robert Hewitt Wolfe: "We just felt it was time to give a face to the Gamma Quadrant. Voyager was going to be wandering through the Delta Quadrant from place to place, meeting new people every week, and we wanted to make the Gamma Quadrant distinctly different from that, by creating the Dominion, a sort of unifying anti-Federation in a way, just to give it a completely different character.
- Of the creation of the Dominion, which at this stage was simply a name as the writers hadn't developed any definite plans yet, Ira Behr notes, "The existence of the Gamma Quadrant next door to Deep Space 9 would not help the series if it remained just unexplored space. They did three years of that on The Original Series, and seven years on The Next Generation. We needed to define that space." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- Make-Up Designer Michael Westmore based the facial art of the Dosi on colorations found in the tribes of Borneo and the South Seas. (Michael Westmore's Aliens: Season 2, DS9 Season 2 DVD special features)
- The producers were not entirely happy with how this episode turned out, calling it "over the top" and "unsubtle", while writer Ira Steven Behr says, "The tone was off in places. Parts of the episode became a bedroom farce and that's not how I'd envisioned it." For his part, director David Livingston regrets directing the Dosi comically and feels that he should have portrayed them as a race to be taken more seriously by the viewers. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- Livingston also commented, "I personally felt that in "Rules of Acquisition" these aliens were just right for the episode. Because whatever anybody may say, I think it is a comedy. I keep being told we don't do comedy in Star Trek, but I think it was a comedy". (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p 65)
- Michael Piller commented, "Sometimes less is more. One of the aliens looked like Joe Piscopo in a Saturday Night Live skit. The credibility is so important. You had to swallow that to get into that episode". (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p 65)
- Actor Armin Shimerman is extremely proud of the fact that the first Alpha Quadrant race to make contact with the Dominion were the Ferengi.
- Susan Sackett and Fred Bronson were surprised to see this episode after they had pitched a similar story idea to TNG about a female Ferengi posing as a male, which was ultimately discarded. They had subsequently read the same idea as one of multiple "clichés" that the TNG producers weren't interested in. Sackett never thought this episode was out-and-out plagiarism of her and Bronson's idea, so neither of them requested Writers Guild arbitration. (Inside Trek: My Secret Life with Star Trek Creator Gene Roddenberry, "Log Entry 37")
- This is the first episode to mention the Dominion. The Karemma are also mentioned for the first time. The decision to locate the initial mention of the Dominion in an otherwise inconsequential "comedy" episode was one which was very purposely taken by the writers to throw the viewers off. Of course, the Dominion would go on to be very important, in contrast to their inauspicious introduction in this episode. (The Birth of the Dominion and Beyond, DS9 Season 3 DVD special features)
- Referenced Rules of Acquisition: #21 ("Never place friendship above profit"), #22 ("A wise man can hear profit in the wind"), #33 ("It never hurts to suck up to the boss"), #48 ("The bigger the smile, the sharper the knife"), #59 ("Free advice is seldom cheap"), #62 ("The riskier the road, the greater the profit"), and #103 ("Sleep can interfere with…").
- This episode marks the first time we see the game of tongo being played.
- This episode marks the first on-screen appearance of a Ferengi female in Star Trek. Apart from Pel, only one other female Ferengi is ever portrayed in an episode of DS9, namely Quark's and Rom's mother Ishka. It is also the first Star Trek episode where a character is cross-dressing for most of the episode. Quark himself would temporarily cross-dress as a woman in "Profit and Lace".
- No stardate is given in this episode but it obviously precedes the next episode "Necessary Evil" (stardate 47282.5). In that episode Rom references the time Quark stayed "in the Gamma Quadrant overnight".
- Among the items from this episode which were sold off on the It's A Wrap! sale and auction on eBay was Brian Thompson's costume. 
- A couple of Pakleds are seen in the background of some scenes on the Promenade including that in which Odo is talking to Rom in the bar.
- During the first television broadcast of this episode, the title was misspelled as "Rules of Aquisition". It was fixed by the time the episode reran later in the season.
- On the bridge of Zek's ship there is a dome in the background that appears to be the lower half of the Thought maker from "The Battle".
- This episode hints at a general acceptance of homosexuality in the 24th century. When Pel confesses her love for Quark to Dax, Dax is perfectly at ease with it even though she believes Pel to be a man. It is only later that she learns (to her astonishment) that Pel is a woman.
- Cirroc Lofton (Jake Sisko) does not appear in this episode.
- This episode was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Makeup for a Series.
- Remastered footage from the episode is featured in the documentary What We Left Behind.
Video and DVD releases
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 14, 23 May 1994
- As part of the DS9 Season 2 DVD collection
Links and references
- Rene Auberjonois as Constable Odo
- Siddig El Fadil as Doctor Julian Bashir
- Terry Farrell as Lieutenant Jadzia Dax
- Cirroc Lofton as Jake Sisko
- Colm Meaney as Chief Miles O'Brien
- Armin Shimerman as Quark
- Nana Visitor as Major Kira Nerys
- Hélène Udy as Pel
- Brian Thompson as Inglatu
- Max Grodénchik as Rom
- Emilia Crow as Zyree
- Tiny Ron as Maihar'du
- Wallace Shawn as Zek
- Ivor Bartels as operations officer
- Ivy Borg as Rita Tannenbaum
- Robert Coffee as Bajoran civilian
- Jeannie Dreams as operations ensign
- Kevin Grevioux as operations officer
- Mark Lentry as command lieutenant
- David B. Levinson as Broik
- Dan Magee as command officer
- Mary Mascari as Bajoran civilian
- Robin Morselli as Bajoran civilian
- Mark Allen Shepherd as Morn
- Unknown performers as
Andorian transport; assistant; Bajor; Bajoran; Bajoran earring; Bajoran wormhole; bar; bedroom; brizeen nitrate; consultant; crime; Dax, Curzon; Dominion; Dosi; Dosi homeworld; fainting; Ferengi; Ferengi history; Ferengi law; Ferenginar; fertilizer; fired; flaked blood flea; gambling; Gamma Quadrant; gesture; Gramilian sand peas; handkerchief; holosuite; Hupyrian beetle snuff; Karemma; Kibberian fire diamond; kilo; kiss; latinum; lobe; lokar bean; mattress; northern peninsula; quote; optical data processor; percent; pinch; off; partner; planetary alliance; Promenade; Quark's; Replimat; Rules of Acquisition; snoring; spell; strip; subspace field modulator; subspace frequency; thigh; toast; tongo; trading consortium; troll; tulaberry; tulaberry wine; vat; year
- "Rules of Acquisition" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "Rules of Acquisition" at Wikipedia
- "Rules of Acquisition" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "Rules of Acquisition" at MissionLogPodcast.com, a Roddenberry Star Trek podcast
| Previous episode:|
| Star Trek: Deep Space Nine|
| Next episode:|