Throughout all of Star Trek, few alien races are nearly as fascinating as the Ferengi. After all, they went from being the big-eared baddies of early TNG to being the comic relief (and some would say the heart and soul) of DS9. It can be difficult for the average fan to figure these guys out, but that’s why we’re here: we’re here to explain everything Star Trek fans need to know about the Ferengi, and we won’t even shake you down for all your latinum in exchange for the info.
Originally, Star Trek: The Next Generation introduced the Ferengi as new scary bad guys for Captain Picard and the rest of the crew to face. Franchise creator Gene Roddenberry helped bring these new aliens to life, and he intended for them to be a fierce threat to Picard the way the Klingons were a fierce threat to Kirk.
Of course, the show had to throw out some of Roddenberry’s wilder ideas, including having each Ferengi male be insanely well-endowed.
This is why in their premiere episode (the TNG ep “The Last Outpost”), they are snarling barbarians armed with scary energy whips, and in the pilot episode of the show, they are mentioned as having literally eaten their previous business associates.
Before that Star Trek: The Next Generation appearance, Roddenberry also conceived of the Ferengi as space-age robber barons, basically, the franchise’s statement on capitalism run amok. Of course, the show had to throw out some of Roddenberry’s wilder ideas, including having each Ferengi male be insanely well-endowed.
But later episodes would still retain the idea that the horny Ferengi strongly sexualize women from other races (like we see Daimon Tog do to Lwaxana Troi in “Ménage à Troi”) and even their own (before a cultural reform, Ferengi women were not allowed to wear clothing on their home planet of Ferenginar).
In addition to dialing down the animalistic violence and dialing up the space capitalism vibe, Star Trek writers soon realized that the Ferengi made for excellent comic relief.
Star Trek fans and producers alike were disappointed at the early appearance of the Ferengi, and the race was quietly changed over time. Rather than hopping around and hissing like animals, the Ferengi were later portrayed as ultra-capitalists who are happy to work with other cultures as long as it brings them personal profit.
Quark on Deep Space Nine (played by Armin Shimerman, who played a Ferengi back in “The Last Outpost”) is a great example of this: his character would never dream of conquest like those earlier Ferengi because he gets to sit safely in his bar while clients from countless alien cultures help make him rich.
In addition to dialing down the animalistic violence and dialing up the space capitalism vibe, Star Trek writers soon realized that the Ferengi made for excellent comic relief. On Deep Space Nine, for example, we frequently get Ferengi philosophy (expressed via The Rules of Acquisition, their most important cultural text) juxtaposed against conventional human wisdom.
Some members of Starfleet are tight with Ferengi: according to Jadzia Dax in the DS9 episode “Rules of Acquisition,” if you can get past the fact that the race is comprised of “greedy, misogynistic, untrustworthy little trolls” you can never turn your back on, you’ll find they can be a lot of fun.
Still, nobody provides audiences with a bigger belly laugh than the Ferengi…
Who, though, are Star Trek’s most famous Ferengi? Quark’s brother Rom and his Starfleet nephew Nog are each famous in their own right, as is Grand Nagus Zek. Later, Zek would promote Rom to Grand Nagus, and he only did so thanks to the mollifying effect of Moogie (Quark and Rom’s mother who successfully pushed for cultural reforms on Ferenginar).
There are some famous evil Ferengi like Picard’s old foe Bok, but most Ferengi villains are still mustache-twirlingly charming in their villainy (like Liquidator Brunt, played to perfection by Jeffrey Combs).
Ultimately, Star Trek’s Ferengi started out as a snarling animal race and evolved into profit-hungry capitalists who are usually the butt of the joke (especially if an ear massage is involved). Still, nobody provides audiences with a bigger belly laugh than the Ferengi, and their hilarious greed and avarice have helped expand our understanding of Star Trek in many ways. Now if you’ll excuse us, we’re going to be quoting the Rules of Acquisition while explaining to Paramount Plus that their prices are way too high.