The series “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” was — and still is — tells a story unlike any other in the Trek universe. Instead of seeking out new life and new civilizations, Terok Nor (aka space station Deep Space Nine) was a hub for travelers from other space-faring peoples. The station was a hub for travel, and thanks to its position next to a gigantic wormhole, the crew of DS9 needn’t go anywhere to meet new species. Those new species came to visit them.
The genius of “Deep Space Nine” was that they flipped the expected “Star Trek” story around. Much like how the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films started with a story of how a bunch of untrustworthy thieves needed to return a treasure, the static nature of DS9 opened up all sorts of new possibilities in storytelling.
The New ‘Klingons’
Case in point would be how the Ferengi played such a prominent role on the show. Armin Shimmerman, the actor who brought the most famous Ferengi to life, admitted that the first introduction of the race on “The Next Generation” wasn’t done well.
“The Ferengi were going to be the new Klingons,” Shimmerman told Gamespot in a 2018 interview. “They were never meant to be a comical race; they were meant to be ferocious and menacing. And unfortunately, they hired me to play one of the lead Ferengi, and I failed miserably.”
That episode, “The Last Outpost,” set the bar tone for Ferengis, and they would never be the replacement for the Klingons that they were meant to be. Instead, as Quark would show, they became an interesting part of the “Star Trek” story — a bunch of capitalists in a world of post-scarcity.
Quark had a bar on DS9, which he was always trying to figure out new ways to extract more profit. This meant hosting and creating new games, drinks, and treats to attract those who lived on DS9 and the station’s visitors. The inhabitants included Bajorans, Klingons, and the dreaded Huu-mons.
The Ferengi did not understand the humans of the Federation because these people did not use money. But somehow, Federation citizens kept paying for drinks, time in the holosuites, and games with the Dabo girls.
An excellent example of these transactions was during “In the Pale Moonlight,” when Quark bargained with Captain Sisko (Avery Brooks). He demanded that Starfleet ignore a few things in the cargo bay, some new clothes, and five bars of gold-pressed latinum.
During the exchange, Sisko rolled his eyes at the demand for the latinum but eventually said, “Done.”
The transaction ended, but the writers never explained how Sisko got the latinum, since the Federation did not use coins or currency of any kind.
The Federation can make nearly anything, thanks to their invention, the replicator. There were just a few things that could not be made by replication — starships, radioactive materials, and gold-pressed latinum.
The latinum was so valuable to the Ferengi because it was in limited supply, and it could not be replicated. According to many sources, this is because latinum was too dense and complicated for the replicator.
Exchange on the Galactic Level
According to author Manu Saadia, the Federation sold goods to get the latinum and other resources which they could not produce internally. Saadia’s book, “Trekonomics,” gives details and a model on how this sort of transaction might have taken place in the 24th Century.
Saadia compared the Federation to the Soviet Union, who also had to barter with the liberal democracies which surrounded it. In the 1960s and ’70s, when the U.S.S.R. needed products, they would “acquire it by selling commodities on the world market, and use those proceeds to purchase other goods,” Saadia explained.
This might mean that the Federation would sell products produced internally for the needed latinum. Saadia wrote that the planet Bolias mentioned on the DS9 episode “Who Mourns for Morn,” was a place where people could deposit their latinum. Sort of like a banking planet.
Officers Got an “Allowance”
Much like children worldwide who do chores for a bit of money, Federation officers got an “allowance” too. According to Saadia, members of Starfleet would get some currency “in order to conform with alien customs.”
While Quark always fussed about huu-mons and their strange society (without money), he did prefer humans to the Jem’Hadar, who did not eat, have sex, drink, or gamble.