Zek is a member of the Ferengi species and was their acting “Grand Nagus” which is just a very Trek way of saying he was their leader, and during the run of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, he is played brilliantly by the well-known character actor Wallace Shawn. Shawn would make his first appearance as the infamous leader of the Ferengi in the season 1 episode “Grand Nagus.” After that first appearance, Shawn would appear as Zek six more times during the run of the series’ seven seasons.
As the leader of a particularly greedy and money hungry species as the Ferengi, Zek saw every possible relationship with any race as an opportunity for profit. Zek had little to no discrimination of who he did business with, seeking profitable ventures with Quark and Quark’s bar in DS9, as well as even attempting to negotiate a business venture with the Dominion.
At one point, Zek even came into possession of a Bajoran orb and tried to contact the Bajoran prophets to see if they might reveal the future to him for his own financial gain. The prophets found Zek’s greed offensive, however, and transformed him to a much more benevolent version of himself, from which Quark would convince the prophets to change him back.
Zek would retire from his role as Grand Nagus, after implementing new well fair programs for the Ferengi people and appointing Rom as the new acting Grand Nagus,. Zek and Quark and Rohm’s mother, Ishka, then planned a trip to the planet of Risa.
I always found the Ferengi to be one of the more amusing races in the world of Trek. Their greed, their completely backwards and draconian way of viewing females, and even their ear lobe erogenous zones, I felt were so overdone and over the top that it was more entertaining then offensive.
Quark was always one of my favorite characters of the main cast of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and Zek only added to that whenever he was on the screen, and just as Armon Shimerman did such a fabulas job bringing Quark to life, so did Shawn with his portrayal of Grand Nagus Zek. Not only was Zek a fantastically disgusting pleasure to watch on the screen (much like Quark himself), he played a huge part in elevating Rom from the lowly position as Quark’s defacto assistant manager of the bar, to the Grand Nagus near the end of the series.
Indeed DS9 simply wouldn’t have been the same without Grand Nagus Zek.