Muk – Star Trek: Enterprise
I maintain that there was no way Star Trek: Enterprise could’ve succeeded, as it had the conflicting intentions of being new and different while also giving us the good old Star Trek universe we know and love. Each episode took a different approach to trying to square that circle, but none worked, as finding the right balance between novelty and franchise work was not the issue, the issue was franchise fatigue. It’s impossible to choose between something new and something old when neither is the right answer.
This leads to a kind of critical over-assessment of the Enterprise episodes that indulge in fan service. The season 1 episode Acquisition, in which the crew of The Enterprise encounters the Ferengi is one such over-assessed episode. This was, of course over 200 years before the official first contact with the Ferengi in Star Trek: The Next Generation, so fans and critics have obsessed over the question of whether they should’ve brought in the Ferengi, or whether that was an act of desperation from a show that didn’t know where it was going. The episode itself went to great lengths to only name them as an unidentified species, so as to preserve the canon, but that just came off as a particularly conspicuous lampshade.
Perhaps it was an act of desperation; perhaps it was unwise to bring the Ferengi in at this stage, but those questions obscure the fact that Acquisition is a good episode, especially for Enterprise. It was also something of a Mulligan, an opportunity to show the Ferengi as alien-of-the-week villains, as TNG intended, without screwing it up by making them unintentionally comical. The Ferengi of Acquisition were both comical and menacing, a balance that would not have been possible had they not been played by experienced Star Trek veterans Voyager’s Ethan Philips, Deep Space Nine’s Jeffrey Combs, and …Clint Howard.
It may be a low bar, but Acquisition is the best Ferengi episode in Star Trek (outside of Deep Space Nine,) and Clint Howard, with his tiny weirdo energy is the best Ferengi in this episode. With his small frame and bulldog face, Clint Howard was born to play a Ferengi.