Even with mended fences, do the Ferengi qualify for Federation membership? Some tenets mentioned in the past include sufficient technology (i.e. warp drive), a unified planetary government, and no internalized discrimination. The Ferengi check the first two boxes, at least. They’ve traditionally treated their women like chattel, but that changed under Rom’s predecessor Zek (Wallace Shawn) thanks to the influence of his new bride: Quark and Rom’s mother Ishka (Cecily Adams).
However, I still sense cultural incompatibility. The Federation is, again, a socialist state and an egalitarian democracy. There have even been jokes in “Lower Decks” about how the Starfleet characters don’t understand money. The Ferengi are still capitalists, though, and not democratic ones: the Grand Nagus chooses his successor and maintains his power through wealth. Where Starfleet sees newly met races as potential friends, the Ferengi see only marks.
Take note of when this episode of “Lower Decks” mentions it would be impossible for Qo’noS, the Klingon homeworld, to join the Federation. Yet, the Federation has been allied with the Klingons for much longer than the Ferengi. The thing is, it takes more than mere friendship to join the club. The Klingons are a feudal warrior race; they have mutual interests and respect with the Federation, but they don’t want to forfeit their culture.
This is probably why the episode stresses the Ferengi are just applying for membership — Zek and Rom’s reforms are a first step, but they have a long road ahead. Once again, the cultural bridging goes both ways. Rom and his Bajoran wife Leeta (Chase Masterson) purposefully drive a hard bargain, slanted in their favor, during the negotiations to ensure the Federation aren’t suckers. Captain Freeman (Dawnn Lewis), the rare Starfleet officer with the lobes for business, proves they aren’t.
“Star Trek: Lower Decks” is streaming on Paramount+.