55 – Fair Trade

Grade: B-

Fair Trade (1997) on IMDb


Neelix is desperate to pick up more skills on Voyager. He first tries to become a security officer, then he wants to be part of the engineering team. Suddenly, he’s called to the Bridge so he can inform Captain Janeway of what they might expect in this unexplored area known as the Nechrid Expanse. Neelix suggests stopping at a space station for supplies. There, he meets an old friend with a shady past.


This was quite a refreshing episode after watching so many below-average stories during this season. It was great to see some interesting character development for Neelix, who has been underused and overused at the same time. I know it sounds strange, but he certainly has had a lot of screen time for someone we know so little about.

The fact that this episode is based so much on character development is what makes it work for me, at least to some extent. Neelix is motivated by his desire to be needed, and he feels that he is nearing the end of his usefulness, since he knows nothing about space beyond the Nechrid Expanse. He feels like he won’t be able to make any meaningful contributions beyond this point. I’m sure a lot of people have felt this way before as things have changed at their jobs and new technologies or procedures are implemented. Neelix’s actions in this episode show that he’s not terribly confident in his ability to adapt to new circumstances or any changes in his environment. I seriously doubt this aspect of his character will ever be addressed again, but it certainly is refreshing to see the show deal with this.

On the other hand, the irony does not escape me that Neelix is perhaps the most over-used crewman on the entire ship. Most people have only one job to do on this ship, but Neelix has several: cook, morale officer, Delta Quadrant guide/adviser, etc. I would think if this were reality, he would have had so much to do that he wouldn’t need to worry about losing one of his minor responsibilities. Besides, most of the time when Captain Janeway asks for his analysis of the area or the aliens who may reside in the part of space they happen to be visiting, he can contribute almost nothing. He usually says, “well, I haven’t actually visited this part of space, but from what I’ve heard, today’s alien-of-the-week is quite notorious.” As I’ve watched these episodes over the past year or so, I have really noticed this about Neelix. So perhaps the writers have overdone the uselessness that Neelix may be feeling now, but I’m happy with the attempt anyway.

I actually enjoyed watching Neelix deal with his past as he meets up with a fellow Talaxian who is on a much different career path as Neelix, but also one on which Neelix may have found himself if Janeway hadn’t agreed to keep him on Voyager. Neelix even reaches out to Tom Paris to ask his advice about facing his shady past. I think it’s very ironic that this is the same actor who played Cadet Locarno in the TNG episode, “First Duty.” I don’t care what anyone says, Tom Paris really IS the same character as Nick Locarno. In fact, Paris even says that he should have told the truth in the first place when he was caught – this is exactly what Locarno should have done also. Even the writers of this episode seem to concede the fact that Paris is Locarno. They say it’s a coincidence that the same actor plays both roles, but I don’t believe that for a second. OK, so enough about that.

But speaking of actors who play the same character with different names, this is the first time we see Vulcan Ensign Vorik. He’s played by the same actor who played Vulcan Ensign Taurik in the TNG episode “Lower Decks.” Was it just an accident that the same actor plays two very similar characters who even have similar sounding names? Or maybe were they just trying to avoid having to pay the original writer any royalties? Nah, that would never happen.

Besides the character-driven drama, there’s not that much to like about this episode. The acting is good in most cases, though I wasn’t at all impressed by the station’s administrator. The character seemed to be as dumb as a box of donuts, and just about anyone could have played the part as well as this actor did.

I liked the last scene when Janeway is talking to Neelix. It reminded me of the ending of “Prime Factors” when Tuvok defied her orders and traded Federation literature for some technology that could have taken the ship half way back to Earth. Fortunately for Neelix, however, Voyager is completely episodic and the actions in one episode rarely have consequences in future episodes. I’m guessing Janeway will forget about Neelix’s untrustworthiness by the next time the show airs.

Finally, the storyline could have been a little better. The weak plot is really the only thing keeping this episode from ranking much higher. If you can deal with it, you’ll probably like it.

Of Note

There is apparently some unfinished business between Kes and Neelix. It seemed to me that during one scene, Kes was actually holding Tuvok’s hand. Maybe it was just me, though.

Here’s one really odd thing. They say the Nechrid Expanse is thousands of LY across, which means it would take at least a decade to travel from one end to the other, even at maxium warp. The ship has never been in this part of space before, and they don’t have a map of the area. So how could they possibly know how large the Expanse is? Are their sensors sophisticated enough to send them data from thousands of LY away in only a matter of moments? Maybe they are. But if that’s the case, they should know what’s ahead in their path for at least 10 years. They theoretically shouldn’t be surprised about anything at all. Oh well.