Monday, March 16, 2015

Voyager, Season 3: Fair Trade Voyager, Season 3
"Fair Trade"
Airdate: January 8, 1997
55 of 168 produced

54 of 168 aired

Neelix worries that his usefulness to the Voyager crew is coming to an end, and falls in with an untrustworthy old friend in his attempts to remedy this.

Neelix avers that it's a long way down to the bottom of the warp core. B'Elanna's like: Oh no you didn't.


Matthew: So here's a Neelix episode. I think the basic notion behind the tale, that Neelix's useful knowledge of the territory is coming to an end, is a solid one. And to some degree, things develop in an interesting way. But overall, the resolution of this episode leaves much to be desired in terms of raising stakes for the characters and really pushing them into interesting territory. We never really learn about Neelix's past with Wix, for instance. I certainly am wary of retcons to things we don't care about, and just discussing things would probably be uninteresting. But maybe the people they crossed could be here, hunting for the both of them? That could inject a lot of drama and interest, as opposed to what we got, some smugglers that neither party really know. Tom and Chakotay take the fall for Neelix and Wix... for about 5 minutes. Why not really push that further? I think the lack of Kes in this episode is also a detriment. If you're going to hint at Neelix leaving (albeit very gently), why not have them share a goodbye, or have Kes dispense some advice? To be fair, a scene between them was cut for time (which is lame).

Kevin: I think this episode suffers from several chickens coming home to roost, story-wise. They have leaned so hard into the ways in which Neelix is a lot of hot air that the end of his usefulness is blunted by the notion that his usefulness never really began. No one, literally no one, thinks he can cook. His advice about the region amounts to, "Yes, I have heard of them, but have no useful details on that point. Sorry." His romantic relationship is a non-starter for several reasons. The end result is a character that they have gone to for comic relief so often that I forget that he was supposed to have an actual role. For example, if this were an episode about picking up a stranger who wanted to hitch a ride and turned out to be a gifted surgeon with stellar bedside manner, that story about the Doctor feeling obsolete would have some punch, because the Doctor actually has been useful, but not perfectly so. Plus, I like the Doctor, so I care about the things that happen to him. Neelix? Not so much. Aside from a few fun jabs at Tuvok, they again leaned so hard on making him shrill that I end up not liking him, and that means I am less invested in what happens to him. Also, it just doesn't make sense that he really fears that Janeway will put him off the ship. She kept a murderer on board, remember? Kes basically tends plants and hands the Doctor things. I'm sure some of her crew are her ship's 20th century historian. There's just no reason to believe that Janeway would only keep him around as long as he's useful.

Matthew: I found this story to be lacking on the science fiction front. Sure, they were facing some dreaded expanse of space. But we learned nothing about it! Why not get into the notion of galactic stellar deserts between spiral arms, and really push on the idea of Voyager needing to stock up for years of "drought?" That could have been interesting from a technical perspective, but also would amp up drama. The idea of cryostatic suspension is introduced and just as quickly dropped. The eventual MacGuffin, warp plasma, is quite poorly explained, and is just used as an explodey thing - and rather poorly at that, since it was built up as something that would "kill us all," but ends of being dodged by... diving behind a crate.

Kevin: Yeah, they don't really dig into the possibilities of what this station must be like. It can't just be a hub of drug smuggling, right? By sheer coincidence, I have been rooting around in my collection of DOS games, and played a few games of Oregon Trail recently, so I can't help but think of the dramatic possibilities of an Independence, Missouri in space. What if other ships were preparing the same trip? How much food can Janeway carry? These are important questions. I also found the importance of The Map to be a little silly. Trade can't happen if no one knows how to get from point A to point B. I can believe that station might hide a more convenient route to keep a stranglehold as a trading outpost, but the idea that such dealing would be necessary to get any information seems odd.

Matthew: For all we're supposed to care about Neelix's flirtation with the dark side, the consequences end up being pretty toothless. He gets chewed out by Janeway and sentenced to some cleaning. Lame. Why not some prison time? Or a drastic change in role, like being cut out of all bridge operations for some time?

Kevin: I know Quark has done and will do worse, but I am more annoyed by this instance of zero consequences than his. Maybe it's because I like Quark more. Maybe it's because Janeway makes such an EPIC SPEECH about consequences before doling out none. Maybe it's because they did such a thorough job of establishing Quark's moral flexibility being tolerated that it feels even a little bit more organic. And maybe it's because I like Quark more. It's probably that.


Matthew: Ethan Phillips, when not being asked to creep us out with his semi-incestuous, stalker-ish desires for a pseudo-adolescent, turns out to be a very capable actor who can almost overcome a weak script. I totally bought his unease, his hope that one big score could solve things, and his guilt by the end.

Kevin: We've said it before, but the early season writing was a disservice to a very good actor. He acts through the make-up and conveys complete investment in the material. My only gripe is the odd way he pronounces the word "plasma." It just annoys the hell out of me.

Matthew: James Nardini definitely has the fast-talking con artist thing down. Nonetheless, I didn't care much about his character. I think this was more the writing than anything. He wasn't given much in the way of complexity, and so it was never really tempting to believe him. I kind of loved Carlos Carrasco as Bahrat, though. He was a perfect officious dingleberry, with a great voice and a good physical presence. He did a great job of projecting self importance.

Kevin: Carrasco previously played D'Ghor in House of Quark, and yeah... Official Dingleberry pretty much sums it up. Joking aside, I actually bought the sense that he was basically a decent guy trying to stem a tide of crime. James Horan makes a less memorable appearance as the smuggler Tosin. He has a great voice, but I didn't really find him menacing this time. His turn as the douchey Lieutenant in Descent was more intimidating.

Production Values

Matthew: There were a lot of dark sets that ended up reducing my viewing interest. The main hallway of the station was interesting (and used a pretty clever optical effect to appear much longer than it was) but most of the action took place in dark and cramped spots.

Kevin: Yeah. Maybe an eventual Voyager Blu-Ray will reveal profound detail, but as it stands, there just wasn't much to see here.

Matthew: Alien makeup was pretty decent, as were costumes. The plasma explosion was pretty lame, as was the disintegration of the bad guy in it. The exterior optical of the station was pretty mundane, and the Nekrit expanse was sort of purple and bland.

Kevin: I found Bahrat's costuming to be a but much, It was just too many scraps of things thrown together. Otherwise, I agree, lots of fun stuff to look at, make-up and costume-wise. Maybe a look at the cryostatic chambers could have upped the tension of the episode.


Matthew: This was a pretty prototypical 2. Things failed to be developed along the most interesting lines, but some solid acting kept a 1 off the table. The lack of real character consequences make this a rather skippable snoozer..

Kevin: It's not Ethan Phillips fault, certainly, but I don't care enough about Neelix to make his problems carry an episode. And even if I did, he's never been portrayed as actually being talented enough to make the end of his talents have any tension. I agree with the 2 for a total of 4.


  1. It is clear from your review that you guys really cannot stand Neelix, and, by extension, episodes that are about him (thus far). It is a shame because I think this was a good episode in terms of character development for him, especially in terms of his relationship with the crew. The last scene where he assumes he is off the ship but Janeway tells him that this wasnt the case because he cant just walk off when things get difficult and that he is part of the family, was very sweet and endearing. And the part where he is oh so thankful for having to scrub plasma manifolds or something for the next 6 weeks was great and so typical of Neelix. I didnt see a dumb clown for comic relief, I saw a worthwhile individual woh has honor and integrity and I love that Janeway saw that about him and wasnt an ass about it.

    Yes in the beginning he was just brought in for comic relief, but he has evolved since and this episode exemplified that. And I, in fact, did care what was going to happen to him. The entire part where he lies and digs himself in deeper by lying to cover up his lies and the realizes that things have gotten out of control was and his fear and anxiety over it were palpable. So palpable that every time I watch this, I am worried FOR him.

    Also, since this episode was about Neelix, all the other stuff is just frosting for me. The station smugglers, Cryostatic sleep, narcotic etc provided just enough of a context to set the stage so i didnt care to find out more about a space station in the Expanse and the science around cryostatic sleep and what have you because this wasnt about that. . This was about Neelix growing as part of the crew and learning something about himself and the crew.

    Voyager characters are hard to dislike in my opinion (well, with the exception of Seven whom I never really liked. She was interesting but not likable to me). I never disliked Neelix. In the beginning they didnt do much with hi, ture, but I have to admit he grew to become one of my favorite characters. He is the kind of person that I could imagine wanting to be around personally - like Tom Paris and Harry - because he is kind, sweet, funny and honorable.

    1. Hey, don't lump me in with Kevin. I like Neelix. Or rather, I grew to like him, because I think he was poorly written early on.

  2. I must say what I did find kinda ridiculous is that there is some sort of a bullshit war on drugs going on, 400 years into the future halfway across the galaxy. I mean seriously? 50 years in the slammer for narcotics trafficking? That was a little too much 21st century projected into the future - of alien races, no less. I like to think that human kind will advance enough so as to not have to engage in any kind of war on drugs anytime soon - as in less than 50 years from now, let alone 400 years in the future. The notion that this would be a real, viable thing on some remote outpost in the far end of the Galaxy seems a bit heavy handed, not to mention implausible, to me.