Voyager 3.13: Fair Trade

Subtitle: Neelix learns a lesson

Meta

Summary: Neelix’s crisis of confidence results in Chakotay and Tom’s arrest

Grade: C-

Etc. The premise of this episode is solid. Voyager reaches the edges of the space Neelix is familiar with and he worries his usefulness to the ship is ending and panics. And it takes place on a dark and dangerous space station full of miscreants. The bones are there for a fun ep! But I really struggled to photocap it.

I can only assume budget constraints got in the way of making this outpost more thrilling. It’s supposed to be seedy and scary but it just seems like a warehouse. The station administrator’s office is all neon lights which is sort of fun in a Blade Runner or Coruscant in Attack of the Clones kind of way but it doesn’t really get there. All of the spaces should be more crowded. Plus we just don’t get enough of it, all the dealing takes place off screen and we’re told about it. I want to see more.

I really like the central drama of Neelix worrying about his usefulness to the ship and crew. The opening scenes do a great job of setting up the anxiety that leads to bad decisions. First Tuvok and B’Elanna answer his determination-slash-desperation to learn new things very dismissively. Then the ship’s sensors have more intel about the Nekrit Expanse than he does. It’s relatable.

But once we meet up with Wixiban it becomes a Very Special Episode about peer pressure. And despite the conspiracy, drugs, and murder, the stakes remain low for me. I want Neelix to have a more active role in the deals or decisions, as it is he’s just following along with Wix and his only real crime is poor judgement. I’d rather see Neelix attempting to make deals and getting backed into a bad one, and maybe dragging someone from Voyager into it, someone like Gerron the young Maquis from “Learning Curve”. Or at least dig a little deeper into Neelix’s guilt about his criminal past and how Wix took the fall for him – they just sort of wave at that, don’t sit with it. And it happens again in his interactions with Tom and Vorik. There are really interesting ideas here that for the most part remain unexplored.

And the last ten minutes of the episode is just a mess. The main issue is how everything relating to Voyager happens off screen. We never see Chakotay and Tom in prison, we don’t know how Janeway finds out about Neelix’s scheme, the entrapment itself would have been safer if Neelix had confessed beforehand and gotten the ship involved.

tldr; I like the character beats for Neelix but I want more depth.

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