Star Trek: Voyager – 3×13 – “Fair Trade”

Star Trek: Voyager
“Fair Trade”
Originally Broadcast January 8th, 1997
Reviewed by Chakoteya

The Story

Stardate: Unknown

Neelix seems desperate for more duties on Voyager. He has studied the security protocols and thinks he is qualified to be a junior grade officer. Tuvok tells him that promotion has to be earned on a starship. Next stop is engineering, where he chides Torres for not turning up for his special Klingon breakfast. Neither she nor the rest of the crew were keen on cold gagh to start the day. She does not have time for his enquiries about engineering matters, but fortunately Captain Janeway summons him to the bridge.

The viewscreen is filled with a purple swirling thing which Neelix believes in the Nekrit Expanse a vast area thousands of light years wide, with plasma storms. They decide to stop at a space station to pick up supplies before proceeding. Once there, they are hailed by the manager, Bahrat. He curtly informs them that he gets a twenty percent cut on all trades on the station, and that communications and their whereabouts may be monitored. With no choice but to agree, Janeway takes Paris and Chakotay with her when she goes to discuss their requirements with him.

Bahrat is busy trying to watch a whole rack of security monitors while looking over Janeway’s list of needs. He notes that she is after pergium, a rare item. The trades won’t be easy, but he’ll put her in touch with possible suppliers. Meanwhile on the promenade, Paris and Chakotay are accosted by a dealer. They want magnetic spindle bearings but instead he offers them drugs to make long journeys seem like moments of ecstasy. Neelix has also gone to the station, looking for a map of the expanse, but it seems there are none. Just then his old friend and colleague Wixiban turns up and invites him to have a drink and catch up talk.

At first, Neelix is upbeat about his situation, bragging about his many roles on Voyager. Then Wixiban tells him how hard life has been since their run-in with the Ubeans. Neelix changes his tone, and starts to lament that really he isn’t needed on the ship, especially if he cannot find a map to let them know what is in the Expanse. He’s never been beyond this point in space before and feels his usefulness to Captain Janeway is about to end. He will do anything to get a map.

An hour before dinner, Neelix is back in his kitchen when Vorik arrives to adjust the replicators. Chakotay brings in Wixiban to see him and tells him that his friend managed to find the spindle bearings. They briefly sing each others praises in front of Chakotay and Vorik, then once they are alone, Neelix demands to know that the bearings were not stolen. They weren’t, Wix assures him. He has also tracked down pergium, and a map ! All they have to do is use a shuttle to pick up medical supplies from a freighter, beam into the station to do the trade to avoid Bahrat taking his cut, then they’ll get the map. Neelix agrees, slightly reluctantly. Without having to pay the manager his cut, Wixiban will make enough to get his ship unimpounded and finally head back to a Talaxian colony after three years on the station.

Returning on the shuttle, Neelix is unhappy about getting less than half the pergium he told Chakotay he would be collecting. Wix tells him that he has had it too easy recently, then takes a phaser from a locker before they beam over to corridor 14L. There they meet with Sutok, the drug dealer who accosted Paris and Chakotay earlier. Wix hands over the case but Sutok draws a weapon and fires. Wix returns fire and kills the drug dealer, then they make their escape on the shuttle again.

Neelix is upset at the whole thing. Wix had lied to him and now he wants to tell Janeway the whole story. However, Wix manages to keep his silence by threatening to reveal his shady past. After all, he spent a year suffering in an Ubean prison whilst Neelix managed not to get caught.

‘Captain’s log, supplemental. I have called a meeting of the senior staff to inform them of some very disturbing news I have just received.’

Captain Janeway breaks the news of the murder to the senior staff. Bahrat is also there, because he has determined that the weapon used was from Voyager. Tuvok will be assisting in the investigation. Neelix looks very worried, and is still apprehensive when Tuvok summons him to his office for routine questions about Wixiban’s visit to Voyager. He tries to distance himself from his former comrade, and is unhappy to be asked to accompany the Security Officer when he goes to question Wixiban in the station tavern later that day.

The whole interview was very polite, and Wixiban was very smooth and plausible about his movements on Voyager and his whereabouts at the time of the murder. Tuvok leaves Neelix to have a glass of ale, and Wixiban breaks the bad news to him about his principals in the drug trade. The Kolaati want some of Voyager’s warp plasma to enhance their own engines. Neelix refuses. He will not steal from his friends, he insists, but Wixiban points out that his ‘friends’ are ready to leave him behind, and if he doesn’t come across with the goods then the Kolaati will kill him.

Back on Voyager, Neelix walks into the storage room to find Tom Paris hunting for container reference L647X7 for some biomimetic gel they will be collecting the next day. He asks the young man about his criminal past, and Tom sums it up as failing to tell the truth. Neelix’s conscience gets even more troubled at this admission. Nevertheless, he heads off to engineering and talks his way past Ensign Vorik into the Jefferies tubes where he has the opportunity to take some warp plasma. He cannot bring himself to go through with the theft but meets with Wixiban on the station as arranged. While he tries to convince his friend to tell the truth, Bahrat and his guards come onto the promenade and arrest Chakotay and Paris, because he has them on security tapes talking to the dead drug dealer. Janeway and Tuvok are not impressed with this level of evidence, especially as the punishment is fifty years in cryostatic suspension.

As the two Starfleet officers leave, Neelix resolves to go to Bahrat with or without Wixiban. Wixiban gives in and goes with his friend. Bahrat believes their evidence, but is dismayed to be told that the Kolaati have been dealing drugs under his nose despite his much vaunted security. Neelix outlines his plan, in return for immunity from prosecution. Bahrat will have to supply the warp plasma as bait for the Kolaati, but it won’t be as pure as a sample from Voyager.

The Kolaati are running late, and the two Talaxians are getting nervous. In his control room, Bahrat sees the security image of the pair suddenly be replaced by an empty corridor, and knows that the criminals are coming on board. It is Tosin, the main Kolaati, who has come for the plasma, but before he hands it over, Neelix does something to the container. Tosin scans the plasma and finds it contaminated. He draws his weapon, but Neelix tells him that the container is now leaking plasma, and the detonation would kill them all. Activating his transporter would have the same effect. Tosin is doubtful, but Neelix keeps encouraging him to fire, and put him out of his misery. Finally convinced, Tosin hands the container back just as Bahrat arrives to arrest him. One of the other Kolaati fires a weapon and there is a big green explosion which engulfs them.

Neelix awakes in sickbay to hear the EMH proudly tell him how he has healed his third degree burns and concussion. Tuvok says that Wixiban got his shuttle back and has already left for pastures new. Then Captain Janeway comes in, dismisses everyone else, and has a serious word with her errant cook. He assures her that he had never lied to her before, but one thing just led to another because of his overriding need for a map. Her expression turns to incredulity as he explains his fears for his position because he does not know what lies ahead of them. Then she points out that Starfleet is about truth, and not knowing what is coming, and counting on each other no matter what. He will be spending the next two weeks scrubbing exhaust manifolds while he thinks it over. Relieved that he still has a place on Voyager, Neelix accepts his punishment.

Review

This is a episode which gives us more Neelix back-story, and also marks a watershed for the character. Remember how in season one particularly, it would be Neelix on the bridge supplying details about the Alien-of-the-Week? No more. He’s never been further out than here. Back in Caretaker, he sold himself to Janeway as her guide to this part of the Quadrant, as well as cook. With the replicators working, a cook isn’t really needed and now his services as guide are coming to an end. He hasn’t yet fully got a grip on what it means to be Starfleet and one of the crew, and thinks he is going to be dumped. So he returns to some of his old scavenger-survivor ways, via Wix, a former partner in crime. Literally. Sometimes I wonder just how old Neelix is, given that he has been so many places, done so much.

Another plus about this show is that it gives us a glimpse into how Voyager has kept going the past couple of years, trading, stopping off at space stations for supplies. It may seem like a bit of a cheat, bartering replicated goods, but it cost energy to make them, which is also a commodity. However, I wonder about the nature of the goods bartered – are they technology? Medical supplies? The sort of thing Janeway was willing to die for rather than have fall into the hands of the Kazon? And isn’t it wonderful that a totally alien culture has just the part Voyager needs for it’s engines? There’s this strange contradiction between what the crew can make for themselves and what they cannot, which I have yet to get straight in my mind.

That’s the minus point about the show. I start asking questions about the practicalities, and come up with more questions. Then I see the name on the teleplay, and all is revealed. Andre Bormanis is not my favourite writer. He may have come onto Star Trek as science consultant, helping with those strange technobabble terms to make them sound vaguely plausible and slightly related to current terminology, but as a story writer I am not impressed.

So, in all, a good lesson for Neelix in what it means to be Starfleet, but an average show to watch.

Grade: 5/10

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