May 27, 2024

Gabbing Geek

Your online community for all things geeky.

Weekend Trek “Fair Trade”

Neelix gets in a lot of trouble when he offers to help another Talaxian.

I vaguely remembered this episode, one where Neelix gets in a bit of trouble when he assumes he’ll be kicked off the ship soon, especially Janeway’s dressing down of him later on.

This time around, my thought is…he maybe didn’t deserve that.

To be clear, Neelix is not innocent of all wrongdoing, but his own version of events is mostly he stopped to help an old friend without knowing what his old friend was up to.  I have, in the past, considered that the Talaxians have much of a culture or even a personality compared to many Star Trek races.  Later on, a friend suggested that’s because the Talaxians lost their homeworld (even if it was really just a moon), and as a people, they’re basically scattered all over.  That essentially explains Neelix as a character.  He’s a nomad, a scavenger, and someone who knows his wits are needed if he’s going to survive.  The character has grown less annoying over time and was perhaps at his most annoying when he was a hologram made by Tuvok.  But he is someone who seems to believe that he needs to be useful in order to stay on Voyager.

I mean, it was only one episode earlier where Janeway offered him the unofficial title of “ambassador.”

The problem is that Neelix has limits to his knowledge, and the fact that he no longer knows much of anything about the space he’s going into, it does seem obvious that he would assume that he might be told to leave soon.  That’s not going to happen, and not just because he’s part of the main cast.  It just isn’t the way that Star Trek operates.  Even if he doesn’t know anything about the space they’ll be going into in the near future or for the rest of the series, he still has scavenger skills, his cooking skills (however good they are), and his morale skills.  I mean, they’re still using his tropical resort holodeck program, I guess because something happened to Tom Paris’s French poolhall set.  The point is, Neelix isn’t going anywhere.

That doesn’t mean he didn’t know that, and many of his actions in this episode come from ignorance.  Heck, he tries to make things better as he goes, keeping the worst from happening as the crew visits a space station where he hopes to make a deal to get a map for the Expanse they’re going to be entering very soon.

Consider what happens:  he meets an old friend, Wixiban, who took a fall for Neelix once upon a time.  Wixiban knows a thing or two about how to get a map for the Expanse, and all Neelix has to do is borrow a shuttlecraft (no problem) and come along when Wixiban makes a trade for some pharmaceuticals.  Neelix is really just an escort.

But Wixiban didn’t tell him the pharmaceuticals were narcotics for a drug cartel, that the guy they met would be hostile, that Wixiban would be armed, and that not only would the contact be killed in a firefight, but that Paris and Chakotay would become top suspects when it turns out they had briefly talked to the dead man when they were walking around the station.  There may be a way out if Neelix can trade a small amount of Voyager‘s warp plasma to the cartel, but after some chats with a pre-arrested-for-murder Tom and a Vulcan crewmember named Vorik that I remember as being more important later, Neelix realizes he can’t do that and instead helps the station’s head of security set up a trap for the cartel head in exchange for his and Wixiban’s full pardon.

That plans mostly works, though not without Neelix’s suffering some third degree burns between scenes since that apparently is something that is easily treated in Sickbay.

So, to review:  Neelix was essentially tricked into going along with a drug deal, and then did everything he could to extract himself from the situation without lying too much, especially with Tuvok’s leading an investigation of his own.  He didn’t steal the warp plasma and instead helped the security head bring down a drug cartel.  He made a full confession to that man, knowing it could have gotten him decades in some sort of prison cell, to get Chakotay and Paris out, and for that, Janeway basically tells him off and puts him on punishment duty.

And despite the fact I am not much of a Neelix fan, I can’t help but feel that’s a little unfair.  His biggest crime was keeping things to himself when he maybe should have said something sooner, and it’s for understandable reasons that he thinks he’s going to be kicked off Voyager soon because he’s no longer useful in his main role, so why make things worse for himself?  He’s trying to save himself and Wixiban, even if Wixiban doesn’t deserve it.  Indeed, Wixiban is essentially free to go at the end of the episode, but we never see him leave.  He just does.  And yet, when Janeway tells Neelix off, never asking more on why he did what he did, I just can’t help but feel that he is being punished too severely.  Part of that is because this series will never make its main cast out to be anything other than general paragons of virtue.  This isn’t Deep Space Nine.  Even if Neelix had a shady past, it still won’t reflect the character he is now.  He’ll struggle, but he’ll never do much of anything all that wrong in the grand scheme of things.

But the other part is, well, he can’t be too bad because then they could kick him off the ship, and as I said above, Neelix isn’t going anywhere.