Fair Trade (***½)
This is a good episode, the first solidly good episode of the season, but it suffers a little towards the end because of how annoying Neelix can get. This is a very good use for his character, and I wish we had seen more stories about his past as a criminal because I doubt there will be any more. It seems like a waste that such a fascinating part of his past is relegated to one episode.
What I liked about this episode is that it makes the DQ feel alive in a way which Voyager has not managed this season. Season 1 was full of potential, season 2 had some interesting stories with the Kazon and Vidiians, but season 3 has so far been heavily reliant on the TNG-style alien of the week formula and it just makes this region of space seem bland. This is the first episode since Basics that makes the galaxy seem lived in and vibrant rather than an endless string of alien races who never interact with one another. The setting of this episode, a seedy trading-post out in the frontier, is something I would have loved to see more often. It reminds me a bit of the early seasons of DS9 before the station became an important strategic location.
My main problem with the episode is that Neelix doesn't really do anything wrong other than lie to protect his friend. He doesn't know he is taking part in an illegal narcotics trade, he doesn't kill the guy and he refuses to steal the plasma from Voyager. The episode acts like as if Neelix is being incredibly unethical, but that's not really the case. And he gets a little smug and annoying towards the end.
I enjoyed the episode and would love to see more like it, this is the sort of episode which uses the premise well and it is a pity there hasn't been more like it so far.