After the Protostar answers a distress call, Dal is reunited with DaiMon Nandi, a Ferengi smuggler who raised the orphaned Dal from an early age and taught him how to take advantage of and profit from whatever situation lay in front of him. Nandi is in need of a crystal from a nearby alien world (to pay off gambling debts) that has not been previously contacted by outsiders, and she makes a deal with Dal to help her obtain one in exchange for a cloaking device. (Nandi's appearance here makes use of what we might as well call Delta Quadrant Syndrome — frequently used on Voyager — where we somehow coincidentally run into familiar people even in the vastness of space where those people aren't from.)
Nandi obviously can't be trusted, and that's the problem with this overly average outing — not too much happens that's unexpected or not an obvious baked-in prerequisite of Nandi as a duplicitous Ferengi character sketch. The crystal she wants is actually from an array that's key to the aliens' abilities to communicate, and removing them from the cave causes everything to shake and rumble, Indiana Jones style. But not even one crystal is enough for Nandi; she has to start trying to steal them all. (Yes, greed and stealing are wrong, especially when the crystals are not simply "money" but part of a world's ecosystem.)
Nandi ultimately proves so odious that her bile takes over the episode. Her late revelation to Dal that she actually sold him into slavery to the Diviner seems needlessly cruel, and when a cash reward is offered by the Diviner looking for the location of the Protostar, she sells him out yet again. Way to play down to your stereotype, Nandi.
Balancing the scales with the relatively obvious plot are Janeway's welcome Starfleet lectures on the delicacy of the Prime Directive and first contact with alien cultures. Such lessons are put into practice by the away team when they learn a sandstorm is not simply a random vortex but a method of communication. But when it all goes sideways (thanks to Nandi), Janeway admonishes them for their poor intentions. One of this series' pleasures is watching her try to teach the green crew how to do things right, the Starfleet way (even if they ignore her at first). Meanwhile, in continuing to try to solve the mystery of the Protostar's history, Hologram Janeway learns that Drednok is the one that boarded the ship during Chakotay's fateful command. The trickle of information on this front continues.
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