Category Archives: Q

“The Q and the Grey”

Ask your doctor if Q-alis is right for you.
Ask your doctor if Q-alis is right for you.

Q returns and wants to get busy with Janeway (um), complete with a heart-shaped bed (not a good sign). He eventually tells her the instability brought on by the suicide of the other Q in “Death Wish” has started a civil war (all right), with Normal Q on the rebellious side (fair enough). He wants Janeway’s help to create a child (excuse me?) to be a sort of messiah that all the Q can unite around (wait, what?). Then, Q’s old flame — a Q played by Trek favorite Suzie Plakson — shows up on the ship calling Janeway a “dog” and a bunch of other ridiculous things (oh, help me, Rhonda). A bunch of supernovas are happening around Voyager — apparently, caused by the fighting in the Continuum (weird) — and Normal Q transports himself and Janeway to the Continuum, represented to Janeway as the American Civil War (no, no, no). Female Q helps Chakotay get the ship into the Continuum (unlikely) where the crew, armed with Q weapons (oh, please) helps save Normal Q and Janeway from a firing squad (can I get my check?). Then, the fighting ends and Normal Q and Female Q decide to mate (which they could have done in the first frakking place). Back on the ship, Q shows up with what appears to be a human infant in a Starfleet uniform (baby cuteness aside, gah) and asks Janeway to be the godmother (huh?) and says she might need to babysit sometime (get my gun). Roll credits (thank goodness).

Why it’s important

Well, the Q are sort of like gods, and there’s a civil war among gods because of Voyager’s (reasonable) actions a year earlier. Given Q’s importance in second-generation Trek, a civil war among the Q is a really important, really cool concept.

But, what a disaster of a way to do it. Easily one of Trek’s biggest misfires.

Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn how silly this premise is. And neither do the writers.
Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn how silly this premise is. And neither do the writers.

What doesn’t hold up

I don’t even know where to start. Well, yes I do.

Q (thanks in large part to the wonderful John de Lancie) is a great part of second-generation Star Trek. He brings humor to shows that could often be too stodgy (particularly TNG) and often infused a meta quality (like playing the part of fans and commenting on Riker’s beard). Indeed, some Q episodes are great, like “Q Who”, “Tapestry”, “All Good Things … “ and “Death Wish”. But others are only saved from being awful by de Lancie and his ability to spar with Patrick Stewart or Kate Mulgrew. See DS9’s “Q-Less”, or TNG’s “Hide and Q” and (arguably the worst showing) “Qpid”.  This episode isn’t quite as bad as that one, but “The Q and the Grey” is a great example of where Q episodes can go wrong.

Essentially, Q’s antics become too ridiculous and he (and/or the Q, generally) end up looking not all that all-powerful. It was trippy and cool when the Continuum was represented as a small town along a desert road in “Death Wish”. It’s just ridiculous that the Voyager crew, inside the Continuum, could use Q weapons and actually turn the tide in a battle represented by an American Civil War venue. Actually, it’s the kind of distinction that you can see while marathon-watching TOS, with the effectiveness of an Earth-like setting (necessitated by real-world budgets) depending largely on whether the written rationale made any sense — think the difference between the laughable “Yangs” and “Comms” in “The Omega Glory” and the cool partial Western town in “Spectre of a Gun”.

Bottom line, everything that “Death Wish” got so right, this episode gets so very, very wrong. If not for de Lancie and Plakson (and, Mulgrew, who shined most in episodes where she could banter with a character who had an outside perspective, be it a Q or a Borg) this would be one of Voyager’s worst showings. As is, it’s still one of it’s most ridiculous. Thank goodness “Threshold” is around to make “The Q and the Grey” look somewhat reasonable.

Let's play "Glory or Voyager" screencap game.
Let’s play ‘Glory or Voyager’ screencap game.

Final thoughts

We only see Q once more in Voyager (and in all of Trek) in Voyager’s final season, when Q’s troublemaking son shows up on Voyager — in another example of making the Q too “funny” and not menacing enough. Given the misfire in this episode, it’s not all that disappointing that Voyager mostly moved away from Q, I suppose.

That said, Q does call Neelix a “bar rodent,” so maybe I need to adjust my thinking …

Coming later this week …

Torres has a fever, and the only prescription, is more Paris. No word on the gold-plated diapers.

“Death Wish”

Hi, I'm a omniscient, all-power being even if I am a bit maudlin.
Hi, I’m a omniscient, all-power being even if I am a bit maudlin.

The ship accidentally frees an imprisoned Q (Gerrit Graham) and regular Q (John de Lancie) shows up to lock his counterpart back up. It’s learned that New Q wants to end his immortality, as he’s bored and he feels the Q Continuum has lost its way — but Normal Q says a Q suicide would have potentially disastrous effects. Both Qs agree to let Janeway arbitrate the matter and she hears arguments from both sides — including a rather trippy visit to the Continuum in a conceptual way Janeway and Tuvok are able to understand. Janeway eventually grants New Q asylum and Normal Q — moved by New Q’s irrepressible nature and arguments about the listless Continuum — helps him commit suicide. Normal Q leaves Voyager, but not before promising that he will no longer be a company man within the Continuum — and saying that he will likely return to darken Voyager’s doorstep.

This was one of those old-timey "photographs" they made of me and Barclay when we took some shore leave at Dollywood.
This was one of those old-timey “photographs” they made of me and Barclay when we took some shore leave at Dollywood.

Why it’s important

We learn more about the Q in “Death Wish” than any episode outside of “Encounter at Farpoint”. Depicting the Continuum as a crossroads in a desert town was sort of brilliant. It’s the kind of sci-fi trick that was often done in TOS, and only sometimes successfully. Used here, it works wonders. This episode might be Voyager’s best pure sci-fi showing.

Of course, the events here start a civil war within the Continuum, which we’ll see during Q’s next visit to Voyager. A civil war among what might be the most powerful entities in the universe is a huge, huge deal — at least, as a concept.

What doesn’t hold up

The episode has one conceit that deserves some discussion. Would the Continuum actually agree to abide by Janeway’s decision? I suppose you could argue that the Q’s sense of absurdity could be in play, but it seems odd that such powerful beings would put such an important decision in a “limited” life form’s hands.

Why am I letting a human judge us. Last time judging was involved it was me in a kickass hat judging Picard and company.
Why am I letting a human judge us? Last time judging was involved it was me in a kickass hat judging Picard and company.

Final thoughts

This might be my favorite Voyager episode. It gives nods toward continuity (which we’ll discuss) and it also asks a fascinating question: Could an immortal, all-knowing being ever get so bored that it wants to die?

Beyond that, it’s a great callback to a lot of what was established in TNG, with a few references to the Enterprise and even a guest appearance by Jonathan Frakes as Riker during the hearing Janeway oversees. Granted, the move was probably designed to bring in TNG viewers — I remember a preview from back in the day in which Riker seems to have a big role in the episode, and he’s really on screen for about five minutes — but the effort mostly works. It’s justified by Normal Q wanting to show New Q’s impact — presumably because not having him around would have bad effects. New Q, apparently saved a relative of Riker’s during the American Civil War. If he hadn’t, our Riker wouldn’t have existed — and the Federation would have been conquered by the Borg, stated explicitly by Normal Q. If anyone thought I was overstating the lack of love Riker gets for his actions to stop the Borg, he clearly, you know, saved the Federation.

Coming later this week …

Back to the Kazon.

“Q Who?”

“We haven’t faced a ship like this since the Fuzzy Dice Dreadnaughts of Pimpulon 8!”

Q returns and asks to join the Enterprise crew. Turns out he’s been kicked out of the Q Continuum and figures his services can be of use to his Starfleet buds. When Picard refuses — citing his lack of trust in Q and confidence that humanity is ready for what’s ahead — Q sends the Enterprise to an uncharted area of space. Despite Guinan’s warnings — her people were from this region — Picard decides to do some exploring before heading back and finds planets attacked in the same manner as the outposts in “The Neutral Zone”. Then, a cube-shaped vessel appears and attacks the Enterprise. Guinan identifies them as the Borg, a race with a collective consciousness bent on assimilating useful technology. With the Borg about to overtake and/or destroy the Enterprise, Picard pleads with Q to send the Enterprise back to Federation space. Q, impressed with Picard’s ability to suppress his pride for the sake of his ship, acquiesces. But Picard and Guinan end the episode discussing the quiet realization that the Borg, now that they know of the Federation, will be coming.

The logical, and sinister, next step after Babybjörn

Why it’s important

The second classic episode of TNG is also the series’ most consequential. The Borg become the major nemesis for Picard and Co., showing up again in the series’ best episodes, “The Best of Both Worlds”, a few other times and, of course, in TNG’s best film, “Star Trek: First Contact”. The Borg also become the main bad guys starting in the middle seasons of Voyager, and the loss of Benjamin Sisko’s wife, Jennifer, in the Borg attack at Wolf 359 (the aftermath of which is seen in “The Best of Both Worlds, Part II”) becomes a major background element for DS9 .

Oh, Dr. Tolian Soran (an el-Aurian like Guinan and the main bad guy in “Star Trek: Generations”) is so motivated to return to his family (killed by the Borg) that he’s cool with killing the population of a pre-warp civilization as a way to bring the time-traveling Nexus to him. That, of course, is the major premise behind the film and it leads to the destruction of the Enterprise-D and the death of James T. Kirk.

I could keep going, of course. It’s actually hard to imagine Star Trek in the 1990s without the Borg. Hell, they even made an appearance in “Star Trek: Enterprise” in 2003.

I listen very well to others, including a few kung fu instructors along the way.
“I listen very well to others, including a few kung fu instructors along the way.”

What doesn’t hold up

There really isn’t much in this episode that doesn’t work. It’s a little strange that we don’t learn more about Guinan’s earlier encounter with Q and why he calls her “an imp” who isn’t what she appears to be. But whatever.

The biggest problem is that dialog in this episode seems to indicate that the Borg have already been in Federation space and, in fact, attacked Starfleet’s outposts last season along the Neutral Zone (in “The Neutral Zone”). If true, then Picard’s sense of urgency at the end of the episode should have been even greater. It’s not just that the Borg “are coming.” It’s that they’re already there — or, that they could get there by some method very quickly.

Final thoughts

TNG’s second season really wasn’t that great, but this episode, “The Measure of a Man” and “Peak Performance” and “Contagion” were outings that showed the series’ potential. Of course, the second season was affected by a writers’ strike and was just 22 episodes long (the shortest in TNG’s run).

Although this episode has a lot of great moments, the scene with Picard, Riker, Q and Guinan in Ten-Forward is my favorite. No other Star Trek captain, not even Kirk, would have considered letting Q join his or her crew. But Picard, ever the explorer, does kick around the idea — as he sees that learning more about Q would be “frankly provocative” and part of his mission. It’s a telling moment for Picard, as he’s most willing among the Star Trek captains to risk his ship in the pursuit of knowledge. There’s no way Sisko, Janeway or Archer would have even talked through the idea with Q. Kirk is arguably the only other commanding officer who would have thought through the proposal, but the fact that Q wasn’t an attractive female would have likely killed his chances.

Coming next week …

As our friend Worf would say (with trademark disdain): “Romulans”.