This is the sixth entry in my “Top Ten Star Trek: The Next Generation” episodes.
Brief synopsis: Q is stripped of his powers (and his clothing). He is deposited unceremoniously on the Enterprise bridge. Zaniness ensues.
Yes, at long last I am now speaking about a Q episode. Back when this idea was floated to me and before I created my list I would have said this was my all-time favorite episode of Star Trek. While this is still a very good episode, it simply does not have the degree of emotional resonance as some of the other episodes on my list.
Q is among my favorite Star Trek characters. My all-time favorite character on Star Trek is Garak. I am very drawn to morally ambiguous tricksters who are snarky and cause trouble. I had more Q episodes in my top ten, but I realized I needed to diversify my choices a little because, honestly, Q is fairly one-note. He shows up, wackiness ensues, then he leaves and everything goes back to normal.
The best Q episodes are ones that push the boundaries this formula. I have another Q episode left to talk about in my Top Ten, so trying to avoid writing about that one here.
It is hard to remember, but Q wasn’t really in that many episodes. I think he averaged one episode a season. His character was just such a change of pace from a normal Star Trek character that it was delightful any time he showed up. Until he got to Voyager. Best not to talk about that…
It also might be hard to remember, but way back in the dark ages of the early 1990’s most TV was not serialized. Since you didn’t have streaming and DVD releases of TV shows it really wasn’t all that common to have a recurring character that shows up once a year that everyone just knows. I think that is one reason Q stands out so much.
I think they walked a good line with how many types of human experiences they could have Q go through. They didn’t dwell on them for too long and we got to have a nice laugh at Q’s expense.
Has anyone else ever thought about how weird sleep is? The scene where Q is talking about being sick and losing consciousness was beautiful. Seeing him needling Doctor Crusher while he was having a back spasm was also great. We all know that you don’t piss off the person who is in charge of your physical health and can cause you pain. The less said about Q and the chocolate sundaes, the better.
Q and Data
The central relationship of this episode is the one between Q and Data. Most appearances of Q are a power struggle between Q and Picard. I think this is the only Q episode where Q’s primary sparring partner is not Picard but Data.
I honestly never really got into Data’s search for humanity. I know that every Star Trek series has an alien character who provides a non-human perspective. I know one of the reasons Dr. Pulaski didn’t work out was because the creators were trying to replicate the relationship between Spock and Bones, but it didn’t work well because Data is very child-like and it looked like bullying at his expense.
I personally think one of the failings of long-running Trek series is when they push those characters on the path to being human. The Holographic Doctor was my favorite character on Voyager for the first season until he started changing and trying to be less abrasive. Then they replaced him with Seven of Nine and had him training her to be human and then it was just, no.
Deep Space Nine did things right by having their non-human character, Odo, embrace his otherness. He did try to figure out the “solids” and did things to try and fit in with them, but he never deluded himself into thinking he was one of them. Ironically, he is the only one of those archetypical characters that actually succeeded in achieving humanity, albeit briefly.
Having a character like Q, for whom humanity is a massive come-down, was pretty awesome. One issue with having a human-centric series where everyone wants to be human and belong to the Federation is that they don’t often explore why someone might not want to be human. Humans kind of suck. It’s convenient that we can outsource all of our negative traits to different alien species like greed (Ferengi), aggression (Klingons), and obsession with meaningless bureaucracy (Cardassians).
Back to Data, putting Q in a situation where he is dealing with someone who doesn’t have buttons to push was a great move. Q takes a great deal of pleasure in making the people around him angry and placing him with a character without emotions lends an interesting dynamic to his character.
Q’s gift to Data at the end of the episode is a nice finishing touch on the episode. In spite of the fact that Q seems oblivious to the wants and needs of other people, his gift was just right. Giving Data a minute of emotion is all I ever want to see from him. All the hammy overacting in the films was a bit too much :p
Q and Guinan
Okay, there were 176 episodes of Star Trek: TNG and there are only two episodes with Guinan and Q together. Why? Why? WHY??!!
Guinan was the last character Gene Roddenberry created. At the time Goldberg was on the A-list and won an Oscar for her role in “Ghost”. She was a life-long Star Trek fan because as a child she saw the original series and because very excited to see a black woman on TV who was not a maid. Her presence in this series, especially in the first few seasons, lends this show a degree of gravitas that even Patrick Stewart could not contribute.
I would love to have more of an explanation of how Guinan and Q know one another. Why the writers thought that having a two-part episode that takes place during the Gold Rush with Guinan over an episode exploring her relationship with Q is beyond me.
Of course, anything they came up with would probably not be nearly as epic as anything I could imagine. I know what the topic of my first fan fiction is going to be!! ^_^
I supposed one could make an argument that “The Trouble with Tribbles” was the greatest episode of the original series. It is the most cited episode and one that most everyone has seen. However, when you compare it to “The City on the Edge of Forever”, you have to admit that just because it is a funny and well thought out episode, it doesn’t mean it is the best episode made.
As much as I love this episode, I do have to admit that it isn’t the best episode ever. I even had to admit it isn’t in my top three. It does however have arguably the best ending ever.
You haven’t seen the last of Q! Stayed tuned for more of my favorites coming up later!!