Revisiting Star Trek TNG: Deja Q

News James Hunt 6 Jun 2014 - 08:16

John De Lancie's Q is handing out the cigars in this week's lookback at Star Trek: The Next Generation.

This review contains spoilers.

3.13 Deja Q

The Enterprise is trying to assist the people of Bre'el IV with a faulty moon (it's threatening to crash into the planet and kill them all) when, unexpectedly, Q appears on the bridge. Naked and levitating. Hurray! Q!

After being swiftly dressed while the intro is happening (not that swiftly, admittedly. They don't make intros like that anymore…) Q announces that he has been kicked out of the Q Continuum for being a mischief-maker, and forced to become mortal, has chosen to become human. No-one buys it for a second, even with Counselor Troi's expert testimony ("I am sensing an emotional presence") so Picard gets Worf to throw Q in the brig.

While there, Q falls asleep, but the Enterprise is bathed in a bright light which appears to be some kind of scan. The scan focuses on Q, then disappears. Picard heads to talk to Q, and eventually gives in to his pleas that he be allowed to make himself useful. He assigns Data to be Q's babysitter, and the pair head down to Engineering to try and figure out how to move the moon.

Soon, in engineering, Geordi, Data and Q are trying to figure out how to solve their problem, but Q can't concentrate because he's having a back spasm. Dr Crusher comes to fix it personally (because no job is too small for the chief of medicine!) and irritated by his pain, Q forgets humans don't have his former powers and suggests Geordi just change the gravity of the area. Luckily, this leads Geordi to an actual solution involving things like warp fields and recalibration.

After experiencing hunger, Data takes Q to Ten-Forward where he bumps into Guinan. Sadly, she doesn't do her kung-fu hand guard this time, but she does stab Q with a fork to check that he's not joking. Once again (and for the final time ever) Q alludes to Guinan being a mysterious figure he's dealt with before. Er, you'll have to make up your own backstory there.

While Q sulks, he is suddenly attacked by a glowing white light. It's an alien cloud called The Calamarain who Q has tortured in the past. After the Enterprise repels it, Picard realises the only reason Q came to the Enterprise is because they're the only ones who'll protect him from his many enemies, all of whom will eventually hear on the space-grapevine that he's now mortal.

As the Enterprise attempts to move the moon with Q's assistance, the Calamarain attacks Q again. He's only saved by the intervention of Data, who is injured in the attack. It also interrupts their attempt to fix the moon's orbit. Riker points out that they can't save the planet AND protect Q. Meanwhile, Q himself is feeling like a coward because he wouldn't have done what Data did. Realising he'd rather be dead than a cowardly, disliked human, he steals a shuttlecraft and attempts to give himself up to the Calamarain (who sadly look nothing like squid).

Although the crew attempt to save him, their efforts all mysteriously fail as if blocked by an outside entity. Suddenly, on the shuttle, a second Q appears. Q2 explains that Q has learned his lesson by performing a selfless act to save the Enterprise (despite his own, more selfish justification) and readmits him to the Continuum, restoring his powers.

After banishing the Calamarain, Q transports himself to the bridge and proceeds to go full Marx Brothers on it, leading a mariachi band and handing out cigars. Then he makes fun of Riker's beard. It's too much for Picard, who is enraged by the cheer and tells Q to leave. Q thanks him for his hospitality and repays his debt to Data by giving the gift of laughter, which is cut short when Geordi asks what's so funny (thanks, buzz-killer).
Realising that Q has also fixed the crashing moon for them, Picard ends the episode by musing about the nature of humanity, concluding that maybe Q really did learn some humility. But I wouldn't be so sure.

TNG WTF: The weirdest thing in this episode (aside from the additional allusions to a Q/Guinan history that never get paid off) is the Brig's security guard being completely blasé about a strange energy scan affecting his charge. Presumably he was facing the wrong way, or playing Freecell or something. Or just resting his eyes.

TNG LOL: Q is always a great source of comedy in the way he punctures TNG's occasionally too-serious air. The final scene with the mariachi band and cigars is gold, as are Q's superior-yet-miserable jibes (wait, is Q Morrissey?). This is definitely an episode you laugh with, instead of at.

Who's that face?: Q2 is Corbin Dean Bernsen, famous for playing  Arnie Becker in LA Law. And also doing a passable impression of an American Drop Dead Fred in this episode.

Time Until Meeting: 23:10. Unusually late. Q is given a grilling about his enemy baggage.

Captain's Log: Although it's easy to remember Q as one of the series' great recurring characters, it's not until his fourth appearance on the show that he actually gets anything resembling a story of his own. In Encounter At Farpoint he's much less mischievous, in Hide And Q the focus is on Riker, and in Q Who he's basically incidental to the plot.

This time around, he gets some actual material to work with, and John De Lancie completely goes with it, imbuing considerable depth into his character. The high concept is good, the execution is good, and it's a story that could only really work with Q in the guest star role. Contrasting his struggle to be human against Data's struggle to become human was a great idea, and his interactions with every crew member are as funny as TNG ever got, especially in that final scene.

But this is the first time Q really clicks, and the template for future Q appearances. It may, debatably, rank as one of his best, but we'll have to test that theory when he appears again. Personally, I think this could win just because of how hilarious it is when Q conjures up cigars for everyone.

Watch or Skip?: Watch. Great episode.

Read James's look-back at the previous episode, The High Ground, here.

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