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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Disqus - noscript

I love these weekly reviews. Never stop doing them.
No really. Don't ever stop. When you finish All Good Things, go back and review Encounter At Farpoint again, only this time in the guise of a slightly senile scottish aristocrat with IBS. Gotta keep things fresh after all.

I always enjoyed this ep. I loved John DeLancie's performance, and the character's interactions with everyone.
Next week is A Matter of Perpective (guest starring Breaking Bad's Mark Margolis), and then the superb Yesterday's Enterprise. Looking forward to the takes on them.

This episode was always a favourite, and any episode with Q in (after his first 2!) was always greeted with a cheer. You're right that Q was the perfect antidote to TNG's occasionally taking itself too seriously (though it'd probably have been rubbish if it hadn't), so well played to the writers and produces for realising that and continually bringing him back.

I can't really take John DeLancie seriously in anything else. He was in The West Wing once, and it was so disappointing that he didn't have any powers. Although, thanks to Aaron Sorkin, his dialogue was still pretty entertaining.

Love these weekly reviews, by the way, keep them coming!

"It's too much for Picard, who is enraged by the cheer..."
A priceless line, for being so very, very accurate.

Thanks for another installment of a series I look forward to on Fridays! This season was definitely a pinnacle for STTNG, and Deja Q was definitely another "must watch" episode. Cheers!

John DeLancie's role as the grieving father of a drug addict was a superb acted role.

I haven't seen that, what show is it?

Crap, I was typing so fast I forgot to list the freaking show? Coffee hasn't kicked in yet, I guess! Friday couldn't come sooner...

The show was Breaking Bad. He was the father of Jesse's neighbor/girlfriend, as well as his landlord. Pivotal season 2 story arc, peppered throughout the season with hints and a stellar season finale revelation.

Loved this episode. This is the point where TNG finally hits its stride and begins a run of truly classic episodes

I love these weekly TNG reviews too. Did we miss one last Friday?

Some of the best lines in Trek come from this episode.
"Oh very good Worf, ate any good books lately?" and when Worf locks him up "ROMULAN!!"

"Oh show some humour Riker you weren't that stoic before the beard!!"
"it's your ability to get on with his little trained minions that the Captain want to observe"

Great episode, easily in my top 10, certainly the most fun Q episode.

That final scene is one of my favourite Star Trek scenes ever. I love these revisits so much! Gives me a good ol' chuckle!

Major LeAGue. Bernson. That is all.

John De Lancie was damned good in a small but crucial role during the second season of "Breaking Bad". I promise no spoilers, but when it was finally revealed who he was, and what was about to happen, I couldn't breathe for a solid ten seconds. I was enraged at myself for not figuring it out and delighted that the writers had fooled me. Maybe it was because JDL had done such a good job portraying a decent fellow, I couldn't see him doing...THAT. (Again, no spoilers.)

Sometimes I have to skip a week due to workload. Can't review an episode if I haven't had time to watch it!

Ah, no worries, all your hard work is very much appreciated!

Your reviews are my Friday sunshine. Always scanning the front page Friday morning for the review.

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