Revisiting Star Trek TNG: Hide And Q

James' weekly reappraisal of Star Trek: TNG's first season comes to a Q episode he remembered as being much better...

This review contains spoilers.

1.10 Hide and Q

One thing about revisiting an old series of something you love is that you get to see how well your memories match up to reality. Hide and Q, in which Riker is granted the powers of a Q (by Q) was an episode I fondly remembered as having a good story and decent execution. As you can probably guess from that introduction, the reality did not match up to it.

Rather strangely, the episode’s high concept – the bit you remember where Q gives Riker his limitless powers – doesn’t happen until almost twenty minutes in, after an extended sequence involving crazy man-beasts in Napoleonic uniforms. The start of the episode is all about Q playing some kind of game with the Bridge officers (sans Picard) which seems to serve no purpose and goes nowhere. It’s as if the writers got halfway through the episode and thought “actually, I’ve had a much better idea…”

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Even when Riker receives his powers, he spends a lot of time chatting to Q, before returning to the Enterprise and promising not to use them – at all. We’re thirty minutes in before he breaks that promise, and does so the very second the temptation arises. No moral conflict, no mental grappling, just a complete and immediate breakdown of his will. It’s like the writers knew the beats they wanted to hit, but didn’t have time to connect them in an organic way. If he’d received his powers at the end of the first act, then we’d be in business.

Really, Riker’s transformation should have been gradual and subtle. Instead, it’s near-instant. As soon as he uses his powers once, he goes from being a regular, sane man to posing and gesturing like a demented superhero and acting like a complete tool to his friends.

The episode concludes with a very strange sequence in which Riker grants various crew members their fondest wishes, which are all quite uncomfortable and eventually get rebuffed. For example, he makes Wesley ten years older – turns him into an adult, just like he always wanted (personally, I’d be more concerned about just having lost a decade off my life). He also gives Worf a Klingon sex-slave, who basically tries to do him in front of all his friends, which makes him so angry he swears off sex forever (“Worf! Is this your idea of sex?” “This is sex! But I have no place for it in my life now.” Jesus, don’t be too hasty.)

Personally, had my friends thrown my fantastic gifts back in my face so quickly, I like to think I’d have realised sooner than Riker did. But realise he does, and then they manage to get rid of Q on a technicality by pointing out that he’s broken a promise never to interfere with humanity again, which causes his bosses to force a recall faster than Intel after a new product launch. Everything goes back to normal, and they all fly off into the sunset.

TNG WTF: Beast-men in Napoleonic uniform. It’s been twenty-five years and still no-one knows what they were thinking.

And, of course, the moment where Yar gets put into Q’s “Sin Bin” (which means if anyone else gets a penalty, she disappears forever) and… starts crying. The famously hard-ass Tasha Yar starts crying while Picard pats her on the back? Er, no, I don’t buy it. Apparently Troi was written out of this episode at the last minute (her absence explained in a throwaway line pre-credits) which suggests that maybe they subbed Yar in but didn’t rewrite the scene because, y’know, they’re both women, how different could they be?

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TNG LOL: Worf has a classic Worf moment: A fight with multiple assailants that he loses. You have to laugh.

Mistakes & Minutiae: Picard gets rid of Q by claiming he’s broken a promise not to interfere, but not only did Q promise nothing of the sort, he actually promised the exact opposite. His last works in Encounter at Farpoint, his previous appearance, were – and I quote: “But I will not promise never to appear again.” So, pretty much a promise that he WOULD interfere again. Oh well.

Time Until Meeting: 32:49. We’re made to wait, but it’s a good one! The power-mad version of Riker dramatically announces to Picard “I want a meeting with you. And your Bridge Staff.” Then storms out of the room (only to return immediately after the act break through the same door. Presumably he was just visiting the loo.)

Captain’s Log: There’s actually a really good idea in this episode, it’s just a shame that it’s all crammed into the last ten minutes. The first twenty minutes are completely pointless, the next five-ten minutes are all very odd, and then the rest of the episode rushes through what could have been a really good episode in its own right, exploring the old adage about absolute power and what it could do, even to a model Federation idealist like Riker.

The problem is that these early TNG episodes actively resist adhering to the screenplay 101 three-act structure, which makes them feel vastly more dated than they are. If they ever remade the series, most episodes have one a really good idea at the core which could be spun out into a very satisfying story – but in Hide and Q, they’re inevitably buried beneath five bad ones.

Watch or Skip? Watch, I suppose. Q episodes are always worth watching for John de Lancie, if nothing else.

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