February 22 2024


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Deja Q

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at June 6, 2008 - 10:27 PM GMT

See Also: 'Deja Q' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: The Enterprise is called to Bre'el IV, where a small moon is descending upon the planet, causing massive earthquakes and tidal waves as its orbit shrinks. While Picard's crew considers how to help, Q appears naked on the bridge and announces that he has been stripped of his powers. Dubious, Picard suspects the moon's deteriorating orbit to be Q's doing and first has Q thrown in the brig, then has Data keep an eye on the formerly omnipotent being while Q tries to adjust to the horrors of being human like sweating and hunger. Soon the Calamarain, a gaseous lifeform that Q once tortured, show up to attack Q. Picard cannot block the Calamarain and assist the Bre'el at the same time. Data puts his own life at risk when he attempts to protect Q. Touched by Data's willingness to sacrifice himself, Q takes a shuttlecraft to draw the Calamarain away from the Enterprise and Bre'el IV. But before the Calamarain can attack again - and before Picard can risk the ship or the planet with a rescue attempt - a second Q appears inside the shuttle, telling Q that because of this selfless act, Q's powers will be restored. Q thanks Picard and Riker with unwelcome cigars and pretty women, but he gives Data the opportunity to experience human laughter, something Data had told Q was one reason he wished to be human. The Bre'el hail the ship to thank Picard for restoring their moon's orbit, making Picard realize that Q has saved the planet as well.

Analysis: The Next Generation writers couldn't have come up with a better recurring adversary for the crew than Q. Sure, it's fun sometimes to watch them outsmart the Romulans, outfight the Klingons or outlast the Cardassians, but there's never any real threat to Earth or humanity; rather, the biggest challenge for this series is not to relapse into the self-important tedium of the first season. Q shakes everyone out of their particular complacencies, particularly Picard - even here, turned into an ordinary mortal, he knows exactly how to get under Jean-Luc's skin. Q claims that he picked the Enterprise for his banishment because in all the universe, Picard is the closest thing he has to a friend, and although of course it turns out that he has ulterior motives, Q seems to mean it. He knows the crew can't stand him and no one trusts him, but he also knows that Picard can't resist the challenge he represents, and he makes everyone elevate their game.

Q makes Worf hilarious - asked what he can do to prove his mortality, Worf replies, "Die," to which Q retorts, "Eat any good books lately?" When Worf marches Q to the brig and Q makes a feeble attempt to ingratiate himself by saying he should have chosen to be Klingon, Worf asks Q to disappear, to which Q replies that he can no more pull his vanishing act than Worf could win a beauty contest. When the brig proves a pointless exercise, Q gets a turn with Geordi - his suggestion that they change the gravitational constant of the universe to stop the moon's orbit from decaying gives LaForge an idea to use the warp fields to slow the moon's descent - and then Data, who is in a unique position to listen to all of Q's complaints about being human, being unable to experience any of them. Data doesn't need to eat, or bathe, or wail and clutch his back when it aches, nor can he appreciate the chocolate sundaes Q tries when he learns that it's Deanna Troi's favorite consolation. Data can't even feel jealous that Q has achieved in disgrace what Data has always longed for, but he can express to Q all the things he would like to try if he could be human. That seems to move Q more than any human effort to do what is extraordinary for humans, like putting a moon back in orbit, but child's play for a Q.

It's no surprise when another species that Q once tormented shows up wanting revenge. The dilemma they pose seems a bit too simple for the Enterprise, but maybe that's the point; Picard doesn't want to have to lift a finger to help Q, and Guinan is quite satisfied to see him writhing on the floor of Ten Forward. They're incapable of feeling sorry for Q, particularly since Q keeps rubbing in his former omnipotence, talking about things the crew should do as if they have his former powers and lamenting that he doesn't work well in groups because he's used to being so superior. Somehow John de Lancie manages to make him appealing, with his pathetic pout and fearless commitment to enjoying absurd situations. Not every actor can look convincing leading a mariachi band or popping out of a cigar, and not every actor can be amusing rather than threatening when, super-powers restored, his first act is to threaten the beings that were so recently seeking redress for past grievances against him. The face he makes upon Q's realization that he'll need to bathe is priceless. He shifts effortlessly from bored to annoyed to self-pitying.

But Data gives this story its heart, which goes beyond the humor. Even if he can't share the humans' annoyance at Q, he can certainly see their irritation; still, he is determined to learn what he can from Q. Whether it's empathy or programming that makes Data save Q, it wakes Q up to the fact that there are some human traits worth emulating, even worth admiring. Probably anyone else on the ship would have hesitated before taking a proverbial bullet for Q of all people, but not Data; he knows the right thing to do and he does it. He is in some ways an ideal human rather than someone who isn't quite human enough, and Q tells him so before he asks himself what Data would do and leaves the ship to protect the others. The second Q indicates that all the Q may be nearly as arrogant, arbitrary and meddlesome as the familiar one, so maybe Q hasn't had proper role models. If Trelane is indeed a Q, as novelist Peter David and others have speculated, his parents telling him not to torture his pets aren't exactly promising.

The fourth disc of the third-season set of Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes on DVD may be the single best disc of the entire series; in addition to the comic "Deja Q," it contains the Rashomon-inspired "A Matter of Perspective," the alternate history "Yesterday's Enterprise" and one of television's all-time masterpieces, the Data tearjerker "The Offspring." If I only got one DVD to take to a desert island, it would be this one.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.

Michelle Erica Green is a former news writer for TrekToday. An archive of her reviews can be found at The Little Review.

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