Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Deja Q"


Air date: 2/5/1990
Written by Richard Danus
Directed by Les Landau

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

As the Enterprise attempts to correct the decaying orbit of a moon before it crashes into the populated planet below, Q appears, having been stripped of all his powers by the Q Continuum and made into a mortal human being. Having the choice of where to be banished, Q picked the Enterprise because of "all the fun we had in the past." Q now finds himself among a crew that doesn't like him, experiencing the very non-omnipotent lifestyle of a normal, limited human.

"Deja Q" is one of the rare attempts by TNG to do sustained comedy, and it might also be the most successful. Q as a fish out of water is a gimmick, to be sure, but it's a good one. John de Lancie has natural comic timing, and the story wisely pairs Q with Data for much of the show, which is an inspired choice. Not only is Data the perfect, endlessly patient straight man for Q's nonstop chatter, it allows the story to provide a running commentary on the human condition from the perspective of outsiders.

A successful comedy must also have sharp, funny dialog, which "Deja Q" has. In addition to all of Q's ongoing struggles with human banalities like sleeping and eating ("I'll have 10 chocolate sundaes"), we have the running joke that this formerly omnipotent being still takes omnipotence for granted. (His solution to the decaying moon orbit: "Change the gravitational constant of the universe." And he isn't kidding; he means it.) Q proves to be an insufferable man. We have scene after scene of Q's arrogance, boredom, and sarcasm. The secret to this working is that because of the way de Lancie plays him, Q is likable despite being a constant pain in the ass. (Q on not being able to get along with others: "It's hard to work well in groups when you're omnipotent.")

Even the peril — and no TNG plot would be satisfied without peril — is made amusing. (When Q is attacked by the Calamarain and Data saves him, Data lands on his side, like an object rather than a person, which is a likably goofy gag.) But what ultimately makes this episode work as well as it does is that it's actually about something — Q and Data and their similar plights of trying to figure out what it means to be human while approaching that question from completely different points of view: Data as someone who wants to be human, and Q as someone who definitely does not.

Previous episode: The High Ground
Next episode: A Matter of Perspective

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25 comments on this review

Tue, Apr 24, 2012, 12:11pm (UTC -5)
I liked this episode a lot. The opening scene of the show was VERY convenient -- Troi was no where around! So the crew initially did not believe Q had lost his powers.

In this scene, I can't believe you didn't mention Worf's great line! Q asked what does he have to do to prove he's mortal? Worf: Die!

This episode definitely has my recommendation.
Mon, Apr 30, 2012, 8:38am (UTC -5)
Actually, Troi was present at the episode's beginning. She said that she could sense an emotional presence in Q, but the crew were still understandably skeptical due to their past dealings with him.
Mon, Jun 25, 2012, 7:26pm (UTC -5)

I wouldn't normally quibble over your star-ratings of episodes, but I have to make an exception for this episode. "Deja Q" is the creme de la creme of TNG. John deLancie's multifaceted performance was Emmy-worthy. The script was as funny and witty as "The Trouble with Tribbles" while touching on all the serious philosophical touchstones of the Roddenberry philosophy. It should definitely get a "Living Witness"-level reconsideration for a full 4 stars. IMHO.
Thu, Nov 29, 2012, 3:23pm (UTC -5)
Definitely 4 stars and a classic episode.

Watching Data laughing made my mood. Why did Geordi had to ruin Data's moment? Just let your friend laugh his head off, Geordi, for God's sake!!!

And of course, as always John de Lancie is shining as Q.
Fri, Mar 15, 2013, 5:00pm (UTC -5)
@xaaos - Geordi has short man syndrome.
Thu, Jan 9, 2014, 1:12pm (UTC -5)
I hate to be the rain on the parade, but this episode really doesn't do it for me. Granted, Guinan stabbing Q with a fork was marvelous, but it's just annoying to see two outsiders talk about humanity as though we didn't already know everything they're saying. Came across as pretentious.

That, however, is probably more of a subjective thing than anything else, and the episode is definitely one of Q's best performances.
Wed, Jan 22, 2014, 5:51pm (UTC -5)
Good fun episode. Nissa, personally I didn't see this episode as being about Data and Q's perceptions of humanity, although I suppose that makes sense. Data seems a bit peripheral to the whole thing; I just assumed the reason he appeared so much is that it was a necessary part of the plot (no one else could deal with Q that much...). If anything, Q gaining a bit of humility was the purpose of the episode. Or really, it was an excuse for an enjoyable hour.

Two other notes:

1) There's a lot of very heavy episodes in the middle of this string of episodes (starting with Defector and ending with Sins of the Father, more or less) that deal with a lot of difficult questions, heavy themes, dramatic moments, and strong emotions. Getting TNG's best comedy show in the middle of all of this is a pleasant relief. It has nothing to do with the episode as a whole, but it's pleasant nonetheless.

2) The sub-plot of the falling moon is a good one. With all the magical spatial anomalies and subspace disruptions and other technobabble nonsense, seeing some hard science was enjoyable. The discussion of options in the beginning was probably too simple for highly skilled and trained spacemen from the future (seriously, one would assume they would all know that blowing up the moon wouldn't help), but it's a necessary conceit to get this info to the viewers. And even though the solution (or partial solution) was all technobabbleish (warp bubbles to change the gravitational constant or whatever), the problem of obtaining the delta-V needed was stated in realistic terms. It was good to watch all around.
Wed, Feb 5, 2014, 6:15pm (UTC -5)
This was so great :D

I agree with Patrick, this is the cream of the crop of TNG. If I were to made a list of awesome TNG episodes, this one would be one of them. As Jammer says, it might as well be TNG's best comedy episode.

I only have petty complaints like, for instance, Q used his powers to produce a Mariachi band (not sure why, but it feels a bit embarrassing to watch), and if I recall correctly, the other Q used to speak to our Q while he's a little tiny fairy or something. It felt a bit childish.

But those are minor complaints, as the rest of the episode was awesome! Great dialogue, and humor and drama (for Q himself, mostly, hah). The acting was superb and I even enjoyed the B-plot, since it tied into the A-plot.

Now, the episode was almost perfect until that moment when Data laughed. Then it became...beautiful. To me that was the icing on a cake. For one brief moment Data was able to experience emotions like a real human (without becoming one, as seen in the S1 episode "Hide and Q").

Data saying "It was a wonderful...feeling" is one of my favorite good lines of the entire series.

And, of course, John de Lancie is just wonderful here.
Mon, Apr 7, 2014, 12:36am (UTC -5)
This was an awesome episode, one of the best so far. Of course, John de Lancie's performance is central to the show. By contrast, Corbin Bernsen made a poor Q2. We also have, Picard, Data and Worf who come across as brilliant actors. Patrick Stewart never ceases to amaze me with all the non-verbal acting he does even without speaking a line of dialogue.

I thought that Guinan stabbing Q with a fork was a bit over the top, but it was funny and unexpected.

It's true that the almost complete absence of Troy might be one of the good points of the episode. Her magical sensing abilities are too often overused and tell us what we should see for ourselves.

There are many very good quotes and amusing moments. This is also a very philosophical episode that explores the question of human nature. "You have achieved in disgrace what I have always aspired to be." - Data
Tue, Apr 29, 2014, 6:20pm (UTC -5)
This was the beginning of the end for Q. Apart from the season finale. Q is portrayed completely out of character, and his race is seen a rather silly bunch of pranksters. The writing staff clearly had no idea what they were doing.
Sat, Jun 21, 2014, 7:56pm (UTC -5)
Probably my favorite Q episode. Pairing up Q and Data was a wise decision, they worked very well together. This allowed for a pretty good exploration of human nature. Overall, balanced serious drama with humor very well - I loved the appearance of the second Q, Data laughing, Guinan stabbing him with a fork and Worf taking Q down to the brig.

Also: this ep is the origin of the Picard Facepalm meme! +0.5 star bonus!

4 stars.

Funniest exchange:

Picard: Q the liar! Q the misanthrope!
Q: Q the miserable! Q the desperate! What must I do to convince you people?
Worf: Die.
Mon, Aug 18, 2014, 3:57pm (UTC -5)
I just don't get it. Yes, John de Lancie plays him well, but Q has got to be the most obnoxious character ever created. He has all the charm of a three-year-old throwing a tantrum.

Whenever he turns up, the captain becomes the Skipper yelling "GILLIGAN!"

I am with Worf here, I wish he would just DIE!
Tue, Aug 26, 2014, 10:16pm (UTC -5)
Wait a second...Data dismisses blowing the moon up because the thousands of fragments would "spread destruction over a wider area", but then the next moment they say that the impact destruction be "insignificant compared to the seismic repercussions, massive landquakes and tsunami", which seems to directly contradict that it would be worse to blow it up. Thousands of fragments aren't going to have little, if any, "seismic repercussions, massive landquakes, and tsunami". Both would be destructive, but by their own reckoning, blowing it up seems by far the lesser of two evils.
Fri, Jan 2, 2015, 12:30pm (UTC -5)
Not much to add here except that this is a 4 star episode in my book. Indeed, I think quite a few of Jammer's 3 - 3.5 star-rated TNG episodes should be upgraded to 4 stars ("The Enemy" and "The Most Toys" for example). I know that there's no such thing as an objective standard in reviewing, but I think Jammer is generally harder on TNG than he was on any of the other Trek series. We all have our favorites, but TNG obviously wasn't Jammer's.
William B
Fri, Jan 2, 2015, 12:56pm (UTC -5)
I think Jammer's ratings of TNG are lower, relative to his DS9 or BSG scores, than I would do. I also think Jammer doesn't love TNG as much as DS9 or BSG. However, I don't think that's the only factor here. First off, I think it's clear he likes TNG more than Voyager or Enterprise, and almost certainly TOS. Second, I think there's a big difference between watching a show week after week and doing capsule reviews of decent length twenty years after the fact. New episodes have more potential to register emotionally as exciting and revolutionary than twenty year old ones, both because they are "cutting-edge" and unfamiliar, and because the anticipation buildup of several weeks has a different impact on viewing -- so that each individual episode is a bigger "event" -- than the ability to jump through several episodes at a time. I think that it's also very possible that people just get less easily wowed as they get older, too -- that's at leats somewhat the case with me. Some of these things are ultimately just purely subjective -- it may be that Jammer would give "Family" or "Darmok" three stars if he were able to see them for the first time now, with episodes coming out every few weeks, for instance, even if I'd give them four -- but I think that there are other factors besides overall series preferences.
Fri, Jan 16, 2015, 12:15am (UTC -5)
Watch Worf during the wide shot when Q appears on the bridge with the mariachi band. It's one of the funniest moments on the entire series for me.
Wed, Apr 29, 2015, 10:08am (UTC -5)
I find Q episodes average. I dislike omnipotence, it is too much like magic to be in a sci-fi. For example in the end of this Q deflects the errant moon, though the enterprise was pretty much helpless (I actually like where Q helps by suggesting to change gravity which works as a great example of brainstorming)
As for this episode, I'm less thrilled than others that it is played for laughs, though it works as a comedy.
The highlight is the Data-Q duality and it serves to develop Data's character (and some Guinan character development as well)
The Q2 at the end seemed a bit like a lenient parent who had second thoughts after scolding his kid. Though in the context of this being a comedy it didn't hurt too much.
Mon, Jun 1, 2015, 11:26am (UTC -5)
Aside from "Q Who," this is easily the best Q episode to date (and "Q Who" had numerous other things going for it besides Q). Like Jammer says, it's a successful attempt at comedy, which is something Trek (and especially post-TOS Trek) has always struggled with. de Lancie and Spiner really knock it out of the park acting-wise and the whole concept of viewing humanity from two outside, yet opposing, points of view is inspired. Based on this alone, I'd probably give "Deja Q" an 8 or 9 out of 10.

However, there is one problem I have with the episode and it's a big one. For all the protestations this episode throws our way about how humanity is so willing to forgive and how that's our greatest characteristic, very few of the characters actually display that strength. Now, granted, Q is a loud, rude, crude, smug, self-important, obnoxious (but ultimately likeable) pain-in-the-ass, but isn't the whole 'point' that our compassion-filled heroes are willing to look past that and protect even someone as undeserving as Q? The only characters who show any of that awe-inspiring human compassion and willingness to forgive are Picard and Data. It's odd that the most 'human' character in this episode is the android.

Riker, in all seriousness, advocates turning Q over to his enemies to be killed because protecting him "isn't his job." Crusher is deliberately very rough with Q while treating his back. LaForge acts like a petulant child toward Q for most of the episode (going so far as to regulate him to do grunt work simply because he, LaForge, is slightly perturbed by Q's crudeness - never mind that billions of people's lives hang in the balance, don't use your most important asset if you're a little put off). While working on Data in Sickbay, LaForge even says "he's not worth it," in regards to Q. You know, because he's so willing to forgive! Guinan straight-up physically assaults Q (you know, for the LOLs) and then smugly stands there and revels in his pain after the Calamarain attack him for the first time. Isn't that what she literally just got done saying made Q such scum?! "How the mighty have fallen." Yes, you have indeed fallen pretty far to lower yourself to Q's level, Guinan!

Such wonderfully compassionate people!

Thankfully, the comedy, de Lancie and Spiner cover over all this, however. And, it's got the mariachi band on the bridge scene, which absolves a multitude of sins.

Mon, Aug 17, 2015, 11:03pm (UTC -5)
The writing in this episode is very bad. Everyone constantly says things that everyone should know, especially Q.

The acting is good in parts, but certainly not from those 2 aliens. We know a moon crashing into a planet is bad.

Guinan is also bad in this episode. She assaults Q without provocation.

The episode is essential Q, but don't watch it sober.
Tue, Aug 18, 2015, 8:15pm (UTC -5)
@Mike - Guinan(the El Aurians) and the Q have a history. See "Q Who" Knowing Q and The Q, I hardly think Guinan was unprovoked.
Thu, Sep 3, 2015, 9:13am (UTC -5)
I'm sorry, but the Mariachi band was completely hilarious. It was such a Q thing to do - stupid and genuine all at the same time, and completely embarrassing for the bridge crew. I actually laughed out loud when that happened. Plus, you know, the cigars, and the beautiful women. It was funny, dammit.

I definitely think this episode deserves the full 4 stars. I can't think of a part I didn't like or appreciate in some way. And there is a lot of depth here, which is what I enjoy most in a Trek episode.
Thu, Jul 14, 2016, 8:17pm (UTC -5)
Seeing Corbin Bersen made me realise that when this episode aired Diana Muldaur was probably starting her tenure on LA Law as the deliciously evil Rosalind Shays. :D
Sat, Aug 6, 2016, 11:13am (UTC -5)
Yeah, doing commentary on a show 20 years later is certainly different than the impact they had on initial showing, but I thought this was a definite 4* then and now. Also I disagree with a comment someone had about Corbin Bernsen...I thought he made a GREAT Q2 (but I had never watched LA Law so I hadn't seen him anywhere else before...he came out of left field for me).
One last thing. I remember early in the series Riker was playing trombone in a holodeck fantasy and watching him it appeared like he did play it since the slide movements appeared correct (and as we later learn, he does play trombone). Does Mr. de Lancie play trumpet? It's hard to tell since he's waving it around and I don't play trumpet myself but there seemed some authenticity there.
Tue, Sep 27, 2016, 8:55pm (UTC -5)
A very over-rated episode. Sure it was funny, but is that enough to make a good TNG episode? Not in my view. I also noticed that this is the first episode not to have Gene Roddenberry's name appear at the end before the credits roll. Was he that embarrassed by it that he left his name off it?
Mon, Jan 9, 2017, 4:33am (UTC -5)
Slightly over rated episode this one. Nowhere near as good as Q-Who, Tapestry or AGT and not as fun as Q-Pid. I'd say 3 star, no more. Good Ep, but not great.

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