Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation

"True Q"

***

Air date: 10/26/1992
Written by Rene Echevarria
Directed by Robert Scheerer

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

The brilliant new intern Amanda Rogers (you didn't expect the intern selected for the Enterprise could be anything less than brilliant, did you?) comes aboard the ship and realizes that the secret abilities she's been experiencing for a while suddenly begin to manifest themselves more frequently and powerfully. When accidents start to occur around her, her telekinetic ability is able to avert disaster. First she stops a cargo container from falling on Riker. Later she stops a warp core explosion from destroying the ship.

Turns out Our Favorite Q was responsible for the "accidents," and was testing the abilities of Amanda (Olivia d'Abo), who is the offspring of two Q who years ago decided to leave the Q Continuum and live among humans. Q wants to see just who Amanda is: Is she a Q who could return to the Continuum, or some sort of hybrid who could potentially cause untold disaster?

"True Q" is an intriguing tale that provides a unique look at the Q. The issue of the Q's omnipotence has often been played as a joke in the past, but here we see the possibility that an undisciplined or uncontrolled Q with typical human emotions could possibly destroy ... well, the entire galaxy, I guess. Q is here to provide Amanda with some guidance over her newfound abilities and to convince her to join the Continuum. But he also has his own unrevealed mission — to play judge, jury, and, if necessary, executioner if Amanda is deemed too much of an uncertainty to the Q.

The Q are tricky story subjects, and there are at least as many questions here as answers: Just what is the nature of the Q Continuum, and what rules is it governed by? Given that Q could (probably) destroy the entire galaxy by simply thinking about it, what has kept them from doing so over the past few eons? Do they have their own Prime Directive that keeps them from interfering in the simple matters of life and death for the rest of the universe? And just why is Our Favorite Q always so interested in observing the "human condition" which, as a matter of his own existence, is about as relevant to him as an ant colony is to us? (To try to answer that last question: I suppose if we could walk as ants among other ants just to see what it's like, maybe we'd try it for a day or two.)

The main story point here is that Amanda must choose between being an omnipotent Q and going on with her life as a regular human. She at first just wants to be a regular human. And on that point, I must say I'm with Q — that seems to be such a naive and limited point of view when the alternative is limitless knowledge. I'm also with Q when it comes to the whole issue of Amanda's fate: If she could potentially destroy the entire galaxy, someone has to step up and make the call to end her existence if that's what it takes. Right?

And when Picard has a speech that lectures Q on morality, I again must also agree with Q: It's a great speech, wonderfully argued by the typically impressive Patrick Stewart gravitas, but I almost have to laugh it off, because it's so idealistic in the face of ultimate power that can't possibly be governed based on limited human perspectives. Clearly, the Q didn't not destroy the universe millions of years ago by having no rules.

John de Lancie is more menacing than usual as Q, exhibiting paternal and yet simultaneously dominating (in its quasi-sexual overtones) in his scenes with Amanda. Olivia d'Abo is effective in depicting a naiveté that must quickly adapt to the situation before her, ultimately choosing between a life as a human where she must never use her powers (like her parents, who failed, and were killed by the Continuum as a result) or joining the Continuum as a being that must leave more human trivialities behind. The end result is a solid sci-fi outing about a single choice.

Previous episode: Schisms
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24 comments on this review

Patrick - Sat, Jun 9, 2012 - 3:30pm (USA Central)
This episode is a solid outing and *greatly* underrated. Though, I did wonder why, if Amanda, wanted to stay with the humans, the continuum simply revoke her powers allowing her to live a normal human life. (They did it in "Deja Q" after all, and in VGR's "Death Wish").

This episode also has one of the greatest bits of (unintentional) foreshadowing ever with this exchange between Q and Picard:

Picard: "I remember your 'superior morality' when we first encountered you. You put us on trial for the crimes of humanity!"

Q: "The jury's still out on that, make no mistake."

Little did we know this would tie in to the final episode. Did the writer of this episode have some inkling?
Art - Sat, Jun 9, 2012 - 4:52pm (USA Central)
What's odd about this episode -- or more "Q and the grey" is that you'd think a Q being born already would make the ending of the later nonsensical.
JC - Sat, Jun 9, 2012 - 10:45pm (USA Central)
"Though, I did wonder why, if Amanda, wanted to stay with the humans, the continuum simply revoke her powers allowing her to live a normal human life. (They did it in "Deja Q" after all, and in VGR's "Death Wish")."

For that matter, couldn't the Continuum have just stripped her parents of THEIR powers, if they wanted to live as normal humans that badly, and couldn't be trusted not to use their abilities? Executing them seems harsh and unnecessary.

Nitpicks aside, I agree with the "underrated" comment. I REALLY like this episode.
David - Sat, Jun 9, 2012 - 11:09pm (USA Central)
This episode is no better than 2 stars--it is an utter bore--I barely sat through it when I watched it first run and every other time over 2 decades I tried to watch it I can't. It is just dull. The alien pollution plot is tired, the refular cast is MIA, Amanda is the focus and I don't find her that interesting. This was just pretentious TNG--which I rarely accuse the show of--but this episode epitomizes it.
grumpy_otter - Tue, Jun 19, 2012 - 7:37pm (USA Central)
I hate Q. I really hate Q. I can barely tolerate any episode he is in. (The only Q I liked was the one who wanted to commit suicide)

Seriously? An omnipotent being has nothing better to do than mess with humans? Yawn.

And the basic idea is so stupid--reminds me of most gods throughout history. Capricious, jealous, childish, vain, and blech.

Elliott - Wed, Jun 20, 2012 - 1:10pm (USA Central)
That's interesting, grumpy, I too dislike this episode, but find Q to be its only redeeming factor.

We're supposed to be on everyone's side but Q's, but each time one of the cast comes into conflict with him, I'm always cheering for him--the scene where Beverly becomes a real "bitch" is always a scream--she was really insufferable this episode. While I almost always enjoy Picard speeches, take note that here, he is not directly addressing the issue of the episode, but rather the issue of extinguishing that which one does not understand, out of prejudice and fear. That makes for a fine speech but it's only peripherally relevant to Amanda's problem.

Which brings us to Amanda herself--an absolute mess of a character and poorly portrayed to boot. One minute she's a sad orphan, the next a horny teenaged moron, the next she love PUPPIES!, and we're supposed to buy that she's some sort of Wesley-esque genius? Throwing a bunch of character traits into a shell does not constitue a character.

1.5 stars from me.
John - Fri, Jul 27, 2012 - 1:00am (USA Central)
I thought this episode was alright.

You can just see Rene Echevarria gleefully using Q to take out his frustration at some of the regular TNG characters. Turning Crusher into a baying dog mid-sentence, playing on Riker's whorish ways, and having Q just smirk condescendingly as Picard makes a bloated speech about morality.
Kevin - Wed, Aug 22, 2012 - 2:42am (USA Central)
I'm not a Beverly hater (except for any scene that involves Wesley - I despise Wesley), but Q's line is spot on.

"Crusher gets more shrill with each passing year."

@John

I think you're right, this episode was really just a vent for the writers (and probably the actors too).
Mike Caracappa - Thu, Aug 30, 2012 - 4:06am (USA Central)
This is a very good episode. I think with what your saying Jammer about what the "rules" of the Q continuum are is that it's not really about rules. It's about perspectives. We've already learned from Q that there's no way to put a feeble human perspective on how the continuum works because our viewpoint is so limited compared to theirs. Why has no other Q destroyed the galaxy? Well, because for however it works for them, all we really know is that "rules" are a human concept. In this episode, the girl Q is a possible threat because she was raised with human emotions, and Q is right that her only way to survive is to grow beyond the limits of her human perspective. But her advantage over Q is that she has more of an understanding of the ways of humanity having grown up without knowledge of her powers. She can take what she learned in her life to help the continuum understand humans better. But apart from that knowledge because she's transcended and become a Q, all that knowledge will become no longer valid to her. Q had a limited perspective when he was made human in Deja Q. But once he understood the concept of compassion, he threw it aside once he got his powers back. Because compassion is a human trait, not a Q trait. The Q are cosmic and omnipotent, which goes beyond what any human can comprehend. To me it's what makes Q a great character (and yeah, I'm pretty much aware what I suggested means the writers can write their way out of any corner regarding the Q!). But they can do anything, and I always love it when Q shuts down Picards moralizing. Because really, compared to the Q, Picard knows nothing.
Patrick - Fri, Aug 31, 2012 - 2:47pm (USA Central)
@Mike

I have to disagree with you. Q was never quite the same after "Deja Q". He demonstrated quite a bit of compassion to Picard and Co. in "Tapestry" and "All Good Things..." He's still a knave through and through, but he's not the same Q who froze Enterprise officers alive or had Wesley Crusher bayonetted through his mid-section by those 'vicious animal things'.

In both this episode and "All Good Things...", Q is following directives from the Continuum. Q wants humanity to succeed. He's like the playground bully who got punched in the nose by a smaller kid, and is actually impressed by the smaller kid's gumption.

If Q remained the same character from the pilot episode; a one dimensional tormentor--he wouldn't have been memorable at all. But, his character changed and evolved--as did Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Mike Caracappa - Fri, Aug 31, 2012 - 5:17pm (USA Central)
Hi Patrick,
I humbley agree with your assessment on Q's development, but I was speaking mainly about Q's perspective on the universe vs the human perspective, which is obviously far more limited. Q learns compassion as a human trait, and he obviously likes humans because he pokes and prods them to help them along and bring them up another level. He is in return compassionate in some cases because it's what he's learned is important to humans. But it's not really important to him. Compassion is a human trait. He's a Q. He knows humans like to be compassionate towards each other and its how he relates to them. How he relates to humans changes but Q himself doesn't change. If he did, it would go against his omnipotent nature. He does learn compassion from Deja Q (my favorite TNG episode btw), but your also forgetting the last scene where Picard says "Maybe Q has an ounce of humanity in him after all". But Q appears for a split second and says "Don't count on it, Picard". :)
Glenn - Fri, Dec 7, 2012 - 12:24am (USA Central)
I'd give this one 2.5 stars. Q episodes are tricky because we really have to suspend our disbelief that they aren't also omniscient in addition to being omnipotent. I mean, couldn't an omnipotent being command itself to become omniscient? And the idea that the Q haven't already become omniscient bothers me. It allows for TNG stories involving them to proceed, of course, but it also distracts me from the episode.
mike - Tue, Apr 9, 2013 - 4:44am (USA Central)
The dilemma is intriguing -- could you really restrain yourself if you could do absolutely anything -- but the examination of this quandary is a bit plodding and frankly under done. We spend our entire time wandering room to room around the ship doing pretty much nothing. Surely this theme could have been explored in a more dynamic way and with bigger stakes. Bad enough that we have to explore this issue with another Generic Youngster Aboard the Enterprise. Star Trek stories involving children are notoriously weak. Although Olivia d'Abo is almost grown, her concerns (and wardrobe) are too immature to give the plot the pace it really needs. What this episode needed was a touch of "Charlie X" from the TOS. Now there was a kid with some problems copying with power.

Ultimately Amanda is giving the Big Test to see if she can really refrain from using her powers but it feels more like a pop quiz. Save The Planet's Atmosphere (tm) is tacked on literally in the last four minutes. That's the big test? It's distant, impersonal and all too quick. Plus how do you explain to a few billion people on the planet below that somehow Starfleet has done such a God like miracle in a few seconds. And yet no one is impressed. Then Amanda just says "oops, I guess I can't help myself. Gotta go." End of story.


I rarely watch this episode and every time I do I'm reminded why. I give two stars at best.
T'Paul - Sun, Jun 16, 2013 - 12:31pm (USA Central)
My comment follows on Art's above... doesn't this negate the "we need to create a new Q" storyline on Voyager?

Also the comment that the crew is MIA is also spot on... why was Beverly counselling Amanda? Where was Troi?
T'Paul - Sun, Jun 16, 2013 - 12:38pm (USA Central)
@ grumpy above (a year later, admittedly), yes, the gods in mythology are frequently like that aren't they?
T'Paul - Sun, Jun 16, 2013 - 12:40pm (USA Central)
Ah and finally (sorry for the multiple posts) not sure if anyone has said it yet, but what is up with that hair (you know who I'm talking about)
mephyve - Sun, Jul 28, 2013 - 2:23pm (USA Central)
For me the story started with a bang with lots of action and humor but sometime after Crusher got turned into a dog (hilarious), I lost interest. Hey , the girl is a Q, cool.
Next
William B - Thu, Aug 29, 2013 - 9:35pm (USA Central)
I like this episode okay, but I have a hard time getting excited about Amanda's dilemma and the most interesting things about it are less about the episode itself and more about its connections forward and backward.

For one thing, this is something of a remake of "Hide and Q," but with the ending changed: Riker rejected having Q powers, even when he had to let people die to hold onto his humanity; Amanda makes the opposite choice. The key reason is that Amanda is not a member of the crew, and is indeed a Q by birth rather than by arbitrary decision. And yet, I feel somewhat that the fact that Amanda chooses to accept her Q powers goes against and tempers Picard's speech about superior human morality. It's not that Q are better than humans, but there is something interesting about concluding that for Amanda at least, the life of a Q is a better fit than her human life, which would hold her back.

The second major thing is about Crusher. Beverly brings up Wesley in an early scene with Amanda, and Jack's death comes up. Jack's death affects Beverly, but despite Amanda bringing him up later in the episode as a parallel to Amanda's parents, the person Jack orphaned was Wesley. I don't know that I'd go as far as to call it foreshadowing, but hints had already been made in the Traveller episodes that Wesley's path might go somewhere other than Starfleet. Beverly becoming a surrogate parent to Amanda for a very brief time and accepting that Amanda's exceptionality will lead her not to Starfleet and to a life like Beverly's (or Jack's, or Jean-Luc's) but to something else entirely is perhaps some small manner of preparation for what will happen to Wesley.

As for Q himself, this is the only episode of TNG in which he appears for reasons not related to the Enterprise crew, and so it stands just a tad outside his arc for that reason. However, Q's tests do bring back a menacing dimension to the character that had been missing since "Q Who?" and pave the way for his Big Test in the series finale. De Lancie and Stewart are excellent as usual and their crackle is well worthwhile. I guess this is probably a high 2.5 stars for me.
Moonie - Thu, Jan 23, 2014 - 4:28pm (USA Central)
I *like* Q. And his line to Picard "Jean-Luc, ...sometimes I think the only reason I come here is to listen to these wonderful speeches of yours..." was one of those instant classics. Had me laughing out loud. (Q usually has a point...!)

Josh - Thu, Jan 23, 2014 - 8:48pm (USA Central)
That's probably one of my favourite scenes with Q. Picard is going off on his usual well-articulated soliloquy about morals and ethics and justice. Q sits patiently listening without saying a word - then responds with *that*. Classic.
Smith - Tue, Feb 18, 2014 - 12:37pm (USA Central)
Good episode... John wasn't a fan of this type of type of "babysitting" episode and wanted Q to be more "Mad, bad and dangerous". They came close to actually killing Amanda (which would have been a fun twist and reversed some of the anthropomorphism that had inflicted Q in later episodes).
DLPB - Sun, Mar 9, 2014 - 9:45pm (USA Central)
More dumbing down of Q and his race.
Andrew - Wed, Jul 2, 2014 - 12:49am (USA Central)
An ok episode, not really one of my favorite Q ones though. The scenes with Riker were amusing.

I just find it frustrating to watch a person teetering on the edge of having the Q's power and totally take it for granted. I'd rather watch someone just immediately take the Q power.

I mean come on, who in their right mind would turn down that opportunity. No one. It's way too much of a forced message, like I'm watching one of those "genie in the lamp" episodes where the moral is be careful what you wish for. The desire to be a normal human over having super powers seems to be totally exaggerated in stories IMO.

So yeah it's a solid episode, I'm just sort of past these kinds of stories.
Andrew - Wed, Nov 5, 2014 - 10:00pm (USA Central)
I didn't like this episode, in particular it demanded but didn't get direct comparison and follow-up to "Hide and Q," instead Riker was pretty wasted and both he and Crusher seemed very out-of-character in being so accepting and unconcerned about Q.

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