Star Trek: Voyager
Air date: 4/11/2001
Teleplay by Robert Doherty
Story by Kenneth Biller
Directed by LeVar Burton
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
"He worked so hard on that paper. The least you could've done was tell him you were proud of him."
"But I'm not."
— Janeway and Q
In brief: Yawn. Not nearly funny enough to make up for the woeful lack of imagination and utterly wrong-headed use of the Q.
I suppose we're supposed to laugh at the fact omnipotent beings are asking parental advice of Captain Janeway. Unfortunately, the joke isn't all that funny — nor is much of "Q2" in general — so if it's not a comedy it can only be a pretty lame excuse for a Q episode.
The best Q comedy was TNG's "Deja Q." That was a show with chemistry and wit ... and a premise that at least made Our Favorite Q (John de Lancie) into a human, such that he had no choice but to experience human behavior firsthand. But "Q2" — aside from its ripped-off "Deja Q"-like elements — is unfortunately the sequel to "The Q and the Grey" from four years back, an episode that went about as wrong as a Q story could. "Q2" only takes that wrongness further; omnipotence apparently means you have the ability to do anything physically, but have the intellect and ambitions of an American teenager.
Basically, the problem is that we have humans teaching lessons to the Q instead of the other way around — which is absurd and simply a waste of the Q as a story device. When you have beings who can do anything, why put them through the shenanigans of sitcom-level teenage rebellion? In TNG's "All Good Things..." Q was trying to help Picard understand larger issues about the nature of the universe. In Voyager's "Death Wish" we had a Q who wanted to die because knowing everything had rendered his existence pointless. Those were interesting, larger-thinking shows.
Now? We get High Concept 101: "A teenage Q." And Higher Concept 102: "Let's have John de Lancie's real-life son (Keegan de Lancie) play the part of Q's son!" Well, great. It's an okay starting point and I'm sure fun for all the actors, but there has to be a story here for it to be worth our time.
Alas, there's not much to be said for the story that is "Q2." It's featherweight at best, and the lessons rehashed here are straight from Chapter 1 of the Star Trek Human Lessons Textbook. I wish I could say there was anything here resembling Q-worthy thought on the writers' behalf, anything that could put it more in the vein of "All Good Things..." or "Death Wish," but there isn't. "Q2" is simply a gag show starring the Q, with their super-duper powers as the tools for the gimmicks. There's no evidence this show even wanted to be thoughtful; it's dumbed down by design.
Q arrives on Voyager to ask "Aunt Kathy" (an amusing title, I'll grant) to help him teach his out-of-control son (born as a result of "Q and the Grey") some responsibility. Why Q cannot do this himself is a question that, if answered, would reveal the entire foundation of the episode as the sham it is. Apparently being omnipotent doesn't afford you any parenting skills. (Omnipotence just isn't what it used to be.) If we're to accept the can-of-worms premise of an out-of-control Q, at least make it seem like there's some urgency.
Instead, the idea of an out-of-control teenage Q quickly paves the way to a series of routine comic gimmicks. Gimmicky Q hijinks are a hallmark of Q stories, even in good ones like "Death Wish," but without a story to eventually grab our attention they just tire here.
Gimmick #1: Turn engineering into a dance club. "It's a party," explains Q Jr., with beverage in hand. Is it non-alcoholic? I hope so, because he's most definitely underage and that would mean Voyager needs more competent bouncers. For that matter, a drunken Q could be dangerous: Alcohol and altering the space-time continuum don't mix. Janeway rolls her eyes here for what won't be the last time.
Gimmick #2: Make Seven nekkid. This looks like one of those things the studio must've loved when they heard about. I can almost picture the people who cut together the episode trailers smiling with glee: Here's an easy workday! Plus, it can be justified as plausible! What heterosexual teenage male wouldn't wanted to see Seven without clothes? Nothing like a little realism in your Trek. Of course, Seven is too superior to be embarrassed or do any Janeway-style eye-rolling, so she simply uses the ignore-the-pest tactic.
Gimmick #3: War games. Q Jr. starts a war between two societies simply to watch their ships shoot at one another on the viewscreen. Somebody needs to go out and buy this kid a PlayStation or a DVD of Star Wars (the latter of which I'm guessing might actually be available by the 24th century, but no promises).
Gimmick #4: Make Neelix mute. Hey, this is actually a pretty good idea. Q Jr. fuses Neelix's jaw shut and makes his vocal cords disappear. Poor Neelix — he had his lungs extracted way back in "Phage" and now he has his vocal cords taken away. There's no justice in the world. Or come to think of it, maybe there is.
Such zaniness is setup for the actual premise, which is that Q suspends all of Q Jr.'s powers, and gives his son one week to shape up under Janeway's tutelage. If he hasn't shown great improvement, the Q Continuum will transform the unruly brat into an amoeba. The lesson: Actions Have Consequences, especially when your actions can rearrange entire worlds. I'd just like to know why Q can't conjure up some sense for this kid when he has the power to transform him into an amoeba. For that matter, I'd like to know if the writers actually thought any of their "intellectually immature superbeing" plot was fresh, seeing as TOS did "Charlie X" roughly 35 years ago.
The middle passages of the show are bland moments of Janeway trying to whip this kid into shape with lay-down-the-law threat tactics and then lessons that double as Meaningful Dialog Scenes. Eventually we're watching as Q Jr. writes a paper on the Q Continuum, which is hopelessly inane; apparently the great Continuum really is too much for my feeble mind to comprehend ... or for television writers to do any justice.
Then we have Q Jr. stealing the Delta Flyer because he apparently didn't learn anything from all this. His excuse for theft and joyriding? Boredom. He goes flying through alien territory with unwilling partner-in-crime Icheb, opening fire on an alien ship when they try to detain him for trespassing. Icheb is injured, Q Jr. escapes and returns to Voyager where he gets the usual dressing-down by Janeway. Icheb lies dying, with Doc going on about how he needs to know more about the weapon in order to save Icheb's life. (Yes, in sci-fi you can treat someone who has been run down by a car as long as you know what make and model the car was.)
The final act is so underwhelming it plays more like a parody on humanism than a satisfying ending. Q Jr. decides to accept responsibility for his actions by returning to face the music at the hands of the aliens he shot at. But, surprise! The alien was actually Q, who engineered the encounter as a test to see if Q Jr. would own up to the consequences of his mischief. Icheb is really okay. Then we get a quick trial of Q Jr. by Continuum judges, who, after all this, find that Q Jr.'s actions don't indicate acceptable levels of progress.
My point is more along the lines of Q's complaint — that Janeway has turned Q Jr. into a human with Federation values and, well, what good is that for the Continuum? They're judging Q Jr. on an incident and actions that have about as much cosmic relevance as what I ate for breakfast this morning.
LeVar Burton, who has directed excellent episodes like "Timeless," is saddled with a banal script that thinks small when it should be thinking big. The closing scenes give us a trial and a guilty verdict only for it to be reversed with a bunch of Q's off-screen (non)arguments. What, if anything, is all of this saying? It's clunky and abrupt along the narrative line.
My, how the Q have fallen. Amazingly, it would seem Voyager has managed to bastardize the Q even worse than the Borg. Who could've guessed that the beings who put humanity on trial back in the TNG days would be reduced to the sort of family sitcom where a son whines to his father about being too pressured about living up to expectations? Let's be real here: Do we want to see the Q as a metaphor for emotionally abandoned teenagers and/or fathers?
I'd have told the kid: Hey, you're omnipotent. With your talents I'll be damned if I'm going to let you end up working at Burger King. Stop screwing around and put that galaxy back where it belongs.
Next week: Doc's unauthorized Voyager biography. Some names have been changed to protect the guilty.