Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Q Who"

4 stars

Air date: 5/8/1989
Written by Maurice Hurley
Directed by Robert Bowman

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Ah, at last, here's the most absolutely necessary episode of TNG's second season. Q forces Picard to hear his request to join the Enterprise crew as a guide. In a wonderful dialog scene that gets to the heart of the human drive for learning by personal experience, Picard refuses on the grounds that Q's presence would defeat the purpose of exploration. (That, and no one likes Q anyway.) To prove his point with a twist of the knife, Q hurls the Enterprise into an unexplored part of the galaxy (two years away from the nearest Federation outpost), bringing the Enterprise into contact with a cybernetic alien species called the Borg. (The episode also implies that the Borg were responsible for the destroyed colonies along the Romulan Neutral Zone.)

The best aspect of "Q Who" is its ability to mix the intellectual with the visceral. In other words, it's the best kind of TNG action show, and should stand as a lesson to sci-fi shows that are action-oriented: Your action works only if it grows from a point of emotion, in this case genuine scariness. The Borg are scary precisely because they cannot be reasoned with and because their technology is vastly superior to the Enterprise's — and those two avenues are the basis by which nearly all TNG stories are typically solved. The Borg have often been described simply as "implacable," and I agree that that's the best adjective for them. They are an implacable foe, and we learn that very quickly by their behavior in this episode.

The industrial-cube design of the Borg vessel is brilliant in its simplicity: Here's a society that has no regard for style or aesthetics but simply raw function. When they communicate, it's with terse directives; they epitomize the laconic. The episode puts good use to Guinan by revealing that not only has she had past dealings with Q, but that her people's world was destroyed by the Borg, essentially turning them into nomads.

Because this is an episode of TNG, the crew is still genuinely curious about the Borg, as are we. An away team beams over to the Borg ship and we get a chance to see their hive-like society, with imaginative visuals and production design. The "Borg nursery" is an intriguingly chilling detail. Such ominous concepts are all the more interesting to ponder when considering the presence of the young and naïve, evidenced here by the cute and plucky Ensign Sonya Gomez (Lycia Naff), whose infectious drive to do her part as a member of the Enterprise crew is met here only with danger. If the show had truly wanted to punch us in the stomach with its dark ambitions, it would've had Gomez die.

The episode plays by its rules. The Borg are a superior and implacable enemy, period, and the only way out is through Q, to whom Picard makes an urgent plea for help when there are no other options. Q sums it up nicely when he says, "It's not safe out here." Indeed, and it's nice to be reminded of that by an episode that is equally as visceral as it is curious, and all but promises that the Borg will be coming for us. If ever an episode deserved to be saved for a season finale in a season that didn't have an adequate (or even tolerable) finale, it's this one.

Previous episode: Pen Pals
Next episode: Samaritan Snare

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72 comments on this review

John Campbell
Fri, Jun 19, 2009, 1:18am (UTC -6)
Regarding "Q Who?":

I love how Picard attempts to get on his moral high horse about the crewmen who were killed, and Q basically tells him to stop being such a big baby.
Dan B
Sun, Nov 29, 2009, 9:01am (UTC -6)
I love Q episodes. I've always wondered why they never included Q into any of the feature films. His dialoge writes itself and hes a fantastic charactor.
Latex Zebra
Wed, Mar 28, 2012, 4:10am (UTC -6)
This episode gives me chills. Even now, the intro of the Borg was well worthy.
Sun, Aug 19, 2012, 9:03pm (UTC -6)
awesome episode
Sun, Nov 4, 2012, 11:43am (UTC -6)
Now if only the Borg had stayed like this, or at least evolved into something different than what was done with them in Voyager. Wheeling and dealing, bribing and coercing, cunning and untrustworthy etc.
None of those adjectives should apply to a race of cybernetic zombies who seek perfection through the assimilation of other species. You're either pursued and assimilated (or escape) or you're ignored as too primitive. No deals!
Fri, Nov 16, 2012, 2:47am (UTC -6)
The Borg should have just ignored Enterprise, since it is way too "primitive" compared to their technology. What would be their gain by assimilating them? Just a waste of time!

The episode is awesome, possibly the best of this season. But having watched Voyager and First Contact movie, Borg in this episode look less frightening and simple, wearing too much plastic.
Mon, Dec 17, 2012, 10:12am (UTC -6)
The dialog in this episode really sells it. Picard's reasoning for not accepting Q is pitch perfect ("Learning about you is frankly provocative. But you're next of kin to chaos."). The dialog on the bridge at the end is great, too. The episode is also probably the best use of Guinan in the entire series (next to "Yesterday's Enterprise").

Also, I think this is the first episode where Q becomes focused on Picard (as opposed to Riker in "Hide and Q" and just general mayhem in "Farpoint"). I think the scene in Ten Forward is where Q changes his focus that then carries through to the end of the series.

In that way, this episode does far more than put the Borg storyline in motion. Also, it's interesting that TNG -- which wasn't much into continuing storylines up until this point -- drops hints about the Borg for the next season and a half ("Peak Performance", "Evolution").
Mon, Jan 14, 2013, 12:15pm (UTC -6)
The claim that Q "brought contact with the Borg much sooner than it should have been", which Guinan alludes here, would seem to run counter to the notion that the Borg are responsible for he destruction in the Neutral Zone...the Neutral Zone isn't remote.
Thu, Mar 21, 2013, 10:38pm (UTC -6)
Wonderful episode. As xaaos said, it's probably this season's best.

It is funny now, my first reaction to it was negative. I wasn't very conviced by the episode and when Ginan started talking about the evil aliens that destroyed her world I was ready for yet another disposable alien of the week.

But...the BORG, the B-O-R-G! They were just awesome and I didn't mind their suits, sure they'd get better but it's still light-years ahead of most early TNG designs (The Ferengi, anyone?)

And, of course, Q is great. He always is :)
William B
Tue, Apr 2, 2013, 4:32pm (UTC -6)
One of the best things about making the introduction to the Borg happen in a Q episode is that it allows an "out" fully consistent with the TNG universe and the episode's own rules which do nothing to diminish the threat the Borg pose. There is no way the Enterprise could escape the Borg in this episode, full stop. Essentially, Q tells Picard (and the audience) that the only way to get out of being destroyed by the Borg is to ask for Q's help, which runs *hard* counter to Picard's wishes and to our desire to see the Enterprise triumph. We also get the clear indication that since Q won't get them into the next mess, he will not get them out of it.
Wed, Apr 10, 2013, 6:24pm (UTC -6)
This episode is just plain genius. Ron Jones' score is haunting and memorable. And beyond the introduction to the Borg, we get a cryptic backstory for both Q and Guinan whose dealings were 2 centuries ago (the 22nd century).

Just think of it: we could have had an episode of Star Trek: Enterprise with a clever story showing Q and Guinan's "dealings". (I think they were husband and wife at some point...) It could have been epic and mythic during the Manny Coto years. No, instead we get the Ferengi and the Borg shoehorned in instead...*puke*
Chuck AzEee!
Thu, Apr 18, 2013, 7:50pm (UTC -6)
Arguably the funniest episode of TNG I have ever seen. Just plain hilarious, so funny it seemed at times the cast was trying to hold their composure during most of the scenes.
Chuck AzEee!
Thu, Apr 18, 2013, 7:53pm (UTC -6)
I'm sorry about my previous review which was meant for Deja Q.
Fri, Apr 19, 2013, 12:54pm (UTC -6)
Chuck... Let's pretend your comment suits either episode. :)

Now that I think about it, mixing Q with the Borg is a fundamentally flawed idea, contrary to what William B suggests. Taking Q at his word, he believes Homo sapiens (and presumably allied species) to be a "grievously savage child race" worthy of extermination... unless we solve his puzzles and play his games. Yet the Borg, which Q is clearly aware of, have escaped his judgment. Why?

Maybe Q is lying about his attitude toward humanity. Or maybe, in the fullness of time, the Borg will meet the same judgment, but not this century (and, apparently, not in centuries past). Or maybe Q's indictment was for all non-transcendental beings, not Earthlings alone, and Q lumps humans and the Borg in the same category.

Or maybe Q is a huge hypocrite who applies a double standard. Which is what it looks like when the writers ignore their previous premise for the sake of introducing the new Big Bad.
Fri, Apr 19, 2013, 1:51pm (UTC -6)
The Borg are like a force of nature. What good is it for Q to put them on trial. It would like trying to prosecute locusts. There would be no entertainment value in that.

The Dominion, on the other hand would be interesting. I'd love to have seen the Female Changeling try to intimidate Judge Q and fail miserably.
Fri, Apr 19, 2013, 3:39pm (UTC -6)
The more obvious possibility (which I overlooked earlier) is suggested by Q's admiration for the Borg in this episode. He has judged them; they meet his approval.
William B
Fri, Apr 19, 2013, 6:03pm (UTC -6)
I think it's a bit more complicated -- it's stated several times that the Q Continuum is *interested* in humanity, e.g. their interest in giving Riker Q powers to test him out, Amanda Rogers' parents taking such an interest in humans they decided to turn human, etc. Either Picard or Riker in "Hide and Q" theorize that the Q Continuum is actually worried about what will happen when humanity increase in power. The Borg assimilate but it stands to reason that the Q Continuum don't see in the Borg the human capacity for growth that make the Q Continuum interested in humanity and _possibly_ concerned about it in its future.

As far as Q himself, we know that he doesn't have the right to toy with whole races (like the Callamarain in Deja Q) and the Q Continuum punishes him for doing so. It would not surprise me if he couldn't wipe out the Borg if the Q Continuum has no interest in doing so, without severe punishment or expulsion. Q himself at least does seem to *want* humanity and Picard to pass the tests he puts in front of them (made explicit in All Good Things). He doesn't interfere enough to save humanity from the Borg, but he gives them a head's up which is mostly what allows them the mild level of preparedness they have by TBOBW.

I don't want to overstate Q's helpfulness -- he does that trickster figure thing of giving enough information to inflame the thoughts of Picard et al. to get to the character growth they need, but he does so at a price and refuses to hold to human moral standards or respect for life.
William B
Fri, Apr 19, 2013, 6:08pm (UTC -6)
To bring Voyager into this for a second, "Death Wish" even suggests that Quinn is responsible for Riker's existence and thus for Riker's saving humanity from the Borg; and the idea that humanity can expand in creative ways but the Borg can simply assimilate other tech comes up in "Scorpion." I don't know if my suggestion about the Continuum being interested and concerned about humanity because it has greater possibility to expand than other species (like the Borg) is text exactly, but I think it is consistent.

This still leaves open the question, which comes up so often in Trekdom, of why humanity is so awesome, as opposed to the Vulcans/Klingons/Romulans/Cardassians/Bajorans/Betazoids/whatever. I like Grumpy's idea that maybe Q was lumping all these races in with humans, but All Good Things suggests that it's Earth in particular that is in jeopardy.
Fri, Apr 19, 2013, 9:59pm (UTC -6)
"...All Good Things suggests that it's Earth in particular that is in jeopardy."

An anomaly in the Romulan Neutral Zone that disrupts all life isn't going to affect Earth alone. However, I'm not so sure there was ever any threat at all...

Q doesn't evolve from judge to trickster, I'm now convinced. He was *never* a judge; the trial was a sham. It was his way of tormenting humanity. The most exquisite torment Roddenberry conceived for his evolved humans is to accuse them of not evolving enough. This is especially hurtful to Picard, ever the mouthpiece for Roddenberry's humanism. Q's needling in "All Good Things..." brings it full circle: his examples of *not* trying to change and grow -- Riker's career and Data's quest -- are precisely how most humans would try to better themselves.

In other words, Q is neither judge nor teacher. He is, as Picard observes, "next of kin to chaos," and his only motivation is to screw with people. The screwing takes the form of a thorough humbling in "Q Who?" and (barring events outside his control in "Deja Q") that's all he ever did in one form or another. No wonder Picard hated him.

Fair to bring Voyager into it, William B, especially the contrast with the Borg in "Scorpion." In that sense, perhaps "Endgame" should be read as extending the theme of "All Good Things..." but in a way that was muddled by its crappiness.
William B
Fri, Apr 19, 2013, 10:07pm (UTC -6)
@Grumpy, good point about the anomaly starting in the Neutral Zone -- I was just flashing back to Q showing Picard the amino acids not forming on Earth, but of course it would basically destroy life in most of the Alpha/Beta quadrants.

I agree about Q as trickster, though I think he actually is a bit of a teacher and a judge in some ways too -- he's ... a bit of everything. I do think humanity (and other races) would have been destroyed had Picard not resolved the dilemma, but then again I think Q always suspected (knew?) Picard would win, so....

"The most exquisite torment Roddenberry conceived for his evolved humans is to accuse them of not evolving enough. This is especially hurtful to Picard, ever the mouthpiece for Roddenberry's humanism. Q's needling in "All Good Things..." brings it full circle: his examples of *not* trying to change and grow -- Riker's career and Data's quest -- are precisely how most humans would try to better themselves."

Agreed -- I would go further and say that that is what the show is arguing too. Picard needs to use his personal connections as resources to solve the mystery; if he hadn't worried about Commander Riker's career future!Riker wouldn't be the admiral ready to save him despite an unstable political situation based on Picard's role in getting him to admiralty (though we also know that future didn't end up coming to pass), for example.
Sun, May 26, 2013, 5:18pm (UTC -6)
I really wish the Q - Guinan story had been built up a bit more... seems like it would have been interesting, plus the poses they struck when they saw each other, would have helped us to learn a bit more about Guinan's species.
Frank Wallace
Mon, Jul 8, 2013, 10:16pm (UTC -6)
A great episode. But for me, the problem is that each time the Borg were used afterwards, except for Best of Both Worlds, they got less and less worthwhile. Voyager just totally destroyed most of what was interesting and good about the Borg as a villain and as a species. First Contact as well established some real stupidity with the Borg Sex Queen.
Tue, Jul 30, 2013, 11:07pm (UTC -6)
Can anyone answer why Guinan seems to be the only crewmember not wearing a communicator badge (combadge)?
Wed, Jul 31, 2013, 12:51am (UTC -6)
@dipads: She's not a crewmember. And like other civilians on the ship (Alexander?) she doesn't wear a com badge.
Sun, Aug 11, 2013, 6:57pm (UTC -6)
This episode is obviously brilliant, but it's also incredibly ambitious. There are moments here where I forget that I'm watching TV and not a movie. The dialogue is poetic at times. The lighting choices gives it an air of intimacy and intrigue. The acting is superb. The drama is very real.

And since I'm a musician, I have to call out Ron Jones here for special acclaim. Whenever I consider what was lost when he was removed before season 5, I think of this episode. The music is inventive and communicates the feelings of the characters clearly and without taking attention away from them. Just the variety of tools he uses from his original instrumentation to stark dissonance .... it's very impressive.

And at the end - for total contrast - once the Enterprise is safe, he introduces a sweeping theme (the "They will be coming" theme) that at once is reassuring but suggestive and hauntingly beautiful. To me, it suggests that the crew has entered a new paradigm now that they've encountered the Borg.

Hear it here:

Just watch a few fifth season episodes where the music is mostly wallpaper, and hop back to this episode. It was a serious loss for the series to have that change in values about what the music could bring the show.

What an episode.
Nick P.
Fri, Sep 6, 2013, 8:57am (UTC -6)
Ian, finally, someone like me with regards to trek music. Despite everyone saying how TNG got better as it went along, I find season 5-7 almost unwatchable because of the scoring. If you watch the borg episode from the season 6 and this one back to back, the season 6 one cannot even compare. whether it is acting or affects, but most importantly the music. Trek lost something huge in Jones (or at least the era).
Tue, Sep 24, 2013, 6:00pm (UTC -6)
"Oh please"

With those two words, and years before the words Deep Space 9 were ever uttered, Gene Roddenberry's magical utopia finally and thankfully died.

I'm not one of those people who think that morally gray storylines, edgy stories, and corrupt societies automatically make stories better; quite the opposite in fact. I like the broad optimism of Star Trek. I like the moral decency of Picard. It's a strong and necessary part of Trek, and one I agree with completely. But there's a difference between a generally positive look to the future and a silly perfectionist world that Roddenberry envisioned for TNG. That just reeks of smug superiority, as if he knew better than the rest of us how to live. It made for insufferable speeches and boring stories. It's difficult to write for Superman; not impossible, but difficult. And if done incorrectly, it reeks of arrogance and a holier-than-thou attitude. I don't want to hear about how much smarter and better Gene Roddenberry is. I want to see wondrous sci fi stories set in a fun space opera universe. Optimism is fine, perfection isn't.

Think about it. What was the theme of this episode, once you get past the awesome music and the fun Q antics and the bizarre and incredible presence of the Borg? Q humbling Picard. Picard, who represents all that is right with humanity, "evolved" past all frailties and irrationalities and failures of us simple modern day humans, thought he was ready for anything. Thought the Enterprise was the pinnacle of existence. And Q simply proved him wrong. And Picard admitted it. He was smug. He was arrogant. He needed to be humbled.

"Perhaps what we needed was a kick in our own complacency, to prepare us for what lies ahead"

It is, in fact, the exact opposite of the first two Q episodes. In both of them, it ends with Picard proving Q wrong (first about humanity in general, then about Riker). And in both of them, Q acts very much like Trelane by the end of the episode, essentially a whiny petulant child. It's all part of the greatness of humanity in that we're even better than an omnipresent being with an IQ of 2,005. But Q here, being smarter than Picard and more importantly being right works so much better. Of course, he's still a complete jerk about the whole thing. He's certainly not llikable. But by providing a more than adequate foil for Picard, a foil that he can at best tolerate but never defeat, works so much better. Sure, it regresses a bit after this, but Tapestry and True Q have Q right back in the mode he was in here. A mode he is perfect for. And a mode that sets up All Good Things very very well. In any case, the first two Q episodes were emblematic of Roddenberry's view of humanity, which is completely rewritten with this episode.

And it doesn't go too far in cutting down the utopia either (Like DS9 arguably did). Despite being wrong, Picard's still the hero. And he's still the hero by the end of the episode, and he's still the best that humanity has to offer. He is absolutely right to be concerned and angry about the death of 18 people. But Q is absolutely right that, in the grand scheme of things, 18 people is nothing. It is to Picard, because he's responsible for them. But Q's actions here may have saved all of humanity by preparing the Federation for the Borg. So in that perspective, the death of 18 people may have led to a greater good.

And so Picard doesn't press the point. He doesn't let his pride get in the way. He begs for his life from Q. And he recognizes the value of what Q did. He recognizes his mistakes and moves on. Just like Trek. And so we can still maintain the optimism of the Trek world, we can still maintain hope in the future. We just need to understand that it's "good", not "perfect". It's Spider-Man instead of Superman. And this action by Q was all that was needed to get TNG to that point, and thus allowing the series to shine.

And even if my thematic interpretation is way off base, this is the best episode of the series so far, hands down. An absolute joy to watch from beginning to end.
William B
Tue, Sep 24, 2013, 8:32pm (UTC -6)
@SkepticalMI, brilliant analysis. I think you're right, and this is what makes this episode change the series for the better. This episode is the thing that allows both "The Best of Both Worlds" and "All Good Things" (among others) because both episodes rely on the possibility that humans might not survive; in BOBW that they are not strong enough, in AGT that Picard himself is not good enough. There is real humility in both stories, and that humility begins here.
Mon, Sep 30, 2013, 7:29pm (UTC -6)
Thanks for the kind words William. And I enjoy your analyses as well; even if I don't agree with you it's usually a unique insight into the episodes.

One other minor thing I noticed. In Q Who, Tapestry, and All Good Things, Q is generally fond of Picard and is trying to help him out, albeit in his own alien way that is difficult for Picard to accept. And indeed, Picard is very opposed to Q throughout the episode(s), but ends up at least understanding Q at the end. It's probably the best portrayal of Q. It's also the portrayal in QPid, but I guess it didn't really work out in that one...
Fri, Mar 28, 2014, 4:30am (UTC -6)
This is for me the first truly great TNG episode so far. For the first time, the Enterprise is confronted with a threat that's genuinely scary. The Borg will become the most iconic of any Star Trek antagonist, save perhaps for the Klingons. They're scary in a way that the silly all-powerful beings or self-reproducing crystals of earlier episodes were not (not to mention tarpit monsters).

As SkepticalMI stated, I agree that this is a watershed moment, or at least, since I haven't watched the rest of the series yet, it's the first time that the Enterprise crew gets its own smugness rubbed in its face. I think this is especially welcome after all the arrogance displayed in the previous episode, Pen Pals.

The Enterprise is vulnerable, not invincible. It's the first time that we see it being defeated. Picard has to beg Q. I think that this is much better than in previous episodes when the Federation super heroes were shown defeating Q, who is supposed to be an all-powerful being after all. They also don't get their 18 crew members back. That hurts.

I also love the brilliant acting by John de Lancie.

My only criticism is when Guinan is shown as potentially having magical powers like Q. That seemed to come out of nowhere.
Sat, Apr 5, 2014, 2:09pm (UTC -6)
Tom, my criticism is related to the same issue you have, but from a different angle. I thought it was quite intriguing that they set Guinan up to have a lot more to her than meets the eye; my disappointment is that they dropped this thread and never went back to flesh it out (other than showing she could perceive alternate timelines to a degree).
Dave B in MN
Tue, May 27, 2014, 10:38pm (UTC -6)
We all know it's a great episode, so I'll have to echo what others have said and praise Ron Jones again for such a wonderful musical score. He's a part of the reason I love earlier TNG (before Season 6) so much.
Thu, Jun 5, 2014, 8:14am (UTC -6)

I love your analysis, particularly the part about the "broad optimism" of Trek. I don't think the "magical utopia" ever truly died, especially in TNG.

Case in point: Picard not destroying the collective when presented with the opportunity. I guess the writers didn't have the courage to let him go through with it. A pity, because that's as close as TNG could have come to a "In The Pale Moonlight" moment, discounting alternate (Yesterday's Enterprise) timelines and such.

The Borg were hands down the scariest Trek villains. One could have lived under Dominion Rule, with hope of a better tomorrow. Not so in the Borg Collective. I can watch this episode and BoBW two decades after the fact and still get chills up my spine. Can't say that any of the Dominion episodes invoke that sort of response.
Mon, Jun 9, 2014, 11:47pm (UTC -6)
Can't help but think that if this were BSG, Gomez would have been blown into space/machine-gunned by Cylons/nuked/met some other grisly end early on in the encounter with the Borg.

Great episode, best use of Q since "Hide and Q" and still sends chills down my spine on repeat viewings despite the relatively cheap effects and costumes by today's standards.

I guess that goes to say there's only so much CGI can do and in the end, it all depends on good writers. If I ever run a TV show, I would splurge extra money to get the best writers possible even if it meant below average effects. Just look at Doctor Who, or even the original Star Trek.

This is the one episode that can end with our heroes on the NCC-1701-D getting their ass handed to them and it still comes off as awesome. TNG solves problems usually with some variance of negotiation and technology. The Borg won't negotiate - they just want your ship and won't listen to you - and their tech is light years ahead of Starfleet's, knocking out their main advantage. And no matter what ingenious solution you come up with, the Borg will just adapt and keep on coming. At the root, I think that's what made the Borg so scary this time around.

Best line goes to Q: "If you can't take a little bloody nose, maybe you ought to go back home and crawl under your bed. It's not safe out here. It's wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross, but it's not for the timid."
(I had that quote in mind during the closing scene of VOY's lame "Friendship One".)
Tue, Jun 10, 2014, 9:47am (UTC -6)
No you didn't. You watched sfdebris' review of "Friendship One" and came here to tout it as your own opinion. I think it's great to bring in other reviewer's opinions here for debate, but plagiarising is a step too far.
Thu, Jul 24, 2014, 7:04am (UTC -6)
Was always amused in this episode when Picard orders Worf to "locate the exact source of that tractor beam, lock on phasers" and it takes Worf 4 shots to actually even come close to remotely hitting it =D
Sat, Aug 9, 2014, 11:50pm (UTC -6)
I'm sorry, but I can't jump on the bandwagon for this episode. Now, it certainly doesn't suck, but some of the editing/pacing of this episode is really choppy. Primarily where it concerns Guinan. Guinan, for some reason, gives only bits and pieces of information about the Borg at any one time. You'd think that as someone whose race has been hit by Borg, she'd be a little more aggressive about telling the Enterprise to get out of there. But no, instead she sits down in a conference with the officers, then a battle happens, and then another conference with Guinan where she (and Q) finally explain what the Borg are. It makes sense for Q to hide things, but Guinan really should just get it all out there.

Other than that, this episode is good. The Borg are interesting, Q is Q, and the annoying girl in engineering isn't that bad.
Wed, Aug 13, 2014, 4:17pm (UTC -6)
[unconvincing rationalization]

Guinan isn't more concerned because she knows that the events of "Time's Arrow II" have not yet occurred from Picard's point of view, and therefore Picard and the Enterprise will survive their encounter with the Borg for their future to intersect with her past.

[/unconvincing rationalization]
Mon, Sep 29, 2014, 6:28am (UTC -6)
Sonya Gomez should have died. Too much makeup and not enough acting skills. Rest of episode was great.
Fri, Jan 9, 2015, 8:20am (UTC -6)
This was the first episode I showed my wife, followed up with The Best of Both Worlds 1 & 2 to see if she like TNG. Unfortunately, she didn't really like them and actually though TBOBW1 was boring (!!!!) I think a lot of how much these 3 episodes impact the viewer depends on how much the crew has grown on you. In her case, she never followed Picard and co so you might not really care what happens to them in these dire circumstances.

Oh well, at least she liked DS9's "The Visitor" so there's some hope.
The Man
Tue, May 5, 2015, 6:02pm (UTC -6)
Sonya is fine and she doesn't have to much make up she is beautiful. And she is a fine actress.
Wed, Aug 19, 2015, 10:43pm (UTC -6)
I always cut Sonya Gomez some slack because she is walking around with that third breast.(Cookie for you if you know what I am talking about).
Wed, Aug 19, 2015, 11:09pm (UTC -6)
Haha, I know what you're talking about. What kind of cookie do I get?
Diamond Dave
Thu, Aug 27, 2015, 10:54am (UTC -6)
A classic episode by any criteria. The introduction of the Borg as a new existential threat is extremely well handled - especially compared to the introduction of the Romulans earlier on in the series. As a harbinger of doom this is also nicely done - we now know the Borg are out there, know they are coming, but know it will be a while before they arrive.

The seriousness of the threat is nailed home by having the crew fail to overcome the problem - and Picard forced to beg to Q to get them out of trouble subverts our expectations of the series.

Elsewhere, the back story for Guinan gives sudden and unexpected depth to that character. The score, as noted above, is excellent. The character design - while it will be still improved in the future - is right there, and the Borg cube design is genius. These are not beings who care about form - just brutal, efficient functionality.

You also have to wonder why Gomez was introduced and not the first to be assimilated - perhaps a further clever twist on our expectations? A worthy 4 stars.
Sun, Sep 27, 2015, 7:24pm (UTC -6)
Three brief comments:
1) yes, brilliant score!
2) Sonya dying would have been too predictable and I think it was smart to not kill her.
3) great shot when the away team is on the Borg cube and it pans out so show layer upon layer of Borg chambers. Seems The Matrix would borrow this idea. Great wow factor.
Mon, Oct 19, 2015, 5:52pm (UTC -6)
@Del_Duio If your wife is anything like me, show her "The Host" and "Lessons" and see if that piques her interest. You chose some very hard sci-fi episodes to get her started, so go for the romantic side. If not, try "Data's Day" to see if she likes humor. (And really--you married a non-Trekker? Wasn't that risky? ;-)
Mon, Oct 19, 2015, 5:54pm (UTC -6)

Now, to all you people up above me writing words and words and lines and lines and paragraphs and paragraphs to try and analyze Q's motives and what it all means--


And that includes Jammer, of course.

The best part of this site is that the original reviews are never the end. Lots of smart and insightful people come and say smart and insightful things. I just love it. The first comment on this episode was 6 years ago and still we talk! Yay!

I've been sick for a couple of days, so have been forced to do nothing--I am not too unhappy since I just started rewatching some TNG and coming here to comment. My tummy is sick but my brain is happy. Thank you to all who contribute here.

And now my input. Q is a psychopathic toddler squatting over an anthill with a magnifying glass, and not half as interesting.
Latex Zebra
Tue, Oct 20, 2015, 4:42am (UTC -6)
I'm sure the vaguely mischievous among us would love to teach a few cocky people a lesson and if we had powers, all the better.
Would we murder several innocent work colleagues of that person to prove a point... Perhaps not.

I actually think Picard is a little arrogant at the start and Q, being Q, is bang on by teaching them a lesson.

Picard: Yeah we're awesome.
Q: Shit gets real out here.
Picard: Bring it...
Q: *Rolls eyes*

The fact that Picard realises this at the end is smart writing as well.
I never tire of this episode and even among the likes of Breaking Bad, Walking Dead or Game of Thrones this is quality, timeless TV.
Mon, Dec 21, 2015, 10:20pm (UTC -6)
Ian, finally, someone like me with regards to trek music. Despite everyone saying how TNG got better as it went along, I find season 5-7 almost unwatchable because of the scoring. If you watch the borg episode from the season 6 and this one back to back, the season 6 one cannot even compare. whether it is acting or affects, but most importantly the music. Trek lost something huge in Jones (or at least the era).--Nick P.

Sir, I totally agree with you.
Wed, May 4, 2016, 11:05am (UTC -6)
A goid episode...the first scene is horrible...i could do without the sonya gomez character...but the borg were wicked.
Wed, May 18, 2016, 12:58pm (UTC -6)
Just watching this for the first time in awhile. I think the teaser with Ensign Sonya Gomez is actually relevant to the meeting with the Borg. Sonya is incredibly eager to be out on the Enterprise exploring the unknown. The crew of the Enterprise, as representatives of humanity, are also eager to explore the unknown.

Q points out the pitfalls of sprinting blindly into something new. This can apply as much to Sonya's over-enthusiasm on the Enterprise as it does to the crew exploring space. Another fine touch for what is a great episode.
Sat, Oct 1, 2016, 5:23pm (UTC -6)
This is a classic episode and deserves full marks for good reason, a true original that open the doors to many other stories down the line.

Most people don't read the novels post TNG/DS9/VOY, but I like the take on the Borg, except for Voyager novel with Janeway's stupid death.

Q is actually trying to help humanity in this initial encounter, giving the Enterprise a clear first contact with the Borg, not in our own backyard, but in the Delta Quadrant itself. It's semantics, but it could have been the key factor for why the Borg invasion did not occur earlier in Season 2/3 and it gave people like Commander Shelby a chance to prepare along with others in Starfleet, I wonder what Section 31 would have done at the last moment if the Enterprise didn't stop the cube in BoBw-2 (probably throw out a planet killer to take on the cube or launch a protomatter bomb).

Also to address an interesting discussion from years back on this blog, the novels explained a reason why Q do not judge theBorg in the same way they do other species. In the Novel series Canon, Destiny Series, the Borg originated from a species called the Caeliar, who have mastered the control of Omega molecules, the very essence of what created the universe itself. Basically, we're talking God-Like equivalent species, so the Q Continuum would not have oversight over another advanced civilization's messes, they got their screw ups and others have their problems. The Q, specifically De Lancie's Q and maybe even Graham Q from Voy Death Wish, though are guiding mankind on a path and destiny towards some kind of future, potentially to the same state of evolutionary advancement, so their interest only intersect up to a certain point as teachers.

Even the novels don't explain everything, there's a lot of guesswork in Star Trek and we can argue for eternity or into "Forever" without a clear answer as to the Borg or what Q intent was.
Sun, Oct 2, 2016, 3:59am (UTC -6)
It seems I am in extreme minority about some of the characters of Star Trek. For me, Q was one of the most annoying characters, no only in Star Trek universe, but about any single piece of television or mainstream movies I have ever seen.

If I will ever re-watch Star Trek from start to finish, I will make sure to skip ANY episode with Q or Lwaxana Troi.

What I hate most about Star Trek is god-like, omnipotent, invulnerable characters, who you can't seemingly oppose in any way. And for the necessity of plot to go through, you have to invent either Deus Ex Machina, or some unbelievable piece of influential speech which affects such characters, when in reality, with IQ of Q and his disregard of most life forms (especially petty humans... why is he interested in us so much anyway?), it would be impossible for any minor humanoid to influence or change his mind in any way.

Like there's no way that earth-worm will do anything to convince me to not use it for fishing purposes when I can.

I loath Q with passion and any episode he is in, is zero for me
Mon, Nov 21, 2016, 2:22pm (UTC -6)
As I recall the body count / "red shirts" factor in TNG at this point was extremely low, so the death of 18 crew members at once, even off-screen, came as a big shock to the characters and audience alike. Previous to this, the lack of death of Starfleet personnel on TNG (especially of the gruesome variety) was almost comically opposite the TOS cliche (with only a few exceptions, like "Conspiracy"). I assume this was Roddenberry's utopian influence again. This episode brought the season 1 and 2 redshirt average up to typical Trek standards in a single show. They upped the ante again in The Best of Both Worlds with the battle of Wolf 359, but by then, they had to so we'd feel the same kind of gut punch.

Incidentally, I saw the Enterprise D cross-section model (the one the Borg carve out) at the Star Trek exhibit in Seattle, it was impressively detailed. I got the chills all over again. No sign of the 18 crew members though :(
Thu, May 11, 2017, 4:10pm (UTC -6)
What a great episode.
Q's deflation of the egos of those smugly arrogant pompous 24th century humans was long overdue but very satisfying.
The episode was well paced and John de Lancie's acting was top notch.
There were some low points-Whoopi Goldberg's super powered magic posing with Q in ten forward was just dead silly-what ,so Guinan is another god like creature is she?
The eager-to- please ensign really ought to have been killed or assimilated to justify her presence.
These are minor points though-this episode shines like a beacon in the first two seasons and the Borg really are scary for their first outing.
Tue, May 16, 2017, 3:35pm (UTC -6)
Great episode and the foreboding of doom that comes in BOBW is one of the things that made TNG great. The Borg are truly a scary adversary and their relentlessness is well thought out / created.
However, I'm not a fan of Q. To have an alien with the power to do whatever he wants gives a convenient solution when needed. He does prove to be an interesting character though.
The episode makes a great point about the smugness/arrogance of Picard and the Enterprise and the encounter with the Borg does instill some humility in the crew which is much-needed. For this purpose, Q's role is useful.
Great Trek episodes sometimes get the added boost from a great soundtrack - this episode gets that added benefit. I'll have to watch this one a few more times and see how it measures up with some of the great TOS soundtracks.
The early part of the episode with "Selena" Gomez was wasteful - an annoying ensign who had no bearing on the rest of the episode other than being annoying. Could have done without that. How about some more background on Q/Guinan to kick off the episode? Didn't realize she had some power to fend off Q...
This is one of the very important TNG episodes - the Borg are a terrific creation. Seeing the baby getting implants was...interesting.
I give this a strong 3.5 stars out of 4. Almost perfect episode.
Peter G.
Tue, May 16, 2017, 3:44pm (UTC -6)
@ Rahul,

Not that it adds anything to the episode, but I believe Gomez spilling the coffee on Picard while being eager to please is meant to be representative of the human race bungling through space, optimistically unaware that they're about to get burned by their own enthusiasm. Q's point, which Picard seems to not even compute by the end, is that humanity *actually isn't* prepared for everything that's out there, and that being too aggressive in expansion can have serious risks. It is probably factually the case that any number of things in the galaxy could wipe out the Federation, and that their positive attitude can't overcome all odds.

It's counterfactual since Q showed them the Borg here, but imagining that he hadn't, maybe the real first contact would have been when a Borg ship happened by Earth one day. The Borg may have been alerted to the Federation's presence earlier than it should have because of Q, but the Federation was made aware of them sooner too. Maybe the net effect was that Q saved the Federation, who knows.
Jason R.
Tue, May 16, 2017, 3:56pm (UTC -6)
A question I have is so what if the Borg became aware of the Federation? Why would that even matter to the Borg? Consider that throughout TNG and later Voyager we learn that the galaxy is teeming with life. There are Federations and empires big and small. What made the Federation such a tempting target?

I also found the plot detail about the destroyed Romulan and Federation bases curious. If the Borg already assimilated a Federation base, wouldn't that mean they already knew about earth and the Federation before Q Who?
Wed, May 24, 2017, 10:17pm (UTC -6)
@ Peter G.,

Yes, I can see your point about Gomez and spilling coffee on Picard -- I guess I didn't make that connection with it being sort of a microcosm of the broader theme of this terrific episode. However, Picard doesn't react like the Borg did toward the Enterprise (fortunately for Gomez!) I just thought the Gomez part dragged on too long and the Guinan/Q/Borg backstory could have used that airtime.

No doubt introducing Q into TNG gives the writers the ability to create some interesting situations for Picard & Co., given Q's incredible powers. But I still think the best episodes come about where there is no "waving of a magic wand" and it's just dealing with the situation in the "normal" paradigm of Trek sci-fi.

Peter G.
Wed, May 24, 2017, 11:33pm (UTC -6)
@ Jason R.,

I think the question of why the Borg were interested in the Federation is a decent one, but perhaps one best left to the imagination rather than somehow to be found in series lore. I could suggest a few scenarios, with the proviso that they are all products of my imagination and have no basis in fact:

-The Federation was in some way more advanced than most races out there, and had something or other the Borg wanted to assimilate. (this would be later contradicted in Voyager, but for the purposes of "Q Who" that's not really relevant. I think Voyager jumped the shark big-time in making any kind of sense of what the Borg do in the Delta Quadrant, which should properly have been a massive warzone and interstellar graveyard).

-The Borg had access to some weird information, maybe even from the future, telling them the Federation would eventually be a threat to them.

-The Borg remembered the probe they repaired which went back to Earth (V'Ger) and when they came in contact with the Enterprise realized that for some reason the probe didn't destroy the Earth, and wanted to know why. Note that this is real fan-fiction stuff, since the Borg being the race that repaired the probe is two steps separated from canon, since it was only an idea Gene had that never materialized.

-Maybe Q whisking the Enterprise away is what made the Borg antsy, since how could they possibly know it was Q that rescued them at the end? They probably thought that in scanning the ship they failed to note some crazy advanced gadget that could hurl the Enteprise across the galaxy. No kidding they wanted to ransack Earth to find it! If this is the right answer then Q actually instigated the confrontation, which maybe made the Federation take a bit more seriously developing weapons of war like the Defiant. I think (in hindsight) we could say that while losing 39 ships sucks, without those advances (and the Defiant) the Federation wouldn't have beaten the Dominion.

Yeah, that's all I got for now. As to your second question, it is undoubtedly a plot hole. "The Neutral Zone" made is clear the Borg had already learned about them, but that point was utterly forgotten. I think back then the "Conspiracy" aliens were meant to be the threat that took out some colonies, and once they decided to switch it to a cyborg race they scrapped whatever continuity had come before and started over.

@ Rahul,

I agree with you that the Gomez parts don't amount to much more than being tedious, despite the attempt to show the episode message though them. But about Q and the magic wand ending, I think the main takeaway to me is that Picard was forced into a situation where he had to admit he was helpless and they needed Q. The issue of Q himself isn't so much the point but rather that up until that point in the series the crew was pretty darn cocky and needed to be put in their place. For an atheistic Starfleet captain to be reduced to basically saying "God help us!" is a statement to the effect that no matter how advanced your technology is, there's always a bigger fish as Qui-Gon said, so don't let the size of your phasors make you think you're all that. The quality of the race should be in its enlightenment, not in its technology, and that theme bookends the series in the pilot and the finale. "Q Who" seems to underline that theme by showing them that they still have a lot of learning to do.
Jason R.
Thu, May 25, 2017, 6:17am (UTC -6)
Peter along your point I always thought of humans as the Mary Sue of the galaxy, prancing around titans and Gods and always somehow coming out winners.

I was watching Peak Performance yesterday and the part where Data notes the Zackdorn were renowned in the galaxy as master strategists for FIVE THOUSAND years. So basically they were intergalactic celebrities at a time when earth was still marvelling the wonder of agrigulture and written language. And yet these guys are just some aliens that belongs to a Federation run by humans from Earth...

Even in Encounter at Farpoint (and certainly in subsequent episodes like Hide and Q) we get this sense that the Gods themselves must be weary of mighty mankind.

Q Who is the first episode to my mind that really takes seriously the idea that man is not the centre of the universe. Even previous episodes (like EAF) which SAY this never quite SHOW it or convince us that the story really believes it. Part of this is just due to the conventions of TV at the time and maybe part of it is due to Rodenberry's influence? I can't rightly say.
Peter G.
Thu, May 25, 2017, 9:09am (UTC -6)
@ Jason R.,

It's definitely a premise in Trek that there is some sort of manifest destiny for the humans/Federation. They're not just another of infinite random species. There is something definitively American about that premise, I think.
Daniel Blumentritt
Sat, Jun 10, 2017, 2:25am (UTC -6)
I'm surprised how many people love the "Oh please" line. Q just was an accessory to the murder of 18 people. No different than throwing them on a rail-line in front a moving train you know can't stop. But they are offscreen nobodies so it's ok b/c he made Picard say he was wrong. What?

{ I was watching Peak Performance yesterday and the part where Data notes the Zackdorn were renowned in the galaxy as master strategists for FIVE THOUSAND years. So basically they were intergalactic celebrities at a time when earth was still marvelling the wonder of agrigulture and written language. And yet these guys are just some aliens that belongs to a Federation run by humans from Earth... }

It's really Worf who shines there. First he (possibly correctly) calls out the Zakdorns by saying that maybe they are just coasting on reputation - a reputation which has kept people from challenging them. Then it's his genius that saves the day, not the humans'
Sun, Jul 30, 2017, 5:54pm (UTC -6)
4 stars! A true gem. Classic science fiction featuring fascinating ideas and concepts that stimulate the imagination

When the Enterprise was catapulted 2000 light years. I could viscerally feel the sense of isolation. It also felt that the crew had genuinely been thrown into the Unknown--in a way Voyager, who was in a similiar situation, didn't do nearly as well as was done here. There was a genuine sense of awe and wonder to the proceedings

The Borg were another fantastic idea featured. The idea of a race which functioned as a whole with no emotion and no leader characterized as a force of nature with none of the common human motives--a truly alien race--something we should have seen more of and I was hoping for when Voyager was first announced would be set in the unexplored Demta Quadrant. And the Borg's superior knowledge and technology that overpowered the Enterprise--a true genuine terrifying threat . I loved their alien design and the background actors used for the Borg did a really great job looking truly androgynous. The Borg cube design was so iconic and atypical. I loved the Borg nursery I loved the neat idea of literally thinking their ship fixed and seeing it repairing itself.

Q could be hit or miss but here he was out to good use. Q would definitely lash out when his request to become a part of the crew is rejected by Picard. I also enjoyed the introduction of a secret mysterious history between Q and Guinan. It was an intriguing added wrinkle that made the story all that great. A willingness by Mauruce Hurley to go that extra mile and is a clever story detail and shows Maurice's skills as a writer and was one of TNG's best writers.

By the same token bringing Guinan in as a consultant and revealing her species history with the Borg was a smart way to provide information on the Borg. And the episode further adds to Guinan's mysterious abilities from her defensive stance when it appears Q is about to act against her or her gut instinct something amiss when Picard first disappears

The episode also featured some of the most sophisticated and descriptive dialog--pretty much everything out of Q's mouth throughout the episode

I loved to pieces seeing some action and battle sequences on TNG. And the carving up of the enterprise. I also loved when the first Borg beamed to Engineering and began accessing the ship systems--Picard approaches the Borg but his requests fall on deaf ears, the drone continues his probing with that cold stare. I much preferred this depiction of the Borg with each drone a true threat with the collective intelligence visible in their stare rather than post First Contact with the drones behaving like mindless servants acting on commands from a Borg Queen, lumbering around. I also preferred the idea here that the Borg were an actual species with offspring that they augment with technology and that the Collective is a composer of "born" Borg as well as assimilated species

The music was great especially the music accompanying the first pan out from the away team aboard the cube to the massive interior of the borg vessel.

And you can't beat the Picard/Guinan conversation in the final scene with the realization that now that the Borg are aware of the Federation then the Borg will be coming. Terrifying
Sun, Jul 30, 2017, 6:08pm (UTC -6)
PS. And I don t know how many remember the trailer back that aired in 1997 ahead of Voyager's fourth season for Scorpion part two II that talked about how that episode would elevate sci-fi to an art form--well that promo VoiceOver would better apply to THIS episode
Fri, Oct 20, 2017, 3:26am (UTC -6)
That ending. After seeing it nearly ten times, it still gives me the creeps.

Guinan putting it out there, almost shy. "Since they are aware of your existence..."
Picard's hesitation in moving the pawn, the sudden realisation of an awful truth. "...they will be coming."
"You can bet on it."
Picard taking it in for a moment and seamingly hiding nervousness standing up from of his seat.

Oh yeah, space will never be the same again.
Tue, Jan 23, 2018, 7:12am (UTC -6)
"If the show had truly wanted to punch us in the stomach with its dark ambitions, it would've had Gomez die." More like if the show had truly wanted to be trite, cliche and predictable. What is the American audience's need for everything to follow the exact same predictable lines?

That said, this is the amazing and breathtakingly scary introduction to the greatest sci-fi enemy of all time.
Fri, Mar 16, 2018, 7:41am (UTC -6)
I hate the way they wrote Guinan. "What can you tell us?" "Only that if I were you I'd start back now." Actually there's a whole lot else she could tell them, and maybe if the writers had let them, they would have started back now.

btw, what is Riker doing in that scene? He's leaning so steeply over the bar and looking unwaveringly into her eyes. Is he trying to seduce her? LOL!
Sarjenka's Little Brother
Sun, Mar 18, 2018, 7:57pm (UTC -6)
Another one I haven't seen in forever. ON FIRE.

I liked even better than I remembered. Excellent direction. Q at his best. Great script and lines for Q and Picard. Yeah, the Sonya Gomez thing could have been better, but still, a Next Gen classic.

The episode that introduces the Borg has to be!
Peter Swinkels
Mon, Mar 19, 2018, 7:33am (UTC -6)
Nice episode. Not much to add.
Mon, Mar 19, 2018, 6:13pm (UTC -6)
By now TNG had at least a couple of top-notch eps under its belt, and its average was improving rapidly. Still, this is probably the most important of them. And BTW look how far we've come since the Ferengi were introduced as the new bad guys in season one, and proceeded to caper about like disturbed chimpanzees.

Yes, the whole Borg thing was reduced to banality by Voyager and its familiarity breeds boredom, yea even unto the point of a Borg Brady Bunch, but that only strengthens the solemnity and impact of this debut performance.

Speaking of the score, I particularly liked the moments where complete silence was employed whilst contemplating the Borg Cube (which BTW has to rank as one of the most audacious and iconic spacecraft deaigns since Disovery in 2001).

So much has been said, I can't find much to add, except that if there is one little moment that doesn t work for me, it,s when Guinan faces off against Q, with her fingers poised like cats claws. It looked really corny. I half expected lightning to suddenly shoot out of her fingers. Were we supposed to believe that she has some powers which would have serioualy threatened Q? It's implied here, but I don't remember it being taken up again; at least not in 'wizard battle' sort of way.

But it's a minor thing, and I admit that Guinan is capable of periodically annoying me a little.
Fri, May 25, 2018, 2:50am (UTC -6)
When this episode aired STTNG became untouchable. You can like TOS for introducing the Trekverse. You can prefer DS9, Voyager, Babylon5 etc, but you won't find a series that can match the scifi greatness that STTNG reached beginning with this episode.
Dr. Who introduced a species more terrifying than the Borg called Weeping Angels. That first episode for me is probably the single greatest scifi horror writing for a tv show. But as far as scifi series go, STTNG has never been matched after The Borg came on the scene.

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