Star Trek: Voyager

"Death Wish"

3.5 stars

Air date: 2/19/1996
Teleplay by Michael Piller
Story by Shawn Piller
Directed by James L. Conway

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"This ship will not survive the formation of the cosmos." — Torres

Nutshell: A few silly scenes leading up to the core of the story, but once it gets where it's going it's one of the best and probing stories yet told on Voyager.

When the crew comes across a comet exhibiting strange properties, they inadvertently release an imprisoned Q who had been sentenced to eternal incarceration by the Q Continuum for attempting to kill himself. Once released, this Q (Gerrit Graham) returns to his suicidal attempts and, much to the ire of Captain Janeway, accidentally vanishes half of Voyager's crew in the process. The Q we're all familiar with from TNG (John de Lancie) appears to undo Graham-Q's blunder and send him back to his incarceration. But Graham-Q requests asylum from Janeway; de Lancie-Q concedes to a hearing over whether or not Graham-Q can be granted his wish of killing himself—something which had before been denied because it could be harmful to the balance of the Q Continuum.

"Death Wish" has a few plot holes here and there, as well as the obligatory Stupid Q Tricks; but it's easy to look past them based on the sheer strength of the story being told here. The show takes a while to get going, but once it does, it's compelling, absorbing, and thoughtful—another cerebrally enticing teleplay by Michael Piller (based on a story written by his own son).

Let's start with the Stupid Q Tricks. Once de Lancie-Q returns Voyager's vanished crew members, he's ready to promptly send Graham-Q back to his incarceration. But Graham-Q attempts to hide by whisking himself and Voyager away from de Lancie-Q, first sending the ship back to the time of the creation of the universe, then shrinking it to the size of a subatomic particle, and finally, as one hilarious in-joke, hiding the Voyager on a Christmas tree as an ornament (it fun to see the franchise poke fun at itself). De Lancie-Q, however, is not fooled. He knows all the hiding places, and once this series of gratuitous Q gags has been delivered, the story wisely presses on. (Q gags can be fun—like the ornament joke—but I've seen so many of them that they rarely impress me any more.)

The rest of the show takes a courtroom format, where Tuvok defends Graham-Q's request to Janeway, who takes the role of judge in the matter. De Lancie-Q is the prosecutor trying to convince Janeway to deny Graham-Q the asylum he seeks, based on grounds that he is insane and in no position to request it.

But Graham-Q is not insane. There's a reason he wants to die, and it's in this reason where the episode addresses a wonderfully engaging human question. On occasion, Star Trek can get trite when all-too-delicately taking the human question route. But "Death Wish" rings true all the way, thanks to the genial and poignant performance of Gerrit Graham as a jaded Q who has no reason left to exist.

The episode peaks in its fourth act, where Graham-Q attempts to prove his suffering life is pointless by taking Janeway to the Q Continuum, presented in the human-comprehensible form of a house in the middle of a desert with a road running by it. The road, he explains, represents the universe. But it's simply a circular road that just ends up back at the house. He's traveled the road many, many times; there is nothing left for him to explore. And Graham-Q also explains how the Continuum used to be a place for ongoing polemic, humor, and discussion from all over the universe. Not anymore. No one in the Continuum even bothers to talk anymore, because all the discussions have been discussed and all the unknown possibilities explored.

Since Graham-Q has nothing new to accomplish, his life has become pointless, futile, and a torturous bore. The beauty of his argument is how much sense it makes, and that it incites us think more deeply than probably any Voyager episode has to date. Piller deserves much credit for the intelligent writing. The rest deserves to go to Gerrit Graham's passionate, compelling presence. It's a close running between him and Joel Grey (from "Resistance") for the series' best guest star.

The other thing this argument succeeds in doing is giving us a fascinating look at the Q Continuum. Despite how powerful and omnipotent the Q have always seemed throughout TNG, Graham-Q assures that they are not without weakness. They have become a dry and dispassionate people, and by dying, Graham-Q will not only escape that fate, but inject a new variable of unknown into the Continuum. The desert scene works as a strikingly well realized metaphor.

Ironically, even de Lancie-Q is taken by Graham-Q's argument. He used to be a rebel himself (though he admits that he is now a "born-again Q" who re-surrendered himself to the Continuum once they punished him), and as the show nears the end, he begins to understand what it is that Graham-Q hopes to gain. There are all sorts of reassuringly undertones here—most notably a sense that "the adventure of discovery must continue." The fact that de Lancie-Q ultimately grants Graham-Q his wish for suicide is both intriguing and somewhat bittersweet as we see such a wonderful character die his necessary death.

Amidst this wonderful core, "Death Wish" also has some surface elements that don't bear quite as much scrutiny. One is the appearance of William Riker, Isaac Newton, and Maury Ginsberg, whom de Lancie-Q brings to Voyager as evidence that historic moments pivoted around a Q's influence. The suggestions that Graham-Q caused the apple to fall from Newton's tree, and that the Q also played a role in saving Woodstock has a sort of goofy "Forrest Gump" nature that—although kind of fun—isn't nearly as entertaining as the serious core of the show. As for Riker's appearance—it's more or less gratuitous if you stop and think about it. It was hardly necessary, and not much of a factor in the plot.

As for the "banter" scenes between de Lancie-Q and Janeway, they're adequate, but not exactly standout. The idea of Q being attracted to her seems forced, and the verbal jousts here can't match those between Q and Picard (or even Q and Sisko in "Q-Less"). Q's bribe of sending the Voyager home if Janeway rules in his favor is another retread of the Big Ethical Decision she had to make in "Caretaker." Fortunately, the writers play down and ultimately ignore the issue—a wise move since exploring it would simply have resulted in a foregone conclusion.

There's also the question of how Graham-Q could have witnessed de Lancie-Q's mischievous streak—which was presumably during TNG's days (i.e., "Q Who," "Deja Q")—if he has been isolated in a comet for 300 years.

The final verdict? "Death Wish" takes a while to figure out where it's going, but once it does, it's an excellent show, aside from a few uninspired elements it uses to get there.

Previous episode: Dreadnought
Next episode: Lifesigns

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101 comments on this review

marcusg
Mon, Mar 24, 2008, 4:20am (UTC -5)
Great ep. But what about a reference to Amanda Rogers? Her character in True Q (TNG S06E06) would seem a logical fit here. Surely Janeway would have heard of her. But given that the Q can't die (supposedly), why not reference her in some other way?
Jasper
Tue, Jan 13, 2009, 1:25pm (UTC -5)
There's also the question of how Graham-Q could have witnessed de Lancie-Q's mischievous streak--which was presumably during TNG's days (i.e., "Q Who," "Deja Q")--if he has been isolated in a comet for 300 years.

Simple enough: Q time is not linked to our time. Consider the ease with which Q has transported Voyager to the big bang. Would it not imply that if he had been traveling locked away in a comet for hundreds of years he could also have been elsewhere in the universe at the same 'time' if he went to that 'time' earlier in his life?
navamske
Fri, Aug 14, 2009, 7:25pm (UTC -5)
marcusg

"But what about a reference to Amanda Rogers?"

It's true that there was no specific reference to Amanda Rogers, but what happened in her family was alluded to. Tuvok asked de Lancie-Q if it wasn't true that the Continuum itself has executed some of its members, and de Lancie-Q answers yes. This could have been an allusion to the death of Amanda Rogers's parents -- in "True Q," didn't Q acknowledge that the Continuum had sent the tornado that killed the Rogerses, because they had dared to procreate like humanoids?
Derek
Wed, Sep 16, 2009, 5:50am (UTC -5)
Double de Lancies with the "Ugh, VULcans" line is one of Voyager's best moments. :-D
Jay
Fri, Jan 28, 2011, 12:30pm (UTC -5)
@ navamske

And a year later, on an episode of this series, DeLancie-Q procreates like a humanoid.
Ken
Tue, Feb 8, 2011, 1:59pm (UTC -5)
This is certainly a good episode. It was funny and poignant at the same time. It had lots of great lines, guest stars, etc. And for the first time, I wasn't so annoyed by a Q episode. I haven't been a fan of the Q honestly.

My only really beef with the episode is that one again the Voyager spots some useless crap on their sensors and they stop and check it out. The premise is just awful. They do this in what... 40% of the episodes? Don't they want to get home?!

But in this case, I can forgive it because the episode is actually wonderful.
Destructor
Tue, Mar 22, 2011, 6:10pm (UTC -5)
Ken, you make that complaint a lot, but it was established in the pilot that it's part of their mission goals to continue exploring the Delta Quadrant. It wouldn't be much of a show if they were just constantly commuting, would it? They're *explorers*. Seek out new life and new civilizations, etc? It'd be wildly out of character for Janeway *not* to explore the DQ while she was there. In fact I think even in this very episode Q asks her: "Would you not want to die if you could no longer explore?"

Anyway, I didn't like this episode when I first saw it (the Riker cameo- totally gratuitous!), but seeing it a second time I was really affected by it as a metaphor for euthanasia- for when you become so old you can no longer 'explore'. I found Janeway's appeal at the end: " I like this life, Q. You might too. Think hard before you give it up."

Very affecting, and great performance by Mulgrew.
Ken
Tue, Mar 22, 2011, 7:52pm (UTC -5)
Destructor, I agree that the show wouldn't have all that much interesting stuff going on if they didn't check out every nook and cranny in the galaxy... but maybe that's a signal that the premise for this show was flawed from the outset, no? I really do think so.

In TNG, they also had to explore, but it never seemed to use the same repetitive premises and setups like Voyager does. There's a lot more variety in its execution.
Jasper
Wed, Mar 23, 2011, 5:35am (UTC -5)
Destructor, I find it interesting that you are talking about what would be out of character for Janeway. As a matter of fact, Kate Mulgrew herself has complained that her character was written so inconsistently she no longer knew how to act it. And yeah, you need to screw up pretty badly before the actors start complaining...
Phil
Sun, Jul 10, 2011, 6:31am (UTC -5)
This is extremely geeky and nitpicky but one thing that bugged me fifteen years ago when the episode first aired and still bugs me on the DVD today is this: why is Riker wearing his TNG era uniform complete with TNG era comm badge? At first I thought maybe Q had plucked him from a slightly earlier timeline but Riker knows Janeway is Voyager's captain which means he's a post "Generations" Riker. At the very least he should have had the new comm badge but I guess the producers wanted him to look as much like he did on the show as possible. After all it was a sweeps month and Voyager was a network show and including Riker in this ep was clearly a ratings grab.
Matthias
Sat, Aug 20, 2011, 8:28am (UTC -5)
Phil: maybe Q plucked him out of bed and slapped him into the uniform he was most familiar with. /inconsistency apologist

I can't say I'm terribly happy to see the familiar Q return as a straight-laced, upstanding member of the Q continuum just to hash out the tired old euthanasia discussion again. You'd think the utopian earth society would be less uptight about it too. Two stars from me, one for Riker, one for Riker's facial hair.
Dennis Murphy
Sun, Aug 28, 2011, 11:27am (UTC -5)
It is certainly possible that the new Q was imprisoned in the comet 300 years ago and he could still have been free. Time has no meaning to the Q, having Janeway at the Big Bang didn't really pose a serious paradox even though it was quite a few billion years before her birth. Its a plot device convenience, but its not necessarily a plot hole.
V
Sat, Jan 14, 2012, 12:41am (UTC -5)
Graham-Q Knew about a lot of things that happened during the 300 years because he is Q. The same reason he knew Kes, Tuvok, etc. The Q have a way of gathering information even ones they've "missed" in an instant because they are not limited, they are not linear :).
Jasper
Thu, Jan 19, 2012, 10:14am (UTC -5)
@Phil: Perhaps it was merely a recreation of Riker by Q, rather than the actual thing? That would allow him to make mistakes in looks.
[Chris]
Mon, Jul 16, 2012, 12:50pm (UTC -5)
This episode was shown on Sky today - it's a great episode and a reflection of just how much potential Voyager had. It has a great premise, a good group of characters (Kim and Neelix notwithstanding) and it did produce some classic episodes of Trek. And yet it was also one of the most infuriating shows when it came to continuity, character development, taking risks with stories and the use of the dreaded reset button.

The episode provided some interesting questions, and a unique perspective on the Q continuum. I also liked Tuvok in the role of Q2's advocate.
Paul
Sun, Dec 2, 2012, 4:42pm (UTC -5)
Re: Riker's comm badge ...

This bothered me, too. But is it possible that Riker was from some point around "All Good Things ..." -- after Janeway was named captain of Voyager but before "Caretaker"?

Point being, Riker could have known who Janeway was and that she was a captain without being Riker from a point when the new comm badges were issued.
Yanks
Tue, Feb 19, 2013, 1:29pm (UTC -5)
Nothing on Janeway's decision?
Chuck AzEee!
Tue, Mar 19, 2013, 6:53am (UTC -5)
Excellent episode, arguably the best Q related episode in the entire Star Trek canon. One that I would consider a 4 star classic.
Phil
Thu, Mar 21, 2013, 5:58am (UTC -5)
@Paul

I suppose that might work... according to the stardates mentioned onscreen "Caretaker" (stardate 48315) takes place before "Generations" (stardate 48632). In "Generations" both styles of uniforms were being worn on the Enterprise so perhaps just prior to "Caretaker" when Janeway received her commission to command Voyager they were still using the old comm badges in parts of the fleet.

Still none of it explains why Q would bring in a Riker from a year earlier.
Sintek
Fri, May 17, 2013, 11:17pm (UTC -5)
Anyone else feeling better about their life for never noticing the difference in plastic props on costumes nor commenting at length about said difference?
Yakko
Sat, May 18, 2013, 12:09am (UTC -5)
No Sintek. Your life is not richer and your human experience is not deeper because you never noticed the difference in the costume. You're just less observant. Now if you noticed the difference but just didn't give a shit THAT would suggest you might have healthier priorities. However you ARE posting a comment in a "Star Trek" message thread - and a "Voyager" one at that. Unless you're randomly trolling boards then you must be as big a geek as anyone here. Still I'll be the bigger geek and point out that the commbadge props were made of wood and not plastic.
Sintek
Sat, May 18, 2013, 3:51am (UTC -5)
I apologize if I hit a nerve. I was in a very bad place when I wrote that comment 5 hours ago.
CadetNorris
Thu, Jul 25, 2013, 3:55am (UTC -5)
There was a missed opportunity in this episode, unless I'm wrong...

When Q (DeLancie) appeared on the Enterprise for the first time, one of the first things he does is deep freeze one Lt. Torres, whose skin tone and hair color match B'ellana's.

It's not a big jump to think that this man (who was also a Goldshirt) is B'ellana's father. A line, or better yet a scene referencing this would have been very welcome, especially in light of the gimmicky first act we got.
T'Paul
Fri, Sep 6, 2013, 5:09pm (UTC -5)
Interesting, CadetNorris!

Good performance from Russ here...
Caine
Wed, Oct 16, 2013, 10:05am (UTC -5)
Q has been imprisoned in a comet for 300 years, Voyager comes along and beams him out. Tadaaa! Anyone ...?


Wow, CadetNorris, your powers of perception are OVER 9.000! Insanely well spotted!
Gooz
Sun, Nov 3, 2013, 4:08pm (UTC -5)
Act Two
Janeway: I'll agree to hold a hearing...[dramatic pause]... [trademark Janeway chin lift and head bob]...in the alpha quadrant.

Acts Three and Four
Proceeds as originally written with typical court room scenes and tropes like "that's highly unusual" and "I'll allow that" thrown in to keep things moving along.

The End
inline79
Wed, Nov 6, 2013, 4:58pm (UTC -5)
In this episode I learned that you can be immortal, omnipotent, all-powerful and still NOT know what a woman wants. Phew, it's not just me - even Q!
Matt
Fri, Nov 15, 2013, 3:35pm (UTC -5)
I'm surprised that no one has brought up the fact that the poison that Q is both given and self-administers is a form of hemlock ... hemlock being, of course, the poison that Socrates was given to drink as a form of execution for, among other things, "corrupting" the youth of his society.
Corey
Wed, Feb 26, 2014, 8:48am (UTC -5)
Episodes like this are why Voyager's S1 and S2 are better than TNG's S1 and S2.
Latex Zebra
Mon, Mar 3, 2014, 4:47am (UTC -5)
4 stars easily for me. Any quibbles are minor and this episode manages to be breezey yet deal with a serious subject simultaneously.

This is one of Voyager's best episodes.
Trekker
Sun, Mar 23, 2014, 5:54pm (UTC -5)
Usually, I think Jammer overrates episodes, but for this one, I think he underrated it.

I like the story and performances, plus Star Trek is dealing with an upcoming issue in our society. Assisted Suicide will not go away with the aging baby boomer population. However, as a society, we force our own values of "life" over individual rights all the time.

The social commentary here is deep and philosophical like a mid-TNG episode or a great TOS episode, which works well.

It is a great episode that deserves more than 3.5 stars out of 4.

I'd give it 9.5/10, because it acknowledges a future issue in society and does what Star Trek set out to do as an innovative TV show.
Elliott
Sun, Mar 23, 2014, 8:27pm (UTC -5)
@Trekker: not that I really disagree with you, but how would Jammer give this episode a higher than 3.5 star -yet-lower than 4-star rating? 3 and 3 quarter stars?
SlackerInc
Tue, Apr 1, 2014, 9:07pm (UTC -5)
I agree with several of the posters above. I think this was head and shoulders above even the other "good" episodes of this show. Deeply philosophical yet still breezy and amusing: not easy to pull off that combo! 4 stars out of 4, or 5 out of 5 (9.5 out of 10 does sound about right).
DLPB
Sat, Apr 26, 2014, 1:04pm (UTC -5)
This episode, while being entertaining, is absurd, and a silly excuse to give Q airtime. The writers completely ruined Q (starting late in TNG). From omnipotent, and highly advanced, to silly human-like disputes.

It's just a nonsense. And trapping a Q in a rock? hahah! Come on.
Vylora
Thu, Aug 21, 2014, 3:33pm (UTC -5)
Despite a few moments of silliness, this is a standout episode that manages to meld serious topics of suicide and euthanasia with a bit of the whimsical elements notorious in Q showings without conflicting each other. Some stellar dialogue and great performances seal the deal in what is classic Q and classic Trek.

4 stars.
NCC-1701-Z
Sun, Aug 24, 2014, 10:22am (UTC -5)
This is probably the only good Q episode Voyager ever did.

I love how each individual Q has their own unique gesture when utilizing their powers (de Lancie's Q snaps his fingers, Amanda in "True Q" crossed her arms, and Quinn here waves his arm in a particular way).
Caleb
Sun, Dec 14, 2014, 11:02pm (UTC -5)
Gosh, voyager wastes a lot of good ideas and good acting by being really stupid. Still, it remains eminently watchable.
Skeptical
Wed, Dec 24, 2014, 12:40pm (UTC -5)
Caleb, that has got to be the most perfect summation of Voyager I have ever heard.

Sadly, I wanted to like this episode more than I actually did. The concept is great, and Quinn made for a very interesting character. His attitude throughout the entire scenario was great, as someone who was fully comfortable with himself and his ideals. Meanwhile, de Lancie was his normal glorious self, fully arrogant and fully awesome to see. And the ideas were worth investigating. Yet despite the vast potential, the episode wasted so much time on dumb ideas that it simply didn't feel complete. Or, perhaps the episode just felt back and forth between good and bad.

I'm not even talking about the stupid Q tricks, as Jammer called them. But it's things like the gratuitous and completely pointless flirting with Janeway; what was the point of that? And frankly, there's not much point of the trial scenes either. For one, the idea that Q would accept Janeway as the judge of the Q Continuum is downright silly, although that's necessary I guess for the purpose of the show. But the entire trial was meandering and not very logical at all. Q's calling himself to the stand was cute, but didn't add anything. Q bringing in the trio was an obvious ratings ploy, but didn't make a lick of sense. If Q was trying to say that Quinn was important for history and must survive, how does that help when Quinn is just going to end up in in prison again? He's going to end up out of history's way either way!

It also doesn't help that the ennui that exists in the Q Continuum doesn't conform to TNG. In the past 7 years, the Continuum has kicked out one of its members, turned him mortal, and reverted him back to being a Q. They have initiated a new member (Amanda) into the Continuum. And they have taken a strong interest in humanity, going so far as to test humanity twice. So, given that we have seen significant changes in the Continuum in the past 7 years, why is it that Quinn thinks life has been so sterile there for 300 years? It doesn't really fit.

And that's terrible. Because the idea is great. I'm not sure why people keep claiming this is about euthanasia; as far as I know there are no societies that allow suicide for depression. And Quinn isn't even depressed. He's not insane, he's not irrational, he's not suffering in any sense that we know of. What he is, is bored. And what he wants isn't to end his suffering, despite what the trial says. He wants to be a martyr, to be a revolutionary. This is very clear after he becomes human; we saw in Deja Q that the basic sensations of being human were completely novel to Q, surely they would be for Quinn as well. And yet he still commits suicide. So it is about being a revolutionary after all.

Which is an interesting idea. Because there was no malice on the part of the Continuum, no desire to oppress. And yet, they are portrayed as in the wrong. The hero of the story is arguing for his own death, while the villains are trying to save him. That's a neat turnaround, and it works. But it just seems like its only half of the episode.
Eli
Sat, Feb 21, 2015, 9:57pm (UTC -5)
Good episode overall. To me, this show was not about suicide, but instead about the purpose of life. What is the purpose of life? For humans the purpose of life is based in a meaningful context. Graham Q (I'll go with Jammer's terms) argues that the Q no longer have a meaningful context with which to pursue their existence (at least for him). This discussion leads the viewer to ask how they find a meaningful context with which to view their own lives. I believe, for instance, that a meaningful context can be created when people decide to solve real problems. In our more advanced society, we (like the Q) sometimes have the power to ignore societal problems (at least to some degree). I think that if this Graham Q were human, he would seek some real involvement with the world in which he lived. Apparently the Q can no longer do that. Unlike in the case of the Q, in our case, ignoring problems comes with greater risk. If we ignore problems we put ourselves at risk for greater problems in the future. So, living a meaningful life is an essential part of our survival.

All in all the show provides a good, thought provoking story. But, the ending, to me, diminishes much of the complexity of the earlier material. The writers should have pushed for a more ambiguous, more open ended final act. Otherwise, the Q story and the implications for human beings becomes muddled. So, this was a good, but disappointing episode.
Yanks
Tue, Aug 4, 2015, 11:51am (UTC -5)
Torres' line is a classic Jammer, but it's not my favorite in this episode.

Best line?

"Not for my safety. For theirs. I was the greatest threat the Continuum had ever known. They feared me so much they had to lock me away for eternity. And when they did that, they were saying that the individual's rights will be protected only so long as they don't conflict with the state. Nothing is so dangerous to a society."

How applicable is that in today's society? Foretelling trek is?

Excuse me for a second while a stand and applaud. Gerrit Graham's performance was that good. Wow. Just perfect.

Yanks sits back down.

Death Wish is probably tied for second as treks best "court" episodes go. #1 of course being 'The Menagerie' and this one ties with TNG's 'The Drumhead'.

The beginning of the episode is pretty darn funny, Quinn's actions in the mess hall, then Q & Quinn's game of hide & seek, then Q ....

"Say, is this the ship of the Valkyries, or have you human women finally done away with your men altogether?"

LOL!!

Just love the writing and performances here.

Then of course, the trial. I was actually surprised at Janeway's decision. I thought surely she would side with the Continuum so Quinn couldn't kill himself. I thought she would side with the state here. You know, all "Federation/Star Fleet" and all. I'm very pleased that she didn't. She gained allot more respect from me in this episode. I of course think she made the right decision.

Kate's delivery here is heartwarming in a way that no other ST Captain seems to be able to do:

"JANEWAY: I'm not finished, Q. Now that you're mortal, you have a new existence to explore. An entirely new state of being filled with the mysteries of mortal life, pleasures you've never felt before. I like this life, Q. You might too. Think hard before you give it up."

Sniff, sniff...

Easy 4 star episode for me.
Diamond Dave
Mon, Jan 11, 2016, 4:06pm (UTC -5)
A shame we have to put up with so much mugging, gurning and scenery chewing early on in this episode before we get to the philosophical heart of the thing. If anything, we get the worst of Q and the best of Q. But the fundamental idea of questioning what eternal life has to offer when you've seen and done everything is the kind of lyrical pondering we'd perhaps do well to see more often. And less Isaac Newton.

"This ship will not survive the formation of the universe" indeed. 3 stars.
JC
Fri, Mar 18, 2016, 5:23pm (UTC -5)
I'm sure all of my thoughts were stated by some commenter or another above, but a couple of big downsides to this episode for me that I think take off at least another half star:

1. I did find the court case ultimately compelling, but it took too long to get there. It took a couple of acts for me to even figure out what they were actually conflicted about. Also for a while it appeared to be trying to state some message about assisted suicide but that never really came through clearly. So I think it came together well in the end, but flailed around a bit at first, and took too long to come into focus.

2. Janeway once again failed to do "everything in her power" to get home. I think by now we can accept that she places an insane weight on her principals so I don't have an issue with her final judgment. What I *do* have an issue with is that the moment at the end in sickbay, where TNG Q seemed to open up to her, would have been a great time to at least *try* to ask one more time for him to send them home. But she didn't even ask. I didn't like that at all.

Also, a minor thing: The Riker appearance was a bit gratuitous, and so I don't think it was used to its fullest potential. I would have liked to have seen Janeway perhaps ask him as an aside for a bit of news from home (assuming he came from the present, of course). Slight bummer, but no big deal.
robrow
Fri, Apr 29, 2016, 1:10pm (UTC -5)
There's the rub. If you read Julian Barnes History of the World in 10 and 1/2 chapters, the last section tells the story of an everyman who gets sent to heaven, gets everything he ever wanted...and then the pleasure gradually diminishes til it loses any meaning. He ends up wanting to die. I suppose one philosophical criticism of this story is that it ultimately reduces omnipotence to human standards - it's like saying God can tire of his creation and all that heavenly praise (yeh I know Trek never explicitly sets up the Q as being a divine creator, but they share some of it's attributes). I'd grow bored rigid, but that's just my necessarily limited perspective. And it led to an absorbing, very well acted and - at times - funny story. 4 stars from me.
Chrome
Wed, Jul 13, 2016, 11:30am (UTC -5)
Unfortunately, I philosophically can't get behind the dilemma in this episode. Janeway is essentially assisting suicide? Oh and she's ignoring an easy route home, again? No thanks.

Another major problem about this episode is that it shows the Q continuum...and it's extremely disappointing. TNG built up the Q continuum as this nice abstract place where all Q observe and decide moral and evolutionary challenges for lesser beings. It all sounded very complex, but here we're reduced a dusty road and a pinball machine? I mean, besides simple-looking people with absurd powers being very Matrix-esque, at the end of the day I preferred the imaginary version of the Q continuum the writers let us create in TNG. Giving us a physical representation just deflates the whole Q concept. (And it's not even in a metaphorically interesting way, which we'll later see in "The Q and the Gray")

1 star, because DeLancie deserves a star for putting up with mediocre scripts.
Ben Franklin
Thu, Aug 18, 2016, 12:04pm (UTC -5)
2 stars from me. Good philosophical episode with some decent performances. I like the gratuitous appearance of Riker and DeLancie's performance is, as always, superb. However:

-1 (Canon violation) for the fact that I can hardly believe the Q would allow a human to determine the fate of one of their own.

-1 (basic series plot hole) for the fact that the Q could easily (and without moral issue) send Voyager back home and this should have been the immediate instinct for Janeway upon seeing any of the Q.

Frankly, I was taken aback by this episode. As soon as it was apparent that there was a Q in it, I discounted the episode's validity. The fact that the Q are in Voyager at all is insulting to the viewer's intelligence unless the writers were prepared to have Voyager return home early. But I always like a Q episode and [series-defining plot holes aside] the philosophical view in question was interesting.
mephyve
Sat, Aug 20, 2016, 7:41am (UTC -5)
Loved Delaney's performance. The story itself was stupid. Ï'm bored to death so I may as well kill myself" Janeway is an idiot.
mephyve
Sat, Aug 20, 2016, 7:48am (UTC -5)
I meant Delancie but you knew that
Rob
Fri, Nov 11, 2016, 10:06am (UTC -5)
This episode got awesome when they went to the continuum and it turned into pure philosophy. Let's face it, the best episodes are little philosophy lessons told well.
Chrome
Fri, Nov 11, 2016, 10:48am (UTC -5)
@Rob

I wouldn't call Best of Both Worlds a philosophy lesson but I liked it all the same. Sure - slow, but involved stories can be great, but quick-paced action can tell a great story too. #MrPlinkettSpectrum
Peter G.
Fri, Nov 11, 2016, 11:55am (UTC -5)
@ Chrome, "I wouldn't call Best of Both Worlds a philosophy lesson but I liked it all the same."

I'm going to go ahead and disagree with you here. The Borg are a huge lesson in collective thinking and how individuals must never be run over by over-arching Federations and hierarchies. Obviously we have the main arc of Picard's greatest enemy not being a physical threat, but of being that which denies him the ability to be who he is. That's a character story of sorts, which we might not call philosophy in and of itself.

But the picture begins to fill in when we see Shelby's ambition and her tacit belief that the 'best' and most efficient officer is the one to be taken seriously, which is contrasted with Riker's now somewhat established arc of having found things more important to him than sheer ambition. He has found family, guidance under Picard - in short, the human element. It's a big change after he left the love of his life to pursue his career. Shelby is a microcosm for the Borg in terms of her manner, which is abrupt, and her statement that those who slow her down need to get out of her way; both mirror the raw efficiency-motive that the Borg employ. The basic algorithm consists of little more than calculation and maneuvering in the path of least resistance, and that's sort of a career ladder-climber in a nutshell.

The first time I saw BOBW I hated Shelby, and I think that's intended by the writers. By part 2 we begin to have a bit more sympathy for her, which is a fine way to take the story, but her basic character in its unapologetic trajectory towards the captaincy strikes me as analogous to "resistance is futile." Riker's part in her story shows us the compromise between efficiency and the human element, which is a way of showing the audience that the Borg's problem isn't that they are efficient, but that they are *merely* efficient and nothing else. That is the danger not only of a Shelby-type, but of others in the Federation who may lose the forest for the trees and act in the Federation's material interest while also losing sight of its principles and what it's all supposed to be about. We see examples of this later on in DS9.

The moral, I think, is not to avoid being efficient, but rather to avoid allowing that to be the end-all criterion of performance. Much like today where a nation's success is often measured by GDP and its bank account, BOBW reminds us that these things must be a means to an end and not an end in themselves, or else all of us would be reduced to little more than production units in the purely fascist sense.
Chrome
Fri, Nov 11, 2016, 12:11pm (UTC -5)
Okay, but that lesson plays a backseat to action. How about "Conspiracy" or DS9's "The Jem'Hadar"?
Peter G.
Fri, Nov 11, 2016, 12:20pm (UTC -5)
I dunno, what about them? I do think "The Jem'Hadar" has some thoughtful content. Much of the episode shows us how at odds Ferengi and Human cultures can be, and even Sisko can barely keep it together and show tolerance. But when confronted by a race that is truly different from both of them we see how much closer the Ferengi and Humans were than they first appeared. This would be a recurring theme in DS9, where what at first appeared to be an insurmountable gap between two races (like the Bajorans and Cardassians) could become a lot shorter when faced with a third party that is much different from either of them. It tells about perspective plays a large part in recognizing similarity, and that the more we learn about the universe the more we can accept the things we already know about it.

As for "Conspiracy", yeah, it's more or less just a neat story. I didn't claim that all plot-oriented episodes are philosophical; I just feel the BOBW has far more to say than just the story itself. I don't think the action of BOBW would have had nearly the impact if the Borg had not been what they were. The underlying terror of a force beyond appeal is exactly why the action was great, and that ties directly into why blind seeking after power or success is such a danger for even the Federation.
Peter G.
Fri, Nov 11, 2016, 12:22pm (UTC -5)
Incidentally, I would barely even agree with the premise that "Death Wish" is particularly philosophical. What did it teach the audience about life or about the limitations of growth? All it did was say that Q is bored and wants to die. Big deal, that happens to human beings too. Where's the philosophy here?
Chrome
Fri, Nov 11, 2016, 12:53pm (UTC -5)
@Peter G.

I suppose the writers are suggesting that mortality is an advantageous trait of humans. But, I think this falls flat because, like you say, it's not really unique. In fact, it's not even uniquely human. The Death Wishing Q could easily be as envious of a bug's mortality as he is of a human's. So it's not really clear what the take away is here.

Oh well,at least there's pinball!
Dean
Fri, Dec 30, 2016, 8:11am (UTC -5)
I personally love Q episodes, ever since TNG. This is actually one of the better ones.
Tuvalu makes a great lawyer.
Chos
Sat, Jan 14, 2017, 9:30pm (UTC -5)
Watching voyager becomes easier when you realize that Janeway doesn't really want to get back home. The first thing anyone in their right mind would have done when they recognized a Q in their midst would have been to ask to get sent back home. Please. Also, thanks for the rabbit steak and for getting rid of the men.

Aside from that, the whole mortality thing being a feature not a bug of existence is tired. Lazy philosophizing at the college freshman level.
Caedus
Fri, Mar 10, 2017, 11:06pm (UTC -5)
One of Voyager's best.

Screw the guy above me who poo pooed it this episode was so much better than he could ever be.
Garth of Izar
Mon, May 29, 2017, 11:26am (UTC -5)
So an immortal, omnipotent being has reached the limits of boredom and wants to end it all. What a conundrum! Except that there's an obvious solution - have said omnipotent being (or the other Q) wipe his memory of all the incredible things he's seen and done, so he can enjoy them all afresh. Voila - problem solved!
Peter G.
Mon, May 29, 2017, 12:05pm (UTC -5)
@ Garth (party on!),

I think the issue is that an omnipotent being that exists outside of time doesn't take 'time' to see what there is to see in the universe. It is pretty much automatic, I would even suspect instantaneous from any perspective we can understand. The moment a Q exists it would already know everything and have seen everything. At least, that's assuming Q wasn't blowing smoke when he said that he knew everything.

I guess we can't take the 'physics' of the Q too seriously anyhow, but at least within the context of this episode's internal logic I would suspect that this wasn't a Q that eventually became disenchanted with having finally learned everything, but rather a Q that, by his own nature, was always disenchanted with having already known everything. Wiping his memory would mean little, since an omnipotent being could presumably know it all again instantly if he so chose. I guess you could ask one of those annoying questions like "Is a Q powerful enough to prevent himself knowing things so that he can learn them?" In which case you'd really be suggesting that a Q could wipe his own memory (or at least selectively neglect to know things so that he could learn them again). That's sort of in the department of "can God make a stone so heavy he can't lift it".

To me this episode utterly fails to make an intelligent case one way or the other because in order to assess whether the life of a Q is worth living ("life" for an immortal deity?) we would have to know what the Q...actually do. You know, like what they purpose or task is. Or are they all Q of leisure and sit around doing nothing? Or are they guardians of something and De Lancie-Q was a truant messing with various species? Or maybe messing with the universe is the only way to entertain oneself? None of this was asked or addressed, so how can we care about whether or not the Q life is worth living? Q might have a very important mission to attend to that is tedious but necessary. Then we'd suddenly feel a lot less sympathetic to a Q who felt like quitting because it was boring.
Dark Kirk
Mon, Jun 5, 2017, 11:18pm (UTC -5)
DeLancie-Q made me uncomfortable. This wasn't his typically mess-with-the-captain's-sense-of-control. He was sexually harassing Janeway, right?
Markus
Fri, Jul 7, 2017, 12:10am (UTC -5)
I have to dissent from the majority on this one - I found the episode mediocre. The first part before we get to the crux of the episode was extremely silly in a way that only Q episodes can be, and this one more so than most.

The actual court case, yes it brought up philosophical questions, but I just didn't think it raised any particularly interesting points for either side that haven't been heard throughout society for ages. It just didn't feel like it had much originality to add to the debate.

Measure of a Man it was not. 2 stars.
Mertov
Fri, Aug 4, 2017, 2:45am (UTC -5)
The last few seconds ended abruptly, but I enjoyed this episode. Unlike Jammer I thought it was a fairly good build-up.
The line of the episode: Doctor -- "How flattering!"
LOL
Peter Swinkels
Tue, Aug 15, 2017, 3:18pm (UTC -5)
Except for one of the Q's idiotic remarks about the crew's DNA being scattered around the cosmos (more like fundamental particles and since when could life magically spring from loose DNA strands?) I thought this was a pretty good and thought provoking episode.
Skorty
Sat, Oct 7, 2017, 1:23am (UTC -5)
A nearly all powerful being is locked up by other nearly all powerful beings in a comet of all things, and all it takes to free him is Voyager trying to collect a small sample of the comet? Ok then.

Why does Quinn (the prisoner) want to die, yet Q (de Lancie) and the other Q don't want to? Aren't they all bored? Haven't they all done everything already? If he is so different from the others, perhaps he IS suffering from a mental illness of some sort. Which would make Janeway's decision completely wrong. And since she knew his plan was to kill himself, why did she act all surprised when he did? It's not like he said he would about 400,000 times or anything.

And what does the fact that he helped Newton and all that other nonsense have to do with anything? I don't get it. Q was trying to show that Quinn was insane and shouldn't kill himself, but should be locked up instead. Because Quinn did some influential stuff in the past, means he is insane? Or not insane? Or a good Q? Or what? None of that has anything to do with him being insane or not as far as I can tell. And he won't be able to do anything like that stuff if he's locked up anyhow. Makes no sense.

And Woodstock? Really? As if anyone on Voyager, hundreds of years from now, would have a clue what that was. Start asking around and see how many teenagers nowadays know what Woodstock was. Most probably won't have any idea.

JANEWAY to Q: '...But one thing you have never been is a liar.'

Q never lies? Really? In DS9's 'Q-Less' they called him the 'the God of Lies'. :D I can't think of any particular instances off the top of my head where he lied, but to be thought of as 'the God of Lies' I would have to assume he lied quite a bit.

Says QUINN: '...Q rebelled against this existence by refusing to behave himself. He was out of control. He used his powers irresponsibly and all for his own amusement. And he desperately needed amusement, because he could find none here at home.'

If Quinn is so bored, why not do what Q did instead of killing himself?

And then!! And then!!! Q grants Janeway a way out if she sides with him. A logical one at that. And if she does, he'll send them back to Earth!!

Q: '...That's why I talked them [the continuum] into giving you what you asked for. You have my word. He won't go back to the cell. We'll assign someone to look after him. Whatever it takes. It's what you wanted, isn't it?'
JANEWAY: 'That's what I wanted.'

He'll go back to the continuum with some sort of suicide watch. So he won't kill himself, which is what Janeway wants. He won't go back to prison, which Janeway also wants. And Q will send them home, which Janeway definitely wants. Oh wait. No she doesn't! She sides with Quinn and he kills himself and they stay stuck in the middle of nowhere. Good choice Janeway, the worst captain ever!!

2 stars, mostly for John de Lancie
Rahul
Wed, Jan 31, 2018, 11:22pm (UTC -5)
One of the things VOY and DS9 can do is pick up on characters, story arcs from TNG -- so doing some kind of expose on the Q is pretty cool. Definitely entertaining seeing Q from TNG and the barbs he flings at Janeway as if she was Picard. But aside from the Q gimmicks, this one's a real winner for Voyager -- really intelligent and touching. The suicidal Q has a really compelling story.

So we get a better understanding of the Q even though I would have prefered them to remain omnipotent beings. And imbuing them with so many human characteristics doesn't seem right to me. If the Q are god-like beings, human feelings like boredom shouldn't bother them -- do Buddhas get bored? No.

So the disease of the Q is immortality -- very surreal and intriguing sci-fi to see the representation of the Q Continuum in a way that Janeway/Tuvok can relate to -- the desert road. But it gets the point across -- a hearing with Janeway as judge is a good feature to this episode. Court room dramas usually are strong Trek episodes.

How about the Q continuum being communists? All for the power of the state at the expense of the individual. Now there's an analogy for you. Glad to see the individual wins here.

Janeway's great in this episode -- well reasoned decision to grant the renegade Q asylum when she could have taken a bribe and been back home. But that adherence to principles and morals pops up again and she does the right thing.

Good enough for 3.5 stars -- really compelling stuff overall with a good ending and a lesson for the de Lancie Q who gains respect for the jaded Q who commits assisted suicide. Nice to see the de Lancie Q eat some humble pie at the end of the episode. I also enjoy the Q gimmicks (going back to the start of the universe, bringing Riker to Voyager etc.) Plenty of fun but also a good allegory for looking at suicide and somewhat of a deep dive into one of Trek's greatest creations -- the Q.
navamske
Fri, Jul 6, 2018, 8:36pm (UTC -5)
@Matt

"I'm surprised that no one has brought up the fact that the poison that Q is both given and self-administers is a form of hemlock."

Why would anyone here need to bring it up when it was explicitly mentioned in the episode?
Elliott
Thu, Feb 21, 2019, 5:02pm (UTC -5)
I knew going into Voyager that I was going to have to do extensive TNG re-watches for two topics, Q and the Borg. “Q-less” was a shit episode, but it didn't have very much to do with the Q as a concept or DS9 as a series, so I could just kind of dive right in. “Death Wish” is a different matter, as it has a lot to do with the Q and Voyager. So, let's turn back the clock to a few months before baby Elliott was born.

“Encounter at Farpoint” introduces Q of course. I have to say that I was a little surprised at how much I enjoyed this episode after having avoided it for a number of years. The addition of Q to the fairly standard Jellyfish plot lends dark undercurrent and an opportunity for some outstanding dialogue between Stewart and de Lancie. Q's perspective here is reminiscent of contemporary cynics and gives Trek a platform against which to present its philosophy concisely:

Q: Knowing humans as thou dost, Captain, wouldst thou be captured helpless by them? [] But you can't deny that you're still a dangerous, savage child race.
PICARD: Most certainly I deny it. I agree we still were when humans wore costumes like that, four hundred years ago.
Q: At which time you slaughtered millions in silly arguments about how to divide the resources of your little world. And four hundred years before that you were murdering each other in quarrels over tribal god-images. Since there are no indications that humans will ever change.
PICARD: We humans know our past, even when we're ashamed of it.
RIKER: Humanity is no longer a savage race.

“Hide and Q” essentially picks up right where EaFP left off, but introduces us fully to the concept of the Q Continuum. Riker is invited to join the Continuum for reasons that are left rather murky. Q is tasked with tempting him because the Continuum fears “the human condition” which seemed to propel humanity forward in its evolution. We learn that this feature is uniquely powerful in the human species. What's important, I believe, is how the Q are characterised frequently as gods, by Q himself, Picard and by Riker, and yet, humanity is expected, after æons, to evolve *beyond* the Q. Q could wipe humanity out of existence with his patented finger snap if he wished, but as much as the Q may fear humanity's progress, their curiosity about man, and perhaps even their envy drives them to keep toying with Picard and co. instead of destroying them and ensuring their eternal supremacy. Interesting.

More than a year later, Q returns to try a different method with this ongoing trial. How would humanity fare when confronted by a force they cannot hope to defeat with the fruits of their evolution unto this point? Diplomacy, philosophy and technology are all, well, irrelevant when stacked up against the Borg. In the end, Picard doesn't hesitate in embodying humility, throwing himself upon the mercy of the Qourt in order to save his ship. Of note is something Q says early on to Picard, after kidnapping him in that shuttle:

PICARD: Keeping me a prisoner here will not compel me to discuss anything with you.
Q: It will in time.

Q believes in attrition as a method of persuasion. Q will continue to push, to confine and confront humanity until it breaks down and admits that it remains the child, savage race of the past.

From here, a crucial element to the complete Q character is added: humour. While “Hide and Q” went on about the insight provided by GAMES?!?!, and “Q Who?” demonstrated how far Q is willing to go to make his point, “Déjà Q” provides a further dimension in that Q *enjoys* what he does. While the appearance of LA Law Q at the end rules out the possibility that Q had just been fucking with the Enterprise the whole time, it becomes clear that Q's particular method of wielding his powers is considered to be sadistic by the Continuum. What I find fascinating here is that this attribute is an especially un-evolved quality for Q to possess. For all his preaching about humanity's limitations, Q is rather petulant, spoilt and cruel. Despite this, from a series perspective, making Q a Mr Mxyzptlk stand-in works very well. De Lancie has great comic timing and the mutual taunting between him and the crew makes for memorable dialogue.

Unfortunately, in the hands of Ira Behr, this take on Q devolves into farce the following season. “Q-pid” takes the insipid motivations of the TNG cast from “Captain's Holiday” and transfers them onto the omnipotent flashpoint of the human condition. So instead of testing Picard's humanity or probing the Continuum's interest in humanity, Q wants to get Picard laid. You know, because he hates owing him a favour [eyeroll]. This episode is also responsible for some heteronormalisation of Q, making cheap jokes about appearing as a woman so that he could seduce Picard instead of threaten him, etc. Of course, this also sets us up for the abysmal “Q-less,” written by Wolfe, not Behr [insert insensitive Indian casino joke here]. Q does Qish things to the DS9 crew—sort of—because he is enamoured of Vash. How the mighty have fallen.

Q's final three appearances on TNG manage to dig himself out of this pit, beginning with “True Q.” The story is rather bland and the inconsistency regarding the policies of the Continuum baffling, but it does return to the “Encounter at Farpoint”/”Déjà Q” model of using the Q's powers as a learning tool instead of a parlour trick. The Mephistophelian temptation from “Hide and Q” is repeated (this time for Amanda since Riker is too busy wearing stupid hats), but the conclusion lacks philosophical direction. Amanda is just as powerless to resist the power of the Q for more than about 40 seconds, but instead of turning her into a pompous jerk, she is permitted to level up to Continuum status or whatever. Is the episode implying that the Q regularly save planets from natural disasters of their own making? That this is what it means “to be Q”? That doesn't really square with the punishment Q received in “Déjà Q,” but at least the human questions are being asked again. What this episode gets right is the role of Q's antics in his character. Turning Crusher into a barking bitch and making fun of Picard's sermonising is kept partitioned from Q's duties to the Continuum. As in the pilot and “Q Who?”, he's deadly serious in those matters.

“Tapestry” is a well-crafted tale and explores Q's relationship to Picard. What's important about this story is that it reveals how Q himself has changed in his relationship with humanity. He had misjudged Picard and co. in their early encounters and found himself temporarily banished from the Continuum until he learned his lesson. Once he had reformed, so to speak, Q began to sublimate his impish sadistic tendencies. The Vash stuff didn't make any sense, but in “True Q” and “Tapestry,” Q uses his power to explore an issue and test human resolve. He tortures Amanda and Picard, after a fashion, but his point isn't exclusively to amuse himself, but to fulfil a higher purpose. Has he learned a lesson from Picard?

Well, in “All Good Things...,” we see all these facets of Q come together. Q is again (or still?) tasked with adjudicating Picard as humanity's representative, and forcing him to prove once and for all whether or not we have the right to explore the Universe as our Roddenberrian instincts impel us to do. But rather than inhibiting our abilities as an adversary (c.f. “Hide and Q”), Q has become our advocate (c.f. “Tapestry”). He maintains his doubts; he is still humorously biting in his barbs; but now he *wants* humanity to succeed in its evolution towards that post-godhead status. He provides Picard a helping hand to steer him towards understanding the paradox at the heart of the Continuum's latest test. “A little perspective” is all that is required. Perspective, it can be argued, is exactly what separates children from adults, and child races from the seemingly omnipotent. Wasn't it odd that nobody mentioned “The Best of Both Worlds” in subsequent Q stories? Not Picard, who was traumatised and assimilated by the Borg thanks to Q's interference, not Sisko, whose life was for ever changed by them as well? One could say that witnessing the way the Federation handled that crisis, and the ensuing fallout is what changed Q's own perspective. Q ridiculed humanity's desire to explore and expand their knowledge. But then, this 9/11 event takes place and human values take a major hit, with Starfleet become more militaristic and...other DS9y stuff. “All Good Things...” can be seen as Q attempting to course-correct by reminding Picard and the rest of humanity that the road to continuing evolution is...

Q: Not mapping stars and studying nebulæ, but charting the unknowable possibilities of existence.

I'm reminded of that great line from “The Way of the Warrior”:

GOWRON: You will have nothing!
WORF: Except my honour.

Human values have not been neoliberalised in the Q arc, the way Klingon Honour® has. And that is what eventually wins Q over, despite the Continuum's paranoia, to humanity's side.

Teaser : ***.5, 5%

We begin with the discovery of a comet that's being weird in technobabbly ways. Janeway is patently intrigued and orders Torres and Kim to beam aboard a sample for study. Their attempt yields no comet fragments but rather a goofy dude in a Starfleet uniform who easily walks through the containment field and introduces himself as “Q.” YOU CAN'T RECAST JOHN DE LANCIE! #NerdRage

Act 1 : ***, 13% (short)

Janeway doesn't need half a second to declare red alert and start panicking at this news. This is what we might call a rational response, contrasting starkly with Sisko's, “Hmm, I think I'll punch it in the face” approach. Well, the klaxons are premature as this nuQ is significantly more accommodating and friendly than the one we know so well. He whisks Janeway off to the Mess Hall and attempts to treat her to a sumptuous meal (in the mode of everyone's least-favourite Gothic holonovel), but she's all business, of course. He thanks her for releasing him from his “captivity.” It turns out the Continuum had imprisoned nuQ here in the comet for some reason. We will get back to this later, but I already like the idea that we're sidestepping the messiness from “True Q” and going further back to the “Déjà Q” take on the Continuum. NuQ wasn't executed, but his enormous Q-freedom was curtailed. Speaking of death, nuQ takes a special interest in Kes:

QUINN: And you only live for nine years.
KES: That's right.
QUINN: Oh, how I envy you.
KES: Why is that?
QUINN: Because the one thing I want more than any other, is to die.

Michael Piller has some fun with the dialogue here, as Quinn (we'll just cheat and start calling him that), refers to his own blustering as “enigmatic” and “provocative.” Cute. He makes his little suicide speech and his own Q-gesture (which looks a lot like something I once saw at the Folsom Street Fetish Fair). Instead of killing himself, however, all the men in the room—actually on the ship—disappear. This is another amusing jab at those men's rights morons who fear(ed) that feminism will erase men from society or something, but Janeway isn't laughing. Quinn laments (now on the bridge) that he doesn't know how to ctrlZ this goof-up, but luckily our Q arrives in a flash, looking uncharacteristically sullen.

Act 2 : ***.5, 18%

There's a bit more sexism “ship of the Valkyries” banter, following the missteps of “Qpid,” but it's okay because this is pretty much just here for laughs, and Q's attitude is something we can attribute to his equal-opportunity approach to ridiculing humans, at least for now. Given what we saw in “Alliances,” Janeway's white feminism is an easy target. Q's experience with humanity—I guess—allows him to restore the men to the Voyager. I need to mention once more that, for several reasons, Q's introduction to this series is vastly superior than on DS9:

1.As this is well into S2 instead near the pilot, we know the characters well enough to appreciate Q's jokes at their expense, instead of being confused.
2.Q's presence aboard the Voyager is because of official Continuum business, rather than the absurd idea that he's madly in love with Vash.
3.While the TNG references are present (obviously), Janeway's knowledge of Q allows us to bypass the tedious need to exposit information we already have.
4.De Lancie has chemistry with the cast, especially Mulgrew, that echoes the way he interacted with the Enterprise crew without feeling repetitive.

Anyway, Quinn requests asylum from Janeway. Now, this may seem silly given the power of the Q, but in a way it makes sense; Quinn and Q are equally-matched so Janeway is able to break the stalemate. We are treated to an amusing series of “hiding places” of Quinn's design;

The Big Bang:

TORRES: This ship will not survive the formation of the cosmos.
Q: Yes, but just think of the honour of having your DNA spread from one corner of the universe to the other. Why, you could be the origin of the humanoid form...

Ah ah ah, Q, we all know that the humanoid form was originated by Salome Jens. Check your FACTS...

...the subatomic space between atoms...you've got to love Janeway's attempt to counter the absurd with technobabble...

...a Christmas Tree ornament...oh god, please tell me we aren't hiding in the Nexus!

Okay, okay. So Janeway decides to hold a hearing to evaluate Quinn's request. Given the stalemate, Q agrees to the proposal.

Q: If you rule in our favour, Q agrees to return to his confinement.
QUINN: I have a condition of my own. If you rule in my favour, then the Continuum must grant me mortality.
Q: Why? So you can kill yourself?
QUINN: Exactly.

Like in “Q Who?,” one of the things that works well about this episode is the juxtaposition of cosmic antics and witty repartee with the deadly stakes of the moral dilemma. Both are given equal screentime and fleshed out appropriately, which makes the Continuum *feel* like the kind of highly-evolved super beings they are supposed to be.

Act 3 : ***.5, 18%

QUINN: Am I interrupting anything?
TUVOK: I am curious. Have the Q always had an absence of manners, or is it the result of some natural evolutionary process that comes with omnipotence?

Like I said, the Q have chemistry with the Voyager crew in a way that allows them to be funny, rather than moronic. But again, the episode is carefully balancing the humorous with the serious. Quinn explains that the Q's omnipotence is nothing of the sort. “Omnipotence” is a *slogan*—it's propaganda, just like Klingon Honour®. While the episode has already been amusing and interesting, it is this addition that really makes the story necessary in the overall Q-arc. “All Good Things...” left us with a complete character arc for de Lancie Q, but the Continuum was basically static in TNG.

QUINN: As the Q have evolved, we've sacrificed many things along the way. Not just manners, but mortality, and a sense of purpose, and a desire for change, and a capacity to grow. Every loss is a new vulnerability, wouldn't you say?

Further layers of awesome: Quinn asks Tuvok to represent him because Vulcans approve of suicide. It's always a bold move in a Trek story to give the subversive, ethically-dubious perspective to the Vulcan. This was attempted in “The Final Frontier” and “The Maquis,” with mixed results. We'll come back to it.

We begin the hearing in the Conference Room. Quinn's explanation for his request is marvellous:

QUINN: As difficult as it is for you to imagine, for me, immortality is impossible to endure any longer. In the Continuum, an individual has an obligation to be responsible to the path his life will follow...I never yielded that obligation to the Continuum.. And if I don't agree with the majority, I'm to be locked up for eternity.

Q finds Quinn's wish selfish and attempts to demonstrate this point with his usual goofiness. Remember Q *enjoys* Qing. Q and Q (he's pulling a Dr Light and has a duplicate witness version of himself appear to to testify on the Continuum's behalf) explain that a Q suicide would be unprecedented and could lead to unspeakable chaos. Quinn counters that this uncertainty is precisely the point. The Continuum fears the unknown—which is something we have seen consistently from them since “Encounter at Farpoint.” However, Tuvok uses his logic to expose Q's circular reasoning and biases. The Continuum claims to fear the unforeseen consequences of Quinn's suicide, but what this is really about is control. After all, the Continuum executed Amanda Rodger's parents and were prepared to do the same to her. So immortal beings dying isn't the issue. Q himself would have died if his sentence hadn't been commuted.

WITNESS Q: You can not imagine the chaos that would be created if individuals like Q here, could choose between life and death. This is a matter of social order versus anarchy.

The argument then drifts into the territory of abortion. Uh-oh.

Q: Your Captain Honour, I am here to argue for the majesty of life. What it means to us to be alive.

The “majesty of life” v. the “sanctity of choice.” In service to the end of proving his point—and aided by easily-preyed-upon curiosity of humans and Vulcans—Q produces three more witnesses, a hippie, Isaac Newton and William Riker. Thankfully, the episode allows Janeway to improvise a bit and thread the needle of levity with these historical figures, such as they are. Less welcome is the cartoonish take on Newton's discovery of modern physics, which feels amateurish for a show that has been so weighty thus far.

Anyway, we learn that Quinn was present during crucial events in these men's lives, ensuring the development of human science, the prevention of the assimilation of the Federation by the Borg and Woodstock. Neat. Tuvok makes the point that Quinn has been stuck in a frozen comet for 300 years. Janeway, however, misses the point about choice, which is by design.

JANEWAY: As I look at you, you don't seem by our standards, aged, infirm, or in any pain. Can you show this hearing that you suffer in any manner other than that caused by the conditions of your incarceration? Any suffering that would justify a decision to grant you asylum.

This is an easily-transferable argument: “Can you prove to the court that your baby would better off if were never born?” Of course, not. That's not the point. Tuvok, requests a recess to consider their response during which Tuvok admits that he is also unconvinced by Quinn's desire.

QUINN: You, you surprise me, Mister Tuvok, which is a rare and special gift to a Q. Thank you. But may I say, if you only knew what life as a Q were like, you would see the logic.

Act 4 : ****, 18%

Following the Starfleet handbook, Janeway is looking for a 3rd option to extricate herself from this dilemma. So she asks Q to consider a less severe punishment for Quinn should she rule in the Continuum's favour. However, Q can't acquit, qualifying Quinn as quintessentially quarrelsome...sorry. Quinn is “too dangerous” to be allowed outside confinement in the Continuum's view. This would seem to present something of a problem for the plot logic of the story; why would the Continuum bother with this hearing and Janeway's arbitration over a matter so serious to them? But actually, this reveals several intriguing possibilities for the Q and our Q:

1.The Continuum has a code of ethics which supersedes so-called pragmatism. After all, in “True Q,” Q cited their “superior morality” to justify the possible execution of Amanda. Between “Encounter at Farpoint,” “Déjà Q” and “All Good Things...,” we have also seen that the Q tend to adhere to a sense of legal stricture. Remember also that the Continuum immediately punished Q when he failed in his mission during “Hide and Q.” Just as the Continuum adhered to the legal system of the “court of horrors” when judging humanity, they might see this asylum hearing as an effective means to a moralistic end.
2.The Continuum still feels that it has something important to learn from humanity. Quinn's countercultural attitudes may remind the Q of human qualities which they have admitted they lack as well as fear. Maybe humans can sort this out for them.
3.Remember that Q himself was won over in AGT by the incorruptible sincerity of the human condition. In a way he would hardly admit aloud, I think he admires humanity.

To test his admiration, Q plays dirty. In a very effective moment, he presents Janeway with a vision of Earth, right outside her window (“Now you see it, now you don't'). He hasn't lost is capacity for cruelty, has he? Mulgrew's halted performance and a well-timed arpeggio on the harp sell the impact of this temptation. And here is where we must discuss the choice to reconcile the disparate history between “Hide and Q” and “True Q.” Riker learned that the power of the Q must not be abused or taken up without the necessary evolutionary steps. Geordi remained blind, Worf remained blue-balled, Data remained android and a little girl remained dead. Yet in “True Q,” Picard flat out asks Q to rescue Planet Climate Change from its own stupidity. This is inconsistent, and the lack of philosophical consistency in the latter episode is fraught with dangerous implications. So went the late seasons of TNG. Anyway, here, the writers make the choice to bypass the inconsistent, problematic aspects of “True Q” without dismissing the relevant development to the Q themselves. Is it a perfect solution? No. I have criticised DS9 many times for cherry-picking elements of Trek lore they wish to run with over there without accounting for the philosophy of the Universe in which they're creating stories. However, I'm having a hard time faulting a course-correction to a development which broke the rules to begin with, and I can't come up with a better solution in this episode without making this a story about how Picard was traumatised by the Borg (which is something we will eventually get to in “First Contact” anyway).

Following this demonstration, we return to the hearing, where Tuvok and Quinn have devised a way to explain Quinn's suffering to Janeway in a way she might understand it as such. The only option (assuming we aren't prepared to take Quinn at his word, which we apparently are not) is to provide the context for his feelings. They must experience the Continuum itself. Q begrudgingly agrees to make it happen, and so we find the quartet whisked away to Southern California. Maybe the guy with the Jeep is there...

Actually, the Continuum is being represented to Janeway and Tuvok and us via metaphor. The symbols include an endless stretch of road in the desert, clocks without hands, tomes encompassing the entirety of knowledge from the future and the past, entire worlds as croquet balls, and most importantly, the frame for these metaphors is the American 1920s, a period of excess wealth and decadence teetering on the precipice of cataclysmic change. Mercifully, these symbols are not laboured to death like in “Distant Voices,” but speak for themselves. The Q “people” we see milling about remain eerily silent.

Q: What's there to feel sad about? Look at them.
QUINN: They don't dare feel sad. If only they could, that would be progress...When I was a respected philosopher, I celebrated the continuity, the un-deviation of Q-life. I argued that our civilisation had achieved a purity that no other culture had ever approached. And it was wonderful, for a while. At the beginning of the New Era, life as a Q was a continuous dialogue of discovery and issues and humour from all over the universe. But look at them now. Listen to their dialogue now.
TUVOK: I'm afraid I cannot hear any.
QUINN: Because it has all been said. Everyone has heard everything, seen everything. They haven't had to speak to each other in ten millennia. There's nothing left to say.

It's hard to overstate the profundity of this portrayal.

1.The Q as a species have received more development in this short scene than in the entirety of their tenure on the franchise thus far. Why do they have this obsessive love/hate relationship with humanity? Well, now we see.
2.There is a meta-aspect to the commentary; “cultural purity” is admonished as decadent. Should anyone confuse early Picard's fondness for the human condition for this such cultural purity, they have missed the point entirely. Humanity's entire ethos is about avoiding stagnation, about growing, learning and evolving, continuously.
3.This is a critique of contemporary culture in which the episode aired, one which was replicating the mistakes of the past and ignoring its own looming cataclysm(s), blithely revelling in the neoliberal decadence purchased by the disenfranchisement of millions and the destruction of the planet. Speaking as someone living in 2019, I'd say the critique holds up.

But there's more. Quinn notes the irony in Q's own position.

QUINN: You, who were banned from the Continuum and made mortal to pay for your crimes?
Q: My penance has ended. I'm a born again Q. That life is behind me.
QUINN: What a shame. Because in many ways, that life inspired me.

We will assume that the Quinn, being temporally-unlimited in a way we don't understand was able to discern the events of “Déjà Q” from within his comet prison. And finally the complete thesis is laid bare:

QUINN: I was the greatest threat the Continuum had ever known. They feared me so much they had to lock me away for eternity. And when they did that, they were saying that the individual's rights will be protected only so long as they don't conflict with the state. Nothing is so dangerous to a society. My life's work is complete, but they force immortality on me, and when the do that they cheapen and denigrate my life and all life in the Continuum. All life. Captain, you're an explorer. What if you had nothing left to explore? Would you want to live forever under those circumstances? ***...When life has become futile, meaningless, unendurable, it must be allowed to end. Can't you see, Captain? For us, the disease is immortality.***

Act 5 : ***, 18%

We pick up with Q trolling Janeway in her quarters, another deft mixture of the goofy (Q in a night-cap, reprising his antics from “Tapestry”) and the serious (the terms of trial). Q was unsurprised that Janeway refused the bribe to be sent home in exchange for a positive ruling, which is good. But, he has a counter-offer; the Continuum will honour the original request to provide rehabilitation over imprisonment. Given her attitude in “Meld,” this would seem to be a persuasive concession. But that was before Quinn made his point about the rights of the individual. Unfortunately, the scene is sullied by the inclusion of Q's skirt-chasing idiocy from “Q-less” as he tries to get into Janeway's pants. Damn it.

Anyway, this ends, thankfully and we resume the hearing to hear Janeway's ruling. She lays out the complexities of the issue, individual rights, the Prime Directive, the legal immediacy of her decision. In the end, she decides to grant Quinn asylum. Through gritted teeth, Q makes Quinn human, blessing him with mortality. Janeway follows up by begging Quinn to consider living out his life as a human instead of ending it, erm, prematurely.

Her hopes are quickly dashed, however, as Quinn has poisoned himself—with Alien Prefix Hemlock no less. He thanks Janeway for her help and expires in the Sickbay. Tuvok notes that Quinn shouldn't have been able to access the Hemlock, and of course, this means that his suicide was aided by Q himself.

Q: By demanding to end his life, he taught me a little something about my own. He was right when he said the Continuum scared me back in line. I didn't have his courage or his convictions. He called me irrepressible. This was a man who was truly irrepressible. I only hope I make a worthy student.

He bids his farewells and promises to return.

Episode as Functionary : ***.5, 10%

Let's begin with the message, which is fairly cut and dry, but effective nonetheless. This is a story about the freedom of choice. That choice is obscured (intentionally) by all the big cosmic questions and laws concerning euthanasia and tangental moral questions like Janeway's temptation. Just like the choice for, say, women on what to do with their own bodies is obscured by religious and moral/social questions today. Janeway may be the judge in this courtroom drama, but unlike in “The Measure of a Man” or “The Menagerie,” it is the judge herself who must confront her own biases and be made to see reason by the desperate pleas of a condemned man. I am genuinely dismayed when reading or hearing views on Janeway that regard her as a Mary Sue when the series seems to go out of its way to challenge her and make her own judgements so ambiguous and flawed.

While the development for Janeway is good—like I mentioned, her rigid views as seen recently in “Alliances” and “Meld” are both taken to task here—the development for Q and the Continuum is astonishing. The idiosyncrasies of their cultural hat are being taken to their logical extension. Delancie Q's arc from TNG is being contextualised in a way that makes room for a surprising but very Trekkian message. Michael Piller's writing since mid-series TNG has been less hit than miss, so it's very encouraging to see him work out this complex script with such finess.

A few production issues hold things back from the top shelf for me: the remnant sexist nonsense from “Qpid”/”Q-less” linger here and there; the cartoonishness of the early trial scenes are a bit excessive and the mechanics of Quinn's imprisonment and the Voyager's ability to release him with the god-damned transporter are never explained. The music is on the tepid side, but the performances are generally extremely good, and the fourth act is truly masterful. This is probably the most ambitious episode of Voyager so far.

Final Score : ***.5
Peter G.
Fri, Feb 22, 2019, 2:34am (UTC -5)
I enjoyed the trip down Q memory lane, Elliott. One thing I'll say in Q-Pid's defense is that I suppose I could make an argument for why this is important for the Q-Picard arc, and especially as it eventually leads to Tapestry. The thing about Picard is that he apparently successfully defended Humanity to Q up until this point, even personally being responsible for Riker turning down godhood, and finally admitting in Q Who that he needed help. This combination of compassion, wisdom, and humility (or at least common sense?) seems to have intrigued Q for reasons we don't know. But in Q-Pid we see Q interested in Vash; is it just her relation to Picard, or her for herself? Hard to say, but in terms of Picard it does show the rambunctious side of him closer to that of his youth, which we'd later see in spades in Tapestry. So Vash could be seen as Q opening up this side of Picard, and maybe that's important if we want to look at the whole series: you don't get to be Picard by playing it safe. Kirk's "risk is our business" may be something Picard was in danger of forgetting, or at least so in his temperament. The Q-Pid story does show us at least that Picard was able to be dumb for love, and although we might argue that this is a negative point in humanity, what if it isn't? I wonder about what humanity has that's so special. After all, if Q wanted to interact with a logical species he'd go mess with the Vulcans, so something about a human reason mixed with love and maybe wildness is what the doctor ordered.

Regarding this episode, I always did like it, but the more I've thought about it over time the less it makes any kind of sense to have a simplified examination like we have of Data in Measure of a Man. Sure, the latter could have dumbed down arguments that aren't really scientific or even philosophic and yet hit the right chords and resonate. But what about this Q's predicament resonates? The viewer may be able to relate to depression, or to suicidal thoughts, but literally cannot relate to being immortal and being denied these things. And I maintain that it is not in any commensurable to compare being mortal and being denied suicide, with being immortal and being denied. We simply cannot grasp what that's like, it cannot affect our lives, and it's not something we can even comprehend on an imaginative level. So when the argument is dumbed down here there's no chord to resonate because we don't feel (and cannot feel) what he's feeling. It can't be about human suicide because if it was then the story needed to be about a mortal, not an omnipotent being.

But of course they *do* try to get us to imagine what it's like being a Q. And for all the enjoyment I do get out of the episode - and there's quite a bit - this is the big jumping of the Q-shark we've had yet. It's one thing to sort of humiliate Q in Q-Less by having him enact a plot line beneath him (and it is *far* beneath him to have to observe a stupid auction). But it's another to reduce the unknowable Continuum to such a one-dimensional representation that the unsuspecting viewer might leave the episode thinking they know something about what it is to be a Q. No they don't! It's a pretty big bamboozle for a writer to claim to explain in 10 minutes what it's like to a godlike being, and why it's boring. I don't buy it, and actually it's pretty insulting to the mysterious mystique the Q had up until this point. Sure, "LA Law Q" was a comic character, but that was all in good fun. This one was deadly serious, and it seriously undermined the Q. I would argue that this was the direct stepping stone leading up to The Q and the Gray, and that the latter barely even had to go much further than Death Wish already took us. I'm reminded here of ST: First Contact, which basically destroyed what the Borg were supposed to be, so that by the time VOY had a go at them they were already set up to look stupid and have Janeway "beat them with coffee". Without even bothering to address or even ask the viewer to consider what these godlike beings are around for in the first place, or what Q does with humanity, or why (can we ask why?) they exist, or what their purpose is if they have one, the writer beats us to it and already answers - Nothing! They do nothing, and it's boring. Wow, such insight. Such imagination. I mean, suppose for the moment that the Q were the timeline police, or the guardians of the multiverse, or whatever else. Think of it like Atlas; or maybe they're the flunkies of Atlas. Either way, not imagine one of them saying "I want to quit!" But then we'd straight away see an argument to have - "but what of your responsibilities! what of the universes relying on you, like their very own Green Lantern to protect them!" Well then we could have a real debate. But - ah! That would require spilling the beans; or should I say, growing the beans; and making up what it is they actually do, which means reducing their cachet to a mere job, and thus the mystery is gone. So it's better to leave it alone, right? But there's the rub. Leaving it alone also prevents us being able to weight what it is to be a Q, and therefore what it is to leave being a Q deliberately. The whole subject must either be spilled wide open, or else left completely alone, but to try to both leave it alone and yet jump to Tuvok judging what a Q's life is like is too ridiculous even for a mere mortal Vulcan. So this was a disaster in both the logic and the imagination department, and I don't believe for one instant the dumb image of the boring shack in the desert. However we don't textually get a convincing argument from De-Lancie Q that it's actually accurate, only that he doesn't contest it. Maybe he will go along with anything as long as it settles the matter.

I'd still say I enjoy the debate aspect of the episode, as well as the fun itself, of which there is plenty to be had. But learning about the Q? I'd call that a big miss. We learn much more from Q when he's asking Picard questions than we ever do here when the Q write long speeches about themselves. In hindsight I wish they'd have left the Q alone and told this sort of story using some other mortal race. The basic concept is good. And actually there's a decent David Rabe play called A Question of Mercy dealing with this topic using good old fashioned mortals, and it delivers it with a punch. How it could possibly clarify our choices in life by showing us a disenchanted immortal is beyond me.
Chrome
Fri, Feb 22, 2019, 9:44am (UTC -5)
Peter G. is perfectly right. It seems as though this episode was built around the idea that the Q Continuum is nothing more than being stuck in Lancaster, California for all eternity (a terrifying prospect, no doubt!) and being stuck there would lead anyone to commit... Q-icide? But that whole notion seems at odds with the prospect of wonder and possibility Q started with.

For starters, why is Q so happy-go-lucky if he's stuck in such a dismal place. And let's say it is dismal, so what? Can't the Q go anywhere or be anything in the universe? Why even hang out there, why limit themselves? Which brings up another point. Q spends almost all of TNG telling Picard that humanity shouldn't be limiting itself and offers guidance towards a path of higher existence. But those notions now fall flat because Q himself was apparently a complete charlatan, offering hope when he himself has no hope and lives a dull existence. Sorry Shawn Piller, I just don't buy it.
William B
Fri, Feb 22, 2019, 9:44am (UTC -5)
@Elliott, great write up. I wanted to offer a qualified defense of QPid. The love as sexual love bit is stupid, but the ep works a little better if you take Q's nudging as being more about recognizing Picard's isolation as a problem. Encounter at Farpoint begins with a shot of Picard alone exiting the turbo lift. Tapestry ends with Picard opening up to Riker about his past, and of course AGT ends with Picard joining the crew. Whether Picard has sex or not is irrelevant, but the broader point is maybe, does Picard need anyone else, or does he on some level believe he can be a whole world unto himself (a Kurlan naiskos)? I think Picard's genuine moral authority and Renaissance Man polymath identity sometimes impede him from fully acknowledging his limitations, and it seems to me that teaching Picard humility (in general) and that he needs others (in particular) is one of the things Q does try to impart. In that sense, QPid is a silly version of getting Picard to say "You want me to say I need you? I need you!" again. And while the Vash stuff is dumb, QPid also has Picard trying to send away Riker et al. and them rescuing him. Without his crews Picard could not untangle the knot in AGT. So I think there is some value in QPid in the arc, despite its myriad problems.

(I can hear the counter argument that Picard didn't really need to be taught that no man is an island, but I think the series does emphasize his emotional isolation and does have him open up, and I think this does seem to be one goal of Q's constant needling. I think Picard knows the value of others and his crew especially, but still believes he must keep a greater distance initially than he does at the end.)
William B
Fri, Feb 22, 2019, 10:52am (UTC -5)
@Peter, I wrote my comment before reading yours (had the window open from earlier). I think we're on similar pages about QPid.

I like Death Wish but I also see your points about it regarding the Continuum. I go back and forth. Overall I like the material for (de Lancie) Q and Quinn, and Janeway and Tuvok; I go back and forth on the implications for the Continuum.
William B
Fri, Feb 22, 2019, 11:06am (UTC -5)
I'll add that EaF has Picard emphasizing that humanity's savagery is all in the past, and him rejecting that past as anything more than a learning experience. Of course Picard is correct to reject the kangaroo courts, wars, etc. But it, along with Picard's difficulty with children, already hints that this is how Picard also views his own "savage" past: he was a child, but now he is not. As Peter says, Vash seems to bring out some wildness and risk-taking in Picard which he mostly sees as behind him. Picard does take risks as a leader, but I think his reluctant to take emotional risks is what Q is drawing out of him. In QPid Q gets Picard to role play a heroic outlaw myth from Earth's past, and then in Tapestry he reinforces that Picard needs his past self. AGT Q teaches Picard to see outside of time. The relationship between Picard's wildness and his past, and that of humanity, as PART OF what he needs to solve the puzzle (while also obviously NOT rejecting intellect - - it's Data who is able to interpret future Picard's intuition) is maybe not just the key to the finale, but also of how to find aspects of humanity's awful past that need to be integrated in order to approach the future with passion and verve. QPid feels to me like a weird, silly ep that seems like Q (and the writers) testing out some of these themes, and later, better episodes sort through which are worth keeping.

Seeing Q's interest in Vash as being about Picard also somewhat redeems Q-Less: what if Q hangs out with Vash in order to better understand this largely repressed side of Picard, so that by Tapestry he understands it well enough to reach it without forcing Picard to get to it via Vash's amoral materialism? Q's line about appearing to Picard as a female is hetero normative and weird but maybe hints that Q is trying to figure out how to push Picard's buttons more effectively, the way Vash seems to, but in Q's case to do so for humanity's good. Something to think about anyway. (And no I don't think this was the authorial intent of Q-Less, but it makes some sense to me in retrospect.)
Chrome
Fri, Feb 22, 2019, 12:16pm (UTC -5)
@William B

I think you're right, that Q finds some aspect of the humanity Vash represents appealing and it's something he couldn't find in Picard without coaxing it out of him. What's also interesting is that there's a moment in "Q-Less" where Vash is reminded that she *needs Q* when Q saved her from a deadly insect bite that would've killed her while adventuring. Some of that "I need you!" byplay harkens back to "Q Who". Even if that episode feels cartoonish in the execution, at least there's the idea that Q is providing some sort of lesson to the humans on DS9.
William B
Fri, Feb 22, 2019, 12:26pm (UTC -5)
@Chrome, good point. I had forgotten about Vash saying she needed him to save her from an insect bite. In general Vash is the first human who doesn't turn Q's (long-term) offer down, whose adventurous spirit is greater than her ethics or sense of safety.
Elliott
Fri, Feb 22, 2019, 2:24pm (UTC -5)
Thanks for the feedback guys!

One very interesting thing here is that what you (Peter G and I think Chrome at least) dislike about what this ep. does to the Q (and the Borg?) is exactly what I like about it. I intentionally mentioned Q's line from EaFP regarding the fact that humanity will SURPASS the Q in their evolution, which is why they are afraid. The Q *are* limited and always have been. I don't believe in god or gods. Just like how the Klingons changed from implacable and irreconcilable foes into allies, then later into a culture that is clearly doomed to fail, I think digging down into the core of what makes an enemy what they are eventually reveals that they are hardly different from us. It's a lot more difficult to do that with a species like the Q or the Borg, because part of their initial appeal was the mystery. But that isn't sustainable narratively, nor is it particularly interesting to keep upping the enigmatic factor. Eventually, unless we just stopped talking about them, the Q were going to be revealed to be as human as every other Trek race. I don't have a problem with that.

Regarding the suicide itself--this is an æsop. I'm a little surprised you guys didn't see it that way, but this is classically Trek in that a feature is exaggerated to the point of near-absurdity (like being painted half white and half black) so that the underlying moral question can be understood plainly. Quinn shouldn't actually have to justify to anybody that he wants to kill himself. That's his right. Janeway "should have" accepted his asylum request off the bat and pled with him to live out his existence as a human, but she was stuck on this idea that being a Q couldn't possibly lead to existential misery.

Chrome said: "For starters, why is Q so happy-go-lucky if he's stuck in such a dismal place. And let's say it is dismal, so what? Can't the Q go anywhere or be anything in the universe? Why even hang out there, why limit themselves?"

They made it very clear in this story that the Q HAD gone anywhere and been everything there was to be. You seem to be repeating Tuvok's dismissive attitude when he qualifies Quinn's suffering as "disgruntled." Like I said, Quinn shouldn't have to justify himself, but that is what the episode is about ultimately.

Peter G wrote: "But it's another to reduce the unknowable Continuum to such a one-dimensional representation that the unsuspecting viewer might leave the episode thinking they know something about what it is to be a Q. No they don't! It's a pretty big bamboozle for a writer to claim to explain in 10 minutes what it's like to a godlike being, and why it's boring."

Lol that's exactly what I LOVE about this episode. Cast away your idols! Seriously, though, art has always attempted to explain the divine. Think of Dante or Æschylus or Joyce. You all know that I take exception to a lot of DS9's retrofitting of the Trek Universe, but I want to be clear that I applaud the instinct to question the assumptions posited by Gene and the older series. Questioning assumptions is good! It's just that you have to contend with the rules of the Universe you're questioning first, otherwise you're only building a strawman. Nothing in "Death Wish" violates the rules of the Q and what they are. The first appearance of Q guaranteed us that humanity has the potential to surpass these beings who call themselves gods. That means by definition that they are not gods, that their omnipotence is more propaganda than fact--just like how Klingon Honour® is really just political currency.

Of course, there are followup stories to this one, and I'll deal with those. Neither measure up to this one, but I don't think the problem is the premise. Slight tangent, I am thinking at this moment of the difference between the novel "Contact" and the film version. The novel is pretty clear in tearing down those religious idols that inhibit man's progress to the stars and beyond. Eleanor has a transcendent experience, it's true, but we are under no illusions that the experience isn't engineered by mortal, limited beings who are more like us than they are God. Jodi Foster "Ellie" has a very different experience that changes her into a credulous person. Her transcendent voyage erases her skepticism and we are left with this wishy-washy "the Universe is wondrous, so maybe there is a god" Hollywood tripe.

Regarding Qpid, I can definitely agree that the whole Vash arc isn't totally useless, just generally unpleasant. Am I the only one who liked early Picard? I think it's generally well-known that "Captain's Holiday" was written to appease Patrick Stewart, who had hoped that his likely short-lived stint as the new Enterprise captain would seem him swash-buckling around the galaxy and banging green ladies à la his predecessor (at least by reputation). With his contract up at the end of S3, the producers threw him a bone and this grew into making Picard more and more like Patrick Stewart, which I found generally not so great.

Again, when questioning assumptions, you have to play by the established rules. Vash is written to be a mercenary, which makes absolutely no sense in a Federation that has no material shortages. In order to make Vash viable, you either have to retcon the Federation to show that the post-scarcity itself is propaganda (something I wouldn't oppose actually), or you have to give her some other motivation besides money. Or, you make Vash an alien--something that was at least possible before "Qpid" as her species wasn't mentioned in CH.
Peter G.
Fri, Feb 22, 2019, 4:15pm (UTC -5)
@ Elliott,

I wasn't so much objecting to trying to investigate the Q, but more to how they did it The Q and the Gray is so deplorable (logic-wise) that, like a plague, one must not only try to prevent another one but also deeply investigate what allowed it to propagate in the first place. And I do think the source is to be found here. I would have enjoyed (and in fact did when it aired) a conversation about what it's like to be 'omnipotent', and what limitations that may have. I'm not saying that "limiting" the Q is a bad thing: what I'm saying is that they did so badly here. And I agree in fact that it's pretty much a given circumstance early in TNG that the Q cannot possibly be the end-all in the universe, and therefore not God, although perhaps gods if that term just means beings of immense power (like Apollo from Who Mourns for Adonais?). So I don't think they even needed knocking down a peg; not after Picard dressed Q down with his "What a piece of work is man!" speech, and not after Q's humiliation in Deja Q. That's already been covered. By Death Wish the Q had already been established as being powerful but not divine in any normal sense. So that's not an idol that needed addressing. I literally never met a Trek fan who supposed they might be the creators of the universe or Jesus in disguise. So you're preaching to the choir about challenging premises, it's just that they challenged the wrong premise here, one that had been already debunked basically.

My issue has nothing to do with dethroning the Q, therefore, and everything to do with creating an overly simplistic, and actually ridiculous, portrayal of what being omnipotent is like. Actually having seen the ep I still have no idea, and yet I'm supposed to accept an argument that it's boring? What's boring? I don't even know what "it" is in the first place. Telling me a Q life isn't worth living presupposes I know what a Q life is like, which I don't, and which I actually can't. That's the point: Q says in Deja Q (perhaps whimsically) that as a human his IQ is around 2,000. Let's take this at face value: if it is then we have as much chance to understand a Q's thoughts as an ant does to understand ours. There's no circumstance imaginable where we'd ask an ant colony to judge our choices, notwithstanding the fact that we may well find immense value in studying that colony, and even admitting that it has long-term potential. Babylon 5 did a much more significant job asking what it would be like to speak with beings billions of years older than us, and G'Kar's explanation is exactly to compare us to an ant, that could no more understand what they're about than an ant could understand a space station. This is the wonder and danger Q spoke of, and it's not to be taken for granted and explained away in a short trip to the ranch. Heck, it takes Q an entire 2-part episode just to get Picard to begin to think non-linearly, and yet we're supposed to believe that anyone could understand a Q's motivations? Picard, a bright chap if ever there was one, could barely wrap his head around non-linear causality, bordering on predetermined-destiny, so how should Tuvok be able to evaluate what being omnipotent is like?

I guess I could go on forever about this. But compared with All Good Things, Death Wish doesn't even scratch the surface of what sort of thinking we'd need to stretch ourselves into to imagine what a being like that might be like. And sure, maybe we can surpass them, but until we do we won't know what it is; not a little, and basically not even at all.
Chrome
Fri, Feb 22, 2019, 4:59pm (UTC -5)
@Elliott

I see what you're saying, that it makes sense narratively for humans to surpass Q, and I agree that it is the idea brought to discussion in "Hide and Q" and "Q Who". But for all intents and purposes it felt like such a human revolution should take eons, not like, you know, 5 years or whenever this takes place. TNG explored a few things that Q found interesting about humans, true, but those qualities seem tantamount to what humans find interesting about humpback whales or bats with sonar. I'm not even talking about religious parallels, I think we can table those and keep the discussion strictly about humans and a race of omnipotent super aliens.

At the end of "All Good Things" did you feel like humanity had really changed much? Picard himself had a monumental revelation that was no doubt mind-blowing, but he was no closer to being able to manipulate reality or see outside of space-time, even if he could grasp at the concept. "The trial never ends!", I believe are Q's parting words in AGT, which seems to point in the direction that while humanity was on the right track, it still had a substantial way to go.

If you simplify the Q too much on human terms, you'll end up with "The Q and the Grey", which yeah, has some fun entertainment value but basically blows the whole concept of Q and his omnipotence out of the water in the most banal fashion. (Though to be fair, I'll take the Civil War over Lancaster as far as metaphors go).
William B
Sun, Feb 24, 2019, 9:33pm (UTC -5)
@Elliott, Peter, Chrome,

I like early Picard. I think Action Picard and Getting Laid Picard are dumb sops to Stewart's ego, CH is a weak link in s3, etc. However, I do think that even EaF seems to suggest that Picard's standoffishness emotionally is a flaw, especially when it comes to children. And I think it makes sense that the thing that Picard fears is emotional vulnerability and loss of control, and this is associated in his mind with wildness of childhood. It's an interesting flaw. I think the show early on has Picard attempting to outsource not just the physical work to Riker on Away Missions, but also the emotional difficulty of dealing with children on the ship, especially Wesley, and early eps as disparate in quality and subject matter as We'll Always Have Paris and The Measure of a Man show him cagey around old lovers. And series highlights like Family and The Inner Light are partly centred around Picard's reconciling himself to the family life he rejected for his career, either in terms of his past or an alternate life. I think that Picard doesn't really play it safe in his identity as Starship captain or Federation representative, but does attempt to insulate himself and others from emotional mistakes. As a trade off for his remarkable achievements and value to the Federation and the quadrant, it's obviously a worthy trade off...except that Picard is still so heroic a figure that he doesn't really get to rest on his laurels in this way, and that in cutting himself off to avoid making mistakes from too much closeness and excess instinctual passion he is cutting off some of the tools he can use, not just to make his life and those around him even richer, but even to gain deeper insight into the universe. It takes being entirely open to family as Kamin for the full effect of planetary death to register with him. And in AGT it is partly the love his crew has for him and he has for them (in the future especially) that allows him to understand them well enough to incorporate information from all of them to make his way to unraveling the paradox and communicating it. I'm trying to frame it in a way that distinguishes it from pure sappiness, because by "love" I don't exactly mean sentimentality or hormones, but I guess the kind of openness to others that allows for deep understanding. I think Picard needs to let his guard down along those closest to him, and I think this is part of what Q encourages him to do, not really because Q wants him to get laid or have friends, but because being more open to others is a step toward being more open to the unknown. This maybe *is* a sentimental read, because it's not really clear that the Q value "philanthropy" as such, but Q does seem to want Picard to be more open, and being more open to fully connecting with others as a step to more fully getting outside himself makes a kind of intuitive sense to me.

I think the silly action adventure swashbuckling stuff in CH and QPid is partly a metaphor for Vash awakening some of the passion to connect with others beyond merely living privately which Picard is suppressing, which he mostly subsumed into his work. I don't know exactly what Peter meant, but I think it is possible to read his statement regarding Kirk's Risk Is Our Business speech and Picard needing to relearn it as being a about full openness to experience, including the expected and necessary pain, which I'm trying to get at. Vash is maybe a distillation of the adventure spirit and passion in Picard without moral or professional restraints, who is necessarily not a good thing, but who does have something Picard does admire despite himself. Mostly I think the trappings of an adventure tale are distracting because it's the internal risks that are important, and it's good that later eps about Picard's opening up to emotional pain, closeness, romance, children etc frequently do so in a more mature way, usually not needing to temporarily suspend Picard's executive commands (or as Elliott points out the basic premise of how 24th century humans live) to the same degree.

Re Death Wish, I sort of agree with both Elliott and Peter/Chrome. I do think that it's interesting and worthwhile to explore the limits of Q-dom, to suggest the limits of what immortality would look like, and I think the integration of Q's own arc and the contradictory messages we get about the Continuum is really deftly done. But I also think that there's a certain...unimaginative rendering of Q ennui that does feel like a letdown to me for the reasons Peter articulates. It's less that I don't believe the Q ennui is possible, or even that it could take the form that looks something like what we see, as that I think the episode maybe doesn't sell how remarkable the Q's perspective already is. This is maybe why the parlour tricks of the Woodstock concert or Christmas ornaments hurt the episode more than some Q silliness hurts some TNG eps; it's really important in reexamining the Q to maintain some of the wonder that allowed for them to have lessons to teach us, even if still suggesting why the Q might not be as much "the way forward" for humans as they claim. I think it's hard to thread the needle of maintaining that there is wonder in the never ending trial Q alludes to in AGT and also to suggest that the Q themselves have reached an impasse of the extreme kind Quinn describes. I don't quite think the episode manages it, though to be fair it's unclear how it would.

Now even still, I really like the episode and don't feel this being a problem while watching it. And I don't even know how much I mind the points Peter/Chrome mention, though I sort of agree. I don't really means that the Q having reached a dead end undermines the message of All Good Things that Q communicates about being genuinely open to possibilities beyond one's own consciousness. In the best interpretation they even dovetail nicely, in that the Q are currently falling to live up to the philosophy they identify as what is necessary for human evolution. In the worst interpretation, the episode elides or even undermines what the Q have already been shown to have which is special in order to portray them here as static. I can't really figure out where I land on it. Overall looking at what Quinn identifies as a particular Qrisis rather than evidence that the Continuum of AGT has been retconned into having nothing to offer is good enough for me for this episode (less so the following ones).
Peter G.
Mon, Feb 25, 2019, 12:06am (UTC -5)
@ William B,

I've always enjoyed the episode. But my enjoyment comes almost entirely from the fun banter and interplay between the good actors involves. Almost none comes from being mesmerized by the insights into the Q, or learning something even about ourselves as a result. There is really little to no learning I can glean from it, nor anything to even note that might affect how we view the Q other than that they "can" hate being a Q. I wouldn't know what to do with that information anyhow. So while I do consider this failure to be significant and thus doing damage to the series, the episode as a standalone is quite fun and nice to watch from an entertainment value.
William B
Mon, Feb 25, 2019, 9:51am (UTC -5)
@Peter, I definitely see what you mean. I guess I'd say that I think we learned a few things here, or reiterated some classic Trekkian messages. One of the things that was emphasized repeatedly as far back as TOS is that great progress has been made in humanity, but it must continue exploring. If we see the Q as one possible future of humanity, then the reveal that even they are not immune to becoming static seems very Trekkian. That change and even death (or at least the possibility of death) is necessary to give meaning to life and to make it more than stultifying is, I think, also a pretty Trekkian and even universal message, if not an original one. So I'd say I got a few things out of the Continuum revelations in the episode, but not necessarily ones that I hadn't gotten from elsewhere. The smaller-scale issue of Q's own character arc (wherein the tension between the company-man and rogue-agent versions of him from TNG is made explicit) is pretty valuable to me and I think shows a smart bit of analysis and patchwork on the excellent but at times contradictory material Q had in TNG.
Peter G.
Mon, Feb 25, 2019, 10:06am (UTC -5)
@ William B,

I agree actually that Q's going rogue is a change. However again it's one I don't understand. Going rogue - from what? What was his 'assignment' or job before, such that he's now going rogue? All I know is they have some kind of order, and he is now championing chaos or something. I guess I could leave it at that. But if these are beings who literally do know everything as they have claimed, then what new is there to learn such that going rogue is an improvement? And if Graham-Q's argument holds any water, that there is nothing left to do that's novel, then what in the world is De Lancie-Q's revelation supposed to be worth? The very argument justifying the suicide ought to hold that it's impossible for any Q to learn something new or do something novel. And if it *is* possible to change one's Q ways then why doesn't Graham-Q do what De Lancie-Q is doing, to add some spice to life? There would seemingly be no justification for the suicide now, if our takeaway is legitimate. And this is why I think the episode does damage to its own premises, and to the series. It makes it possible to simultaneously say that the Q know everything, but that they have much left to learn; that they are omnipotent, but powerless to do anything interesting with it; that they cannot change or adapt, but that if they feel like it they can change and adapt. Do you see? It's basically a quick-bake recipe for The Q and the Gray.
William B
Mon, Feb 25, 2019, 10:39am (UTC -5)
@Peter, ah. Actually I meant the episode talks about Q having gone rogue during the TNG era. There are some episodes where Q is overtly doing work for the continuum -- Encounter at Farpoint, True Q, All Good Things -- and some, like Q Who and Deja Q, where either he's apparently acting on his own or where he is at least pretending to do so. This tension in Q is sort of left a bit of a mystery during TNG, and one which for the reasons you articulate wouldn't really make sense if the Q really were omniscient. I think this episode properly posits that the Q have achieved the appearance of omniscience and omnipotence by maintaining a carefully orderly universe, and Q briefly "rebelled" in chaotic ways, during and before the TNG era, before (partly after being punished by being turned human) he put his energies back into the Continuum's work. By All Good Things, Q was serving both the Continuum and humanity by following the Continuum's edicts while also offering a helping hand to give Picard a chance to save humanity by proving it had the ability to expand.

I would have to rewatch the episode to see clearly, but I think that Quinn's point is that the Q existence, as it is currently defined, is too stultifying -- there is nothing new to learn or do, within the carefully curated and infinite life the Q currently have. However, Quinn doesn't actually want to follow Q's example and start torturing races like the Calamarain for fun. Q did eventually start using his chaotic impulses for more productive ends (by All Good Things), and arguably was starting that earlier, but *some* of the stuff that Q was doing was pointlessly destructive of others -- chaos for chaos' sake, and also a chaos which is inflicted primarily external to the Continuum, only indirectly affecting them. Quinn doesn't want to do *that* because that's not useful in and of itself, but he recognizes and admires the rebellious spirit. I think Quinn's belief is that the ultimate act of rebellion would be to die, and that this would shake the foundations of the Continuum, which currently holds the Q's immortality as a central precept, the most. In this sense it doesn't particularly matter that there are other options available -- if this option is the best and most complete repudiation of the Continuum's immortal perfection, why not take the option to die? I see Quinn's point as less that he can no longer bear living at all (though I do think he cannot bear living indefinitely in the Continuum as it currently stands) as that he sees his death as an effective step to shake the other Q from defining themselves in terms of their immortality, and that he has lived long enough to value what his death can bring the Continuum over anything else he may personally get out of his life. The episode is a bit of an I, Borg episode, but where the virus Quinn plans to unleash within the Continuum is not individuality but mortality (and with it, the possibility of change).

All that said, I do see your point. I don't think the episode sells, or is even interested in selling, why Quinn is unwilling to consider any options besides his death to affect the change he wants to see in the Continuum. Certainly he wants the Continuum to change, but since he believes that other Q can change without dying, I think the threshold for proving that he can affect this change in the Continuum only by dying is high indeed. Still...I think I understand why he views his death as a more potent symbolic gesture than anything else, and also why he is more interested in affecting change with this gesture than in anything else his own personal life might offer him.
Chrome
Mon, Feb 25, 2019, 11:17am (UTC -5)
I see what William B is saying, that Q was sort of a rogue to begin with, and maybe he was inspired by humans to be more rogue. Let’s remember that in this episode, agreeing to have a trial is Q’s decision as is ultimately the favor of allowing Q’s death. So in that sense, there’s sort of plot line that logically leads to the Q and the Gray. However, it’s also problematic if you thought of Q as being a rogue who mostly agreed with the Continuum, and fell in line with them even if he occasionally pulled pranks. I believe the latter is more consistent with the TNG interpretation, so we need to except that Q is much more rebellious (and anti-Continuum) than first hinted for this episode and the whole “Q Wars” arc to work.
Peter G,
Mon, Feb 25, 2019, 11:46am (UTC -5)
@ William B,

No, I know that Q was shown as rebellious already in TNG. But that was shown in more of a truant sort of way, where he had duties was sometimes played around for his own amusement, abusing his powers. It doesn't mean he was derelict in his loyalty, only that he was irresponsible. However I've even occasionally questioned this premise, and wondered whether it was all a test for the Enterprise anyhow. The one and only one convincing scene telling me it's legit is Q2's conversation with Q away from prying eyes, that does seem to confirm that Q was derelict.

That being said, I wasn't referring to Q-as-rogue in the sense of being juvenile or a prankster. I was referring to the end of Death Wish where Q feels inspired by the incident to un-Cuckoo-Nest himself, and reclaim his rogueishness. But this time it wont' be as a juvenlile prankster, but as someone with something to actually say about it. It's supposed to be a learning moment. But how can a being who knows everything have a learning moment? And if Q isn't really omniscient, and can have a learning moment, then it completely destroys the credibility of the argument that Quinn needed to die for the Q to learn anything. If they're smart enough to learn from a death then they should be smart enough to learn from the idea of a death too, without an actual death being necessary. And anyhow, even Quinn's premise that the Continuum *can* learn already undermines his argument that his life can never change. None of it makes sense!
William B
Mon, Feb 25, 2019, 1:27pm (UTC -5)
@Chrome, I do think that Q seemed to mostly fall in line with the Continuum, but I think this episode suggests that Quinn came to be impressed even by Q's relatively mild ("truant") rebellion, and that it still inspired him to a more precise and targeted rebellion. I think this aspect of the episode and its characterization is pretty solid, especially given that TNG sent some mixed messages about Q. (I love Q's TNG material, to be clear.)

@Peter, oh, gotcha re: Q's rebellion in TNG. I'll add also that even in Deja Q, it is possible to read Q as partly departing from the Continuum specifically to help humanity and Picard, in a way he needs to keep somewhat "secret" from the Continuum, and his "helping hand" in AGT seems to support this.

Regarding your second paragraph: I see what you're saying. But certainly with humans, being intelligent and knowing about the possibility of something isn't the same as experiencing it, or seeing it happen to someone one knows. If Gandhi had said, "Imagine I am going to fast until the fighting stops - - imagine what that would be like, can you conceive of it? I won't do so, but I could, so you should stop fighting," that would not have had the same effect as an actual fast. If immortality has caused stagnation, the concept of death and its actual occurrence (and Quinn's dedication to it) are very different responses to it, depicting a different level of response to what Quinn sees as the problem.

Now you seem to be arguing that the Q should be intelligent and knowledgeable enough to be able to be equally affected by the idea as the execution, and be beyond the human fallibility that causes us to react differently to things in practice than in theories. I can see that and I can partly agree. As I said earlier, I'm ambivalent about bringing the Q down to our level to this extent. And I think The Q and the Grey is a big mistake too, so that I won't argue with you when you say that this episode's long term effect was damaging to the Q.
Elliott
Mon, Feb 25, 2019, 4:10pm (UTC -5)
@Peter G:

"But how can a being who knows everything have a learning moment? And if Q isn't really omniscient, and can have a learning moment, then it completely destroys the credibility of the argument that Quinn needed to die for the Q to learn anything."

Quinn himself explained to Tuvok that the Q are not omniscient, that their omniscience is propaganda that is intentionally sold to mortal beings, and that his philosophising eventually led him to reject this state propaganda outright. You'll forgive me if I find this particular complaint of yours sort of pedantic. What would be the lesson for *us* if the Q really were omnipotent/omniscient? Q as a metaphysical character works in isolation as a narrative device, sure, but if we are actually going to content with the Q as a species, they cannot be omniscient. Omniscience is impossible. Just like the road in the desert and the pinball machine were metaphors for things we don't really understand (yet), the suicide itself must also be a metaphor for a change we can't understand. And in that respect, as a metaphor, the suicide is a radical departure from the status quo. Remember that Quinn's motivation is political. No amusements he might conjure up, however novel, would satisfy his need to subvert the consensus of the political establishment.

@William B:

"I don't think the episode sells, or is even interested in selling, why Quinn is unwilling to consider any options besides his death to affect the change he wants to see in the Continuum."

I'm not sure I agree with this, although I'm grateful for your equally-thoughtful analyses as always. As I mentioned above, it was the Continuum which defined Q-suicide as the radical subversion that it apparently is. And that's exactly why Quinn felt he needed to go through with it. Tuvok pointed out the irony in condoning capital punishment v. banning suicide, and to me, that speaks volumes about what the Q are. When de Lancie Q "misbehaved," his punishment was another test to see whether he could earn back his powers, roping him back into the establishment. When Amanda Rodgers parents defied the Continuum, they were executed. And Amanda herself would have been likewise executed unless she could completely reject the power of the Q by force of will, in other words, self-censorship. They didn't execute Quinn because that would have made him a martyr to his cause which would undermine their control. That's why the only option available to him was suicide. I think the episode makes this case very well.

Finally, I haven't rewatched "The Q and the Grey" recently--I know it doesn't hold up to the story potential from "Death Wish," but I'm not ready to write it off yet either (I very well may). But I don't think that has a real bearing on the success of this episode, not only as an interesting and entertaining story, but as the beginning of what *could have* become an enlightening arc about the Q.
Elliott
Mon, Feb 25, 2019, 4:17pm (UTC -5)
Huh, I guess my full name got auto-filled. Oh well. I think in this day and age any hackers or would be assassins would be able to track my IP regardless.
William B
Mon, Feb 25, 2019, 4:31pm (UTC -5)
@Elliott,

First off - - your epidermis, I mean surname, is showing, in case that was accidental and you didn't notice. (Jammer could presumably delete.)

Second - - I had forgotten some of the discussion in ep regarding the capital punishment re Amanda and her parents. In general I had forgotten within this discussion how much Quinn reasonably expected that the Continuum would continue punishing him.

Some of the point I was making to Peter is that it makes sense to me that Quinn would see suicide as the best option for convincing the Continuum, and so it wasn't really that important to sell it as the ONLY option he had so much as the one he wanted. This is especially true since Quinn's goal of pushing the Continuum to improve was worth far more to him than his own existence. However I seem to have overlooked that the ep did some work to rule out other options. So very good point.

I am interested to see what you say about The Q and the Grey. I do think this episode is challenging to follow up on while keeping the Q interesting, but I don't really think it's impossible. I am sympathetic to Peter putting some blame for future missteps on the set-up here, but I also agree that this works as a stand alone and probably could have kicked off a good arc. FWIW I rate the episode about the same as you (solid 3.5, one of the strongest so far, great with caveats).
William B
Mon, Feb 25, 2019, 4:32pm (UTC -5)
Oh, lol, I see you saw my first point.
Chrome
Mon, Feb 25, 2019, 7:36pm (UTC -5)
I think part of the issue Peter and I have is that the whole notion that Q’s omniscience as propaganda is a retcon needed in order for this to work. Until now, there’s no need to question Q’s abilities at face value in order to tell a good Trek story. So Voyager is the one opening the proverbial can of worms, for better or worse.
Peter G.
Mon, Feb 25, 2019, 8:18pm (UTC -5)
I agree with Chrome, although I don't even mind the retcon. If the omniscience is kaput as a concept I'm down with that. My main problem is that even on its own terms I don't accept your argument, Elliott, that the point of Quinn's actions was as a political maneuver to change the Continuum. That sounds like very 2019 type thinking applied to a 1996 product. Not that it's a bad theory, and I'll grant that I ever like the idea of a self-sacrificial act, sort of like the burning monk or the guy at Tianamen Square, as a political statement. But if we're to take Quinn's statements at face value, he just wants to die. It may change the Q, maybe not, but I don't recall his position being that he needs to sacrifice himself to help others. Maybe I need to watch it again if that really is mentioned. What I remember is that he says his life isn't worth living, and that this is based on the fact that he's literally seen everything and done everything. The lack of any potential to do anything new - except die - is at the very core of the argument. And in fact this argument only holds water if he really is omniscient, because if he isn't then it could be suggested that he's just missing something and making a mistake. Moreover, the fact that De-Lancie Q admits that there were more options open to him as a rebel than he previously believed proves that. So what we're left with is Quinn *falsely* believing that there is literally nothing left for him in life to learn, and that we're supposed to support the suicide on this basis?

And here's why my objection pertains to the real world issue of suicide: because people who are suicidal are *rightly* counseled that how they feel now isn't how they'll feel forever; that there is hope; to hang in there; that life is worth it for its own sake. And so forth. The sci-fi twist here is that when it comes to a god who literally knows that there will never be anything more than what he now feels, does it then become acceptable to admit that there's nothing else to live for? But here are the problems:

1) It only works if it's a godlike omnipotent being, because that argument cannot hold for human beings, and thus doesn't help us.

2) What the writers perhaps have in mind is to suggest that when people have a terminal illness or something from which there is little to no hope of return, does that perhaps approximate Quinn's situation? In which case the argument becomes not one about suicide, but about *euthenasia*. But ah! Now we're into another thorny issue. Because due to cloaking the argument in god-terms, and immortality, and it supposedly being about killing oneself, it completely shades over what the real argument is, and therefore doesn't really address it to satisfaction. If, indeed, that was meant to be the real issue. Do you see the problem? If a person is fully capable of suicide then the typical procedure is to talk them down. Any humane person would do this, and any counselor who didn't would be hammered. But if it's about euthenasia then it's not about letting Quinn kill himself, but rather whether the Q have permission to kill him.

But then we get into the other quagmire: the Q have already killed Q, and it seems they were ok with it. So surely the issue can't be about whether *they* are allowed to do so. So therefore it seems that it can't be about euthenasia. Then what *is* is about?

Because Quinn's argument defeats itself - since if he's omniscient then the Q can't learn from it, and if he's not then he doesn't have the certainty he claims to have - we can't really know what the crux of the matter is supposed to be, or what we're supposed to learn from it. But if the lesson was supposed to be about when it's legitimate to euthenize someone, I definitely don't feel the punch of that. On the contrary, with how De-Lancie Q ends up it almost feels optimistic. Crazy!

I still like it, btw, but I think it fails on its central message, whatever that's supposed to be.
William B
Mon, Feb 25, 2019, 8:38pm (UTC -5)
Ah. On this point I agree with Elliott - - I thought it was clear that Quinn was doing a political act, and was rebelling against the Continuum status quo. While life being unbearable was a factor, it was specifically that life was unbearable under the current Continuum paradigm, and he was planning to affect political change, and believed that only death could affect it. I don't think the motivation being to help his people grow were at all hidden -- his last line is "This is my final gift to my people. Oh! Tell them those were my last words. I dearly thank you for making this poss...."
Elliott
Tue, Feb 26, 2019, 12:35am (UTC -5)
@Peter G

William B beat me to the punch, but there is more than enough text in the episode to justify the reading that Quinn's motivation is political: aside from the dialogue he quoted, there's the fact that he poisoned himself with *hemlock*--very on the nose, no? Also, the entirety of Act 4.

"It only works if it's a godlike omnipotent being, because that argument cannot hold for human beings, and thus doesn't help us."

Hmm? I don't get that. The suicide is a metaphor. That a Q would choose to give up a life of supposedly infinite possibilities is *socially subversive,* which is why Quinn wants to do it. Your frustration with why a Q would ever want to give up his life is exactly what the Continuum feels. Remember, Socrates was convicted of asebeia, that is, impiety.
Yanks
Tue, Feb 26, 2019, 9:08am (UTC -5)
Peter G.,

"But then we get into the other quagmire: the Q have already killed Q, and it seems they were ok with it. So surely the issue can't be about whether *they* are allowed to do so. So therefore it seems that it can't be about euthenasia. Then what *is* is about?"

They have already killed a Q?

"Because Quinn's argument defeats itself - since if he's omniscient then the Q can't learn from it, and if he's not then he doesn't have the certainty he claims to have - we can't really know what the crux of the matter is supposed to be, or what we're supposed to learn from it. But if the lesson was supposed to be about when it's legitimate to euthenize someone, I definitely don't feel the punch of that. On the contrary, with how De-Lancie Q ends up it almost feels optimistic. Crazy!"

I don't believe this to be true because he is the first. His death WILL throughout the continum. Also, the lesson to be learned here is it's HIS choice, not the State's.

such a great trek episode here.
Chrome
Tue, Feb 26, 2019, 9:16am (UTC -5)
Amanda Rogers’ parents (both Q) were killed for trying to live out their lives as humans on Earth. Although the Continuum tried to make it look like a freak accident. (“True Q”)
Yanks
Tue, Feb 26, 2019, 10:16am (UTC -5)
Chrome,

Ah, you do man...

Also, my previous post should read "His death WILL be felt throughout the continum
William B
Tue, Feb 26, 2019, 11:47am (UTC -5)
@all,

While I think Quinn's death is partly a metaphor (and more generally about personal wishes versus the state's), I also think that it really is asking us whether we should *want* immortality. Quinn's death is a political act, and/but it's still specifically against an *immortal* existence. Peter suggests we can't learn from that because we're not immortal, and I see his point, but I think there are a few things we can learn from this. Here we go (apparently I'm not getting much work done this morning....):

1. The Q Continuum favours stability over novelty to an extreme extent. This stability manages to eliminate (literal) death in its members, but the price is that it's now impossible for real change to set in. Not for no reason is death often used in literature as a metaphor for change. The way that change happens within an individual is often that a person has to let go of some aspects of themselves to make way for others.

On a societal scale, it is possible for future generations to get over the prejudices of previous generations partly because individuals can make the personal choices to set those prejudices aside, and also, importantly, because it does happen that, over a long enough time scale, the people who believed so strongly in (e.g.) the divine right of kings gradually die and people who were born after this belief was no longer "necessary" continue to live. This is not an argument for personal suicide because human lifespans are finite no matter what we do, nor am I saying that older people don't have anything to contribute to society (they don't!). However I don't think it's hard to see why a society in which humans usually live for under a century would be different from one in which literally the same person was ruler for millennia (God Emperor of Dune-style).

On a planetary scale, the way that species evolution works is that some species thrive and grow and others die, that the process by which transformation can happen is that small changes happen when a new offspring is produced and those changes can telescope as the progenitors die and generations pass.

On a human social scale, there are good and bad things about this happening -- it's heartbreaking that we lose loved ones (and that people's lives are "cut short"), and a little over a century after some major event there are no longer any eyewitnesses left who experienced it. We lose a tremendous amount of knowledge. But it also allows for biases to be discarded more readily. It gives space to new people who otherwise would be forever denied resources in our finite world. Change can be good or bad, but to some extent either death or "death" as metaphor is necessary (at least symbolically necessary) for it to happen.

2. We are not the Q, because we are mortal. However, as we've reviewed (starting with Elliott's recap of the Q episodes), the Q are a possible path humanity would take. So the question here is whether we should seek to be immortal, or whether there are problems that come with immortality. This is not a purely hypothetical question. There are currently people like Peter Thiel who explicitly state, "Death is a problem that can be solved" (which he said to Business Insider in 2012). I had heard that he wants to have young people's blood injected in order to prolong his lifespan, and that has been reported in various papers, but I'm getting contradictory findings on whether it's actually true from a quick search. Nevertheless, a startup company Ambrosia was actively working on testing giving people 35+ young people's blood in order to prolong their lifespans. This is all weird science-fiction stuff but I want to emphasize that there are people with money and influence who are hoping to at least dramatically expand human life spans.

What much of art, literature and religion has emphasized for humans is that our finite lifespans (at least our finite lifespans in the material world) are a feature and not a bug of being human, that infinite life would become stale, that it is the finitude of our existence that gives it meaning. This is not to say that there are not also religions, art, literature that celebrate the possibility of eternal life (either in an afterlife or in a literal, material way). But I guess what I'm saying is that Quinn's argument that immortal life would be difficult is part of a clear tradition, particularly in SF/fantasy literature.

Anyway in general I'm all for extending human lives if possible (and if possible to do so without doing so at others' expense), but I think there's still a categorical difference between "living longer" and "living forever," in the same sense that ten is bigger than five but insignificantly so compared to infinity.

3. I do think that another reason why immortality is often a bad thing in speculative fiction (etc.) is the instinct to make a virtue out of necessity. We are going to have to die, so it's better to look on the bright side of why the reality of death's existence can be a good thing, rather than spend our lives in a perpetual battle with what is inevitable. In this sense, it could be argued that the episode has some Panglossian wish-fulfillment elements -- see? Quinn thinks we've got it good with our lifespans, so we are living the best of all possible worlds after all. But I think this is mostly 1) not that bad if it's present, and 2) is not really that significant an element of the episode.

4. Specifically, Quinn focuses in on stagnation as the crux of his argument. There are other arguments against immortality as an actual experience, but this is the one he focuses on. We don't know, for example, whether Q resources are finite and so the issue of whether immortals would necessarily crowd out the resources of others doesn't really come up. Nor is there any evidence that their immortality is specifically at the expense of some other being. The episode is stripped down and zeroes in on the stagnation argument against immortality.

I don't remember how explicitly this is stated, but I always got the impression that the Continuum was static because it needs to be, in order to prevent death. For all its myriad problems, I think The Q and the Grey as follow-up does also do something right which is that even introducing the possibility of subverting the established order opens up the possibility of real, awful conflict. In order to keep a bunch of immortal beings who are not actually omniscient but have some degree of needs (at least for novelty) in line so that they do not hurt each other (except by way of the state offering punishment) could definitely require pretty intense interpersonal restraints. Quinn's belief is that his death will force the Continuum to reckon with the possibility of radical change, which *could* include personal deaths. In that sense the episode is something like TNG's The Masterpiece Society, in the point that to manage a community in perpetuity without strife requires extremely careful control, which would also inherently be unstable upon any losses.

5. The reason I think that this does not really have direct impact on *human euthanasia or suicide* is that I think that a lifetime being finite and a lifetime being infinite are categorically different. Quinn has already lived far longer than any human lifetime, and his death cannot be viewed as tragic in the same sense as the loss of a human life. There are some overlaps here with arguments about human euthanasia -- issues regarding personal choice vs. impact on the community are relevant, for example -- but I think that Quinn is clear that he is not talking about his own *personal* depression but of a despondency that he sees as infecting the entire Continuum (including himself), which has become unable to change because the existence of death has been purged from them.

I can see the argument that the suicide/euthanasia aspects of the episode are insensitive to issues regarding human suicide/euthanasia. I don't really see it that way, but that doesn't mean it's not a potential problem. But even here I think it's important to make another point: the strongest argument against suicide for a human is that *their problems are finite*; unless there is an afterlife, it is not possible (at the moment) for a person to have to deal with the problems that plague them and make life unbearable *forever*. At worst they will be tormented until they die of natural causes in their old age, and, of course, most people who consider or attempt suicide find that their circumstances change, or that they themselves grow or change in order to find the current agonies subside. The paradox is that it's the finitude of life that makes suicide (in the majority of cases*) a bad option -- "a permanent solution to a temporary problem" is how it's sometimes stated. In Quinn's case, his point is that the Continuum's structure is so powerful that it would take his death to cause it to change enough that life would be bearable, which is to say that unless he does die (and thus changes the Continuum and gives his other Q the chance of freedom or novelty), he has to look forward to an eternity of pain. It would have been interesting to see the episode address this point, though it was already doing several things at once and I don't begrudge it.

* I think that there are exceptions to "suicide is bad," which are generally edge cases: someone with an incurable disease which causes tremendous pain, though there is often still hope of a cure; or a prisoner who is being tortured and has no other escape. And I do think that individuals should have rights to make choices about their lives even if I disagree with those choices -- I just think it's very important to try to convince people to stay, as much as possible.

6. Anyway, besides being about the possibility of humans becoming literally immortal -- which is, to be honest, very remote, especially for viewers of the series who are not billionaires investing in potential magic cures -- it is about questions of social stability, of how much we should value a society being stable, unchanging, and protective over the possibility of growth and discovery. In this sense I think Quinn's position is absolutely Trekkian, going back to Kirk, who would regularly risk his life in order to explore and rejected any of the various "gods" or machines who imposed stability at the cost of personal freedom and novelty. Generations was bad and all but I think that there is something Kirk-ish in preferring to fight to save a planet over an immortal happy but ultimately fake and unfulfilling life in the Nexus. I can see the argument that this episode makes the same mistake as Generations does, in playing a bait and switch by introducing the idea of a type of paradise in which infinite life is matched by infinite discovery, pleasure, meaning etc. and then deciding that actually it's not worth jumping that cliff because it doesn't feel real. I think it works better in this episode than in Generations because the only thing we really know about the Q is what Q himself (and the other Q in Deja Q) told us and he's not a reliable narrator. So first of all, adventure means confronting and risking death, in a fairly literal way (at least when one is the kind of explorer that Kirk is), and second, *personal* adventure means risk, which means the possibility of "death" in the metaphoric sense of loss, transformation, change into the unknown which is not necessarily good. There are all kinds of episodes in TNG similarly about stagnant societies, The Inner Light is partly about how the end of a life or civilization is what allows us to seize the time, and so on. The Founders on DS9 have no permanent physical form but have a tendency toward viewing their premises of life as entirely unchanging (solids will always try to hurt them, Future-Odo in Children of Time maintains his view of Kira over centuries) and this is destructive. It requires catastrophic losses for Cardassia to inch toward change. Voyager opens with the godlike Caretaker's death and the Ocampa, with their extremely limited lifespans, forced into taking charge of their own destiny.
Yanks
Tue, Feb 26, 2019, 7:34pm (UTC -5)
William B.

I actually had time to read that whole post :-)

And here I thought this episode was about individual rights vs the state. :-)

What's your take on Doctor Jack Kevorkian?
William B
Wed, Feb 27, 2019, 6:59am (UTC -5)
@Yanks, I'm glad someone did! And, well, the episode is about many things. Definitely also about individual rights vs. the state :)

Re: Kevorkian -- I don't know. I ultimately believe that people should be allowed to make their own choices about their lives (including ending them), and when someone's pain is unmanageably bad (and won't get better) I think suicide is probably a legitimate option. Given that, I don't think a doctor helping to do it with a minimum of pain is wrong. It's just that it's really hard to make sure that people are "in their right mind" (for lack of a better term) since death is so final, which is why it is a thorny issue. I think suicide is usually the wrong choice, but I also think some pain is permanent and awful -- so, I do think it's a choice that people should be allowed to make. I think more broadly I have no idea how to implement laws that both protect people's right to choose whether to die while also trying to provide as much support as possible for them to get through temporary rough patches.

As for Kevorkian himself -- I don't really know enough about the specifics of his history to say definitely what I think of him. I think I support the basic idea of letting people in ultimate pain end their lives in as painless a way as possible. I don't really know whether Kevorkian did the due diligence necessary to ascertain that his patients were in their right mind when choosing this path (and were not being compelled to choose to die).
RandomThoughts
Mon, Mar 25, 2019, 10:54pm (UTC -5)
Hello Everyone!

@Elliott

I'm still quite a bit behind on my comment stream, but had to say I really enjoyed your take on this episode. I don't often comment on your reviews, but I think this one was spot-on and really made me think about it again, and its ramifications.

Regards... RT
SJU
Mon, Jun 3, 2019, 12:29pm (UTC -5)
Ship of the Valkyries was a great line.

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