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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66 comments on this review

Mon, Mar 24, 2008, 4:20am (UTC -6)
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?
Tue, Jan 13, 2009, 1:25pm (UTC -6)
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?
Fri, Aug 14, 2009, 7:25pm (UTC -6)

"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?
Wed, Sep 16, 2009, 5:50am (UTC -6)
Double de Lancies with the "Ugh, VULcans" line is one of Voyager's best moments. :-D
Fri, Jan 28, 2011, 12:30pm (UTC -6)
@ navamske

And a year later, on an episode of this series, DeLancie-Q procreates like a humanoid.
Tue, Feb 8, 2011, 1:59pm (UTC -6)
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.
Tue, Mar 22, 2011, 6:10pm (UTC -6)
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.
Tue, Mar 22, 2011, 7:52pm (UTC -6)
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.
Wed, Mar 23, 2011, 5:35am (UTC -6)
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...
Sun, Jul 10, 2011, 6:31am (UTC -6)
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.
Sat, Aug 20, 2011, 8:28am (UTC -6)
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 -6)
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.
Sat, Jan 14, 2012, 12:41am (UTC -6)
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 :).
Thu, Jan 19, 2012, 10:14am (UTC -6)
@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.
Mon, Jul 16, 2012, 12:50pm (UTC -6)
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.
Sun, Dec 2, 2012, 4:42pm (UTC -6)
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.
Tue, Feb 19, 2013, 1:29pm (UTC -6)
Nothing on Janeway's decision?
Chuck AzEee!
Tue, Mar 19, 2013, 6:53am (UTC -6)
Excellent episode, arguably the best Q related episode in the entire Star Trek canon. One that I would consider a 4 star classic.
Thu, Mar 21, 2013, 5:58am (UTC -6)

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.
Fri, May 17, 2013, 11:17pm (UTC -6)
Anyone else feeling better about their life for never noticing the difference in plastic props on costumes nor commenting at length about said difference?
Sat, May 18, 2013, 12:09am (UTC -6)
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.
Sat, May 18, 2013, 3:51am (UTC -6)
I apologize if I hit a nerve. I was in a very bad place when I wrote that comment 5 hours ago.
Thu, Jul 25, 2013, 3:55am (UTC -6)
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.
Fri, Sep 6, 2013, 5:09pm (UTC -6)
Interesting, CadetNorris!

Good performance from Russ here...
Wed, Oct 16, 2013, 10:05am (UTC -6)
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!
Sun, Nov 3, 2013, 4:08pm (UTC -6)
Act Two
Janeway: I'll agree to hold a hearing...[dramatic pause]... [trademark Janeway chin lift and head bob] 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
Wed, Nov 6, 2013, 4:58pm (UTC -6)
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!

Fri, Nov 15, 2013, 3:35pm (UTC -6)
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.
Wed, Feb 26, 2014, 8:48am (UTC -6)
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 -6)
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.
Sun, Mar 23, 2014, 5:54pm (UTC -6)
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.
Sun, Mar 23, 2014, 8:27pm (UTC -6)
@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?
Tue, Apr 1, 2014, 9:07pm (UTC -6)
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).
Sat, Apr 26, 2014, 1:04pm (UTC -6)
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.
Thu, Aug 21, 2014, 3:33pm (UTC -6)
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.
Sun, Aug 24, 2014, 10:22am (UTC -6)
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).
Sun, Dec 14, 2014, 11:02pm (UTC -6)
Gosh, voyager wastes a lot of good ideas and good acting by being really stupid. Still, it remains eminently watchable.

Wed, Dec 24, 2014, 12:40pm (UTC -6)
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.
Sat, Feb 21, 2015, 9:57pm (UTC -6)
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.
Tue, Aug 4, 2015, 11:51am (UTC -6)
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?"


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 -6)
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.
Fri, Mar 18, 2016, 5:23pm (UTC -6)
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.

Fri, Apr 29, 2016, 1:10pm (UTC -6)
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.
Wed, Jul 13, 2016, 11:30am (UTC -6)
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 -6)
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.
Sat, Aug 20, 2016, 7:41am (UTC -6)
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.
Sat, Aug 20, 2016, 7:48am (UTC -6)
I meant Delancie but you knew that
Fri, Nov 11, 2016, 10:06am (UTC -6)
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.
Fri, Nov 11, 2016, 10:48am (UTC -6)

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 -6)
@ 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.
Fri, Nov 11, 2016, 12:11pm (UTC -6)
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 -6)
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 -6)
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?
Fri, Nov 11, 2016, 12:53pm (UTC -6)
@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!
Fri, Dec 30, 2016, 8:11am (UTC -6)
I personally love Q episodes, ever since TNG. This is actually one of the better ones.
Tuvalu makes a great lawyer.
Sat, Jan 14, 2017, 9:30pm (UTC -6)
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.
Fri, Mar 10, 2017, 11:06pm (UTC -6)
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 -6)
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 -6)
@ 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 -6)
DeLancie-Q made me uncomfortable. This wasn't his typically mess-with-the-captain's-sense-of-control. He was sexually harassing Janeway, right?
Fri, Jul 7, 2017, 12:10am (UTC -6)
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.
Fri, Aug 4, 2017, 2:45am (UTC -6)
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!"
Peter Swinkels
Tue, Aug 15, 2017, 3:18pm (UTC -6)
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.
Sat, Oct 7, 2017, 1:23am (UTC -6)
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

Wed, Jan 31, 2018, 11:22pm (UTC -6)
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.
Fri, Jul 6, 2018, 8:36pm (UTC -6)

"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?

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