Gonna shift gears here for a second and bring up a more contemporary character. I’d like this blog to be a commentary on everything film, and while there will definitely be a lot of coverage here on the classics of cinema, I want to discuss more recent works and present day films as well. Some of which will even expand to television. Because regardless of the medium, I love talking about a great character. Q is definitely one of those characters.
I felt the best way to talk about Q was from the series he orginated from which was Star Trek: The Next Generation. I personally don’t care for how he was handled in his appearances on Deep Space Nine and Star Trek Voyager, where he was played for laughs more than being an expansion of his character (with exception of the Voyager episode “Death Wish”, where Q goes after a rogue member of the continuum that wants to end his immortal life through suicide…a very good episode). But in The Next Generation, its Q who shows up to always push Picard’s buttons, and the only species who challenges Jean Luc Picard’s sense of morality. Because essentially, what are Q’s intentions? He finds himself fascinated by humanity, and of course being the omnipotent god-like alien species, he pokes, prods, and provokes as if he’s trying to get an ant colony to do something. Picard of course can’t stand him, but I think a lot of that frustration comes from Picard’s misunderstanding of Q’s intentions. In a way, Q likes humans, and through his own kind of trickster ways, he’s looking to bring them up to another level.
You have to wonder about the impact Q has had on Picard and his crew. In the episode, “Q Who?”, Q sends the Enterprise thousands of light years off course where the crew encounters their greatest nemesis, the Borg, for the very first time. It’s through this encounter that the Borg discover that humans exist, and after it becomes their mission to conquer them. So you have to wonder what Q was thinking when he did this to humanity, which led to several wars with the Borg that probably killed millions of humans. Was this a trick by Q to make the humans known to the Borg? Or was Q trying to warn Picard that the Borg were coming, and that they would have discovered humans eventually? It’s a pretty complicated situation, and not something that can ultimately be moralized. But because of this act, Q definitely challenges humanity’s fight for survival.
What’s interesting about Q however is how his perspective on the universe relates to his character. Picard’s annoyance with him is in some ways brought on through ignorance. Picard has his own human perspective, but in someways I think he believes that its the only perspective, which Q tries to point out to him that its not. The human perspective is severely limited compared to the almost unlimited knowledge Q has obtained through however millions of years he’s existed. My favorite episode in all of The Next Generation is the episode called “Deja Q”. Q, through an act of punishment, is kicked out of the continuum and forced to live a mortal life. He could have lived as anything he wanted, so he chose to live as a human on the Enterprise. Why? Because as Q puts it, “because of all the species I’ve encountered and met in the universe, you’re the closest thing I have to a friend, Jean Luc!” Q of course is treated with nothing but disdain from the crew, who believes he’s doing this a trick. The only one who seems to treat Q as an equal is Data, who strives to become more human, and Data points out to Q that with now being human, what he perceives as a disgrace is what he’s always aspired to be. It was a brilliant move by the writers to pair Q with Data, as the argument of different perspectives of species applies here. In the end, when an alien race out for revenge for Q tries to terminate his life, which in turn threatens the Enterprise, Q already depressed with his mortal life, feeling he is nothing without his powers, decides to end it all by sacrificing his life, the only resort as well to saving the Enterprise. Of course by this point we find out the continuum has been watching him all the time and sees this act of self-sacrifice, that they allow him to return to the continuum and restore his powers. Q was probably too busy thinking about ending his life, than realizing he did commit an act of compassion! Does Q learn a personal lesson from all this? Well….not really. But the experience does give him a better understanding of the better qualities of humanity. Picard at the end of the episode believes there may be a “residue” of humanity in Q after all, but then Q appears for a split second and says “Don’t count on it, Picard”. If you think about it, he’s right. Compassion is a human trait. He’s a Q. He leads his life by a completely different set of rules. It’s his perspective, not ours, that makes him who he is. And in those times Picard does get on his soapbox and start moralizing the situation, while we know its always in the best intentions, its always nice to have someone like Q come along to contradict him, as if to say, “that’s all well and good, Picard, but you still know nothing!”
Q was played by the immensely talented John De Lancie, who made at least 8 appearances throughout the Next Generation Series. It’s really Q who, continuity wise, holds the entire Next Generation series together as the entire Enterprise’s journey is ultimately a test for the trials of humanity, in which even in an earlier episode Q points out, “the jury’s still out on that one, Picard.” It’s funny because I’m rewatching The Next Generation right now, and while in usual Star Trek fashion where some episodes will play out as a morality play, its always nice to have someone like Q come in and turn the crew on their heads.