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Star Trek: The Next Generation “Deja Q”

By the time of “Deja Q”, the fifth installment of…

…the character of Q had become beloved by fans. Some likened him to Harry Mudd in terms of his annoying playfulness (I’m only referring to the Mudd played by Roger C. Carmel in the original Star Trek series, as Discovery would fuck the character up royally by making him a murderer). Hence, each season of TNG gave the fans the exciting chance of seeing Q again.

This time around, the Enterprise is in orbit around planet Bre’el IV to assist the populace with their moon, which is falling out of orbit. The impact on the planet itself won’t be horrific, but it could result in disasters such as tsunamis and earthquakes. La Forge is attempting to work out a strategy and Picard tells Worf to see if any other nearby ships can assist.

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Suddenly, there’s an almost deafening noise which briefly annoys everyone. When it ends, Q pops up, suspended in midair, and in the buff no less. He quickly plops onto the floor and says, “Red alert!” while Picard looks on in annoyance, no doubt worried that Q may soon piss all over the bridge.

After the title sequence, Picard and company sternly tell Q to stop his games and put the moon back in its orbit. But Q is busy bitching about the unflattering attire he’s now wearing. He then states that he can’t do anything about the moon because the Q Continuum has stripped him of his powers. Troi asks if being human was part of that punishment, but Q says that he only had to become something mortal, and human was his choice. He also asked his superiors to dump him on the Enterprise because he thinks of Picard as the closest thing he has to a friend, causing the captain’s expression to go from a priceless “This must be hell!”…

…to an equally priceless “Are you fucking kidding me?”

Q tells Picard that he simply wants sanctuary on the ship, but everyone is still skeptical. When Q asks what he must do to convince everyone he’s now mortal, Worf gives one of his best lines.

Worf: Die.

But Picard says he’ll treat Q as human, and to that end, has him thrown in the brig, with Worf all too happy to comply. In the turbolift, Q keeps bitching about all the things he’ll have to do now that he’s human. He attempts to sweet talk Worf by saying he should’ve asked to be a Klingon, even though Klingons seem to have the same biological baggage as humans do. But Worf is unswayed and locks him up. Q insults him by calling him a Romulan.

Picard and Riker are discussing matters in Picard’s ready room. The captain admits to Riker that they have to at least consider the possibility that Q is telling the truth. In any case, they must continue with stopping the moon from hitting the planet. After checking in with the officials on the planet, bright white light appears everywhere. Data says that it’s a nonlethal medical scan. The light soon shrinks into a small circle and briefly hovers over Q, who’s napping in the brig, before vanishing.

Soon, Picard shows up in the brig asking Q what’s going on, but he still insists he doesn’t know. Instead, he tells Picard how scary he found it to be asleep. But Q convinces him that, despite being powerless, he has the necessary know-how to possibly stop the moon from wrecking havoc. Although still suspicious, Picard releases Q and assigns Data to keep an eye on him. En route to Engineering, Data says that he’s envious because Q is now human, as he would like to be. He states that he’d like to experience sensations such as laughter or sadness, but Q says it’s nothing to get excited about.

In Engineering, La Forge and Data are working out a plan, but Q is intrigued by the fact that he’s hurt his back. After calling Dr. Crusher to help, Q pooh-pooh’s La Forge’s idea, but has a simple alternative instead: change the gravitational constant of the universe. Which is rather impractical, but the suggestion does inspire La Forge to come up with a plan that could make the moon itself lighter to move. After Crusher humorously takes care of Q’s back in an anything-but-nice way, Q says his stomach is making noises. She suggests that he get something to eat.

Q and Data go to Ten Forward, where Data suggests Troi’s snack of choice, a chocolate sundae. Q orders ten of them. Then Guinan shows up, obviously in the know about Q’s new human status, given the huge grin on her face. Data tells her that Picard and the others still have doubts that Q is now human, but she’s pretty much convinced he is. She then confirms it when she reaches for a nearby fork and jams it into his hand. Guinan rubs it in Q’s face that he’s now on the receiving end of shit he’s dished out, causing him to lose his appetite (he’s a lousy human, for letting all those yummy sundaes go to waste).

The light from earlier reappears. Picard tries to contact it, but can’t understand the message the ship is receiving. Guinan identifies the light as a race called the Calamarain, which soon enters Ten Forward and begins engulfing Q. Data is unable to assist, but the ship is able to temporarily drive the Calamarain out as Q painfully slumps to the floor crying out for help.

He spills the beans to Picard and the others in the observation lounge, saying that he’s been a pain in the ass to the Calamarain in the past. Our heroes realize that this race, and presumably others, will wish to look Q up now that he has no powers. Picard decides to just dump Q off at the nearest Starbase, but Data vouches for him given how he’s helped with planning to stop the moon. Picard reluctantly agrees to let Q continue to do so.

As they head back to Engineering, Q is annoyed that Picard doesn’t think he’s up to the task. But Data says it’s not his ability, but his willingness to work with others that Picard doubts. That doubt isn’t helped when Q and La Forge get into a brief argument when they’re putting their plan into action. But the Calamarain appear again and attempt to take out Q. This time, however, Data manages to get a hold of Q before they take him away, and is knocked out for his trouble.

In sickbay, La Forge and Crusher are trying to revive Data, although Q doesn’t express much sympathy despite Data being the reason he isn’t dead. Picard calls Q out on this, and in private, La Forge tells Riker they should just give Q to the Calamarain so they can finish their work on the moon.

Q shows up in Picard’s ready room and admits he’s being selfish. He’s also thinking more and more about Data risking his neck for him and feels ashamed when he realizes he wouldn’t have done the same had their positions been reversed. Picard won’t give Q any reassurance though, and says he’s still not 100% convinced that Q isn’t lying about being powerless. But Q replies that if anyone is being played for a fool, it’s him. He’s getting nowhere as a human and doesn’t see that improving anytime soon.

Arriving in sickbay, Q tells Data, who’s conscious but has temporarily lost his voice, that while not human himself, he’s a much better human than Q. With that, Q goes to the main shuttlebay and makes off with a shuttle. Picard contacts him, but Q says that this is so the Calamarain won’t bother their work on the moon, and that as a human, he has no point in existing.

Picard attempts to beam the shuttle back into the bay, and then tries to put a tractor beam on it. But none of these options are working. We see why when another Q shows up, this one played by Corbin Bernsen. The two Qs are delighted to see each other, with Bernsen saying that he’s the reason the Enterprise and the Calamarain haven’t gotten to Q yet. But he’s been keeping an eye on him, and despite his history of mischief, his selfless act to protect the Enterprise has convinced the Continuum to give him his powers back.

After putting himself in the captain’s uniform he so loves, Q attempts to get back at the Calamarain, but Bernsen stops him. Picard and the others think Q is gone when they lose the shuttle and the Calamarain. But Q pops up to celebrate the return of his powers with a mariachi band and even whips up cigars as well as fantasy girls to drool over Riker and Worf. Picard’s annoyance makes Q lose the band and the girls, and then Q thanks everyone for their attention during his time as a human. He departs by giving Data a thank you gift, which is a brief moment of Data laughing his ass off.

The good vibes continue when Bre’el IV contacts the ship thanking them for taking care of the moon. Picard grudgingly admits that he may have underestimated how human Q can be. Before he orders the ship to warp out, Q pops up in cigar smoke, telling the captain not to insult him like that.

Like “The Trouble with Tribbles”, “Deja Q” has nice laughs that are never at the expense of the story itself (although I wonder why no other ships came to assist with the moon). This was in the middle of The Next Generation‘s pivotal third season, which took TNG and the Trek franchise itself in a new direction. Q’s scenes with Data especially hit the mark, as Data, someone who wishes to be human, tries to teach Q, who has been forced to become human. Bernsen’s appearance is also memorable (no wonder Shawn Spencer is so insufferable; his old man is a Q!). It’s also a pity that we have yet to see Q and Guinan share the screen again. Regardless, this episode ensured that Q would remain an enduring part of TNG.

Rob Kirchgassner

Rob is a blogger, critic, and author. His latest novel is The Thoughts of a Proud Nerd: A Story of Hope, available now from Amazon.

TV Show: Star Trek: The Next Generation

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  • mamba

    This one is by far my absolute favourite Q episode, and possibly even my favourite Star Trek TNG episode. Lancie plays the broken human perfectly…terrified yet still trying to act smug. I love how even Gordie…the tamest most rational person I can think of in that crew, tells Riker casually “He’s not worth it.” when discussing saving him. Even Picard when he tries shrugs and says “it’s a perfectly good shuttle”, knowing that he can’t let him die but he has a real hard time explaining why not either.

    Great character building, natural humour, tied-up plot, good pace…a damn near perfect episode.