Star Trek: Voyager “Death Wish”
While Star Trek: The Next Generation ended with “All Good Things…” (and from everything I’ve been hearing about Star Trek: Picard, I have good reason to continue viewing “All Good Things…” as TNG’s true ending), the Trek franchise wasn’t through with Q yet. Hence our next installment of…
…which aired midway through Star Trek: Voyager‘s second season and drew a lot of attention.
Obviously, seeing a fan favorite such as Q would be a draw, but there was also the little tidbit that he could bring Voyager back to the Alpha Quadrant with a snap of his fingers. And since the entire basis of this series was a ship taking the long, scenic route home, fans were curious how an appearance by Q could possibly get around that. I plan to go a bit more into this shortly, but first, let’s look at the episode itself.
Our story begins with Voyager tracking what appears to be a comet. However, it’s moving at an unexpectedly erratic pace for a natural phenomenon. Janeway sends Torres to the transporter room and asks Kim to beam a sample of it there. Why they don’t beam something as radiation-filled as a piece of a comet into a cargo bay, rather than a space that people use often is never made clear.
But that ends up not mattering as what materializes is a man (Gerrit Graham) wearing a Starfleet uniform, who slowly walks through the containment field and politely introduces himself as Q, who to avoid confusion, I’ll refer to as Quinn because (spoiler alert!) that’s the name he’ll end up with.
Torres fills Janeway in after the title sequence and the captain knows all about the Q and quickly orders a red alert. But Quinn tells her not to bother and takes Janeway and himself into the mess hall, where to express his gratitude for being released from that comet after three centuries, he whips up a nice dinner. This shocks Neelix, prompting him to ask if this guy is a new chef Janeway is thinking of taking on. We should be so lucky.
Quinn already knows who Janeway is and takes a moment to envy everyone in the mess hall for being “mortals”, especially Kes, with her nine-year life span. He explains that this is because he simply wants to die. Janeway confronts him, saying she knows about him because like Sisko, she’s been briefed on the Q by Starfleet. But Quinn says that he’s not that Q, before changing the subject and saying that those who put him in the comet will quickly learn that he’s now free. Janeway is skeptical that he was a prisoner, but Quinn formally thanks everyone and struggles to say fitting final words before just saying goodbye to everyone and making a gesture with his hand.
But rather than disappearing himself, Quinn makes all the men on the ship vanish. The good news is that this includes Neelix. But Janeway is obviously pissed because she’s the only one who reserves the right to kill off her crew.
Quinn apologizes and sends both of them to the bridge. But he’s unable to bring all the men back. That’s when the Q we know shows up.
Q isn’t happy about a Federation ship being in the Delta Quadrant, but Quinn says he didn’t do it. Janeway chimes in, saying that she pulled Quinn out of a comet, prompting Q to make a sexist remark (and get used to that at this point in the Q saga). The captain also correctly deduces that he’s the Q who Starfleet has briefed her on. Q is flattered, the notices all the men are gone. He quickly brings them back, then takes a moment to admire Chakotay’s tattoo before telling Quinn they’re leaving.
But Quinn demands asylum and makes everyone but Q vanish by sending the ship back in time, specifically before the universe was even formed. This results in a little scuffle which includes reducing the ship to subatomic size before it eventually becomes—I kid you not—a Christmas tree ornament in the hands of Q. Well, Hallmark was making Star Trek ornaments by this point, so I guess a reference to that was inevitable.
Janeway stops this nonsense by saying she’ll hold a hearing on Quinn’s request for asylum. Q is amused but agrees as long as Quinn returns to his cell if Q wins. Likewise, Quinn requests to be made mortal if he wins.
Tuvok is working when Quinn unexpectedly pops in. Tuvok comments on his lack of manners before Quinn states his reason for stopping by. He asks Tuvok to represent him at the hearing. Tuvok says he has no experience as a lawyer, but Quinn notes that Tuvok is familiar with asylum laws, and that Vulcan society permits suicide in some cases. Tuvok agrees to his request. Also, Tuvok has always been one of Voyager‘s more interesting characters, so I’d say he’s a good choice.
The hearing begins with Janeway asking all parties not to make light of the situation. Quinn and Q agree, the latter in a condescending tone.
Janeway begins by asking Quinn why he wants to kill himself. He explains that immortality is something he can’t deal with any longer, but the Q Continuum basically forces its members to conform to a specific path. But he objects that he wants his own path to lead to death.
Q rolls his eyes at this and counters that the Continuum’s methods are only for the purpose of keeping Quinn from harming himself. He asks Janeway if he can call an expert witness to back up his case. Janeway agrees and the person Q calls is… Q himself.
The two Qs praise each other before the original asks what Quinn taking his own life would mean for the Continuum. The witness states that it would disrupt the Continuum, because no Q has ever taken their own life. But Quinn points out that they don’t know how much the Continuum would be disrupted, and the Continuum is simply scared of the unknown.
Q the witness states that Quinn, based on his remarks, is mentally unbalanced. But Tuvok points out that Quinn was previously held in high regard by the Continuum and that it’s illogical to say he’s now mentally unbalanced simply because he wants to commit suicide. He goes further, saying that the Continuum has executed other Qs in the past for transgressions (possibly alluding to the death of Amanda Rogers’ parents in “True Q”) and no disruption like the one Q is foreseeing resulted. But Q responds that this particular case is about preserving social order.
Quinn quickly whispers something to Tuvok, who then brings up the spotty track record of Q himself, and is satisfied with Q’s not-so-confident reply that he’s since been redeemed. After the witness is excused, Q asks Janeway if he can bring people from Earth to show him how Quinn has actually benefited her planet for centuries. Janeway is shocked by this notion, but agrees after Q assures her that the timeline won’t be altered, and the people he brings aboard will be returned with no memory of their visit to Voyager.
The trio he brings are William Riker, Sir Issac Newton (Peter Dennis), and some hippie (Maury Ginsberg). All of them are shocked, although it doesn’t take long for Riker to understand what’s happened, given his past with Q.
Janeway speeds things up by asking if they recognize Quinn. Sir Issac says he does because he was sitting under a tree with Quinn just before that famous apple fell on his head. The hippie, who’s named Maury Ginsberg, the same as the actor playing him, because the writers thought it’d be a good joke, recognizes Quinn because he helped him when he had jeep trouble on his way to Woodstock. Riker doesn’t recognize Quinn until Q brings up a photo of Riker’s ancestor Thaddius Riker who fought in the Civil War. The pic also includes Quinn, who apparently made sure that the elder Riker got medical attention and survived his wounds.
Hence, Quinn ensured that a new chapter in physics would begin, the Federation would not be conquered by the Borg, and that some schmuck would get Woodstock underway—and find love in the process.
After the three witnesses are excused, Quinn requests that Janeway and Tuvok experience the uncomfortable conditions of the comet prison. All four of them are briefly crammed in there and the lack of even a TV convinces Janeway that this isn’t a pleasant location.
They return to the ship and Janeway says that, while she sympathizes with Quinn, she can’t say that she’s convinced he’s suffering. She orders a recess. In the mess hall, Tuvok suggests that the next step is for them to view life in the Q Continuum itself.
Q meets with Janeway in her ready room, where she asks if Q could simply reintegrate Quinn into society rather than tossing him back in jail. Q says that would be a bad idea, because while Quinn has done some good things, he also indirectly started a century-long war between the Vulcans and Romulans. He adds further incentive for Janeway to rule against Quinn by showing her how easily he could return them to Earth.
When the hearing resumes, Tuvok brings up his suggestion to visit the Continuum. Q briefly objects, but Quinn convinces him otherwise. All four end up on a road in the middle of a desert. Quinn explains that this is the Continuum presented in a way Janeway and Tuvok can understand. The quartet walk to a small building with a dog and a few people who are presumably other Qs, minding their own business.
Quinn says that the road itself represents the path to the other parts of the universe but he’s already explored it all. He continues by saying that he’s done everything there is to do here, including being the nearby scarecrow and the dog. Janeway says that the other people here don’t appear to be suffering, and Quinn counters that it’s because they’ve already done all those things as well. Sadness would actually be interesting as a result.
He talks about his initial joy when he celebrated how unique and accomplished the Q had become centuries earlier. But as time passed, and more and more of their questions were answered, there was no more to discover. And that’s why the people here aren’t speaking to each other, because there’s nothing new to say. While Q weakly argues that peace and quiet is nice on occasion, Quinn surprises him by saying that Q’s own rebellious period (as seen in “Deja Q”) was actually a good thing. This is because it basically gave the Continuum something to do and shook up the status quo. But this excitement died once Q apologized and got his powers back.
Quinn borrows a magazine that another Q is reading and shows Janeway an article that he wrote. Said article was Quinn’s argument for death, now that the end of the road has been reached for their society. The article also destroyed the high cachet he carried with the Continuum and led to his imprisonment. He asks Janeway if she would want immortality if there were no unexplored avenues of life for her to pursue. Quinn concludes his argument by saying that immortality itself is the disease and the Continuum is forcing it on him.
Upon returning to the ship, Tuvok officially rests their case and Janeway calls for a recess. After this very interesting dramatic dialogue, we for some reason get what’s supposed to be a comedic moment when Janeway is trying to sleep, only to find out she’s sharing a bed with Q.
She leaps out of bed and puts on a robe, and tells him to get lost. She also says that his offer to send them back to Earth, which she calls a bribe, won’t impact her final decision. But Q promises that the Continuum won’t imprison Quinn, but have someone look after him. But to keep up the “comedy”, Q says that Janeway has won and she’ll be praised as a hero when Q sends her back to Earth. He tells her to imagine herself back home with her dogs and a man waiting for her. That man, he says, will be Q himself. But Seven of Nine hasn’t joined the show yet, so Janeway is in no mood for romance. She tells Q to piss off, which he does.
The next day, Janeway delivers her verdict. She tells Quinn that he’s convinced her that he’s suffering and rules in his favor. Q is disappointed, but honors his part of the agreement and makes Quinn mortal. Janeway implores Quinn to not end his own life, as being mortal allows one to experience life in new ways. Quinn says he’ll give it a try. Her subsequent log says that he’s now joined the crew and registered as Quinn on the ship’s manifest.
But before he can take over for Neelix in the kitchen, the Doctor summons Janeway to Sickbay. Quinn has taken hemlock and thanks Janeway for her help before he dies. The Doctor reveals that there’s no hemlock on the ship, and then Q pops up revealing that he gave Quinn the poison because he requested it. He admits that Quinn outdid him when it came to being irrepressible, and hopes he lives up to such a legacy.
The episode ends with Q smiling at the thought that the Continuum will be angry with him once more. He departs with the promise that he and Janeway will meet again.
“Death Wish” certainly does a good job at bringing some new dramatic elements to the Q. Gerrit Graham is both funny and sympathetic as Quinn and does an especially great job at pointing out that immortality, while appealing, may not exactly be the best thing ever. Where it falters are with Q’s attempts to woo Janeway. I’m sure there were other ways to show how strong Janeway could be without making her gender an issue. Also, like “True Q”, the ending is a bit too abrupt and the aspect of Q returning the ship to Earth is swept under the rug. Keep the latter point in mind when it comes to the next and last two Q installments. The sad thing is that, unlike his promise to return in “Encounter at Farpoint”, Q’s subsequent visits to Voyager wouldn’t be much to write home about.