Q (Star Trek)
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|First appearance||"Encounter at Farpoint" (1987) (The Next Generation)|
|Last appearance||"Q2" (2001) (Voyager)|
Q is a fictional character as well as the name of a race in Star Trek appearing in the Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager series, as well as in related media. The most familiar Q is portrayed by John de Lancie. He is an extra-dimensional being of unknown origin who possesses immeasurable power over normal human notions of time, space, the laws of physics, and reality itself, being capable of violating or altering them in unpredictable ways with a hand gesture cue. Despite his vast knowledge and experience spanning untold eons (and much to the exasperation of the object(s) of his obsession), he is not above practical jokes for his own personal amusement, for a Machiavellian and manipulative purpose, or to prove a point. He is said to be almost omnipotent, and he is continually evasive regarding his true motivations.
The name "Q" applies to the names of the individuals portrayed (all "male" and "female" characters refer to each other as "Q"), it also applies to the name of their race and to the Q Continuum itself – an alternate dimension accessible to only the Q and their "invited" guests. The true nature of the realm is said to be beyond the comprehension of "lesser beings" such as humans, therefore it is shown to humans only in ways they can understand.
Beginning with the pilot episode "Encounter at Farpoint" of The Next Generation, Q became a recurring character, with pronounced comedic and dramatic chemistry with Jean-Luc Picard. He serves as a major antagonist throughout The Next Generation, playing a pivotal role in both the first and final episodes. Q is initially presented as a cosmic force judging humanity to see if it is becoming a threat to the universe, but as the series progresses, his role morphs more into one of a teacher to Picard and the human race generally – albeit often in seemingly destructive or disruptive ways, subject to his own amusement. Other times, notably during "Deja Q" and Voyager, Q appears to the crew seeking assistance.
In Q's debut "Encounter at Farpoint", he puts Picard and the Enterprise crew on trial, arguing that humanity is a dangerous race and should be destroyed. When they later save the life of a kidnapped alien, Q agrees to defer judgement, though he hints that it will not be the last time the crew sees him.
Q's next appearance was later in the first season, in the episode "Hide and Q", when he decides to admit a human into the Continuum. Q believes that humanity has the potential to one day evolve beyond the Q, and he wants to understand how. He settles on Picard's first officer, Commander Riker, but Q fails to trigger the evolution and Riker remains human. Thereby losing a wager with Picard, Q is bound by the terms of the wager to stay out of humanity's path forever. Q instantly vanishes, but continues to appear in later episodes as if the wager never occurred.
In "Q Who", he offers to divest himself of his powers and guide humanity through uncharted regions and prepare it for unknown threats. Picard argues that Q's services are unneeded (and unwanted), and Q rebuts him by teleporting the USS Enterprise to a distant system for their first encounter with the Borg. Unable to resist the Borg, Picard must ask Q to save the ship. Q returns the Enterprise home and tells Picard that other men would rather have died than ask for help. The 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' Companion states that the Borg already knew about Earth and were already en route (having previously attacked Federation and Romulan outposts in the first-season episode, "The Neutral Zone"), and that Q's actions were intended as an early warning. The Star Trek: Enterprise episode, "Regeneration", explains that the encounter in system J-25 intensified the Borg's interest in humanity, prompting them to escalate their plans to capture Earth. Using time travel, the Borg alter the course of events depicted in Star Trek: First Contact, where they encounter the crew of the NX-01 Enterprise and inform their 24th-century predecessors of the existence of Earth. Q's actions stabilized the time stream by creating a different cause for the Borg's awareness of the Federation. This anomaly is expanded upon in the Star Trek novels as being a partial indirect cause of the Mirror Universe, whose reality diverged from the original time stream when Zefram Cochrane attempted to warn Earth and the other worlds that would form the Federation about the Borg after the events of First Contact. In the original reality, Cochrane's warnings go unheeded.
In "Déjà Q", Q is punished by the Q Continuum by being made mortal; his committing of an uncharacteristically selfless act (sacrificing his life so that a race attacking him will not destroy the Enterprise) garners the return of his powers. In the same episode, Q says that Picard is "the closest thing in this universe that I have to a friend."
Q returns to the Enterprise in the TNG episode "Qpid" to thank Captain Picard for helping him regain his place in the continuum. At the time Picard's "friend" Vash is paying a visit. Q uses this opportunity to teach Captain Picard about love. This episode begins a partnership between Q and Vash which is seen again during the DS9 episode "Q-Less". In the TNG episode "True Q" Amanda Rodgers, a young human student, seems to develop the powers of the Q during her internship with Dr. Beverly Crusher. Q boards the Enterprise, uninvited, to instruct Amanda and determine if she is fit to take her place in the continuum, revealing that her parents were actually Q in human form. While Amanda initially rejects Q's offer to join the continuum, she is unable to resist using her powers, and ultimately decides to explore her powers in the continuum. This episode is the first reference to Q reproduction.
Toward the end of The Next Generation, Q is less antagonistic toward Picard. In "Tapestry", Q apparently saves Picard and helps him better understand himself, giving Picard a chance to avoid the accident that gave him an artificial heart only for Picard to choose dying as himself over living the tedious life he would have lived without the inspiration of his near-death experience (although whether Q actually appeared in this episode or was merely a hallucination Picard experienced during surgery is deliberately left ambiguous).
In the series finale, "All Good Things...", Q gives Picard a "helping hand" in saving humanity by helping him figure out what is causing "antitime" to flow into the universe, which will inevitably stop humanity from ever being born.
In the DS9 episode "Q-Less", Q at one point goads Commander Benjamin Sisko into a bare-knuckle boxing match, all the while belittling and insulting him. When Sisko loses his temper and knocks Q down, an astonished Q says, "You hit me! Picard never hit me!" Sisko counters frankly that "I'm not Picard." Q responds with a smile, saying, "Indeed not, you're much easier to provoke." While on the station, Q gives hints to help the crew keep their station from being destroyed by an artifact that has been brought aboard it. His interest in humankind could be explained when he says goodbye to Vash: "When I look at a gas nebula, all I see is a cloud of dust. Seeing the universe through your eyes, I was able to experience ... wonder. I'm going to miss that."
In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Death Wish", Q pursues a rogue member of the Continuum, named Quinn, who has been inadvertently released from his asteroid prison by the crew of that ship, and who seeks asylum on the Voyager. He demands that Q make him human, as he does not wish to be a member of the Continuum any more, but Q refuses, because Quinn intends to commit suicide if he becomes human. The two parties agree to allow Captain Janeway to mediate their dispute, and after Janeway eventually finds in favor of Quinn, Q makes Quinn human, after which Quinn commits suicide.
Later, in the Voyager episode "The Q and the Grey", Q reappears on the Voyager, asking Janeway to bear his child. He eventually reveals that the uncertainty and instability caused by Quinn's suicide divided the Continuum, causing a civil war between Quinn's progressive followers and the conservative traditionalists of the Continuum. Q believes that the birth of a new member of the Continuum could revitalize the Q by giving them something new to focus on after millennia of stagnation and boredom. Janeway refuses, and after she and her crew bring about a ceasefire in the Continuum, Q eventually mates with the female Q (Suzie Plakson) with whom he had been involved (referred to in Star Trek novels as 'Lady Q'), producing a son. Their progeny is born conscious and with all the power of any other Q, although lacking adult maturity. Q makes Janeway his godmother.
In the episode "Q2", which is the last televised appearance of Q, he appears on Voyager with his immature, rebellious son, who appears as a human teenager (played by John de Lancie's real-life son Keegan de Lancie, and referred to in the novels as "Little Q" or "q"). Q asks Janeway to mentor his son, and the two adults agree that the boy will remain on Voyager, without his powers, and either learn how to be a responsible, accountable, and productive inhabitant of the cosmos, or spend eternity as an amoeba. Eventually, the young Q comes around, but the Continuum is not entirely convinced, so in negotiation with Q, they come to an agreement. Q must eternally guard, observe, and accompany the boy to ensure his proper behavior.
The similarity between Q and Trelane, the alien encountered in the Star Trek episode "The Squire of Gothos", inspired writer Peter David to establish in his 1994 novel Q-Squared that Trelane is a member of the Continuum, and that Q is his godfather (with it being all-but-explicitly stated that Q is actually Trelane's biological father, although the truth of this is kept an official secret).
Q's past is expanded on in the trilogy The Q Continuum, which has Q and Picard travel through Q's past, witnessing Q's first encounter with the being that inspired his interest in testing other races. This being, known as 0, is similar to Q in power and abilities (although an injury of some sort prevents 0 travelling faster than light under his own power, even if he can still teleport short distances), but whereas Q has been shown to be more of a "merry prankster" throughout Star Trek canon, 0 is malevolent in his desires, using 'tests' as just an excuse to torture other races by changing the rules of his games so that the subjects will inevitably lose. Q ends up bringing him into the Milky Way galaxy through the Guardian of Forever, and 0 assembles other seemingly omnipotent beings from the original Star Trek, including The One, the being who impersonated God in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. However, although intrigued at 0's words about testing lesser races, Q loses his taste for 0's methods when 0's group provoke an advanced civilisation into decades of civil war and then blows up their sun just as they were about to exchange their dying old sun for a younger, fresher one, having completed their Great Endeavour despite the war. 0's group was later defeated in a battle with the Q Continuum, though the dinosaurs were left extinct as a result. Q was thus put in charge of watching over Earth and its inhabitants, while 0 was banished to just outside our galaxy and the galactic barrier erected to keep him out. 0 later returned from his banishment beyond the galaxy and sought revenge on Q, but was defeated when Picard was able to convince one of 0's old enemies to join forces with Q to stop his former mentor.
The novel The Buried Age- which explores Picard's life between the destruction of the Stargazer and his appointment to the position of captain of the Enterprise-D- ends with a cameo appearance by Q as he meets an alien woman who recently met Picard before she chose to ascend to a higher plane of existence, her tales of Picard inspiring Q's own interest in humanity. This novel also establishes why Q chose his name, as he wanted something that would be simple for humans to remember, also reasoning that, if he was ever asked why he was called 'Q', he could reply 'Because U will always be behind me'.
In the Voyager novel The Eternal Tide, Q's son sacrifices himself to save the universe, inspired by the example of the resurrected Kathryn Janeway, prompting Q to declare himself her enemy (although he swiftly gets over this hostility 'off-screen').
In the Star Trek comic series based on the alternate timeline established in the 2009 film Star Trek, Q visits that reality to take the crew of the Enterprise into their future. This allows them to interact with characters from the original timeline in the new history created by Spock's trip to the past. It also helps Q deal with a threat to the Continuum in the form of the Pah-Wraiths, which have all but destroyed the Bajoran Prophets in this timeline.
The 1996 computer game Star Trek: Borg included live action segments directed by James L. Conway and John de Lancie as Q
Q was ranked as the 9th best character of all Star Trek by IGN in 2009. Space.com rated Q as one of the wild aliens of the Star Trek franchise. They point out that the alien likes to play tricks on the crew of the spaceship Enterprise, puts them on trial, but also warns them about a dangerous alien threat.
Time magazine rated Q as the #1 best villain of the Star Trek franchise in 2016.
Appendix of appearances
Television episodes and novels featuring Q often have titles that play on the letter "Q".
1No audiobook version available.
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