I see this episode on top ten lists for season three all the time, and I vaguely remembered finding it funny, but I certainly did not anticipate how underwhelmed by the episode I would be. The disaster of the week involves a moon whose orbit decays so badly that impact with the inhabited planet below, Bre’el IV, is inevitable. Starfleet’s solution is to…send the Enterprise and only the Enterprise. While Starfleet’s finest attempts to figure out how to move a literal moon, Q suddenly appears on the bridge in his proverbial birthday suit. No one, especially Q, is thrilled with this development. Following on from Q Who, Q remains banished from the Continuum, but unlike the preceding Q episode, Q lacks any of his powers.
Apparently, at some point between Q Who and Deja Q, Q has committed some sin grievous enough that the Continuum felt the need to increase the stakes. Q begs for asylum, and Picard, understandably skeptical, has Worf throw him in the brig. As a mortal Human, Q has no choice but to comply, and the rest of the episode mostly concerns how Q deals with his newfound mortality. The arrival of Q’s enemies the Calamarain, a species comprised of glowing gas, throws that mortality into sharp relief, considering they want to kill Q and are willing to destroy the Enterprise to get him. Data serves as his guide on this journey, and I suspect Picard selects Data because he is the only being who can stand Q. Certainly no one else on the ship does. At one point, Guinan even stabs him with a fork, relishing Q’s powerlessness. After Data nearly perishes in a Calamarain attack, Q commandeers a shuttle to fly out to meet the Calamarain in order to save the Enterprise. Due to this selfless act, another Q, played by Corbin Bernsen, reinstates Q’s powers. Q exultantly returns to the Enterprise to offer Data the experience of laughter and to save Bre’el IV as a bit of an afterthought.
As I mentioned above, I wanted more out of this episode. While DeLancie hits Q’s snark as well as his very real fear, it just falls flat. The Continuum handed down a death sentence for Q, and a long, drawn-out one at that, and while I have known a fair few individuals who cover their pain with snark, I never quite believe that Q really grasps the enormity of it all. DeLancie’s Q is much better with snark than he is with pathos, and the entire episode seems to play it all for laughs. Oh how the mighty Q has fallen. He’s going to age and die like the rest of us. Yuk yuk.
Speaking of death, Q mostly just takes away from solving the Bre’el IV problem. Sure, the crew finds him irritating but are willing to listen to his ideas, but Q offers only accidental inspiration. I also find it strange that in the middle of what the script tells us is a hopeless situation, Picard assigns Data to Q because Data is one of Picard’s primary problem solvers. The episode focuses almost entirely on Q, and as a result, the Bre’el issue ceases to be an issue of any real import. It’s so minor that Q doesn’t even mention that he saves the planet. He just disappears to go do whatever Q does when he’s not bothering Picard, Sisko, or Janeway. Similarly, the Calamarain do not serve as a real threat. Whether it’s because they’re just a glowy cloud of gas or because the effects have not aged well, I couldn’t buy into the Calamarain as anything but a rather ineffective plot device.
Sure, the episode has some great moments. Worf gets the absolute best line. Q asks him what Q must to do to prove his mortality to the crew, and Worf doesn’t even smile when he replies, “Die.” Data’s incredulity Q orders ten ice cream sundaes is pretty great, but Guinan’s overt malice undercuts whatever humor there might have been in that scene. I have no idea if DeLancie and Goldberg hate each other in real life, but Guinan’s loathing chokes the veritable air from the scene. Data’s laughter, while completely overdone, invites not only the bridge crew to laugh with him but also the audience, and the writers should have left the episode there. They send us back to Bre’el IV, desperate to show that the day was saved despite the fact that they give us absolutely no reason to care one way or the other.
I guess I just wanted more from this episode, and I just didn’t get it.
Rating: Two cups of Earl Grey Tea and a saucer, if only for Worf’s line and Q mocking Riker’s beard.
Stray Thoughts from the Couch:
- I’m just baffled that the Federation sends literally one ship to help the natives of Bre’el IV, just like utter lack of attempts at off-planet evacuation confuses me. Does the Federation simply not care about Bre’el IV? Were the other ships in the fleet too far away to respond? The episode never mentions.
- Corbin Bernsen’s appearance must have been shocking at the time considering that he was in the midst of making a name for himself on LA Law. However, for me, he just seems to mimic DeLancie’s style of chewing through the shuttle scene like it’s chocolate.
- I really, really, really want to know why Guinan hates Q so much, and the show never tells. I can never decide if I love that move because it leaves the issue up to my imagination or if I hate it because I just want to know.