On the way to responding a serious disaster, the Enterprise again encounters Q, who has come to offer Commander Riker the power of the Q in order to get him to join the Q Continuum. Riker grows increasingly tempted to use these powers for what he feels is the greater good, but he learns a lesson from his crewmates when he sees them consistently reject his gifts.
Teleplay by CJ Holland and Gene Roddenberry . Story by CJ Holland Directed by Cliff Bole
If the story I heard somewhere is true, Q was added to the plot of Encounter at Farpoint when the episode was suddenly allotted more screen time. If so, it was incredibly fortuitous, as in Q the series really found the perfect vehicle to continue to reinforce its themes: the nearly unlimited potential of human beings to grow and develop from their current humble position, along with an understanding that it is the journey, and not the destination, that is truly important.
Regardless of my personal feelings about that precept, Hide and Q is probably Next Generation’s most clear presentations of these concepts so far, almost to nauseating thoroughness. Both Picard and Riker spell them out in their verbal sparring with Q, and in the end, Riker’s refusal to accept Q’s “gift” brings out the “journey” aspect, along with Wesley’s obvious turning down Riker’s offer to make him older.
As far as an actual episode, the proceedings are pretty fun, with just a few flat patches. In it’s brief run so far, Next Generation has had its fair share of semi-omnipotent beings for the crew to deal with, but unlike the Traveler (Where No One Has Gone Before) or Portal (The Last Outpost), Q is actually funny, and always keeps things lively. His presence always leads to lots of good dialogue, including referring to Worf as “micro-brain” and giving Patrick Stewart a chance to quote, extensively, from Shakespeare! One of my favorite Q lines this time around is “Shall it be a test of strength? Meaningless, since you have none. A test of intelligence then? Equally meaningless.”
The episode does a pretty good job showcasing the supporting cast (except for Counselor Troi, who is absent). Worf especially gets some attention, demonstrating on a number of occasions his cool fightin’ moves. He, Geordi, and especially Data all get good bits at the end where they refuse Riker’s “gifts”. Dr. Crusher isn’t in it much but her characterization as she deals with the medical crisis is strong and clear. Even Wesley isn’t highlighted as a genius or anything – although it’s confusing that he’s present at all, actually.
Tasha’s portrayal is also interesting and worth noting – she shows intense dislike for being controlled, and emotional vulnerability in the situation. It’s consistent with prior development of the character, but it does leave me wondering how this woman ever made Lieutenant, let alone Security Chief of the flagship of the Federation. And one can only imagine what her “greatest wish” would have been – I assume some sort of super-hunky guy.
The weakest part of the episode has got to be when Worf goes randomly charging into battle with the animal-things and gets killed, followed by Wesley, of all people, running right into battle as well, and also getting killed. All this happens while the rest of the officers, including Security Chief Tasha Yar and Data, a super-powerful android, all stand around doing nothing. It’s awkward writing meets clunky directing equals a dumb and contrived moment to get Riker to cross the line.
Q’s motivations for his actions here are portrayed well – the fear and concern that the Q have of the potential of humans. Similarly, Riker’s “descent” is pretty well handled – it’s clear to see how he goes from being repulsed by Q to seeing how the gift he’s been given as being potentially something that good could come out of. His “wake up call” at the end is a bit convenient, however, and the episode sort of pulls its punches at the end. For example, its one thing for Wesley to turn down instantly aging ten years (who in their right mind would think that is a good idea anyway?) or Worf refusing to sleep with a woman he’s just met, but I’m thinking that if Riker had offered the surviving colonists to return their friends and families back to life, that they’d be singing a different song.
Shout Outs to the Past
• There are lots of references to Encounter at Farpoint and the prior encounter with Q, including Q’s interest in Riker.
Anticipating the Future
• Naturally, Q’s discipline at the hands of the Continuum is not the end of him. He’ll be back, although I think not until next season.
• This episode teases more information about Worf – his alienation from his culture. We still don’t have the full story, but this is coming, starting later this season.
• The scene with the Klingon woman also gives us our first glimpse of Klingon mating rituals, which will turn up again here and on Deep Space Nine.
• Err…what is Q appearing as at the start? Oh, apparently it’s some sort of recognizable space snake. OK, whatever…
• I’m fairly certain that this is the first time we get reference to the Q as a plural or corporate being, and to the Continuum.
• This is the first first of many episodes that feature Q to have “Q” in the title.
• Geordi’s visor allows him not only to see different forms of energy and so on, but also to see really far away.
• It’s a pretty nifty bit of directing when Data is suddenly replaced by Q.
• I’m listening to Q and Riker talking about how wonderful humanity is because they are compelled to learn, and I’m just thinking “Blah blah blah.”
• Q sometimes seems intent on sabotaging his purposes by popping up and being very obvious in his attempts to deceive.
• It’s mystifying that Beverly would allow her son to accompany her on the bridge at all in the scene at the end – unless she really has no idea what’s going on.
Dialogue High Point
There are actually a number of good lines, but I’d say the best one comes form Data, as he preemptively turns down Riker’s intention to change him into a human:
“Yes, sir, that is true. But I never wanted to compound one illusion with another. It might be real to Q, perhaps you, sir, but it would never be so to me. Was it not one of the Captain’s favorite authors who wrote, “This above all things, to thine own self be true?” No, sir. I must decline.”
I’ve always wondered if Data doesn’t accept the offer, not even for a moment, because Brent Spiner didn’t want to appear on camera without make up, as for a long time he seemed very protective of his true appearance.