Amanda Rogers, a gifted young student, comes on board the Enterprise as an intern. However, it turns out that she is being tested by Q, since her parents were members of the Q Continuum who had chosen to live as human beings. Q helps Amanda to learn how to use her powers, and ultimately tells her she must return to the Continuum or face execution. Realizing that she cannot resist the temptation to use her powers, even altruistically, she opts to become part of the Q Continuum.
Written by René Echevarria . Idea by Matthew Corey. Directed by Robert Scheerer.
What do we want from a good “Q” episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation? What are we looking for? Well, I’m usually looking for some good business with Picard – for him to waver between being perturbed by Q’s presence and being unflappably committed to his principles. I’m looking for Q to deliver some sharp and acerbic dialog. I’m looking for some amusing antics that the show usually has no way of achieving without the presence of Q. And I’m looking for Q’s involvement to reveal something, either about himself, or our regular characters, or to make some comment on humanity in general.
True Q hits all of those beats, more or less, and yet it remains without a doubt, in my opinion, the least successful Q story on Next Generation.
I think the reason is that the story is not really about Q, and it doesn’t bring anything new out about him. It’s also not really about Picard or Crusher or any of the other regulars, and thus we don’t really see anything new about them either. Rather, it’s a story about Amanda Rogers, a one-off guest character. Amanda is well acted by Olivia d’Abo, for the most part, and certainly has charm, but is ultimately not all that engaging.
Maybe if the show had taken her down a bit of a darker path – going deeper with the idea that this inexperienced young lady truly needed help to handle her nigh-omnipotent abilities. That could have played out any number of ways that might have been interesting. For example, she could have struggled to control her negative impulses, or even just to control her thoughts in general, leading to a much more dramatic finale where she would desperately cry out for help and guidance.
Or maybe if the whole thing about the Continuum contemplating killing Amanda had been more than just a bit of a red herring – some artificial drama intended to prop up the middle of the story. If the story had been about our Q working to try to keep Amanda alive against the wishes of the Continuum – that would have been an interesting take on things. The scene with Q and his creepy shadow sort of implies this, but it doesn’t go anywhere. Rather, the threat of Amanda’s death seems quite random and unjustified, except to say the Q are kind of unpleasant like that, and is easily discarded.
But the episode didn’t do either of these things, or any of a dozen other things that might have raised the enjoyment, and thus remains harmless and forgettable.
• I always get confused by Olivia d’Abo and her cousin (once removed) Maryam. It’s Olivia who appears here as Amanda Rogers, and she is the one who appeared as a regular on The Wonder Years and also played the princess in Conan the Destroyer (while Maryam is one from the first Timothy Dalton James Bond film, The Living Daylights and the science fiction horror series, Something Is Out There).
• John P. Connolly, who played Orn Lote, appears in The West Wing as the perhaps-too-ordinary guy that Josh and Toby meet in a bar during their time on a campaign trail, who tells them he doesn’t mind working hard for to pay for his daughter’s education, but thinks that it should just be a little bit easier – a conversation which sparks a sub-plot about trying to make college tuition tax deductible.
Shout Out to the Past:
There is reference to Wesley Crusher and his deceased father, Jack. Nurse Ogawa is also mentioned, though she doesn’t appear.
There is a reference to Q putting humanity on trial in Encounter at Farpoint.
Setting Up the Future:
Referring to the trial of humanity in Encounter at Farpoint, Q comments that the jury is still out on that one. A year and a half later, in the series finale All Good Things…, we’ll find out that that statement is quite literally true.
• Amanda is likeable and kind of funny from the beginning: “Well, that’s a pretty nice way of saying I haven’t decided what I want to do with my life,” she says, as well as “Well, I could have brought my zoo.”
• And I like Riker’s response about whether three dogs isn’t too many: “It depends on how they get along.” It leads to an effective opening teaser, with those puppies appearing and disappearing.
• The title of the episode is a bit of a giveaway about what is going on. Although it’s odd that John de Lancie’s name is a bit buried in the opening guest credits (third).
• “You’re in good shape – you might just live to be my age.” Funny line from Dr. Crusher.
• I like Data’s line about Amanda imagining how much power the starship is using: “Imagination is not necessary. The scale is readily quantifiable.”
• Cool scene when Amanda stops the warp core from exploding.
• It’s strange that Riker asks if Amanda could be a an alien. Surely both earth and the Enterprise would be full of aliens. Maybe at this point, “alien” just refers to an unknown life form?
• Q winks at Beverly – ick
• Effective line from Q when Beverly tells him he can’t take Amanda away. “I assure you I can.” He’s also funny when he says, “Crusher gets more shrill with each passing year,” and of course, when he (unknowingly to her) turns Crusher into a barking dog.
• Q’s completion to Picard’s sentence, “But we cannot argue like this in front of her. We must at least appear to be…” – “Pals” – is great.
• Amanda shoves Q around–that’s pretty good
• Picard gets a good response when Q says of Amanda (after she’s hurt him): “She’ll have to start behaving like a Q.” He says, “If I’m not mistaken, she just did.”
• A bit ridiculous that Amanda doesn’t want this all to disrupt her time on the Enterprise – surely, it already has.
• It’s a good moment when Amanda asks Dr. Crusher if she would bring her husband back — possibly, the best moment in the episode.
• I’m not sure why Amanda needs to do these little hand gestures to zip around.
• Will’s got some babe he’s hanging out with in Ten Forward, and he does his characteristic stepping over his chair maneuver to sit with her.
• Okaaay, Amanda has got some very peculiar fantasies. She has Riker change into some very silly clothes. He gets a good line though: “No, you can’t snatch people and put them into your fantasies and expect them to respond.”
• Q says, “Do you think we allow omnipotent beings to roam free throughout the universe?” Umm, it looks like you do, actually: there is Armus, and Nagilum, and Kevin Uxbridge, and…
• That local alien looks a bit suspicious with his space inhaler. I fully thought there was going to be some subplot involving his treachery or something, but no such luck.
• Picard’s speech about the Q’s lack of morality is typical but feeling a bit tired. I like Q’s response, though: “Jean-Luc, sometimes I think the only reason I come here is to listen to these wonderful speeches of yours.”
• No one talks about the obvious solution – why not just remove Amanda’s powers? They can obviously do that. They did it back in Deja Q.
• And it’s a bit contrived that there is such an obvious moment to tempt Amanda to use her powers almost immediately after she’s been charged never to do so.
• But nice that Amanda decides to visit her parents.
Dialogue High Point
There are a few good lines, but I guess my favorite is when Q is met with incredulity about his claim that he’s an expert in humanity.
Not a very challenging field of study