Written by Rene Echevarria
Directed by Robert Scheerer
Season 6, Episode 6
Production episode 40276-232
Original air date: October 26, 1992
Captain’s Log: The Enterprise has taken on an intern named Amanda Rogers, along with supplies to aid in an ecological crisis on Tagra IV. Riker escorts her to her quarters, where she comments that she misses her dogs. After Riker leaves, several (incredibly adorable) dogs appear, and Amanda panics, and manages to make them disappear.
Crusher puts Amanda to work testing medical tricorders to make sure they work before being used on Tagra. They chat about stuff. Amanda’s been accepted into Starfleet Academy, and Crusher mentions that she has a son there, which leads to Crusher talking about her late husband, and Amanda saying that her birth parents died when she was a baby, and her adoptive parents are marine biologists in Starfleet.
Later, Amanda brings some containers to the shuttle bay. Tagra IV uses baristatic reactors to clean up their polluted atmosphere, and they prevent the transporters from working right, so the relief efforts have to happen via shuttlecraft. A self-righteous conversation between Amanda and La Forge about how the Tagrans should regulate their emissions is interrupted by Amanda noticing a container about to fall on Riker’s head. She gestures, and the container moves a few meters to the left, missing Riker, but scaring the crap out of everyone.
While La Forge gives Amanda a tour of engineering, the warp core starts to breach, and nothing Data or La Forge can do will stop it. Just as it explodes, Amanda thrusts out her hands, which seem to stop the explosion, and then the reactor returns to normal. Picard meets with Riker, Troi, Crusher, and La Forge to discuss the situation, and Q shows up, revealing that he started the core breach to test Amanda. It turns out her parents were Q who assumed human form, and conceived a child. They later died in an accident; when the offspring started to display signs of being a Q, they sent Q—as an expert in humanity (“Not a very challenging field of study, I grant you”)—first to test her, and then, if she is a Q (which she obviously is), instruct her on the use of her powers before she does harm to herself and others.
After he’s instructed her, though, he intends to take her to the Q-Continuum where she belongs. Crusher is not happy about her being yanked away from her life, and rather than listen to her argue on the subject, Q teleports himself and Picard to the latter’s ready room. While Picard agrees with Crusher that she should make the decision herself of what to do with her life, he also agrees with Q that she needs guidance in her abilities. Picard is willing to introduce Q to Amanda, and also insists that he and Q not argue in front of her, but must appear to be—Q then puts his arm around Picard and finishes the sentence, “Pals?” Picard looks rather like someone put a fly in his soup and finishes the sentence more aptly: “Civil.”
Q disappears, and Picard instructs Data to do some research into the Rogers family—he finds it hard to credit that members of the Q-Continuum could die in an accident.
Crusher talks with Amanda, who says she’s relieved to know that there’s a cause for these strange happenings, where she wishes for something and it appears. Amanda agrees to meet Q, and he immediately enters the room through the bulkhead and starts examining her and questioning her about what she might have done—telekinesis, teleportation, or, while slowly turning to look at Picard, “spontaneous combustion of someone you don’t like.” But she never did anything deliberate until she stopped the container from falling on Riker—which, it turns out, was also a test on Q’s part. He announces that she’s ready to go back to the continuum with him, but she angrily says she doesn’t want to go, and punctuates her point by throwing Q into the air, sending him crashing into a bulkhead.
Q insists that that was just a test to see how strong she was, which isn’t terribly convincing, and he says that she was impetuous and will have to learn to act like a Q. Picard comments that she just did, which earns him a dirty look from Q.
Crusher gives Amanda a pep talk, encouraging her (somewhat reluctantly) to let Q guide her. But Amanda insists that it not interfere with her duties as an intern. She still wants to be treated the same.
While on the way to see Amanda, Q gives the Continuum a progress report, saying that there’s the possibility that they won’t have to terminate the girl. Q and Amanda then talk for a bit, Q telling her about the Q, and asking her what her heart’s desire is. It turns out that she wants to see her birth parents—she wants to know what they looked like. With Q’s help, she summons an image of them holding her as an infant.
Later on, Crusher has Amanda perform an experiment, and Amanda admits that she may not be able to handle being a Q. She asks Crusher what she would do if she could have anything she ever wanted. Crusher evasively says she would want to heal people, and Amanda then asks her the expected question: would she bring Jack Crusher back? Crusher admits that she couldn’t answer that until she was faced with it. Amanda quietly says she is faced with it.
Crusher goes off, and Q shows up (“I thought she’d never leave!”) for another lesson. She insists on doing the work Crusher assigned, so Q suggests combining them by her using her powers to complete the work faster.
Tagra IV contacts the Enterprise—one of their baristatic reactors is failing and they may need to take it offline, which would be very bad for the planet. They send the specs along in the hopes that maybe La Forge can play miracle worker. Meanwhile, Data has learned that Amanda’s parents were killed in a tornado in Kansas that was missed by the weather grid, and which was very compact and unusually strong.
Riker stops by the lab and is disgusted to see Q there—Q feels likewise (“Well, if it isn’t Number Two”). Crusher then arrives, and reveals that rushing the process makes it useless. The point was to learn the rate of mitosis, which artificially rushing the process has spoiled. Crusher starts to lecture Q, prompting him to transform her into a dog; Amanda changes her back.
To help her with teleportation, Q suggests a game of hide-and-seek – he hides in various spots on the ship, and she has to find him. Troi and Crusher then take her to dinner. Riker comes in and Amanda invites him to join them, but he already has a date. Amanda is devastated, and then teleports her and him to a gazebo – he very fetching in top hat and tails, she in a lovely white dress. He resists her advances – until she makes him love her, at which point she realizes that Riker was right that none of it was real.
Picard confronts Q about Amanda’s parents, accusing the Q-Continuum of executing them. Q admits it was true, and also finally tells Picard the truth: either she returns to the Continuum as a Q, or she will be eliminated as a hybrid. They can’t let omnipotent beings run amuck. Picard asks if she lives or dies – and Q says he hasn’t decided yet. Picard decides to tell Amanda the truth – all of it. She’s a bit pissed, and so is Picard, who rants for quite some time on how the Q has no business being moral arbiters of anything. Q smiles and, after saying that the reason he keeps coming back to the Enterprise is to listen to Picard speechify, says that they’ve decided not to kill Amanda. She now has a choice: go to the Continuum with Q, or refrain from using her powers.
Amanda is quick to take door #2, but Q points out that her parents were given that same choice, and they failed, which is why they were executed. But she’s sure she can resist the temptation.
Because this is television, that surety is tested right away. Riker and La Forge call from the surface to reveal that the failing reactor is failing a lot more than the Tagrans let on. The reactor’s about to melt down and kill a lot of people.
Then, suddenly, the reactor normalizes. And then the pollutants disappear from Tagra IV’s atmosphere. Amanda just couldn’t let those people die, prompting Q to snidely point out that he knew she wouldn’t be able to resist. She admits that she’s been avoiding the issue and admitting that she is Q, and—after summoning Crusher to the bridge in order to thank her and say a proper good-bye to her—agrees to accompany Q back to the continuum. First, though, she needs to go to her adoptive parents and explain what’s happening. With that, they both disappear in a flash of light. We then cut to the Enterprise warping through space, which is kind of odd, since they were in orbit with an away team on the surface. Hope they remembered to pick Riker and La Forge up before they left….
Can’t We Just Reverse the Polarity?: Tagra IV’s atmosphere has been so badly polluted that people wander around with inhalers around their necks. That, and Amanda and La Forge’s wow-they’re-so-primitive conversation (which is straight out of the moralizing seen all over first-season episodes) in the shuttle bay, is all the play this dig at current trends on Earth gets.
Thank You, Counselor Obvious: Troi only appears in a couple of scenes and gets crap-all to do, since her usual role is taken by Crusher in mentor mode.
No Sex, Please, We’re Starfleet: Amanda totally has a crush on Riker, which disgusts Q (“How can you stand all that hair all over his face?”), but when she finally makes a move on him, aided by her Q-powers, she realizes that it’s hollow unless he legitimately returns the feelings. Which he so very doesn’t. Indeed, Riker very skillfully deflects Amanda’s attentions in such a way that doesn’t hurt her feelings. It’s almost like he’s done it before….
In the Driver’s Seat: Ensign Gates, one of the regular extras, gets to fly the ship this week.
I Believe I Said That: “It’s like the laws of physics just went right out the window.”
“And why shouldn’t they? They’re so inconvenient.”
La Forge and Q, with an amusing variant on Kirk and Scotty’s conversation in “The Naked Time.”
Welcome Aboard: Olivia d’Abo plays Amanda. She’ll go on to play tons of genre roles, ranging from voices on Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Justice League, The Legend of Tarzan, Green Lantern: First Flight, and more, to playing Carter’s ex-wife on Eureka and, of course, her stellar turn as Detective Goren’s nemesis Nicole Wallace on Law & Order: Criminal Intent.
After not appearing at all in the fifth season, John deLancie makes the first of two sixth-season appearances as Q (he’ll also appear in “Q-Less” on Deep Space Nine, making a record three appearances in the 1992/93 television season). We’ll see him next on TNG in “Tapestry.”
Trivial Matters: When Picard makes reference to the events of “Encounter at Farpoint,” Q says that the jury’s still out on humanity. This is in contrast to Q’s insistence to Riker in “Q Who” that humanity was exonerated, and foreshadows the re-trial that will be seen in the series finale “All Good Things…”
Although Patti Yastuake is not in the episode, Crusher does reference Nurse Ogawa when talking to Amanda.
While Amanda’s not seen again on screen, she does show up in various bits of tie-in fiction that deals with the Q, among them “’Q’uandary” by Terri Osborne in New Frontier: No Limits, your humble rewatcher’s Q & A, and most recently in Voyager: The Eternal Tide by Kirsten Beyer.
Q says that “With unlimited power comes responsibility,” a cute riff on Spider-Man’s credo that “with great power comes great responsibility,” and Amanda’s parents’ death in a Kansas tornado is a less cute riff on The Wizard of Oz.
Although it’s not referenced, Amanda has the exact same inability to resist the temptation to use her Q-based powers that Riker had in “Hide and Q.”
Make it So: “I find it hard to believe that you’re here to do us a favor.” Neither the best Q episode nor the worst, this is an entertaining offering. It’s the only Q story written by Echevarria, and one thing he returns is sense of menace to Q that was diluted by Q’s being defrocked in “Déjà Q” and the fluff of “Qpid.” Q is just stringing the crew along when he pretends to acknowledge that Amanda has a choice, or indeed that he really gives a rat’s ass about any of them. His dismissive smile during Picard’s speech about morality is particularly telling, as is the complete lack of any indication that he’s joking when he makes it clear that he’d have let the Enterprise explode just to test if Amanda was a Q.
Having said that, John deLancie remains entertaining as all hell. The line about spontaneous combustion of someone you don’t like as he slowly turns to look at Picard may be the single funniest Q moment ever, and that’s against some stiff competition.
The relationship between Crusher and Amanda is also nicely played, as Crusher takes a maternal interest in her—unsurprising, given that she’s already raised one transcendent genius—and proves to be a valuable sounding board. I particularly like the conversation they have about what Crusher would do if she had Q’s powers. You know that Crusher’s real answer has to be to bring her husband back, but she falls back on the safe, and evasive, answer of being able to heal everyone. Amanda doesn’t let her off the hook, and both Gates McFadden and Olivia d’Abo play the scene with magnificent restraint, letting soft, painful tones of voice and subtle facial expressions show their anguish far more effectively than clichéd histrionics would have. (That’s reserved for the later scene when Q changes Crusher into a dog…)
If the episode has a flaw, it’s that the conclusion is way too foregone. There’s no way that Picard and the gang would put up with Q simply killing Amanda, and we already know—from “Hide and Q,” just for starters—that the powers of Q are way too tempting for a mortal to resist. Still, her journey to that realization is a convincing one.
Warp factor rating: 6
Keith R.A. DeCandido had way too much fun writing the entire Q-Continuum in Q & A. His latest release is the story “The Ballad of Big Charlie” in the shared-world anthology V-Wars, edited by Jonathan Maberry, the audio version of which just went on sale this week.