Dec 22 2011 3:05pm

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Déjà Q”

“Déjà Q”
Written by Richard Danus
Directed by Les Landau
Season 3, Episode 13
Production episode 40273-161
Original air date: February 5, 1990
Stardate: 43539.1

Captain’s log: The Enterprise is in orbit of Bre’el IV, which is in danger from an asteroidal moon that suddenly started to enter a deteriorating orbit. No one is sure why, but that’s a lesser concern to stopping the orbit from deteriorating so it doesn’t crash into the planet. An attempt to use the tractor beam to push it along doesn’t work (La Forge likens it to an ant pushing a tricycle).

Before they can try something else, a naked Q appears on the bridge. He’s been defrocked—the Q-Continuum has kicked him out, stripped him of his powers, and made him whatever mortal species he chose. Since he had “only a fraction of a second to mull,” he went with human and asked to be placed on the Enterprise. In all the universe, he says that Picard is the closest he has to a friend. (The look Picard gives Q in response to that rather dire statement is classic.)

The crew doesn’t believe him, nor that he isn’t responsible for Bre’el’s moon, but he insists that he’s human, and wishes to be treated like one.

So Picard has Worf throw him in the brig.

The evidence that Q isn’t faking it mounts: he falls asleep (an event that traumatizes him), he gets back spasms (giving Crusher an opportunity to apply a painful cure), and Guinan stabs him with a fork.

Q gets himself out of the brig by offering to help with the Bre’el moon. He may not have any powers, but he has the knowledge of millennia “trapped in this puny brain.”

Not that it entirely helps. He’s able to diagnose the cause of the moon’s sudden deteriorating orbit—a celestial body passing at right angles to the plane of the star system—but his cure is to change the gravitational constant of the universe, something he used to be able to do with a snap of his fingers, but which is beyond the capabilites of the Enterprise.

Or is it? La Forge hits on the idea of using a warp field to change the moon’s mass so gravity has less of an effect, and then they can move it.

But before they can enact this plan, the Calamarain show up: energy beings that have a grudge against Q. They attack him; the Enterprise is able to keep them at bay by raising shields.

Picard realizes that Q’s protestations of friendship were a cover for what he really wanted: protection from the other species that Q has pissed off over the millennia. Q says the Calamarain’s problem is that they don’t have a sense of humor, a difficulty with which Riker can personally empathize. Riker then says they should turn Q over to them, at which point Q says that he was wrong, Riker does have a sense of humor, and a dreadful one at that.

But Riker’s serious—protecting Q is a full-time mission, and not the one he signed up for. Picard agrees, but for now, they do actually need his help to save Bre’el IV, so Data takes Q to engineering. Q has a bit of trouble there—working in groups isn’t easy for an omnipotent being—and after La Forge slaps him down, Q angrily asks Data who he thinks he is. “Geordi thinks he is in command here. And he is correct.”

Then the Calamarain attack again, which forces the ship to raise shields and cut short their attempt to change the moon’s orbit. Data tries to help Q, which damages him as well. At this point, they have to keep the shields up or the Calamarain will attack. La Forge is of the considered opinion that he’s not worth it.

Q goes to Picard, realizing that Data may have sacrificed himself to save Q. It’s the first time Q has even considered the possibility of mortality—he’s never given death a first thought, much less a second one. After stopping by sickbay to tell a recovering Data that, for what it’s worth, the android is a better human than Q is, Q steals a shuttle so the Calamarain can take him and be done with it.

Against his better judgment, Picard tries to protect Q, first by transporting the shuttle—which fails—and then by extending the shields—which are frozen.

Turns out another Q has been keeping an eye on things. Seeing that Q is performing a selfless act, Q can’t let Q just sacrifice himself like that. If he performs a selfless act right before the end, there’ll be questions and explanantions in the Continuum for centuries. Q is obviously more concerned with how much of an inconvenience it’ll be to him, but still and all, he gives Q his powers back.

Q then shows up on the bridge with a mariachi band—but Picard isn’t really in the mood to celebrate. However, before leaving, Q leaves two parting gifts. The first is for Data. At first, the android fears he will make Data human, but Q assures him that he would never curse Data by making him human—instead he gives him a fifteen-second belly laugh (which Brent Spiner delivers mangificently). And then he restores the Bre’el moon, and everybody lives happily ever after. Except, maybe, the guys in the mariachi band, who didn’t get to finish their song…

Can’t we just reverse the polarity?: In an impressive sop to the law of conservation of matter and energy, Data points out to Riker that blowing up the moon will just mean smaller fragments will crash over a wider area. In addition, the moon won’t just burn up in the atmosphere because the asteroid’s ferrous crystalline core will keep that from happening.

Thank you, Counselor Obvious: Troi helps confirm that Q has an emotional presence, which Q considers rude.

There is no honor in being pummeled: Besides getting the best line of the episode (see below), Worf gets to haul Q to the brig, yell at him to be quiet, and smile and walk away when Q demands that he let him out of the detention cell.

If I only had a brain…: Data is assigned to be Q’s escort, and tells Q that he has achieved in disgrace what Data has always aspired to be. He and Q have many conversations about humanity. Q actually learns quite a bit, albeit grudgingly, and gives Data the gift of laughter at the very end.

Syntheholics Anonymous: Guinan takes particular (and understandable) pleasure out of Q’s predicament, not only stabbing him with a fork (“Seems pretty human to me”), but by pointing out the long-term effects of his predicament. When Q snottily says “I beg your pardon” to Data, Guinan’s response is epic: “I’d like that—and you’d better get used to it.” When Q asks what she’s talking about, she says, “Begging. You’re a pitiful excuse for a human, Q, and the only way you’re going to survive is on the charity of others.”

I believe I said that: “What must I do to convince you people?”

Q wondering how to prove that he’s mortal, and Worf coming up with the perfect answer.

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: Q rewards Riker at the end by giving him two hot chicks on his arms. Riker, inexplicably, refuses them, so Q gives them, instead, to Worf, who is amusingly nonplussed.

Welcome aboard: John deLancie is at his comic best in this episode, but he also completely sells Q’s misery at being mortal. His “HELP ME!” after the Calamarain’s initial attack is chilling in its fear and helplessness, and his sad confession to Picard in the ready room is moving.

Whoopi Goldberg’s unusually cruel turn as Guinan is also fun to watch, as that’s a side of Guinan that only comes out when Q’s around.

But the real story is the uncredited guest turn by Corbin Bernsen—at the time right smack in the middle of his career-making role on L.A. Law—as another Q who can go toe-to-toe with deLancie on the obnoxious scale.

Trivial matters: When last we saw Q in “Q Who,” he’d been kicked out of the Continuum, but still had his powers, and he obviously didn’t do anything then to help his case, since they kicked him completely out. But he feels he owes the crew a debt, which will be repaid when he next appears in “Qpid.”

Well, unless you read the novels, as Peter David has Q appearing again in Q-in-Law, which took place between this episode and “Qpid.” That novel has a historic meeting between Q and Lwaxana Troi. There’s even an audio of it jointly read by Majel Barrett and John deLancie.

Your humble rewatcher’s novel Q & A will show that Q had a masterplan for humanity in general and Picard in particular, and Data’s laughter at the end of this episode is actually part of it.

Bre’el IV would be seen again in the novels Losing the Peace by William Leisner and my own Articles of the Federation.

Make it so: “Heeeeeeeeeeeeeee’s back!” What a great episode. Any episode is elevated by Q’s presence, even when it’s weak (“Encounter at Farpoint,” “Hide and Q”), but like “Q Who,” this is a classic anyhow. It’s a wonderful examination of what happens when you lose everything you ever had, and it’s also a spectacularly funny one to boot.

Only two points get knocked off because the climax doesn’t work. It made sense that Commodore Decker stole a shuttle in “The Doomsday Machine” because, well, he’s a commodore, and could intimidate the guy in charge of the shuttle bay. It made sense that Jake Kurland stole a shuttle in “Coming of Age” because he was a bright kid. But Q was a defrocked omnipotent being with no standing on the ship who shouldn’t even know how to operate the damn thing, much less steal it without anyone noticing until it was gone. I mean, really, office buildings in large cities have better security than this starship.

But aside from that one bit that cuts off the air supply to my disbelief, this is a wonderful episode.


Warp factor rating: 8

Keith R.A. DeCandido is inordinately proud of Q & A, and even prouder of the way he worked Data’s belly laugh into the plot. Really, it’s brilliant. You should buy the book. Also go to his web site and buy all his books. They’re brilliant, too. And read his blog, his Facebook page, and his Twitter feed, because they’re brilliant, too. Really.

Scot Taylor
1. flapdragon
Correction: Riker does not give the "Swedish bikini patrol" women to Worf; Riker tells Q that he doesn't want them, at which point Q shrugs and teleports them to Worf.
S Cooper
2. SPC
Maybe somebody let him into the shuttle, figuring he'd leave and the ship would be out of danger.
Chris Hawks
3. SaltManZ
Love this episode.

Two things:
1) The internal links are all broken; they're missing the initial foreward slash.
4. Leah617
My favorite TNG episode of all time. I know it's not the best episode, but it makes me laugh out loud every time I watch it. DeLancie is just the best in this one.
Michael Burstein
5. mabfan
Ah, yes, this episode I remember, and quite fondly. Not much to add; De Lancie does his usual excellent job playing Q, and I always liked Bernsen's portrayal of the other Q.

I would hope that if Q planned to change the gravitational constant of the universe, that he would do it only locally and then restore it when the problem was solved. Otherwise there would be some serious repercussions...

-- Michael A. Burstein
Nate Shouse
6. MnemonicNate
Q is always amusing when he wants something or has something to give, and the crew won't give him the time of day to entertain him. There are many great moments between Worf and Q in this episode...I think my personal favorite is Q going through the list of things he'll have to do as a human, stopping at "Bathing" as he looks directly at Worf; Worf shoots back, "Too bad." Ha!

It seems like there are a TON of rogue asteroids/meteors/comets careening towards inhabited planets throughout the Trek this a back-pocket "We need a plot for this week's episode" thing for the writing team? Still, great episode...probably the funniest TNG in my opinion, definitely on par with Classic's "Shore Leave."
Chris Hawks
7. SaltManZ
Looks like my Comment #3 got flagged for spam. Grrr. Here's the URL without the link:

I apologize, and you're welcome.
Keith DeCandido
8. krad
flapdragon: that was what I thought I typed. It's fixed.....

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
William Frank
9. scifantasy
As many great lines as the episode has, my favorite might be Q's first one. He's just shown up stark naked (and I seem to recall reading that de Lancie actually stripped down for the scene, because the flesh-toned bodysuit he had been using didn't look right), he knows he's in trouble, he knows he's powerless...and yet he still has a malicious smirk in his eye and a lot of self-control as he smirks, "Red alert!" No panic, no fear, just mischief.
Margot Virzana
10. LuvURphleb
Loved this episode. The dialogue. This is one of my favs because it always make me laugh. I even found the episode in japanese. Oh its great to listen too!
Margot Virzana
11. LuvURphleb
Loved this episode. The dialogue. This is one of my favs because it always make me laugh. I even found the episode in japanese. Oh its great to listen too!
12. Philippa Chapman
Q, naked.

I'll be in my bunk
13. Christopher L. Bennett
I miss this era in Trek history, where the cosmic threats and phenomena the characters faced were often rooted in credible science rather than the "Let's just make up some random technobabble" philosophy of later years.

Note also that Geordi's idea of using a subspace field to lower an object's inertial mass is the antecedent for how Deep Space 9 is moved out to the wormhole in "Emissary." Dax may have gotten the idea from hearing about the Bre'el moon.
14. Bell
Um... what? It makes sense for Jake Kurland to steal a shuttle because he's "bright"? But it doesn't make sense for Q to steal one? Yes, his powers are gone in this episode, but it is very clearly established that his intelligence is intact. I wouldn't rate this episode as a "10" either, but for you to take two points off because he stole a shuttle while - AT THE SAME TIME - stating that it made perfect sense for Kurland to do the same is ridiculous.

That's some lazy reasoning there. This isn't your personal blog, KRAD. Readers are going to expect a bit more consistency.
15. Seryddwr
Brilliant episode. John De Lancie steals the show, as usual.
16. Bell
And I'm sorry if I sound grumpy - really didn't intend to get on a soapbox here - but this rewatch is about 90% recap and 10% analysis. As there are already perfectly good episode summaries on Memory Alpha, a greater emphasis on critical analysis - not unlike Tor's TOS rewatch - would be nice.
17. Brian Eberhardt
Stealing shuttles gets even easier in DS-9 and Voyager.
I loved the comedy in this. Aside from Majel Barret, John deLancie and Woopi Goldberg are the best guest stars in TNG.
18. Mike S.
Although this is not my favorite Q episode of the series, it is my favorite John DeLancie performance. Q is used to being the one in control of the whole show, meaning he can do anything he wants to anybody he pleases.

He tries to take that same attitude to his new human life, and when it doesn't work, I think DeLancie did a good job of portraying Q in a very vulnurable state.

You didn't mention the two actors playing the Bre'elns in your review. I thought they really brought this show down, especially the female. Fortunatly, they are not on screen that much, and everything else about this show works, IMO.

Good show, one that kicks off one maybe the best 5-episode stretch in TNG's history (even if the next one leaves a little to be desired). I loved the Marachi band in the end, and Q's last line to Picard to end the show.
19. charmingquark
"You weren't like that before the beard."
20. StrongDreams

If there is a better line in all of TNG, it has escaped my memory.

Watching that scene again on Youtube, I wonder if Q's comment about being claustrophobic in the turbolift was an ad-lib. His whole attitude of unquestioned superiority crumbles on that 10 foot walk to the lift.
21. William Leisner
Just a small point of clarification: Bre'el IV was mentioned, but not actually seen, in Losing the Peace.
22. Anony
I've forgotten some of the preceding episodes even existed, but not this one. Very entertaining from start to finish.

Many of Q's appearances felt like gimmicky cameos in later series, but he was the ultimate foil for Picard and an integral part of Next Gen. The lack of a single Q appearance in any of the Next Gen movies is the biggest missed opportunity after the movies' failure to live up to the standards of the series.

That Next Generation Edit video #3 linked to is only one of many inspired uses the jandrewedits team made of scenes from this episode. Well worth going through the others.
23. trekgeezer
I saw John Delancie at TrekExpo in Tusla about 3 years ago and from his comments he seemed to want to leave Q behind .

He did a reading of The Shel Siverstein poem "The Devil and Billy Markham " The guy is a great talent. As far as this episode, it's one of his best outings as Q
Justin Devlin
24. EnsignJayburd
I'm not a big Corbin Bernsen fan, but he was fantastic as Q2. I love how he starts gesticulating to get his point across to Q and gets this confused look on his face when he sees his hands for the first time. Clearly he's new to assuming a humanoid form.
Joseph Newton
25. crzydroid
So far I've refrained from commenting on some of your stranger episode ratings, as I realize everyone has an opinion--and you yourself admit you don't put much into it and the rating might change if you watched it again--but this atrocity cannot escape without comment.

An 8???? First of all, there should be no question in anyone's mind that this is a 10. It is the best Q episode, and maybe even the best TNG episode. Those extremely fact-based opinions aside, by rating this episode an 8, you are saying it is not as good as "The Defector," or even "Pen Pals". Given the choice of watching only two Star Trek episodes, I would definitely pick this over "Pen Pals" without even having to think about it, and the same goes for "The Defector".

I've been enjoying the rewatch, but seriously. Bad form. Bad form.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
26. Lisamarie
Heh, I have to agree that the ratings don't always quite match up :)

I haven't been commenting on all the rewatches since my husband and I are still a little behind (but catching up fast!) but as this was my favorite episode going into the rewatch I had to comment. Data and Q are my two favorite characters and I think they both shine in this one, and I laugh out loud every time I watch it. It might not be the deepest or most dramatic or most thought provoking episodes (although it does have some things to say about humanity), but I really enjoy it. Maybe now that I have watched a lot more episodes I would say that something like Measure of a Man is objectively better, but this will always be my first favorite episode :) And I love getting to see Data laugh; it's a little more meaningful in context.

I also think Patrick Stewart should not be overlooked - sometimes he doesn't have to say anything to get his point across.

Every year we buy some of the Hallmark Star Trek ornaments for our tree. My mom has a very nice blown glass Q from Encounter at Farpoint, but I'm still holding out for a musical/talking Q's Mariachi Band!

I feel like celebrating!

As a nitpicky aside, does it bother anybody else that they talk about the uniqueness of humanity lying in its desire for knowledge, exploration, self-betterment, etc? There are no other sentient species that do these things???? It seems like a really common sci fi/fantasy trope - you have your various races/species like elves, dwarves, Klingons who are distinctive in some way - all-wise, magical, super strong, super honorable, etc...and then you have humans who are just kind of middle of the road but possess 'human spirit' or something like that.
27. Mahmeebey
I have a question. Did they make an episode called Q-In Law, or did I read the book & imagine it? I thought it was in the 8 th season, but I could be wrong. Someone please set my mind at rest. Thank you!
Joseph Newton
28. crzydroid
@27: According to Wikipedia, Q-in-Law is a book.

For the record, no Star Trek series to date has had more than 7 seasons.
29. JohnC
Well, krad, I have had minor issues with your ratings in the past, but given the objections in some of these comments, I've got your back here. It was a fun episode, but a bit lightweight. 8 seems about right. Loved the big ol' churchill cigars appearing in the mouths of Riker and Picard, and I agree with the commenters who loved the mariachi band. I mean, who doesn't get happy when a mariachi band starts playing? I know that Q episodes are generally played as comedy but while I re-watched this episode I wondered how it might have turned out if the writers had made this darker and more serious. I mean, did anyone really think that Q was in any real danger from the Calamarains? (I wonder how that alien light form tastes lightly breaded with a nice marinara sauce...) Might have been interesting to make this one a bit more sinister.
Kat Ybarra
31. Katyara
My parents had this on VHS and I think I wore the tape out. This is my favorite Q episode. Even with the borg one in mind I still love it. Rikers's grin at Worf's deadpan "Die" is not to be missed. I have to admit being envious of Guinan even at my youngish age of first seeing it. After all he put the crew through I wanted to stab him with a fork too!

@ 24. EnsignJayburd

YES! Seeing him glance at his hands and then knowing him as the Dad on Psych was just too much.

I swear this episode never gets old and keeps on giving.

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