“The Q and the Grey”
Written by Shawn Piller and Kenneth Biller
Directed by Cliff Bole
Season 3, Episode 11
Production episode 153
Original air date: November 27, 1996
Captain’s log. The crew of Voyager witnesses a supernova, and they got to do so from very close up. Everyone on the bridge is giddy—well, Tuvok is his version of giddy anyhow, while Neelix is goofy as hell—and then Janeway goes to her quarters to get some rest, only to find Q waiting for her.
Q has changed Janeway’s bunk to something out of a honeymoon suite, with silk sheets and pillows shaped like hearts. He wants to mate with Janeway, a concept Janeway finds utterly repulsive. Q continues to inveigle her to absolutely no avail. Convinced she’s just playing hard to get, he buggers off, and Janeway warns the crew about him.
Over the next several days, Q tries many different things to win her heart, which all crash and burn rather spectacularly. Q even tries to get advice from Kim, Paris, and Neelix, but they all tell him he’s wasting his time.
Finally, he tries to bribe her with a puppy, which is incredibly adorable. He tries faking sincerity, but she sees through that. Since she doesn’t believe that he’s lonely as he’s gotten older and wants to settle down, he tries playing on her loneliness—and then another Q who presents as female shows up. (We’ll call her Lady Q for ease of reference.)
It turns out that these two Qs have been a couple for some time, and Lady Q is not happy at being thrown over for a mortal biped. Janeway tries to get them to take their domestic squabble elsewhere, but then the bridge calls Janeway. There are a ton of supernovae in the sector, which is unprecedented. Q allows as how he might know what’s going on, and then he takes himself and Janeway away just before a shockwave hits Voyager.
Q has taken them to the Continuum, which is in the midst of a civil war. Just like last time, Janeway sees the Continuum in a manner that her mortal brain can interpret, and she sees it as the American Civil War. The war started after Quinn’s suicide, with Q himself leading the charge for individuality and freedom. But his side is losing and he thinks that what the Continuum needs is new blood—hence his desire to procreate with Janeway.
At one point, Q is wounded. Janeway manages to get him to safety with what’s left of his own troops. She thinks his idea is a good one, but maybe he should procreate with a Q instead? Have actual new blood come from the Q itself. (This notion is reinforced by Q’s declaration that he has no intention of raising the kid, figuring he could leave that to Janeway, who makes it abundantly clear that that ain’t happening, and also that you can’t save the Continuum by being an absentee father.)
On Voyager, Lady Q has found herself unable to access her powers and return to the Continuum. Chakotay convinces her to help them get there, and she provides Torres with the appropriate technobabble to get the ship into the Continuum—though it does mean flying into a supernova…
Janeway takes a white flag to the other camp, and speaks to the Q in charge of the other side. (We’ll call him Colonel Q for ease of reference.) Colonel Q is uninterested in a peaceful solution, but wants to simply execute Q and be done with it. He condemns both Q—who follows behind Janeway to surrender himself—and Janeway to death.
Just as Q and Janeway are about to be shot, Lady Q shows up with Chakotay, Tuvok, Kim, and Paris, whom she has armed with the Q’s weapons. They free Q and Janeway and take Colonel Q prisoner.
Q then puts it to Lady Q that the pair of them procreate. She accepts, and the two of them touch fingers, and the deed is done.
The crew is all back on Voyager on their original course, with no sign of any supernovae. Janeway goes to her ready room to find Q with a baby. He finds he’s enjoying fatherhood and is thinking about the universe differently now—and seems to have saved the Continuum. He also asks Janeway to be the child’s godmother, which she happily accepts.
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Lady Q is able to make the shields ten times more effective by taking the warp drive offlline, and then remodulate the shields to emit a beta tachyon pulse, then emit a series of focused antiproton beams to the shield bubble. Somehow, this works. No indication as to why this method was never used again…
There’s coffee in that nebula! Janeway steadfastly refuses to mate with Q for fairly obvious reasons (well, obvious to everyone except Q), and never once rises to his bait. Once he tells her what’s really going on, she immediately tries to find a better solution than the one Q’s dumb ass came up with.
Half and half. Torres greatly enjoys snarking off Lady Q while adjusting the shields and engines to her specifications.
Everybody comes to Neelix’s. Neelix’s response to the supernova is “Wow.” Tuvok is unimpressed. Neelix also defends himself to Q as someone Janeway trusts because he is loyal, respectful, and sincere. Come to think of it, that self-description of Neelix is probably where Q got the idea to bring Janeway a puppy…
Please state the nature of the medical emergency. The EMH gets to watch the supernova from the bridge thanks to his mobile emitter, and then isn’t seen for the rest of the episode, which seems like a missed opportunity, as a snark-off between John deLancie and Robert Picardo would be epic…
No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. Q spends the entire episode trying to get into Janeway’s pants, then finally does the deed with Lady Q which consists of touching glowy fingers. When Janeway asks, “That’s it?” Q scoffs and says she had her chance…
Chakotay also gets his back up at Q’s pursuit, a little reminder of the events of “Resolutions.”
What happens on the holodeck stays on the holodeck. Kim and Paris display their tremendous professionalism by doing crew performance reports at the Paxau Resort on the holodeck while getting massages from holographic women in bathing suits.
“There is one possibility, but somehow, I don’t think this rickety barge or your half-witted crewmembers are up to the challenge.”
“May I remind you, madam, that this ‘rickety barge’ and its ‘half-witted crew’ are your only hope?”
–Lady Q and Tuvok bantering
Welcome aboard. John deLancie is back again as Q after “Death Wish,” while two other Q are played by Suzie Plakson and Harve Presnell. Plakson previously appeared on TNG as the Vulcan Dr. Selar (“The Schizoid Man“) and half-Klingon K’Ehleyr (“The Emissary,” “Reunion“), and will also appear on Enterprise as the Andorian Tarah (“Cease Fire”). Lady Q makes comments about both Vulcans and Klingons in the episode as a minor tribute to her prior two roles.
Trivial matters: The episode title is a play on the American Civil War poem “The Blue and the Gray” by Francis Miles Finch.
The episode was based on a pitch by Shawn Piller, son of Voyager co-creator Michael Piller, about Q wanting to mate with Janeway.
Your humble rewatcher’s novel Q & A established that there was more to the Q civil war than Quinn’s suicide, as the Continuum was also in disagreement about the role of humanity in the possible end of the universe.
While this is Lady Q’s only onscreen appearance, the character also appears in the novels I, Q by John deLancie & Peter David, Before Dishonor by David, The Eternal Tide and A Pocket Full of Lies by Kirsten Beyer, and the Q-Continuum trilogy by Greg Cox, as well as the aforementioned Q & A. She also appeared in the short story “‘Q’uandary” by Terri Osborne in the New Frontier: No Limits anthology alongside Dr. Selar (another character played by Suzie Plakson), which takes place during the civil war in this episode. Lady Q recruits Selar to treat injured members of the Continuum who’d never been hurt before.
The child of Q and Lady Q, often referred to as q, will next be seen onscreen in “Q2,” and also appear in many of the aforementioned novels and stories.
Janeway says they’re only the third Starfleet crew to witness a supernova, and we’ve seen the other two: the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC 1701, who witnessed two—one in “The Empath,” one in “All Our Yesterdays“—and the Enterprise NCC 1701D, who witnessed one in “Tin Man.”
Set a course for home. “I’m not talking about the puppy.” Having Q show up once was problematic enough, as I discussed in the rewatch of “Death Wish,” but making him a recurring character just compounds the problem. Which is frustrating, because the notion of a Q civil war in the abstract is a good one, and I like that Janeway works to try to find a peaceful solution, and even talks Q into going along with it. (Colonel Q is, sadly, more recalcitrant.)
But before we get there, we have to suffer through the inane, idiotic, imbecilic pursuit of Janeway by Q that was written like a bad 1960s sitcom but without the gravitas. The lack of imagination continues to frustrate. When Q is paired with Picard, it’s a battle of wits, with superlative banter. But when they bring Q to the spinoffs, it’s got nothing to do with the personalities of the leads in question. “We’re pairing Q with the black guy, so he’ll deck him!” “We’re pairing Q with the female captain, so he’ll hit on her!” It’s reductive, it’s stupid, and it’s uninteresting. What might ameliorate it is if it was funny—that’s why Sisko decking Q is great, because it’s hilarious—but most of the humor here falls completely flat, mostly because the jokes are all so tired. When Q tries to show off by giving himself a more complex facial tattoo than Chakotay’s and declares, “Mine’s bigger!” it’s embarrassing rather than funny. We won’t even talk about that idiotic double take when Lady Q shows up, which makes for a dandy GIF, but as a moment of comic shock fails utterly.
Suzie Plakson is a delight, as always, and the episode would have been far better served bringing her in sooner and actually showing more of the conflict among the Q, instead of wasting all of Act 1 (and far too much of the rest of the episode) on Q’s futile pursuit of Janeway. As it is, the episode is only even watchable because of her delightful snottiness, which is necessary, since deLancie’s been denied his delghitful snottiness in exchange for his tiresome sexual antics.
Oh, and Chakotay, Kim, Paris, and Tuvok look really cool in Union uniforms…
On top of all this, the solution is completely nonsensical. We’re given no good reason why Colonel Q would surrender, nor why just the act of procreation would end the war. It just stops because the script says it stops. Yes, the Voyager crew are supposedly using Q weapons, but we’re still talking about mortal humans against omnipotent beings, and the truth of the matter is that no action any of Voyager‘s crew could take can compare to what the Q can do. It should have been just Janeway’s convincing the Q to create new life—but even then, the jump from that to the end of the war is vague and unconvincing. Which is pretty much what this episode is.
Warp factor rating: 3
Keith R.A. DeCandido moderated a couple of panels at the virtual Shore Leave 41.5, and they’re up on YouTube now, including a talk on The Mandalorian (in which the panelists amazingly did not talk about Baby Yoda for the whole hour) and the Author Summer Book Release Party, in which thirteen authors discussed their new and upcoming work.