Mark Watches ‘Voyager’: S02E18 – Death Wish

In the eighteenth episode of the second season of Voyager, the crew accidentally releases a prisoner from a comet. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.

Trigger Warning: For extensive talk of suicide, the right to die, mental illness.

I have no idea if it was planned that Deep Space Nine would tackle such a similar issue before Voyager did, but in strict terms of comparing how both shows dealt with euthanasia and the right to die, I think “Death Wish” is the better of the two. Granted, “Death Wish” has a lot going for it right from the start, since it’s an episode about Q and the Q Continuum. But since this episode tracks one specific issue, it allows the writers to examine it in a much deeper manner.

Which is surprising to me because the initial third of “Death Wish” is far more humorous than anything else. That’s not a bad thing, though; I love the transformation in tone across the story. Plus, this is the first time Q has appeared on Voyager, so the show needed to give us a bit of his patented chaos. EXCEPT IT’S NOT THE SAME Q!!! In a brilliant decision, a second Q – who names themselves Quinn at the end of the episode – is freed from a 300-year prison sentence inside a comet. That is barely the weirdest thing in this episode, PLEASE BUCKLE IN, MY FRIENDS. Like the Voyager crew, I assumed the worst. Why would the Continuum lock one of their own up? They had to have done something horrific to warrant that kind of treatment.

Yet as this episode unfolds, the truth is so much more disturbing and upsetting than I could have imagined. There are multiple mentions of the Borg in this episode, and it’s fitting, y’all. The Q Continuum’s need for order, assimilation, and homogeneity reminded me a whole lot of another collective out in space. Quinn was punished for daring to be different. And how did they do so? By refusing immortality. Thus, “Death Wish” transforms into a story about Quinn’s desire for asylum aboard Voyager, all so he can have the right to die. It’s certainly a jarring revelation, one that doesn’t make much sense to practically everyone. Why would an omnipotent, all-powerful immortal being want to die? Why is that one desire so dangerous as to warrant three centuries locked in an icy comet???

I don’t even care that the mock trial/hearing format of this episode feels repetitive in the Star Trek universe. It works so well in this story because it allows both sides to explain themselves, which gives the audience EVERYTHING I EVER WANTED. Initially, Q tries to prove that Quinn’s desire to commit suicide is immoral because their life affected others positively. He brings in Sir Isaac Newton, Commander Riker, and a man incidentally responsible for making sure Woodstock happened. (You’re all allowed to mock me for thinking that was Allan Ginsberg. WHAT WAS I THINKING.) It’s an argument I’ve heard against suicide time and time again: but what about other people?

Ultimately, that’s what the argument boils down to, doesn’t it? Q insists that’s what’s important. It’s kind of an ironic argument for Q to make, given that they’ve historically been a big fan of not caring how they affect the people around them. (Exhibit A: ALL OF THE NEXT GENERATION.) So I was glad that the show instead gave Quinn a voice and allowed them to explain what they actually felt. And it’s meaningful to me that the most logical character in the cast is the one who is alongside them to support them and act as counsel, which helps add legitimacy to the issue.

Anyway, Quinn makes their point through demonstration, and y’all, the gas station scene is one of my FAVORITE THINGS. I knew it would be hard to explain the Continuum or create a visual representation for it, but the gas station worked perfectly. What did it explain? BOREDOM. Painful, dull, unending boredom. After so long in existence, knowing everything and experiencing everything, life no longer held any meaning for Quinn. And after Quinn saw Q’s past rule-breaking, they felt that in choosing death, they could break the monotony of immortality. Thus, the show likens Quinn’s experience to a terminal illness. Quinn was in physical and emotional pain that was unending and constant. Death was the only end of that for them.

I admit to being surprised at how this ended, but only because the writers committed to this story so well. I expected that Janeway would finally come to understand Quinn’s needs and would grant them asylum. And I knew that despite that unbearable temptation Q offered her, Janeway would not turn over Quinn and allow them to suffer so that she and her crew could return home instantly. (Plus, five more seasons!) But actually letting Quinn choose their own death, and having it explicitly be about Q’s rebellion against the Continuum? Now that is bold. It’s a satisfying end to the story because it’s respectful to these characters. It provides growth for the one who survives. Y’all, Q changed over the course of “Death Wish”! That’s a huge deal! I have no idea if we’ll see Q again on this show, so if this is the end, it’s a damn fine one at that.

The video for “Death Wish” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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