In the eighteenth episode of the second season ofÂ Voyager, the crew accidentally releases a prisoner from a comet. Intrigued? Then itâ€™s time for Mark to watchÂ Star Trek.
Trigger Warning: For extensive talk of suicide, the right to die, mental illness.
I have no idea if it was planned thatÂ Deep Space NineÂ would tackle such a similar issue beforeÂ VoyagerÂ did, but in strict terms of comparing how both shows dealt with euthanasia and the right to die, I think â€œDeath Wishâ€ is the better of the two. Granted, â€œDeath Wishâ€ has a lot going for it right from the start, since itâ€™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 â€œDeath Wishâ€ is far more humorous than anything else. Thatâ€™s not a bad thing, though; I love the transformation in tone across the story. Plus, this is the first time Q has appeared onÂ Voyager, so the show needed to give us a bit of his patented chaos. EXCEPT ITâ€™S NOT THE SAME Q!!! In a brilliant decision, a second Q â€“ who names themselves Quinn at the end of the episode â€“ 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 theÂ VoyagerÂ crew, I assumed the worst. Why would the Continuum lock one of their own up? TheyÂ hadÂ 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 itâ€™s fitting, yâ€™all. The Q Continuumâ€™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, â€œDeath Wishâ€ transforms into a story about Quinnâ€™s desire for asylum aboardÂ Voyager, all so he can have the right to die. Itâ€™s certainly a jarring revelation, one that doesnâ€™t make much sense to practically everyone. Why would an omnipotent, all-powerful immortal being want toÂ die? Why is that one desire so dangerous as to warrant three centuries locked in an icy comet???
I donâ€™t even care that the mock trial/hearing format of this episode feels repetitive in theÂ Star TrekÂ 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 Quinnâ€™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. (Youâ€™re all allowed to mock me for thinking that was Allan Ginsberg. WHAT WAS I THINKING.) Itâ€™s an argument Iâ€™ve heard against suicide time and time again: but what aboutÂ other people?
Ultimately, thatâ€™s what the argument boils down to, doesnâ€™t it? Q insists thatâ€™s whatâ€™s important. Itâ€™s kind of an ironic argument for Q to make, given that theyâ€™ve historically been a big fan ofÂ notÂ caring how they affect the people around them. (Exhibit A: ALL OFÂ 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 itâ€™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 yâ€™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 workedÂ 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 Qâ€™s past rule-breaking, they felt that in choosing death, they could break the monotony of immortality. Thus, the show likens Quinnâ€™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 Quinnâ€™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 Qâ€™s rebellion against the Continuum? NowÂ thatÂ is bold. Itâ€™s a satisfying end to the story because itâ€™s respectful to these characters. It provides growth for the one who survives. Yâ€™all, QÂ changedÂ over the course of â€œDeath Wishâ€! Thatâ€™s a huge deal! I have no idea if weâ€™ll see Q again on this show, so if this is the end, itâ€™s a damn fine one at that.
The video for â€œDeath Wishâ€ can be downloadedÂ here for $0.99.
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