Mark Watches ‘The Next Generation’: S03E13 – Deja Q

In the thirteenth episode of the third season of The Next Generation, Q arrives on the bridge of the Enterprise, naked and without their powers, and that’s just the first few minutes of this episode. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch The Next Generation.

At the end of the day, the story with the Bre’el is only a circumstance. It’s the means to an end, but I’m okay with that. The story here, while mostly comedic, ends up being a powerful commentary on what it means to be human – the good, the bad, the messy, and everything else in between. Throughout it all, John de Lancie gives yet another stellar performance as Q, though one that will always stand out because of one reason:

Q is human the entirety of this episode.

I kept waiting for that element to be revealed as nothing more than a joke or another one of their Loki-esque tricks. It’s not like I had any reason to believe that he was telling the truth, you know? And that dynamic is spread throughout most of “Deja Q” because the Enterprise crew also has no reason to trust this being. Why should they? Q has used their all-reaching powers to toy with them more times than they care to remember, and it seems exactly like another one of their ridiculous and absurd practical jokes. So I found it intriguing that my own suspicion began to erode as the episode progressed. After Q complained about the strangeness of sleep to Picard, I suddenly felt myself willing to accept that he was telling the truth. Why go to these lengths to pretend to be human?

Well, okay, this is Q we’re talking about. Q would totally try to pull off a long con like this. Thus, Picard rightly determines that they can’t expect Q to save the Bre’el at the last minute, meaning that they’ve got to get their moon on the correct orbit all on their own. Thus, the two main stories unfold simultaneously: the Bre’el panic about the possible destruction of their world, and Q panics about how fucking weird it is to feel hungry. THIS IS AN HONEST-TO-GOD PLOT POINT IN THIS EPISODE, AND I LOVE IT SO MUCH. That juxtaposition is the main feature of this episode, and I’m still surprised that it works as well as it does and it doesn’t come across as crass. There’s enough urgency to make it clear that the Enterprise crew is desperate to save the Bre’el, and we also get a sense for how incredibly gargantuan that task is for them.

I think it makes the comedy funnier and the episode more entertaining. There’s a ticking clock in the background of this story, and thus, most of the gags have the same sense of desperation to them. Either Q is lying or they’ve all got to figure out an impossible situation in just a few hours. They focus on the latter, all while Q buzzes around them, toying with their patience while they complain about EVERYTHING that makes humans who they are. Oh, and then Guinan stabs Q in the back of the hand, which he frankly deserved. THIS IS PURE COMEDY, I LOVE EVERYTHING ABOUT IT.

But why is it funny? Well, it’s not until Data is paired with Q that the show begins to seriously pursue Q’s transformation as something worthy of examination beyond jokes. And I like that this plot is hilarious at first, and then BONE-CRUSHINGLY NOT FUNNY AT ALL. I mean, there’s a clear moment when this stops being a non-stop joke machine, and that’s right when Data points out that Q got what he most wanted, but as a punishment. HAHAHA OH wait I can’t laugh anymore. Granted, Data does not experience emotions, but I still can’t imagine what it was like to see someone get what he most wanted out of life. Despite that, he still dutifully provides Q with insight into the human experience, which is just beautifully ironic. The least human member of the crew, teaching what it means to be human.

I appreciate the show’s unflinching optimism about the human condition, particularly since the one act that changes Q’s mind is Data nearly sacrificing himself to save Q from Calamarain. What incentive did Data have for that? At that point, Geordi had already figured out how to save the Bre’el, so Q wasn’t needed for that. Data did it because he is a good person, and that’s a part of being human. Q, the one character who lacks all empathy and sympathy, comes to realize that their past behavior has doomed the Bre’el and the Enterprise to annihilation, and he GIVES HIMSELF UP WILLINGLY TO THE CALAMARAIN. Talk about character development, y’all!

I’m hoping, then, that part of this sticks. The second Q’s actions give Q their powers back, but I’m hoping that Q has learned what it means to be charitable and why that matters. Q is certainly more joyous than normal at the end of “Deja Q,” but it’s in their parting gift to Data that I find hope for Q. Q has never given anyone a gift that’s pure and good, and I hope that’s a sign. I don’t want this characterization to be ignored, and I’d love to see a new facet of Q’s personality. Still, I had a fantastic time watching this, and I think it’s one of the better episodes of the show.

The video for “Deja Q” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

Mark Links Stuff

– The Mark Does Stuff Tour 2015 is now live and includes dates across the U.S. this summer and fall Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often. My next Double Features for Mark Watches will be the remainder of The Legend of Korra, series 8 of Doctor Who, and Kings. On Mark Reads, Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series will replace the Emelan books.
- Mark Does Stuff is on Facebook! I’ve got a community page up that I’m running. Guaranteed shenanigans!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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