Star Trek: The Next Generation Re-Watch: “Déjà Q”

dejaq285“Déjà Q”
Written by Richard Danus
Directed by Les Landau

Season 3, Episode 13
Original air date: February 5, 1990
Star date: 43539.1

Mission summary

Enterprise is rendering assistance to Bre’el IV, which is about to say “goodnight, moon”— an asteroidal body on a decaying orbit will slam into the planet in twenty-nine hours unless they can devise a way to shove it back where it belongs. It’s just too damn big for the tractor beams to nudge it, which La Forge eloquently compares to “an ant pushing a tricycle.” To further complicate the situation, they’re paid an unexpected visit by an old adversary: Q literally drops in on the Bridge, in the buff. He smirks and greets them with, “Red alert.”

Q has apparently been stripped of his powers as well as his clothes; he tries to convince them that he’s been banished from the Q Continuum and trapped in human form, but strangely enough, no one believes him. Picard surmises that Q is behind the moon’s inexplicable behavior and that this is all another trick to test them. Just to be safe, he tosses the frustrated Q into the brig. While he rests there, the ship is scanned by intense Berthold radiation, and the probe takes a particular interest in Q.

Determined to prove his worth to Picard, Q offers his services to help them figure out how to save Bre’el IV; though he lacks his omnipotent powers, he’s still a super genius, after all. Picard assigns Data the thankless task of chaperoning their doubtful guest, and the two of them compare notes on what it means to be human. Data says, “You have achieved in disgrace what I have always aspired to be,” and expresses his curiosity over what it would be like to experience emotion.

In Engineering, Q does inadvertently inspire a solution to La Forge, who theorizes that the ship could push the moon with the tractor beam if they can decrease its mass enough by extending their warp field around it. Meanwhile, Q wrestles with the realities of mortality and a corporeal existence: first he injures his back, then he gets hungry. The latter forces an interaction with a delighted Guinan who cheerfully proves he’s telling the truth about being human by sticking a fork in him. Q is nearly finished off when an alien race of ionized gases, the Calamarain, attack him in Ten Forward. Data holds onto him as they try to whisk him off and suffers serious damage.

Q’s help may not be worth keeping him around; now that he’s mortal, some of the other beings he has annoyed in the past are out for revenge. Picard surmises that Q chose to be exiled to Enterprise because he knew they would protect him. With the Calamarain waiting around for another attempt to kill him, and preventing the ship from lassoing the moon with a warp field, Picard really doesn’t have time to deal with Q.

But Q was unexpectedly touched by Data’s willingness to sacrifice himself and can’t bear to live on as a human, so he steals a shuttlecraft to lure off the Calamarain and meet his end. Enterprise tries to save him, but another Q prevents their efforts; after realizing that Q1 was committing a selfless act, Q2 has decided to restore his powers, on probation.

Jubilant and omnipotent once more, Q returns to Enterprise to lavish them with cigars, music, and women. As a going away present, he allows Data to briefly experience a true emotion: a spontaneous, uncontrolled fit of laughter. He also delivers a timely deus ex machina by hanging the moon back in the sky. Picard seems perturbed by the thought that “perhaps there’s a residue of humanity in Q after all.” Q delivers a final message, along with a burning cigar: “Don’t bet on it.”



I have the nagging feeling that I’ve seen this one before… “Déjà Q” was always one of my favorite episodes, and it’s still highly enjoyable. Though this firmly establishes itself as a comedic episode, typical of most Q episodes, it also deals with some weighty issues: the matter of moving a ginormous, heavy moon, anyway. (Coincidentally, I also just re-watched the film Deep Impact for the first time since it was released, in which no one suggested changing the gravitational constant of the universe to alter the course of the asteroid.)

The “serious” question of what it means to be human is mostly played for laughs, with the only gravitas coming from Data’s lament that he lacks emotions. I would have enjoyed the setup of the android showing Q what it was like to be human more if it hadn’t been directly stated in dialogue, but then we know this show doesn’t excel at subtlety. Still, they had some unexpectedly endearing interactions, and Q’s “gift” to Data is actually a very nice gesture—unlike his other gifts. Half the fun is watching Picard’s utter exasperation, Riker’s annoyance, and especially Dr. Crusher’s undisguised contempt for Q throughout the episode. (Another neat touch: Q reminds us again that Dr. Crusher was away at Starfleet and has recently returned to Enterprise.)

So some of the gags fell a little flat for me this time around, especially the last bit with the cigar and the cheesy face in the smoke, but overall this episode continues to be quotable, with many of my favorite lines from the series—which work especially well when uttered by John de Lancie. Seeing Corbin Bernsen’s performance as another Q only highlights just how talented de Lancie is, though he of course originated the role and had a bit more practice with it. I was always intrigued by Guinan’s interactions with Q and the suggestion that there’s a lot more to her and that they’ve crossed paths before, but unfortunately this was never explored.

The only other unresolved issue from this episode is what altered the moon’s orbit in the first place? Q suggested that it was a passing black hole, which seems as feasible as anything else, but I wonder if the Q Continuum has engineered this whole situation to test Q, which has an element of poetic justice to it.

Eugene’s Rating: Warp 4 (on a scale of 1-6)

dejaq029Thread Alert: For once, the show seems to be trying to make the ugliest costume possible, but even so, Q’s green and gray jumpsuit is not the worst thing we’ve seen in the series. Still, I like the idea that the crew intentionally came up with something humiliating for him to wear because they dislike him so much, and perhaps in payback for his insistence on cheapening Starfleet uniforms by casually wearing them. It’s kind of amusing that the first thing he does when he gets his powers back is use them for a wardrobe change.

Best Line: Lots of great one liners, especially between Q and Worf, but my favorite this time is one I hadn’t truly appreciated before. Q: “I’m not good in groups. It’s difficult working in a group when you’re omnipotent.”

Trivia/Other Notes: The original premise was much more predictable: Q is actually pretending that he has lost his powers, hoping to make himself look like a hero while the Federation and the Klingons are on the brink of war. Yawn. Roddenberry suggested that they take the more straightforward approach and play out the scenario of a powerless god for reals.

John de Lancie was actually completely naked when filming his grand entrance on the Bridge.

This is the first time we see another member of the Q Continuum, who is also simply called Q.

The Berthold rays of the Calamarain’s probe were first referenced in the original series episode “This Side of Paradise.”

This episode was nominated for two Emmy Awards, for editing and special effects.

Previous episode: Season 3, Episode 12 – “The High Ground.”

Next episode: Season 3, Episode 14 – “A Matter of Perspective.”

About Eugene Myers

E(ugene).C. Myers was assembled in the U.S. from Korean and German parts. He has published four novels and short stories in various magazines and anthologies, most recently 1985: Stori3s from SOS. His first novel, Fair Coin, won the 2012 Andre Norton Award for Young Adult SF and Fantasy. He currently writes for the science fiction serial ReMade from Serial Box Publishing.