Welcome back to Star Trek: The Next Generation. I am doing an episode-by-episode watch, recap, and reaction and blogging about it here. There will be no spoilers for the series beyond the current episode. You can find my prior recaps HERE.
For those of you that don’t want to read the long recap, I provide a quick episode summary here at the top. You can also just scroll down to the “REACTION” heading below.
THE QUICK AND CLEAN SUMMARY:
Q returns and stages a wager against Picard. Q bets Picard that Riker will not be worthy of a great gift – which we later learn are Q’s own powers. Picard bets that he will. At stake is command of The Enterprise and Q’s agreement to leave humanity alone going forward.
Q tests Riker by putting his bridge officers in mortal danger. When Wesley is killed, Riker uses Q powers to save him and the rest of the officers. Having used the power once, it becomes more tempting. Riker tries to resist the power but it quickly overwhelms him and begins to change him. However, Riker is given an opportunity to give each member of the Enterprise Bridge Crew a gift. As they reject his gifts one by one he realizes he does not want Q power. He gives it up and Picard wins the bet with Q. The result of Picard’s win is that Q disappears again.
THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP AND REACTION:
Captain’s Log Stardate 41590.5
After dropping off Troi for a visit home, the Enterprise receives an urgent call for help from a nearby colony. An accidental explosion has injured many there.
In a call from the bridge to sick bay, Picard informs Dr. Crusher that there are five hundred and four colonists on the site and verifies that the Enterprise is ready for that many patients. She states that she believes so. The Enterprise is traveling at War 9.1 in order to reach the planet in just over three hours. Riker comes into the bridge to inform the Captain that a methane gas leak caused the explosion.
Abruptly Geordi informs Picard that censors are picking up a forcefield. On screen, we see the forcefield that Q used in the pilot episode of the show. Data tells Picard that it is a Q entity forcefield and the Captain commands the ship to a full stop.
Picard: Not now, d*** it, Q!
Q appears on the ship. He tells Picard that the Enterprise is to abandon its rescue mission because discussions with Q is more important. He also tells Picard that the Q have been studying humanity since their last visit and are impressed. He appears to Picard in a Starfleet Admiral’s uniform.
Picard mocks the uniform and Q points out that they accepted him in his previous uniform. Riker chimes in, with a smile, that Q has him on that point. Q notes that Riker finds all of this very amusing and Riker says that he would but for the sick and dying they need to rescue. He replies that human are always sick and dying. Worf approaches Q with a phaser in hand and is ordered to stand down by Picard. Q says that it is a pity to not be able to teach the “macro head with a micro brain” a lesson. Worf growls at him in reply.
Picard tells Q that he is prepared to listen, and listen carefully, to whatever it is that the Q have to say after the rescue mission is completed. Q mocks that mission as comparatively petty and closed-minded. Picard then complains to Q about his (its?) behavior on their previous meeting, mentioning more than once how Q “seized my vessel” and condemned all humans as savages. Q mocks Picard for the “seized my vessel” comment and asks Riker what he thinks, stating that he remembers Riker well. Riker states that they do not have time for these games.
Q is excited by the mention of games. He then transports everyone on the bridge, except Picard, to an unidentified planet. On the planet, Data notes that based on Q’s demonstrated power, they could be anywhere – assuming where they are even exists. Riker with a smile says that it won’t be boring.
On the bridge, alone, Picard calls first to security and then to engineering and gets no reply. The doors to exit the bridge to not open, either.
Yar spots Q after he appears on the planet wearing what looks like a soldier’s uniform from around the 1700 or 1800s. He asks Riker to join him in a tent that also just appears so that their game can hash out its rules. Q sips a drink and offers one to Riker. Number One is surprised to find that his drink is lemonade – a drink he had just thought about. Riker asks Q “what about my people” and Q tells them they can have whatever they like. Drinks appear in each of their hands. Data begins to sip before stopping. Worf pours his drink out before throwing and breaking the glass.
Q and Riker discuss humanity. He tells Riker that The Q are interested not in humanity’s past but in its future. He says that of all the species, humans cannot abide stagnation. The Q are interested in whatever it is that humanity may become.
Q tells Riker that games require rules and familiar settings. He says that he took their current setting from Picard’s mind. When Riker does not recognize the setting of the tent, Q asks Data to inform Riker about their setting. Data tells him that the tent is from the Napoleonic era of France. He says that the tent is a campaign headquarters tent and that Q’s uniform is that of a French Army Marshall. Riker again smiles at Q and notes that a Marshall outranks an Admiral and Q demurs saying he would not go from a Starfleet Admiral to something of lower rank.
Q tells Riker that the game requires high stakes and significant consequences for failure. The game will be to find out whether any of the bridge officers can stay alive. Worf replies that they will all survive if the game is fair. Q tells him to think imaginatively and states that the game will be completely unfair. Yar shouts that Q has gone too far. He assesses her a game penalty and she vanishes.
Riker asks Q where she went and he says that she is in a “penalty box.” He says she will remain there, unharmed, unless one of the rest merits a penalty, too. There is only one penalty box. If one of them must next go to the penalty box, she will be forced to surrender it and go herself toward… nothingness.
Q: I entreat you to carefully obey the rules of the game. The only one that can destroy your Tasha now is you.
The Enterprise is still surrounded by the Q forcefield. Picard is still alone. He sits in his Captain’s chair and attempts to make a Log but finds that he cannot do that, either. Suddenly Yar appears on the Bridge and states that she wishes she could help him. When he asks her where everyone else are, she tells him “down on some planet.” When Picard asks her more, and why she is on the bridge, she tells him that she is in a penalty box. She tells him with some desperation in her voice that one penalty by anyone else and she is gone.
Yar: Yes! I am gone. It is so frustrating to be controlled like this!
She begins to cry and Picard attempts to comfort her. She then chastises herself for her own tears. Picard tells her that when one is in the penalty box, tears are permitted. Q appears chastises Picard’s soft touch.
Picard looks at Q.
P: A Marshall of France?! Ridiculous!
Q: Well, one takes the jobs that you can get.
Q reveals to Picard that the game is to test Riker’s worthiness for the greatest gift that they can give. Picard is pleased that Q is taking on Riker and states that Riker will defeat Q just as he did previously. Q offers to make a wager on it.
Q: Your star ship command verses…
P: Your keeping out of humanity’s path forever. Done?
Q: Done. You’ve already lost, Picard. Riker will be offered something impossible to refuse.
Back on the planet, LaForge is watching Worf from a great distance. To the surprise of Riker and Data, Worf is on the third ridge. Geordi says “uh oh” but amends the statement with a smile, saying “he sees them.”
Worf is near an encampment of what appears to be French soldiers from the Napoleonic era. Up close, though, it is clear that the soldiers are some kind of animal.
Picard enters an office where Q sits. He says that Q seems to need something from humans.
Picard: Why these games?
Q: Why these games? Why, the play is the thing! I’m surprised you have to ask when your human Shakespeare explained it all so well.
Q then comments on Picard’s lack of knowledge of Shakespeare and finds that Picard knows his work quite well. Picard learns via their back and forth repartee regarding Shakespeare that Q believes to learn more about humanity via games than it would via real life and dialogue. Picard then quotes Hamlet.
What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason!
how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how
express and admirable! in action how like an angel!
in apprehension how like a god!
Picard asks if The Q are worried about man becoming like a god. Q appears to be upset by the question and leaves.
On the planet, Geordi reports to Riker and Data the the soldiers are forming a skirmishing line and are moving toward them. The three of them discuss whether Q would give them a weapons advantage over French soldiers with muskets. Riker tests his phaser to verify that it works. After her fires it successfully, Worf jumps out of hiding and yells “drop your weapons!”
Geordi: Incredible, Worf! [To Data] He came out of nowhere!
Worf: A warrior’s reaction.
Riker apologizes to Worf stating that he was the one who fired. Worf reports that the soldiers may look French but what is inside of them appears to be vicious animal things. Just then, Geordi replies that the soldiers are closing in on them. Riker asks Data for a theory about what is happening. When Data turns to speak with Riker, he has Q’s face. He advises Riker to think fast and to move fast.
The soldiers begin firing their weapons. Worf and Geordi dodge their fire and hide behind large boulders. Instead of muskets, the soldiers have some type of phaser. Riker returns fire killing two of them. Q advises him to think fast as more of them are coming. He tells Riker he now has the power of The Q to beam his crew members back aboard the ship. Q disappears, the real Data returns, and we hear Q’s voice telling Riker to use his power. Riker appears to use Q power to send the rest of the bridge officers back aboard the Enterprise.
On the Enterprise, Yar sits alone on the Bridge. The Q forcefield disappears from the ship’s viewing screen and the ship then powers back on. Picard enters the bridge and calls for Engineering. He gets a reply. Picard tells Engineering to get all systems back online and he learns that systems were never off. Yar calls Picard over to a monitor and tells him that the ship’s censors indicate that they never stopped. Picard realizes that Q suspended time itself and that they never stopped at all. Just then, Worf, Data, and Geordi reappear on the Bridge. They do not know where Riker is located. Geordi states that they were all under attack by some animal things.
Picard: Animal things?
Geordi: Maybe Data could explain it better, sir.
Data: [long pause] You may find it aesthetically displeasing, sir. I could just file a computer report on that.
Yar states the obvious that the important thing is locating Riker. Picard tells all of them that Q has a particular interest in Riker which dates back to their mission at Farpoint. Picard believes that Riker is safe, physically, but that they need to proceed on with their rescue mission.
On the planet, Riker is leaning against a large rock and laughing. Q appears. Riker says he is laughing at him and Q says that this is strange gratitude considering the magnitude of the gift given to Riker. He points out that Riker could send himself back to the ship if he so desired. Riker then asks him what he needs. Q tries to laugh off the idea of needing something from foolish non-entities like humans and tells Riker that he is beginning to sound like Picard. Riker takes this as a compliment and points out that Q did not answer his question.
More seriously this time, Q sits next to Riker and tells him that he returned to the Q Continuum after their encounter at Farpoint and told The Q about humanity. He tells Riker that he can become one of them and that doing so is the only way he can understand the limitless dimensions in which The Q exist.
Q: At Farpoint, we saw you as savages only. We discovered that you are unusual creatures in your own limited ways. Ways which in time will not be so limited.
Q states that unfortunately, for The Q, the human compulsion to grow will only grow stronger over the centuries and eons. Riker asks him if he has any idea how far humanity will advance and Q tells him, perhaps in the distant future, even beyond The Q. He explains that they selected Riker to become part of the Q so that he can bring to them the human need and hunger for growth so that they can better understand it.
Riker says he will take that as a compliment but also states that becoming a part of The Q will be difficult as he does not even like The Q. Abruptly, Q says “you’re gonna miss me” and disappears. The bridge crew of the Enterprise, Worf, Data, Yar, Geordi, Picard and Wesley all appear on the planet’s surface with Riker. Wesley is surprised. Apparently Q pulled him out of class.
Yar notices that they are all unarmed. They hear animal sounds in the distance. The animalish French Army marches back toward the crew of the Enterprise. Worf attacks. he knocks down a couple of them before they knock him to the ground in return. Worf is stabbed with a bayonet in the chest. Wesley runs to check on him and another soldier stabs Wesley in the back with a bayonet. The blade runs him clean through. Riker is now very angry.
Riker: No, d*** it! D*** it to h***!
Riker throws up a Q forcefield around the soldiers. Picard is stunned.
P: You did that!
R: And that’s not all!
Wesley reappears on the ship alive and without a bayonet wound through his chest. A moment later we see that the entire crew is back on the ship. Picard is alarmed by what has happened and notes that only The Q can do this.
Picard narrates in his log that the Enterprise is now twelve minutes away from the planet. He says that Riker needs help almost as badly. He calls Riker into his office and asks how to advise him. Picard asks Riker if he is strong enough to resist using the Q power regardless of the temptation. Riker says that he gives his word not to use the power again. Picard is pleased and states that he knows how much Riker’s word means.
The bridge officers beam down onto the planet. They only find a small number of injured. They are told that the rest are gone. Geordi tells Data that there is someone beneath a pile of rubble. Data – who is absurdly strong – begins tossing boulders aside until he finds a small child. Dr. Crusher tells Data that it is too late. The girl is dead.
Data suggests using the power of Q and Dr. Crusher is surprised that Riker might be able to bring the girl back to life. Riker mournfully says he is prevented from saving the girl by a promise.
Riker returns to the bridge and is angry with Picard. He states to Picard that he never should have made the promise. He also requests a meeting with Picard and the bridge staff as soon as it is convenient. Later, the bridge officers gather. Riker takes credit for calling the meeting and Picard corrects him, saying that he permitted Riker to do so.
Riker: Of course, Jean-Luc.
Picard makes note, silently, of Riker not using his title. With everyone gathered, he states that other than his abilities, he is the same William T. Riker that they have always known. Picard points out that the crew might be uncomfortable because they remember that power corrupts. Riker again refers to the Captain by his name and the Captain asks if he has noticed that they are now on a first name basis. He further tells Riker that something has already happened to him.
Riker states again that he regrets not saving he girl on the planet… just as he saved all of those inside their room now. Picard reminds him that the danger on the planet was invented by Q whereas the danger to the child was not. Yar suggests that the Q might fear humanity and Riker tells her that The Q admires humanity and its capacity for growth. Picard disagrees regarding admiration of humanity from The Q and suggests that they have muddled Riker’s mind. Riker asks him if he understand the incredible gift given to him.
Q appears. He asks Riker if these are truly his friends. He refers to Riker as brother. Q is dressed as a monk and he then says “let us pray.” Picard approaches Riker, points out Q’s need for costumes, and refers to him as a flim-flam man. Q tells Riker he can give them a gift and Riker clears it with the Captain. To Q’s alarm, Picard says that he supports and authorizes Riker’s giving of a gift to the other officers and Picard then tells the other officers to cooperate with him if they wish.
Dr. Crusher attempts to leave with Wesley. Riker says that he might know Wesley best of all and gives him the wish of being ten years older. He apparently grows a lot in ten years. Riker offers to let Data be human and Data declines. He quotes one of Picard’s favorite authors and says “to thine own self be true” before declining again. Riker sees Geordi and guesses what he wants. He removes Geordi’s VISOR and LaForge is no longer blind. Geordi tells everyone that everything is more beautiful than he could have imagined, and more, but he declines to keep the gift. He says that the price is too high and he does not like who he would have to thank.
Geordi: Make me the way I was. Please.
Riker assents to his request. Riker moves on to Worf and presents him with a Klingon woman. They appear to have aggressive, uh, affection? Suddenly though Worf recoils.
Worf: No! She is from a world not alien to me!
Geordi: Uh, Worf. Is this your idea of sex?
Worf: This is sex. But I have no place for it in my life now!
Wesley approaches Riker and tells him that it is too soon for this. He asks to be young again. Riker looks over at Picard and asks how he knew and says that he feels like a fool. Picard, kindly, says that he should. He then approaches Q and pulls back the hood on his cloak. He tells Q that he lost the wager, that he must never trouble them again, and that he suspects Q will have some explaining to do with others of his kind.
Q seems to be pulled away, screaming, but an unseen cosmic force. Geordi reports that they appear to have experienced another hole in time. The instruments indicate that they only just returned from their rescue mission.
Data: Sir, how is it that The Q can handle time and space so well and us so badly?
Picard: Perhaps someday we will discovered that space and time are simpler than the human equation.
Riker tells Geordi that he has coordinates on the board. Picard says “engage.”
Some episodes of television are better when you do not think much about what you just saw. This one feels like that to me. I did not really notice, while watching, how little this episode makes sense. But once I applied some thought, the whole thing just fell apart in my mind.
The weird little “game” interlude on the planet was kind of pointless. I do not eve know what those French soldier animal things were even supposed to be or why we met them. The game never really concluded. If the whole purpose of the game was a pretext to tempt Riker into accepting / using Q powers, it just was not laid out very well.
The only “highlights” (things that made me laugh but were not necessarily good) about these scenes were Worf being beaten with relative ease in hand-to-hand combat and then Wesley being gruesomely killed with a bayonet that we see go all the way through his chest. Of all the people to kill, the show kills the kid? Really? The Wesley death felt like the writers apologizing to the fans for how annoying he was in the show’s first few episodes.
Riker with unlimited power is an interesting idea. The problem is that he does not really get the power until late in the episode. Then he refuses to use it for a long time. As a result, the ramp-up from “Riker can use these powers for good” to “Riker is smug and out of control” happened very quickly. If they had just stretched that whole sequence out for most of the episode, instead of rushing through it at the end, then this might have been a really decent story.
Q is always a pleasure on screen. John de Lancie is great. I have to say though that after watching two Q episodes, I now strongly suspect that Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory is basically just Jim Parsons playing a more limited Q.
Geordi and Data turning down their greatest desires was nice. However, I felt like the rushed way in which each were confronted with that possibility was not a service to either character. I hope both get similar moments with more depth later in the series.
Yar was not given much to do in this episode. It felt strange and out of character that she started crying when put in the penalty box. On the other hand, Yar is definitely the least emotionally stable member of the bridge crew. (I’m still not over her getting drunk and having sex with Data.)
Speaking of that, Klingon love-making is… aggressive. Worf probably had a point back on the sex planet (where Wesley was almost executed for stepping on a rose bush), a couple episodes back, that human women are not physically up to the challenge of sex with Klingons.
I think the show was a little over-ambitious regarding what Wesley would grow up to look like. He grows up to be an NFL linebacker! “Ten Years From Now Wesley” was the funniest thing that happened in this episode with the possible exception of “Unnecessarily Gruesome Death Wesley.”
Remember a few episodes back when an alien hi-jacked Picard’s body and Picard was so excited for the unlimited power and ability to explore the universe that he relinquished his command and turned himself into a body-less energy being? Well, Riker did better than that.
Overall, this episode was… okay. It was not bad. It was not great. It’s passable.