For me 'Q Who?' is one of only two diamonds in a season that mostly consists of gravel (the other is 'The Measure of a Man').
At first it looked like this was going to be a typical "Q pesters the crew" episode. The omnipotent one has been kicked out of the Q Continuum and decides the best thing for him to do is join the crew of the Enterprise. To do this he abducts Picard and takes him to...a shuttle in the middle of nowhere. That's a bit undramatic, isn't it? A shuttle? Q is an all powerful space god who could take Picard anywhere in the universe. Any when! And he selects a shuttle? There's a budget saving move if ever I saw one.
Mind you, I could honestly watch an entire episode of Picard just bickering with Q in a shuttle because of how well Patrick Stewart and John de Lancie play off each other and how the quality of the dialogue seems to go up a notch whenever these two share a scene. Q as part of the crew would certainly be entertaining, but it would suck all the drama out of the series as he could deal with any threat with just a click of his fingers. Which is exactly what he offers to do for the crew. With him at their side they would be perfectly safe, ready to deal with whatever the universe could throw at them. At this point Picard makes the mistake of mouthing off about how they are ready to face whatever is out there. Never one to pass up the opportunity to teach some arrogant mortals a lesson, Q zaps the ship 7,000 light years into uncharted space, to give them "a preview of things to come".
Enter the Borg stage left.
From the very start, Next Generation struggled to escape the shadow of the Original Series and forge its own independent identity. The series' first attempt at creating its own recurring alien antagonist, the Ferengi, was an unmitigated disaster, forcing the writers to fall back on previously established foes like the Romulans and the Klingons. Even Q, who threatened to wipe out the entire human race in the first episode, isn't really much of a threat. He's more like an annoying relative who shows up unannounced, throws a party without asking, invites a load of people you are pretty sure they don't know and then (-and) skedaddles before you can get them to clean anything up.
What is it about the Borg that makes them so memorable? Why did they succeed when the Ferengi failed? Well, for starters, they don't look ridiculous. Even at this early stage, when the make up and costumes are a little basic, the Borg still have a very memorable look, one that only gets better and better over time. It is said that the design was inspired by the bio-mechanism art of H.R. Giger, but I suspect the designers spent a little too much time at Michael Jackson's bizarre Captain EO attraction at Disneyland (which was directed by Francis Ford Coppola). Does this mean the secret to defeating the Borg is exceptional dance moves? Guys, it's time to dance, and shout (shout) and shake your body down to the ground.
|Resistance (to boogie) is futile|
The original plan was for the Borg to be a race of insectoids. The parasite creatures from 'Conspiracy' were intended to be revealed as agents of the Borg. Those plans were ultimately scrapped when the producers realised that cyborgs are more practical (i.e. cheaper) than insects. This was probably all for the best. I don't think the Borg would've been as effective if they had been insects. By making them cyborgs the writers were able to tap into our innate suspicion of technology and the fear that it will ultimately dehumanise us. The Borg are humanoids who have been so overwhelmed by technological augmentation that it has stripped them of all individuality, leaving them nothing more than mindless drones who exist solely to serve the greater collective. I'm sure right wing commentators would argue that they are the ultimate representation of the communist ideal. Then they'd backtrack, do some mental gymnastics and somehow blame everything on Obama.
|Obama's initials are B.O. Borg is spelt with a B and an O. Coincidence? I think not.|
Notes and Quotes
--It is implied that the Borg were responsible for the destruction of the colonies along the Neutral Zone. Head writer Maurice Hurley had meant for the opening episode of this season to further explore what happened to those colonies, introducing the Borg and including a possible alliance between the Federation and the Romulans to counter the new threat. However, the Writer's Guild strike got in the way and the Borg's introduction was delayed until this episode.
--One particularly creepy aspect of the Borg, one that is pretty much ditched after this episode, is that they have a nursery on their ships for Borg babies.
--This episode establishes that Guinan and Q have a history and that her home planet was destroyed by the Borg.
--The voice of Borg Collective was synthesized from the voices of Maurice Hurley, director Rob Bowman and Bowman's assistant.
--As much as I enjoyed Q in this episode, I do wonder if he was really needed. Once the Borg enter the scene, he kinda becomes irrelevant to the plot until the very end, where he functions as a get out of jail free card. Before then he mostly just pops in to big up the Borg and emphasize how dangerous they are. Which isn't really necessary. When it comes to the Borg, actions speak a lot louder than words.
--If you were wondering why the annoying Sonya Gomez seems to have such a large role despite adding nothing to the plot, that's because she was originally intended to be a comedic recurring character, before the writers thankfully saw sense.
Q: "You can't outrun them. You can't destroy them. They are relentless."
Picard: "The chance to study you is, frankly, provocative, but you are next of kin to chaos."
Q: "Picard, you are about to move into areas of the galaxy filled with wonders you cannot possibly imagine. And terrors to freeze your soul!"
Picard: "Q... end this."
Q: "Moi? What makes you think I'm either inclined or capable to terminate this encounter?"
Picard: "If we all die here, now, you will not be able to gloat. You wanted to frighten us. We're frightened. You wanted to show us we were inadequate. For the moment, I grant that. You wanted me to say 'I need you'? I need you!"
Borg: "We have analysed your defensive capabilities as being unable to withstand us. If you defend yourselves, you will be punished."
Four out of four bizarre Michael Jackson attractions at Disneyland.