Star Trek Voyager: The Q and the Grey

"Out of all the females of all the species in all the galaxies, I have chosen you to be the mother of my child."

Q is back, and he has a very personal request to make of the Captain – but she is having none of it.

There are four basic types of 1960s/1990s Star Trek episode:

 - Absolutely brilliant
 - Absolutely terrible
 - Kind of in the middle, fine but not amazing
 - Bonkers and objectively terrible but too much fun to mind.

This episode definitely fits into that last category. The plot is pretty ridiculous – Q wants to reproduce to stop a civil war in the Q Continuum, so he chooses Janeway to mate with, and then takes her into the Q's civil war, which is represented as the American Civil War, because presumably the costumes were lying around. It's all deeply silly – but then, I confess, I tend to find anything involving Q pretty silly. Q's whole character concept feels like a leftover from the Original Series, where for some reason Kirk had to deal with super-powered aliens who wanted to put his female crew members in fantasy outfits every other week. Voyager, however, had taken the idea of Q very seriously in his previous appearance, and it had worked well, so this is more unexpected.

The truth is, despite the silliness of the concept, Q works, largely thanks to John de Lancie's performance. He is so charismatic, so purely watchable as Q that his appearances are always a delight even when the story is completely silly. He also has great chemistry with both Patrick Stewart and Kate Mulgrew. This storyline only works at all because the two have such sparky chemistry, and their verbal sparring is a lot of fun. When the episode moves into the Continuum-as-Civil-War, the fact that Voyager's crew are somehow able to go into battle with omnipotent beings is pretty daft, but watching them all run around in civil war uniforms is too much fun to mind.

Re-watching this episode twenty years (and more) later, a lot of Q's early advances sound remarkably familiar – he thinks a hard no is playing hard to get, he thinks Janeway must be interested in someone else and that's why she's rejecting him, he brings up Janeway's biological clock ticking, he thinks there must be a way to win her over and he tries bringing presents. Even though I'm a huge Janeway/Chakotay shipper, I love Janeway's clear response that it has nothing to do with another man, she simply isn't interested in him. Janeway freely admits that it's been a while and "it'll be a while longer", and that she would like to have a child someday, but stands her ground with complete confidence. She may be the flirtiest starship captain since Kirk, but Janeway is confident and secure in her own sexuality and her own free choices.

Episodes like this are one of the reasons I love Star Trek. It's not the high drama of the series at its absolute best, but it's something that is seriously missing from a lot of modern television (with the exception of the now late, lamented The Magicians) – it's fun. It's just a nice little story idea, with some fun costumes, some funny stuff, a bit of Janeway/Chakotay sweetness, and a bit of philosophy behind it (on how a child might help the Q Continuum to evolve and grow). And it really is very funny.

Bits and Pieces

 - Q and Female Q actually doing the deed – by touching fingers – is genuinely hilarious.

 - Q is being presented as more of a friendly occasional nuisance in this episode, rather than an alien threat, so the purple-ish lipstick from his previous appearance has gone. Considering he's trying to seduce Janeway, that's not surprising really.

 - Janeway flirting watch: It's mostly a case of Q coming on to her, but she touches Chakotay very tenderly when he says Q's behaviour bothers the h*ll out of him.

 - There's a shot of a guy with both legs amputated that I'd never noticed before. Never let it be said there wasn't any blood or gore in 1990s Star Trek.

 - The funniest thing about Q's "Kathy, don't you like to watch?" is that Janeway, with pretty much no hesitation and clearly very curious, immediately comes in close to watch the mating!

 - There's a shot of Paris and Chakotay in Yankee uniforms that's... very appealing if you're into that sort of thing. (And I'm British, I don't even have a particular connection with the American Civil War!).

Quotes

Janeway: Really? I beat out a single-celled organism? How flattering!

Q (on Chakotay): Is it the tattoo? Because mine's bigger!
Janeway: Not big enough.

Female Q: Tossed aside for someone five billion years younger...

Torres: You know, I have really had it with this superiority complex of yours.
Female Q: It's not a complex, dear, it's a fact.

A "comedy" episode that works – three out of four Yankee Civil War uniforms.

Juliette Harrisson is a storyteller, freelance writer, Classicist and Trekkie. She runs the podcast Creepy Classics, re-telling and discussing ancient, medieval and early modern ghost stories. She tweets @ClassicalJG

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

John de Lancie's Q character was always fun in the Star Trek universe, bonkers but fun, even when he was being serious.

Much of that is down to the barely restrained energy de Lancie brought to the role - the Q character easily could of become the “jumping the shark” moment of Star Trek, because if you think about it too long, a ridiculously overpowered being that can just drop in nonsensically anytime could easily break Star Trek. However, the Q character has added rather than subtracted, thankfully.

Would the Q character have worked if it had been another actor? I’m doubtful. Thankfully it was a casting match made in heaven.