Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Next Generation, Season 1: Hide And Q

Airdate: November 23, 1987
10 of 176 produced
9 of 176 aired


The omnipotent entity Q rears his head on the Enterprise once again. This time, he claims, he has come bearing gifts - the greatest of all possible gifts, in fact. Can he be trusted? Will his machinations result in a great benefit to the crew and to humanity, or will they precipitate nothing but destruction?

Tsk, tsk, Mon Capitaine... what dreary taste in pornography you have!


Matthew: This episode is a mixed bag as far as writing goes. A the very outset in the Captain's log, we are told that, for some random reason, Counselor Troi is absent. In addition to hating "random reasons" for anything, it is doubly galling in this case - when her Imzadi is going through perhaps the most character development he'll see in the first season. It is arbitrary and dumb, and it bugs the hell out of me.

Kevin: The lack of Troi always killed me too. We're setting up an episode where a character undergoes massive personality changes and the person best able to remark on them is absent. To say nothing of the fact that wouldn't you give your eyeteeth to figure out what he would have bribed Troi with? The life they never had? That'd be pretty tempting. It was a golden opportunity lost. My roommate suggested that the writers weren't ready to hammer out the details of that relationship yet, and that has a certain air of plausibility, but is still chickening out.

Matthew: On the other end of the scale, we get a very Roddenberry take on human potential, inasmuch as Q intimates that humans worry the Q, and may someday surpass them in power. This seems very much like the TOS take on a natural evolutionary track for an intelligent species. Hopefully, we won't all end up in sparkly shift dresses and sandals. So anyway, there's a good sci-fi story here. How would a human being respond to sudden omnipotence? We're also introduced to the "Q Continuum" concept, which will be mined in the future of the franchise for several good tales.

Kevin: I can say without shame that in college when we started talking about the Ring of Gyges in Plato's Republic, I totally cited this episode as a modern telling. The choice of Riker is an interesting one. I think picking Picard would not have worked from the outset. He's used to having, relative to his view of the world, a lot of power, and using it responsibly. Promoting him from captain of the Enterprise to captain of the universe isn't as interesting. Other crew members have the opposite problem. They have almost no experience at the top of the heap, so it would be less damning if the power went to their head. Picking someone so close, but so far, from the apex of authority was a good idea. Riker's natural ambition plays nicely with his newfound powers.

Matthew: I liked the "game" aspect of the story, although it is similar to Trelane's games in "The Squire of Gothos." I do have a few questions about it. Would Picard really make such a ballsy and far-reaching bet on one of his crew member's responses, when dealing with someone like Q? It reeks of unsupportable hubris. Picard's scenes with Q were lovely, though, we get our first full-bodied Shakespeare reference ("Kill all the lawyers" was a brief throwaway in Farpoint), and it's an obviously great idea given our main actors. Stewart not only gives a great Hamlet reading, the writers also accurately preface it by describing the different context and intent - Hamlet is derisive of humanity, Picard is laudatory. Ahhh.... erudition.

Kevin: Picard's defense of humanity in the courtroom of "Encounter at Farpoint" was always a little overdone for me. I think it was just the writing and everyone getting to know the character. This defense is pitch perfect and it may owe a lot to giving Patrick Stewart something we all know he can do...Shakespeare. The use of irony was satisfying both as a viewer and someone who looked the definition of irony at an early age.

Matthew: Other writing notes: I liked the "penalty box" scene with Picard and Yar, until it made her out to be a horn-dog yet again ("Oh, Captain... if only you weren't a captain..."). Speaking of Yar, what's the deal with Geordi digging her? This plot thread seems like a leftover that never gets re-heated properly. Sigh. Riker's personality change was a bit abrupt from a writing perspective - can you really go from great guy to douchebag at Warp 9? What's with the title? What does "Hide and Q" mean?

Kevin: The writers really didn't get their arms around how a female character could show regard for a male character without it getting sexual for a while, did they? Especially given how she refers to him a father figure in "Skin of Evil," it gets extra creepy. I noted Riker's conversion for being too quick, but was more forgiving given the constraints of a 45-minute teleplay. Also, this episode clearly started the convention of naming Q episodes with Q in the title. It's odd it started on such an odd one. They strained for the joke and it showed. That being said, I always wanted them to do an episode that dealt with homosexuality in 24th century with Q as a guest star. The title: LGBT-Q.  Come on...that's funny.


Matthew: This is certainly a challenging role for Frakes. He might just be up to it. I thought he convincingly portrayed the angst associated with such a life change. The laughing scene wasn't great, though. He was forced by the script to go full-douche a bit too soon for dramatic coherence. But I like him as an actor, and this role wasn't disastrous. I can imagine it not going as well for some of the other cast. Speaking of the other cast, Stewart shined in the Shakespeare reading. Not a big surprise.

Kevin: I agree that Frakes gave a pretty strong performance, stronger than I would have said before rewatching the episode. Coming on the heels of "The Battle," I would say that Riker is as capable of anchoring an episode as Picard, and that's no small accomplishment.

Matthew: Can there be a spin-off show with John De Lancie? Because he is that great. It's too bad he was given Q as a character. He plays it perfectly of course, don't get me wrong. But he's so good, it's natural to want much more of him, and the kind of character Q is prevents that kind of frequent use. I wish he had become a regular when he lost his powers.

Kevin: Ditto.

Production Values

Matthew: We get a few more TOS movie redresses for the Sigma 3 colony. There was also a nice music cue for dead girl colonist on Sigma 3. The planet soundstage never looked like anything but a soundstage. But that actually played in well to the "artificial" nature of the game. They moved rocks around pretty well to make it seem expansive, at least. The military uniforms and knick-knacks in the tent were cool.

Kevin: The green sky bothered me for no discrete reason. I just find it aesthetically unpleasing. Though I will agree the slightly cheesy throwback to TOS planetary design actually heightened the constructed feeling of the game. The "animal things" were not the best aliens ever. Between Michael Westmore and Q, they can do better.

Matthew: In the "gift" scene, the effect of "unblinding" Geordi wasn't great. And the "full grown" Wesley looked ridiculous. No 97-pound weakling is going to grow up to be a running back. I should know. And whatever they did to Wheaton's voice sounded ridiculous, too.

Kevin: I always wondered if actual 25-year-old Wil Wheaton ever looked at himself in the mirror and did a little compare and contrast. How did it make him feel?


Matthew: Had it been any other story, this episode would be a 3. Entertaining, containing enough big ideas to be stimulating, decent acting and production values. But the John De Lancie factor strikes again. Just like in "Farpoint," his undeniable verve elevates this episode into 4 territory. I always enjoy watching this one, and always have a few good laughs appended onto my customarily solid sci-fi experience.

Kevin: This was a tough one to rate for me. The few sour character notes (Tasha) and some slightly strained dramatic moments put this between a three and a four for me. Had Troi been in the episode they might not have been able to help themselves from scoring a 5. As it stands, I agree with Matt. This one ends up a 4 based the irresistible appeal of John De Lancie. That makes a total of 8. That may be the lowest score we'll give to a TNG Q outing, but that's not the worst thing in the world.


  1. HD Highlights from the Blu-Ray:

    1. The level of detail on Q's Admiral and Marshal decorations is really exquisite.


    HD really makes it apparent how bad Yar's makeup is - as she cries, her face remains pasty while the rest of her head flushes.

  2. It really bugs me, and only recently - for some reason I did not feel that way before and/or it maybe did not bother me before - that in all of Star Trek humans are presented as the paragons of pretty much everything and how a lot of other species are measured and judged by the extent to which they measure up to how we have managed to do things, and to the extent to which they have learned to be like us - the greatest gift to the galaxy, if not the universe, apparently (and according to Roddenberry).

    It is very human centric, which seems rather contradictory to the whole concept of the United Federation of Planets. We are always portrayed as the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals, the quintessence of dust. We are oh so special and we have all these amazing hidden talents and powers and strength that make even the most omnipotent of all creatures - the Q - nervous (which is why they keep being so interested in us amazing human beings blah blah blah).

    On the one hand Star Trek - and especially the Federation - is about various species coming together, united in an interstellar federal republic, composed of planetary governments that agree to exist semi-autonomously under a single central government based on the principles of universal liberty, rights, and equality, with the goal to share their knowledge and resources in peaceful cooperation and space exploration. It is about all of us, not just humans - but all members of the Federation - having managed to embrace our differences, having found common ground and all that. It is a worldview that was probably wishful thinking for Roddenberry who lived in a world torn apart by Cold War rivalry and the ensuing wars and atrocities, not to mention the human toll.

    On the other hand - and in contrast to the concept of the Federation - there is always this "but we humans are the greatest of them all" pull, if you so will, which seems rather antithetical to the Federation and the concept it stands for.

    I guess just as much as the idea of an interstellar federal republic where entities with vastly different backgrounds manage to find common ground and cooperate was wishful thinking on Roddenbery's part, I guess so was the whole 'we humans are just the best thing that's happened to the galaxy' mantra.

    Rewatching a lot of this, I just wish they had toned it down a bit more (which they did later on, DS9) and did not constantly imply that we somehow enjoy a more privileged position in the galaxy vis a vis other life forms. It happened in the Romulan episode too in this season where Troi says to Picard that Romulans are fascinated by us so much and that it has been this fascination that, more than anything, has kept them from attacking us. That was so ridiculous. I mean "shit", I thought. Now we are at a point where even our enemies view us with so much awe, they dont dare to attack us. Which is why that "what a piece of works is a man" passage recited from Hamlet in this episode is so poignant: Picard says it with conviction, not irony, even though he should have said exactly as Hamlet indented (or not said it at all) instead of saying, with a serious face, that yes, we humans are indeed so noble, infinite and god like in everything we do.

    1. I think your comment is a good observation.
      It's also further emphasized by the fact that there are four official founding races of the Federation. One is never seen. One is rarely referenced. One is occasionally shown/used. Which leaves humans doing everything.

    2. I agree that, if they're going to advance some vision of "human exceptionalism," they ought to do more to demonstrate why this is the case. Enterprise focused on this a bit with respect to the Human-Vulcan relationship.

  3. btw "macro head with a micro brain" - one of the greatest lines in this episode and by Q, right after "very clever Worf. Eat any good books lately?"