Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Next Generation, Season 4: Qpid

The Next Generation, Season 4
Airdate: April 22, 1991
93 of 176 produced
93 of 176 aired


While preparing for a keynote address to the Federation Archaeology Council, Captain Picard is surprised by two unexpected guests. The first, Vash, is a pleasant surprise. The second is not as welcome -- Q.

Oh, Geordi. The writers sure have given you a rough go of late...


Matthew: And so, we get a comedy episode. We're pretty much told this straight up, since the teaser amounts to "Picard's old girlfriend shows up." When we resume scene, it's obvious from the coffee and croissant that "Picard got laid." Incidentally, this is picked up nicely in the much later episode "attached" in which Beverly learns that Picard prefers this simple breakfast - guess she wasn't paying attention when she walked in on them! It's a very funny scene, with good writing animated by great comic acting (see below). The plot really doesn't thicken, per se, until Q arrives on the scene. We just get a lot of meandering scenes about how Picard is a very private man. These scenes, while charming, don't accomplish much beyond mere entertainment. I think it's fair to criticize this episode for being a bit light on plot and science fiction. If we had actually seen the ruins on Tagus III, or gone back in time, that would have been something. What we get instead is a trifling fantasy romp which, though fun, isn't terribly challenging.

Kevin:  Especially this far into the run, I enjoy episodes that are a diversion from format-as-usual. The characters are certainly developed enough to carry a non-traditional episode, and when the comedy is this well executed, how can you but enjoy it? Also, we've had some pretty serious episodes in the last few weeks. I think the last really comedy episode was maybe Devil's Due, and with Half a Life, Mind's Eye, The Drumhead, and the resolution of Worf's Klingon arc coming down the pipeline, I appreciate the placing of this episode. It's a nice break heading into the home stretch of the season, and a reminder that the creative team can take the show seriously without taking it too seriously.

Matthew: All criticism aside, the proliferation of funny scenes is truly noteworthy. We start with Crusher butting in on the breakfast afterglow, proceed to "You must be Commander Riker," Vash in the Captain's chair, Q deriding Picard's speech, and then a fast and furious profusion of comedy scenes in the Robin Hood Fantasy. Of course, the highlight is Worf's "I am NOT a merry man!"

Kevin: I agree. Picard stumbling over himself is hysterical. I love the idea that Picard has a good Riker impersonation, just to bust out at parties. Despite pulling in two recurring characters, the episode never felt hokey, or that they were merely setting up a vehicle to have the characters appear on the show. Something I liked about the comedy around Picard hooking up with Vash is that Crusher is giving him some shit, but it appears she is more offended he didn't tell her about it, rather than that it happened. Nothing in the humor seems to cost Picard respect for having a one night stand, it's more about how comfortable he is having any part of his life on display for his crew. I appreciate the implication about sexual ethics in the twenty-fourth century.

Matthew: The peril we are presented with, that the crew could be killed permanently, doesn't have whole lot of teeth. When the being orchestrating the events at hand is basically a walking talking deus ex machina, consequences don't have much dramatic weight. The artificiality of the setup makes the Nottingham scenes a bit of an anticlimax.

Kevin: Maybe if this were an earlier Q episode, like Hide and Q, where there seemed a real chance for a moment that there were real stakes, it would have been more threatening, but I think the fun of the episode requires a more established relationship between Q and the cast. I could let the deus ex machina problem go in the same way I normally assume that the lead cast will actually be fine by the end of the episode because this is a weekly television show that appears to be on next week as scheduled.  My only regret about this episode is that we never get to see Q and Vash together on their travels. We get the follow up in Q Less, but that's after it's gone sour, and for reasons we'll discuss when we get there, Q stories just don't fit in Deep Space Nine, so this always felt like a sadly missed opportunity for follow up.

Matthew: Random notes - Why is the archaeological conference being held at Tagus III, where archaeology is forbidden? Would they really want a bunch of archaeologists hovering in orbit above them? I like that Picard works on his speech on a padd - this is a nice prefiguring of the current trend in portable computing. The use of the horgon is a nice continuity touch - but how did she get into his quarters?

Kevin: Over the series, you can tell Patrick Stewart got a laptop at some point, as he starts to visibly treat the center button like a trackpad. I like the implication Vash can override Enterprise security, at least in this benign, sexy way.


Matthew: Jennifer Hetrick is yet again a capable guest actor, portraying an alluring and mysterious femme fatale, as well as acquitting herself admirably in comedic scenes. Vash, as I mentioned before, was very appealing to teenage me. She's still appealing, but for somewhat different reasons. Hetrick makes her interesting, not just seductive. The performance makes it believable that Picard would be attracted by such an opposite personality.

Kevin: Jennifer Hetrick talked about this in interviews, and I agree with her. If you look at Picard's other relationships (Crusher, Darren, Kamala), there's always a degree of reverence for Picard. Vash understands he's a powerful and capable man, but she is utterly unimpressed by his status as Captain, except maybe for the awesome chair, which I totally understand. I can see Picard being drawn to someone who is drawn to him for qualities other than those that make him a good starship captain. And I agree, Hetrick really infused the role with some life, so she's more than mere sex kitten. There's substance and depth that make his attraction to her plausible as well.

Matthew: It's fair to say that this is a "Picard Episode." Patrick Stewart shows admirable comedic chops, as well as some dashing sword fighting skills. His stammering in the scene with Vash and Crusher is really, really funny. The rest of the cast still gets a lot to do, even with Picard in the spotlight. I have to say Michael Dorn stole the show with his laugh lines, and smashing the mandolin. Sure, he got written to. But he delivered, as well.

Kevin: I wonder how many takes of  "Crusher..Doctor Crusher...Beverly...Doctor Beverly Crusher" they had to do. Because even if I were just the dude manning the craft services table, I probably would have cracked up every take, ruining the shot. I think Stewart particularly nailed the goodbye scene, with both Q and Vash. His interaction with Q speaks to their history and Picard's increased understanding of what kind of being Q is, and there's a tenderness with Vash that's quite compelling. He lets his guard down with her just a little, and it's quite endearing.

Matthew: This was a somewhat subdued Q outing for me. John DeLancie is great as always, but having to prance around as the Sheriff of Nottingham was a bit limiting, in my opinion.

Kevin: I agree. His interactions with everyone, particularly Picard, are polished to a shine, but this episode lacks the greater commentary on the human condition that other Q outings get, and which DeLancie also delivers like a pro. Still, it's hard not giggle when Q suggests he could have appeared to Picard initially as a woman.

Production Values

Matthew: First off, let's talk Vash. She starts out in a pretty nice number - black pinstripe blazer combined (in one piece I think) with a black miniskirt. It looked good, and like real clothes. Then, Vash went way downhill by wearing an earring necklace at the reception - two earrings with a long chain dangling between them around her neck. Ugh. So, two steps forward, two steps back. Dr. Crusher looked like she borrowed something from the Wesley Collection, with her giant cable knit sweater - clearly chosen to hide Gates McFadden's pregnancy.

Kevin: The earrings still startle me every time I see them. There's a momentary disconnect where I cannot believe I am seeing what I am seeing. But otherwise, yeah, the slinky black numbers do here all kinds of favors. I always imagine Gates McFadden just walking onto set those days in the sweater she wore to the studio. I don't find them unattractive per se, but there are definitely a little dating of the show. Based on the pollution content of the atmosphere and the prevalence of over-sized sweaters over leggings, I would estimate we have arrived in the latter half of the twentieth century and should have no trouble finding a pair of humpback whales.

Matthew: The Robin Hood sets and costumes were great, no two ways about it. I haven't been able to learn whether the castle was a location shoot, but either way, it was intricate, detailed, and an exciting set. The period costumes were also really good, and not only on the main cast.

Kevin: Nothing felt cheap of half-assed. I wonder if they just borrowed everything from an extant set or production, but still, nothing felt glossed over. The scenes in the woods were particularly well done, and it's always nice to shoot in actual sunlight. It really brings out the detail in spray of wood fragments when Worf smashes Geordi's lute.

Matthew: As many have mentioned, I hate the fact that the girls just break pots over peoples' heads. It's lame, and apparently, both McFadden and Sirtis had had sword fighting training.

Kevin: According to one of the DVD interviews with Sirtis, they were the only ones of the main cast with training, making it all the more galling. I have no problem believing Starfleet gives basic security training to all officers. Also, Frakes was injured during this episode. His quarterstaff was broken blocking a sword, and the sword cut him above the eye. In the rush to get him to the hospital, he left the studio in costume.


Matthew: Despite a somewhat trifling story, the acting and production values land this comedy in 4 territory. There are a lot of real big laughs in this episode, and there is a lightness and gaiety that are infectious. Normally, lack of sci-fi is a 3-worthy offense. But if you substitute good comedy, you get a pass.

Kevin: Like I said, I enjoy a random episode that goes for something different. I certainly wouldn't want every week to be this, but especially given the weighty, story-arc driven stories we have coming, a little light-hearted fare is welcome. In the end, this made me a merry man, so it gets a 4 from me as well for a total of 8. 


  1. I only saw this episode for the first time rather recently I am sorry I had not seen it earlier it was just a fun episode.

  2. I cringe at Vash everytime I watch this episode. Especially the bridge scene where she sits down on the Captain's chair and pulls her legs up like it was her grandpa's recliner or something. That was inappropriate and trashy almost. I couldnt believe she felt entitled to that, and more, because she fucked Picard a couple of times and especially because he did not introduce her to anyone as his friend.

    Picard is not weird or stuck up for not introducing her. I wouldnt either if I was him. Vash is annoying...