Friday, January 27, 2012

The Next Generation, Season 6: True Q

The Next Generation, Season 6
"True Q"
Airdate: October 26, 1992
131 of 176 produced
131 of 176 aired


On a mission to help the inhabitants of an ecologically devastated world, the Enterprise gains a new intern, Amanda Rogers. Strange things begin happening, though, and Rogers begins demonstrating fantastical powers. When Q visit the ship and claims Rogers as one of his own, the crew faces a dilemma - do they allow an otherwise human girl to voluntarily take up with a being they know to be mischievous and maleficent?

The Q can cast shadows in any direction they want!


Matthew: Let's just get this out of the way - this is obviously where J.K. Rowling got the idea for Harry Potter. Magic young person whose parents were killed by villains but ends up claiming her magical birthright? Check. OK, now that that's out of the way, for me the big question of the episode is: does it feel like an obligatory Q episode, or does it stand on its own as worthwhile? On the balance, I'm going to say yes, but with reservations. I do think it presents us with an interesting angle (though not a completely original one, since "Hide and Q" told a very similar story with Commander Riker, who for whatever reason completely fails to mention this to Amanda) on the Q concept, and a good sci-fi wish fulfillment quandary - what if you suddenly realized you had unlimited power? It is inherently interesting, and at least in this respect it holds my attention.

Kevin: I agree. Of all the Q outings, this felt the most obligatory. Even Qpid, which went for more light-hearted fare felt more natural and organic. I hadn't thought of the Riker angle, but you're right. A scene with him telling about his experience would have been awesome. The story itself is not a very new one, essentially being a repackaged Ring of Gyges. But just because it's old doesn't mean its not good. We've trotted out old parables before to much success.

Matthew: But core concept aside, things falter a bit as the script wears on. The ecological disaster angle went basically unused except for one preachy line about not regulating the cause of the pollution. It felt tacked on, and unnecessarily so. Eventually, Amanda removes the pollution from the Tagran atmosphere, the the music seems to indicate that we're intended to feel some sort of emotion. But I don't, because they Tagrans were basically non-entities. I cared much more about the Ventaxians (Devil's Due) or the Malcorians (First Contact).

Kevin: Yeah, the Tagrans felt very tacked on, and it careened dangerously close to soppy preaching. I think part of the problem for me is the stakes in neither the A nor the B plot felt very well realized. The Tagrans themselves weren't very interesting, and the threat to kill Amanda never felt..."real"...I guess is what I'm going for. Given that they can easily strip a Q of powers, it seems like the focus should remain "keep or don't keep the powers." The threat to her life felt artificially tense.

Matthew: This really should have been the episode in which all sorts of questions about the Q got answered. I understand that they couldn't do so in "Hide and Q," because that story was more about the Riker character and his relationships. But Amanda? Who cares. Use her as a Mary Sue to get us an insight into the Q continuum, instead of giving us long, talky discussions of how much she loves her parents. How and why did members of the Q continuum visit Earth before they were deemed interesting by the Q? Why not just travel through time to visit Amanda's real parents? What "superior morality" is Q referencing? Are there Q who perform good deeds like Amanda's, or is that totally passe? This episode just ends up punting on a lot of Q nature, in favor of a somewhat dull tale about Amanda. In that respect it's a missed opportunity. I wanted more scenes like the hide and seek bit and the Riker-controlling bit, since these get to the real heart of the story - what would you do if you discovered you had unlimited power? Heck, when she suggested resurrecting Jack Crusher, maybe she should have done it.

Kevin: Yeah, I think there was a great opportunity to really hold a mirror up to Amanda after the Riker scene. She seems to eventually reject it because she doesn't want Riker's "fake" affections, but there's no real analysis that what she did, had it gone further would have been sexual assault. She seemed, at least for a moment, to be ready to disregard Riker's free will and autonomy, both mentally and physically. In Hide and Q, Riker just got cocky. Here, there was an opportunity to have a person we ostensibly view as good almost casually commit a hideous act because they are removed from a sense of consequence. And Matt, stop looking into my brain and stealing my ideas. The minute she asked if Crusher would bring back Jack if she could, I wanted to see that happen. Even if Amanda made it so accidentally, like wishing for the puppies,  it would have been an awesome and heart-rending scene for Crusher.

Matthew: It could have been too cruel for the character, or it could have precipitated too big a change in the series structure. Either she has to say hi, sorry, my life is fine now that you;re dead, or she has to take up with him again and the show gains a new character. I understand why the editorial staff wouldn't or couldn't approve either tack. But at least it would have been interesting. Minor questions - Why wouldn't Picard want to argue with Q in front of Amanda? What level of help is the Federation willing or able to give the Tagrans? They seemed content with helping them install filters, as opposed to fixing their atmosphere. Were they a member planet? Was the Prime Directive in play at all? Their problems seem similar in scope to the Ornarans and Brekians of "Symbiosis."


Matthew: Olivia D'Abo is charming enough as an actress, but she seems oddly sleepy here. She never excited me, or made me feel anything in particular for her character. So I'm going to have to call this a "miss" on her guest casting. John De Lancie, of course, was superb as always. He delivers snark with an undercurrent of menace better than anyone I can think of. He was the definite highlight of this show.

Kevin: I like D'Abo in other things, The Wonder Years springing to mind, so I'm willing to chalk it up to the undercooked character in the writing, but I would agree she didn't transcend it as another actor might. De Lancie certainly wasn't phoning it in by any means, but without a grander story to tell, Q doesn't get to really shine. What he did, he did very well, as always, but even the hide and seek portion read a little rote for me.

Matthew: I liked the relationship between Amanda and Crusher, and I think this owes itself mostly to the strengths of Gates McFadden. She really portrays nurturing well, but also seems like a fully realized, independent character with her own internal life. I was sad that Marina Sirtis was relegated to such a bit part, especially since Counselor Troi could really have come in handy at various points in this tale.

Kevin: I agree completely. Even her sense of annoyance and disappointment at the experiment tampering was really well realized. She was clearly pouring a lot of fondness into the final scene on the Bridge; it's a shame the script didn't give them more a story to back it up.

Production Values

Matthew: I like the additional room in sickbay. It's always nice to see extra portions of the ship, even if it's something like a shelf of tricorders and a random Okudagram. The cargo bay looked nice, too, what with its yellow containers and shuttlecraft and all.

Kevin: I always thought that there was a lot of shelf space per tricorder, which bothers me for some reason. I was not overly impressed by the Tagran planet or the transformation effect. It felt like we've seen it before, and better done.

Matthew: The view outside ship during "hide and seek" was great in concept, but the execution left something to be desired. It was pretty obvious that it was a close-up shot of the model, and the model lacked the detail from that distance to make it convincing with a person "standing" atop it. We should have seen windows with interior scenes, small decals, dirt and grime, and so on. The pretty obvious optical compositing effects, with their requisite bad lighting matches, contributed to this feeling outside the ship, as well as in the warp core.

Kevin: Sometimes, the compositing problem is one you have to hunt for, or shows up more on a DVD than it would have on TV or VCR, but not here. It was a neat idea, and I always applaud ambition, but this is definitely one of the most obvious blue-screens we've seen in a while.

Matthew: OMG, Deanna's terrible wig returns. This is an unsettling trend.

Kevin: I join you in counting down to Chain of Command when Troi finally starts to look good again.


Matthew: I think this is a mildly entertaining show that fails to transcend the mushy middle of the series. John De Lancie makes it worthwhile viewing, but a weak script that fails to ask or answer salient story questions leaves this one feeling a bit under cooked. It's a 3 for me.

Kevin: They either could have a told a light-hearted version of Hide and Q, centered on Amanda, or really put some meat on the bones and tell Hide and Q the way it should have been done, but they did neither. It's not a bad episode really, it just doesn't go beyond average. It's a 3 for me as well for a total of 6.

1 comment:

  1. I wasn't thinking of really raising Jack from the dead permanently. Like when she mentions it, she hears Jack's voice, and turns around and freaks before Amanda undoes it. Then Beverly could seriously lose her shit and maybe Amanda would be completely horrified and make her forget what had happened. That would have added some punch to the adolescent Q routine.