Thursday, April 1, 2021

Voyager, Season 7: Q2

 Voyager, Season 2
Airdate: April 11, 2001
162 of 168 produced
162 of 168 aired


Captain Janeway receives an unexpected responsibility when Q visits her to drop of his son for an impromptu education.

Q, pondering the nature of bipedal species.


Kevin: To the extent I have a complaint about the Q episodes post TNG, it's that they lack the narrative energy and symmetry of the TNG outings. With a few exceptions (True Q and Hide and Q mostly), the Q episodes in TNG have an extra...something...that gives some dimension to the puckish humor. I think it's largely Picard himself. Picard takes his responsibilities and power extremely seriously, so to find a being of unlimited power who feels no such burden is really what makes Q the best 'villain.' Not only does he challenge Picard's conception of humanity, he literally stands in a way as a rejection of Picard's entire world view. This is a very roundabout way of saying, TNG Q has some shading that makes him more than comic relief. DS9 failed utterly to use Q, and I honestly don't think there was a good way for them to use him. Q's whole shtick is "You humans aren't all you're cracked up to be" and at least half the cast would nod in agreement, faintly surprised it was even in question. Voyager obviously has a lot of the same "We are the Federation and We. Do. The. Right. Thing." energy, but Q never quite felt like the narrative foil for Janeway he did for Picard. Death Wish is the best Voyager Q episode because it manages to really challenge Janeway in a way that only the Q could. The Q and the Grey was too confused to really land with the punch they wanted it to, though I will take any opportunity to see Suzie Plakson again. I know I'm taking my sweet time to get to this episode, but I want to lay out those priors to give some context to an idea my review is going to come back to a few times: 

This episode is fine. 

It's not bad by any stretch. At its core, it lays out a couple of central characters with an understandable if not exactly original conflict, and the cast responds to that story in ways largely keeping with their established characters. That said, this episode never really gets out of the 'blurb' stage for me. Nothing really happens in the episode that doesn't immediately spring to mind when reading the TV Guide summary. (I apologize for the anachronistic reference there. It was all I had.)

Matthew: In the pantheon of Q episodes in Star Trek, this is somewhere in the middle of the pack. It does not reach the heights of TNG's "Deja Q" and "Tapestry," or even Voyager's own "Death Wish." It also doesn't sink to the lows of DS9's "Q-Less." The closest qualitative analog is probably TNG's "True Q." The similarity, I think, is that these episodes don't really illuminate Q himself (that is, the one we're interested in, e.g. "Deja Q"), nor do they explore another character on a deep level (e.g. "Tapestry," "Death Wish"). Instead, it's sort of a mildly pleasant interlude that doesn't ask big questions  or put characters in difficult dilemmas that might lead to growth. Giving Janeway babysitting duty doesn't expand her character beyond anything with Seven of Nine. Q himself doesn't really visibly change or grow, as in "Deja Q," he just sort of accepts that he has to hang around with his kid. I also found the overall "moral message" to be a bit standard, with Q2 willingly sacrificing his status in order to Save Icheb (something already broached in "Deja Q").

Kevin: In the plus column, the episode is by and large enjoyable. Each individual scene largely works. Having Icheb on hand provides a nice foil to Q2 to actually show a relatively well adjusted teenager. Icheb has a sense of who is and the role, at least at the moment, he wants to play in this world, and that sense of belonging is something Q, omnipotent or no, cannot grant himself.

Matthew: Yeah, I enjoyed the rapport that Q2 and Icheb had. It was fun to watch on screen, and made this in many ways as much an Icheb episode as a Q episode. Icheb is a fine, upstanding young man with a sense of fun but also responsibility. He is destined for great things and will make a fine Starfleet officer. You know, until his unceremonious and gratuitous evisceration as Plot Fuel for Star Trek: Picard.

Kevin: In the minus column, the episode story both for the general father/son story, and specifically to the Q as applied felt pretty paint by number. Oh? The teenage boy made Seven's clothes disappear? Groundbreaking. I just can't shake the notion that they missed an opportunity to really delve into the interior life of the Q or have some interesting take on Q reckoning with his own rebellious youth. Death Wish did a much better job of invoking Q's uneven maturation process, and I just think that was some fertile ground they left untilled.

Matthew: Yeah, since this is (god willing) the last chance for Star Trek to delve into the concept of the Q, there were things I would have liked to see explored more. I am in complete agreement that "Death Wish" addressed existential issues for "Qness" in a much more interesting way. Here, we are just sort of supposed to accept that Q2 desires his father's approval in the same way that a primate evolving on Earth would - the kinds of approval and nurture that are the results of our environment and biology, as opposed to any sort of universal emotional need. There were a few lines here and there that hinted at the Q's "otherness," such as when Q2 averred that he didn't want to be a human, he wanted to be a Q. I found Q's own character journey to be a bit underdone. Is he now responsible? Did becoming a parent cause him to "mature?" What is maturation for a Q? Are other Q entities as irresponsible, or are they really interested in preserving order in the universe? As far as the conclusion goes, I thought they didn't do enough to hang a lampshade on the problem with Q in Voyager - why not send them home? If Q would refuse out of puckishness, why wouldn't Q2 do it?


Kevin: I've said this before, but the Voyager-era Q episodes largely get by on the chemistry of Mulgrew and de Lancie, real life friends. Throw in his real life son, and the same basic theory applies. I continue to find the basic story to be (here it is again) fine, but the acting throughout is definitely there. I think Intiraymi did a good job as well playing the classic nerd to the junior de Lancie's cool rebel.

Matthew: Keegan de Lancie had a bit of a lisp, which distracted me a tad, but overall his performance was pretty darned good. Fun fact - he eventually left acting to work in the US Foreign Service. The crew outside of Mulgrew and Intiraymi were relegated to small roles, but each spotlight worked. Mulgrew had a weird energy here for me, as though she were annoyed by the story or something.

Production Values

Kevin: This was pretty much a bottle episode, and it was (I really need a thesaurus) fine. My one actual critique is the 'courtroom' scene. There is just no reason for the other Q to appear as the 21st century judges from Encounter at Farpoint than trekkies will recognize them. And divorced from the sets, they look like weaker Drag Race entries. It's just the height of a lazy decision trading on my nostalgia. It's not offensive misuse (see: Star Trek Into Darkness), but it's not what it could have been.

Matthew: Indeed, the lack of ambition here is conspicuous. Both of Voyager's other Q episodes, for whatever their issues are, were sumptuous and interesting visually - Quinn's desert road was evocative, Quinn sent Voyager to the Big Bang, and "Q and the Grey" showed its budget on the screen with the Civil War sets and costumes. They could have at least showed us what life as a paramecium was like, or had Q2 take Icheb to a truly wondrous place.


Kevin: I've spent more time criticizing the episode than praising it, so it may seem a bit of an anticlimax to say that this is a solid 3 for me. For all the overfamiliarity or obvious story beats, I can't deny that the obvious was executed with competence. The finished product levels out to mildly diverting, and at no point bad. I think there is a real spiritual sequel to "Deja Q" in here somewhere and I wish they had tried for that, but what we got is...fine. And fine is a 3 on our scale.

Matthew: If I had been the show runner here, I would have sent it back for a rewrite to really focus on Icheb more. The interesting sci-fi question here is what it's like to be a Q - adolescent or otherwise. Why not have Q2 and Icheb really explore that? Go to some amazing places and don't get shot first thing. Show us why and how Icheb would reject the kind fo alluring party lifestyle that Q2 represents. Anyway, it is indeed a fine enough hour of TV, and I agree with the 3 for a total of 6.

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