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As Star Trek expert Robert Meyer Burnett has pointed out, Star Trek doesn’t really have villains, it has antagonists. These aren’t mere mustache-twirling “bad guys,” but antagonists who nonetheless have a perspective, a point of view and a fully rounded character that leads them into opposition with our valiant heroes of Starfleet time after time. And for my money, the best of them all is Q, the omnipotent extradimensional being who pops up like the bad penny time and again to bedevil Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation, challenging Picard’s notions of humanity’s worth, and sometimes just to gain some satisfaction out of puncturing Picard’s ego. It’s a character I have long loved watching, and currently am greatly enjoying writing, and you all can see the fruits of those labors this Wednesday when the first issue of STAR TREK: THE Q CONFLICT hits stores. While we wait to see what Q’s latest misadventure is, let’s take a look back through my 13 favorite Q moments from the Star Trek universe.
- Here Comes the Judge
Q’s first appearance came in the very first episode of TNG, in “Encounter at Farpoint,” in which he put Captain Picard and the rest of humanity on trial for being a savage race. When Captain Picard’s security officer Tasha Yar objected, Judge Q (as played by John deLancie in a debut performance that guaranteed numerous return engagements) overruled her objection in a most chilling fashion…
- Q and Guinan Have a History
When Q returned in the second season, he encountered the Enterprise’s new barkeep, Guinan, and from their threatening posture toward one another, it was clear that there was no love lost between them, and that there was much more to Guinan than met the eye…
- Q Gets the Point
This hostility toward Q would resurface with Guinan again in the third-season episode “Deja Q,” in which Q has been stripped of his powers and flees to the Enterprise for sanctuary. Guinan has doubts that Q is really mortal and determines so in the simplest manner possible: by driving a fork into his hand.
- Another Try at Humanity
This isn’t my first opportunity to write for Q. A few years back, my co-writer David Tipton and artist Elena Casagrande got to tackle ALIEN SPOTLIGHT: Q, a tale in which Q returns to once again get a taste of what it’s like to be human, this time by taking over the body of one Jean-Luc Picard.
Q would soon find out that even the smallest of interactions isn’t quite as easy as he’d imagined. I’m really fond of this little one-shot Q tale, which can be found in the trade paperback ALIEN SPOTLIGHT, VOLUME 2 or digitally at Comixology.
His powers returned, Q was back to his old tricks in the fourth-season episode “Qpid,” in which Q transports Picard and his crew back to the days of Sherwood Forest, taking on the roles of Robin Hood and his Merry Men. Naturally, who else would Q play but the Sheriff of Nottingham?
- Oh Heavenly Q
Q’s most surprising entrance, no doubt, came in the sixth-season episode “Tapestry,” in which a gravely injured Picard dies on Dr. Crusher’s operating table, leading to his meeting up with an angelic Q, who greets him thusly: “Welcome to the afterlife, Jean-Luc. You’re dead.”
- Knockout Q
Picard wasn’t the only Starfleet Captain Q would bedevil. On his sole appearance on Deep Space Nine, Q challenged Sisko to an old-timey boxing match, only to get sent to the floor by a right cross, which left Q crying “You hit me! Picard never hit me!”
- I Only Have Eyes for Q
Things would get even weirder with the other Starfleet captain Q would encounter, Kathryn Janeway of Star Trek: Voyager, in the third-season episode “The Q and the Grey.” Determined to sire a child to combine the best elements of humanity and the Q, Q makes an effort to seduce Janeway that is as hilarious as it is fruitless.
- Q Victorious
In probably his most notable defeat over Picard, in the episode “Q-Who?” he hurls the Enterprise farther out in space than they’ve ever traveled, to prove his point that humanity isn’t ready for the terrors that await them. After an encounter with the Borg cripples Picard’s ship and claims the lives of eighteen of his crew, Picard is forced to admit their weakness and ask Q to return them to safety, which he does, but not before gloating just a little about the wonders that await them: “It’s not for the timid.”
- Ay Qaramba!
For sheer yucks, nothing is better than the hilarious moment when Q regains his powers in “Deja Q” and decides to throw a party on the Bridge, complete with a mariachi band.
- A Final Test
In the final episode of TNG, “All Good Things,” Captain Picard is forced to solve a mystery across three distinctly different periods in his life, hurtling back and forth between them thanks to, as always, interference from Q. At adventure’s end, when Picard succeeds and finds himself back in the courtroom from their first encounter, he thanks Q, realizing that Q had been subtly helping Picard all along, and for the first time, we see genuine affection in Q’s face, as he admits, “well, I was the one who got you into it.” A very sweet little moment that pays off years of antagonism in their relationship.
- Q Anew
If I may be so self-indulgent, let’s look at a heretofore unrevealed moment from my upcoming series THE Q CONFLICT, in which Picard has called Q to the carpet for the damages his war among the godlike beings of the cosmos is doing to the all-too-mortal inhabitants of Picard’s reality. And as so often happens, arguing with Q leads you to places you most definitely don’t want to go…
- Thank Q
And finally, my favorite Q moment of all comes once again from the third-season episode “Deja Q,” in which Q, his powers returned, seeks to thank his “Professor of the Humanities” Data for his help while Q was trapped in human form, and does so in a way distinctly Q-like and surprisingly touching.