Star Trek: Voyager: The Q and the Grey   Rewatch 
July 3, 2017 6:24 AM - Season 3, Episode 11 - Subscribe

When Q comes marching home again/ Hurrah! Hurrah!/ Janeway will tear her hair out then/ Hurrah! Hurrah!/ The ship will be rocked and the drums will roll/ The continuum will be out of control/ The captain saw right through ye/ Q, we hardly knew ye!

Memory Alpha appeals to the better angels of our nature:

- This installment was highly influenced by past Q episodes. As this Q episode was Ken Biller's first one, he watched the previous such episodes from the other series in an attempt to familiarize himself more with the character, for the writing of this episode (Voyager's second Q installment). Ken Biller eventually chose to elaborate on an idea that Shawn Piller (the son of co-executive producer Michael Piller) had for an episode: Q desiring to mate with Janeway. Biller also took inspiration from the first Q episode of Star Trek: Voyager, "Death Wish", which had proceeded from a story thought up by Shawn Piller. For example, the concept of the Q Civil War was influenced by Q warning, in that episode, that the suicide of any Q would have disastrous repercussions for not only the Continuum itself but also the entire galaxy. Concerning the genesis of his idea for the Q Civil War, Biller related, "I thought, what would happen if there was a war in the Q Continuum? It would have all sorts of disastrous implications for the space that we were flying through. We started to refer to it as the Q civil war." Biller also reused, from "Death Wish", the idea of Q demonstrating the Q Continuum to Janeway in a way that she could conceive of it. The writer recalled, "In a previous episode Q took everybody to the Continuum, and [showed] it to them in a way that their puny little minds could comprehend. It suddenly occurred to me that if Q was trying to make Janeway understand that the Q were having a civil war, he would allow her to perceive it in a way that she would have some cultural context to place it in, like the American Civil War."

- Before portraying the female Q here, Suzie Plakson also played the Klingon/Human hybrid K'Ehleyr and the Vulcan Dr. Selar on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Accordingly, in this episode, the female Q comments about both species.

- The exterior scenes of this episode were shot in Los Angeles' Griffith Park, an oft-used filming location well known for its observatory (where scenes of Star Trek: Voyager had previously been filmed, for the earlier third season episodes "Future's End" and "Future's End, Part II").

- Q's quote about how the Q have never reproduced before is interesting as, in TNG: "True Q", Amanda Rogers' parents are established as having been members of the Q Continuum and obviously procreated (although in their case, Amanda's parents conceived her by normal Human means, rather than the 'Q method' shown in this episode). In the same episode, Q tells Dr. Crusher that he "desperately" hopes she is right in claiming that he will never understand the appeal of humanoid babies. However, he is clearly emotionally attached to "Junior" by the end of this episode.

- An unofficial, fan-used nickname for the female Q is "Suzy Q", owing (at least partly) to the fact that the character was portrayed by Suzie Plakson.

"My cosmic clock is ticking!"

- Q

"Foreplay with a Q can last for decades!"

- Q trying to seduce Janeway

"I've never figured out what you see in this big oaf anyway. Is it the tattoo? 'Cause mine's bigger!"
"Not big enough."

- Q and Janeway, about Chakotay, with Q making a huge tattoo appear on his face

"Why don't I give you two some privacy?"
"Oh, Kathy, don't you like to watch?"

- Janeway and Q, just before the Qs mate

"That was it?!?"
"You had your chance. Don't go crying about it now."

- Janeway and Q, after witnessing the Qs mate

"You! Helm boy!"

- Female Q, to Tom Paris

"You! Bar rodent! Another one of these (pauses briefly when an attractive hologram goes walking by) fruity concoctions."

- Q, to Neelix

Poster's Log:

OK, I really had fun with this one, and not just because it includes the first completely explicit, unobscured portrayal of sexual intercourse that I'm aware of in the history of the franchise. (Although not the last, if a certain episode of Enterprise counts.) The cheesy-stupid way in which Q goes about wooing Janeway gives way to his pitching the idea of a semi-divine messiah being the salvation of his people; usually the demigod is the salvation of the mortals, not the gods themselves. (There is arguably precedent in Trek with Benjamin Sisko, who may be the salvation not only of Bajor but also the Prophets themselves; you could also argue for Will Decker and the Ilia-probe (who might also be the antecedent for triple-X cosmic sex on the screen, depending on how you interpret the *ahem* "upload" scene) in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. There's also arguably a modern out-of-franchise example in, of all things, Steven Universe.) Q's apparent faith in the essential goodness of humanity is touching, but Janeway is probably right that, per Mencken, Q's version of the solution is neat, plausible, and wrong.

That the latter part of this is set during a Civil War re-enactment is also OK; I prefer it to the fanservicealicious Club Med holodeck hangout that seems to be the default program this season. (I did muse that, if someone had been shot in the arm during the real Civil War, his limb would have been hacked off in seconds at a medical tent before gangrene could set in.) Susie Plakson, aka K'Ehleyr and a couple of others in the franchise, is in fine form as a Q who's even more arch than the usual one, and of course John De Lancie is just having a blast, obviously.

Poster's Log, supplemental: For the above-the-cut text, I decided to mash up "When Johnny Comes Marching Home", which is an authentic Civil War song, with "Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye", a rewrite of the lyrics some years after the war in which Johnny isn't recognized when he comes back from the war because parts of him are missing. We've used the latter in the tags more than once, probably based off of this book.
posted by Halloween Jack (9 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Memory Alpha link: http://memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/The_Q_and_the_Grey_(episode) When I posted this, somehow that URL ended up as the title of the episode, thanks to the mods for fixing it.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:03 AM on July 3


Particle of the Week: Beta-tachyons and antiprotons both make an appearance in Suzy-Q's technobabble.
Pointless STO Comparison of the Week: Q-Junior is responsible for all goofy holiday events in Star Trek Online, making things like Klingons ice fishing for crappy sweaters actual game canon rather than holodeck events or the like. (And seriously, deal with those sweaters.)

Ongoing Counts: Cut and pasted from last week again.
* Maximum Possible Photon Torpedoes: 23.
* Shuttles: Down 3.
* Crew: 143.
* Other: 47 bio-neural gelpacks remaining, maybe 25-50% of the escape pods should be gone at this point.
* Credulity Straining Alpha Quadrant Contacts: 8.
* Janeway's Big Red Button: 2 aborted self-destructs, 1 successful.

Notes:
* Surprisingly, there is a piece of accurate science in all this.

In a rare case of Star Trek technobabble being accurate-ish, Janeway's assertion that supernovas happen 'once a century' isn't too far off. I googled, and the current figure is around 1 per 50 years according to what I was skimming, with 1 to 3 per century being an accepted figure in earlier times. I'm now curious if this was a factoid one of the writers actually knew, or a lucky guess. (I can't speak to her claim that so few Starfleet vessels have actually seen one up close - it feels like this sort of thing happened every other week on TNG, but I'm not about to check.)

* Janeway comes across pretty well here.

I will say that they have Janeway handling Q's actions with sufficient aplomb: she knows how to deflect his unwanted attention and she immediately shifts gears to try and save the Q Continuum without giving in to his (insane) demands when she understands the stakes.

Also:

The cheesy-stupid way in which Q goes about wooing Janeway gives way to his pitching the idea of a semi-divine messiah being the salvation of his people; usually the demigod is the salvation of the mortals, not the gods themselves.

This is an interesting point I wasn't really thinking about, and a very Trek angle on an old story: trying to get Janeway to save humanity via something like this never would've flown, but a request for aid fits into the way Trek stories work reasonably well.

That said, I actually totally hate this story. Heh.

* Guy pursues unwilling girl is not a genre I'm fond of.

And 'quasi-omnipotent godlike being pursues mortal woman' is worse for me, because of course, he can just pop up anywhere, and there's no way of getting rid of him without playing his game. I wish they'd spent a little less time on that, and a little more time on the other half of the story.

* Q's statements don't fit with prior canon very well.

Jack's already brought up Amanda Rogers. Q also tried to bring William Riker into the Continuum at their request, although it happened in that season we all agree was The Worst. Also, Q claims the Continuum 'always were,' when Quinn revealed that they ascended from mortality in some fashion right in Death Wish. (It's true that Q is probably just lying with that last one, but it's frustrating since he was present for Quinn telling Janeway this, and nobody denied it.)

* Events in the story don't make much sense.

In Death Wish, Janeway and Tuvok going to the Continuum via perceptual filtering was a clever idea because it's clearly a metaphor for big cosmic events that they wouldn't be able to get a handle on properly if they interacted directly.

Here, this is basically a Holodeck program with the safeties off: the Q are described as 'omnipotent,' but can't just send them home, and the crew of Voyager are able to engage with them as equals just because they're on the same plane of existence. No explanation is given for why mortals can operate at that level just because everything looks a certain way. (The notion that they're canceling each others' powers or something is a possible check on just banishing the crew from their realm, but doesn't really check with 'their forces are clearly mismatched,' or explain the crew's ability to use weapons meant for Q in the first place.)

* Didn't like the guys getting guns and the women getting dresses.

Janeway getting a dress totally worked since she was a noncombatant in this conflict, but Suzy-Q should've had a uniform and a weapon. I really can't see the Q hung up on gender roles.

* The Continuum is watered down.

The rule in horror movies is 'don't show the monster until you absolutely have to, because what you show will be less scary than what people imagine.' Deities in fiction work the same way: before all this, the Q were mysterious. Here, they're displayed as all being only about as mature as deLancie-Q, less wise and morally capable than humans. Worse, Voyager has a method to actually go to the Continuum and possibly even kill them, all attainable with their comparatively meager technology. (In my head, I'm picturing a fanfic of Jean Luc Picard going and giving them a stern talking to at gunpoint.)

I'll admit those ideas are all pretty Trekkish, but I preferred them mysterious and the universe just a little bigger than this story. This is also a good illustration of how compelling writing contributes to the willing suspension of disbelief for me: the stuff that happened with Amanda invalidates the idea in Death Wish, (her parents turned human and so the Continuum actually killed them, meaning death had come to their world years before Voyager), but I was distracted enough by how good it was not to start thinking about why it doesn't make sense.

Here, I wasn't feeling that. Heh.

That said, I could see how Mulgrew, deLancie and Plakson might win other viewers over and all. (If they were going to put in a brand new Q that deLancie-Q was supposedly involved with for literally billions of years, she was a good choice. Plakson's performance of Suzy-Q reminded me of nothing so much as Mxy's wife in Superman: TAS.)
posted by mordax at 8:56 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


I want the Gorn Christmas sweater, for real.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:27 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


All of this makes more sense if you pretend the Amanda Rogers thing never happened, just like the Borg make more sense if you pretend the TNG episode Descent never happened. My guess is that episode, "True Q" is immediately overshadowed by "Tapestry" which is one of the best episodes of the series.

Personally I like the Q backstory as laid out by the Q Continuum book series, which ties together several of the godlike beings met throughout Star Trek and claims the planet where the Guardian of Forever is found is in fact the Q Homeworld.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 11:31 AM on July 3 [2 favorites]


of course John De Lancie is just having a blast, obviously.
[...]
Guy pursues unwilling girl is not a genre I'm fond of.


I agree (and one of DS9's worst episodes was that very thing), and I found this episode a lot more icky before I knew that DeLancie and Mulgrew were friends IRL. Now, that fact, and the on-screen evidence that all parties involved are having a blast, are what save the episode for me.

Another example of that: the wacky spaghetti western zoom on Janeway and Q's faces when they're about to be shot. I disliked that when I was younger, but now I view it as a bit of wacky fun and, perhaps, an outgrowth of what Braga learned from "Future's End" about not being afraid to be nutty.

And you know, there's an actual story here, too, and one with some stakes. It's a little risky, building a whole episode around "The crew has to solve this alien race's problem that doesn't really affect them," but the show realized that its viewers care enough about Q to make it work.

Or rather, to make it work in the short term, because…

The Continuum is watered down.

Sadly, there are at least two more occasions of this show watering down species that had been established as basically omnipotent. And one's coming up pretty soon.

I want the Gorn Christmas sweater, for real.

Someone out there undoubtedly has knitted one. Perhaps several.

Personally I like the Q backstory as laid out by the Q Continuum book series, which ties together several of the godlike beings met throughout Star Trek and claims the planet where the Guardian of Forever is found is in fact the Q Homeworld.

Hah! No wonder the Guardian's so cagey.

Guardian: NOW LOOK. DON'T YOU GO ABUSING MY POWER, JUMPING BACK AND FORTH AND USING SPORTS ALMANACS AND WHATEVER TO MAKE YOURSELVES INTO GODS.

Kirk: But I'd...make a GREAT god.

Guardian: SERIOUSLY, KIRK, I'VE BEEN DOWN THIS ROAD. YOU'LL NEVER NAIL ANOTHER SPACE BABE, IT'LL ALL JUST BE FINGER-SEX. YOU WANT THAT, HUH? IT MAKES VULCAN HAND-SEX LOOK HOT.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 4:44 PM on July 3 [4 favorites]


Q appearing on Voyager and even DS9 shows why Q worked best with Picard as a verbal sparring partner. Picard easily tired of Q, but he wanted to win the argument and prove that humanity was a worthwhile resident of the universe. They would banter and Picard would give his grand speeches and Q would counter with a speech or scenario of his own. It was like watching a dance. Sisko and Janeway though? Sisko and Janeway do not have time to deal with this omnipotent imp.
posted by Servo5678 at 10:59 AM on July 5 [1 favorite]


Don't know what to say about this one. The Q episodes really aren't my favorites, in no small part due to them being ones that tend to preach the gospel of Rodenberry rather than exemplifying it I suppose. I've never really cared for the rah-rah humanity aspect of the show in that form all that much. It's somewhat interesting as a sort of ongoing storyline, with all the Q episodes being connected, but, at this point, I can't remember it adding up to much in the end, even with the later son of Q episode considered as part of it. I'll wait and see if it does somehow mean more to me in the end, but right now I mostly just see these as mildly enjoyable filler, with the enjoyment coming from watching the actors get a chance to have some fun.

Suzy Plakson was an excellent choice to bring back, she was a favorite of mine in TNG, so seeing her get a new role on Voyager is a lot of fun, and Mulgrew and deLancie obviously were enjoying working together, so no real complaints on that part of it as it was enjoyable enough, and seeing Qs insult the crew is amusing, so it wasn't a hard episode to sit through, just not one I tend to think of as one of the better ones from the show.

The morality on exhibit is questionable, from my perspective. As usual, a bit old-fashioned and not really all that deeply considered I think, or if so, not in an impressive way, even granting the issue of how Q's proposition frames the questions. Again, preachy, in a limited bourgeois sense tends to be how it reads to me.

Too bad B'Elanna seems to forget that shield modulation trick since a ten fold improvement would certainly help them out in later episodes at times.

Frickin' Neelix, barely in the episode, but manages to annoy disproportionately nonetheless.

Nice to see at least a nod at Chakotay and Janeway's little planet hideaway adventures, even if it was left mostly implicit.

Keeping the same holodeck program, silly as it is, also sort of pleases me just for the continuity of it and, as lame holodeck programs go, it seems a reasonable enough one for a crew to have, though why Neelix would be bartending, other than as an excuse to stick his nose in the rest of the crew's business is a bit much perhaps. It is his program though, so I guess he can play bar rodent if he wants to.

Those sweaters are great, but what is that last one? A fist punching a fish? I like the purple snow creature one myself.
posted by gusottertrout at 2:32 AM on July 6 [2 favorites]


why Neelix would be bartending, other than as an excuse to stick his nose in the rest of the crew's business is a bit much perhaps. It is his program though, so I guess he can play bar rodent if he wants to.

I figure by this point it was the only way he could get the holographic women to smile at him.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 3:00 AM on July 6 [2 favorites]


Those sweaters are great, but what is that last one? A fist punching a fish? I like the purple snow creature one myself.

... you know what? I never noticed that. Eyes skimmed right over it. Now, all I can see is a Klingon fist punching a baby seal, honestly. (I have no idea what it's supposed to be.)

The ice creature one is, I'm pretty sure, a nod to one of the events - you have to stop snowmen from doing something or other. (Not my area - I almost never do MMO holiday stuff.)

Too bad B'Elanna seems to forget that shield modulation trick since a ten fold improvement would certainly help them out in later episodes at times.

Yeah. That happens all the time in Trek, but it was particularly galling this time, especially since they had another established way to survive stars - Suzy-Q just should've given them a way to use metaphasic shielding. (And let them keep it, as it wasn't story-breaking.)

Don't know what to say about this one. The Q episodes really aren't my favorites, in no small part due to them being ones that tend to preach the gospel of Rodenberry rather than exemplifying it I suppose. I've never really cared for the rah-rah humanity aspect of the show in that form all that much.

Agreed.

The morality on exhibit is questionable, from my perspective. As usual, a bit old-fashioned and not really all that deeply considered I think, or if so, not in an impressive way, even granting the issue of how Q's proposition frames the questions. Again, preachy, in a limited bourgeois sense tends to be how it reads to me.

Also agreed.

Oh, another thought I had about the Q, in the context of this episode: I feel like they're pretty new to the whole 'god' thing. A lot of similarly cosmic entities don't really feel much need to engage with humanoid life, but the Q still really seem to relate to humans, for all their talk of being around for 'billions of years.' (Like, the Prophets barely speak to people even when it would help out, and they've explicitly taken the mantle of 'gods of Bajor.')
posted by mordax at 9:42 AM on July 6 [1 favorite]


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