The Enterprise is preparing to help the planet of Bre'el IV; a moon is slipping out of orbit, and if they don't do something, it will strike the planet and cause immense devastation. Suddenly Q appears, suspended high in midair and completely naked. He falls lightly to the floor and says cheekily, "Red alert."
After being given clothes to put on (which he whines about, since the gray-and-green jumpsuit is not the captain's uniform he usually adopts), Q tells them that the Q Continuum has kicked him out, stripped him of his powers, and banished him to a mortal form. Given a fraction of a second to decide what to be turned into and where to be sent, he chose human form and requested to be sent to the Enterprise. Since Q has toyed with the crew of the Enterprise on numerous occasions already, Picard is not convinced that this isn't some attempt by Q at a "puerile joke" and demands that Q fix the moon. Q insists he cannot, because he has no powers. Picard is still skeptical. When Q further insists, asking what it would take to prove that he is indeed mortal now, Worf quips that he should "die".
Picard has Worf escort Q to the brig after Q insists on being treated like just any other human. After spending some time there, Q begs Picard to let him out, telling him that he can assist him with the whole moon problem, saying that while he might not have his powers any more, he still remembers a lot about astrophysics. Picard finally agrees to let him out, and puts Data in charge of him. While working with Data and Geordi, Q comes up with the idea of changing the gravitational constant of the Universe. Geordi scoffs that changing the nature of the universe is not within their power, but then realizes that proper application of the ship's power could create a local warp field around a part of the moon, allowing for a gravitational adjustment sufficient to solve the problem.
Q eventually gets hungry, and goes to Ten-Forward with Data. Being new to the whole concept of having to consume nutrition, Q struggles decide on what he should eat for his first meal, so Data remarks that Counselor Troi often eats a chocolate sundae when she feels depressed. Q reasons that since he is in an absolutely dreadful mood from being made human, the solution must be to eat ten chocolate sundaes. As they wait for Q's order, Guinan decides to check on them, much to Q's outspoken chagrin. Having heard that Q has lost his powers, Guinan decides to test it by stabbing his hand with a fork. "Seems human enough to me," she quips as Q cries out in pain. When the sundaes arrive, Q grumbles that he's lost his appetite.
While Q is in Ten-Forward, aliens called the Calamarain find and attack him. Guinan remarks that some of Q's old enemies found out he was now mortal and have come to "look him up." Raising the shields succeeds in discouraging the Calamarain. Q remarks that they have no sense of humor.
Riker and Picard question Q on the appearance of the Calamarain, asking Q what exactly he did to make them so angry at him. "Nothing bizarre, nothing grotesque," answers Q, trying to be vague, but Riker effortlessly sees through this: Q, as usual, used his powers to torment them for kicks. Picard then figures that Q actually had a ulterior motive in asking to become a human and be placed on the Enterprise. Q being Q, he must have made numerous lifeforms across the universe mad at him for some reason or another, and he definitely knew some of them would be angry enough to try to exact revenge on him now that he was mortal. And he figured that being placed on the Enterprise could offer him some means of protection against them. Q answers that he is indeed right; he knows that it is in human nature to value forgiveness and compassion, and he therefore reasoned that the crew of the Enterprise would feel compelled to protect him, even if they disliked him. Riker points out that keeping Q's enemies at bay could easily become a full time job; a really annoying one. Picard agrees, and says he is sorely tempted to drop off Q at the nearest starbase and let them deal with him. Q protests that now that he is human, he has the ability to learn to better himself and could prove a valuable member of the crew. Data vouches for him, pointing out that he did indeed help Geordi in coming up with the solution to the moon problem. Realizing the logic in Data's statement, the crew reluctantly agrees to have Q stay for now and send back him to Engineering to continue to help Geordi and Data with the problem.
The presence of the Calamarain is starting to interfere with the Enterprise's mission. In trying to attack Q again, they start blasting the ship so it is knocked into the planet's atmosphere. A Calamarain manages to get past the shield and attacks Q directly, but Data jumps to save him, taking the bulk of a powerful shock from the creature, meant for Q, knocking both of them out.
As Doctor Crusher and Geordi try to repair the damaged Data in sickbay, Crusher notices that if Data had been mortal, he would have been done for. Q sulks that he actually is mortal, but managed to survive the attack, and points out Data is stronger than him, so obviously it should not be that big of a problem for him, prompting Picard to chew Q out for his selfishness and order him escorted out. Geordi tells Picard that while they can continue with the current plan to accomplish their mission, it would require lowering the shields which would probably prompt the Calamarain to try to attack Q again, but in Geordi's opinion Q is not worth saving.
As Picard mulls over the events in the ready room, Q enters to speak with him. Q admits that Picard is completely right in calling him extremely selfish, noticing that it served him well when he was omnipotent, but he realizes that now that he is mortal it is a really poor trait. In fact, the brush of death he received with the Calamarain's attack has caused Q to seriously ponder his mortality. "I could have been killed. If it hadn't been for Data and that one brief delay he created, I would have been gone. No more me. And no one would have missed me, would they? Data may have sacrificed himself for me. Why?" asks Q. "That is his special nature. He learned the lessons of humanity well," answers Picard. Q replies that he knows he would not have done the same for Data, and that makes him feel rather ashamed. Q concludes that, all in all, he truly doesn't have what it takes to be human. "Without my powers, I'm frightened of everything. I'm a coward, and I'm miserable, and I can't go on this way."
Q visits the now conscious Data in the sickbay, and thanks him for saving his life, earnestly telling him that while he still finds the android's desire to be more human weird and rather ridiculous, he has already proven that he is a better human than himself. Q then takes a shuttle-craft out to distract the Calamarain so that the Enterprise can try another tractor beam on the moon. Picard contacts the shuttle-craft and tries to talk Q out of it, but Q refuses, dismissing his life as a human as a "dismal failure", and hopes that with this act of self-sacrifice he can at least achieve something worthwhile before he dies. Against Picard's better judgment, the crew tries to rescue him, but finds that all of the controls that could retrieve or protect the shuttle-craft are suddenly non-functional, without any explanation.
Meanwhile as Q continues onward, another Q joins him on the shuttle and explains that, due to the selfless act he just committed, the Continuum decided he could have his powers back, if he promises to at least try to show some better behavior and not randomly torment lower lifeforms for kicks as often as last time. (Besides, if Q actually died, there would be questions and investigations for millennia.) Q snaps his fingers and gets his Starfleet uniform back. The other Q disappears. The Calamarain reappear, and Q gathers them into a tiny little ball that he can hold in the palm of his hand, and begins to say that if they thought he tormented them before... but then Other Q's head appears in the wall, giving him an admonishing look. "Just checking to see if you were still watching," Q says, then blows on the Calamarain as if blowing out a candle, sending them away.
On the Enterprise, they find no further reading from the shuttle, and Picard concludes that maybe this could really be the last they will ever hear of Q. A strangely wistful moment of silence amongst the crew passes, before the shuttle is suddenly back in its bay and Q appears on the bridge, shouting "Au contraire, mon capitaine! He's back!", at the top of his lungs, before breaking into a trumpet solo with a Mariachi band accompanying him. Happy to have his powers and immortality back, he declares that he is in the mood to celebrate, and everybody gets cigars! Two women appear on each side of Commander Riker, fawning over him. Riker says, "I don't need your fantasy women", to which Q replies "Oh, you're so stolid! You weren't like that before the beard!" Riker gives him a rather cryptic look, and in a flash, the same women appear next to a bewildered Worf. Picard gets angry and tells Q to get rid of everything, the band, the women, "ALL of it." and the cigars.
Q reluctantly complies, but then says he wants to give a special gift to Data, his tutor in the humanities. Data says, "If your intention is to make me human, Q—" and Q quickly says, "No, no, no, no, no, I would never curse you by making you human. Think of it... as a going-away present." Q disappears, and seconds later, Data makes a snerking sound, like he's trying to suppress a laugh. He does it again, and then breaks out into full-blown hysterical laughter. Geordi asks why he's laughing; Data, regaining composure, says he doesn't know, but it's a wonderful... feeling.
Soon afterwards, the inhabitants of Bre'el IV contact the ship and say, "Picard, you've done it!" Their moon is back in a stable orbit. Picard is naturally confused, but humbly accepts the credit for saving their world. Picard prepares to get the ship underway, and muses, "Perhaps there's a... residue of humanity in Q after all." He raises his hand to say Engage, getting as far as "En—" when a cigar flashes into his hand and Q's face appears in the smoke, saying, "Don't bet on it, Picard."
Tropes in this episode:
- Actually Pretty Funny: Riker has to hold back a laugh following Worf's single word Deadpan Snarker moment below.
- Big Damn Heroes: Lampshaded by Q; Defied by the other Q. When the Enterprise tries to stop Q's suicide run, "Q2" stops them so the two Qs can have their conversation uninterrupted.
- Big Eater: Q orders 10 chocolate sundaes, on the logic that since he's never eaten before, he must be very hungry. Guinan spoils his appetite before he can eat them, however.
- Big "SHUT UP!": When Q really gets on Worf's nerves:Worf: BE QUIET! Or disappear back where you came from!
Q: I can't disappear, any more than you could win a beauty contest.
- Break the Haughty: Guinan, who has a unique history herself with Q, gets plenty of satisfaction from Q's mortality. She stabs him in the hand to make sure he is indeed mortal.
- Breather Episode: Its one of the few episodes of Star Trek to be an out-and-out comedy, complete with enough ham to feed a family of four and multiple sight gags, and its sandwiched in between an episode about the morality of terrorism and one about a cold-blooded murder.
- Brought Down to Normal: Q. He does not deal with it well.
- But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Q on previously tormenting the Calamarain.Q: A subjective term, Riker. One creature's torment is another creature's delight.
- The Cameo: The second Q is played by a very young and uncredited Corbin Bernsen. Due to his role as Arnold Becker on L.A. Law, Corbin was a major star at the time; his appearance was pretty much a Celebrity Cameo.
- Cassandra Truth: Nobody believes Q after being told he's been thrown out of the Continuum and stripped of his powers.
- Contemplating Your Hands: The other Q does this a lot. Probably not used to even having hands.
- Cool and Unusual Punishment: Being Brought Down to Normal gives Q a crash course in humility and selflessness, after which he's welcomed back to the Continuum, however grudgingly.
- *Crack!* "Oh, My Back!": Q experiences this in Engineering. Crusher treats him, but without any sympathy.
- Deadpan Snarker:
- Worf gets his jollies with a single word.
- And at the end of the scene:Picard: Fine. You want to be treated as human?
Picard: Alright. Mr. Worf, throw him in the brig.
Worf: Delighted, Captain.
- After Q's powers are restored:
- Dirty Coward: Q acknowledges how he's this without his powers, and it actually disgusts him.
- Driven to Suicide: Eventually Q realizes that he simply cannot stand all the limitations of being a human and that he will never be a good person, and opts to kill himself by hijacking a shuttlecraft and leading the Calamarains away from the Enterprise.
- The Dog Bites Back: Q previously tormented the Calamarain and now they are returning for revenge.
- Entitled Bastard: Q asked his peers to drop him off on the Enterprise after depowering him because he figured that, despite all the trouble he's caused Picard & crew, they'd protect him when his other enemies came looking for revenge.
- Epunymous Title: As is tradition with Q episodes.
- Eureka Moment: After Q's idea to change the gravitational constant of the entire universe isn't well-received (largely because it's impossible for mere humans), Geordi realizes that they can do the same thing on a smaller scale by wrapping the moon with a low-level warp field, reducing its gravitational constant and making it light enough to push.
- Everyone Has Standards: Turns out that the rest of the Continuum don't approve of Q tormenting other beings for his own amusement.
- Q himself realizes what a pathetic coward he is who wouldn't risk his life for someone who would do the same for him, and is disgusted by it.
- Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Okay, Q's not evil, but he admits he just can't understand why Data would risk his life to save him. He does, though, admit he feels ashamed that he wouldn't do the same if the situation was reversed.
- Facepalm: Picard is in the midst of one when Q tells him he's the closest thing Q has to a friend, causing him to look up in surprise. This is the source of the iconic "Picard Single Hand Facepalm Maneuver", as well as the image on the main trope page — which should tell you a lot about this episode.
- First Time Feeling: Q finds sleep (loss of consciousness) and pain to be terrifying experiences.
- Funny Background Event: When Q starts playing with the Mariachi band in the end, there is a wide shot of the bridge crew. Notice Worf just dropping his head down and shaking it in resigned frustration.
- Gratuitous French: Despite the Mexican costume and the Mariachi band Q brought with him.
- Gratuitous Mariachi Band: How Q celebrates becoming omnipotent again.
- Ham-to-Ham Combat: Surprisingly, the other Q manages to out-ham our Q.
- Heel Realization: Q's confession to Picard in the ready room.
- Heroic Sacrifice:
- Subverted. Q almost made one of these, but his selfless actions impress the Continuum so much that they give him his powers back.
- Data does one for Q; fortunately, he's Not Quite Dead.
- He's Back: The ending.Picard: Well...I suppose that is the end of Q.
(flash, revealing Q with a mariachi band)
Q: AU CONTRAIRE, MON CAPITAINE! HEEEEEE'S BACK!
(band begins playing "La Paloma")
- Humanity Ensues: For Q. Even though he picked it among all possible mortal races, he soon finds that he's rather terrible at being human.
- Humans Are Special: Why Q chooses to be sent to the Enterprise. Or possibly, "Humans are nice enough that they'll look after me and protect me when they realize I'm actually in trouble, despite the fact that I've been a jerkass to them in the past." Either way, he's right. The second Q acknowledges his astonishment that they would still try to save him despite getting nothing but grief.
- Irony: Q tells Data that there are beings in the universe who could consider him the ultimate achievement for not having the very emotions that he covets. Q also says Data is a better human than he'll ever be.
- Jerkass Ball: Guinan takes firm hold of this in relation to Q.Data: The captain and many of the crew are not yet convinced he is truly human.
Guinan: Really? [stabs Q's hand with a fork, eliciting a pained response] Seems human enough to me.
- Karma Houdini Warranty: Remember how Q regularly throws the Enterprise into danger and chaos? Or how in his previous appearance he forced the ship into contact with the Borg, got 18 members of the crew killed, and when Riker called him out on his actions, he just mockingly dismissed him and refused to save the ship until Picard begged for his help? It turns out that his own species was so appalled by his behavior that they stripped him of his power and kicked him out of the Continuum.
- Kick Them While They Are Down:
- The Calamarain. Riker predicts that a bunch more of Q's old victims would line up to do the same, to the point that protecting him would be a full-time job.
- Also Guinan towards Q, especially after the first Calamarain attack.Q: HELP ME! SOMEBODY HELP ME!
Guinan: How the mighty have fallen...
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Riker orders Q to get rid of the women fawning over him, prompting Q to remark on his Character Development.Q: You're so stolid! You weren't like that before the beard.
- Miserable Massage: Dr. Crusher administers one of these to the recently-made-human Q to relieve his back spasm which causes him to complain in-between cries of pain.
- Q: "Your bedside manner is admirable, Doctor. I'm sure your patients recover quickly just to get away from you."
- Naked on Arrival: The Continuum doesn't see fit to provide Q with clothes to go with his new mortal body.
- Naked People Are Funny: The Q Continuum clearly has a twisted sense of humor.
- Noodle Incident:
- How did the other Q misplace an entire asteroid belt?
- We already knew from "Q Who?" that Q and Guinan had a lengthy history. This episode does not provide any detail, just some visceral satisfaction on Guinan's part over Q's predicament.
- Not Me This Time: The crew thinks Q is behind the moon's collapse.
- Passive Rescue: Attempted. As Q attempts his Heroic Sacrifice, Picard, noting this "goes against his better judgement," decides to save Q... by focusing on saving the shuttle. As he notes to Riker, "It's a perfectly good shuttlecraft."
- Pet the Dog:
- Q tries to do this to the Enterprise crew after becoming omnipotent again. First, giving Riker some beautiful women fawning for him, then giving them to Worf when Riker turns them down. He finally succeeds, giving Data one brief laugh.
- He does also fix the moon for them and let them take the credit for it.
- Planet of Steves: This episode establishes that everybody in the Q Continuum is called "Q". However, for simplicity's sake, John de Lancie's Q is referred to as the Q. The script names the other Q "Q2".
- Reality Ensues: Riker suggest blasting the moon. This is shot down since as Data points out, blasting it to pieces would simply mean a greater number of smaller chunks of rock raining down.
- Q is so used to being a Reality Warper that his advice is based around being one, so his advice about changing the gravitational constant of the universe is no help since humans can't do that. Geordi does however get an idea that could use.
- Reality Warper: Q's solution for solving the falling moon problem is to change the gravitational constant of the universe, which he obviously can't do anymore (and which would mess everywhere else up!). Geordi realizes, however, that he can use the Enterprise's warp drive to do the same thing on a smaller scale.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Guinan gives Q a blistering one in Ten Forward, ruining his appetite.
- Skewed Priorities: Q claims that the loss of his powers is a more serious problem than the crisis facing Bre'el IV.
- Space Clothes: Q does not approve of the drab-green and gray jumpsuit provided after his naked arrival."These aren't my colors!"
- Stock Footage: A brief reaction shot of Troi in the observation lounge when Q is informing the crew about the Calamarain is taken from "Evolution", twelve episodes prior.
- This Is Gonna Suck: Q's reaction when Guinan shows up in Ten Forward and sees him as a mortal:Q: This is not a moment I've been looking forward to.
- You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: Picard's reaction to Q's request for compassion.
- You Would Do the Same for Me: Averted. After Data saves Q from a Calamarain attack, Q is actually sufficiently embarrassed and humbled to admit to Picard that he would not have done the same for Data.