Original air date: February 5, 1990
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 on the bridge, floating in the air and completely naked. He falls to the floor and says cheekily, "Red alert."
After being given some clothes, Q announces 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 on numerous occasions already, Picard is not convinced that this isn't some attempt 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 asks 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 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 says that all they need to do is change the gravitational constant of the universe. Geordi scoffs at that notion, 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 is new to all human experiences, including sleep and pain. When he realizes that he's hungry, he accompanies Data to Ten-Forward, where he meets Guinan. The two nemeses square off, and Guinan tests his claim of being human by stabbing his hand with a fork, causing him to yelp in pain. Suddenly, aliens called the Calamarain find and attack him. Guinan remarks that many of Q's old enemies will try to "look him up" now that he's helpless. Raising the shields succeeds in repulsing the Calamarain, but they don't leave.
Q's decision to seek sanctuary on the Enterprise is starting to make more sense to the crew. He's made quite a lot of enemies who would all like a little payback for his cruel games. Q admits that he is exploiting the human nature of the crew to value compassion and forgiveness and even suggests that he could learn to better himself. Data vouches for Q's value, noting that he helped figure out a solution to the moon problem. Picard relents and allows Q to stay on the ship and continue his work
The Calamarain continue to attack the ship and manage to blast it 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.
While Q is relatively unfazed, the damage to Data is severe. As Doctor Crusher and Geordi try to repair the android, Q downplays Data's heroics and makes a nuisance of himself until Crusher kicks him out of Sick Bay. With the Calamarain still committed to attacking him, however, he's still a liability to the ship. Geordi tells Picard that they need to drop their shields to fix the moon, which would probably prompt the Calamarain to try to attack Q again. In Geordi's opinion, Q is not worth saving.
As Picard mulls over recent 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 Q well when he was omnipotent, but he realizes that as a 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 and himself. He realizes that if he died, no one would miss him. Further, he never would have made the same sacrifice for Data, which makes him ashamed. He announces that, without his powers, he's just a frightened, miserable coward and concludes, "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 offer himself up to the Calamarain and leave the ship free to save Bre'el IV. Picard contacts the shuttle-craft and tries to talk Q out of it, but Q refuses, saying 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.
Another Q appears on Q's shuttlecraft 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. Q gleefully snaps his fingers and gets his Starfleet uniform back. He then turns on the Calamarain, preparing to wreak his vengeance on them, but the other Q briefly reappears and gives him a stern warning, so Q just dismisses them.
On the Enterprise, the crew believe that Q has been destroyed by the Calamarain and have an awkward moment of silence as they process his sacrifice. But then Q appears on the bridge as part of a mariachi band, triumphantly proclaiming that not only is he still alive — he has his powers back and he wants to celebrate. He tries to reward the bridge crew with cigars and floozies, but they settle back into their old routine of stiffly refusing to play his games.
Q agrees to cut it out but then announces that he does want to give Data one very special parting gift as his way of saying thanks for being his "professor of the humanities". Data starts to warn him not to transform him into a human, but Q assures him that he would never "curse" him by doing something like that. After Q leaves, Data suddenly breaks into a bout of hysterical laughter. When Geordi finally asks what's so funny, the spell is broken and Data settles down. He admits he has no idea what he was laughing at, but it was "a wonderful... feeling."
Further, the crew realize that Q has fixed the moon's orbit for them. The inhabitants of Bre'el IV joyfully thank Picard and his crew. The nonplussed 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" when a lit 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, and Picard smiles, when Worf tells Q to die.
- Artistic License Space: Geordi's plan to lift the moon back into its proper orbit involves pushing the moon while it is at its orbital perigee. Two issues with this plan:
- The 'gee' in perigee specifically refers to Earth-centered orbits. Geordi would more likely describe his plan with the more general term periapsis. This could qualify as an Acceptable Break from Reality, as the writers and audience would likely be more familiar with the word perigee.
- More seriously, an orbit's perigee denotes the point of closest approach. Pushing the planet's moon while it is at perigee would lift the point of furthest approach (apogee), but the moon's perigee would continue to be just as close to the planet as before. For the plan to work, the Enterprise would need to push the moon during its apogee, which would lift the point of closest approach and actually elevate the moon away from the planet's surface.
- Furthermore, when the moon is restored to its orbit, Data describes the orbit as "circular". Technically, there's no such thing as a perfectly circular orbit, though some bodies have orbits whose eccentricity is so low that they're very nearly circular. (Triton's orbit, for example, has an eccentricity of 0.000016, the lowest known value in our solar system.)
- 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, the Klingon shouts, "Be quiet! Or disappear back where you came from!"
- 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: It's 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 it's sandwiched in between an episode about the morality of terrorism and one about an alleged cold-blooded murder and possible sexual improprieties.
- 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. Bernsen is clearly having fun hamming it up right along with De Lancie.
- 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.
- Thanks to Q's reward for the "humanity lessons", Data learns the pleasure of laughing.
- 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.
- Insistent Terminology: When Q calls Data a robot, Data states that he's actually an android.
- 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.
- Insult to Rocks: Picard orders the shuttlecraft Q is in beamed back to the Enterprise on the basis that it is "a perfectly good shuttlecraft".
- 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.
- 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: Q arrives on the ship completely naked.
- 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".
- Planetary Relocation: The crew are stuck dealing with a moon that has somehow been knocked out of orbit and is about to fall on a populated planet, as well as Q, who has been seemingly stripped of his powers and dumped on the Enterprise. The crew attempt to readjust the moon's orbit by generating a warp field to adjust its mass so the Tractor Beam can handle it (inspired by Q's suggestion to alter the gravitational constant of the universe), but it fails. By the end, Q has been restored to his place in the Continuum, and after he leaves, the crew realize that he's also fixed the moon's orbit for them.
- 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.
- Simple Solution Won't Work: The Enterprise crew ask the currently depowered Q how he would resolve the issue of a de-orbiting moon, and he says he'd just alter the gravitational constant of the universe. It's a simple solution if you happen to be a Sufficiently Advanced Alien, but not much help to the cast — until it gives Geordi a "Eureka!" Moment on how they could locally reduce the gravitational constant (by playing games with the warp drive).
- 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.
- Visual Pun: A very subtle one in the final scene when Q celebrates and breaks out the cigars. Everyone is, in essence, holding a Q-ban Cigar.
- You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: Picard's reaction to Q's request for compassion.
- You Would Do the Same for Me: Discussed. 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.