The planet Tagus III, which hosts some spectacular historical ruins that have been closed off to outsiders for a century, is a sort of holy grail for Federation historians and archaeologists. For this reason, the Federation Archaeological Council has decided to hold their annual convention in orbit, aboard the Enterprise. And Captain Picard is to give the keynote address. The normally-unflappable Captain is, well, flapped: an amateur archaeologist himself, he is positively geeking out at the opportunity to give the address, while at the same time feeling completely unworthy to address the Council at large. Troi finds him working into the wee hours on his speech and advises him to get some rest.
Returning to his cabin, Picard suddenly realizes that something is amiss: there's a Risan horgh'an on his coffee table. Now how did that get there? Well, maybe the lovely lady who emerges from his bedroom a moment later put it there. It's Vash, the Lara Croft of the 24th Century, and the object of Picard's fling on Risa a year ago. And it would seem that she's now seeking jahmaharon.
The next morning, over tea, Picard and Vash catch up. Picard assumes that she's here to attend the convention, and Vash... doesn't say otherwise. And it's at this moment that Doctor Crusher shows up. A few awkward introductions later, it comes out that Picard never mentioned his adventure on Risa to his crew. Picard suddenly realizes that he has some... captain stuff to do... yeah, that's it... and excuses himself. Crusher offers to take Vash on a tour of the Enterprise, as well as get to know Picard's mystery woman a bit. They head to Ten Forward, and along the way Vash learns that Jean-Luc Picard is, in Crusher's words, a "very private man" who never talks about his personal life with his crew. Vash is a bit put out to hear this, but once they're at Ten Forward, they have a different issue. the off-duty Commander Riker is there, and he immediately tries his moves on this lovely mystery woman. Vash, being a worldly type herself, doesn't fall for it, but when Doctor Crusher must excuse herself to deal with a medical emergency, Vash allows Riker to continue the tour with her. The tour eventually leads to the Bridge, where it all starts to go wrong. Picard comes out of the Ready Room just in time to catch his private and professional lives colliding as Vash strolls around the Bridge and finally sits in the Captain's Chair.
The awkwardness continues on through the day, and into the welcome reception. Vash hobnobs with dignitaries and the Enterprise Senior Staff, and it becomes clear that Picard told absolutely no one about Vash or about what they did together on Risa. When confronted with this, Picard claims that it would be inappropriate of him, as the commanding officer, to share such intimate private details with his crew. But Vash doesn't buy it; she's hurt by Picard's compartmentalizing of his life like this. Maybe her presence here just embarrasses him? Maybe he regrets their ever meeting in the first place? Maybe he'd just as soon forget she exists now? Both of them storm off: Vash to her quarters, and Picard to his Ready Room. Unfortunately for Picard, he's got another unexpected guest waiting for him there:
In no mood for the usual games, Picard demands to know why he's here. Q tells him that he owes Picard a debt. The last time they met, Picard saved Q's life. Not wanting to owe the Human anything, he wants to do something to pay him back. Of course, right now all Picard wants is to be left alone. But Q presses the issue: maybe Picard would like some help with his keynote speech? Maybe he'd like to see the forbidden Taguan ruins, so he can add some first-hand experience to it? Q could even take him back in time to before the ruins were closed off to visitors if Picard wants to be a stickler for the rules. Picard is momentarily tempted by this, but he declines and once again asks Q to just leave him be. Q decides he'll give the Captain some time to think it over, and he vanishes. Picard then decides to let Riker know:
Riker: Q?! Any idea what he's up to?
Picard: He wants to do something nice for me.
Riker: [Oh, Crap! expression] I'll alert the crew.
Later, feeling guilty, Picard heads to Vash's quarters and attempts to apologize and explain himself. Vash means a lot to him, and he's not unhappy that she's here and—hey, why does she have a map of the Taguan ruins? And some archaeological equipment hidden in a corner over there? Once again, Vash is about to something less-than-legal and dangerous, and she's doing it on Picard's ship. Well, that's the last straw for both of them. They both say that are who they are—she's an Adventurer Archaeologist who plays fast and loose with the rules, and he's a proper, rule-respecting Starfleet officer—and they will not change for anyone. Picard leaves in a huff, just in time to miss Q poking his head into the scene and observing the fight.
Later, as Picard tries to sleep, Q pops in and taunts him about it. He declares that he's finally found Picard's weakness: a woman. Picard's feelings for Vash have made him weak, Q claims, and Q offers to, ahem, get rid of this distraction for him. Angrily, Picard warns him away from Vash and once more tries to get him to just go away. Q does... for now.
The day of Picard's keynote address arrives, and Picard stands before the gathered Council Members and begins his speech. As he speaks, strange things start to happen: one person at a time, the clothing of his Senior Staff changes, from their uniforms to something more medieval-looking. And then finally, Picard and his crew are teleported away from the Enterprise. They find themselves in a heavily wooded area. And not just any wooded area: this is meant to be Sherwood Forest, circa the 12th Century. And Picard and his crew are dressed up like Robin Hood and his Merry Men. Clearly this is Q's doing. And sure enough, they are shortly attacked by several armed men, led by a mounted nobleman. Outnumbered, they flee deeper into the woods.
After regrouping, Picard and company are soon visited by Q, who has cast himself as the Sheriff of Nottingham, and who promptly explains the situation. This is a simulation, designed to prove to Picard how much this silly little emotion called "love" has ruined him. Picard is Robin Hood, and he must pull off one of Robin Hood's famed adventures: rescuing the Maid Marian from the evil Sir Guy of Gisbourne. Sir Guy was, naturally, the mounted nobleman who attacked them earlier. And guess whom Q has cast as Marian? All Picard has to do is risk his life and the lives of his crew to rescue this woman, thus proving Q's point of how destructive his love for Vash is. Then Q departs, but not before warning Picard that this simulation has a life of its own: not even Q knows what's going to happen next, and the danger is very real.
Meanwhile, back at Sir Guy's castle, Vash has no idea what just happened, where she is, or why she's wearing this really uncomfortable dress. And her handmaiden isn't helping much, thinking all this talk about actually being named Vash and needing a stiff drink means that she's been "bewitched." At this moment Sir Guy reappears, and offers "Marian" his Scarpia Ultimatum: marry him, or he will execute her as a collaborator with a notorious outlaw. Vash not being Marian, and therefore not as pure of heart, decides to string Sir Guy along, pretending to change her mind and be receptive to his affections. At least until she can figure out what's going on here.
Back in Sherwood, Picard gives Riker his orders: he is going to Sir Guy's castle alone. The rest of the crew will wait here for his return. Riker protests, but Picard is adamant. He's not about to risk any other lives for one of Q's sick games. Meanwhile, at the castle, Q is surprised to see what's going on: Sir Guy and Marian being civil to one another? The execution is off, and the wedding is back on? This wasn't part of the plan. Maybe there's more to this Vash woman than he thought...
That night, Picard sneaks into Vash's quarters. He quickly explains the situation, then attempts to bust her out. But Vash isn't going for it. Coming alone was a bad plan, she says, and she'd prefer to wait for a more certain opportunity to escape. On her own, if need be; she certainly doesn't need Picard to rescue her. Not really interested in hashing out their personal issues at this particular moment, Picard tries to take her by force, but to no avail: Sir Guy's men bust in, and Vash grabs Picard's sword and hands him over to Sir Guy personally. Sir Guy hustles Picard off to the dungeon, while Q watches all this with growing interest.
Once left alone, Vash starts writing a letter, intending to have her handmaiden deliver it to the rest of Picard's crew. Before she can finish, Q bursts in, having finally figured out what she's up to. She's stalling for time: getting Picard captured saved his life for the moment, and now she's sending for Riker and the others. Q offers an apology to Vash; he's underestimated her. Q just thought of her as bait to torment Picard, with no thought to who she was as an individual. The fact that she's a smart and sneaky person in her own right never occurred to him, and Q decides that she's worthy of further study. But not right now: he calls for the guards and has her locked away. Seems the wedding's off again.
The next morning, the double execution is about to begin. Picard and Vash snipe at each other all the way to the block—and in the background, several robed figures converge on the scene. Clearly, Riker and company weren't about to let their Captain walk into a deathtrap. Data causes an explosion as a diversion, and in the chaos they attack. Picard swashbuckles his way through Sir Guy and to Vash, and the day is won.
Q appears and declares the exercise over and his debt repaid. Q claims that he's succeeded in showing Picard that love brings out the worst in him, making him reckless and foolhardy. Vash counters that, instead, it brought out the best in him: his courage, his passion, and his willingness to risk his life for another person. Q seems to concede the point, then he transports everyone back to the Enterprise. Well, almost everyone: Picard and company find themselves back in the assembly hall where the keynote address was being given, but Vash is nowhere to be found.
Later, in Picard's ready room, Vash and Q appear. They've been having a little chat, it would seem, and Q has made Vash an offer she couldn't refuse. Q has found a kindred spirit in the Loveable Rogue Vash, and he's offered to take her on an extended tour of the universe. She will go with him and see wonders no human has ever seen. Picard is at first alarmed, but then he realizes that this is what Vash wants. After getting Q's assurances that she will be safe, he wishes her well. And the Adventure Continues.
Tropes featured in "Qpid" include:
- Adventurer Outfit: Q and Vash get matching ones◊ in the last scene, complete with pith helmets.
- Amusing Injuries: Troi reaffirms her Non-Action Girl status during archery practice, by nailing Data square in the chest. Fortunately he's not badly damaged. And apparently her aim is getting better.
- Annoying Arrows: Data gets shot by an arrow and takes it out immediately. Justified as Data's an android.
- Author Appeal: Ira Steven Behr was a huge Robin Hood fan, particularly The Adventures of Robin Hood.
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: Between Picard and Vash, and arguably... between Picard and Q.
- Casting Gag: In-Universe. Q must have had a field day matching up the members of Picard's crew with characters from the Robin Hood mythos. Stoic Blood Knight Worf as the flamboyant Miles Gloriosus Will Scarlett. Blind and tone-deaf La Forge as the bard Allen-A-Dale. Emotionless android Data as the boisterous Friar Tuck. The only one really played straight is Big Guy Lancer Riker as Little John.
- Celebrity Paradox: As Picard is writing his speech in his ready room, the volume of Annotated Shakespeare is opened at a page◊ showing a photo from a production◊ of As You Like It in which Patrick Stewart played Touchstone.
- The Comically Serious:
- Worf. This line says it all.
- When La Forge is (badly) attempting to plunk out a tune on his lute, Worf calmly stands up, walks over, takes hold of the lute—and smashes it into a tree.Worf: Sorry.
- Deadpan Snarker: As ever, the most effective weapon against Q.
- Q: Without your assistance on our last encounter I would never have survived. I would have taken my own life but for you.
Picard: We all make mistakes.
- Debt Detester: Q doesn't like owing his life to Picard; Picard for his part doesn't seem especially inclined to make Q "pay back" such a debt and ignores the offers Q gives. Despite being told he doesn't have to do anything for Picard, Q continues to press the issue, which implies that Q is simply using this explanation as an excuse to mess with Picard.
- Evil Is Hammy: It's Q.
- Picard does a bit of this toward the end.
- Worf and the knight on the horse.
- Funny Background Event: After Worf smashes the lute, Gates McFadden visibly struggles to not corpse.
- Gender Bender: Q points out to Picard that he could have appeared as a female in their earlier encounters had he wanted to.Q: She's [Vash] found a vulnerability in you—a vulnerability I've been searching for for years. If I'd known sooner I'd have appeared as a female.
- Get Out!: Q tells Picard to just tell him what he wants and he'll be gone.Picard: Just be gone. That'll do nicely.
- Guile Hero:
- Vash, to such a degree that Q finds her interesting enough to keep around.
- It certainly doesn't hurt that Vash is pragmatic enough to see the value in having an omnipotent companion, as she can milk the opportunity to use Q's power for all it's worth; an opportunity that Q offered to Picard but which he refused. Q is keeping Vash around because she's interesting and to make Picard jealous, basically amounting to, "You could have gone on awesome adventures with me through space or whatever your heart desired, too late now pal."
- Hypocritical Humor: Just after Worf announces that he has no intention of participating in Q's farce, Sir Guy rides in and delivers a challenge to the crew, prompting Worf to sprint past everyone and swordfight the fictional character.
- I Am Not Left-Handed:Sir Guy: I must warn you, I am the greatest swordsman in all Nottingham! [fight]
Picard: That's very impressive. But there's something you should know.
Sir Guy: And what might that be? [fight]
Picard: I'm not from Nottingham. [kills Sir Guy]
- Implausible Deniability: Picard thinks he can deny his feelings for Vash to a borderline-omniscient being. Especially since Everyone Can See It, including his non-omniscient officers.
- I Owe You My Life: Q wants to repay Picard for protecting him the last time they met. Picard tells him that going away will suffice.
- It's Personal: Picard decides to go rescue Vash ("Maid Marian") himself and leave the rest of the Enterprise crew out of it, telling Riker that it's not a mission, it's personal between himself and Q and he doesn't want the rest of the crew involved.
- It's What I Do: Vash's response when Picard calls her out on selling artifacts instead of donating them to museums.
- Leeroy Jenkins: Worf impulsively rushes towards Sir Guy of Gisbourne, and gets slashed across the arm.
- Love Triangle: With Picard, Q, and Vash. At first glance it's between Q and Picard over Vash, but at a closer examination it's implied that this is more of a contest between Vash and Q over Picard.
- Master Swordsman: Sir Guy declares that he's the best swordsman in Nottingham, but Picard, who showed off his fencing skills in "We'll Always Have Paris," is not from Nottingham.
- No Biological Sex: As a direct result of being an Energy Being with shape-shifting powers, Q lacks an inherent biological gender—making the form of John De Lancie little more than a costume for the entity. Q briefly lampshades this by pointing out to Picard that he could have appeared to the Captain as a woman in their past encounters had he wanted to; though Q doesn't follow up on the taunt in question.
- Non-Action Guy: Troi is not into violence. She tries her hand at archery but hits Data instead. When the crew storms the castle, she and Crusher are relegated to smashing pottery over guards heads, but while Crusher does so with a smirk, Troi looks alarmed and scandalized.
- Not So Different:Picard: [Q] is devious, and amoral, and unreliable, and irresponsible, and... and he's not to be trusted!
Vash: Remind you of anyone you know?
- Part of the subtext of the episode implies that Q is jealous of Vash because she's so similar to the entity that Picard is basically dating a female, human version of Q. It basically amounts to, "How dare that human show such interest in an inferior version of me. I'm omnipotent, what can she offer Picard that I can't?" Even the issue of gender is no object, as Q could appear as a woman, if that's the only reason Picard is more interested in Vash.
- Oh, Crap!:
- Picard has an epic one when, in the midst of breakfast with Vash, his door chimes—and he realizes that he already made plans with Doctor Crusher.
- The dramatic pause he makes when he realizes Q is in his office—sitting in his chair no less—shows that seeing Q is an Oh, Crap! moment for Picard by default.
- Politically Incorrect Villain: Q displays a decidedly chauvinistic streak in this episode. Or maybe he's just jealous that Picard has found another love.
- Removing the Rival: Given the love triangle subtext between Vash and Q over Picard, it's easy to see Q taking Vash with him at the end of the episode as a means of getting his romantic rival away from Picard.
- Restricted Rescue Operation: Q sends the crew to Sherwood Forest to prove to Picard that he does Love Vash, by casting Vash as Maid Marian who has been taken hostage by the local Lord, and Picard as Robin Hood must save her. Unfortunately for both Q and Picard's plans Vash isn't interested in being rescued by Picard and turns Picard over to the Lord when he's discovered sneaking into her chambers to rescue her. This throws the whole scenario so off the rails even Q is powerless to get everyone back on track with his goals, though he is more amused by this turn than outright angered.
- Riddle for the Ages: Vash manages to sneak into Picard's quarters in spite of security on a Federation starship being quite advanced. She's a thief, however, and that's her specialty. When Picard asks, she only deflects, joking that she "came in through the window" and leaving it at that.
- Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: Q suggests to Picard that they travel back in time to see what the ruins on Tagus II were like two billion years ago. It is highly unlikely that any ruins could survive that long. Then again, that may be the point about the mystery of Tagus II and why the planetary government has banned visiting those ruins.
- She's Got Legs: Vash has such a nice set that even Worf feels obliged to compliment them.Worf: Nice legs... for a human.
- Slouch of Villainy: in true Q fashion, Q drapes himself over every surface with all the grace and skill of a Persian cat.
- The Snack Is More Interesting: Q calmly munches a chicken wing while Sir Guy and Picard face off.
- Weaksauce Weakness: From Q's perspective, Picard's romantic attraction to Vash, and more specifically attractive females, is this. Q lampshades that Picard's look of distress, the awkwardness around Vash and his crew, and the emotional frailty he showcased are a far cry from the stoic resolve he displays around Q. Had Q known that something so petty as female beauty was enough to stump Picard, Q would have used it during their earlier encounters. Though Q, for his part, does make it a point during the episode that he wants to get Picard out of this mindset and pay back the aforementioned debt by helping Picard out of his rut—by reenacting Robin Hood and kidnapping Vash!
- We Need a Distraction: Data digs... something out of his arm to toss into a nearby fire pit to cause an explosion. It doesn't seem to affect his functioning afterwards.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: So, did Picard ever get to make that keynote speech? And for that matter, what happened to the rest of the Archaeology Council?
- What the Hell, Hero?: Vash is less than pleased that Picard is embarrassed of her.
- The Worf Effect: Worf charges at Sir Guy and gets promptly defeated, establishing the danger of Q's simulation. To his credit, he does gets back up and keep fighting until called away.