"True Q"

Season Six, Episode 6
Written by Rene Echevarria
Based upon a story by Matthew Corey
Directed by Robert Scheerer 
Main Cast:
Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard
Jonathan Frakes as Commander William Riker
LeVar Burton as Lt Geordi LaForge
Michael Dorn as Lt Worf
Gates McFadden as Dr Beverly Crusher
Marina Sirtis as Counsellor Deanna Troi
Brent Spiner as Lt Cmdr Data

Guest Cast:
John de Lancie as Q
Olivia d'Abo as Amanda Rogers
John P. Connolly as Orn Lote 

Synopsis:

Q arrives aboard the Enterprise and informs the crew that Amanda Rogers, a young student they are hosting, is actually a Q. Her parents were from the Continuum and settled on Earth, conceived a child and were executed by the Continuum for being renegades. Amanda is torn and confused -- she just wants to live a normal life, but at the same time she finds her inherent super-powers too tantalising to resist. She eventually decides to accept what she is and that it will be best for everyone if she goes to live in the Continuum.


Review: 

Well. That was...okay. I'd hardly call True Q earth-shattering and it's certainly not one of the better stories to feature our old pal Q, but it is definitely one of the stronger episodes in a chain of weak ones. A quiet, modest but reasonably compelling episode, True Q tends to blow "hot" and "cold". By that, I mean there were some excellent moments coupled with some less effective scenes -- but on the whole it balances out quite well. Neither excessively good nor bad, True Q hangs just the right side of neutral.

For a start, it's great to see Q back! Not only is this Q's first appearance since the fourth season, but it also marks a return to the darker, more menacing side of the character. The last two Q outings (Deja Q and Qpid) have been primarily light-hearted stories and, as fun as they were, I must say I'm glad to see the character take a step back toward his darker origins. Plot-wise this is a little reminiscent of season one's Hide and Q. But, whereas that was a horribly obvious, preachy "morality tale" (the message being that power corrupts, in case it wasn't quite clear enough for you), True Q approaches the premise with a far greater degree of maturity and -- gasp! -- subtlety. It's a nice reminder of how much the show has matured over the course of its run (although there is a slight lapse toward the end there...which I'll discuss later).

It's quite unusual to have a complete stranger come in and assume centre stage for the week -- I certainly know this breaks something of a "taboo" for the writing staff. But both writer Rene Echevarria and actress Olivia d'Abo (of "The Wonder Years" fame) create a nicely rounded character in Amanda Rogers. Echevarria did well to put some focus on her relationships with some of the crew (particularly Crusher and Riker) as this served to bring "our" characters into the story and get them involved in things. I especially liked the quasi-motherly relationship that develops between Beverly and Amanda. Nice.

And then there's the Q factor. For a start, the notion that two Q could assume human form and produce a child is slightly at odds with events in Voyager's The Q and the Grey -- mind you, that was a wholly odd episode in itself and perhaps best left forgotten in terms of its rotten "logic". But I did raise an eyebrow over the notion that these two Q could be killed. I don't quite understand -- the Q (in human form or not) are immortal, aren't they? So how can they die? Referring again to Voyager, this time Death Wish, where it was quite unheard of for a Q to die. Slight contradiction there. And then there's the supposition that Amanda is a Q, yet she's lived her whole life without realising it? But, of course... :-{

Still, assuming you could swallow these little niggles, the story was executed quite well -- with one or two exceptions. Now, there's nothing all that startling about the episode, to be sure. No big, smack-you-in-the-face, jaw-dropping, edge-of-your-seat extravaganza. It's a quiet, timid little drama which actually works reasonably well in its understated simplicity, although at times I felt it was a bit too understated, lacking all that much in the way of energy or drive. 

Amanda's storyline was indicative of the episode as a whole -- it worked very well in parts, while some aspects fell a little flat. Whilst I generally thought Q brought a lot of bite and enjoyment to the episode (some of his quips are priceless), I wasn't wholly won over by his coaxing of Amanda. Despite some nice snippets of dialogue scattered here and there, his attempts to lure Amanda over to "the dark side", so to speak, left me rather unfazed. I couldn't help but feel the Amanda/Q interaction was somewhat lacking. I can't quite put my finger on what was wrong; it was just the impression that it could have been a lot more effective.

True Q had a tendency to spent too much time telling us the story instead of showing us. The best moments came when it actually tried to illustrate the immensity of Amanda's choice and show her (and us) what it would mean to embrace her Q-hood. The game of "hide and seek" was a rare moment that captured a sense of true magic and wonder at what could be Amanda's if she should accept. Q showing Amanda her dead parents was an especially poignant touch, leading her to realise what an immense responsibility would be placed in her hands should she accept her Q-hood. As she asks Beverly: "If you had the power to do anything -- would you bring your husband back?" Bev's response was a bit of a cop-out, but it was still a very effective case point, nonetheless. 

Similarly effective was Amanda's misguided attempt to seduce Riker by using her powers to create a fantasy world. When he tells her that she can't make someone love her, with a flick of her wrist she does just that. What this scene basically demonstrates is the almost overwhelming responsibility of dealing with such power -- and it's all-too clear that Amanda simply doesn't have the experience or maturity to deal with them. Having said that, maturity and responsibility clearly isn't a pre-requisite for the Continuum -- just look at Q! For instance, to find out the extent of Amanda's power, he creates a warp core breach on the ship, which she manages to stop. When asked what would have happened had she not been able to stop the breach, Q replies "then I'd have known she wasn't a Q". He was willing to destroy a ship with a thousand people on board just to satisfy a curiosity! I'd hardly call that responsible.

Something which seemed a rather uncomfortable plot device was the fact that Q has been ordered to "terminate" Amanda should she not join the Continuum. Yup, it does add an element of jeopardy and urgency to the plot, but...it also takes the heat off Amanda's choice, which is the very core of the story. If it comes to a matter of life and death, then there is no choice! Realising this, Echevarria plays down the termination issue, which is wise, but it would have been more effective had it been removed altogether. As it is, it's fudged over toward the end and just kind of fizzles out. And I didn't like the way it fizzled out, either...

Toward the end, Picard challenges Q to justify his right to be judge, jury and executioner. Q arrogantly claims that his "superior morality" entitles him to make such a call. Unfortunately this sparks one of Picard's awful diatribes about human virtue and moral fibre being far greater than all else. Whilst I agree that Q is a particularly dubious creature when it comes to the morality stakes, I just hate it when Picard takes the moral high ground with those horribly santimonious rants. As much as I like good ol' Jean-Luc, I find myself burying my head in my hands whenever he gets going like that. Q's sarcastic response, however, was just priceless: "Jean-Luc, sometimes I think the only reason I come here is to listen to those wonderful speeches of yours!" I just adored that! Touche.

And, so we have the "climax". Amanda pledges not to use her powers (evidently forgetting that she'll be killed by Q), but finds herself unable to resist when an alien planet is just about destroyed. Next thing we know, she's decided to pack her bags and join the Q Continuum, after all. I had one pretty major problem with that -- not so much the decision itself, but the fact it was far, far too abrupt. You see, we never saw her reach this decision. One moment all she wants is to be human, the next she's decided that her powers are too great to ignore and she's off to the Continuum. Having spent the whole episode exploring this dilemma, there is really no excuse for such a rushed, last-minute turnaround. She said her goodbyes, disappeared off to the Continuum...and the end credits roll. The previous forty-five minutes had been spent dealing with the ramifications of her dilemma, that such a glib, out-of-the-blue resolution left a distinctly unsatisfying taste in the mouth. Almost like the writers had run of of time; "Heck, we've only got two minutes left! Quick, she has to make up her mind and leave!". Ho-hum.

Even if the conclusion sunk the episode a little bit, there were some wonderful little touches scattered through which kept it buoyed. Most of them relate to Q, who is an absolute delight to watch. His interaction with Amanda wasn't quite all it could have been, but John de Lancie was on absolute top form and the return of Q's sinister streak allowed for some great moments. His dialogue was especially snappy and acerbic, and here are some highlights:
 

That's about it. True Q was a reasonably pleasant episode. It felt somewhat lacking in parts, and the ending was something of a damp squib, but for the most part it kept it's head above the water, managing to balance the weaker and stronger elements of the episode. In the end, the scales tip slightly more toward positive than negative.
 

Rating: 6


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