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Jeyl May 13 2013 12:24 PM

Episode of the Week: 2x16 "Q Who"
Memory Alpha Entry
Chrissie's Transcript

Star Trek: The Next Generation had a lot of misfires during it's first season. One of the most notorious examples was when they tried to create a new antagonist race that would be to TNG what the Klingons were to TOS. Gene Roddenberry decided that the best way to create a worthy adversary for the TNG crew was to take all the elements he didn't like about humanity such as greed, imperialistic attitudes, unrefined behaviors, uncaring morals and sexist views (.....starting to sound like Gene actually) and dial it up to 11. The end result was the Ferengi, a race so ridiculous that their premier episode was hated by everyone involved. After only two episodes, it would be decided that the Ferengi would no longer be treated as a galactic threat and were therefore treated as the goofy comic relief characters that they are. Something else had to be done.

Enter Maurice Hurley, Gene Roddenberry's drinking buddy who was probably more unfriendly to the female cast than the Ferengi were in character. While I do think that Maurice Hurley was one of the worst human beings ever involved with Star Trek, this is the episode where he managed to achieve something that Gene Roddenberry himself failed miserably at. Introduce Star Trek to an enemy that would go down in history as one of the most iconic villains not only to Star Trek, but also to Science Fiction in general. The Borg.

"Q Who" also does a lot of things differently by giving Guinan a much bigger role in the story rather than being restricted to the person who only talks wisdom to others. We get to learn more about her character, discover that she knew Q and her people's history with the Borg. Whoopie Goldberg really sells every scene she's in including the ones where all she does is look out into space. With Ron Jones' music playing as she observes outside of Ten Forward's windows, it really makes this one of the most interesting scenes so far in TNG's run.

On a personal level, this episode also takes Roddenberry's "Utopia" view of a perfect humanity and completely turns it over it's head. For a whole season and a half, we have had to put up with Picard's arrogance and self-glorifying preachiness about how humanity is not only awesome but may one day become more powerful than the Q continuum. That moment was so face palmingly stupid that even Q threw the big book of Shakespeare at him. Where as previous episodes would play that as Picard's strength, here it's played out literally as a flaw. When Q decides to test Picard's arrogant resolve by hurdling the Enterprise across space, you're kind of left feeling that maybe Picard should have been such a pill to Q.

So with the Enterprise now far away from home, we get the second of many instances where Picard chooses to do something that will only serve to make things worse. When Guinan warns Picard that they should start heading back home right now, Picard decides to explore the sector of space they're in before heading back. If you could put your finger on instance that would change the galaxy forever, it would be Picard ignoring Guinan's warning. Picard, even after the Enterprise has been sent to J25 still hasn't come into contact with the Borg, so if he had only headed Guinan's warning, thing could have been different. While exploring, they discover a planet that bears the same kind destruction that occurred to the outposts in the episode "The Neutral Zone" and this.....

Ron Jones, you couldn't have made a more perfect score to this moment.... oh, wait. You already have.

This truly is a puzzling situation for both the crew and the audience since this ship is not only huge but also simple in shape yet complex in texture. It has no life signs or any distinguishable areas that would give the impression that it was a ship at all. Yet there is one thing that's clear. It knows the Enterprise is there, and it moves towards her. It's when Picard asks for Guinan's input that we get to the scene in the whole episode, and arguably all of Season Two.


Picard: Are you familiar with this life form?
Guinan: Yes. My people encountered them a century ago. They destroyed our cities. Scattered my people throughout the galaxy. They're called the Borg. Protect yourself Captain or they will destroy you.
*Picard turns towards Riker*
Riker: Shields up.
Worf: Aye, sir.
Riker: All decks, stand by.
*Something appears in engineering*
LaForge: Security, report to main engineering. We have an intruder.
Holy $&!#, we are in serious trouble. Before I move on, there is one little nitpick I have with this scene. did Maurice Hurley not understand that Ten Forward was literally located at the front of the Enterprise? It feels really awkward seeing Guinan standing by the window where the Borg ship is clearly visible, only to go into her office to see the same bloody image of the Borg Cube on her view screen. Not a big deal, but why not have the scene play out while she's sitting by the window?

As I mentioned earlier, Picard is not at his best here for reasons that go beyond his intended flaws. His ship has just been invaded, his crew physically attacked, and after the Enterprise survives an attack from the Borg Cube that leaves it with 18 crew members dead, Picard doesn't high tail it out of there. In fact, he actually orders an away team to beam aboard the Borg Cube just out of curiosity! This just goes beyond incompetence. What would have made this whole situation play out better is if the Borg, while in engineering, steal a valuable component that renders the Enterprise helpless. After surviving their first attack yet still unable to go anywhere, Picard has to order an away team to board the Cube and retrieve the component needed to get the Enterprise operational again. You could still have Riker and Data report their findings on the Borg while still trying to locate the component. Having Picard not take a hint once is one thing, but to have him make these stupid mistakes really does prevent this episode from getting a perfect grade in my book.

So after finding out how the Borg make babies and learning why the Borg didn't take note of their presence because they're using their combined power to repair their ship (Should have stayed that way), Picard finally realizes that hanging around a big cube of death was not a good idea and finally decides to high tail it out of there. Despite Geordi's best efforts in giving the Enterprise more power, the Borg manage to outrun the Enterprise all the while Q gloats about how Picard's arrogance got them in this situation. It's not until all hope is lost that Picard gives Q what he wants.


Picard: You wanted to frighten us, we're frightened. You wanted to show us that we were inadequate? For the moment, I grant that. You wanted me to say I need you? I NEED YOU!
*Q smiles and snaps his fingers*
Riker: Position.
Wesley: Zero seven zero, mark six three, sir. Back where we started.
Q: That was a difficult admission. Another man would have been humiliated to say those words. Another man would have rather died than ask for help.
Picard: I understand what you've done here, Q, but I think the lesson could have been learned without the loss of eighteen members of my crew.
Q: If you can't take a little bloody nose, maybe you ought to go back home and crawl under your bed. It's not safe out here. It's wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross, but it's not for the timid.
Great stuff. And with that, our episode ends with Picard and Guinan playing a game of 3D chess pondering over the potential future that lies before them. And unlike that promising ending to "Conspiracy" that didn't go anywhere, the story of the Borg has just begun.

CONCLUSION: What can I say? This is essential Next Generation. Everything about the Borg works wonderfully, introducing us to a potentially invincible foe that the crew of the Enterprise could not deal with without the help of a god like being. The score by Ron Jones is some of TNG's best in the whole series and by the time we get to the next Borg episode, he will actually top his own work. The only thing that prevents this episode from earning a perfect score is Picard's numerous acts of incompetence that could have easily been written differently and still yield the same intended results. Over all, it's a must watch episode that serves to foreshadow one of the most galaxy changing events ever to occur in the entire franchise.


sadsquid May 13 2013 01:12 PM

Re: Episode of the Week: 2x16 "Q Who"
Awesome episode. Although Measure of a Man is great, this is my favourite episode of the season. The score is just amazing, Q's involvement was perfect (as was Guinan's) and this new enemy race is mysterious and intimidating. Great, open-ended conclusion, too.

Jeyl May 13 2013 03:26 PM

Re: Episode of the Week: 2x16 "Q Who"
One other area I would like to delve into is the remastering work that was done on this episode. Over the source of Season 2's' HD presentation, I basically wrote off HTV's work as being lackluster in comparison to the work that was done on Season 1 by CBSD. Where as CBSD paid a lot of attention to detail and even threw in a few things that no doubt spoiled us, HTV took the more "as originally presented" approach by not going the extra mile. That's not the case with "Q Who".

To start, the "adaptive shield" that the one Borg drone uses now has a shade of green where there was originally no color at all. Granted this was likely done to fit in with the green adaptive shield as seen in First Contact and subsequent series, but CBSD elected to not color their adaptive shields green in "The Best of Both Worlds" episodes. Where are your thoughts on this? Should the adaptive shield be green, or as it was? If I had to make a choice, I would have kept it the way it was.

Now the biggest change that I have a hard time accepting is the newly redone pan out shot of the Borg Cube interior. While I love the newly animated river seen below and the sight of Borg Drones moving about, I think incorporating the "First Contact" style Borg alcoves was a mistake. It just doesn't make sense that the away team would beam to a part of the ship wher ethe Alcoves are different, yet everywhere else in the pan out shot looks so much different. Also that one CGI Borg that's seen on the bottom right who is attaching himself to an alcove looks more computer generated than a Nintendo 64 character.

MikeS May 13 2013 03:32 PM

Re: Episode of the Week: 2x16 "Q Who"
Sonya Gomez - more character development in two minutes, forty seconds than Tasha Yar got in a full season. Would definitely have liked to see more of her.

The scariest bit - the Borg "nursery".

"That was a difficult admission. Another man would have been humiliated to say those words. Another man would have rather died than ask for help." - Was the "other man" intended to be Kirk?

"If you can't take a little bloody nose, maybe you ought to go back home and crawl under your bed. It's not safe out here. It's wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires, both subtle and gross. But it's not for the timid." - Q's best line in the whole of TNG.

I will always mourn the fact that CBS didn't remaster this episode.

Jeyl May 13 2013 04:50 PM

Re: Episode of the Week: 2x16 "Q Who"

MikeS wrote: (Post 8081356)
Sonya Gomez - more character development in two minutes, forty seconds than Tasha Yar got in a full season. Would definitely have liked to see more of her.

I was going to save my comments about Sonya Gomez for her last appearance in the next episode, but than I thought more about her role in this episode and figured it'd be best to leave it here.

Despite certain instances that make her kind of a nuisance, I really did enjoy Sonya Gomez as a character and it broke my heart when I realized she only appears in one other episode and was never brought back. She was the kind of character Wesley Crusher should have been. The young, inexperienced ensign who wanted to serve onboard the Enterprise and become a part of something big. Her line to Geordi about why she chose the Enterprise is a really nice exchange.


LaForge: You know, you're awfully young to be so driven.
Sonya: Yes, I am. I had to be. I had to be the best because only the best get to be here. Geordi, Lieutenant
LaForge: It's okay. Go on.
Sonya: Whatever is out here, we're going to be the first humans to see it. And I want to be a part of that. I want to understand it.
And if you think about it, her character's role in this episode sort of parallels that of Picard's. Both characters are firmly dedicated to their job and they desperately want to become a part of something that only Starfleet can offer. Q's last line to Picard could have been a great basis on where her character could go.


Q: It's wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross, but it's not for the timid.
Because despite her drive and ambition, Sonya did come off as timid and fragile during the course of this episode. That scene where she can't focus on getting the shields back up due to the thought of 18 people being killed by the Borg does a good job at further emphasizing Q's point. His actions didn't just affect Picard, but everyone else on the Enterprise. I can imagine an episode that deals with Sonya still trying to come to terms with her inability to act in an efficient manner during the Borg attack. Did her uncertainty lose the confidence that Geordi had in her? Can she keep it together and do what needs to be done if something similar were to happen? Or more importantly, does she really want to be out exploring the deep reaches of space where threats like the Borg exist?

It's a great pity that Sonya joins the ranks of many other characters who actually brought presence to their roles in Star Trek, but were never brought up or mentioned again. Even the next Borg episode, "The Best of Both Worlds" will follow suit to that practice.

BillJ May 13 2013 06:37 PM

Re: Episode of the Week: 2x16 "Q Who"
Great episode.

Use of Time May 13 2013 07:04 PM

Re: Episode of the Week: 2x16 "Q Who"
Yes. This is one of the best episodes in the history of Star Trek in my opinion. It packed so much into 45 minutes. The music that played when they show the Enterprise and the cube at full stop just staring at each is perfect. It also contains what I consider to be the best Q/Picard exchange we would ever see.

There is so much great dialogue in this one. LaForge/Gomez, Picard/Q and finally the ending containing the chess game with Picard/Guinan. Great television.

Third Nacelle May 13 2013 07:25 PM

Re: Episode of the Week: 2x16 "Q Who"
Later TNG and Voyager watered them down a bit, but when this episode originally aired, the Borg were frakkin' SCARY. At least to my eight-year old eyes. I think they're one of, if not the, best villains Star Trek has come up with.

Awesome episode.

Use of Time May 13 2013 08:00 PM

Re: Episode of the Week: 2x16 "Q Who"
^ They creeped the hell out of me when I was first introduced to them in this episode. That nursery scene was chilling and Q explaining to Picard that the Borg in engineering had nothing to say to him was great. I love the level of panic that sets in as the senior staff slowly realize that they have abosolutely nothing for the Borg in terms of defense.

Timo May 13 2013 10:03 PM

Re: Episode of the Week: 2x16 "Q Who"

Not a big deal, but why not have the scene play out while she's sitting by the window?
It almost appears as if Guinan is too scared to look directly at this sight... :devil:


The scariest bit - the Borg "nursery".
And it sort of gets scarier when later episodes reveal that the Borg don't actually bear babies - so they apparently assimilate them, too! Just imagine how that happens...

It IMHO adds to this episode that pretty much everything our heroes "establish" about these weird aliens gets contradicted later. Picard's hubris is not a mere personal quirk: it's something built into Starfleet, and evident in the actions and beliefs of each of its members. Our heroes are defenseless against the Borg in more ways than one!

Timo Saloniemi

JirinPanthosa May 14 2013 03:14 AM

Re: Episode of the Week: 2x16 "Q Who"
The first great TNG episode.

Dale Sams May 15 2013 04:54 AM

Re: Episode of the Week: 2x16 "Q Who"
Also...I believe...the first ep we see the Ent unload on another ship. Those shots of the phasers (despite Worf's horrible aiming) vaporizing huge sections of the Borg ship were awesome.

Also, re: Sonya Gomez. Obviously Geordi had some kind of freak for three-breasted women.

NEXT WEEK on EPISODE OF THE WEEK: "Twenty TrekBBSers admit they *still* say, 'We are strong.'"

Also, for the second week in a row, Troi marches onto the bridge with this "What the **** is going on??" attitude.

Timo May 15 2013 09:30 AM

Re: Episode of the Week: 2x16 "Q Who"

Worf's horrible aiming
Probably intended to indicate Borg countermeasures... Another concept later dropped. Still nice to see that shields aren't the only way to avoid phaser damage.

Timo Saloniemi

Marsden May 15 2013 01:39 PM

Re: Episode of the Week: 2x16 "Q Who"
There's no doubt this episode is a cut above.

I just don't like certain aspects of it. I never liked the "Borg" They are a great opponent for TNG, but I didn't care for them. From their stupid name to the fact that they are the result of the Cybermen sleeping with Pinhead. Q and everyone goes out of the way not to say "Cyborg" or Cybernetic" Q calls them an Enhanced Humanoid. Last, there have been "cubes" before, although the Borg ship design does seem to indicate their uniformity and functionality over any style. I wonder if it was meant to join or break into bigger or smaller cubes?

Also, while he does make the big admission of need later, this just shows Picard's arrogance. He's overbearing and even his "admission" has a bit of I'm not too proud to say this because I'm better than someone else that wouldn't ask for help rather than a true humility.

Plus, I hate Guinan. I can't justify it, I just wish she never existed and everything with her in it is tarnished.

Despite my complaints, it was a much better episode then many and Q's line is brilliant.

Doomsday May 15 2013 04:40 PM

Re: Episode of the Week: 2x16 "Q Who"
I agree that this ep is one of the best of the early TNG eps, clearly laying the groundwork for great things to come.

Having said that, and having just watched this episode recently for the first time in many years, there are some things about it that bug me.

Most of it has to do with Guinan. First, what's with that stupid cat-hissy-stance she takes with Q? She looks like she's about to shoot lightening bolts out of her fingers like Emperor Palpatine, or the Wicked Witch of the West. There is never any evidence that Guinan has any X-men super powers, so what was that for? It looked pretty stupid and I had to laugh.

More seriously, though, when you hear Guinan explaining the Borg and what they did to her people, I can't help but think, "Now you tell me!"

From what we know about Guinan, she has known Picard for a long long time, and thought of him as something beyond friendship, and obviously Picard felt the same way.

Even granting the Borg occupy a part of the galaxy that humans had not explored, it's just inconceivable to me that Guinan would not have told Picard what happened to her people.

I mean, this is who she is, a refugee from a destroyed and scattered race. Picard was not aware of this background? The Federation was not aware of this? I think my first action, if I were Picard, is to slap Guinan across her smug face for not sharing this bit of data with the Federation long ago.

Yet this revelation does not seem to bother Picard in the least.

Regarding the questionable decision to stay and investigate, in retrospect, this does seem foolish. But evidence would suggest Starfleet just has this curiosity instinct from way back. This is essentially the same thing Kirk does in The Corbomite Maneuver, so while perhaps questionable strategy, it makes sense "in universe".

The last thing that bugs me, is Pircards whining at the end and Q bailing them out, literally, a Deux ex Machina ending. I get it, that was the point of the episode and Q's actions, to show we are not ready.

But unfortunately, it made Picard seem inadequate, and impotent. If I had been a bridge crew person, and seen that seen, my reaction would have been to lose all respect for Picard as a leader. Maybe it would have been better for Picard to make that admission in the privacy of his ready room, rather than in front of all the bridge crew, whose very lives depend on his leadership?

Well, my opinion anyway.

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