You know, I went into this episode expecting another one that felt a lot like The Next Generation, like the last couple. My thinking was basically this one’s plot involves characters directly from TNG, how much more TNG-like is it gonna be? And yet, weirdly, despite the presence of Q and Vash, it feels a lot more like the show Deep Space Nine will become than most of what’s come so far. Everyone is messy, everyone is horny, and absolutely no one has any chill whatsoever.
Which I say as a joke, but also, a big part of what I love about DS9, and what’s bored me about the last couple of episodes, has been the lack of any major character stuff. It’s all been pretty straightforward plot-driven Weird Space Thing Of The Week. This episode, the Weird Space Thing was almost an afterthought to the character interactions: they figure out that the Big Glowy Space Manta Ray’s thing — egg? Chrysalis? Do they even say? I don’t think they even say — is what’s causing the station’s power issues, beam it out, and it glides on its merry way in the space of maybe thirty seconds. It’s all about the characters.
Brief meditation on the bigger Star Trek picture
I get that this is one of the things a lot of the fandom doesn’t like as much about DS9 — the move away from Weird Space Thing Of The Week — and Discovery as well. I mean, I can’t help but notice that the series certain parts of the fandom complain about the most are also the ones led by Black characters, what a weird coincidence — but I do believe that at least part of the fandom does, in good faith, just prefer the Weird Space Thing Of The Week format. It’s a stylistic preference, fair enough.
But I’m also really glad that the franchise has tried to make room for other kinds of stories. There’s a whole universe sitting there — to only use it for one kind of story really seems like a waste. So while I’m as tired as the next person of the Franchise Grind in pop culture, and a little leery about the rate at which Star Trek is launching spinoffs, I’m also cautiously pleased by the fact that they don’t all appear to be TNG clones. Hell, that was my biggest criticism of DSC’s second season, that they seemed to be backing away from the things that made the first season unique — and doing so in an attempt to win over a segment of the fandom that, for the most part, they never had in the first place, at the expense of the enjoyment of those of us who actually liked what they were doing.
(See also: the Democratic Party and the ~white working class~. Liz and Anika titled their episode on the DSC S2 finale “Making the 23rd Century Great Again” and that is…not wrong.)
Also, if they want to ask me about my spinoff ideas — one about the Cardassian occupation of Bajor that covers a few years before DS9 begins, and one a half-hour sitcom that’s basically Parks and Recreation at Starfleet HQ — I am here anytime.
Uh, so, that spiraled a bit. Returning to the more immediate topic of this particular episode…
The subtle horror of Q
You know, from TOS’s “Charlie X” through to DSC’s Gabriel Lorca, Star Trek really has made a theme out of how fucking terrifying entitled white men with a lot of power can be. Q spends a lot of his time just moderately irritating people and putting them in silly costumes, and then suddenly he’ll turn around and remind us that oh, fuck, he absolutely has the power to do much, much worse.
As a woman, watching his interactions with Vash is…uncomfortably realistic. “I’m the Q and you the lowly human. I’ll decide when this partnership is over.” How many times have I been friendly and polite to a guy who I couldn’t stand because I had no way of knowing whether he would be dangerous if I didn’t?
Also, every time I rewatch one of his episodes, I remember that I really, really need to write the essay about Q as the Jewish devil that’s been bouncing around in my head for a couple of years.
Julian needs to get his life right again
…and all is right with the world once more. I didn’t even know who I was when I couldn’t yell at him to get his life right.
From O’Brien’s face while sitting next to Bashir in the opening teaser, through Q just putting him to sleep for a few days, to Dax’s “lol buddy you have no idea” expression when she realizes he slept through all the excitement, this episode continues the pattern of “everyone is trying their best to ignore Bashir until he settles down a little” and I am extremely amused by it. Like, I don’t think that’s what the writers were doing consciously, but I’m definitely enjoying it as my own interpretation.
OK, Quark, I’ll allow it
In “Babel”, Quark was mostly tolerable because he wasn’t actually doing much hitting on anyone; in this one, he and Vash actually seem to be on the same wavelength, and it’s…kind of hilarious? If Star Trek is still looking for more spinoffs, I would watch The Quark and Vash Dirtbag Variety Hour every damn week.
Also, I am perhaps disproportionately entertained by Quark taking it in stride when Q just wishes him into the cornfield and back. Armin Shimerman is all in and even when Quark is at his worst I appreciate the hell out of that commitment. (Also, given that for a couple of years there he was doing both this show and Buffy the Vampire Slayer I feel like those of us who were in our formative nerd years during the late 90’s/early 00’s really owe Shimerman our gratitude.)
- Vash hiding her PIN as she locks her stuff in the vault just struck me as a really nice little touch that made the episode that much more real.
- “Vash and Captain Picard were…friends. Close friends, if you catch my meaning, sir.” I love how O’Brien is trying to pretend to be halfway discreet about his tea-spilling. Like, that significant pause before “friends” may not have been enough, let’s just make it a little clearer. And Sisko’s comment on how Vash doesn’t seem like Picard’s type, ugh, everyone on this station is a messy bitch who lives for drama and I love it so much.
- Kira’s solution to the jammed door being to pull out her phaser, lord I love her so much.
- SISKO PUNCHES Q, LORD I LOVE HIM SO MUCH
- Quark: Isn’t there anything you desire?
Odo: I have my work. What else do I need?
Everyone. Everyone is horny. Quark is horny, Q is horny, Vash is horny, Bashir is horny, Bashir’s date in the opening teaser is horny, even Odo feels a stirring of something approaching horniness at the prospect of a latinum-plated bucket. Everyone is horny. This may be the horniest, thus far, that an episode has been without Dukat in it; truly, DS9 is coming into its own.
- Bashir’s date
5 thoughts on “1.07: “Q-Less””
Even the Received Fanperson Wisdom about “what TNG was” is only part of the real picture, which is another reason why Disco’s reversion was so frustrating. Like, “Starship Mine” is as much TNG as “Darmok”.
And this is the series where Beverly fucks her grandmother’s alien ghost lover on screen, and then tells Picard about it. TNG was as weird and horny as all the other Treks, they were just (mostly) better at putting it aside to get the job done than everyone else. Letting people — fans, haters, whatever — put it in the “boring and worthy” box does everyone a disservice.
This is a good point! Additionally, of course, the less serialized nature of TNG was due in no small part to the format — between not being able to count on things airing in order in syndication and VCRs growing in popularity as the show went on, most episodes had to stand on their own. So long-term interpersonal arcs become a lot harder to do — though, as TNG itself proved, far from impossible. If it were being made today, it’d almost certainly have the same short seasons and serialized nature as DSC — hell, Picard is the closest we’re going to come to TNG: The Next Generation, and looks to be, if anything, even more of a character-driven serial drama than Disco.
Quick side comment to mention that I love your spinoff ideas. Mine was for a Section 31-centered series that explored the relationship between S31 and the official Starfleet intelligence agency, centered on a starship that ostensibly is assigned to conduct operations for Starfleet Intelligence but that also functions as an S31 platform. I read somewhere that they are actually now making this show, or something like it, which baffles me because I don’t understand why coming up with this concept and keeping half-finished versions of it on various laptops that I own for the last 20 years without having ever shown it to another human doesn’t entitle me to be the showrunner, perhaps my contract was lost in the mail. Anyway.
I expected this episode to be trash and I think I’ve skipped it on past rewatches, but I was surprised by how entertaining I found it. I’m not a fan of most Q episodes on TNG but his personality played off a non-TNG crew in a way that surprised me with how good it was. When Sisko punches him and then shrugs! (I suppose in the briefing that Sisko mentions having received about Q they explained that Q was evidently impervious to physical harm, although I have to wonder how detailed the briefing actually was… I’m envisioning a series of Captain America-style instructional videos narrated by Picard and now I wonder if Patrick Stewart could be persuaded to record a few of them.)
As an episode on its own merits I thought it was a good combination of Alien of the Week and the DS9 character dynamic that worked so well for the series. I think the script itself made a conscious decision not to bother explaining anything about the space manta ray in any detail because LOL who cares? I respect that, and the decision to spend more time and lines on Quark and Vash horniness than on some technobabble about how it was a metaphasic energy-based life form with a temporal distortion resonance field and so on.
In your review you touched on something that made sense to me for the first time ever. I remember watching this episode when it came out and finding it “lame” (13-year-old me was a deeply discerning reviewer) because I thought Q was acting out of character. In fact I think I was seeing, without seeing/understanding, the vibe you mention about his unpredictability and sudden turns of cruelty as being hallmarks of an abusive personality. They never really worked to highlight that in TNG, other than in “Q Who” (in which his fit of pique against Picard winds up creating a situation in which a whole bunch of people on the Enterprise die at the hands of the Borg, which the episode sensibly remembers to have Picard be furious about but which Q sneeringly writes off as a “bloody nose”) – after that it was mostly Stupid Q Tricks. In this episode when they have him expose Vash to the potential consequences of the insect bite it showcases that what you call “uncomfortably realistic” coercive aspect to his relationship with Vash. I wonder if the writers did it intentionally as a way to contrast Q on this show from Q on TNG, where, by this point, he had long since ceased to be thought of as any kind of threat and usually was just comic relief or a device to provide for an otherwise absurdly unlikely episode plot (e.g. “Tapestry”). (Altho, the Continuum did want to use him as a hit man in “True Q,” which aired just a few months before this episode of DS9.)
More Vash! What a missed opportunity. The way she bounced off several of the characters would have been a really interesting dynamic in future episodes/seasons, as a recurring guest star at least. I don’t think there would have been a plausible way to use her as a regular, but it would have made eminent sense for the Bajorans (I doubt she’d pass a Starfleet background check) – newly positioned with a gateway to a totally unexplored region of space – to keep a Gamma Quadrant expert around for advice and consultation, especially during the early period of the series when “exploring stuff in the Gamma Quadrant” was still a regular theme of episodes.
Honorable horny mention for me for Sisko during the boxing match.
Me after all my most ridiculous theories/wishful thinking about where they were going with this whole thing unfolded on screen during the back half of Discovery S1, honestly. Where are our credits, Star Trek?
RIGHT? Thank you, DS9. As you said, “LOL who cares”. EMBRACE THE DRAMA, DS9. This is Star Trek, we all know there’s some technobabble explanation for things at this point.
I love your mention of “Q Who”, too — rewatching it recently, I was struck all over again by how Picard really does consider a dozen lost crewmembers something to be angry about. With how high the collateral damage body counts get in things like superhero movies (or, uh, the fact that that probably wouldn’t even be the worst mass shooting in a given year here in the US), it was just…really refreshing. It also reinforces A. Q’s general dickishness, but also B. that the perspective granted by immortality and omnipotence really make him alien in a way that very few races in Trek ultimately are. Like, if he weren’t generally more just concerned with annoying people, Q and the Continuum in general could be some full-on cosmic horror shit.
Also, looking on Wikipedia, it looks like one of the writers for this episode was a woman, which actually makes me think the creepy-ass abusive dynamic with Vash was intentional? Nice, Trek.
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