Star Trek: The Next Generation: Hide and Q
Original Air Date: November 23, 1987
Teleplay By: C.J. Holland and Gene Roddenberry
Story By: C.J. Holland
Directed by: Cliff Bole
Synopsis: The Enterprise receives a distress call from a colony on Quadra Sigma III, which is just a few planets before eMac Sigma III. There's been an accident, and they need urgent medical attention. The colonists are in luck (as are Trekkies who have had their fill of "Pain! So much pain!") because the Enterprise has just dropped off Counselor Troi at Starbase G-6, putting them close enough to Sigma III to speed on over and save the 500 or so trapped miners. (Ah, trapped miners on a far off colony . . . it's one of the classic Sci-Fi cliches.)
The Enterprise kicks it up to Warp 9.1, but quickly runs into a familiar and no-longer-mysterious giant CGI net that the ship can't pass. Faster than you can say, "Hey, that's the ILM-designed thing Q used in 'Encounter at Farpoint!'" Data says, "Captain! It's that ILM-designed thing Q used in 'Encounter at Farpoint!'" They put on the brakes, and in a blinding flash of light, Q appears on the Bridge, and tells Picard that he's decided that humans are not just a bunch of shitcocks, and as a reward, he's giving them a really swell gift.
Picard tells Q that it's very sweet of him to offer, but they're on their way to save those trapped miners on Quadra Sigma III, where there are also radioactive mutants, a sentient brain in a jar, a computer that's become self-aware and turned on its creator, beings of pure energy, and a call that's coming from inside the house, so maybe they could just talk about this some other time.
Q is really not cool with that, and while he amuses the audience with some great zingers (see Quotable Dialogue, below) he manages to seriously piss off Worf, who growls at him and bears his teeth. Then the writers manage to piss off the entire audience when Picard recaps the entire pilot in a pedantic and self-righteous speech that goes on and on. Riker tries to get things back on track, and tells Q that they don't have time for games (but apparently they do have time to recap the pilot?) This makes Q positively giddy with girlish excitement, and he transports the crew to the surface of some mysterious planetoid, leaving Picard alone on the bridge
While they try to figure out where they are, Picard discovers that nothing works on his ship. It's the first time in the episode that a real sense of doom emerges, and it's pretty cool. But don't worry, this is the first season, and that will be quickly erased when we return to the planetoid and discover Q, dressed in a Napoleonic costume. He invites Riker to have a seat and drink some old fashioned lemonade while he sets up the rules of the game that Riker says they don't have time to play. Riker displays great caution and skepticism by grabbing the glass and taking a nice big drink. When he doesn't die, the rest of the crew chug their own drinks . . . except for Worf. Worf looks at his glass and dumps it straight out on the ground for all his fallen homies. Oh. Snap.
After some more talking, we finally find out what the hell is going on: Q is going to play a game with the crew, and he's basically ripped the setting off from the popular Avalon Hill wargame Empires in Arms. Q tells Riker that if he wins the game, he'll win "the greatest possible future that you can imagine." (Really? A future without reality TV? Awesome! Riker FTW!) Q tells them that they have to stay alive, which will be slightly more difficult than usual, because the game is inherently unfair. Tasha freaks out, Q says "Bitch be cool!" and whisks her off to a penalty box until someone gives him back his wallet, which says "Bad Motherfucker" on it. While they all try to figure out what a wallet is, Q reveals that if anyone else breaks the rules, they will also go to the penalty box, which unfortunately only holds one person. If someone else is sent there, Tasha will be sent off to a fate worse than death: According to Jim.
(Personal aside: this scene goes on long after the audience has figured out what's happening. However, I've just watched it five times in a row, and I have to admire and praise John DeLancie. The only real nuances in the scene are delivered by him, with sly and subtle glances, carefully measured non-obvious double entendres, and a certainty and specificity that the Q character would be a disaster without. I can not overstate how lucky we are that John brought Q to life; it was brilliant casting and masterful acting.)
Back on the Bridge, Picard tries to record a log entry, but his ship is still not working. Tasha appears, and tells Picard everything the audience already knows about the penalty box. Then she starts to cry, because she's so frustrated at being controlled by Q. Picard calms her down, and tells her that it's okay to cry while you're in the penalty box. The 1976 Philadelphia Flyers agree, and point out that it's also okay to tell the referee that the penalty was complete bullshit. The scene tries very hard to humanize both characters by having them play against type, and it almost succeeds, but it's overwhelmed by saccharine strings on the soundtrack, and a bit of dialogue from Tasha at the end where she implies that she wants to know if he's as fully functional as Data. The moment is made even more creepy with the benefit of hindsight: she gets wasted by the Skin of Evil in just a few episodes, and tells Picard that he was always like a father to her. Eww.
Q reappears, ends Tasha's penalty, and reveals that he's testing Riker. Picard tells Q that Riker will totally kick his ass, and they make a bet: if Picard wins, Q stays out of humanity's path, and if Q wins, Picard gives up his starship command. (Okay, this is just silly. The show is ten episodes old. Does anyone seriously believe that Picard will lose his command? I wish they'd have made the stakes more realistic, like Picard has to wear a Broncos jersey or something humiliating like that.) Q agrees and tells Picard that he's already lost because Riker will be offered something that is impossible to refuse: a low-calorie pale ale that doesn't let you down in the flavor department.
On the planetoid, Worf has gone off on a recon mission where he finds some alien soldiers, dressed in appropriate French historical costumes, marching around with muskets in some kind of encampment. Hey, that's kind of interesting and cool, so why don't we head back up to the Enterprise, so Q and Picard can talk some more?
Actually, I kid. Oh, sure, they talk, but this time it's a very good scene, performed by two very good actors who make the most of some moderately good dialogue. Picard wants to know why Q won't just talk about what he wants with humanity, and insists on forcing them to play games. (Yeah, because more talking about stuff would really be a welcome change from the constant talking about stuff.) Q tells him that it's just how he rolls . . . but they do the whole thing by reciting Shakespeare at each other, which is a lot cooler than it sounds.
Back on the planet, Riker tests out his phaser by shooting it at a rock about ten feet away from Worf, who responds to the violent explosion with a self-described warrior's reaction: a lot of snarling. (And you know what? I have to give up some respect for Michael Dorn. I can't imagine what it must have been like to play Worf in the first season, when he was one-dimensional and so incredibly stupid. He didn't do much more than Denise did in these early episodes, and where she decided to quit the series out of frustration, Michael stuck it out, eventually developed a complex and beloved character, became a regular on DS9, and was in all the TNG movies.)
Worf tells Riker that though the enemy is wearing human uniforms, they're more like vicious animal creatures, just in time for two of them to show up. Riker asks Data if he has a theory about what's going on, and just as the audience braces itself for another long-winded recap of the entire episode, Data turns around . . . and is revealed to actually be Q!
The animal creatures take aim and fire their muskets in true Star Trek fashion: right at the guys who are wearing red shirts. Only they aren't muskets, they're actually phasers. Riker and Geordi leap safely out of the way, and Riker blasts them both with his own weapon. More creatures appear (it's almost like a level in a Quake III mod) and Q tells Riker that the only way he can save his crew is to send them back to the ship, using the powers of the Q, which, incidentally, Riker now has.
Riker doesn't have a lot of time to decide what to do, as thousands of creatures begin to surround them and -- okay, wait. I lied. It's not thousands, it's more like six, but we didn't have a big budget then, so would it kill you to suspend your disbelief a little bit? Do you really expect Helm's Deep on television in 1987? At least we're giving you some action instead of a lot of talking. You want the talking? How about that? Would that be better? Huh? Or how about we get the kid to come in and whip up some deus ex machina to save the day? Yeah, that's what I thought, tough guy.
Riker uses the power of the Q to send them back to the ship, in a daring maneuver that saves his crew from the onslaught of ferocious animal creatures, who had them out numbered by at least two.
Meanwhile, back on the Bridge, the power has just been restored. According to Engineering and the ship's computer, as far as everyone except the Bridge crew is concerned, no time has passed at all, and nothing has changed in their apparent absence. It's almost like Q is some sort of omnipotent being who sent them off into a parallel universe, where six ferocious animal creatures could easily overwhelm and kill four Starfleet officers, one of whom is a mighty Klingon warrior!
Data, Geordi, and Worf appear on the Bridge, but Riker is nowhere to be found. No worries, though, says Picard: Q has an "interest" in him. Hopefully, it's not like the "interest" the Traveler had in Wesley Crusher . . . and while we try to get that image out of our head, the scene returns to the planetoid, where we find Riker, sitting on a rock and laughing his ass off at Q, who Riker says is a big fat joke. Well, it's not the nicest thing in the world to say, but at least he's not preaching at him, right? Don't worry, it's coming.
In the ensuing scene, Q metaphorically humps Riker's leg, while Riker metaphorically keeps kicking him off. The Q, it turns out, were impressed with something in humans after their encounter at Farpoint, and are worried that humans will soon be racing around the galaxy with their inevitably malfunctioning holodecks, waking up the Borg, converting boy geniuses to Travelers, living entire lifetimes in the blink of an eye, and hiring Whoopi Goldberg to be the bartender. Q wants to know exactly why humanity is going to do all these things, and if he can get Riker to come bat for the other team, he'll have a better chance at figuring it all out. Also, he desperately needs Carson to give him a new look.
Riker tells Q that he doesn't go for these backdoor shenanigans, and Q disappears, just in time for Picard, Tasha, Geordi, and Worf to take his place. Wesley Crusher has also arrived, apparently being whisked right out of school. Wesley reveals that he's the first teenager in the history of the universe to be unhappy that he was taken out of class.
Tasha and Worf have lost their phasers, which is bad news because there are now seven creatures, and they've brought a bugler. Without a viewscreen to shoot at, Worf's warrior instincts take over, and with a fearsome growl, he attacks. He manages to knock two of them to the ground before he gets hit in the face with a rifle and bayonetted to death. Wesley has a characteristically natural and believable response as he runs to Worf's side, just in time to get bayonetted right in the back himself. Trekkies across the galaxy spontaneously erupt into celebratory riots, burning down buildings in Detroit, setting cars on fire in Los Angeles, and looting in Knoxville, but the party is very short lived as Riker uses his Q powers to launch everyone back onto the Enterprise's Bridge.
With just 12 minutes left before they arrive to save the trapped miners (remember that? It turns out they're digging for MacGuffins in the Sigma III system), Riker tells Picard that he's not going to accept Q's offer to become godlike, and that he promises not to use his powers again. Well, that was easy.
They arrive at the planet, and find about 8 of the 500 trapped miners (I swear to RIker, don't say a thing, or so help me we'll talk about the Prime Directive) including a trapped and dead child. Riker, honoring the promise he made Picard, doesn't use his powers to bring her back to life. When he gets back to the bridge, though, he's pretty pissed about it, and wants a meeting with the entire bridge staff. (I'd just like to point out that it's nice -- to me anyway -- to see a character on TNG acting like an arrogant prick and it isn't Wesley.)
Dr. Crusher arrives for the meeting, accompanied by a very smug and snotty Wesley, and Riker explains that, even though he's pretty much a golden god, he's still the same old lovable Riker they've known for ten episodes, and to show them how totally awesome he is, he's going to give some gifts to the crew.
He starts with Wesley (who he claims to know best of all, because of their friendship and long talks, and that one time Wesley brought his friend Dudley into Riker's bike shop.) Riker gives Wesley his greatest wish: the gift of being ten years older, turning him into a barrel-chested, blond-haired, blue-eyed dreamboat (coincidentally, having a barrel-chested, blond-haired, blue-eyed dreamboat to play with was the costume designer's greatest wish, as well.) Riker then turns to Data, but before he can turn Data into a real boy (a barrel-chested, blond-haired, blue-eyed dreamboat, no doubt) Data tells him that it would just be an illusion, and declines. Undeterred, Riker gives Geordi his sight, takes the banana clip off his face, and tells him that he doesn't have to answer to "Toby" any more . . . but Geordi also declines, so Riker turns his attention to Worf, giving him a Klingon whore who snarls and bares her teeth, which is apparently sexy by Klingon standards. Worf doesn't want the K'lap, so he gives his gift back too, followed by Wesley, then Tin Man, Scarecrow, and Cowardly Lion.
Throughout all of this, Q sits on the edge of the Bridge, and vies for Riker's loyalty like a weekend dad at a custody hearing, while Picard calmly tries to get Riker to see the real consequences of his choices. Ultimately, like in any after school special or first season episode of TNG, Riker does the right thing, and says, "Get thee behind me, Q!"
Picard turns to Q and says, "HA! Pay up, bitch!"
Q tries to back out of the bet his made with Picard, but gets zapped off the bridge by what we can assume is the rest of the Q Continuum, who must be a little annoyed that this is the guy they chose to interact with humans. Hey, screw you, Q. Coffee is for closers.
Everything returns to normal, and the episode closes with a nice exchange between Picard and Data:
"Sir, how is it that Q can handle time and space so well, and us so badly?" Data says.
Picard replies, "Perhaps one day we will discover that space and time are simpler than the human equation."
And perhaps we can try to solve the equation again next season, in Measure of a Man.
You seem to find all this amusing.
I might, if we weren't on our way to help some suffering and dying humans --
Oh your species is always suffering and dying.
Obligatory Technobabble: "Captain, I have a schematic from the explosion site. It suggests the cause may be a methane-like gas." -- Riker, setting up the MacGuffin. (Yes, I realize that this isn't true technobabble, but it's the closest we came in this episode, believe it or not.)
Behind the Scenes Memory: At the very beginning of the show, Riker comes walking out of the upstage turbolift and delivers the obligatory technobabble I mentioned above. I wasn't in that scene, but I was on the stage getting something to eat while they shot it. On one of the early takes, they rolled the cameras, Patrick started his dialogue, and then there was this really loud crash, followed by Jonathan's muffled voice saying, "Oh, shit." It was one of the first times that I can recall one of us walking full speed into the turbolift doors and the FX guy didn't open them.
I didn't know at the time that there was a deep and burning hatred for my character developing in fandom (I hadn't been to any conventions, yet, and didn't know what Usenet was) so I didn't think twice about being stabbed on the planetoid; actually, I thought it was kind of cool. However, that image was endlessly reprinted over the next year or so, and more than one Trekkie presented it to me at a con for an autograph, incorrectly thinking the joke was on me. It ultimately ended up as a card called "Wesley gets the point" in the Star Trek CCG.
The Bottom Line: Though it suffers from the typical ailments that afflict most of the first season episodes, this still has some good moments, and they managed to sneak some character development in there as well. Visually, it's a pleasing show that looks very much like the original series, especially the planetoid with a green sky and dual moons (this is either really great or totally lame, depending upon your point of view) but it still has way too much exposition. Like the Robot Devil told Fry, "You can't just have your characters announce how they feel! That makes me feel angry!" It is well-paced, though, and while the action sequences are kind of silly, they do a fine job breaking up the talking.
About the talking: I'm very reluctant to criticize my friend Gene Roddenberry, but it seems like a typical Aaron Sorkin criticism can be leveled at him in these early episodes: he puts his words into his characters mouths, and lectures the audience. There are moments of interesting and engaging character interaction between Riker and Q, Riker and Picard, and Picard and Q here, but there's a ton of expository, preachy, I-am-going-to-make-my-point dialogue in those scenes that's emotionally disconnected and tiresome. If a writer or producer wants to get points across to his audience, I think it's better to do it less obviously, with more allegory and less power point presentations. Think of Ron Moore's Battlestar Galactica, and you'll have a perfect example of how to do it right.
However, this episode does a fairly decent job examining the human condition and the absolute corruption that comes with absolute power, and if we're going to have a recurring villain, we could do much worse than John DeLancie's Q. If we're grading on a curve, based upon what we've already seen in the first season, this is certainly an above-average episode.
Final Grade: B-