Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Star Trek: The Next Generation--"Hide and Q"

I have seen “Hide and Q’ at least a half dozen times over the years, including its first run in 1987. At no point did I ever like it. This is the first time I have ever had to sit down and hash out why I have never cared for the episode. Two main reasons came to mind. First, it features all the worst elements of TOS. Two, the characters act so over the top emotionally unstable, it is embarrassing in some places, jaw dropping in others.

Going in order, “Hide and Q” feels like a rewritten TOS episode. All the elements are there. Q is a flamboyant, infinitely powerful being who wants to test the worthiness of humanity. He kidnaps the bridge crew and plops them down on a planet like looks more like the backdrop for a high school than a Hollywood soundstage. The bridge crew is then put into conflict with historical figures from Earth. You get a certain Kirk battling pure evil alongside Abraham Lincoln, but at least the 18th century French army soldiers here are warthog creatures rather than human. So at least there is an unearthly element to it. That is something you would hope for from someone as strange as Q.

I do not think I went into the matter when reviewing “Encounter at Farpoint,” but I do not care for Q. there have only been two, maybe three, appearances over the years which I enjoyed. He has nothing to offer that we have not seen from Trelane, the metrons, Yarnek, etc. In his defense, I never much appreciate infinitely powerful characters in science fiction unless they are done right. By which I mean humans ought to be insignificant gnats. He ought not be dressing up like a French Field marshall or a Benedictine monk just for kicks.

There are times when Q is more in tune with my expectations (“Q Who” and “Tapestry” come to mind immediately.) but for the most part, the character is a wash. Too bad. I really like John de Lancie.

All that said, it is the characterizations that really bother me about “Hide and Q.” When Q first appears as a three headed snake, Worf and Tasha Yar leap over the railing, phasers drawn, in order to confront him. Their ready for battle raction must be in compensation for their just standing there the first time he showed up on the bridge in “Encounter at Farpoint.” this is not the last of their annoying behavior, either. Tasha overreacts to Q down on the planet and gets exiled to the “penalty box” of the bridge before she can kick Q likeshe does everyone else who sets her off. She promptly starts crying. Nothing says Chief of Security quite like tears over hurt feelings. Worf later engages in klingon sex on the bridge right in front of everyone. I guess that is ind ofcool, in a way.

But here is the worst part. Q’s purpose is to grant Riker the power of the Q. riker reluctantly uses it to bring Worf and Wesley Crusher back to life after they are killed by the French warthogs and returns everyone safely to the ship. When he is back on board, Picard makes him promise he will never use his powers again. Brokerages. Bear in mind, they never discussed any logical reasons whatsoever why Riker needs to refrain. It is an understood moral imperative that he not and no one questions it.

No one questions it until they reach their original destination--a planet wherea mining accident has severely injured hundreds of people. The crew finds a dead little girl under heavy rubble. Data points out riker could bring her back to life, but he refuses because he promised Picard he would not use his powers. The kicker is Picard agrees he made the right choice in not bringing the girl back to life. That is right. Picard gives Riker an attaboy for letting an innocent child die. There is still no moral discussion why Riker should not use his powers, nor does anyone appreciate Worf and Wesley would be definitely be dead with the others in mortal danger if he had not.

The irony of it boils down to Picard lecturing Riker over how power corrupts. So somehow, killing through inaction is more virtuous than saving a life simply because one has more power to save the life than anyone else? Sorry, but I do not see it. put me in the camp of Picard is wrong and Riker should have told him to stick it in his ear.

Riker does begin to question himself, but he comes to the conclusion he should give his friends gifts in order to prove he is not a monster rather than, oh, I do not know--actually saving the little girl? He gives Worf a sex partner, Geordi his sight, Wesley his manhood, but data turns him down when he seeks to make the android human. I can see why Data would refuse (who wants to be fragile and mortal?) and wesley wanted his old self back (why lose ten years of your life/). But geordi would rather remain blind than offer gratitude to either Riker or Q. it is not made clear exactly who he has contempt for at the time. Riker has adopted a smug attitude making him more annoying than Wesley on a sugar high.

So the experiment ends with Riker giving up his powers. Everything goes back to normal. The crew has its principles, blindness, youth, unemotional , eternal existence, and unrelieved horniness intact. The power of the Q will not beutilized for good. Oh, yes. That little girl is still dead, too. I guess everything worked out well. Do elaborate in the comments if you think so. Personally, I think Riker squandered a gift that could have been a great boon to all life because he listened to the shortsighted advice of his colleagues.

Rating: * (out of 5)

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