This Entry is for entertainment purposes only. The Star Trek name, fictional characters and places and all references to relevant timelines remain the copyright of CBS Paramount Television. Some knowledge of the Star Trek universe is required to fully enjoy the entry. Warning: contains spoilers.
For those of you who haven't heard about Q (where have you been?), he is an omnipotent and immortal being from a place somewhere in the universe known as the 'Q Continuum'. The Q this entry is about is actually only one of a species of Q, and most of them are called Q. They have (or perhaps more specifically, he has) a fascination with humanity, and the crew of the starship Enterprise-D in particular - especially her captain. Q treats the crew as if they are his playthings and he behaves like a bored teenager. He is the humanoid1 alien with unlimited powers at his fingertips. His character is loved and loathed - loved only by Trekkies, of course. Q's arrival on the Enterprise guarantees odd behaviour, weird happenings, the crew stressed or acting out of character and the ship on Red Alert. Q provides comic relief, he stops at nothing to provoke reactions from the crew, including wearing their uniform and sitting in the captain's chair. Who else would dare to taunt the fearsome Klingon Security Officer Worf? Then there's Q's other, more serious side, where he expresses views on humanity that many of us would agree with, even if it is a bit exaggerated.
Q is played by actor2 John de Lancie. Probably the most memorable of the character aliens, he appears in eight episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG), then a brief entrance in Deep Space Nine (DS9), and a few appearances in Star Trek: Voyager. One episode features John's son Keegan de Lancie, who guest-stars as Q Junior.
The Next Generation
Q is introduced in the first episode of The Next Generation and he's a big part of the very last one, seven years later. Although he only actually appears in eight of the episodes, Q is mentioned in a few others: he is primarily thought to be the mischief-maker in 'Devil's Due'3 and many unexplained strange goings-on could be thanks to him in 'Time Squared'.
For the amount of times Q saves the crew of the Enterprise, you would think they would be the best of friends, but Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) finds Q's behaviour intolerable. Q becomes enthralled with life on board the Enterprise; he quickly learns which buttons to press to invoke reactions but his continued references to Captain Picard as Mon Capitaine in an exaggerated French accent shows his (unrequited) affection. Their relationship is one of the most erratic and inexplicable in the whole series (closely followed by that of the captain and Lwaxana Troi4).
'Encounter at Farpoint' - Parts I and II
Just as we are being introduced to the crew of the new Enterprise-D we have the surprise of meeting Q, appearing with a new forcefield (which isn't seen again after series one). Q kidnaps Captain Picard, Counsellor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis), Lt Tasha Yar (Denise Crosby) and Data (Brent Spiner) and puts them on trial for the cruelty of mankind. Quite why an android (Data) can be included in that only Q knows. After they manage to pass the test, Q decides to 'keep an eye on them' and warns them they 'haven't seen the last of The Q' - a threat Picard doesn't take lightly.
'Hide and Q' (#11)
Q presents Riker (Jonathan Frakes) with what he calls an irresistible offer, which Riker, in a true 'good guy' way, refuses. But not until after another of Q's games, taking the senior officers to his own version of the Napoleonic world, and making Riker use his god-like powers to save them. The captain and Q have a Shakespearean-quoting session, showing that while the Enterprise was travelling through the galaxy, Q was obviously researching human literature.
'Q Who?' (#42)
Poor Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg) is confronted with two of her worst nightmares (Q and the Borg) in the same episode. Q has been banished from the Q Continuum, and wants a position aboard the Enterprise. Even though he demonstrates how he can help them by introducing them to the Borg, killing 18 crew members in the process, his request is (unsurprisingly) refused. This episode won two Emmy Awards.
'Déjà Q' (#61)
Exiled from the Q Continuum, Q has been turned into a human, at his request. He befriends Data ('the android who teaches a course on humanity') and saves a planet from total annihilation. Not bad for one episode. In an amusing scene, Guinan remarks drily to the now-fallible Q: 'How the mighty have fallen'.
Q is back to playing his old games, this time with Vash, an old flame of the captain's5. Archæologist Vash (portrayed by Jennifer Hetrick) turns up on the Enterprise and renews her relationship with Picard. Unfortunately he forgets to cancel his usual breakfast companion (Beverly Crusher, played by Gates McFadden) so there's an awkward moment when Dr Crusher intrudes, introduces herself to the attractive stranger and gleefully offers Vash a tour of the ship. Picard is mortified that the entire ship's company will discover their liaison so he buries himself in his duties and ignores Vash. This behaviour annoys her and she accuses him of being embarrassed by her. His consternation is witnessed by Q, who decides to teach Picard a lesson about love. Suddenly Vash finds herself in mediæval England, Nottingham Castle to be precise, in the role of Maid Marian. Picard is Robin Hood, Q is the dastardly Sheriff of Nottingham, Data is Friar Tuck and Worf is a very objectionable 'Merry Man' who smashes Geordi's lute against a tree and then apologises. After 'Robin' saves 'Marian' from a fate worse than death (marrying Sir Guy of Gisbourne, played by the amazing Clive Revill) things go back to normal for Picard and the crew, but Vash has not been returned to the Enterprise. Q delights that 'a mere woman' could get under Picard's skin and cause him such anguish; if only he'd known, he muses to Picard, he'd have appeared as a female. Vash materialises and tells Picard that she has decided to accept Q's offer to become his travelling companion, leaving Picard with just pleasant memories of their time together. Que sera, sera Picard - better to have loved and lost than too much familiarity breed contempt.
Not just satisfied with one Q, this time we have another. Amanda Rogers (Olivia d'Abo) came aboard to gain some experience as a medical officer with Dr Beverly Crusher. Amanda turns out to be a Q, born to two Q renegades who had been living as humans on Earth until they were hunted down and killed by a freak weather storm (engineered by the Q Continuum). Dr Crusher argues with Q about Amanda, and he complains to Picard that Crusher is getting 'more shrill'. When they argue again, Q loses patience and turns Crusher into a barking dog. Actually a very attractive canine, but still...
Q saves the captain again, and teaches him a lesson: 'Be careful what you wish for'. This episode is the Trek equivalent to the film It's a Wonderful Life. After he is mortally injured and believes he is dead, Picard is shocked to find himself in the 'afterlife' - with Q. Picard is asked if he has any regrets and whether he would change anything if he could. He agrees he did things during his youth which he would do differently, with hindsight. Q gives him that chance, but things don't turn out as Picard thought they would.
'All Good Things...' - Parts I (#177) and II (#178)
This is really the perfect ending to the series, in which Q takes the captain back and forward through time and space from the start of humanity to 25 years or so into their current future. While being bounced about like a Ping-Pong ball between past, present and future, Jean-Luc Picard solves the puzzle of what is happening in the Neutral Zone by showing, according to Q, 'a glimmer of intelligence'. The future we see informs us that Picard married Beverly Crusher but after 25 years they got divorced. She keeps his surname, though, and has her own medical ship, the USS Pasteur, on which the crew call her 'Captain Picard'. In that future reality Riker and Worf hate one another as each blames the other for the death of Deanna Troi, whom they both loved6. They are forced to overcome their animosity towards each other in order to help Jean-Luc Picard save the galaxy. Also assisting the aged Jean-Luc in that future is Geordi, who invites his old captain to dinner with himself and Leah. No doubt this is a reference to Dr Leah Brahms, whom Geordi fell in love with in the episode 'Galaxy's Child'. At the time it was unrequited because she was married to someone else (Geordi always seemed to be unlucky in love) but they ended up as friends. It's a lovely thought that they eventually got together. Another nice touch was depicting the future Data (complete with grey streaks in his hair) as the Lucasian Professor7 at Cambridge University, having his own suite, housekeeper and multiple cats for company8. We suspect that the future the elderly Jean-Luc experienced was Q's vision, coloured by his preferences. If that was the case, where did Q's main antagonist Guinan end up? Probably best we don't know...9
Deep Space Nine
Only one appearance here, in 'Q-Less', with Vash again. Even she couldn't put up with Q for long. After two years exploring unknown (and possibly inaccessible to mere mortals) parts of the galaxy with Q, she is discovered in the Gamma Quadrant and brought to the space station Deep Space Nine. Q turns up and a meeting with Captain Benjamin Sisko results in Q being punched - even Worf never managed that! 'Q-Less' was the only DS9 episode written by Hannah Louise Shearer, who had previously created stories for The Next Generation.
Just a few appearances, but there are other members of the Q Continuum who show up as well:
'Death Wish' (#30)
Captain Kathryn Janeway's (Kate Mulgrew) first of three meetings with Q - who likes the idea of female starship captains. Another Q trial in this episode, but this time the tables are turned. The Voyager crew accidentally release a prisoner, imprisoned inside a comet. It turns out he is a member of the Q Continuum (but as they are all called Q and address each other as Q, for the purposes of this Entry he will be referred to as Quinn). Quinn (Graham Gerrit) wants to become human so he can die, because he is bored with immortality. But Q claims this will 'disrupt the Continuum'. Janeway offers to mediate between the two and holds a hearing with witnesses supplied by Q and Quinn. We learn that Sir Isaac Newton (Maury Ginsberg) had a bit of help from Quinn while discovering gravity. Quinn also saved the Woodstock music festival in 1969 by getting the electrician there on time after his van broke down en route. Another witness was Commander Will Riker, who apparently only existed thanks to Quinn saving his ancestor Colonel Thaddeus Riker during the US Civil War. While Janeway is deliberating, Q attempts to bribe her by offering to send Voyager home, but she ignores the obvious temptation and rules in favour of Quinn. This decision has profound repercussions...
'The Q and the Grey' (#53)
This episode deals with the consequences of Janeway's ruling and Quinn's subsequent suicide. We are treated to watching Q's attempts at seducing Janeway ('Foreplay with a Q can last for decades') and meet a female Q (Suzie Plakson) whom Q has been having a relationship with for billions of years. To say she doesn't react well to Q romancing a human female is a bit of an understatement. Janeway was really lucky that the female Q lost her powers, otherwise she'd probably have been turned into Jabba the Hutt10. Janeway and Q end up in another version of the Q Continuum, but this time during a battle, which in Janeway's mind appeared to be during the US Civil War. She was appropriately dressed for the time period in a hoop skirt (she wore it well). Janeway managed to get Q and the female Q to make up (and hopefully leave her alone). They mated by touching fingers and later had a baby boy. Just when Janeway thought she was through with the whole Q Continuum, Q turns up in her quarters with the baby in his arms and asks her to be his godmother. How could she resist?
Keegan de Lancie (John de Lancie's son) appears in this episode, as Q's son Q Junior. Q is having real problems keeping his son under control, as Q Junior is just as rebellious and mischievous as his father ever was. We can imagine that if Jean-Luc Picard had been in this episode, he would have smirked and uttered 'Schadenfreude'. Q begs 'Aunt Kathy' (Janeway) to teach Q Junior how to behave as he is risking being expelled from the Q Continuum if he doesn't shape up. She agrees, but only if his Q-powers are removed. Q agrees and promptly vanishes, leaving Janeway babysitting a petulant teenager who may no longer possess omnipotent powers, but he can still cause trouble...
Q has his own book: Q's Guide to the Continuum (written by Michael Jan Friedman and Robert Greenberger) which contains useful nuggets of information such as: 'The galaxy's wordiest treaty' and 'The galaxy's largest single-celled organism'. There are numerous Trek novels featuring Q, such as Q-Squared, Q-in-Law and Q: Vendetta, by Peter David.
Together with Leonard Nimoy (who played Spock), John de Lancie created Alien Voices. It featured a company of Star Trek actors11 who performed science fiction classics such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World in audiobook form, and also a few TV specials taped for posterity (thank goodness, as Leonard Nimoy died in 2015). The project has ended but you can watch out for repeats on the SyFy channel. Alien Voices audiobooks are still available to purchase.
John de Lancie has co-written a book, entitled I,Q, with Trek author Peter David. He also enjoys appearing at Star Trek conventions and meeting fans.