In which Q loves war, Riker loves power, and Worf loves women in fishnet shirts and scale armor. (But really, who doesn’t?)
The Enterprise has dropped off Troi for some reason when a Federation colony calls for help – a mine has exploded and the Enterprise is making way towards the colony at warp 9.1 to do emergency care on 500+ colonists when Geordi detects a force field that looks familiar…
The bridge crew recognizes it immediately and are understandably pissed off that Q chose this moment to appear as three snakes on a glowing orb and taunt everyone. Worf and Yar, of course, rush to point a phaser at him in case that will help, because they are bad at their jobs. I mean, A for aspirations, but F for “fffft, what do you think that’s going to actually do in this situation?” Q, however says he’s here to give them a gift which takes precedence over them helping out the mining colony, and then Q-bursts into John de Lancie in all his glory wearing an admiral’s dress uniform. Quueu (ha ha) a royally ticked off Picard and the teaser.
Now would be a great time to mention that the same effect is used for the Next Generation Warp Bursts as for Q doing… whatever it is he does. It could be because Q is actually releasing a massive amount of energy of the kind and intensity necessary to mold space-time into a form easier to cross, or it could just be because he thought it would be funny to use the warp effect. The world may never know…
Q is now dressed in probably Napoleonic-era garb, but maybe not true to form. I don’t know what style of uniform that is but it has epaulets and John de Lancie can pull it off. Here’s where Riker has the advantage over basically everyone else. He plays a long and has a sip of lemonade, where Data looks curiously at his glass of motor oil and Worf throws away his glass of bloodwine. Q and Riker chat – since Picard passed the test at Farpoint, the Q have apparently become interested in what humanity will become, since the Star Trek humanity avoids stagnation. This is debatable to a committed transhumanist, but I’ll allow it.
Q shows up and goads Picard into betting command of the Enterprise against Q staying ‘out of humanity’s path forever’ that Riker won’t be able to turn away from whatever Q is going to tempt him with if Riker wins Qs other game. At this point, we realize that the other game is not one Q actually cares about and is mere window-dressing so that Riker will think he earned whatever Q is going to give him.
Back on Planet Napoleon, Worf is out ranging to scout some aliens in military garb with canon and musket, while Picard and Q debate Sakespeare on the ship. Picard appears to be getting some points back, quoting the ‘what a piece of work is man’ speech, but with conviction. Q does not like the words ‘in action, how like an angel. In apprehension, how like a god.’ In fact, it calls to mind a particular passage, as translated though the lens of, once again, Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri
And the Lord God said, “Behold, the man is become asone of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forthhis hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, andlive forever, we must send him forth.” Therefore theLord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to tillthe ground from whence he was taken.—The Conclave Bible, Datalinks
One of the things a lot of Science Fiction deals with is the question ‘what if we make it?’ If we don’t destroy ourselves, if we make it to other stars, if there’s enough friendly life out there, what’s the endgame for Humanity. The Q appear to have a legitimate apprehension that the destiny of humanity might be as one of them, and perhaps not every one of them wants the company.
Back on the planet, the muskets turn out to fire disruptor bolts, and the soldiers fall in to ambush the crew. Q shows up to tell Riker that he’s been given the power of the Q, and that he can send everyone back to the ship, and the Enterprise is still on its way to the mining colony with no interruption. Everyone except Riker is teleported back to the bridge, and Riker is still sitting on the planet cackling at the perversity of the universe. Or at Q, and Q’s fear of humanity. They sit down and have a frank discussion about the future of humanity, and how eventually they might even develop beyond the Q.
In fact, Q claims that the reason he gave the power to Riker was to bring into the Q continuum the human drive to grow and learn and change, and when Riker tells him to go screw, Q brings back everyone, including Picard and Wesley this time, to get slaughtered by the animal soldiers. Worf is the first to go, then Wes rushes to his aid and gets stabbed in the back. Riker loses his cool and throws up a chain link fence, heals Worf and Wes from their mortal wounds, and sends everyone back to the Enterprise. Picard does not seem pleased, but it’s more because he understands how screwed he is in that wager than because he doesn’t have to bring another corpse home to Beverly.
The Enterprise makes it to the colony, and Picard extracts Riker’s promise that he won’t actually use the power, because power corrupts, and humans aren’t ready for the power of the Q. First thing Riker and the away team find on the planet is a dead little girl, and Riker starts to taste the cost of not using power, and he doesn’t like dead children. Enough so that he starts to outgrow his britches basically immediately, going so far as to call Captain Picard ‘Jean-Luc’ in a very similar way to Q. It says bad things either about Riker or humanity in general that one little dose of phenomenal cosmic power is enough to make him forget rank structure and basic respect. Then again, if that’s how he gets after an hour of feeling the power of Q course through him, it is also highly probably that his tenure as a god would be fraught with sub-optimal decision-making.
Riker addresses the bridge crew, trying to convince them he’s not suddenly an irresponsible monster, and Picard and Riker begin to debate about the wisdom using the power. The idea is brought up that Riker was in fact made into a weapon, and another test of the species. Think on it: if humanity is ‘worthy’ (for however the Q define worthiness) to stand among the Q, then Riker will use his power wisely, or give it up, or some other way that does not end catastrophically. Bear in mind that the Q can wait for eons. If, on the other hand, humanity is not worthy, then Riker will become a mad idiot god, turn on the crew who try to convince him not to use his power, and humanity will have damned itself.
Q convinces Riker to give everyone something they truly want, to see what happens. Crusher tries to give Wes what he wants – to be an adult in an instant. He tries to offer Data humanity, but Data refuses on the grounds that it wouldn’t be real to him. He gives Geordi functioning eyes and the ability to experience the visual spectrum and hit on Yar, but Geordi refuses because some favors come with too high a price. Man I have to watch Babylon 5 again. To Worf he gives a hot Klingon babe in a mesh top, and they’re about to have crazy hissing fighty Klingon sex on the bridge before Worf says he apparently has no place for sex in his life, since he’s currently a self-hating Klingon. Wes finally refuses his gift of adulthood, and the fact that it takes him this long to do it is indicative of the fact that Riker didn’t also give him ten years of experience and wisdom along with bigger muscles and a larger stupid sweater.
Q tries to prolong the game, but Piracd invokes Q’s promise and he appears to vanish in agonized protest. Riker’s last gifts vanish and he probably loses the power of the Q, and everything is back to normal. I have to doubt, though, that Q was actually called home in disgrace. Call it spoilers from the rest of the franchise, but he shows up again and again in increasingly wiser and more responsible roles within a human lifespan, so clearly his promise isn’t actually binding, and either he matures a lot faster than you would expect of a species of god or he’s putting one on. I prefer the interpretation that most of his arrogant affect is playacting the role of an adversary in order to set up the actual experiments he wants to run. We’ll see if that holds up in his subsequent appearances.