… those walking meetings to begin the show? Dr. C. walking with her medical staff… it was like an episode of the West Wing.
… those cool jumps by Worf and Yar? Q appears on the bridge and the two of them leap over the railing to get between him and the captain. Nice moves.
… that flat green sky? I’m not saying it looks fake, but you do get the sense that any minute a weather map is going to appear on it.
… Q’s treatment of Yar? She says one sentence (“You’ve gone too far”), and bam penalty box. Seems a little harsh. After all, Worf poured his drink out on the ground.
… Yar saying to the captain, “Oh, if you weren’t a captain”? Was she coming on to him? Until this point, I thought they were close because Picard regarded her as a daughter. Hearing that made me wince.
… Worf letting himself get tailed? He led the Orc French troops straight back to the crew. Is that a warrior’s instinct?
… the stupidity of Wesley? Charging into the Orc French troops to check on Worf. That was painful to watch.
… Riker’s pose when they return to the ship? It was a Peter Pan pose.
… the fact that this is the second time in two episodes that a gift has been a bad thing. Are gifts frowned upon in the future?
Orc French Troops
Is it me or were those poor, mustard colored Orc French troops mistreated terribly? We don’t know if they’re sentient or not. We know nothing about their stories. But the crew keeps referring to how ugly they are and calling them animals. That’s no way to treat the other.
You may have noticed by now that justice and fairness as it pertains to “the other” is very important to me, and it always has been. I’ve believed that I got this from watching TNG when I was young.
So watching the first season the way I have been has come as a bit of shock to me because from the Ferengi to Worf to now the Orc French Troops, “the other” isn’t as fairly treated as I remember.
I have a theory about this though. I suspect as the series progresses the treatment of “the other” will become fairer and that this is a natural progression.
Once you imagine that the Klingons are being discriminated against, it’s easier to imagine an episode in which say Data is treated as though he doesn’t have rights. Once he wins rights, it’s easier for us to imagine sentient beings in forms we don’t understand have rights too.
As Nick Hornby put it, once you open the door to one person, anyone can get in.
Top Five Q Quotes
I really dig the Q character, and boy oh boy does he get the good lines. So in honor of his reappearance, the top five Q Quotes from this episode:
5 You might’ve learned an interesting lesson–macro head with a micro brain.
4 May I please give happiness to my friends? Please sir?
3 This is hardly the time to be teaching you the true nature of the universe.
2 ‘Nothing reveals humanity so well as the games it plays.’
1 The play is the thing.
The crew roles seemed to blend a bit.
Data was memory and strength
Worf honor (won’t drink with the enemy) and physical prowess
Yar aggressive but also tender
Geordi seeing (from seeing Worf in the distance, to spotting the Orc French troops, to finding the little girl under the rubble, he is the one who sees things for the crew)
Riker the idiot
The cool bit of captaining this time around was when Picard sat back and let his people make the right decisions. It was his way of allowing Riker to see the correct path and choosing it.
Riker the Idiot
One of the most striking lines is when Riker says, I feel like such an idiot.
Picard responds, Quite right Riker. So you should.
The exchange seemed unduly harsh the first time I watched. After all Picard had just stepped back and allowed Riker to choose the correct course, and here he’s done it.
Then the second time through, I realized it was a call back to the Shakespeare conversation between Picard and Q.
In that conversation they use Shakespeare to infer that 1) humanity’s collective imagination is broadening (“he would’ve written galaxy if he were alive today”), 2) life is humanity’s everyday choices not games, and 3) humanity has growth potential.
But in 2) we see that idiot was being used to refer to humanity.
Thus Picard is telling Riker: you should feel human.
More so because the game that he got caught up in was designed to use his humanity against him.
Q’s game is much more complicated than he lets on. Everything that happens on the planet with the green screen sky is misdirection as is almost everything he says.
I suspect the only true thing Q told Riker was that humanity has the ability to adapt to change and that how we adapt to change will determine whether or not we can grow beyond the Q.
The play is the thing because the way in which you reach for your desires and dreams and goals is as important as reaching them.
Humanity as represented by the crew of the Enterprise reaches forward, but constantly reassesses itself. It struggles to be better and thus earns each forward step.
Q is trying to prove that he can corrupt them. That is his game.
He’s wagering that humanity sticks to its morals because they don’t have enough power to do things the easy way.
He’s using human nature against Riker because first he has the crew killed. Out of love Riker brings them back.
Then he tempts Riker by giving him the chance to be better without earning it. Of course as a human, he’s appealing to a basic desire, so Riker subcumbs. An individual drunk on power because he can accomplish his dreams with the wave of a hand… well that’s just being human, but it’s the Enterprise family that keeps him from permanently becoming something bad.
In the end, Q corrupted a human, but not humanity.
Morals, messages, and meanings
- A human is corruptible, humanity is not – That’s why the crew could bring Riker back from the edge.
- Power Corrupts – Remember the Peter Pan pose, Jean-Luc?
- Be true to yourself – Picard criticizes Q for his lack of identity. He comes as a Aldebaran Serpent and then as a human. He wears costumes, Starfleet admiral, French marshal, Christian monk. He’s not being true to himself. Riker and Data points out that Q lacks originality, which means he lacks something that makes him himself. Data gives up becoming human because he would compound illusions. He wants to be who he is. (By the way, Brent Spiner’s performance in that scene was fantastic!)
- You gotta earn what you get – There ain’t no easy way out. Geordi gives up his eyes because he didn’t earn them. The price is too high, and the price is that he got them the easy way.
- Keep promises – Riker keeps his word and doesn’t save the child despite the pain.
- It’s not the game, but how you play
- Humanity has limitless potential
- Pride is important – Geordi is too proud to be indebted to Q.
- Someone different can belong – The inclusion of Data in the discussion of humanity was touching. And Data several times included himself when he talked about humans without it seeming strange (gravity is suitable for us; How can the Q handle time and space so well and us so badly?). No one shouted, hey mister you’re just a robot. When in response Picard said, Space and time are simpler than the human equation, he was including Data.
I feel the slightest little bit of teary-eyedness thinking about that.
Does it hold up?
I’m not saying it’s perfect.
Why wasn’t Troi there? Was it a mandatory day off for the actress? Or was it because her presence would have severely altered Riker’s behavior?
I didn’t even notice that she’d been dropped off at Starbase G-6 the first time I watched. I kept wondering where she was.
Corrupted Riker is just overacted. (directing?)
Why would Wesley run into a battle? (writing?)
That sound stage…
I see that they tried to do something with Tasha, tried to show her soft side, but that scene was just awkward.
But how about that shot of Picard on the bridge alone. Perfectly framed. It made the bridge look fantastic while also conveying the powerlessness that Picard suddenly felt.
And there is so much in this to think about. I could keep going, but I’m not going to.
But Q or more precisely John De Lancie is fun to watch. It’s like watching a batter get his perfect pitch. Or like an American Idol contestant finally singing the perfect song. It was total domination. He played it with verve.
That and the messages still hold up.
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