The Good: Pacing, Acting, Philosophy
The Bad: Annoying details, Predictability
The Basics: A solid episode of Next Generation that sees the return of Q, “Hide And Q” is a lengthy philosophy lesson on the nature of power.
“Hide and Q" is a little piece of Star Trek The Next Generation that is often underrated. I think the reason for the lack of attention this episode tends to receive is that it tends to be a rather predictable episode. Actually, the phrase "ridiculously predictable" would apply. The nice thing is, it tends not to matter as much as many people make it out to. In this episode, it's not the destination, it's the journey.
And what a journey it is! The omnipotent being Q returns, having been absent since the series premiere. And his timing could not be worse, the Enterprise is responding to a disaster and is planning for the worst, with the medical division feeling particularly stressed out. The bridge crew is transported to an alien planet where Q declares that they will play a series of war games for his amusement. Picard is left out of this exercise and his first officer appears to be the subject of Q's visit. As the game commences, Riker is given the powers Q has and is enabled to save his friends. Picard, disturbed by the changes he sees in Riker upon his return, challenges his first officer not to use the powers he has been given. Riker makes the promise and soon finds himself breaking it.
The episode is one of the peaks of philosophy lessons the show illustrates. The crux of the episode is the use of power. Picard believes Riker's sudden omnipotence is a curse, as opposed to the gift Riker receives it as. Picard sees the psychological changes already occurring in Riker and he confronts him on it. The pinnacle of this is when Riker decides to bestow gifts upon his fellow crewmates.
The episode becomes a bit heavy-handed to the point that Picard quotes Orwell's "Absolute power corrupts absolutely." The episode could have worked better with keeping such a thought implicit. Strangely, the pacing of the episode works, contrasting such moments of obvious moral revelation with humanistic moments such as Picard comforting Tasha Yar when Q sends her to the penalty box.
The episode has a good amount of action for a piece that is belaboring a rather obvious moral question. The enemy that Q, who was introduced in the pilot “Encounter At Farpoint,” pits the crew against is fierce and the conflict is fun to watch. And for those people watching the first season disgusted with the amount of airtime Wesley Crusher receives, this episode may gratify you; for the first time in the series, we see young Crusher killed. You sadists you!
John de Lancie gives an excellent performance as Q, which saves the episode as so much time is spent with Q and Riker and Jonathan Frakes seems uncharacteristically uncertain with playing Riker in this episode. Picard's confrontations with Q while Riker plays Q's game are indicative of future encounters with Q. Here de Lancie and lead Patrick Stewart begin to play off one another in a way that gives their adversarial relationship some real chemistry.
Much of the episode hinges on Jonathan Frakes and while he seems uncertain at moments, he plays frustration quite well near one of the peak character moments in the episode. He is able to sell the viewer on a man given a real dilemma and a desire to do right and to save lives.
The most refreshing aspect of this episode is that it returns Q to the series, while his character is still relatively fresh in our minds. It strengthens the idea that we ought to see him again, which makes his future appearances more believable.
The weakest moment is in the sequence where Riker gives gifts to his friends. When Geordi is given sight, for example, he looks at Yar and declares her beautiful which is somewhat ridiculous. I mean, why would a blind man necessarily find the most Hollywood beautiful person the most attractive. And while it reinforces the subtle triangle work going on between Data, Yar and LaForge in the first season, it seems especially lame that Geordi has that reaction. Similar difficulties occur throughout the crew when their supposed deepest desire is revealed.
This ought not distract anyone from watching the episode. It flows well despite the annoying climactic scene and while it often reads as a philosophy lesson, it is one of the more interesting ones anyone might sit through.
[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Complete First Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the debut season by clicking here!
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© 2010, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.