Friday, January 21, 2011

Enter The Ultimate Villain: "Q-Who?" Introduces The Borg!

The Good: Special effects, Plot, Character development, Acting
The Bad: Mid-episode pacing/Delivery, Junior officer subplot
The Basics: The introduction of the Borg brings Star Trek The Next Generation to a new level that combines suspense and character fairly well.

The second season of Star Trek The Next Generation, many feel, is redeemed by the introduction of the series' greatest villain, the Borg. Personally, I believe the philosophical debate of "The Measure Of A Man" justifies the entire second season. The Borg, however, create something that resonates for significantly longer and are a more obvious choice.

Ironically, no one seems excited that "Q-Who?" marks the reappearance of the menacing entity Q. When Q appears, he offers his services as a guide to the Enterprise, insults Guinan, and when he is rejected, flings the Enterprise into a distant portion of the galaxy. It is there that the ship encounters a giant cube-shaped ship and their lives are changed forever. The vessel does not communicate with the Enterprise, instead cutting into the vessel, sending scouts to evaluate the technology and finally attempting to disassemble the ship. And in the process, Q returns, Guinan provides details and the entities known as the Borg are revealed to an Away Team that visits the ship after it is damaged.

"Q-Who?" is, in many ways, the ultimate set-up episode. Q appears, implies there is discord within the Q Continuum and that he is currently out of favor with the other Q and animosity is established between Q and Guinan. The viewer, watching Q beg for Picard's appreciation, have a feeling that the next time we see Q, he will be in a diminished capacity and that getting Picard to admit that he needs Q's help is the establishment of a bond between the villain and hero. And then there are the Borg. The Borg are introduced and enough is revealed about them to know that they will return, that now that they know humanity exists, they will be coming for us.

And that's part of the problem with this episode. When Guinan gives a brief history of her experience with the Borg, things are fine. When Q reveals the Borg psychology and sociological philosophy, that too works. But then the Away Team goes over and Riker leads his group around the alien ship in one of the series' most obvious bits of exposition. Viewing the inside of the Borg ship, we are told much about the Borg and it's a lot of "hmm . . . this is what the new villain is." And then they leave. It reads in the middle of the episode like tell, not show and that's distracting in any medium. It's kind of ironic considering that the episode works when Guinan and Q tell, as opposed to show. Go figure.

The only other strike against the episode is the use of a junior officer, Sonya Gomez, in "Q-Who?" The new engineer sits and laments about the death of 18 people when the Borg make their first exploratory attack. And this is territory we've already been in. Wesley Crusher makes the identical lament to Picard in an earlier episode, "Contagion," which was just a few episodes back (read my review!). Crusher serves well as the voice of naiveté on Star Trek The Next Generation and he does it well by balancing his genius with his lack of experience. So, that's distracting because it has already been done in the series.

On the plus side, the other characters work quite well. The use of Riker works well as the leader of the Away Team. When the Borg are revealed, the reactions the characters exhibit are quite genuine. The acting on this episode is right on the nose. Even the new officer is well acted. Despite the difficulty of the character Sonya Gomez, she is well acted with realism.

But Q and Guinan establish something extraordinary here. We learn a bit about both and we are forced to admire the actors here. John deLancie is phenomenal as Q, a villain who here develops more depth. And Whoopi Goldberg plays Guinan with quiet intrigue, in this episode illustrating what a subtle presence she can be.

And, ultimately, the episode has Picard in one of his most desperate moments of character up until this point. And it works.

"Q-Who?" works quite well for those who have never seen Star Trek The Next Generation, even those who have never met the character Q. The nature of this episode is a beginning, not a bottle episode. And it will make the viewer want to come back to see where this goes. It's worth it.

[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Complete Second Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the sophomore season by clicking here!


For other Star Trek franchise reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2007, 2002 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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