It’s time for our first Star Trek interview conducted using questions provided by you, our readers. The interviewee is John de Lancie. De Lancie, of course, portrayed the recurring role of Q on Star Trek: The Next Generation, appearing in the series premiere and finale, and multiple episodes in between, as well as on Deep Space Nine and Voyager. Here, in our exclusive – ahem—Q&A, de Lancie looks back at his Treks past and catches us up on what he’s up to these days.
Going back to the ST:TNG pilot, did they show you drawings for the flowing judge’s costume, or did they already have them in mind and it was just a matter of a fitting once you got there?
It was a fitting, but like any fitting you have a certain amount of involvement. We tried different things on, but that’s how we arrived at it. I actually think the judge’s costume was actually pulled off another show. They did that kind of thing all the time, especially early on. Studios have a bazillion costumes in stock and they’re just redone to fit whatever’s needed on the next show or movie. So I believe that judge’s costume was a cardinal’s outfit from something else.
At the end of the day, what do you think was Q’s single-best scene across all of your appearances?
I only watched these things once, usually when they aired, sometimes earlier if they were available earlier. But I can tell you that I think a lot of what came out of “All Good Things…” really clicked. I remember being particularly pleased with many of the scenes in the finale.
Several people asked this one, John. I s there anything that you never got to do as Q that you either were hoping to play or had been told might be in the character’s future?
I would have liked to have been on the different Star Treks more than I was, as long as the episodes were about big issues. When I was on it with little issues – like Q and Vash – I just don’t think those episodes worked as well. I know some fans appreciate them, but episodes about reclaiming your life, suicide, do you deserve to be out here… those were the ones about the most interesting issues, so those are the ones that had the best scenes and that I think of as the best episodes. So if they’d continued in that vein I would have liked to have been more involved.
Another one that several people wrote in to ask… Were you surprised that Q didn’t appear in one of the ST:TNG features?
Q was never a villain as far as I was concerned, and the films needed villains. I might have been arrogant and badly flawed and all that, but I never thought of the character as a villain. And I don’t think, after a while, that the writers and producers thought of me as a villain. If they’d used me in one of the films in the way they’d used me in some of the episodes I just mentioned, sure, that would have been great. But I don’t think that’s what they needed.
Given the alternate timeline scenario of the recent Star Trek reboot, there’s no reason why Q couldn’t turn up in a subsequent film. How open to that that would you be, and could you foresee it happening?
I’d be very interested. The only problem is that I, too, am suffering from this mortal thing called aging and there’s a point at which it might not make sense. What might make sense is that you hear my voice, but I just don’t know that it would make sense to have an aging Q. I would have a problem with that as a viewer, and I don’t think I’d be the only one.
OK, we’ve got a few questions for Q, if you’ll indulge us. First, if the answer is 42, what it the question and why?
The question is what is the best age to stay at and the answer is obvious.
Another one for Q: Who is the better captain, Picard or Kirk?
Well, Picard, because he’d argue more.
Was Trelane one of your people? Was he a Q?
Yes. My feeling, not having known Star Trek in as deep a way as a lot of people did, was that Trelane was a Q. I remember that about three years into my doing Star Trek that somebody said to me, “Oh my God, you’re the son of Trelane.” I didn’t know what he was talking about. So I got a video of Trelane and thought, “Oh, that’s very interesting,” and what made it particularly poignant for me is that I know that Gene (Roddenberry) wanted to start the new series by going right into an episode. The studio insisted that it be a two-hour. When he lost the fight, Gene had to make it a two-hour and it was the second hour that he needed to come up with. If you look at “Encounter at Farpoint” there’s a rather obvious seam that goes through it. There’s the Q story and the other story, which was supposed to be the first episode. I think that Gene probably wrote it quickly and I have a feeling – no one’s ever told me this – that Gene must have looked back upon the successes he had with the original show, one of which was Trelane. I bet you he thought, “Hmm, since I have to whip up the second half of this show…,” and I think that’s how my character got brought in.
If you could have played any character other than Q in any episode of any show, who would you have played, on what show, and why?
God, I don’t know. I think I was actually particularly well suited to play Q. Other characters, while I probably could have played them, I think they were played very well by the people who did them. So I’d have to say that I’m really happy with the character I played.
You and Leonard Nimoy teamed up at one point for a project called Alien Voices, in which you released audio versions -- done old-school radio-show-style – of classic sci-fi novels. You also did a couple of Q vs Spock audionovels, plus live versions of the productions for Sci Fi Channel and for convention audiences. How do you look back on those experiences?
We were working in a self-made paradise that did not have an appreciation of the real world, especially when it came to budgetary issues. The productions that we did were expensive and time-consuming, but they were also superb and a great deal of fun. If the audience had glommed onto them at a rate of three or four times the unit sales we would still be doing them. But because they didn’t we were essentially involved in an over-budget show. About 25,000 of each were sold and if we’d sold 100,000 we would have been golden. I meet people all the time who loved them, but hadn’t bought them. They listened to a friend’s copy. Or they found out about them too late. Audio is a very, very below-the-radar type of thing anyway. We never really got the chance to do what we wanted to do, which was create a library of classic science-fiction audio, an evergreen science-fiction audio library that people could come to over and over and over again. That didn’t happen, and the Spock vs Q types of stories, while they were fun, weren’t really meant to be a part of that. But we loved doing them all and they’re just hands-down wonderful.
What are you doing these days?
I did a recurring (role) on Breaking Bad, and I have a great admiration and respect for the people who do that show. I only wish I’d been involved more. Every once in a while I’ll see them and they’ll say, “Oh, we’ve got to have you back on the show.” It’s like, “From your mouth to your ears.” It was (emotionally) exhausting because of what was going on with the character, but I thought it came off well and I’d love to do more because it’s a really, really wonderful show. There’s a movie that I’ve done called Recreator that’s coming out. It’s a small movie, but I think some of it is very clever. I wrote a show for the Cleveland Orchestra that then went to the Kennedy Center and is now going to the Sydney Opera House. Other than that I have allowed myself to get involved in a small project three months ago. That project was some work around my house. My house is now a work zone, and it has me up every morning at 6:30. My wife and I go from 6:30 until 7:30 or 8 o’clock every night with a construction crew here.