We previously looked at Gul Dukat’s twisted impact on the crew of Deep Space Nine. Now, we’re talking all things Q, namely his impact on Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation and later in Star Trek: Picard. This trickster started off as the first antagonist faced by the crew of the Enterprise-D, and grew into a beloved opponent and figure throughout the show’s seven seasons.
Firstly, let’s talk about Q’s relationship with other Starfleet officers. He expressed shock when Sisko didn’t have time for any of his shenanigans (“Picard never hit me!” “I’m not Picard.”). He tangled with Janeway a few times during her journey through the Delta Quadrant, even roping her into raising his son with her “vaunted Starfleet ideals.” When he appeared on the U.S.S. Cerritos, Ensign Mariner dismissed him, knowing he was planning on testing humanity once more with her and her friends.
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The mysterious representative of the Q Continuum found the most eager audience for his schemes in the crew of the Enterprise-D. On the first mission with Captain Picard at the helm of the Enterprise, he appeared to put humanity on trial to see if they deserved a chance to continue to grow. Picard, with his sense of diplomacy and philosophy, saved the human race and Q disappeared… for a while.
Q would pop up throughout the run of TNG to provide tests and tomfoolery to see how the crew reacted. Be it teleporting them to Sherwood Forest or turning to them when he had no powers (and then, promptly teleporting a mariachi band to the Bridge once said powers returned to him), he was involved in many excellent Enterprise adventures.
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Throughout his appearances, Q was fascinated with Picard himself. In one poignant episode, “Tapestry,” Q appeared to a dying Picard to give him an It’s A Wonderful Life-style chance to see what his life would’ve been like had he never learned to take risks. This helped guide Picard into accepting his past, especially the risks he took during his youth, as he realized he wouldn’t be where and who he was today without those wild years. This was a key moment for Picard’s psychology, with Q’s presence instrumental to that journey.
In the TNG series finale, Q appeared once more to test Picard and humanity, placing them on trial again. With the aid of time travel and a few stirring speeches, Picard proved humanity was worthy of saving, prompting Q to vanish. That marked the last time Picard would cross paths with Q until the Season 2 events of Star Trek: Picard.
In Star Trek: Picard, a dying Q wanted to afford Picard the opportunity to release some of his past traumas while allowing him to grow close with someone. He did this in typical Q fashion, of course, by sending Picard into an alternate timeline in which the Federation fell and an evil Confederation had taken its place. Picard and his allies, along with the Borg Queen, had to time travel back to present day Los Angeles to try and fix the timeline. They were even aided by a young Guinan!
However, Q’s main goal was simple — he wanted to free Picard from the trauma stemming from his mother’s death. Nearing the end of his life and realizing he was alone, Q didn’t want Picard to suffer the same outcome. However, in a twist of fate, upon opening up to Picard, Q did not die alone. He was able to reconcile with his friend and opponent Jean-Luc; marking his final moments with a rather noble act.
While Gul Dukat was a force of evil throughout his entire journey on Deep Space Nine, Q alternated between enemy and ally throughout his run across the Star Trek universe. Do his acts of good counter-balance his acts of mischief?
Let us know @StarTrek on social media what your favorite Q moment is, and continue to vote to see who’ll face off against Khan in our final showdown! And if you need more Q in your life, brush up on his major appearances across the Star Trek universe.
Julian Gardner (they/them) is on the editorial team for StarTrek.com
Star Trek: Picard streams exclusively on Paramount+ in the U.S. and is distributed concurrently by Paramount Global Distribution Group on Amazon Prime Video in more than 200 countries and territories. In Canada, it airs on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave.