July 22, 2014

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: "Q-Less"

The runabout Ganges returns to Deep Space Nine from the Gamma Quadrant with an unexpected passenger: Vash, a human archaeologist last seen departing the USS Enterprise with the omnipotent entity Q. Sure enough, as soon as Vash in onboard Q is not far behind, desperately attempting to secude, goad and threaten her back into travelling the universe with him. Meanwhile the station begins to suffer unexplained power failures - is it Q's work, or is something else going on?

Deep Space Nine's uncertain reliance on The Next Generation continues. The pilot featured Jean-Luc Picard and the Enterprise, and "Past Prologue" included Lursa and B'Etor; now "Q-Less" guest stars John de Lancie as Q, pretty much the definitive antagonist for The Next Generation. Therein lies the problem: Q is a TNG villain through and through, and despite the best efforts of the cast and writers Hannah Louise Shearer and Robert Hewitt Wolfe his wacky hijinks are an ill fit for the already darker and more complex style of Deep Space Nine.

It's an odd episode. It's not particularly bad, but it chafes. 'You hit me,' splutters Q after an irritated Sisko punches him in the face, 'Picard would never have hit me.' 'I'm not Picard,' replies Sisko, and in doing so pins exactly why the episode doesn't work. Q works on the Enterprise because he has such a great chemistry with Picard, who would stoically protest the former's interference while tolerating his actions much like one would tolerate an eager-to-please child. Sisko simply punches him in the face. Avery Brooks is great in this episode, and John de Lancie is great too. Separately they're great. Together they don't work properly.

The remainder of the episode is pretty weak. Vash (Jennifer Hettrick, returning to the franchise after two episodes of The Next Generation) teams up with Quark to sell a shipment of archaeological relics. It's obvious from the moment the relics are seen that one of them is causing the station's power problems, and it's also obvious that it's the mysterious glowing crystal that's doing it and not the dagger or the statuette. As a result a fair bit of the episode is spent drumming one's fingers waiting for events to get to the point.

Characterisation is pretty simplistic across the board here. Quark loses his third dimension for the week, while Dr Bashir continues to be written as hopelessly naive and more than a little skeezy in his constant attempts to chat up women. The man is a walking sexual harrassment lawsuit at this stage, and it's a wonder the production team and Alexander Siddig (here still performing under the name Siddig el Fadil) manage to salvage the character in future seasons.

Ah well. It couldn't last. Six episodes in and we finally hit a bum episode. That still leaves a quality ratio of 83%, which isn't too shabby. This was the only episode of Deep Space Nine to feature Q - following the end of The Next Generation he makes a couple of ill-advised appearances in Star Trek: Voyager. I always thought it was a shame he never got to feature in one of the Next Generation movies. He's pretty much the ultimate TNG villain as I've said, and they made four movies - they couldn't find an opportunity to use him once?

This is the 875th post on The Angriest. Thank you for reading.

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