Star Trek 494: Death Wish

494. Death Wish

FORMULA: Hide and Q x-1, Half a Life + The Measure of a Man

WHY WE LIKE IT: A witty Q episode.

WHY WE DON'T: Gratuitous guest-stars.

REVIEW: Death Wish is a big surprise. A Picardless Q episode that's thought-provoking and witty, and doesn't waste my time. I can't even say that of all the TNG ones! But here it is. While John de Lancie puts in a fine performance, it's Gerritt Graham as Quinn who steals the show with a manic, bemused and sympathetic performance. He asks the question: Can an immortal commit suicide? It's an interesting SF dilemma that puts Janeway in a difficult spot. Indeed, at her level, the question is whether an individual's rights should include suicide.

But since Quinn is a member of the Q Continuum, that suicide becomes a radical act, a statement against society's stagnation. Death is change, and the Continuum has been static for too long, unable or unwilling to change because nothing endangers it. The representation of the Continuum we're taken to might've been the usual silly surrealism, but it's actually well done. Symbols we can understand, but also cryptic, absurd comments like "oh we've all done the scarecrow". This view of the Continuum also helps reconcile the many faces of Q, from rogue to toady and back again. (Also, why they have they all have the same name.)

In the end, despite being offered a bribe (chalk another one for Gilligan's Island Syndrome - at least the crew doesn't know this time), Janeway sees Quinn's suffering (immortality as a curse) and rules in his favor, hoping he will want to explore mortality instead of killing himself. But he has to sacrifice himself to change his society. It all sounds very heavy, and indeed it is, but the episode also has a number of very funny, clever moments that keep you smiling. Quinn's hiding places, like the big bang, a subatomic world and a Christmas tree are great fun, as is Q calling himself to the stand. Janeway's the second Starfleet captain to wake up next to Q, and her reaction isn't any better than Picard's.

If there's a weakness, it's the gratuitous calling of historical (and not so historical) figures to testify. Looks like a slim reason to make Riker guest-star (though Q's comment about him getting to captain Voyager shows he was keeping up with the Hollywood gossip), and a Woodstock roadie? Really? It's not like that sequence makes much of a point. Q's "behind the scenes" knowledge is often witty, but sometimes misapplied, such as when questioning Janeway's worth because she's a woman. But these are minor points in such a rich episode.

LESSON: Only people who can die care about living.

REWATCHABILITY - High: Quinn may be terminally bored, but I'm not. One of the best ever Q episodes.


mwb said...

Yes, it is one of the best and one of the really thought provoking Q episodes.

But it leads into some of the worst drivel. The "Civil War" one and Q baby... ugh.

Is it worth the price?

Siskoid said...

Don't blame the father for the son.


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