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Friday, 15 July 2016

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine 1-07: Q-Less

Episode:7|Writer:Robert Hewitt Wolfe|Air Date:07-Feb-1993

Today on Sci-Fi Adventures, it's a Deep Space Nine episode starring two Next Gen guest stars! I try not to spoil anything about an episode until after the Read on » but they've made that a little difficult for me this time by putting one of the characters under the title and the other one in it. It's Vash and Q btw.

Here's some trivia for you: omnipotent pain in the ass Q shows up in more Star Trek episode titles than any other character, and they're almost always a play on his name. Q-Less isn't the worst title the writers came up with (that'd probably be Hide and Q) but it's not a top-tier Q-pun like Déjà Q or The Q and the Grey. Or Next Generation episode Qpid, which this is a sequel to. We're already getting continuity in Deep Space Nine, it's just with another series.

There'll be a lot more SPOILERS beneath this point, for Q-Less, previous episodes of DS9 and relevant episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. But everything that aired afterwards is safe.



The teaser opens with Dr. Bashir telling the gripping tale of how he came just short of being valedictorian of his class at Starfleet. Well his date's finding it gripping anyway, much to O'Brien's utter confusion and annoyance. It's slightly rude perhaps to stare at your co-worker while he's having a private conversation, but this scene's all about the expressions on his face.

I'm pretty sure this is the very first mention of Bashir's famous postganglionic/preganglionic error that prevented him from graduating at the top of his class. Famous because the writer screwed up (it's apparently unlikely a medical student would make that mistake), and because the series actually used this to fuel future character development and hint at his hidden depth in episodes like Distant Voices and Doctor Bashir, I Presume.

The two officers are called over to a landing pad where they find the station's most senior staff struggling to get a runabout door open. They're very hands-on leaders I guess.

For some reason the runabout barely had the power left to make it back through the wormhole and now there isn't even enough for the door. Unfortunately life support needs power to work too, so the occupants are going to suffocate in there unless they get them out. I keep waiting for someone to mention the word 'transporter', but it's not happening.

Chief O'Brien's on the case now though and he comes up with an ingenious tech solution to free the trapped crew. He... plugs a battery into the door panel. I hope the others feel like the idiots they are.

O'Brien's surprised to discover rogue archaeologist Vash on board, who he knows from his time on the Enterprise. It seems that Dax ran into her while on a trip to the Gamma Quadrant and gave her a lift home. Small galaxy I guess.

Well actually it's not, it's an insanely unimaginably huge galaxy, so it's a mystery how Vash has been living on the other side of it for two years longer than they've known about the wormhole. A mystery to the DS9 crew anyway; I'm sure Next Gen fans could guess how it happened.

Vash was Captain Picard's love interest for two episodes of Next Gen, before running off for a tour of the universe with Q, the godlike trickster/judge of humanity. And Picard never saw her or spoke of her again. Though she did get a mention in DC's Legends of Tomorrow once, which surprised the hell out of me.

Hey it's Q himself hanging around pretending to fix the door panel, still cosplaying in his favourite Next Gen uniform. So if you're keeping track, the current TNG guest star list after 6 episodes is: Picard, Lursa, B'Etor, Vash and now Q. Oh, plus Chief O'Brien, but he doesn't really count.


ACT ONE.


The first act begins with Bashir checking Vash over (in more ways than one), while Dax and Sisko try to figure out how she got to the Gamma Quadrant. But I'm skipping ahead to the Assay office scene, where Vash spends two whole minutes taking artefacts out of her bag and handing them to the clerk, who describes each object before handing it to his bored assistant.

There's no reason this scene should work, it's basically just a list of unspectacular treasures, but the man playing the clerk almost manages to save it by acting like this job is a living hell for him.

Even when she shows him something that impresses him, he seems irritated by its beauty. Vash explains that it looks like Promethean Quartz, but its molecular density and refraction index is much higher. "Remarkable" he replies, obviously not giving a shit.

Now she just has to enter an access code and have her retinas scanned, and her treasures will be secure.

Oh that's not good. That's not what you want in your eye.

She runs into Sisko on the way out, who wants to chat with her about the Daystrom Institute. Seems they're very interested to discover what she's learned about the Gamma Quadrant, as no one else has learned a damn thing so far. Well the crew ran into a Tosk and some Hunters last week, but the crew forgot to ask them anything.

Vash explains that she's surprised they want to speak with her, seeing as she's a rogue archaeologist who chooses profit over science every time. But she'll make an exception this once.

Meanwhile O'Brien's discovered that the floor in the runabout lifts up and there's lights under there. They must have spent a fortune on these sets.

He can't find anything wrong with the ship though, except for the power reserves being drained and the warp drive containment field being ready to collapse. Uh O'Brien, don't the engines usually explode with the power of a nuclear bomb when that breaks?

This is all a bit of a mystery and they need to figure it out soon as the station's lights have started to dim now as well.


ACT TWO.


Actually the mystery can wait, as we're back to Vash again, who's found Q sitting on her bed.

He's finding it hilarious to use his godlike powers to teleport her bag back onto her shoulder every time she tries packing her clothes away. I'm not sure why she's packing her clothes away if she's only going to be here one night, but it's something she feels she must do. Over and over again.

We're told that she left Q to travel the Gamma Quadrant alone. She must have been pretty damn sick of the guy considering that as far as she knew his teleportation skills were her only way she'd ever get back home. But he wants her to choose to travel with him again, and he's going to hang around annoying her until she says yes.

The dialogue in this scene is so off-putting, because they keep mentioning worlds like 'Hoek 4', 'Vadris 3' and 'Epsilon Hydra 7'; no world an archaeologist would visit has any business having a number in its name! It annoys me almost as much as when characters talk about 'Gamzian wine', 'Andorian silk' or 'Tarcassian razor beasts'. 'French fries' I wouldn't mind so much, but... wait wait wait! Hoek 4! That's another Ren and Stimpy reference isn't it?

Anyway Quark eventually shows up at her door with an offer to sell her artefacts at auction, for an unreasonable percentage of the profits, and she demonstrates her canny negotiation skills by fondling his ears until he gives her a number she likes.

"Oh, you're good. You're very, very good," he exclaims with genuine admiration. I guess he's not used to humans haggling with him. Or knowing what money is.

Quark's not even gone five minutes before Bashir turns up at her door as well! He asks her out to dinner, and for the second time this episode his charms actually work. Q's less impressed by how this worked out, but she kicks him out before he can rant about it much.

So Q disguises himself as a waiter, finds Bashir, and uses his omnipotent powers to... make him go off to bed and sleep through the rest of episode. Man it's sad to see Q reduced to this, petty and obsessed. Though on the other hand it does give Bashir a chance to say the line "My god, you're an impertinent waiter."

Just out of curiosity I checked the episode dates, and found that this came out the week before the classic Next Gen Q episode Tapestry, where he teaches Picard a lesson about his past choices. He's a tricksy bastard in both the episodes, but in Tapestry (and other classics like Q Who and All Good Things) there's a method to his mischievousness that makes him a more interesting semi-antagonist.

Up in Ops, Sisko finds he's got two crises on his hands, as O'Brien comes up to tell him he spotted Q on board, just as the power goes out again.

"Sensors are reading a massive graviton build-up," Dax helpfully reports.

In Babylon 5 there's a character usually listed in the credits as "Tech 1", who hangs out in the background of the command centre and basically exists to give the XO a line of technical info each episode. In Deep Space Nine season 1 that character is called "Dax".

It seems a bit too much of a coincidence that Q arrived just as they developed their mysterious energy drain, so Sisko decides to decides to head down to the Promenade to ask him to leave.


ACT THREE.


Holy shit Sisko! I know that yelling at godlike beings is standard Starfleet procedure, but maybe don't threaten the guy currently putting all humanity on trial for being violent and barbaric. Because if you keep this up he's going to piss himself.

Actually Q's fascinated that this new series lead is being so aggressive and decides to dress them both in old-fashioned boxing outfits (complete with a handlebar moustache for himself) so he can push him further.

Q dances around taking light jabs at his head, tempting him into fighting back. I think he's expecting to get a heartfelt speech about how far humanity has evolved since the 1900s, but what he actually gets is his ass knocked to the floor with a jab to the gut and a right hook.

"You hit me.... Picard never hit me", he astutely observes.

"I'm not Picard."

What's up with that expression? That expression shouldn't be in this episode! That's an expression for, I dunno... a sit-com.

Now that Q has kindly demonstrated for all the curious Next Gen viewers tuning in how Sisko is different to Picard, the commander's able to get back to failing to solve the power drain issue. Which has now escalated to being a 'gaping holes appearing in the hull' issue.

It's them gravitons again, explains Dax.

Okay then, if you're so smart, explain why you're standing in front of energy forcefield protecting you from the vacuum of deep space, when the station's suffering from random power failures.

Sisko doesn't think this is Q's style though, he's just part of an unrelated B-plot. Or maybe this is the B-plot. Either way this is a problem to be solved by teching some tech, not making a speech about how great humanity is.

Down in the security office, Odo's finally got a scene! It's one of his 'I don't understand the humanoid obsession with...' conversations, and this week it's the need to accumulate material wealth he doesn't get. Quark of course sees this as a challenge and tries to find something he can tempt him with. He gets closest with 'latinum-plated bucket'.

It didn't really occur to me until now that it's no wonder that Odo aggravates Quark so much, as he's the one person on the station who doesn't need anything. He doesn't eat, he doesn't drink and he doesn't need R&R. He doesn't even need clothes, toothpaste or toilet rolls. The man is utterly unbribable and has zero vices to exploit.

Well it was nice to see Odo for a bit, but now it's back to the Q and Vash plot.

This time Q's decided to prove Vash needs him around by giving her a taste of a disease he cured her of while back. She makes it absolutely clear she's not travelling with him again, for what seems like the 15th time this episode, and Q disappears, leaving her restored to full health.


ACT FOUR.


Oh, he's gone up to Ops to harass the crew instead.
"Still chasing your own tail? Picard and his lackeys would've solved all this techno-babble hours ago."
You know, I can't help but think he's right, especially as he keeps dropping obvious hints that Vash is far more dangerous to them than he is. The problem began on the runabout, then it moved onto affecting the whole station, so maybe they should try checking the things that were brought on board... like that bag of Gamma Quadrant artefacts.

But nope, they're pumping the station full of toxic gas and hoping it'll help them trace the particle flow. I'm starting to get an idea of why this is called Q-Less. Though to be fair they're only using a very small amount of toxic gas.


ACT FIVE.


By act five the crew are facing death from suffocation as life support will fail in 14 hours. Though that stopped being their biggest concern when those pesky gravitons began dragging them towards the wormhole. It wouldn't be so bad to hang out in the Gamma Quadrant for a bit, but without shields the station will be shattered on the way.

At least the gravitons picked a quiet time to pull this crap, or else we'd see spaceships snapping off the docking bays.

Wait, this isn't a quiet time at all! Quark's started Vash's auction going and his bar's full of rich people. Did their ships dock just long enough to drop them off? Were they scared away when the lights went off and the station started plummeting to its doom?

The biggest mystery though is why Vash is so keen on making cash when she's heading back to Earth, a place which phased out money two centuries ago. I guess she's not going to be there forever.

She tries to put the artefacts in their historical context to explain their value, but Quark sees the crowd getting bored and jumps in to the rescue, basically telling them "it's really rare shit okay, no one else can say they've got one of these." Then they start the bidding.

Hah, a fingers joke.

Meanwhile the crew have finally got enough toxic gas pumped into the station... and it didn't help. But bringing the reactors up to full gives them a energy drain strong enough to detect with the sensors, and it turns out the source is somewhere on the Promenade!

So Dax, Kira and Sisko all run out of a turbolift, waving their tricorders around. It's funny how one person holding a tricorder looks perfectly reasonable, but when three people do it they look ridiculous.

Just let Dax handle the sciencing, I'm sure she's got it covered. She's been on the gravitons' case all episode.

The power drain was being caused by one of Vash's artefacts! It's the orange quartz thing from earlier that the camera lingered on for a while. Funny how it hasn't shut down the computer it's sitting on though, or the tricorders they're holding right next to it. C'mon, put the tricorders down already, you look like damn fools when you're all staring at them like that.

I expected one of them to pick it up and make a run for the airlock, like Batman trying to get rid of a bomb, but they've got just enough power left to beam it outside. Oh so now the writer remembered they have a transporter.

And the gem turns into a space fish! Just like how the starbase was secretly a jellyfish in Q's first appearance on Next Gen! Funny that.

Quark is utterly gutted though. He just sold the quartz artefact to a mysterious (yet annoying) Starfleet captain for a million bars of gold-pressed latinum and the guy's not likely to pay now that it's flown away. But at least the drama's over now and everything can go back to normal.

Oh wait, Q's still around, and he's still harassing Vash.

Well this relationship hasn't moved forward one damn bit all episode. Q still wants Vash to change her mind, Vash still wants him to piss off. Though at least we get a explanation for his obsession: he's already seen everything there is to see, but being with her let him see the wonders of the universe through her eyes. Metaphorically speaking. So for a while she was the pretty much the companion to his Doctor Q... which I guess makes her an off-brand River Song.

The episode ends with Q finally taking the hint and going off to bother Picard instead, and Vash decides to skip her trip to the Daystrom Institute on Earth to go tomb raiding again. So the Federation is once again denied any information about what's on the other side of the wormhole.

Oh, plus Bashir wakes up.


CONCLUSION

I'd say that Q-Less is an unspectacular episode of Deep Space Nine, but it feels more like an unspectacular episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation that's borrowing the sets. It's not generally a good idea to give away an episode to the guest stars, especially when you're trying to sell the regular cast to a new audience.

The episode is basically made up of three parts:

There's the Vash and Quark scenes, which can pretty much be boiled down to Quark being impressed by how good/bad she is, as she continually avoids his attempts to rip her off. Okay okay, the guest character's awesome, I get it already! I don't agree with it, but I get it. Plus the auction was almost as ridiculous as the number of hours spent showing Vash unpack all her artefacts one at a time. Just because Quark's in a scene, doesn't mean it has to be a farce!

Then you have the Vash and Q scenes, which when you take away Q's magic tricks basically become:
 "Come travel the universe with me again!" "No!" "Come travel the universe with me again!" "No!" "Come travel the universe with me again!" "No!"
It's just not all that entertaining watching an omnipotent immortal being trying to wear this poor woman down, especially as there's no sign she's ever doubting her decision. There's no arc to it either, Q just takes a full 40 minutes to get the hint. It reduces Star Trek's own Mr. Mxyzptlk to a lonely traveller who wants a friend, instead of the wise trickster who warned Picard about the Borg and helped him see the importance of his past mistakes. Q's at his best when he's dealing with big philosophical issues and there's none of that here.

And finally there's the 'Q meets the Deep Space Nine' crew plot, as Q observes them solving the crisis of the week while inflicting his cutting observations. Sisko's far more blunt than Picard, Kira's feisty, O'Brien... used to be a lower rank; wow, we're getting some real insight into the characters here. The episode shares its shape-shifting space creature resolution with the first Q episode of Next Gen, Encounter at Farpoint, but here they were basically troubleshooting a technical problem, so Q couldn't really judge them on the morality of their choices. He barely interacts with any of them at all in fact (besides his interaction with Sisko's god-slaying right hook), and that leaves his appearance feeling kind of pointless. I wasn't surprised to learn that this was originally just a Vash story and he was added later.

Speaking of the DS9 crew, they really are made to look clueless this episode, as they take forever to figure out what's causing the power drain and their process isn't exactly engaging. It's disappointing that there's so much tepid technobabble in the script and it's even more disappointing they use it to work through the mystery when it could've been solved logically. They should've put Odo on the case, he would've sorted it out in act one.

But I can't say that I hated the episode, because:

Sisko knocks down pugilist Q and his dapper moustache
Though DS9 will be so much better than this. The series needs to hurry up and give Sisko a beard, Dax a character and Kira more to do. Plus Quark and Odo... need to just keep on doing what they're doing.


Deep Space Nine will return with an episode called Dax that's all about Dax. But next on Sci-Fi Adventures there'll be more Doctor Who series 9, as I review The Woman Who Lived.

If you feel like you want to comment on the words you just experienced or the episode they described then go right ahead. This is totally a thing you should do.

3 comments:

  1. Nothing makes me want to watch a Star Trek episode less than Q being in it.

    (Well, maybe a Borg episode that isn't "The Best of Both Worlds".)

    I like John de Lancie as Q, but the episodes start off poor and get worse as they go on; when he turns up in Voyager, I felt sick.

    Although that said, I can't believe they never did anything with Quark and Q. Imagine Quark with all the powers of the Q Continuum!

    No, that would be rubbish too, wouldn't it?

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    1. For me Q episodes come in pairs, with Farpoint and Hide and Q being kind of crap, Q-Who and Déjà Q being decent, the next two being bad, and so on. But I was less impressed when he appeared in the other series (Q Junior? What the hell Voyager?) Death Wish was okay though.

      Also Q-Who's a perfectly respectable Borg episode!

      The idea of a Q-uark episode has a lot of potential, and I'm really glad that the writers of The Nagus, Prophet Motive and Profit and Lace never thought of it. Not that I ever actually watched Profit and Lace, now that I think about it. I've seen close to every episode of DS9, but I eventually had to draw the line at Ferengi stories.

      Though (SPOILERS) Quark does get the power to manifest anything he can imagine in If Wishes Were Horses and (MORE SPOILERS) it's a woman hanging off each arm. And that's it. The guy's easy to please.

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    2. Oh crikey, I forgot about all the Ferengi episodes. Those always make my heart sink, perhaps more so than Q and Borg episodes.

      And yes, "Q-Who" is good; what I should have said was that every Borg episode after "The Best of Both Worlds" seems to be a case of diminishing returns, but their first two appearances were gold.

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