I've always loved this episode - one of the Next Generation's
finest I think. John de Lancie's Q is in top form throughout,
scoring hilariously funny and ironic points throughout,
yet he is able to do this with a degree of subtlety that
seemed to escape him in his earlier episodes. Plus it's
a great arc for Picard's character, leading up to one of
my favourite moments in Patrick Stewart's acting career.
Is life getting you down? Just remember that chuckle.
That smile. I'm loving it.
This looks like a time travel story. Predictably,
Picard begins to spout all the usual Starfleet fears
about changing history. I love Q's response to it,
and the fact that that response comes from a higher authority on
the subject, more knowledgeable, more experienced.
Frankly, much wiser too. The galaxies will not implode
if the "wrong" choice is made. The history of the universe
will not become a disaster. The stakes are all about Picard's
personal growth, and that's where his entire focus needs to be.
And accurately, different choices in time lead to parallel
present time experiences too. I love that section.
Does this end up as an "Adventure That Never Happened"?
It's nicely ambiguous in that respect. It even asks us to question
whether or not Q was really there, or whether Picard imagined
him. Ultimately, it is good that Picard can remember everything,
and tell the others about it. Since their only roles in the main
adventure occurred in a parallel/branching universe, those
were their doubles really, so there's a perfect reason why their
originals would be innocent of knowing anything about the adventure.
I think the true test of how much actually happened might come
about if we ever got a story that featured either of Picard's
two friends from the academy, wherein we find out which version of
events they remember. That would indicate whether Picard
came back to his original universe (meaning Q was lying
through his teeth about his having died on the table in sickbay),
or whether he ended up in a slightly different one.
Another encounter with ol' Botenades seems like an obvious
and interesting sequel here....
While there are a lot of obvious good Star Trek The Next Generation
episodes that most fans agree to rank highly, this is probably
one of the more obscure ones, and one that I'm most likely to
go to bat for. The one I'll call my own favourite. The one
that shows writer Ron Moore at the height of his excellence.
Two thumbs up, mate. Two thumbs way up!
can now be found on its own page.)