Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Star Trek: TNG S1 Ep10: Hide And Q

The return of Q was less than a titillating thought for me given I was not overly impressed with Encounter At Far Point. I was always a much bigger fan of that recurring Bond character and weapons designer of the same name.

The Q character, played by John de Lancie [Stargate SG-1], isn't completely devoid of good ideas particularly with its allusion to the more extensive association of the intriguing Q Continuum mentioned here early in the Star Trek: The Next Generation mythology. And de Lancie, always a strong choice in television*, is entirely believable with all of his dangerous and child-like enthusiasm.

It's worth noting the character succeeds despite more than a passing resemblance to William Campbell's Trelane from Star Trek: The Original Series' The Squire Of Gothos or even the concept of the powerful, spoilt child-like entity.

So, no, Q is not entirely original, but you can see the seeds of an effort by ST:TNG to take the idea further and expand on it.

Personally, Q's affection, desire and overall hunger for games as an avenue of discovery and learning does tend to grate on the nerves. On the other hand, "the play's the thing" sees Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season One, Episode 10, Hide And Q deconstruct Shakespeare and cleverly spin the theatrically-trained Patrick Stewart into a world of Shakespeare gone mad. "All the galaxy's a stage" recites Q.

One of the notable highlights for me from the episode that touched the nostalgia button was ST:TNG's use of set design. The simplicity of these production sets and the appropriate application of alien-pink, red or green backgrounds may send younger generations into fits of rage and discontent, but for the fan of classic ST:TOS the approach reminds us of just one of the outstanding qualities of ST:TOS. If the creators were purposefully attempting to recall the strengths of that original series with such designs to sell the show it works for this science fiction aficionado. Was it part budget, part homage? Perhaps it was a bit of both. Nevertheless, it is one of the few strengths of this first season that engages me and has me responding positively to its general recycling of ideas. Hide And Q, Skin Of Evil and other entries from Season One get the look of Star Trek almost right.

Commander William Riker is involuntarily put to the test by Q on a nearby planet, along with Data, Geordi La Forge, Worf and Wesley Crusher. Aliens in Napoleonic costume and gear complete with laser-powered muskets attack the away team. Riker is even given the power of Q. How will Riker respond to the elixir of power? Tasha Yar's sudden and inexplicable death in Skin Of Evil wouldn't be the first death of a crew member as Worf and Wesley are both bayoneted and killed by the alien infantrymen before the team's very eyes. The now powerful, god-like Riker, reacts immediately saving his friends and returning life to their lifeless bodies. Where is Q when you need him Denise?

Riker uses his great power to see to it the Enterprise-D reaches the ailing mining colony of their mission. There, a dead colonist girl begs the question if Riker will play god and use his power once again. It's hard to imagine a promise halting a good decision especially when considering how quick Riker appears to enjoy those powers a short time later. This one while philosophically in the right frame of mind doesn't quite sit right. It's a little too convenient. If the Prime Directive can be broken we can break that promise for the little girl just this once.

video


The simplicity of the planetary adventure is always a good one and I enjoy elements of its retro-look. But, like Denise Crosby's performance here and other still stunted elements to the infant series, Hide And Q never quite passes muster or hits its mark. Much of its weakness is generated from poor dialogue, which weighs down some good concepts. Writer C.J. Holland and Gene Roddenberry deserve credit for the effort, but just as much blame for its faults. It's symptomatic of the overall, overarching, usual lack of urgency or just plain compelling material found in Season One.

Just as Q continues his exploration of humanity, Hide And Q never moves the needle much beyond the antics of Encounter At Far Point, the series opener. Still, something about it is slightly more entertaining and to some degree less forced and for that the series is moving in the right direction. There are encouraging signs in character development too.

The idea of power and its use is central to the story's theme. The implications of altering what should BE comes into question. Captain Jean-Luc Picard cautions Riker about the use and application of that power clearly within the context of our human understanding and sense of morality. Q is attempting to influence human development and evolution. The interference by Q through the application of power puts Riker to the test. The story nicely posits the concept of events unfolding naturally and that we cannot change them and should not change them. This is not who we are. Picard understands this and mentors Riker appropriately.

Initially, Number One responds to the challenge with maturity and sound judgment, but ultimately makes entirely human mistakes and Hide And Q is a fine example of why Riker is Picard's Number One. Jonathan Frakes' performance is a highlight and there is great emotion in his eyes when he decides to respect Picard's direction despite some reservation.

As the entry proceeds it is clear Q's influence has a deleterious affect on Riker's thinking and his relationship with Picard. Riker begins to assume traits similar to those of the insolent Q. There is a selfish quality to his voice and his commands. It is a great illustration of power's drug-like influence. When Riker calls a meeting on the bridge he makes efforts to assure his bridge mates that he is the same man. He attempts to assure he has not changed, but in fact, it is clear he has been affected and the impact on those around him is palpable. Riker has the potential to become Charlie X or Q. They even begin to distrust whether he is entirely human within his frame of mind. Riker admits, "Everyone still looks uncomfortable." Picard responds, "power corrupts."

Riker, feeling a natural affinity toward the Q Continuum suggests they admire the human potential for "growth." La Forge posits whether or not is "fear" of humanity that motivates them.

When Q arrives, Picard questions his "need" for costumes. "Have you no identity of your own?," inquires Picard, a question that could be posed to ST:TNG as a series to this point. Our human identity is indeed unique and entirely different to that of Q. Picard makes efforts to remind Riker of this, of who we are and what makes us uniquely human. To demonstrate the point, Riker becomes Q's pawn. Riker offers his crew mates gifts authorized by Picard to teach Riker. Wesley becomes ten years older. Data is offered humanity to which he declines, because ultimately Data, one of the series most human characters, understands himself better than anyone what it means to be human. Data quotes Shakespeare to make the point of what it means to be. "This above all, to thine own self be true." The gift of sight is granted to La Forge who declines despite the beauty of that gift. "The price seems a little too high for me." The price of power is often at great sacrifice. Worf is granted the affections of a Klingon female to which he rejects her ovations. Worf has chosen loyalty to the Starfleet over his former home. The principled Worf continues to develop in his initially limited role.

Q's efforts fall flat as Riker learns a valuable lesson from those close to him. Q is recalled to the Q Continuum like a spoilt child that recalls the final moments of ST:TOS, Season One, Episode 2, Charlie X, an equally powerful and immature being in his own right. Data wonders how Q can manipulate space and time so easily. Picard closes with the kind of profound statement that to this point often seemed forced, contrived and overly political. This is a solid out and the kind of Picard that has been sorely lacking throughout Season One when he posits, "perhaps someday we will discover that space and time are simpler than the human equation." Hide And Q, while imperfect, ends stronger than most of Season One has revealed itself to date.

Hide And Q: C. Writer: C.J. Holland and Gene Roddenberry. Director: Cliff Bole.

*Actor footnote: John de Lancie [1948-present]. Q. Actor de Lancie is best known in a widely varied career as Q on Star Trek: The Next Generation and Frank Simmons on Stargate SG-1. But de Lancie has appeared on a host of interesting television and film efforts. On television de Lancie appeared in a number of genre classics beginning in the 1970s on The Six Million Dollar Man [1977-1978], Emergency! [1978-1979] and Battlestar Galactica's Experiment In Terra [1979]. He also appeared in Days Of Our Lives, The Thorn Birds [1983], MacGyver [1986], Murder, She Wrote [1986], Star Trek: The Next Generation [1987-1994], L.A. Law [1991], Batman: The Animated Series [1993], Picket Fences [1996], Touched By An Angel [1997], The Real Adventures Of Johnny Quest [1999], The West Wing [2000], The Practice [2001], Stargate SG-1 [2001-2002], Charmed [2004-2005], The Closer [2005], Breaking Bad [2009-2010] and Torchwood: Miracle Day [2011]. He's appeared in much more and has had roles in films as far flung as The Onion Field [1977] and The Fisher King [1991] to Gamer [2009]. His role as Q would feature in eight installments of ST:TNG including, Encounter At Far Point, Hide And Q, Q Who, Deja Q, Qpid, True Q, Tapestry and All good Things.... He would appear in one episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in Q-Less. He would finally end his run with three episodes of Star Trek: Voyager in Death Wish, The Q And The Grey and Q2.

6 comments:

John Kenneth Muir said...

Hi SFF:

Great re-cap of Hide & Q. I remember at the time that this one aired originally (all the way back in 1987), I felt it was one of the better shows up to that point. It had more action; the theme really came across well, and it showed some development/insight for the characters. I also felt the nostalgia you mention for the soundstage's fake rocks....ah, the good old days!

On retrospect twenty-five years later, those things are probably all still true, and yet the episode suffers a bit from an over-the-top, campy element.

I like John De Lancie as much as the next Trekker, but he hadn't quite gotten the Q equation right here, I think, and he plays it a bit too campy for my taste. I contrast this with his amazing turn, for instance, in Year Two's masterpiece, "Q Who" (a fantastic episode that also introduces the Borg).

I enjoyed here the idea of the "temptation" of Will Riker, and how Q (malevolently) used the death of a child to sway good old Number One. I think Frakes is very strong in this episode, and despite my misgivings about the Picard character, I also think that character comes across very strongly here as well, out-playing Q, quoting Shakespearing, and teaching his Exec a lesson.

But some of the supporting cast moments are cringe worthy. Denise Crosby is awful in this episode. Just awful. Her penalty box moment is is wince-inducing. (And I like Tasha Yar very much...)

Great retrospective!

best,
John

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Thanks John.

We are very much on track here.

I agree on Frakes and Stewart. Both are beginning to shine with this particular entry.

I would also completely concur with you on de Lancie. He's a solid actor, but he does camp it up a bit too much here. It's evident and I should have noted that as well. His part and his performance improves markedly with his appearance in Q Who. I'm with you.

By the way, by comparison, it's incredible just how good Robert Walker Jr. is in the role of Charlie Evans in ST:TOS, Charlie X for just one episode. Even William Campbell is better than this particular turn in Squire.

Again, Crosby, just horrid. wow. She is either simply a bad actress or just not comfortable in the role. "Cringe-worthy" indeed. She gives her rank and role an almost silly sheen. It's hard to take her serious at all. She hardly commands authority.

Cheers my friend
sff

le0pard13 said...

I totally agree with John, SFF. Another great re-cap and dissection of an early ST:TNG episode. One that had an interesting concept -- you rightly attribute the telltale links and adapted ideas from ST:TOS -- that doesn't quite attain greatness like S2's 'Q Who' (as pointed out by JKM).

And yeah, Denise's character didn't exactly light the world on fire in S1. She did later show some acting chops on the series... of course, they all seem to come after Yar's death. Go figure ;-).

These examinations are always a fine read, my friend. Many thanks.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Thank you L13!

I look forward to Crosby's return in one of ST:TNG's most popular episodes, Yesterday's Enterprise [Season Three].

Your phrasing of her weak performance here is terrific and she is really not good in this first season. It's no wonder they knocked her off in Skin Of Evil.

This is exactly why I am so intrigued by the fact Yesterday's Enterprise is so popular. The turnaround in her performance has got to be impressive.

Cheers my friend
sff

J.D. said...

Personally, the Q episodes of STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION are pretty much unimpeachable. They are just so much fun and a nice break from the more serious, heavier episodes. I think my enjoyment from them is seeing how much fun Q has deflating the Enterprise crew's feelings of self-importance, esp. Picard who can be a bit stuffy at times. I esp. enjoy how Q torments Worf. Sure, it's a childish and a bit too campy but I think you need that every once in awhile - kind of a palette cleanser if you will.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

J.D.

Loved your alternate perspective there. Ha. Your point about Q's torment of Worf is a good one. That drives me crazy. I almost get steamed as much as Worf so it's effective. Q gets under the skin and gets me fuming.

Having said that, he is the antidote for the stuffy crew indeed.

Maybe de Lancie is a little over the top, but I like your assessment and appreciation of the recurring character. It's a great perspective. Thanks J.D my friend.
sff