Overall Rating: 8.8
I like to think - this episode makes me think and consider a serious moral dilemma, culminating in actually making a decision and finding that that decision has real consequences. That makes it easily one of the strongest episodes of the first two seasons of Voyager. But I am conflicted, and I'll explain why in this review.
Voyager stumbles on the prison of a member of the Q Continuum whose only crime is the desire to be mortal so that he may finally die. When the Q we know from TNG arrives and the two Q stalemate in their squabble, new Q (who chooses to call himself Quinn) requests asylum, forcing Janeway to decide whether an immortal man has the legal right to die.
There are three *very* profound insights in this episode - and I love it when a script produces profound insights that I had not previously considered and makes me stop and think about things from a new perspective.
The first profound insight is that, to a human questing after more and more knowledge and power, omnipotence is very alluring, but if we ever achieved it, we might realize that we had nothing left to do. From a human perspective, God's position in the heavens is actually the end of the journey, after which there is only extinction. That is, as a stoner might say, "heavy, man." I am not poking fun here...I mean that literally...it's a sobering thought.
The second position of relevance...our mortality is a GIFT. We all look at death as a terrifying demon hunting us all our lives and we fight to stay alive, but that fight produces all of those things of which we are most proud as a species. We explore our world so that we may understand it better and prepare for its hazards. We seek scientific knowledge to better our lives and extend them where possible. We are driven toward the beauty of artistic expression, child-rearing and the written word because we seek to leave a legacy so that our limited lives don't fade into nothingness when we die. And we seek God through our faiths because we need to know that there's something out there for us beyond this mortal coil. So when your child asks you what the meaning of life is - asks you why God would put us here on this flawed, distant place from his kingdom in heaven, the right answer is "Heaven is boring if you don't first experience the joys of the mortal world and come to treasure your impermanence. You must first know joy and sorrow before you can be fulfilled in heaven." For the continuum, there's no curiosity, no drive, no CONVERSATION even...and all because they cannot die.
And finally, there is this bit of brilliance from Michael and Shawn Piller (there ya go...this episode was awesome because a DS9 writer took some time away from executive producing to actually write an episode): a culture striving for perfection MUST also strive for conformity. And this MUST invariably lead to totalitarianism. The Q Continuum, as seen by Michael Piller, is a dystopian theocracy - their religion being that of purity of existence. That's...pretty cool! And it adds a whole new dimension to the various images of Q we've seen on TNG. It ties them together and gives us a greater understanding of Q's personal journey. Continuity? Character development? Philosophical insight? On Voyager???? Naaah...this had to be a DS9 script that got sent to the wrong studio.
So yeah...this show had MANY things working for it. But I'm still conflicted. Because the immortality itself was the problem (and the ability to rely on special powers to get things done)...and Quinn delivered proof that he could be surprised in a mortal world, which is what he wanted. So why, after he was given a mortal existence, didn't he choose to make the most of that? He claims he would only be pretending to fit in on the mortal coil...that he would never truly belong. But...it seems like the easy way out to commit suicide just because the opportunity is there. The ending could have been slightly rewritten in a couple of ways that would have made this one of the greatest episodes in Trek history, so...
Let's Go With It!
I would like to have seen Quinn strike out on his own as a philosopher...with his mortality in place, he could have made a suicide ATTEMPT, realized that the prospect of ceasing to exist was actually alarming now that it was an option, and decided that he needed to do what he could to be a gift to creation. Obviously, we couldn't have him hanging around Voyager, but perhaps Q could have left him a mode of transit or placed him on a new world with people he hadn't studied and let him live out his mortal existence. Life is a gift, just as much as death is, and to her credit, Janeway took the position that suicide was a waste and a selfish act, and encouraged Quinn to seek out a mortal life, but I would like to have seen a different end. Or...should they have wanted him to die, believing it to be a gift, they should have had Q say "he influenced me to be a rebel again...but his way out was the coward's way...I intend to fight on." Either way, the episode places value on MORTAL life, and keeps all of the observations above for our consideration.
My major complaint here is the bits of this script in which Q hits on Janeway. The Q are above that kind of crap...I'm sorry...but so is the rest of the script. Also...EW!!! The other thing I thoguht was bad about this script was the parade of "impacts" that Quinn had on Earth's timeline. They had the balls to link the existence of Will Riker (who, to quote Q, is Not. That. Important.) and the successful completion of Woodstock (really? Woodstock??) with ISAAC NEWTON?!?! Oh and the apple story is apocryphal...do your homework, guys. Otherwise, this is a fabulously intriguing and entertaining episode.
John de Lancie and Gerrit Graham play well off of each other and Kate Mulgrew more than holds her own among such popular guest stars. This one is very well done.
Short the disappointing ending for Quinn the philosopher king (who could have done so much more for the Q as a shining example of the value of mortal LIFE if he were...um...alive), this episode is a masterful argument against utopian ideals and for Christian teachings regarding the meaning and purpose for life.