Sunday, December 23, 2012

Classics: Voyager 3:10 - The Q and the Grey

Overall Rating: 7.3

This will probably be one of my most controversial ratings of all time.  This blog panned the critically acclaimed "Far Beyond the Stars" but Trek fans are even more united in their loathing of this installment in the saga of the Q.  The script is problematic, but the ideas are worthy of further thought and the message is pitch perfect.

Plot Synopsis:

Memory Alpha has the goods - Q believes that his people need a dash of humanity to overcome a civil war over what it means for a Q to be free.  Janeway suggests that what Q needs is not human DNA but the essential human experience - parenthood.

The Skinny:

This episode, while not considered a total flop, is pretty universally disliked in fandom, with various ratings outlets giving it mediocre to poor ratings, and frankly, I can understand why.  The script was penned by Kenneth Biller, whose "talent" for writing incredibly over-the-top, inane dialogue and stuffing every joke with enough cheese to make 1000 pizzas for Papa John's.  And boy does that show here.  Every attempt at sexual innuendo, fits of jealousy and archetypal Q-style banter reads as though it were written by someone in Junior High.  The only time I laugh when watching this one is with the "Is it the tattoo?  Because mine's bigger!" joke, and then only because they went to the trouble of giving him an over-sized version of Chakotay's tattoo that pushed the level of absurdity so high that I laugh uncomfortably at the sheer audacity.  Trust me when I say that the first 15 minutes of this episode are a string of unbearable groaners that will have you wanting to change the channel.

I think that's about as far as SFDebris is able to get with this one before losing his patience and turning off his brain.  He is REALLY hard on it, and I think, despite the flaws in the script, that he decided to be extremely literal just to punish Kenneth Biller for his bad dialogue.  I get that he has a belief that the Q should be a combative force for good as they were in "Q Who" (or, as I call it, "First Borg!" or Tapestry or All Good Things.  But keep in mind...that was Q we were talking about...not his whole race.  and our Q's fascination with and desire to see good outcomes for humanity fits well with Voyager's premise that he would like to see the Q become more human and less repressive.  When it comes down to it, I don't think this episode ran contrary to the basic character archetype that SFDebris would like to see applied to Q, except that the pre-continuum sexual banter was hackneyed and immature beyond all acceptable levels for someone as advanced as Q.  However, once we GET to the continuum, a literal interpretation is, at best, unfair and uncharitable.  As Q himself explains, the muskets are FIGURATIVE.  So no...the Q have not been reduced to musket-wielding simpletons in southern regalia.  That's just how Janeway was able to understand.

So...we have some really dumb dialogue and a completely illogical faux-sci-fi gibberish to get Voyager's crew into the continuum all of which happens in the real world (the one bound by linearity and human logic).  And I will wholeheartedly agree that this stuff is bad television.  But inside the continuum...the conversation and ideas being expressed once we come to the point are far too good to be cast aside just because you don't like the setting they chose.

The Q are struggling with something that is, IMHO, universal and eternal.  The conflict between Utopian ideals (which, by their very definition, call for conformity and stagnation, since once everything is perfect, change must be bad and differences are worse) and the needs of the individual, which begin first and foremost with liberty.  History bears this out - the one thing we're ALL willing to do FREEDOM.  One cannot be free in Utopia, nor can one experience real fulfillment.  If there is any erotic (in the classical sense, not the sexy sense) desire in a man to have new experiences and seek truth, he will grow bored in a conformist society.  So where does that leave the Q?  What is the solution to their conflict?

I think the answer they chose - procreation and the family - is a good one.  Q's rapid transformation at the end of the episode into giddy new father is a bit glib...I'd like to have seen that explored at a later date.  But if we view the Q as the metaphor for what we could become, then we must acknowledge the human truth that parenthood is the most fulfilling thing our own lives could ever offer us (most of the time, when things are working as they should).  Not only that, but Janeway puts it very well when she explains to Q (who, understandably, has no context to get that human virtues are earned through experience and taught by parents to their children) that it's not enough to procreate - that you have to commit to your child and teach them your values if you hope to see them passed on.

So, as far as I'm concerned, this episode's core ideas are well worth the film they're printed on and the rule of cool applies.  I no longer care that the way Voyager enters the continuum is stupid, nor that the early dialogue is horrid ('s annoying and will harm the writing score here, but it doesn't stop me from liking this one...sorry fans).  I would go so far as to say that Voyager's Q trilogy added some of the best material to the entire Q story...and that ain't true for a lot of things on this show.

Writing: 5.0

High marks for the initial story idea (by Shawn Piller), but I have to ping Kenneth Billar pretty heavily for really holding back what should have been a fulfilling, intelligent episode from achieving its potential with all of his really bad innuendo.

Acting: 8.5

John DeLancie was his usual radiant self and, I'm sure kept me frmo hating the early dialogue even more than I already did.  Kate Mulgrew held her own as well, but Suzie Plakson (female Q) was...erm...I'm not sure what I disliked.  I just found her performance off-putting somehow.

Message: 8.5

Note to Trek writers.  There have been hundreds of civil wars in the history of humanity...the American Civil War was not particularly remarkable among them.  Your dialogue which made our Civil War the ultimate example of an internal struggle of liberty vs. tyranny is off base.  Other than that, I think your points about the salutatory value of parenthood to alter one's world view and give life a greater purpose and about the threat represented by the Q continuum's claim to perfect purity are well made.

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