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Q Who (episode)

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"Q Who"
TNG, Episode 2x16
Production number: 40272-142
First aired: 8 May 1989
41st of 176 produced in TNG
41st of 176 released in TNG
  {{{nNthReleasedInSeries_Remastered}}}th of 176 released in TNG Remastered  
147th of 728 released in all
BorgFirstContact
Written By
Maurice Hurley

Directed By
Rob Bowman
42761.3 (2365)
Arc: Borg and First Contact (3 of 3)  
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Q throws the Enterprise into uncharted space where it encounters and is engaged by a vessel of a previously unknown species: the Borg. When the vessel instantly and effortlessly overwhelms the Enterprise, Picard realizes that the Federation may not be as ready for the future as he thought.

Summary

Teaser

Gomez and Picard

"Yes, Ensign. It's all over me."

New ensign Sonya Gomez orders a hot chocolate from a replicator. While doing so, La Forge passes, and the two converse. They wonder why the crew just merely ask for products without saying please, even if the replicator is run by a computer. After the hot chocolate materializes, Gomez says "thank you" to the replicator. While the two walk over to engineering, La Forge notices that Gomez is a new crew member and notices that she is a little talkative, and tells her to relax a little. After arriving, he notes to her that she is carrying food or drink in the premises of engineering, which is forbidden. As she turns around, she spills some all over Picard's uniform. Though she is new, Picard decides not to berate, but welcome her, and La Forge accepts full responsibility for what she has done.

Picard excuses himself to change his uniform. He walks to the nearest turbolift to get to his quarters. However, when the doors open again, he finds that the turbolift did not make it to his quarters, but is inside a shuttlecraft far away from the USS Enterprise-D. He then realizes that he is taken by Q. Picard is reminiscent about their agreement from a year earlier, when Q agreed never to trouble Picard's ship again; Q points out that they are nowhere near the Enterprise.

Act One

Guinan senses something strange

"Is there anything unusual happening?"

In Ten Forward, La Forge and Gomez arrive and talk some more. Meanwhile, Guinan is tending to her regular duties, when she pauses and wanders around the room for a moment, before making contact with the Bridge. Commander Riker answers and wonders what she wants. Guinan wonders if everything is fine with the Bridge, since she felt something she only encountered long ago, but merely brushes it off and tells Riker to forget she called. Later, La Forge notices something is up with Guinan, and wonders if she's OK. She merely responds, "I don't know."

Meanwhile, in the shuttlecraft, Picard tries to make contact with Enterprise. However, Q tells him there is no point, since at the current distance, he will never reach Enterprise. Picard attempts to communicate anyway. Q explains that they have business to discuss, but Picard will not discuss anything with him, stating that keeping him prisoner will not convince him to listen to what Q has to say. Q merely says that he will, eventually.

Q and Picard

"Do we stay out here years? Decades?"

Counselor Troi walks into the bridge, and wonders where Captain Picard is. When she hears he is in his quarters, she decides to contact him, but there is no response. Riker asks the ship's computer, but according to it, Picard is nowhere to be found. Furthermore, Lieutenant Worf reports that a shuttlecraft is missing from Shuttlebay. With the captain missing, Riker orders Wesley to put a stop to the ship. They hail the shuttle on all frequencies, but there is no response. In fact, there is no trace of a shuttle anywhere in the sector.

"First officer's log, Stardate 42761.3. We have not been able to determine why or how Captain Picard left the Enterprise. We can't even be certain he is in the missing shuttle although that is the assumption on which we are proceeding. For the last six hours, we've been searching without success."

While the Enterprise continues to search for Picard and the missing shuttlecraft, Picard demands Q to return him to the ship. Eventually, he agrees to give Q's request a full hearing and in a flash, they're back on the Enterprise, and the shuttle is back in place. Worf reports that the shuttlecraft has returned, and the computer tells the crew that Picard is in Ten Forward, allowing Riker to conclude that Q has returned.

Act Two

Guinan reacting on Q

"I knew it was you!"

They appear in Ten Forward, where – upon a confrontation with Guinan – Q expresses his desire to join the Enterprise crew, after being cast out from the Q Continuum. Skeptical, Picard refuses his request, especially after he put the crew on trial for the crimes of humanity and asked Riker to join the Continuum. Q argues that they need him since they are not prepared for what awaits them. Picard claims that they are ready to confront the unknown, and Guinan adds that humans' ability to adapt is their great advantage.

Q, in turn, seeks to demonstrate how prepared they are and throws the Enterprise 7,000 light years into uncharted space, to give them "a preview of things to come" upon which he disappears. Guinan advises Picard to return to Federation space as quickly as possible, but he decides to explore the nearby System J-25 first.

"Captain's Log, Stardate 42761.9. Despite Guinan's warning, I feel compelled to investigate this unexplored sector of the galaxy before heading back."

First view of Borg cube

"Protect yourself, Captain, or they'll destroy you."

A survey of the only Class M planet in the system reveals that while there was once a civilization there, it has been ripped away from the planet, "identical to what happened to the outposts along the Neutral Zone." A cube-shaped ship then approaches the Enterprise, and scans of the ship show nothing. Picard asks Guinan for her advice, and she reveals that the ship belongs to the Borg – a cybernetic race who were responsible for the near-extinction of her people. "Protect yourself, captain," she advises, "or they'll destroy you."

The Borg proceed to transport one of their own into engineering, in spite of the Enterprise's shields being activated. La Forge sees the intruder and requests security to report there immediately.

Act Three

Borg drone in Enterprise-D engineering

A drone attempts to access the ship's computer

Picard and Worf arrive with a security team and see the Borg apparently making a survey of the ship. Q appears for a brief moment and warns Picard that it's not interested in human lifeforms, only the ship's technology. Before leaving, he advises the captain not to allow it to interfere with the operations of the Enterprise. When the Borg attempts to do so, Picard orders Worf to stop it. A security officer tries to drag it away, only to be hurled clear across the room.

Worf then tries to stun it with his phaser, to no avail, and is forced to increase the phaser to full power. They successfully destroy the Borg, but almost instantly another is beamed aboard in its place. Worf again attempts to destroy it, but shields form around it, protecting the Borg. It tampers with the same engineering console, then turns and removes some components from the dead Borg before it is beamed back to the cube and the corpse disappears.

Picard holds a conference, in which Guinan further details what the Borg are, and how they destroyed her people. She advises them that the Borg do not negotiate with people, at which point they hail the Enterprise. Picard tries to reason with them, but the Borg voice completely ignores him and simply informs the crew that they will not be able to defend themselves against the Borg ship, threatening to "punish" them if they attempt to do so. Troi tells Picard that every Borg is part of the same mind, and that they have no distinct leader.

Enterprise fires at Borg cube

"They still have us!"

The Borg then lock onto the Enterprise with a tractor beam that drains their shields and prevents the ship from moving. The Borg use a cutting beam to slice a section out of the Enterprise hull, and all eighteen crewmembers in that section disappear. Picard orders Worf to use whatever force is necessary to sever the Borg's beam, and they are ultimately successful after three phaser attacks, which blast several craters into the surface of the Borg ship.

Q shows up at another crew meeting, telling them that the Borg are not concerned with the crew or the Federation, only the Enterprise and how they can use her technology. Picard asks him to reveal that this is just another illusion, only for Q to respond that the situation is perfectly real before vanishing. The Enterprise sends over an away team consisting of Riker, Worf and Data in an attempt to learn more about the Borg.

Act Four

"Captain's Log, supplemental. We have been attacked without provocation by an alien race which Guinan calls the Borg. It appears that we have neutralized their vessel. Commander Riker is leading an away team in an attempt to learn more about them."

Away team inside Borg cube, 2365

"Our readings were incorrect. The Borg crew survived."

The away team discover the ship to be full of Borg, most of whom are in stasis. The few active Borg pay no attention to the team, so they don't see them as a threat. The away team then finds what they believe to be a Borg nursery, where the Borg are born as biological lifeforms, and immediately after birth, they begin growing artificial, cybernetic implants. What Riker finds astounding is that the Borg have developed the technology to link artificial intelligence directly into the humanoid brain.

Data notices that the Borg seem to be using their combined mental powers to repair the ship, which is why the team has not been attacked. Picard has them beamed back to the bridge, and says "Let's get the hell out of here". They start leaving at warp 8, but the Borg follow with ease. Q appears on the bridge, warning the crew that the Borg will not stop until they have them in their grasp. He even says to Picard, "You should have stayed where you belonged."

Act Five

"Captain's Log, supplemental. We are unable to maintain the gap between the Enterprise and the Borg ship."

Borg Shield neutralizer

"You can't outrun them. You can't destroy them. They are relentless."

They increase to maximum warp, but still have no success in escaping. Riker orders them to arm photon torpedoes, and Picard gives the order to fire, but the torpedoes have no effect. Q appears on the bridge and informs Picard he does not have a chance. The Borg ship, after getting within firing range, fires a shield-draining missile twice and the Enterprise, now with very low shields, fires torpedoes again, with the same result.

"You can't outrun them," says Q. "You can't destroy them. If you damage them, the essence of what they are remains – they regenerate and keep coming... eventually you will weaken – your reserves will be gone... they are relentless." The Borg fire twice more, and the Enterprise loses both shields and warp drive. Again preparing to fire photon torpedoes, Data advises Picard that the shields are at 0% and will not protect the Enterprise from further attacks. Picard and Riker exchange glances, and Riker orders Worf to prepare to fire anyway.

Picard and Guinan (2365)

"They will be coming."

Q demands whether they still believe to be prepared, to which Picard admits that they are frightened and that Q has shown them to be inadequate. Picard asks Q's help, saying that they need him, to which, with a snap of his fingers, Q flings the Enterprise back into Federation space. He congratulates Picard for admitting his need for help, claiming that "another man would have been humiliated to say those words." Picard is still upset about the loss of eighteen of his crew, but Q is unapologetic, telling him that the universe is not a safe place before disappearing. The Enterprise sets course for the nearest starbase.

Reflecting upon events in Ten Forward with Picard, Guinan says that the encounter with the Borg happened before it should have, and for the moment, the Borg are only capable of seeing the Federation as "raw material to them". And because they are now, Guinan begins, "aware of our existence," "they will be coming," Picard continues. Guinan ominously says, "You can bet on it." Picard comments that perhaps Q did the right thing for the wrong reasons, to shake humanity out of its complacency for whatever lies ahead.

Log Entries

Memorable Quotes

"The chance to study you is, frankly, provocative, but you are next of kin to chaos."

- Picard, to Q, when he asks to join the crew of the Enterprise


"Picard, you are about to move into areas of the galaxy filled with wonders you cannot possibly imagine. And terrors to freeze your soul!"

- Q, to Picard in Ten Forward


"Ah, the redoubtable Commander Riker! And Microbrain! Growl for me; let me know you still care!"

- Q, to Riker and Worf in Ten Forward


"Interesting, isn't it? Not a he, not a she, not like anything you've ever seen before. An enhanced humanoid."

- Q, describing a Borg to Picard


"We have analyzed your defensive capabilities as being unable to withstand us. If you defend yourselves, you will be punished."

- The Borg's only message to the Enterprise


"We mean you no harm. Do you understand me?"
"'Understand you'? You're nothing to him."

- Picard and Q, after a Borg beams into Engineering


"He might try to take over the ship. I wouldn't let him!"

- Q commenting to Picard about the Borg intruder


"Why?"
"Why? Why, to give you a taste of your future, a preview of things to come. Con permiso, capitán? The hall is rented, the orchestra engaged. It's now time to see if you can dance."

-Riker and Q, before Q leaves after sending the Enterprise to J-25


"Q...end this."
"Moi? What makes you think I'm either inclined or capable to terminate this encounter?"
"If we all die here, now, you will not be able to gloat. You wanted to frighten us. We're frightened. You wanted to show us we were inadequate. For the moment, I grant that. You wanted me to say 'I need you.'? I NEED you!"

- Picard, Q about the pursuing Borg


"That was a difficult admission. Another man would have been humiliated to say those words. Another man would have rather died than ask for help."
"I understand what you've done here, Q, but I think the lesson could've been learned without the loss of 18 members of my crew."
"If you can't take a little bloody nose, maybe you ought to go back home and crawl under your bed. It's not safe out here. It's wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires, both subtle and gross. But it's not for the timid."

- Q and Picard


"The Borg are the ultimate user. They're unlike any threat your Federation has ever faced. They're not interested in political conquest, wealth, or power as you know it. They're simply interested in your ship, its technology. They've identified it as something they can consume."

- Q commenting during a senior staff briefing


"Eighteen of our people have died. Please, tell us this is one of your illusions."
"Oh, no. This is as real as your so-called life gets."

- Picard and Q


"You judge yourselves against the pitiful adversaries you've encountered so far: the Romulans, the Klingons. They're nothing compared to what's waiting."

- Q to Picard in Ten Forward


"Are we going to stay out here for years? Decades? I'm ageless Picard; you're not."

- Q, to Picard

Background Information

Story development

  • Initially conceived by Writer Maurice Hurley as a race of insectoids, Hurley had originally planned the season one episode "The Neutral Zone" to be the first part in a trilogy that would introduce an entirely new threat to the Federation, introducing a plot point that Federation and Romulan starbases along the Romulan Neutral Zone had been mysteriously wiped out. This was intended to lead into a series of episodes that would have introduced the Borg as a main villain in the wake of the Ferengi's complete failure to meet with audience expectations of a major Starfleet antagonist. Unfortunately, the Writer's Guild strike of 1988 prevented this, as well as many other concepts, from coming to fruition in TNG's early days. By the time they made their first appearance in "Q Who", the villain species had been changed from insect to the more budget-friendly cyborg form. (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, pp. 169, 180) Hurley finally got to proceed with his planned sequel with "Q Who", although only one passing reference was made of the strange destruction of outposts referred to in "The Neutral Zone" by Data, "It is identical to what happened to the outposts along the Neutral Zone." [1]. Not everyone picked up on the reference, partly due to the absence of the Romulans from the storyline, but they are mentioned when Q says, "You judge yourselves against the pitiful adversaries you have so far encountered -- the Klingons, the Romulans, are nothing compared to what's waiting." [2]}}

Creating the Borg

Borg (concept art 1)

Preliminary Borg concept by David Fisher and Rick Sternbach

Borg (concept art 2)

Detail sketch by Rick Sternbach

Borg (behind the scenes)

A Borg stuntman's (Tim Trella) costume being adjusted between takes

Budget constraints kept the Borg from being depicted as insectoids as Maurice Hurley had originally intended, though the hive concept survived to become the overwhelming group mind known as the Collective. Costume designer Durinda Rice Wood's first idea for the Borg was kind of like a reptile spine look. In addition, the Borg's unique, cube-shaped ship, and their eerie appearance – reminiscent of both the biomechanism designs of H.R. Giger and the cybernetic, laser-eyed Lord Dread from the 1987 syndicated series Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future – all contributed to the Borg ascending to the height of Star Trek villainy, exactly as intended.

Hurley worked together with Rick Berman and Gene Roddenberry to create the Borg, whose name was derived from "cyborg", meaning cybernetic organism. The Borg were intended to provide the series with what the Ferengi had failed to deliver – a deadly, remorseless enemy that could not be reasoned with or defeated.

And exactly because of their powerful nature, the Borg would appear in only five further episodes through the run of The Next Generation. The producers stated that their infrequent appearance was due to their inability to find ways to defeat the Borg (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion). However, just as Khan returned to battle Kirk in the second Star Trek film, the Borg would also make the transition to the big screen in the second The Next Generation feature.

  • The graphics displayed on monitors in the Borg alcoves were referred to as "Borg Spaghetti" by the production staff.
  • The Borg Collective voice heard in the episode was synthesized from the voices of Maurice Hurley, director Rob Bowman and Bowman's assistant.
  • While it is not explicitly stated in this episode, the overall ambition of the Borg seems to be the acquisition of technology, not the assimilation of other species as in later episodes. While "The Best of Both Worlds", the next episode to feature the Borg, dealt with this changed premise by stating in dialog that their objectives had changed, subsequent Borg episodes would ignore it entirely.
  • The Borg cube has a different appearance than the cubes used in Star Trek: First Contact and Star Trek: Voyager, and the Borg seen here also have simplified clothing compared to later appearances in The Next Generation and other series. Obviously this is explained by budget constraints and advances in makeup that were made after this episode was produced.
  • ENT: "Regeneration" and VOY: "Dark Frontier" indicate that not only was Earth Starfleet previously aware of the existence of the Borg, Federation scientists actually pursued them – even if they were considered mere rumor. While it is not impossible to imagine that Humans might have been aware of the Borg prior to "Q Who" (especially considering the events of 2293 (Star Trek Generations) and the time travel events of Star Trek: First Contact), it is nonetheless a strange continuity situation.

Filming

Visual effects

Borg (concept art 3)

Storyboards for the Enterprise's confrontation with the Borg cube

USS Enterprise-D assaulted by a Borg cube

Visual effects shot from the episode

  • The complexity and cost of The Next Generation's visual effects sequences demanded detailed planning before a single frame was shot. As the visual effects supervisor for the first episode to feature the Borg, Dan Curry created these storyboards as a blueprint of the Enterprise's first engagement with a Borg cube. The frames from the completed episode show how closely the visual effects team followed the storyboards.

Trivia

File:Rob Bowman with Picard.jpg
  • This episode featured the first of two appearances of Sonya Gomez, initially intended to be a comedic recurring character, but dropped after "Samaritan Snare". Gomez would later become the lead character in the non-canon Star Trek: Starfleet Corps of Engineers series of novels.
  • Diana Muldaur (Katherine Pulaski) does not appear in this episode.
  • Perhaps as an homage to TOS: "The City on the Edge of Forever", after beaming Riker and the away team off the Borg cube, Picard orders "Let's get the hell out of here!", just as Kirk did in the aforementioned episode after their encounter with the Guardian of Forever and restoring the timeline.
  • This episode marks the only time we see Guinan's office.
  • This episode refers to previous events seen in previous episodes, Q's trial ("Encounter at Farpoint"), his return when Riker temporarily became a Q ("Hide and Q") and the mysterious destruction of Romulan Neutral Zone outposts ("The Neutral Zone").
  • The conflict between Q and Guinan, revealed in this episode but never fully explained, is revisited (with the tables turned) a year later in "Deja Q".
  • Guinan's pose when first confronting Q is almost exactly the same as the one Whoopi Goldberg's character Celie uses when standing up to her abusive husband in the 1985 movie The Color Purple.
  • In the observation lounge, for the only time during the series, the outline of the view screen behind Picard blinks red alert during the first senior staff conference.
  • Two sound effects are introduced in this episode and used for the rest of the series: 1) the "click/snap" effect when the main view screen is magnified; and 2) the "trigger" effect when the ship's weapons are fired.
  • When Q is discussing time with Picard in the shuttlecraft, he is bouncing a ball in homage to Steve McQueen in The Great Escape.
  • Ron Jones happened to compose the score for this first episode to feature the Borg before doing the music to "The Best of Both Worlds" parts I and II and after scoring "The Neutral Zone", which hinted at their existence from the start.
  • The drawer in which Riker finds the baby in is a Borg maturation chamber, in which assimilated children are placed until they are adults.
  • The book Star Trek 101, by Terry J. Erdmann and Paula M. Block, lists this episode as one of the "Ten Essential Episodes" from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
  • It's later revealed that due to the events shown in Star Trek: First Contact and Regeneration the Borg already knew of Earth's existence and were on their way. This means Q's actions were an early warning for the Federation. Later, on Star Trek Voyager, Q would say if it wasn't for this early warning, the Federation would have been assimilated.

Apocrypha

  • It is revealed in the novel Greater than the Sum that the eighteen crewmembers who disappeared during the Borg's slicing of the Enterprise's hull were actually assimilated.

Awards

  • This episode won two Emmy Awards. Only four other episodes of Trek have won this many. It won for Outstanding Sound Editing for a Series and Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Drama Series. It was also nominated for Outstanding Achievement in Special Visual Effects.

Video and DVD releases

Links and references

Starring

Also starring

Guest stars

And special guest star

Uncredited co-stars

Stand-ins

References

2165; 2265; artificial intelligence; beard; Borg; Borg alcove; Borg cube; Borg drone; Borg history; Borg missile; Borg nursery; Class M; cortical array; cutting beam; El-Aurian; Enterprise-D shuttlecraft 06; Federation; French; hot chocolate; J-25 VI; J-25 system; Klingons; locator beam; maturation chamber; Milky Way Galaxy; Q Continuum; Ranous VI; Romulans; Romulan Neutral Zone; Sector 30; Sector 31; Starbase 83; Starbase 173; Starbase 185; Starfleet Academy; three-dimensional chess; tractor beam; transporter; tricorder; type 7 shuttlecraft

Sources


External links


Previous episode:
"Pen Pals"
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 2
Next episode:
"Samaritan Snare"

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