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The Trek Nation - The Q and the Grey

The Q and the Grey

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 13, 2004 - 2:30 PM GMT

See Also: 'The Q and the Grey' Episode Guide

Voyager's crew witnesses a spectacular supernova...then another...and another...slowly concluding that they're in an awfully strange region of space. Meanwhile, Janeway retires for the evening, only to find her quarters transformed into a love nest and Q waiting to inform her that he's chosen her to be the mother of his child.

While the crew snickers and Chakotay sulks, Q attempts to woo an uninterested, suspicious captain with bathtub serenades, a puppy, promises of getting home...the usual, for an omnipotent being with not much imagination when it comes to women. Finally, pursued by his long-time lady love among the Q, he is forced to tell Janeway the truth: he wants to have a child with her to try to put an end to a devastating civil war among the Q which is causing the supernovas. He picked her not only because he finds her attractive, but because her decision to let Q (the one from "Death Wish") commit suicide has torn apart the Continuum so he feels it's her duty. He takes her to the site of the struggle, depicted as the American Civil War so her puny brain will be able to understand it.

As Janeway attempts to work out a negotiation, her crew stages a rescue with the help of Lady Q. Q is reunited with his ex-lover and procreates with her instead. The war is ended, the universe is saved, Voyager goes on its merry way.

Analysis:

When I first heard that Voyager was planning an episode in which an omnipotent male would try to knock up the captain, I gagged - they already did the powerful-guy-overpowers-and-impregnates-Janeway routine once, in "Threshold" when Salamander Tom abducted Kathryn to his love nest in a swamp. "The Q and the Grey" wasn't nearly as bad, fortunately. Oh, it was still painfully sexist, but Janeway rose above it. The captain came off as strong and independent without losing her passion and warmth; this is a version of her we haven't seen since "Resolutions," perhaps even "Resistance."

The captain I fell in love with in "Caretaker" and "The Cloud" was deeply committed to her values and goals, but also to alleviating the suffering of others. She was willing to put up with ignorance because she has empathy and a sense of humor. I like the fact that for once she was willing to admit she had weaknesses and failings without getting defensive about them, and that she clearly thinks connections between beings are of utmost importance.

"The Q and the Gray" was one of Chakotay's better episodes too...not because he looked particularly commanding, he rarely does, but because he too was passionate without being possessed. The scene in the ready room where he tells Janeway how much he resents Q's propositioning her is the most blatant soul-baring we've ever heard from him, and was quite touching. I liked her concern for his feelings as well. And the fact that Chakotay wasn't baited by Q says a lot about the depth of his committment to Janeway even when he's upset. I wish this guy had stuck around for "Scorpion."

This was even a good Q episode, though the fact that the Continuum has been demystified is a big disappointment - and a big waste for the franchise. Q was less superficially misogynistic than in "Death Wish," and more sympathetic - for once he looked less like a bully than like a child overcompensating for his own limitations. If he'd thought with his brain instead of, well, whatever the Q equivalent of the "wrong head" might be, he would have figured out that Janeway could have helped his people a lot more as a counselor than as the mother of the messiah.

But the flip side of the episode, the treatment of gender and domestic issues, is very much a product of the Star Trek universe, where there's no such thing as a tolerable long-term relationship. Even the omnipotent beings fall into stereotypical human cliches. Sex is alternately an indulgence, a disease to be overcome, or a means of getting women to pop out heirs for the men who rule the universe. Even 400 years in the future, females are characterized as mothers, nursemaids, and contributors of DNA for powerful men, rather than as resourceful, intelligent, valuable people.

It bothers me greatly that the Q now have gender, in direct opposition to what Q himself said on The Next Generation - my favorite-ever Q moment was when he told Picard that if he'd known Picard was vulnerable to love, Q would have appeared to him as a woman. I always enjoyed Q's flirtatious behavior with Riker, as well as his attitude that carnal love was disgusting. Now, he's just a standard boring heterosexual male. Suzie Q (played by Suzie Plakson, so memorable as K'Ehleyr), was funny but deplorable, a sort of negative Janeway. She shared the captain's smarts and strength, but had temper and greed to go with them, displayed as the worst clingy female stereotypes. She needed a man, she feared abandonment, she wanted a baby the moment it was suggested. Madame Captain looked good because Ms. Q looked bad.

Plakson seemed to be there mainly to make inside jokes about the series, so I didn't take her overly seriously. Still, Q's macho posturing, with cracks about a relationship being a prison, annoyed me. The relationship issues brought up by "The Q and the Grey" confirm my worst fears: deep down, Trek's writers do think of committed love as something which represses free spirits, a "ball and chain," as Q said.

And it's always women being placed in the role of homebodies - and, therefore, restraints to liberty and liberation. No wonder Janeway takes the conservative position that love should be a prerequisite to mating...like many women throughout human history who feared pregnancy and abandonment by more powerful men. In the end, Q's committment is clearly to his child and not to his mate, while Janeway gets asked to play doting godmother for the baby which, as she lamented, she probably won't ever be able to have herself.

It seems fitting to me that Q's representation of the struggle saddled Janeway with long skirts to trip over.

Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Michelle Erica Green reviews 'Enterprise' episodes for the Trek Nation, for which she is also a news writer. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.