Vash arrives at Deep Space Nine tailed by Q, whom everyone blames when trouble immediately follows.
Plot Summary: While on a mission through the wormhole, Dax rescues Vash, whom O’Brien recognizes from the Enterprise. Vash refuses to answer questions about how she reached the Gamma Quadrant and plans to auction a collection of rare artifacts that she collected there – a job whose profits interest Quark. Sisko offers her passage to Earth but is concerned about both her secrets and the power losses that seem to follow her, first on the runabout and later on the station. When O’Brien realizes that Q is following Vash, trying to persuade her to keep traveling with him, Sisko suspects that Q must be behind the power failures. Q transports himself and Sisko to a boxing ring and is surprised when the commander punches him, something Picard would never have done. Soon afterward, an increase in the graviton field begins to pull the station into the wormhole. Though Sisko and Kira confront Q, the omnipotent alien insists that Vash is more dangerous than he is. Quark begins to auction off Vash’s artifacts; just as the most valuable, a glowing crystal, is about to be sold for a fortune, Dax traces the station’s power drain to the rare treasure. Moments after O’Brien beams the crystal off the station, it transforms into an enormous iridescent creature that flies into the wormhole. Q continues to pursue Vash, but after dismissing him with a declaration that she plans to retire on Earth, Vash tells Quark that she has decided to visit a more exotic planet instead.
Analysis: “Q-Less” couldn’t be more aptly titled. It offers a diminished Q who’s seemingly so obsessed with Vash that he can’t be bothered even to goad Sisko properly, and a Vash who’s reduced entirely to her least interesting personality traits – greed, arrogance, recklessness, with little of the wit and creative spirit that made her attractive to Picard. I’m not entirely sure what Q sees in this version of Vash, but at least I’m clear on why she no longer wants to see the wonders of the universe with Q, since he’s become something of a bore. Sisko never seems to take him all that seriously as a threat, either, which drains the episode of what should be its dramatic strength. The tension ends up coming entirely from the threat to the station, and since we’re aware that it’s not going to implode upon entering the wormhole, thus putting a premature end to the series named after it, that’s not much of a stress-builder. It doesn’t help matters that Dax’s creative thinking to track down the problem involves so much technobabble that I couldn’t begin to tell you how she figured out it was coming from Vash’s artifact.
From the perspective of nostalgia, “Q-Less” isn’t unpleasant to watch. It’s always amusing to see Q confront a Starfleet crew and wax nostalgic about all the fun he had with Jean-Luc, though there’s nothing here as entertaining as Q popping up in bed with Picard in “Tapestry” or goading Picard about his susceptibility to love in the episode where Q first met Vash, “Qpid.” We never hear exactly what the source of Vash’s annoyance with Q might be; I like to think it’s that they realized all they really have in common besides a sense of adventure is a passion for Picard, as they both speak very fondly of Jean-Luc, but any sort of backstory on why traveling the Gamma Quadrant together soured for Vash would be better than none. Q reminds her that he saved her life and gives her – and us – a glimpse of what she might look like now had he not intervened, covered with boils and losing her hair, suffering from a painful insect attack. But it all seems like pretty small stuff compared to the glimpse Q gave Picard of his life without his artificial heart, and it’s hard to believe that this joyless, grabby version of Vash would have held Q’s interest for long – a woman carrying a great wonder of the universe around in her knapsack without having enough interest to figure out what it is. When Vash was with Picard, she might have wanted to profit from archaeology, but she certainly had a healthy interest in study for its own sake and in the thrill of collection quite separate from the value of the artifacts.
How I wish there had been more substantive interaction between Q and Sisko, who tries even less than Picard to be polite to the bratty alien, and how I really wish Q had more time to get to know Kira than his brief admiring “aren’t we the feisty little go-getter!” and warning to Sisko that she’s probably after his job. Most of Q’s non-Vash interactions are with O’Brien, whom he calls one of the little people from the Enterprise, and with Bashir, whom he perceives as a threat for Vash’s attention (though one gets the impression Vash is just humoring the poor boy in case she needs an ally) and puts into a deep sleep for most of the episode. There’s no real character development for anyone, which is a waste of opportunity – couldn’t Dax have had an encounter with Q in a past life? couldn’t Sisko wonder about parallels between Q and the Prophets? couldn’t Quark have a moment of realizing that Vash is too good for ear-rubbing and small-time smuggling? But it’s all kept at a simple, somewhat dull pace where Kira and Sisko bark orders about tridium gas and tetryon fields and Q smirks and sulks instead of making things happen. I prefer him as the God of Lies or occasionally as a prophet of truth, so this is just not one of my favorite outings.