Death WishBy Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 13, 2004 - 2:08 PM GMT
See Also: 'Death Wish' Episode Guide
Voyager encounters a strange asteroid which turns out to have a being inside it - a Q. After making all the men on the ship disappear in an unsuccessful suicide attempt, this Q reveals that he was imprisoned by the Continuum for his wish to end his own life. Q (John De Lancie) appears in pursuit of his colleague, insisting that Janeway must return him to solitary confinement. But the other Q requests asylum, and Janeway agrees to hold a hearing, though she knows that if she grants the Q autonomy from his peers, he will try to end his own life.
At the hearing, Q calls witnesses to demonstrate the importance of suicidal Q's life - including Isaac Newton, on whose head the Q dropped the apple, and William Riker, whose ancestor was saved by the Q so that Riker could later save humanity from the Borg. He argues that if a Q were permitted to take his own life, the entire Continuum would go into a state of upheaval that would be devastating to the galaxy.
The other Q, represented by Tuvok, argues that he has the right to certain basic freedoms...including the right to end his endless, tedious existence. He shows Janeway a representation of the Q Continuum...a changeless stop on a desert road, where nothing ever happens and nobody has anything to say. Q tells Janeway that she can't understand what's at stake and sneaks into her bed, promising her a trip home and a good time with him if she returns the Q to the Continuum, but she decides ultimately that the other Q is free to choose his own destiny.
Janeway invites the Q, now named Quinn, to stay on board as a crewmember and explore new challenges now that he's mortal, but he chooses to die - drinking hemlock provided by good old Q, who says he realizes now that radical change is needed in the Continuum. He also tells Janeway that they will meet again.
This was undoubtedly supposed to seem like a progressive, enlightened episode, but there was so much agonizing sexism that I almost shut it off after the first ten minutes. I couldn't even keep track of all the lines that offended me. It started out harmlessly enough, with Q arriving amidst the temporarily all-female crew and asking whether it was the ship of the Valkyries, but the jokes and harrassment he barraged Janeway with quickly turned unpleasant, from leers at her rear end and comments about women drivers to snipes about how she's beautiful when she's angry and propositions.
Sure, Q was always condescending to Picard...about things Picard was insecure over. So what does it mean if Q suggests over and over to Janeway, a 24th-century starship captain, that her gender is a weakness? The suggestion seems to be that her gender IS a weakness, or at least perceived as such by her peers. I really lost my sense of humor when Q commented upon how wonderful it was that Janeway could be a captain and still retain her femininity. If that's remarkable to a 24th century alien, then Janeway's gotten us nowhere; it means that the women of her century are still aware that they can't have domestic lives, love and leadership at the same time.
So the euthanasia argument was sort of buried for me in a morass of other issues; I didn't want to take this episode seriously, and as a result I found it shallow and even a little boring. The cameo by Riker was largely pointless (we know from Janeway's official "biography" Mosaic that she had a huge crush on him at the Academy, but that's not evident here, thank god), and other than Tuvok's turn as an attorney, we didn't get much of interest on the other characters. We did get to see Janeway touseled in a nightgown, but in an episode as misogynistic as this one, that's hardly consolation.
It's obvious that the producers will bring Q back whenever they feel it necessary to bolster ratings. I only hope the next outing isn't as crass and demeaning as this one.
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.