Few solo recurring villains have gotten around the Star Trek franchise quite as much as Q (John de Lancie). The mischievous and powerful entity was in the premiere episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, its finale, and plenty of episodes in-between. He made only a single appearance on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine when he famously complained about Ben Sisko (Avery Brooks) punching him, likewise showed up briefly on Star Trek: Lower Decks, but became a larger thorn in the side of Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) on Star Trek: Voyager. He’s finally returned to cause trouble in season 2 of Star Trek: Picard, and in the latest episode he revealed something difficult to believe — Q is dying.
Last week’s episode of Star Trek: Picard ends with Guinan — Ito Aghayere (Carol’s Second Act) plays the 21st century version of the character — attempting to summon Q, but instead FBI Agent Wells (Jay Karnes) wanders into Guinan’s bar and puts her and Picard (Patrick Stewart) under arrest. While Guinan waits as Wells interrogates Picard, Q shows up, having fooled the agent’s colleagues into believing he’s one of them. Turns out the summons worked, but Q’s powers are diminishing. Guinan realizes, after sensing Q’s “emptiness and fear,” that he’s dying.
Q admits that his end is coming, but doesn’t explain why or how it’s possible. In his previous Star Trek appearances, he and the rest of the Q Continuum have been portrayed as immortal. In fact, his Voyager arc begins in the season 2 episode “Death Wish” when he’s tasked with stopping another Q (Gerrit Graham) from committing suicide, precisely because the very notion of death is so offensive to the Q. The rest of De Lancie’s Voyager appearances spin out of “Death Wish.” The suicidal Q is eventually successful in his efforts, and his death sparks a civil war in the Continuum in “The Q and the Grey.” That conflict ends with the birth of a new Q, who Janeway has to contend with in the final season’s “Q2.”
It’s possible Q’s newfound mortality has something to do with the Voyager storyline. With the exception of his animated cameo in season 1 of Lower Decks, “Q2” marked Q’s last canonical appearance in the franchise. So far Star Trek: Picard hasn’t offered any answers. Q tells Guinan only that he “felt it,” and at first saw his imminent death as a good thing. “Infinite life after all has its drawbacks,” Q tells her. But now that he sees an end to his existence, rather than being “enveloped in the warm glow of meaning,” Q finds himself “simply to be disappearing… into nothing.” To demonstrate his newfound near-powerlessness, Q snaps his fingers in Guinan’s face and says, “You see that? I’m honestly trying to vaporize you at this moment.”
If Q is dying, does that mean the rest of the Q Continuum is dying as well? Either way, why is it happening? Hopefully, we’ll get some kind of answer to these questions before the end. There are only two more episodes left in season 2 of Star Trek: Picard, and the next one begins streaming next Thursday, April 28.