Star Trek’s Best Villain Is Much Older Than You Think

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

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  • John de Lancie’s Q may have been seen much earlier than the events of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
  • Many fans theorize that William Campbell’s villain Trelane from the Original Series episode “The Squire of Gothos” is a member of the Q Continuum, or perhaps even the same character who pesters the heroes of TNG and Voyager so often.
  • The Season 2 Strange New Worlds episode “Those Old Scientists” includes a throwaway line alluding to the similarities between Q and Trelane.
  • Peter David’s non-canonical Trek novel Q-Squared suggest Q and Trelane are father and son.

While the Borg are scary and the Klingons are fun, many Star Trek fans believe the best villain is Q, the godlike being who frequently appeared to torment Captain Picard. That alien was created for The Next Generation and appeared in the pilot episode, but since that show premiered, fans have had a theory that has only grown stronger over time. Here is it: that Q is of the same race or even may be the same character as Trelane, the godlike being who once tormented Captain Kirk.

John De Lancie’s Q

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For modern Star Trek fans, Q hardly needs an introduction: in addition to appearing in both the first and last episodes of The Next Generation, he also appeared very recently in the last two seasons of Picard. His powers are seemingly limitless, and he’s capable of making objects appear out of nowhere or even flinging starships halfway across the galaxy with the snap of his finger. Making matters worse is that Q is both arrogant and aggressive, and while he sometimes teaches characters like Picard valuable lessons about both humanity and humility, he mostly seems to thrive on causing chaos for his own amusement.

The Very Q-Like Trelane

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Since Q first appeared in 1987, Star Trek: The Original Series fans have likened him to Trelane, a villain who was introduced in the episode “The Squire of Gothos.” In retrospect, his abilities were very Q-like: with simply a wave of his hand, he could do things like freeze or unfreeze the crew, and he also had the ability to manifest objects at will. Perhaps the most Q-like things about Trelane are that he enjoyed playing games with Captain Kirk, and he even declared himself to be Kirk’s judge (complete with wardrobe change), the same way that Q pompously declared himself the judge of all humanity.

Q Vs. Trelane

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In comparing the Star Trek characters, there are certain differences: Trelane relied on external power sources, for example, that Kirk was able to destroy, and we find out at the end of the episode that he is actually the petulant child of two older beings of the same race. To some fans, this strengthens the theory that Q could actually be a Trelane who is all grown up, though this would seemingly contradict a later Voyager episode (“The Q and the Grey”) that made it sound like a new Q hadn’t been born for millennia. Then again, we don’t know exactly how long ago Trelane was born.

Those Old Scientists

Star Trek has never officially commented on the similarity between Q and Trelane, but the franchise has come awfully close. Q actor John de Lancie, for example, compared the two aliens, noting how Trelane and Q have the same “characteristics.” Most recently, in the Strange New Worlds episode that crossed over with Lower Decks (“Those Old Scientists”), Boimler exclaimed “Holy Q” in surprise, and Mariner shushed him because “they haven’t met him yet” but that “they had kind of a Trelane thing going on.” In this throwaway line, Mariner seems to implicitly acknowledge the similarity between the two aliens.


While not official canon, we recommend all Star Trek fans who love Q to check out Peter David’s excellent novel Q-Squared. That novel implies that Trelane may actually be Q’s son, and the story that follows is a very Marvel-like (fitting, since David is a longtime Marvel writer) adventure featuring a multiverse. Trust us: after reading this book, you’ll never stop being able to think about the connections between Trelane and Q, and those connections help bridge the gap between The Original Series and The Next Generation better than any cameos from Dr.McCoy or Spock ever could.