Star Trek: Voyager Wouldn’t Exist Without Q

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

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Every Star Trek fan worth their salt knows that the impish, godlike being Q made several appearances in Star Trek: Voyager. However, did you know that the show wouldn’t even exist without Q’s earlier antics in Star Trek: The Next Generation? It’s true: in the beginning, Voyager producers set out to create a series exploring the idea of what would have happened if Q or another cosmic phenomena had flung a starship to the far reaches of space and it didn’t return by the end of the episode.

A Simple Premise

This revelation comes to us courtesy of the late, great Star Trek: Voyager showrunner Michael Piller. He said that the show’s early inspiration was “Q Who” and other episodes of The Next Generation “where Q would show up and throw one of our ships or one of our people off to a strange part of the universe.” Of course, that iconic episode that introduced the Borg ended with Q making sure Captain Picard and crew made it back home.

The Starship That Didn’t Get Home

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That was a big feature of The Next Generation, of course: it was an episodic show that almost always returned things to the status quo by the time the credits rolled. But when it came to Star Trek: Voyager, Piller said “we started to talk about what would happen if we didn’t get home” and that this idea “appealed to us a great deal.” The primary motivation for this was to tell a kind of story that Trek fans hadn’t experienced before.

Bringing Something New To Star Trek

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Very early into the development of Star Trek: Voyager, Michael Piller and fellow show creators Rick Berman and Jeri Taylor “had no interest in simply putting a bunch of people on another ship and sending them out to explore the universe.” Instead they “wanted to bring something new to the Gene Roddenberry universe.” Some of this was due to their own motivations, and some of it was due to their desire to avoid harsh fan criticism.

Characteristically blunt, Piller claimed that “The fans would have been the first people to criticize us if we had not brought something new to it.” In all likelihood, he had a point: Star Trek: The Next Generation was embraced by the fandom as an updated follow-up to Captain Kirk’s earlier adventures exploring strange new worlds. However, if Voyager simply did The Next Generation schtick with a new ship and crew, fans would likely think the iconic franchise had run out of ideas.

Deep Space Nine Was Also A Response To The Next Generation

In a way, Star Trek: Voyager being inspired by earlier episodes of The Next Generation is only fitting because the creation of Deep Space Nine had similar inspiration. The writers and producers of that spinoff thought it would be cool to explore all of the long-term ramifications of a situation where the Starfleet commander couldn’t just warp into the sunset like a space cowboy at the end of the episode. Instead, Captain Sisko would have to stick around and deal with the ramifications of every decision in a way that Picard never did, all while dealing with dozens of recurring characters who keep visiting the station.

Q Is Forever Tied To The Next Generation

Q would go on to make a surprising and oddly touching return in Picard’s otherwise troubled second season, and for this and so many more reasons, he will always be associated with The Next Generation. However, fans should never forget that without this mischievous menace, we’d never have Star Trek: Voyager. Too bad he was too busy hanging with Janeway to use his powers and pull off a truly impossible feat: giving poor Ensign Kim a promotion. 

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