Friday, 25 April 2014

Review: Voyager 2.18: Death Wish

Q uses name-dropping to make his point against Quinn.
Star Trek Voyager - Season Two, Episode Eighteen - Death Wish
Written 11/8/13

The Q are the one thing about the 24th Century Treks that would have originally put me off - omnipotent beings characterised by their self-imposed guardianship of the universe and one particular Q's insistence upon meddling with the human race. While overseeing many an important plot development in The Next Generation, his appearances in DS9 and Voyager were always highly variable, this happening to be one of the good ones due to the addition of another member of his race, Quinn. He brought a host of cool ideas to the table as well as expanding upon the Q society in a mind-opening way.
      Voyager tries to take a sample from a strange asteroid and instead frees Quinn, a member of the Q Continuum who is tired of his humdrum life and wishes only to die - hence his imprisonment by the Continuum, who have never had to deal with someone wanting to take their own life. When the Q more well-known to Starfleet shows up as his prosecutor, Quinn demands asylum, and Janeway holds a hearing wherein she forces Q to grant Quinn his immortality should he win the case. While Q initially throws the trial his way by showing the lives that Quinn had benefitted, the defence brings Janeway to a highly metaphorical imagining of the Q Continuum in order to demonstrate that there is simply nothing left in existence for him to do. Accepting reluctantly the tediousness of his life, Janeway grants him mortality, and with the help of a newly rebellious Q, he commits suicide.
     John de Lacie's Q (more recently seen as Agent Shapiro in the misguided Miracle Day) is up to his usual standard of witty repartée with the standing captain, although there's always a caveat in the Janeway/Q relationship that somewhat pisses me off. His attitude to her is both sexist and creepy, exploiting his ominipotency to pop in on her at moments of vulnerability and making multiple sexual advances, even if he doesn't exploit his powers to force himself on her. This gets more pressing in his next appearance, so I'll leave it at that, but suffice it to say that there's something deeply problematic in the way his character is written when interacting with her.
Quinn filibusters on the tedium of the Continuum.
     I liked the episode's exploration of the Q Continuum's politics in-universe and of assisted suicide out-of-universe. It's a bit of a big thing to want to cover in a standard episode of Star Trek, and the issue of Quinn's main desire was treated, at least initially, with a jollity which doesn't match the seriousness of the issue being discussed. I think that was rather the point though - that despite Quinn's light-hearted and playful demeanour, there really are circumstances where even the most naturally happy of people can be driven by situation or by time towards not wanting to live any more.
     Death Wish mixed together humour and serious issues in a way which on paper looks distinctly wrong, but which in execution worked well to soothe over what would otherwise be one hell of a depressing episode. I wish overall that the interactions between Q and Janeway weren't so damn creepy and bordering on sexual assault, but they don't majorly detract from the episode's themes and it's a hell of a lot better than the next Q episode, which we'll see next season. This discussion of Euthanasia was far beyond what Star Trek had really done before in terms of its sheer boldness - and that, as we'll see, is one thing that Voyager always manages to do well.


NEXT WEEK: Why do fools, fall in love? We look at The Doctor's Lifesigns.

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