Wow! This episode took me by surprise! It deals with very profound themes, and it has a couple of amazing special guests: not only John de Lancie, but even Jonathan Frakes as the most beloved bearded Star Trek commander! Here’s the plot of Death Wish, the eighteenth episode of the second season of Star Trek: Voyager (and thirty-fourth in total so far).
Captain Janeway cannot stand still and, while investigating a strange comet, inadvertently frees an individual from the Q Continuum played by the exuberant Gerrit Graham. Apparently, Q Graham (let’s call him that) had been imprisoned for expressing the desire to die, something unacceptable in his society. Unfortunately for him, he’s unable to do so due to the immortality of the Qs, and soon enough the Continuum sends our favorite Q to the USS Voyager. So, here comes John de Lancie to Star Trek: Voyager after his numerous appearances in The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine (about ten in total, starting with Encounter at Farpoint).
After a bit of random space-time travelling (let’s face it: something ridiculous is to be expected when Q is involved), Q Graham seeks asylum from Captain Janeway and Q de Lancie, in the name of the Continuum, surprisingly agrees to submit to her judgment to decide the fate of his fellow Q. Things are clear from the beginning: granting Q Graham asylum means condemning him to death (by suicide), but not doing so means condemning him to go back inside the comet forever. And why doesn’t the Continuum allow Q Graham to die? Because this would be equivalent to admitting that their existence is now meaningless, empty: it would be an unprecedented event with unimaginable consequences for their society, a society that on the one hand admits the death penalty (see the episode True Q, sixth season of The Next Generation, in which Q admits that he killed Amanda Rogers‘ parents), but on the other hand doesn’t allow his members to commit suicide because it would be like saying that its existence has no justification.
So, to clarify things, we’re talking about both euthanasia and revolution here. In fact, Q Graham’s thesis is that his society no longer has a purpose as it has run out of things to do and to aspire to, so all he can do now if he continues with his life is suffering. He wants to commit suicide both for himself and to teach his race a lesson about what it has become. In fact, we discover that some time before he was a recognized philosopher within the Continuum. On the other hand, Q de Lancie tries to convince everyone that his fellow Q is insane and a mentally ill person cannot possibly decide to end his life.
All this takes place in the most classic trekkie court, reminding for example of the various The Measure of a Man and The Drumhead of the second and fourth season of The Next Generation, respectively. In this case, Janeway acts as a judge while Tuvok assists Q Graham, a choice made by the latter since euthanasia is legal in Vulcan society. Q de Lancie’s attempted bribery complicates the captain’s job: if she decides in his favor, he’ll take the Voyager back to the Alpha quadrant simply by snapping his fingers. Unfortunately, this takes away some suspense from the finale, as we know from the beginning that Voyager cannot get home in the middle of Season 2, but it doesn’t matter. This is without a doubt one of the best Voyager episodes so far! Actually, the fact that Q de Lancie represents the Continuum is in itself another element of interest, given the turbulent personal history and his past games with Jean-Luc Picard and all of humanity.
In short, this is Star Trek to the nth degree, and it was needed after a season that hasn’t offered much until now. This is a great episode, well written and well acted, and with an intelligent ending. It certainly makes you think! Ciao!
PPS: The Delta Flyers podcast shout out: Finally, Robert Duncan McNeill delivered on his promise of a juicy anecdote. James Conway, director of Death Wish, got angry at him because he was making too many jokes on set one day when filming was several hours behind schedule. Apparently, Tom Paris doesn’t appear in a scene on the bridge simply because he was kicked out by the director who told him, among other things: “Robbie, you’re the one who wanted to go home early…“.
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