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The Q – Star Trek’s mythic gods

Q (Star Trek)

Q (Star Trek) – Photo Wikipedia

The Q is a fictional group entity in Star Trek TOS spin-offs and films. Members reside in an eternal field of space-time called the Q-continuum. Like the avatar in Hinduism, the Q appear in specific moments of space-time to apparently regulate the ebb and flow of events in the universe.

The manifestation of Q that usually appears in the Star Trek franchise is male and played by actor John de Lancie. Simply called “Q,” he conforms to the trickster archetype.

Like most mythological deities, the manifest aspect of Q uses supernatural powers to baffle, vex and test human beings to the point of distraction. And like most otherworldly pantheons, there is a faction of rebellion within the Q-continuum. The rebels are tired of being “good” and politically correct at the expense of enjoying their free will and vitality. These dissenters are prohibited and disciplined through punishment by the Q moral majority.

Here’s how I put it in my entry for Star Trek: The Next Generation, the series in which he first appears:

And then there was “Q,” played by actor John de Lancie, who was something akin to a classical Greek god in that he had powers and knowledge extending beyond our normal conception of space and time. Also like the Greek gods, he often abused these powers in childish ways and even challenged the authority of the Q Continuum (the ruling body of the Q, representing its status quo), resulting in his frequent punishment.

More recently Wikipedia notes that:

The similarity between Q and Trelane, the alien encountered in the Star Trek episode “The Squire of Gothos“, inspired writer Peter David to establish in his 1994 novel Q-Squared that Trelane is a member of the Continuum, and that Q is his godfather.¹

Trelane - with harpsichord (under his arm...)

Trelane – via

I’m not sure if this interpretation of Trelane (one of my favorite characters in the original Star Trek) is endorsed by those who define the Star Trek canon. But the literary device of retroactive continuity certainly has become a mainstay in the Star Trek universe.


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Gene Roddenberry

Gene Roddenberry listening to fans after his l...

Gene Roddenberry listening to fans after his lecture at the Student Union of the University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas, United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Eugene Wesley Roddenberry (1921-91) was an American television and film producer best known for creating Star Trek: The Original Series, Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Apparently Roddenberry’s hands-on involvement with the popular Star Trek: The Next Generation dwindled away after the first few seasons. But TV execs kept his name in the credits, knowing it boosted credibility among fans.

Roddenberry was born into a Baptist family but came to reject religion, calling himself a humanist. This comes through in the Star Trek franchise, where religion is not eschewed but sometimes homogenized, suggesting that all paths are the same. A nice sentiment, this is an aspect of Star Trek that arguably oversimplifies. Otherwise, Star Trek productions tend to be intellectually satisfying.

Roddenberry also had a military background as a pilot. He flew commercially too. These experiences led him to envision a starship as a tight, military style outfit, with a clear line of command. After a commercial crash, he resigned from PanAm in 1945 and took up his career as a TV writer. The rest is history.


Star Trek : The Next Generation

Patrick Stewart as Locutus, the assimilated Je...

Patrick Stewart as Locutus, the assimilated Jean-Luc Picard (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Star Trek : The Next Generation is the first and highly successful remake of the original Star Trek TV show. The Next Generation ran for seven seasons from 1987-94.

The captain of the new, beefed up United Federation of Planets starship Enterprise is Jean-Luc Picard, played by the British character actor Patrick Stewart. It seems that Stewart was made for the role. His popularity rivals that of William Shatner and the Captain Kirk character.¹

A new cast of characters and innovations such as a holodeck – where interactive environments are created through holograms – are added. Also noteworthy is the fact that Klingons are no longer arch enemies of the Federation. Lt. Commander Worf, a Klingon, serves on the new Enterprise. And whenever the crew is unhappy or estranged by its various space adventures, a psychological counselor, Deanna Troi, is available.

Another memorable character is Lieutenant Commander Data. He is an android who, like the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz, wants to know what it’s like to be human. And “Q,” played by actor John de Lancie, was something akin to a classical Greek or Roman god in that he had powers and knowledge extending beyond our normal understanding of space and time. Also like the pagan gods, he abused these powers in childish ways and even challenged the authority of the Q Continuum (the ruling body of the Q, representing the status quo), resulting in Q’s frequent punishment.

Star Trek: The Next Generation – A Final Unity

Star Trek: The Next Generation – A Final Unity (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Perhaps the most formidable new enemy of the Federation is the Borg, a horrid collective of cyborgs who suck the life and technological knowledge out of any living creature deemed worthy of its cold malice.

These and other innovations made TNG rival the original Star Trek series in terms of sheer creativity. This isn’t surprising because Gene Roddenberry, the producer of the original show, was directly involved in TNG.

TNG‘s immense popularity attracted the film star Whoopi Goldberg,who played the super-intuitive bartender and wise advisor Guinan. Goldberg apparently approached the producers of TNG, expressing her desire to be on the show.

Other notable guest actors in the show in show include Erich Anderson, Billy Campbell, Nikki Cox, Ronny Cox, Olivia d’Abo, Kirsten Dunst, Mick Fleetwood, Matt Frewer, Walter Gotell, Kelsey Grammer, Bob Gunton, Teri Hatcher, Stephen Hawking (as himself), Famke Janssen, Mae Jemison, Ken Jenkins, Ashley Judd, Sabrina Le Beauf, Christopher McDonald, Bebe Neuwirth, Terry O’Quinn, Michelle Phillips, Gina Ravera, Jean Simmons, Paul Sorvino, Brenda Strong, James Worthy, Tracey Walter, Liz Vassey, David Ogden Stiers, Ray Wise, and John Tesh

Several films based directly on the TV series were released at theatres: Star Trek Generations (1994); Star Trek: First Contact (1996); Star Trek: Insurrection (1998); Star Trek Nemesis (2002). TNG video games have also been released.

Cover of the US release of the first I, Claudi...

Cover of the US release of the first I, Claudius DVD. There has since been a remastered edition with a different cover. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

¹ Stewart has taken on many significant roles. In the 1970s, before Star Trek, he played Sejanus in the highly acclaimed BBC series, I Claudius. An ambitious Roman soldier cum commander who gained power through cunning and deception, for me, Stewart’s Sejanus is overplayed. His facial expressions and head movements are often overdone. It’s almost as if Stewart hadn’t settled down yet. I’m not sure a younger Stewart could have played the rock solid Captain Picard that many of us have come to know. Rumors abound that, before becoming Picard, Stewart didn’t know anything about Star Trek or sci-fi, for that matter. Apparently he missed doing Shakespeare and more “serious” roles while committed to Star Trek.


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Worf (Lieutenant)

Worf figurine by Patries71 via Flickr

Lieutenant Worf is a Klingon officer in the American science fiction TV shows, Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.The character is played by actor Michael Dorn.

Unlike the Klingons of the original Star Trek, who were hostile to the Federation of Planets (which includes Earth), Worf and his race are allies with the Federation.

Star Trek lore has it that the show’s producer, Gene Roddenberry, at first didn’t want Worf as regular in the series. Apparently Roddenberry didn’t want to rehash existing themes (like the standard alien race of “Klingons”) from the original TV series.

But Worf’s popularity was undeniable, and Roddenberry, along with subsequent producers, changed their outlook on the Star Trek mythos. Instead of avoiding past episodes, they embraced and adapted them to enhance the overall story, which is a literary device called ‘retroactive continuity.’

Related Posts » Star Trek: Enterprise, Star Trek: The Original Series



The Borg

The Borg Queen and Seven of Nine – Image via Tumblr

In the American TV show Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Borg are a disturbing species of cybernetic organisms whose sole purpose is to increase their alleged perfection by assimilating the intelligence and technology of weaker life forms throughout the galaxy.

Their technology enables them to psychically connect to a collective like a termite colony. Individuality is unknown and the Borg exist in a dark synchrony of de-individualizing amalgamation.

Among other things, they arguably represent the Orwellian extreme of unreflective political, corporate and religious yesmen and yeswomen who do whatever they’re told by authoritarian figures without heeding their own conscience.

The Borg image is particularly effective as it recasts previous Frankenstein and zombie myths within a futuristic scenario of techno-gloom. An interesting and optimistic twist, however, appears with the character Seven of Nine (played by actor Jerry Ryan and introduced in Star Trek: Voyager) who was once abducted by the Borg but is gradually re-humanized among the supportive crew of the Federation starship Voyager.

In the feature film Star Trek: First Contact (1996) we’re introduced to the hideously compelling Borg Queen—again, not unlike the Queen of a termite colony. She’s a frightening but, for some, darkly attractive creature who in the TV series Voyager is jealous of Captain Katherine Janeway, arguably a symbol of American drive and determination. Indeed, heroic Federation starship captains like James T. Kirk, Jean-Luc Picard and Katherine Janeway represent the very opposite of the Borg’s chilling refrain: “Resistance is Futile.”

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