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Trek Within: The Q Complex

What it would be like to be Q just for a day. It’s funny, the modern Star Trek era began in 1987 with John de Lancie taking on the character in “Encounter at Farpoint,” the pilot for “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” and we have enjoyed this fascinating character through nearly two decades. But what […]

What it would be like to be Q just for a day.

It’s funny, the modern Star Trek era began in 1987 with John de Lancie taking on the character in “Encounter at Farpoint,” the pilot for “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” and we have enjoyed this fascinating character through nearly two decades.

But what is it about Q that enthralls us? Is it his humor? Is it his intelligence? Or is it the fact that Q is the one entity we know that can do anything he wants just with the snap of his fingers?

How many of us long for the ability to do just that … snap our fingers, and it’s done. Having the power to change the universe, or simply be entertained by how it all plays out. That is the life of Q, and the Q Continuum — the self-annointed guardians of the universe as Capt. Janeway once said.

The letter “Q” by itself it very fascinating. On Wikipedia, there are 18 listings for Q in media, entertainment and fiction. They include the man who gave James Bond all his gadgets and intelligence, and a mysterious character in the “Street Fighter” game. But this is Q, the entity who is constantly sitting in judgment over humanity and with the arsenal to strike it down at whim.

That’s the dangerous side of Q that many of us don’t think about when we’re entertained by him. While he might make us laugh with a snap of his fingers, he also can make us disappear in the same way. This was the entity that pulled the U.S.S. Voyager into a Continuum civil war. This was the entity that introduced the Federation to the Borg. This is an entity that has a tremendous amount of power.

I am not sure if it’s the allure of possessing all those abilities that drives humanity in its own quest for power. And usually, when people do get their hands on that kind of power, more often than not it corrupts them. Especially if the power is absolute.

In Q’s second-ever appearance, he works to try and convince Cmdr. Riker to “join” the Continuum. When Riker tells the crew that he’s still William T. Riker, even Capt. Picard made it clear how corruptive power is. When Riker tries to prove otherwise by offering the crew gifts like adulthood, humanity, eyesight and even a Klingon woman, he realizes that power is not the answer to life’s problems, and that being omnipotent is not what it’s cracked up to be.

It’s difficult for me to get into specific real-life examples of corruptive power without being political. But while power may give you special abilities to change the world or even an individual person’s life, it doesn’t really make you very popular, whether you’re using that power for good or bad.

Of course, when the crew rejected Riker’s gifts, Q said they were simply jealous of his newfound power. And maybe that says something about us: It’s not the fear of corruption that forces us to reject power by others, but the fact that we don’t possess that power ourselves.

If we want to continue evolving in our humanity, that will be something we need to change.

Michael Hinman is the founder and site coordinator for Airlock Alpha, writing out of Tampa, Fla. He can be reached at mhinman@airlockalpha.com.

The Trek Within is a feature of Airlock Alpha and also available on Roddenberry.com, the official Web site for the Roddenberry family maintained by Eugene W. Roddenberry Jr. Visit Roddenberry.com to read The Trek Within as well as an exclusive bonus feature from Airlock Alpha site coordinator Michael Hinman every other week when he’s not writing the column itself.

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