TNG: Why is the Q Continuum so shiftless?

I’ve been re-watching Star Trek: The Next Generation and something occurred to me…

The Q Continuum, most notably represented by a puckish John de Lancie as the character “Q”, are seemingly omnipotent beings that exist somewhere outside of normal space. They have an apparent interest in the affairs of humanity and don’t seem to be constrained by a Prime Directive of the sort that keeps The Federation from screwing around in the lives of lesser beings. Emotionally, they run the gamut from playful malevolence to almost human levels of empathy.

With all this in mind, The Q should be able to do any number of immeasurably useful things for us lesser races. They could convince The Borg to stop assimilating things. They could resurrect the Crystalline Entity and re-purpose it to travel the universe distributing delicious cake to all who cross its path. They could make a universe without conflict. They could eliminate hunger and disease. They could do something about the Ferengis’ ears. The could make it so no transporter, anywhere, ever malfunctions again.

…but they don’t do any of these things. And that’s cool, I guess, provided the narrative of TNG makes some sort of effort, somewhere, to rationalize their inaction.

So, the question, then:
Within the whole of TNG lore (the body of knowledge, not the evil android), is there offered a coherent explanation for why The Q just don’t “fix everything?”

Other than the occasional lone wolf out in the field, the members of the Continuum are probably to busy fighting amongst themselves to really affect anything.

choose between
a) Why are your requests so petty?
b) We derive most of our pleasure watching how you solve problems with your limited means

There is one example where Q gets kicked out of the continuum and tries to be a member of the Enterprise as they try to keep a moon from smashing into its planet. They ask Q how to fix it and he matter-of-factly says “Just change the universal gravitational constant.” When Geordi explains that doing so was not an option, Q is at a loss and some handwaving about warp bubbles is invented to “change” G. The point is, even though they’re seemingly omnipotent, they’re not necessarily omniscent. Furthermore, they do like to see how ingenuous mortals can be.

Also, the crystalline entity would probably end up giving up too many cakes and promote galactic obesity leaving an unwanted effect as most monkey paw wishes are known for.

Actually, they just changed the gravitational constant of the moon, not the whole universe.

When’s the last time you helped out that ant hill in your backyard? They could probably use a little assistance with that mole bothering them and all.

Voyager had a three-part arc about the politics of the Continuum. One of the bright spots of an otherwise lackluster series. Death Wish, in particular, is among the best things Trek has ever done. It’s up there with City on the Edge of Forever.

And I’ll bet that mole could use some help with those annoying ants…well played.

Also, the Continuum didn’t give a fig about humanity. Playing with mortals was just one Q’s facination and most of the continuum didn’t understand his involvement with humanity.

Let’s say that I knew about the ant hill. And let’s imagine that I was actually interested in the goings-on of some specific ants there. And let’s imagine there was a thunderstorm coming. I could walk outside, stand in the rain, and cup my hands over the ant hill because I have the power to do so. But I’d have to go outside and get wet because I lack the power to will anything at any scope into reality with no effort at all.

To turn this whole ant hill thing around a bit, let’s imagine again that I know about the hill, specific ants intrigue me, and I have the power to will protection from thunderstorms upon all ant hills, everywhere, with no apparent effort. Does that change things?

Care to give us a rough take on it? I didn’t really bother with Voyager.

I think you guys are completely missing it.

The series started with Q testing the Enterprise.

The series ended with Q telling Picard, “The test continues, mon capitaine.”

The entire time, every interaction with Q, is part of the test. de Lancie’s Q may well be the most easy-going entity in the universe. But he’s testing humanity. And interfering would spoil the test. The continuum is interested because, as Q says, humanity has ‘potential’. But that’s so far down the road that only semi-passive observation is required.

But all rationalizing aside, I’m looking for a time when Q (or someone similarly qualified) turns to the camera and says, “We don’t help lesser beings because…”

I mean, it’s cool to assume they’re disinterested or simply can’t be bothered- though it is anything but clear that alleviating universal maladies with an idle thought would be much of a bother- but that’s just fan wanking, right? I’m willing to accept the answer that, “No, that never came up”, because that’s my impression; I just wanted to see if someone had a firmer grasp on the issue than I.

Ah! Now that’s gold. I don’t recall that ending, but I’ll be getting there again in ~30 episodes. If true, it does create a nice symmetry and imply that Q’s trial for humanity never really ended.

I think you’ve got it.

Death Wish is one of the few Voyager episodes I’ve seen. Total spoilers follow. My memory may be imperfect.

The Q come to Voyager with a problem. One of them wants to commit suicide. He’s currently in solitary confinement in a comet. His sentence is eternity. Tuvok agrees to be his counsel. The Continuum shows that this particular Q has saved lives and influenced history. The Q who wants to kill himself shows the humans the Continuum in a form they can understand- a tiny mom and pop gas station in the sticks with a road going out and coming in. He explains that the Q have done everything, been everything and seen everything. In the end, gets his wish and is expelled from the Continuum. DeLancie Q goes against the wishes of the Continuum and provides the ex Q with poison. The man takes it and dies.


Trabajamos IIRC Both Picard and Delancie Q both say the trial never ended. It’s not implied but said outright.

I just figured Q was an excuse for bad writing, an attempt to modernize the deus ex machina of ancient Greek plays.

Similarly, a recurring TNG bit in which Data would say something like “I have researched the concept of ‘friendship’ in 5000 different cultures and now I’d like to ask your opinion, Command Riker, in full expectation that you’ll be able to offer some additional insight that eluded Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Kant, Hume, and hundreds of others as well as their equivalents on thousands of alien worlds.”

Bryan Ekers: You’re no fun. :stuck_out_tongue:

For my part, I’m willing to provisionally accept that TNG’s narrative dictates that all of Q’s actions are part of some ongoing, unfathomably complicated evaluation of humanity and that Q is constrained to act within the unknowable confines of that evaluation. Or rather, he could do something like “cure all diseases” but only if that was a specific experiment designed to further the shockingly abstruse goals of The Continuum.

Also I can’t tell if this thing looks like the POE just because I’m looking at it, or because it actually does.

I’m sorry, there are people who think Death Wish is up there with City on the Edge of Forever? Holy God, that’s… that’s just wrong. It’s not terrible, maybe, but it’s not good. No. Emphatically, NO! It’s mediocre episode of a mediocre series, and doesn’t really go anywhere. It’s a vague and arbitrary problem and fails to use the Q properly, and is shoehorned into Voyager becaue John DeLancey makes Trek better simply by existing in proximity to it.

Here’s a link to SFdebris’ take on it for those interested in the episode:

Heck, it was a huge mistake to include Q in Voyager in any form, because you have to start (and can never stop) making up excuses for why he doesn’t snap his fingers and resolve the fundamental drama of the series, i.e. sending them back to Federation space.

“Hey, Gilligan!”
“Yes, Skipper?”
“A shipping container full of solar-powered two-way radios just washed up on shore. Why don’t you find increasingly inventive ways to clumsily smash every single one of them while me and the Professor try to make a boat out of coconuts?”

The bigger question to me is “Why doesn’t the Federation ever try to do anything about the Q or other godlike-aliens they constantly meet?”

Take a spaceship full of telepaths (if you want, make them survivors of the Borg attack on Earth and let them know that Q is to blame for it) and feed them those magic apples from the episode with the dwarf, and as they’re becoming super-psychics, whack them into the galactic barrier from “Where No Man Has Gone Before”. Then point them at the Q-Continumn.

Get the guys from the Captain Pike episode to squash Q like an insect. TRY to do something, rather than act like a craven puppy whenever they’re around.

(You might guess that I was very happy with the way B5 addressed this issue. :wink: )

I haven’t seen all of B5 but I don’t remember any Q. I remember the Vorlons being very powerful but none of the known races could match them.

Captain whatsisface “People are scared of you.”

Ambassador Kosh “Good.”