“Must it always have galactic import, universal stakes, celestial upheaval? Isn’t one life enough?” Q laments dramatically when asked why he’s decided to do any of this. “You ask me why it matters? It matters to me. You matter to me. Even gods have favorites, Jean-Luc. And you’ve always been one of mine.”
Spoiler alert: I guess I am a monster because honestly, I laughed out loud. On paper, this sounds like it should be some wild Star Trek: The Next Generation fanfic, but as it plays out onscreen here it feels like nothing so much as an excuse. A deliberate attempt to appeal to fan nostalgia and lean on the great chemistry between Patrick Stewart and John de Lancie (which is, admittedly, incredible!) and use the intersection of both to give the mess of this season an emotional depth and meaning it has in no way earned.
The thing is, Q and Picard have always had a disturbingly obsessive relationship with one another, so it does make a certain amount of sense that Q also seems to think that being overtly abusive and cruel is the way to convey your affection for someone. And I fully buy the complex and messy emotional strings that hang between them. (That hug! The final mon captain at the end!) But the problem is that Q’s “plan”, such as it was, is deeply stupid and full of holes.
If it was always about forcing Picard to confront his childhood demons, why involve Renee Picard and the Europa mission at all? Why fight so hard to bring about the dark space Nazi future? Why involve Soong or free Kore? What was the point of any of this? Anyone who has spent literally five seconds with Jean-Luc—let alone stalked him for decades—would know that this was a man who was always going to put the key back in its hiding place because he believes the needs of the many (the future he is keeping in place) outweigh the needs of the few (his own psyche/childhood/dead mother). Duh?? There are four lights!!
In the words of the great Mugatu, I feel like I am taking crazy pills. What was the point of all this?
Part of the problem is the idea that whatever dark memories were banging around Picard’s head were so paralyzing that they crippled his life in some significant way in no way reflect his actual arc as a character. Did they keep him from being a leader? Making difficult choices or empathetic decisions? Forming real and lasting emotional bonds with others? Sympathizing with former enemies? Well, no, because he’s done all these things before. We’ve seen him. There’s a whole show about it.