She is not human.

From "Time's Arrow", we know that Guinan lived in San Francisco prior to 1889, which makes her roughly 500 years old at the time of TNG (in fact, somewhat older).

In San Francisco, she led the life of a wealthy, privileged upper-class person. She is very obviously afro-american -- not of the slightly-café-au-lait type, but pitch black -- and yet she is accepted and well-respected as a member of high society years before black rights were established. Even a prominent writer of that time who served as confederate partisan and prevalently used the N-word in several of his books very highly respects her (... mind control?).

Guinan mentions ("Q Who") that she was not around at the time the Borg destroyed her home world a century ago and left virtually none alive, but she was told (by whom?!) about it. This might suggest she stayed on Earth for another few centuries.

Nevertheless she was aboard the SS Lakul. Which happened, roughly, a century before "Q Who", and happened to be on its way in the opposite direction.

The fact that she is too old to be human, the fact that she "listens" (and insists on saying: "I listen.") and that she was on an El Aurian refugee ship suggests that she is El Aurian.

She is not El Aurian

"Generations" places her on the Lakul together with Soran, fleeing from her home world after it has been destroyed by the Borg. Which, as we know, happened when she was not around. That would however mean she needed to be in two locations at the same time.

Further, she is at least 300 years older than a clearly aging El Aurian who is said to be "almost 200 years old", without showing any signs of age herself.

El Aurians are "ordinary" living beings by all measures. They may "listen", but they have no other special powers. In particular, they are no challenge to Q.

However, Guinan is able to sense discontinuities in the time continuum, she is able to see into parallel universes, she can sense the presence of Q, and most importantly, she seems to be equal in power to Q.

Q seems afraid of Guinan, and she seems confident being able to fight Q with some three-finger hand gesture. Guinan talks of Q and the Q as if they were old acquaintances or as if she was one of them, and Q tells Picard that she is not what she appears to be (he calls her an evil spirit that attracts mayhem wherever it goes).

She is not El Aurian with Nexus super powers

Guinan was in the Nexus aboard the SS Lakul and torn away from there when the survivors were saved, just before the ship exploded. Arguably "something of her" stayed in the Nexus.

Since inside the Nexus you exist at any and all time you desire, it seems plausible that this "echo" of yours that is left back when you leave the Nexus provides some particular sensitivity for time.

However, while residual Nexus super powers might explain for this sensitivity, they do not lend for powers that rival those of Q. Also, no other El Aurian from aboard the Lakul, including Soran, is mentioned having any "special powers" (other than being empathic listeners and good con men). Picard doesn't have special powers either although he was in the Nexus.

Residual Nexus super powers also do not explain how she could have gotten to Earth in finite time centuries before the simplest warp drives were known if the Enterprise needs close to 3 years at maximum warp speed ("Q Who") to get to the sector where her people is from. If the El Aurians were so advanced 500 years earier already, they would be technicians in the TNG setting, not con men.

Except of course, if Guinan had used the Nexus to travel from the Lakul to 1889 San Francisco, then she might indeed have made the trip. That is, however, not compatible with the established timeline (she demonstrably didn't do it, as she was rescued from the Lakul).

She is not Q

We never see her use Q powers. The most advanced special power that we see her use is unerringly telling Picard that something is wrong (which may extend into a different time line or universe).
This is admittedly a Q power (seeing how Q being told not to act as if he knew everything replies: "But I do know everything."), but it seems untypical.

Also, the Borg would surely not be able to assimilate a Q or destroy the Q home world, if they had a home world.

So... just what is she?

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    Why do you assume that the things you accept as true are true and that "she's El-Aurian" is the faslehood as opposed to any other observation? Nov 6, 2015 at 22:07
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    @ThePopMachine: Because... Q says so, and he has no reason to lie. That is a very strong in-universe reason. If she was truly El Aurian, then she would be just an ordinary carbon-based lifeform -- too insignificant for him to even bother (other than for curiosity, just like he is curious about humans). He could make her "go away" or turn her into dust at will. No need for drama, no need for fear. Q does not fear the Borg (and why would he!), but he fears someone from a people whom the Borg destroyed? Unlikely, not conclusive.
    – Damon
    Nov 6, 2015 at 22:14
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    @Damon: (1) any sentence that starts with "Because Q says so" is highly doubtful. (2) Why do you assume all El-Aurians are "ordinary carbon-based lifeform" (by which I take it you mean don't have timeline-sensing powers or other powers that look like 'magic') ? You are just arbitrarily accepting some 'facts' and rejecting others to fit the premise of your question. Nov 6, 2015 at 22:19
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    @Damon: But you don't know that! I don't know why you think you can insist that Guinan specifically has some power over the Q, and also no El-Aurians do and therefore she is not an El-Aurian. You don't know which of those premises are incorrect. Nov 6, 2015 at 23:39

1 Answer 1


I think you're overthinking it. She's El-Aurian.

The official StarTrek.com database lists her as El-Aurian.

In Rascals, Guinan says that her father is 700 years old, so 300 (let alone 200) doesn't seem all that old for an El-Aurian.

From Memory Alpha (emphasis mine):

It is possible, as an offshoot of their prodigious memories and mental facilities, that El-Aurians were extraordinarily sensitive to the space-time continuum itself.

It was unclear if Guinan's special abilities and perceptions in regard to time and her ability to perceive Q were completely the result of her lineage, or if they were an extra side effect of her experience with the Nexus. According to the novel The Buried Age, Guinan's abilities were due to the echo of her left within the Nexus. This concept originated in an unfilmed scene in the Generations screenplay.

You might want to check out this question for an existing discussion on why Q was afraid of Guinan. Here is a reddit thread discussing the same.

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    I'd like to read that unfilmed scene.
    – Josh
    Nov 7, 2015 at 18:33

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