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In ST:VOY "Death Wish," Q (later Quinn) is unintentionally beamed aboard Voyager. Not long after, in the dining hall, Q gives his appreciation for the crew rescuing him from the comet. Captain Janeway recapitulates, to which Q says "In a manner of speaking."

What does Q mean by this? Was he actually in a comet or not? Or is something else implied here?

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There's a few things going on in this scene, notably driven by the fact that Janeway knows what a Q is but that Quinn doesn't realise this yet.

Janeway's question is a result of her disbelief that a Q could be physically bound inside any sort of prison, let alone a comet. Quinn responds that it's a bit more complicated than that, but that she, a mere mortal, wouldn't really understand.

JANEWAY: (cautious, not sure if she should believe him) You were being held against your will... inside the comet?

[Q2 is looking around at this new environment, breathing it all in seeing all the other people, smiling and nodding hello to the stares.]

Q2: Hmm, oh, in a manner of speaking. You, all of you... are mortals, aren't you?

VOY: Death Wish - Original Screenplay

The irony here is that since Q (De Lancie) has already had open contact with the Federation, Janeway actually understands rather better than he (Quinn) would have initially imagined.

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    If you look at it in context, it could be in reference to the "inside the comet" part and not the being imprisoned part: It's maybe not like he was held inside the comet, but that whatever he was held inside looked like/was a comet to the outside universe.
    – y7vc
    Dec 12, 2017 at 13:33
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    @y7vc - Indeed. And frankly he's not overly interested in discussing it, let alone with tiny talky mammals
    – Valorum
    Dec 12, 2017 at 16:47
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There are several potential reasons why Quinn might choose to say what he says. However, we can only make educated inferences as to what he might be talking about.

It’s possible that Quinn doesn’t think Janeway would understand how Q powers work and how they can be negated/taken away. In Deja Q (TNG 3x13), Q (de Lancie) is turned mortal and has his powers taken by the Q Continuum, but how this was achieved is never explained, and the source of the Q’s power remains a mystery.

It’s also possible that Quinn did not want to explain why he was trapped in the comet. He clearly doesn’t want to talk about it, and he ignores Janeway’s attempts to get him to explain further. He may be using the phrase similarly to the way people use “it’s complicated” when attempting to avoid answering a question to avoid talking about his death wish.

Finally, it’s entirely possible that Quinn, in typical, self-centered Q fashion, used the mysterious and cryptic phrase to remain the center of attention for as long as he could.

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