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In the episode “Q who?” Picard, Riker, Guinan and Q are in 10-forward having the discussion about Starfleet pushing out into space too fast and not being prepared for what awaits them. Q says the humans don’t have a clue as to what’s out there, and Guinan says “They’ll learn, adapt, that’s their greatest advantage”.

Did that last line of Guinan’s give Q the idea to fling the Enterprise to the Borg? Specifically the word “adapt”. After all, that’s exactly what the Borg do, adapt. I’ve always wondered if that one word is what have Q the idea to show them the Borg.

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    It might, it might not. I doubt that can be definitely decided. – Shade Sep 25 at 15:41
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    Plus, don't forget: for the Q, time is not as for us. They are not bound to it such as humans. They can, AFAIK, travel forth and back in time as they want. So, he might've already known that he will send the Enterprise to the Borg before he "decided" to do it. – Shade Sep 25 at 15:59
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    It's also possible that Q staged the whole thing and didn't NEED Guinan or anyone else to help him decide to throw the Enterprise at the Borg. He knew they were on the way and that, without adequate prep time, The Federation didn't stand a chance against them. Given his apparent fondness for humans, it makes sense that he'd find a way to warn them. – geewhiz Sep 25 at 16:30
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    It's just as likely that Q knows Guinan had to flee from the Borg and that gave him the idea. It's also just as likely that Q had decided on that course of action before arriving. It's also just as likely that any other reason could be possible. – Ellesedil Sep 25 at 17:28
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Q hurled the Enterprise across the universe to combat what he perceived to be the sheer arrogance of Picard and Riker at rejecting his offer to join the crew. From the transcript

Q: Oh. Well, you may not trust me, but you do need me. You're not prepared for what awaits you.
PICARD: How can we be prepared for that which we do not know? But I do know that we are ready to encounter it.
Q: Really?
PICARD: yes. Absolutely. That's why we're out here.
Q: Oh, the arrogance. They don't have a clue as to what's out here.
GUINAN: But they will learn, adapt. That is their greatest advantage.
Q: They're moving faster than expected, further than they should.
PICARD: By whose calculations?
Q: You judge yourselves against the pitiful adversaries you have encountered so far. The Romulans, the Klingons. They are nothing compared to what's waiting. Picard, you are about to move into areas of the galaxy containing wonders more incredible than you can possibly imagine, and terrors to freeze your soul. I offer myself as guide only to be rejected out of hand.
RIKER: We'll just have to do the best we can without you.
Q: What justifies that smugness?
PICARD: Not smugness, not arrogance. But we are resolute, we are determined, and your help is not required.
Q: We'll just have to see how ready you are.
GUINAN: Q!
(The Enterprise is thrown through space at even more incredible speed than usual)

At the end of the episode, both Guinan and Picard realize Q did them a backhanded favor, noting that sending them to the Borg before they reached the Federation might have been the plan all along

GUINAN: Q set a series of events into motion, bringing contact with the Borg much sooner than it should have come. Now, perhaps when you're ready, it might be possible to establish a relationship with them. But for now, for right now, you're just raw material to them. Since they are aware of your existence
PICARD: They will be coming.
GUINAN: You can bet on it.
PICARD: Maybe Q did the right thing for the wrong reason.
GUINAN: How so?
PICARD: Well, perhaps what we most needed was a kick in our complacency, to prepare us ready for what lies ahead.

The implication there is Q initiated their confrontation specifically to teach them about the Borg. Guinan's mention of adaptation is merely part of the broader defense of Humanity. Let me paraphrase the initial exchange

Picard: We're ready for whatever is out there
Q: No you're not
Guinan: They can adapt to whatever faces them
Q: You have no idea what's out there
Riker: Well, we really don't need you either way
Picard: Yeah!
Q: Ok, let's see how you handle this! snaps fingers

Guinan isn't saying anything Picard and Riker weren't already saying

  • Q also introduced the Enterprise (and the Federation) to a threat well before it arrived on their doorstep. Without that foreknowledge we know (from VOY: Death Wish) that the Earth and the Federation would have been assimilated. – Valorum Sep 25 at 17:42
  • The impression I got from watching the episode originally was that Q was doing the same sort of thing that Uatu The Watcher does: "I can't interfere or help you at all, and I certainly can't warn you that Thanos is coming", to help while still maintaining deniability. It's the omnipotent version of "It's not like I like you, baka". – Liesmith Sep 25 at 21:40
  • What about the question? This seems to simply restate the dialogue. – Vogon Poet Sep 26 at 11:27
  • @VogonPoet I added something to better respond to the question – Machavity Sep 26 at 15:48
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The question asks where Q got the idea to introduce Enterprise to the Borg. I disagree that Guinan prompted this. From the dialogue Q seemed irate that Pickard would question Q's judgement: From the transcript

Q: Oh, the arrogance. They don't have a clue as to what's out here.
GUINAN: But they will learn, adapt. That is their greatest advantage.
Q: They're moving faster than expected, further than they should.
PICARD: By whose calculations?
Q: You judge yourselves against the pitiful adversaries you have encountered so far. The Romulans, the Klingons. They are nothing compared to what's waiting. Picard, you are about to move into areas of the galaxy containing wonders more incredible than you can possibly imagine, and terrors to freeze your soul. I offer myself as guide only to be rejected out of hand.
RIKER: We'll just have to do the best we can without you.
Q: What justifies that smugness?
PICARD: Not smugness, not arrogance. But we are resolute, we are determined, and your help is not required.
Q: We'll just have to see how ready you are!

To me it is clear that Picard provoked Q's ire, and the Riker threw salt in the wound by making Q feel unneeded.

The dialogue doesn't seem to show Guinan having a big part in the decision. Her comments were trying to de-escalate the conflict. She's certainly not the provocateur, at least.

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We know that Guinan's people previously engaged the borg in battle. Although Q's plot is clearly premeditated at some level, I think it is likely that Q chose to create an encounter with the Borg because of Guinan's experience. It seems possible that Q was inspired by her presence to make that choice. That seems to be amusing in a Q sort of way. "It's not just the unknown to terrify them... it's the unknown she can warn them about how terrifying it is!"

It could also be that the Borg were an immediate and exigent threat and this is why Q chose them. Guinan's experience exists because of just how close and real the threat is.

So I give the question the answer "it's plausible."

Part of the fun of the Q character is you never quite know what his motivations are.

  • "Battle" is a very generous term for an entirely one-sided slaughter – Valorum Oct 1 at 20:37

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