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I would really like this answer to be within Star Trek: The Next Generation, maybe something else from an old TV show but not going into weird lore. Also would like to avoid Voyager if possible.

Do we see Q do anything that has consequences outside of information sharing? I am not doubting that he is very smart, but I am wondering if according to the show he really wields the power he pretends to.

Any time I think of Q doing something, he does something crazy, changes someone, or teleports someone to a pocket dimension. Then a few minutes later, everything goes back to normal. It's like anything he does has a time limit, and soon enough the effect just wears off on the universe.

So my question is, aside from speaking, do we ever see Q take an action, that does not involve another Q, that persists permanently? Could he be nothing but a trickster, an illusionist that can do nothing more than alter people's perception for a few minutes, or do we have proof against that?

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  • The other Q used supernovae as weapons.
    – Valorum
    Oct 6, 2021 at 20:42
  • 25
    Can you prove you are not a brain in a jar being fed false sense data making you believe you watched a show called Star Trek? Oct 6, 2021 at 20:42
  • 2
    @lucasbachmann no but as this illusion persists for decades instead of minutes, it makes it a lot more convincing. My question is all about persistence. I am also not saying anyone's memories are altered. That would take us out of things that can be considered
    – Andrey
    Oct 6, 2021 at 21:10
  • 4
    To me the telling point is the episode where Riker was given the power of the Q. I'm sure if it was all smoke and mirrors, he would have let Picard in on the joke. Oct 7, 2021 at 18:42
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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Oct 7, 2021 at 23:08

6 Answers 6

47

In "Q Who" those crew members died for real.

Editing in the meaning and context... Q moved the ship into Borg territory which got some people killed. The premise of the question is that Q ONLY does short term illusions like "Hide and Q" where the bridge crew get stabbed in a artificial situation. "Q Who" demonstrates the ship was truly moved. Or Q is maintaining an illusion of dead crew members long term. Either falsifies the premise of Q being a short term illusionist.

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  • 6
    @Valorum Q moved the ship into Borg territory which got some people killed. The premise of the question is that Q ONLY does short term illusions like "Hide and Q" where the bridge crew get stabbed in a artificial situation. "Q Who" demonstrates the ship was truly moved. Or Q is maintaining an illusion of dead crew members long term. Either falsifies the premise of Q being a short term illusionist. Oct 6, 2021 at 20:50
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    @Andrey If you wish to engage in Philosophy 101 "nothing is real" type arguments it is impossible to provide any evidence of anything on anything at that point. Not that philosophy doesn't have its place - but you'll always be able to move the goalpost on anyone's answer. Oct 6, 2021 at 20:57
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    @Andrey: This episode is pretty clear that the Borg were not already on a course to encounter the Federation any time soon. At the end of the episode, Guinan tells Picard that "Q set a series of events into motion, bringing your contact with the Borg much sooner than it should have come. ... Since they're aware of your existence..." Picard completes the sentence "... they will be coming." And, of course, they show up a little over a year later. Oct 7, 2021 at 13:01
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    @MichaelSeifert that's unfortunately not entirely correct as the mystery aliens attacking the Neutral zone turned out to be the Borg. But definitely the idea we all got of a cube doing maximum warp for a full year is a lot more terrifying. Oct 7, 2021 at 14:49
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    @Andrey it wasn't an explosion that killed those people, it was the Borg literally carving out a section of the Enterprise. This is not something the ship was capable of doing to itself so it must have been caused by an external force. The hole in the hull also remained after the Enterprise returned to its original position and was repaired at Starbase 83 between episodes, proving that it was indeed real damage. Since the damage was real, the thing that caused it must also have been real.
    – aleppke
    Oct 7, 2021 at 19:47
22

He altered the orbit of a moon in TNG: Deja Q.

GARIN [on viewscreen]: Captain Picard you've done it
PICARD: I'm sorry?
SCIENTIST [on viewscreen]: The moon. It's back to its normal orbit. How ever you did it, thank you.

For the record, we don't get any specific confirmation that the original problem was Q-caused (although it probably was).

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  • 4
    I mean, sure, maybe he tricked them into thinking the moon was sorted and then an hour after the Enterprise left, Kabloooooieeeeee!!!!
    – Valorum
    Oct 6, 2021 at 20:39
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    Can you remind me what took the moon out of the normal orbit? I am going to assume though the show functions in good faith, and we would find out about Kabloooooieeeeee
    – Andrey
    Oct 6, 2021 at 20:46
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    @Andrey - The implication is that other Q did it in the first place
    – Valorum
    Oct 6, 2021 at 20:49
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    Can you remind me what took the moon out of the normal orbit? - If I recall correctly Q suggested a micro-blackhole flew through the system at a high velocity and disrupted the orbits of things.
    – Zoredache
    Oct 7, 2021 at 8:26
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    @Valorum That's not unlucky - you're just reversing cause and effect. Moon got moved, Q showed up. The coincidence is that the Enterprise (which is not near-omnipotent and near-omniscient) was there, but of course, without that there wouldn't be an episode :)
    – Luaan
    Oct 8, 2021 at 6:18
21

In the TNG episode, "True Q", Amanda Rogers stabilised a reactor on Tagra IV, and cleansed the planet's atmosphere of pollution. Q denied any involvement in the incident.

RIKER [on viewscreen]: Captain, the damage to the reactor is greater than the Tagrans led us to believe. The field modulator is installed and operational, but it's not going to be enough. The reactor has already gone into overload.

PICARD: Can you correct the problem?

RIKER [on viewscreen]: Geordi is trying to stabilise the unit now. We will stay as long as possible. There are thousands of people in the area. If that reactor goes.

LOTE [on viewscreen]: Commander. Over here, quickly.

PICARD: Is this your doing, Q?

Q: Not this time, Picard.

(Q vanishes)

[...]

LAFORGE [on viewscreen]: It's no use. The heat has fused the injectors shut. We're losing containment.

RIKER [on viewscreen]: How long till meltdown?

LAFORGE [on viewscreen]: A few minutes at most. Going to have to

LOTE [on viewscreen]: Commander! Look at this.

LAFORGE [on viewscreen]: This is impossible. Captain, I don't know what's happening, but the reaction is stabilising on its own.

(Picard looks at Amanda)

DATA: Captain, I am reading a massive energy fluctuation in the planet's atmosphere.

PICARD: On screen.

(the murky brown smog clears to reveal white clouds and blue oceans)

DATA: Atmospheric contaminants have dropped to less than one part per trillion. The ecosystem has been restored to its natural state.

PICARD: Amanda?

(Q reappears)

Q: I told you it would be harder to resist than you thought.

AMANDA: I couldn't let all those people die.

Star Trek: The Next Generation - S06E06 - "True Q"

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  • The first video does not seem to support the point well. The core looks pristine after the meltdown. Making it more likely that none of it was real. I think the 2nd video is exactly what I am looking for though. If I remember right the pollution on the planet is not Q related in any way
    – Andrey
    Oct 6, 2021 at 21:17
  • Q did admit he was responsible for the core breach. I don't believe it was an illusion, but nonetheless, it somewhat fits the pattern you described, so I've removed that example and doubled down on the second one, which Q denied any involvement in. Oct 6, 2021 at 22:06
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    wait a minute - this atmosphere cleanse could all be an elaborate ruse. Compare this so called Q-girl's power to a simple starship. youtube.com/watch?v=XYvUkdBj9uU and youtube.com/watch?v=PQk804gnwSo How do I know this isn't some guy's elaborate attempt to kidnap Amanda - wait! maybe she's in on it. :-) Oct 6, 2021 at 23:25
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    @lucasbachmann If I remember right the Enterprise is there on a mission from Starfleet, not just passing by. There are billions entities baring witness to it over decades at least. The scale of this ruse would be so much greater than anything else it is outside of reasonable consideration. This is the same way you would consider any conspiracy. Is it of 2, of 10, or of 100 billion?
    – Andrey
    Oct 7, 2021 at 18:47
  • @Andrey my point here is that a ship can remove atmosphere pollution. If someone were doing a Devils Due style hoax Amanda's miracle could possibly be done. I absolutely do not think that of course I think the Q exist at a more fundamental level of reality such that anything they do is like having the cheat codes to our universe. But if we entertain the possibility that Q is less than that basically playing Talosian mind games...well cleaning an atmosphere isn't that difficult. The Enterprise shot the pollution into space. A Devils Due level hoax would have to do something equivalent. Oct 7, 2021 at 19:16
6

During Q’s second appearance, “Hide and Q,” Picard lures Q (who behaves very differently than in any other episode) into a wager:

Q: Shall we wager on that, Captain? Your starship command against?

PICARD: Against your keeping out of humanity's path for ever. Done?

Q: Done! You've already lost, Picard. Riker will be offered something impossible to refuse.

At the end of the episode, Picard wins:

PICARD: Pay off your wager.

Q: I recall no wager!

PICARD: I'm sure your fellow Q remember you agreed to never trouble our species again. Just as they're aware you failed to tempt a human to join you.

Behind the scenes, “Hide and Q” was intended at the time to write Q out of the series forever, but the producers liked Patrick Stewart and John De Lancie’s chemistry. And the writers later thought of a great idea for another Q episode.

So, the next time we see Q, in “Q Who,” Q is focused on Picard instead of Riker, and everyone remembers Q having made a very different wager.

PICARD: We agreed you would never trouble my ship again!

Q: I always keep my arrangements, sir. Look, we're nowhere near your vessel.

And no one ever remembers what he originally said or calls him on it.

Yes, Q, you would never cheat your way out of one of your wagers, and you would especially never offer a wager to have Picard do the very thing to himself that you gleefully tricked him into a wager to do to himself in “Tapestry”—to teach him a lesson, which he would not have learned had you simply snapped your fingers and done that to him. Knowing all along that you could change the timeline if you lost.

Or, as Lucas Bachmann astutely asks: did that really happen? At the end of “Tapestry,” Picard isn’t sure. Perhaps his own subconscious combined his regrets over how he got the artificial heart that was killing him, the lesson in humility that Q taught him in “Q Who,” and the wager Q offered him to give up his starship command in “Hide and Q,” where Q’s true purpose was to test whether a human would refuse Q and keep his own integrity at the cost of embracing his own mortality. And Picard definitely does remember that he made some bet with Q.

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  • 2
    To be fair to Q I'm not convinced that episode Tapestry is anything but a near death experience, it is ambiguous at best. I honestly never caught the retcon of the terms of the bet - thank you. Oct 7, 2021 at 15:06
  • Oh, and in case anyone reading through all the comments on an answer at the very bottom of the page to a question about exactly how Q’s powers worked in TNG doesn’t know the plot of “Tapestry”: spoiler alert.
    – Davislor
    Oct 7, 2021 at 17:10
  • @lucasbachmann Great point! Added it to my answer.
    – Davislor
    Oct 7, 2021 at 17:23
6

In "Deja Q", when asked how he would restore the moon to its proper orbit, Q casually replies that he would "alter the gravitational constant of the universe". There is no canonical evidence that he was joking.

I would submit that a being who can offhandedly change the laws of physics is certainly no mere illusionist.

In almost every episode, Q nearly-instantly transports himself or others over vast distances or possibly to alternate universes. I would further submit there is no evidence that the artificial settings shown (the courtroom, the planet in "Hide and Q") are illusory. There are several instances of shuttles or even star ships being transported vast distances. In "Tapestry" and "All Good Things", Q appears to have the ability to travel freely in time as well as space and to alter the timeline. Other answers have given additional examples.

Can we absolutely prove that these abilities aren't illusions? Perhaps not, but it seems like a real stretch to hypothesize that they're mere shams. More importantly, it certainly seems that the writers' intent is that Q is actually nigh omnipotent and not merely a charlatan. Occam's Razor applies to interpreting fiction, as well, and if it was intended that Q was merely an illusionist, we surely would have been given some hint.

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    I suspect to a Q there is very little difference between the illusion realities like the court room or sherwood forest and our universe. Oct 8, 2021 at 15:06
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Long lasting consequences of Q’s actions? When he sends the Enterprise D into the Deltas Quadrant where they encounter the Borg, Q brings them back to their Alpha Quadrant. But the long term consequences are huge: The Borg glean information from the Enterprise D’s computers when they hack into it and send an invasion force towards Earth to assimilate it resulting in the huge loss of lives and ships in Battle of Wolf 359. This has a ripple effect which ends up creating dangerous events not only in STNG, but also DS9 AND Voyager.

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  • In terms of the question, I believe this could be explained as 2-way information sharing, letting the Borg know of the Enterprise at the same time as vice versa. All the subsequent events are done by the Borg, not Q, so it's not intrinsically an exhibition of Q's "powers." (That the Enterprise is damaged by the Borg may be evidence that the Enterprise actually physically encountered the Borg, but that's not the thrust of your answer.)
    – DavidW
    Oct 8, 2021 at 20:18

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