In the Star trek Universe we discover that the Q's powers are optional and not a part of the actual race (they can be taken away from a particular Q and can be taken away as a whole during a huge conflict).

How does this technology work, besides the snapping of the fingers, and where does it come from? Did the Q invent it originally?

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    I don't think that "optional" is the right word here. I can loose my eyesight as well and no one would call it "optional" for the human species. The Q are basically almighty beings and don't use technology. A group of Q seems to be able to be more powerful than a single one and can remove these powers from him by converting him/her into a different species. When Q (name) lost his powers he wasn't Q (species) anymore, but human. He only looked the same, because he always appeared in human form. Commented Apr 28, 2011 at 21:48
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    How do we know that the Q don't use technology? Commented Dec 29, 2011 at 5:06
  • Q do use technology. In VOY: Q and the Grey, Janeway and gang were equipped with Q weapons to fight in their civil war.
    – HNL
    Commented Mar 27, 2012 at 5:32
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    @HNL: If I understood that correctly, that was a mere representation for the simple human brains to process what was going on.
    – Bobby
    Commented Aug 11, 2012 at 18:14
  • Sounds like this answer is, unanswerable... yet. Here's hoping a Star Trek writer indulges my curiosity or asks me for a theory... I have a few good one's on my own. Commented Sep 14, 2012 at 19:45

8 Answers 8


The Q known as Quinn (from the Voyager episode Death Wish) gives us a hint that almost sounds like their powers are a technological achievement rather than an innate biological ability:

TUVOK: I am curious. Have the Q always had an absence of manners? Or is it the result of some natural evolutionary process that comes with omnipotence?
QUINN: What? Oh, you mean, just popping in whenever we feel like it.
TUVOK: That is one relevant example.
QUINN: I apologize. At some point along the way, I guess we just stopped thinking about the little niceties.
TUVOK: So it seems.
QUINN: But you mustn't think of us as omnipotent, no matter what the Continuum would like you to believe. You and your ship seem incredibly powerful to life-forms without your technical expertise. It's no different with us. We may appear omnipotent to you, but believe me, we're not.

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    so in a nutshell Clarke's third law
    – IG_42
    Commented Aug 30, 2014 at 23:35
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    Didn't Q once mention to Picard that humans had the potential to one day become as powerful as the Q? Commented Nov 4, 2014 at 22:11
  • @MartianInvader, I've wondered whether the Q actually are future humans (or the final evolution of all life in the universe). Commented Nov 5, 2014 at 16:18

The answer is that we don't know where the Q get their powers from. We're not vague on this, we simply have no idea.

However, all is not lost. Leaving aside the option that Q was an elaborate deception of some sort, there are only two possibilities: Their powers are physically part of them, or their powers are a form of technology. Perhaps this can't be answered, but we can look into what's likely and what isn't.

Q powers as innate abilities

Q - that is, the Q we most often saw on The Next Generation - would frequently and loudly claim that the Q were evolved well beyond humanity and other Federation races. He was hardly the most trustworthy source of information, but this does strongly imply that the Q's powers are innate, much as our own senses and abilities are. However, life forms that believe in their own superiority against all evidence are common in Star Trek.

Also supporting the theory of innate powers are the Voyager episodes where Q and Quinn take human beings to the Q Continuum. What they and the viewers see is a translation of the Continuum into something that human senses can detect and understand. That this is even necessary does add weight to the theory that the Q are highly evolved.

And, as others have pointed out here, beings with extraordinary powers are not unknown at all in Star Trek. Some of them are even main characters. (For example, Spock and Odo.)

Q abilities as tech

The Q are... what? Biological beings? Energy beings who manifest in physical bodies when convenient? It's vaguely implied that they are energy beings, since a physical form seems to be an odd experience for any Q, but nowhere is this stated.

If they're biological beings, this tech could take for form of nanotechnology or hidden devices. If they're energy beings, analogous devices would be information structures that manipulate energy and matter. In other words, software that can manipulate reality directly.

The energy/software option is attractive because it seems simpler and more elegant than a Q who has to go to a continuum-equivalent to Best Buy for the latest gadgets.

However, particularly advanced technology could also include advanced UI that allowed the Q user to simply think what they wanted and make it so. Perhaps there's a place in the continuum that tracks all Qs authorized for their powers and Makes It So for them, whenever they are.

(Can you imagine the nightmare it would be for the Q help desk? When Facebook goes down, people complain for days. Qs would tell stories for millennia about The Great Three Second Downtime Event.)

Beings with technology-derived superpowers are common in post-TOS Star Trek. (Such as Geordi and Data.)

It's also possible that the answer is a combination of both approaches.

In summary

In this context, the difference between a biological ability and advanced technology can be vague. If a species uses gadgets to fly, that's technology. If they direct their evolution with genetic engineering, so they can fly without gadgets and pass that ability to their offspring, that's a tech-enabled innate ability.

What this comes down to is that, in Star Trek canon, we have no way of knowing which of these is the truth, but I can make a reasoned guess:

Gene Roddenberry, who invented the Q, was a believer in the bright future of humanity. Perhaps the Q was what he saw us evolving into, one distant day. He also believed that technology would make our lives better.

If I had to bet on this, I'd bet that he meant for the Q to be an evolution into a better kind of intelligent being, helped along by technology. I assume tech could have been a part of this, given that tech-derived powers were where his head was at while creating TNG.

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    Bonus in favor of "their own abilities" - we saw one person become an energy being with Q-like powers in TNG 3x25, Transfigurations
    – Izkata
    Commented Aug 10, 2012 at 23:33
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    Whether natural or artificial, we know that their abilities have become "innate" or at least integrated since birth, because Amanda Rogers had no idea she was Q and yet she seemed to have the full suite of powers. So whether it's like nano tech or like genetic engineering, (tech or bio), by this point in Q history the abilities seem to be innate to their nature.
    – Nerrolken
    Commented Sep 26, 2014 at 23:40

As is shown in TNG 3x25, "Transfigurations", Q abilities aren't necessarily technology. It could easily be an evolutionary level their species attained, similar to the ones the Zalkonians are able to attain as of that episode.

And to borrow from @MartinScharrer's comment, removal of Q's powers could easily be explained as transforming them from Q to human - they're already in human form, so nothing appears to happen.

EDIT to explain why I referenced that episode:

No, the episode itself doesn't have anything to do with the Q. It is meant as an example that not everything in the Star Trek universe has a technological origin, so there's absolutely no reason to think that the Q's powers came from technology. It also shows that such powers don't have to have an extradimensional origin.

Other (possible) examples include the Prophets from DS9, and the being from TNG 7x14, "Sub Rosa".

  • What does Transfigurations have to do with this? It does concern the evolution of a humanoid being, but doesn't relate to Q at all. Am I missing something? Commented Dec 29, 2011 at 5:10
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    @neilfein Yes: it is an example that not everything in Star Trek has a technological explanation. Another would be the Prophets from DS9, but this one seems more in line with Q powers.
    – Izkata
    Commented Dec 29, 2011 at 5:31
  • Good point. I took the liberty of adding that to the beginning of your answer, but please revert my edit if needed. Good point about The Prophets. (I mean "the wormhole aliens".) Commented Dec 29, 2011 at 5:36
  • @neilfein Yes, that part does read better now. I'd also added some to the end which better explains my train of thought
    – Izkata
    Commented Dec 29, 2011 at 5:38
  • Turning them human to remove powers doesn't make sense - wouldn't they block the transformation with their powers?
    – Jeff
    Commented Dec 29, 2011 at 16:13

There probably comes a point where advanced technology and biological evolution are so intermingled it is, for all intents and purposes, inseparable by design.
Think of it as the apex of trans-humanism.

Their biological and technological achievements merge, building themselves into seemingly omnipotent creatures.

These improvements could well be part of their augmented DNA (or something similar yet more advanced) and passed down genetically. Imagine DNA that built nanobots into you, or beam weapons, etc.

  • This is of course all just speculation. Commented Sep 14, 2012 at 19:43

In the episode with that Q girl posing as a Human in True Q isn't it suggested that the Q are more Biological or rather that's where there powers come from a specfic path to evolution then Tech ?

  • Not necessarily, the Q could have worked out a way to alter their genes in such a way that Q technology is grown into their biology like organic machinery. Commented Aug 30, 2014 at 19:19

If the Q's powers are not innate, it's still unlikely to be what we would refer to as "technology". In canon, the Q's powers are shown to emerge naturally, without even the individual Q's awareness of where it comes from or how it works. That it can be taken away/suppressed does not suggest that it's a technology any more than the ability to immobilize a human-being means that our innate mobility is a technology. You wouldn't call the delta quadrant changelings' ability to shapeshift a "technology" just because Odo was made solid for a time being.

In earlier Star Trek (particularly TNG), there is a suggestion that time, space, and thought are one. This is stated by the Traveller, and the Enterprise-D even reaches a place where the thoughts of crew members manifest themselves as reality. It's very possible that the Q similarly use their thoughts to manipulate space and time at will.

The Q are portrayed as beings of infinite age, power and knowledge—to the point that most Q no longer do anything because everything has been done; and they no longer speak to one another, because everything has been said. They travel through time in a nonlinear fashion and live in an extradimensional plane that has no physical form which humanoids could comprehend. It's therefore unlikely that they're using some kind of nanotech or computer software to achieve their feats.


In Hide And Q Q gives Riker the Power Of Q as a test for humanity. From this one can conclude that the Power Of Q is transferable. This would seem to support technology, but Q is omnipotent and could have altered Riker.

The skeptical conclusion is that Riker never had the power, Q could have been reading Riker's mind and performing the tricks himself. This seems like a far, far less reckless test. It is also far more devious which is more in line with Q's "gifts".

In Deja Q Q is stripped of his powers and made human by the Continuum. One could conclude that the Power Of Q can be taken away. This again would seem to support technology, but again the omnipotent Continuum could have altered Q.

The skeptical conclusion is rather than actually making a member human, something they would see as abhorrent, the Continuum suppressed Q's power rather than removed it. Or they split his consciousness, locked one in a powerless human form and locked the other in the Continuum. The ease with which they relented his punishment can be seen as evidence.

In True Q, the Power Of Q is passed down from parents to child strongly implying it is a biological/inherent power.

On the other hand, the parents could have willed their child to be Q. Or the Continuum could have a policy of altering their children in order to maintain diversity. The civil war over the question of stagnation in The Q and the Grey takes place after True Q, but that's in linear time. The events in True Q could have happened before, after, or simultaneous with The Q and the Grey in the Continuum time... I hesitate to call it a "line".

Here's the problem... if you have an omnipotent character you can rationalize any explanation. Worse, if you have an omnipotent character who regularly lies you can't even trust what that character said. To add the cherry on top, Q's supposed omnipotence is regularly thwarted which leads one to believe that either Q is lying about being omnipotent or it's all part of his plan. A sort of "Q works in mysterious ways" catch-all excuse.

And it's all moot. Once you're omnipotent the source of your power is irrelevant, if it was technological you can make it innate. On the other hand, the omnipotence Q speaks of may only apply to this universe, not the universe where the source of his power lies.

Without an out-of-universe canon statement, one cannot make any conclusions.

Not that speculation isn't fun. :)

  • I wouldn't say that Q "regularly lies." Commented Jan 8, 2017 at 17:48
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    @T-1000'sSon - He's known by the Braxians as the "God of Lies". That would imply that lying is something he does on an epic scale.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 8, 2017 at 18:09
  • I doubt the Braxians know Q outside of their encounter with him. Just because Q may have lied a lot to them doesn't mean that he lies a lot in general. Janeway said that she never knew Q to lie. We can second guess everyone if we really want to be cynical. Commented Jan 8, 2017 at 20:33
  • @T-1000'sSon As with all his relationships, Q's relationship with the truth is an interesting one. He's practiced at the art of deception, to say the least. I don't think we've seen a civilization that's happy to see Q after the first encounter.
    – Schwern
    Commented Jan 8, 2017 at 20:41
  • Certainly not the Calamarain! Commented Jan 8, 2017 at 20:47

It's sufficiently advanced technology the Q themselves created over millenia. This much is pretty much outright stated by the TNG episodes which involve Q.

The tech itself can only be speculated on. It likely responds to mental commands, with a physical gesture (which could be unique per user) to execute the commands given - the finger snap, in Q's case.

It can likely be removed by disabling a user account, then using the tech on the (now powerless) individual to do things (like turn them human).

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    Any references? I'm not sure about the tech argument (other than everything in Trek is going to be tied to tech somehow). It's clear that Q doesn't know how his own powers work - like when he orders Geordi to "lower the gravitational constant of the universe". The Q-Squared novel by Peter David had Trelane tapping into chaos or something to overpower the Continuum. Commented Apr 28, 2011 at 14:49
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    I loved Trelane! He was a fun character, mildly disturbed but fun. Commented Apr 28, 2011 at 15:09
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    "It's sufficiently advanced technology the Q themselves created over millenia" <-- I appreciate the creativity, but this sounds like "speculation"! :)
    – JohnIdol
    Commented Apr 28, 2011 at 15:12
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    Ya its a good answer in theory but I'm not marking it until I find a reference. Sorry, Jeff. But it defiantly got me thinking. What if Q powers are activated by a social network... lol. A user gets flagged, banned, and oops no more powers. Sorry, had to go their. Commented Apr 28, 2011 at 15:14
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    I think you should note that this is a non-canon answer. Commented Apr 28, 2011 at 21:36

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