In Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Q Who" (Season 2, Episode 16) Q seems disturbed by the presence of Guinan to the point of raising his hands as if to use his powers on her. Guinan responds by raising her hands as if to cast a "magic" spell of her own.

Is it ever established what powers she or her race may possess?

Guinan cat hands

  • @SeanDuggan: When I look at the revision history of the question, the old, bigger image shows up just fine. – Junuxx Nov 7 '15 at 2:43
  • I think it's because it was Imageshack and I was looking from work. I'll replace it again. – FuzzyBoots Nov 7 '15 at 4:06

10 Answers 10


Guinan, perhaps her whole species, is able to understand the 'correct' state of the universe. Take for example in Yesterday's Enterprise she knows details about the 'other' universe. The universe as it was during the rest of the series with the Enterprise as a ship of peace, not a ship of war.

This is, essentially, the counter power to Q's ability to alter the universe at will. It suggests that the power the Q hold is transparent to Guinan. She can see through their alterations to the mechanics of those actions and the state of the universe before those actions. Possibly, she can counter their magical technology, although that's just conjecture.

Just being able to understand the 'true' state of things would be enough to limit Q's power, which would be frightening to him. And what the Q do to the universe would be equally as upsetting to Guinan.

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    Doesn't really explain why they are waving their hands "cat-like" at each other, but I guess this is as good as it's gonna get. Thanks – erdiede Oct 8 '11 at 23:41
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    @erdiede: can you think of a better visual representation of what is happening? – DampeS8N Oct 9 '11 at 0:10
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    I know that old conversation is old, but Picard wasn't torn away from the Nexus via transporter beam, either. Guinan's alternate aspect within the Nexus in Generations seems to consider herself both separate yet one-and-the-same as the Guinan on the Enterprise; she tells Picard she is "an echo" of the Guinan that was transported from the doomed ships, yet she states that she cannot go with Picard to leave the Nexus as she's "already there". So I'd totally buy that her unique sense of whether or not the universe is 'correct' is bound to the part of her that still resides in the Nexus. – Stick Sep 16 '14 at 2:41
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    @Thomas: We don't know since we've only seen Soran and he was busy blowing up stars to force the Nexus to come to him instead of listening to the state of the universe. – Ellesedil Nov 7 '15 at 1:25
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    Martus Mazur from DS9's episode Rivals didn't appear to have any special abilities apart from "listening" so Guinan's abilities don't appear to be species-wide. – CJ Dennis Nov 11 '15 at 1:14

When Guinan was ripped from the Nexus in "Generations", part of her was still left there. She told Picard she couldn't go back with him because she was already there. The part of her left in the Nexus, a place where time had no meaning, gave her her sixth sense. This explanation was in the original Generations script but was later edited.

GUINAN : It took a long time, but eventually I learned to live with it. And I began to realize that my experience in the Nexus had changed me...I knew things about people...about events...about time...

PICARD : Your "sixth sense"... I've always wondered where it came from

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    interesting, why would Q be fearful of this sixth sense? – AidanO Nov 21 '12 at 11:37
  • @AidanO I don't believe he would. He should be as capable of changing the Nexus's history as he could anything else. I don't buy this explanation. – DampeS8N Feb 20 '14 at 16:06
  • @DampeS8N didn't one of the novels indicate that Q was behind the creation of the Nexus? – user11521 Jul 26 '14 at 5:00
  • @Michael you are probably thinking of 'Q-Squared' where Trelane creates many space-time anomalies. I believe it includes a description of one that roughly similar to the Nexus. – Zoredache Jan 2 '15 at 18:50
  • It seems just as reasonable as people’s fears of black cats. – Andrew T Finnell Apr 14 at 20:07

I have always wondered about this myself. I would say that while her species does have incredible mental abilities, they would not be anywhere near a match for a Q. The Borg ran roughshod over her people. We know the Borg are not at the level of the Q. Here are some theories:

  1. Guinan was at the point where she she was going to possibly attack him with her mind, regardless of her ability to damage him. We have seen Worf ready to attack Q despite his inability, and we have seen Sisko actually punch Q. So she may have been "blowing smoke" or angry enough to attack with out causing damage.

  2. I am much more intrigued by this possibility: What if she possesed a Q weapon, unseen by the crew but deadly to Q? We know Janeway and Tuvock had Q weapons and at one point were an extreme danger to the Q. Janeway's weapon was represented by a flintrock rifle; Guinan's may have been represented with a magic spell. Q did back off. Why would she have it? Any number of Qs could have given it to her at any time over the course of her long life. Why? There are many reasons possible. Law enforcement of renegades or she like Janeway participated in a Q war, or it was given to her by another, friendlier, Q to protect her from this Q or others.

  3. One last theory, and I imagine this one is a little unlikely. She may have been a Douwd or an Organian masquerading as an El-Aurian. We know both these highly advanced species, as well as the Q themselves, will do this from time to time and, if governed by a non-interference directive, would not use her abilities to help or hurt the aliens she is currently with. But she might use her abilities in self-defence against Q. He would of course see through her facade.


In Haitian Culture, a Guinan (Guinen) is a being whose mission is to bring light and aid those under his/her protection. They are perceived as elders because they may have incarnated in an ancestor. Through rituals or telepathic communication, it is possible to communicate with them. I think they are souls who have realized their higher self and chose to help mankind. Being close to the Light, they are able to warn off evil, heal and help. The path of the Guinan is to help mankind evolve, this implies that solutions come from within one's self as opposed to from some bargain with an exterior force such as Q.

Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

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    Good answer, but can you provide any evidence that the character on Star Trek: TNG was inspired by Haitian culture? – Wad Cheber Jun 28 '15 at 23:07
  • @WadCheber: The name is a big clue, is it not? – Lightness Races in Orbit Apr 23 '16 at 11:55
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit - My name is Chad, but I have no relation to the country of the same name. I made that comment about a year ago, and I don't remember making it, but I think my point was that, while it is possible - perhaps even likely - that the name is an intentional tip of the hat to Haitian culture, it would be better if we could prove such a link. – Wad Cheber Apr 24 '16 at 1:18
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    @Wad: But you weren't invented by screenwriters to make an artistic point. :) – Lightness Races in Orbit Apr 24 '16 at 1:39
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    It sounds logical but I notice today's blog post (scifi.blogoverflow.com/2016/08/…) mentions Whoopi Goldberg stating that Roddenberry named the character after Texas Guinan, a flamboyant NY restauranteur (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texas_Guinan). This was also in the Wikipedia page since 2002. Sounds like it's just a coincidence. Which is a shame; I prefer your version. – tardigrade Aug 5 '16 at 9:49

I thought it was rather telling that 'Q' said she was NOT what she appeared to be, and he called her an "Imp".

I think this makes for an AWESOME back story. Originating from Germanic folklore, the imp was a lesser demon. It should also be noted that demons in Germanic legends were NOT necessarily evil. Imps were often mischievous rather than evil or harmful, and in some regions, they were portrayed as attendants of the gods.

Imps are often portrayed much the same as fairies, and in some cultures, they were considered the same beings, both sharing the same sense of free spirit and enjoyment of all things fun. Note that fairies and imps are said to be possessed of all manner of supernatural powers.

It was much later in history that people began to associate fairies with being good and imps with being malicious and evil. Though imps are often thought of as being immortal, many cultures believed that they could be damaged or harmed by certain weapons and enchantments.

ALL of this could have led to some eventual revelation that beings like 'Q', 'imps', and 'faeries' are NOT just ancient earth lore, but stories passed down about alien beings that actually visited earth from time to time.

It would have been AWESOME to see some kind of showdown between 'Q' and Guinan.

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    Just happened to see that episode this afternoon and don't recall that there was ever any follow-up on it. While you're answer provides some info on an 'imps', you've provided no supporting material on anything actually Guinan related. – Stan Aug 2 '13 at 22:24

I dont think Guinan has any powers per se. However, as she does possess a superior sixth sense in understanding the universe. This is supported by her actions and Datas comment on her entire race. In regards to the Q, as previous commentator remarked, I suspected her "power" against the Q is that she is able to defend herself from his actions via neutralization. She seemed to be defending against an attempting attack by him in "Que Who." However, it is interesting that he remarked she was "not what she appeared to be." This could be his fear of her race talking, the fact that a part of her dwells in the Nexus still, or that his is truly a masquerading alien. Concerning the Nexus, I believe that experience only added to her senses. The one question that remains is what was she doing on Earth in the early 19th century?...


I have just watched the episode where Guinan was living on 18th Century Earth, so we can certainly assume she has the gift of longevity... The fact that she was also in the Nexus who suggest that she can shift between dimensions... Beyond that she wouldnt appear to have any other particular gifts.. In retrospective It would have been interesting if the Guinan character was fleshed out a bit more as we were left with so many unknowns with the guinan character.


I'm just speculating here, and making no assertions: perhaps Guinan's power over Q lies in her ability to mess with his mind. In other words, if Guinan can say just the right thing that sticks with someone and makes them feel better, she can also do the opposite. Q may have been afraid of her ability to reveal his true self. Q may be invulnerable to physical attack but not a psychological attack. Also, perhaps since Guinan can pick up on emotions, she can also project them. If a part of her is in the nexus, then she could maybe tap into the nexus' power some way.

Personally, I like that Guinan is mysterious and you never really know the big picture with her. Its part of what makes her more intruiging.

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    Welcome to SFF.SE! We expect answers to contain more than just speculation -- they should cite sources if possible, or at least provide an educated guess with a reasoned argument. Comments on the question are better for pure speculation. Please take a look at the help center for more information about how this site works. – Null Apr 22 '16 at 22:12

Perhaps she was given powers by the "almost respectable" Q she mentions? This means she's met more than one Q, and perhaps that other Q imbued her with special abilities (or saw to it that she got them via the Nexus).

  • Any backup for this? – Adamant Aug 2 '16 at 3:50

I am watching the episode now, Q Who?

Something no one seems to mention is when Q says: "And if necessary, although I can't imagine why, I will renounce my powers and become as weak and incompetent as all of you." He looks at Guinan when he says this and she huffy and walks near Picard looking back and forth.

I think she either was a Q, was given Q abilities, or had similar powers and gave them up.

  • The other answers (above) would strongly suggest that this answer is wrong. Can you provide anything else to back it up. – Valorum Aug 14 '16 at 8:25

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