In Encounter at Farpoint, Q is clearly unknown to the crew of the Enterprise. Three years later, he's well known enough by Starfleet to deserve his own briefings to command personnel. (Sisko mentioned as much in the DS9 episode "Q-Less", and I'm using the dates listed on Memory Alpha.) He never appeared in an episode of Enterprise or the original Star Trek series, so I feel that we can be fairly confident that when he put Picard on trial, that was Starfleet's first encounter with Q and the Continuum.

Surely there are thousands (millions?) of races in the universe with millions (billions?) of starships. Did Q choose at random? Was there something about humanity or that ship or that captain in particular that intrigued him?

Why Picard? Why the Enterprise? Why that moment? Why humanity?

  • 9
    Why John de Lancie? :-D
    – Raven13
    Commented Nov 8, 2011 at 15:02
  • 12
    I've often wondered if Q actually WAS the first encounter with the Continuum. There was a character in TOS show who kind of seemed like he might be a Q... I think I'm thinking of Trelane in the The Squire of Gothos.
    – eidylon
    Commented Nov 8, 2011 at 15:39
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    Apparently there's a novel that reveals that Trelane was a Q: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Q-Squared
    – Plutor
    Commented Nov 8, 2011 at 19:07
  • 2
    @Plutor Read the first sentence of that Wikipedia article. Commented Nov 8, 2011 at 21:44
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    @OghmaOsiris Are you referring to "non-canon"? Well, all Star Trek novels are non-canon so that's not really special. en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Canon#Licensed
    – Plutor
    Commented Nov 15, 2011 at 13:49

7 Answers 7


Picard was captain of the Flagship of the Federation of Planets.

Being such, Q probably knew that Picard was the person to represent the Federation and Humanity itself.

It could have been a random coincidence that Picard was the captain in that instance, but that's probably why Q chose him and the Enterprise.

Humanity itself was put on trial because we are growing at a rate which is very unusual for most other species and it was a very short time (relatively) between our acceptance of planetary peace and the endless wars and violence our race was prone to in the (their) past.

Also IIRC, Farpoint Station was the furthest reaches of the Federation at that time, and the Enterprise was about to voyage beyond the boundaries, which is why Q chose to act then.

  • 3
    That's a kind of parochial view. Why did Q care about this one civilization out of millions? Why would he care if they go a couple more light years away from their planet in a tiny corner of one galaxy? Was humanity actually growing at a rate that would concern an intergalactic race like the Q?
    – Plutor
    Commented Nov 8, 2011 at 15:35
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    Because they were developing faster than they should. It was the whole point of the trial of humanity. Commented Nov 8, 2011 at 15:38
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    @Xantec Continuity is a bitch. Commented Nov 8, 2011 at 15:41
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    Remember, it's not canon that one of the Q didn't put Kirk on trial on Gothos. Many suspect there's a relationship there and it hasn't been disclaimed.
    – Tango
    Commented Nov 8, 2011 at 15:46
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    @Xantec - I think the in-universe answer is that, at THAT point in humanity's history, they were expanding more quickly than expected. Perhaps it's expected that you expand quickly for the first hundred years or so after you discover warp drive, and then you stagnate. Humanity wasn't stagnating - if they continue at their rate of expansion, the situation becomes unpredictable, at least to the Q. Commented Nov 8, 2011 at 18:14

I've come across a semi-canonical answer on Memory-Beta, primarily from the novels The Buried Age and Q & A.

Humanity came to the attention of Q in early 2364, when Giriaenn, the last of the Manraloth, ascended from the corporeal plane. Giriaenn told Q of her recent experiences with the human Jean-Luc Picard and Q, believing that this Picard might be "The One" who could save the universe from destruction from "Them", decided to pay Picard a visit.

Soon after, Q put humanity, in the person of Picard, who was now Captain of the USS Enterprise-D, on trial for the "crime" of being a "savage, child race". Convinced that humanity and Picard in particular were "the ones", Q took his case to the continuum, who gave their permission for Q to continue his studies.

Apparently "They" ended up being a race even more powerful than the Q:

After Picard managed to navigate through all of the obstacles that "They" put before him, he and Q gained an audience with "Them", all-powerful beings that destroyed and created new multi-verses at whim. As Q and "They" casually discussed the end of everything, Picard suddenly realized the absurdity of it all, and burst out laughing, apparently the reaction that "They" were hoping for. "They" decided to spare this reality.

  • A related question about Star Trek novels and Canon: scifi.stackexchange.com/q/6804/1109 Commented Nov 8, 2011 at 21:51
  • Similarly the recent comic Star Trek Waypoint “Consider Eternity” has Q meeting a newly ascended V'ger as it's continuum orientation guide and that put Earth on his radar. Commented Apr 15, 2023 at 2:13

In Encounter at Farpoint, Q says why he chose that point to interfere. The Enterprise D's mission will drive them further out into the galaxy than any other mission before (later retconned), and Q wanted them stopped before they spread their barbarism. Picard was able to outwit Q, thus freeing humans to explore the galaxy.

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    I don't know that Picard ever really outwit Q. More likely he provided a good enough show to keep Q entertained, and thus willing to let Picard, and humanity, continue for a while longer. As Q said in All Good Things "the jury is still out".
    – Xantec
    Commented Nov 8, 2011 at 15:33

In the "Star Trek: The Q Continuum" Novels, Q was at war with another omnipotent being named "0" who hurled an iridium charged asteroid at the female Q. Q created a wormhole, the asteroid went thru it and hit Earth and destroyed the dinosaurs. Q's punishment was to watch over the planet and any intelligent species that evolves on it -That's the reason for the Q's constant tests of humanity.


Q is omnipotent and omniscient. He knew that the Enterprise and Picard were going to be famous and he wanted a piece of the action.

He could have chosen to harass the USS NotOnTV, but then he wouldn't have been as well-known and probably just wouldn't have had as much fun.

It is an ego thing.

  • Why the down votes? This explanation is consistent with Q's character as presented in the show - he's literally stated to be "all knowing, all seeing" (ref: Deja Q) and he enjoys his fun. The Enterprise and Picard do become famous, playing a part in many significant events - this is why the show follows him! It works in and out of universe. Commented Nov 25, 2014 at 3:51
  • The downvote isn't mine, but can any human really be famous in the context of the universe? We're stuck in a small corner of even our own galaxy! How great could even the best human be?
    – Plutor
    Commented Nov 25, 2014 at 13:25
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    If you're suggesting that Q, as an omniscient being, knows that the Star Trek Universe is a TV show and which parts of it are on-screen ... I like it. :-) Commented Jan 7, 2015 at 0:41

Q knew Picard would eventually save humanity 7 years in the future. He wanted to test Picard and see if he was worthy, hence forth all the games he played. He was there when Picard died. He really did exhibit friendship towards Picard. He made him show courage, and mercy, dignity, and honesty. Picard laid there in bed with Q next to him. They were friends. People say it was a master-pet relationship, but it wasn't. Q liked Picard

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    Picard saved humanity on several occasions. Assuming you're referring to the singularity seen in "All Good Things", it's noteworthy that it was only because of Q's involvement that it happened in the first place.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jul 21, 2016 at 8:42
  • Interesting hypothesis, to bridge the first and last episode of the series like that. Perhaps your answer could be improved by adding some sources or quotes from the episodes themselves?
    – steenbergh
    Commented Jul 21, 2016 at 8:43
  • lol I just started doing this so I have to get used to as far as listing links to prove what I say, but I learn. But I promise you that all I have said is true to TNG
    – Newhouse75
    Commented Jul 23, 2016 at 5:53
  • @Newhouse75 I know it is true, and I know you're new here. That's why I gave you the pointer of adding quotes; to convince others of your point of view. Some good sources I like to check are www.chakoteya.net and Memory Alpha.
    – steenbergh
    Commented Jul 25, 2016 at 21:32

(spoilers of Picard season 2) The answer took almost 10 yrs. Or my theory based on one episode in Picard season 2 anyway. Q wasn't interested in space, time or some big galactic war. He was simply an alone, all knowing, star. Sure there are other, whom he "zoom"s with via the Continuum, but it's his little place in space that concerns him. His health, his appearance, all of it is a facade. He knows when he'll die, unless a star killing ship intervenes. 30 years prior to his death he seeks out the nearest inhabited planet, earth, that has space capabilities, and possible strengths. Not only is the planet full of billions of hopeful humans he can connect with, but his awareness of the Borg, their skills, if he could get them together, he could protect earth from his death throttle. By scheming, even obviously, he egg's the humans on to show their willingness to learn and improv, even befriending the borg. So when Q's star does explode, Seven of nine - spoilers- with Picard, save the day.

  • Can you back this up with evidence, such as a quote or quotes from the source material, or is this just your own personal headcanon? Headcanon answers aren't looked upon favourably here. If this is supported by things that were actually said on the show, please edit your answer to include any relevant quotes and citations of the relevant episode/s. Commented Apr 14, 2023 at 6:15

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