In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, Q-Who, Q decides to expose the Enterprise to one of the unknown threats that lies out there in the galaxy. He hurls the Enterprise to the distant System J-25, where they encounter the Borg, who promptly show their technological superiority. What were Q's motives for exposing the Enterprise to this threat?

  • 10
    Clearly it was for the LULZ!
    – Xantec
    Commented Jan 20, 2012 at 19:57
  • 1
    Q hurled the Enterprise to System J-25, which is actually in the Beta Quadrant. Commented Jan 20, 2012 at 20:19
  • @NorbyTheGeek On Memory Alpha, it seems there's a dispute as to whether it's in the Beta Quadrant or not. I'll just name the system instead.
    – user1027
    Commented Jan 20, 2012 at 20:37
  • Superior morality
    – Valorum
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 21:18
  • 1
    Q was the GM and aiming for a TPK?
    – Lexible
    Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 4:36

3 Answers 3


An excerpt from the Memory Alpha summary for the episode "Q Who" states the following:

(As the Enterprise is losing to the Borg ship...) Q demands whether they still believe to be prepared, to which Picard admits that they are frightened and that Q has shown them to be inadequate. Picard asks Q's help, saying that they need him, to which, with a snap of his fingers, Q flings the Enterprise back into Federation space. He congratulates Picard for admitting his need for help, claiming that "another man would have been humiliated to say those words." Picard is still upset about the loss of eighteen of his crew, but Q is unapologetic, telling him that the universe is not a safe place before disappearing. The Enterprise sets course for the nearest starbase.

Reflecting upon events in Ten Forward with Picard, Guinan says that the encounter with the Borg happened before it should have, and for the moment, the Borg are only capable of seeing the Federation as "raw material to them". And because they are now, Guinan begins, "aware of our existence," "they will be coming," Picard continues. Guinan ominously says, "You can bet on it." Picard comments that perhaps Q did the right thing for the wrong reasons, to shake humanity out of its complacency for whatever lies ahead.

So, it would seem that Q's motive is to prove the point that the Federation is unprepared for and unsuspecting of what dangers lie ahead of them as they explore further into the universe. While Q may have done this for his own personal amusement or to stroke his own ego, it did still end up helping the Federation by cluing them in to the existence of the Borg, as noted under the Trivia section:

It's later revealed that due to the events shown in Star Trek: First Contact and "Regeneration" the Borg already knew of Earth's existence and were on their way. This means Q's actions were an early warning for the Federation.

However, whether or not Q specifically intended to help them in this way isn't altogether certain.

  • 3
    I believe Q's main intention was to warn Picard (and Federation). For one he knew the Borg was on their way and Q was already showing some interest for humanity and Picard
    – Sinan
    Commented Jan 20, 2012 at 23:31
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    In some of the Q-related novels, it turns out that Q has been preparing Picard to save the universe. Wouldn't have been possible if humanity had been assimilated without warning. Commented Jun 6, 2013 at 18:55
  • 1
    @Sinan: The Borg were not on their way. Guinan makes it clear that Q actually put the Federation in danger by making the Borg aware of the Federation's existence before the two should have met. His purpose was to show Picard and Starfleet how vulnerable and unprepared they are for the threats of the galaxy as a means of gloating over his superiority, just as he did with the show trial. If he was interested in the Federation's safety, he was fully capable of simulating the entire encounter or otherwise illustrate the dangers without putting humans on the Borg's radar. Commented Jul 28, 2013 at 4:26
  • 1
    @Lèsemajesté In Enterprise s2e23 "Regeneration" Archer explicitly states that Borg drones have contacted the collective in the Delta Quadrant and that he expects an invasion to occur when the signal reaches the delta quadrant in the 24th century. It's a very clear setup for "Q Who". So yes, they were already on their way. Commented Aug 18, 2016 at 3:24
  • 1
    @Lèsemajesté Agreed. It's a clumsy ret-con as well, since it makes you wonder why the Federation weren't expecting the Borg. But it is canon nonetheless. Commented Aug 18, 2016 at 5:45

It was to show what lies ahead. Picard said: "Maybe Q did the right thing for the wrong reason". I guess it was to show that the federation is not prepared what lies ahead and that they are vulnerable.


The Borg were already aware of the earth as they had already assimilated 7 of 9's family previously!

  • Q simply felt that Picard only wished to rely on Federation expertise in meeting and overcoming the exploration of space and all it's situations rather than using Q's powers to shape and meet all of the events they would encounter
    – chad black
    Commented Sep 8, 2013 at 2:37
  • 1
    This answer does not answer the question the OP wants to know what Q's motives for showing the Enterprise the Borg are. Commented Jul 12 at 4:22

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