Let’s talk about Deep Space Nine.
Specifically, let’s talk about the first-season episode “Q-Less”, in which Vash (the woman Captain Picard met on Risa and then again in Sherwood Forest) returns from the Gamma Quadrant, being pursued by Q. They dated and traveled together for about two years, but she’s broken up with him, he wants her back.
Sounds like a good premise for an episode, right? Sounds like a lot of laughs?
Maybe it was, in 1993. But I watched it recently with my daughter and, given that I’m a lot more woke than I used to be, I saw the episode in a whole new light.
One of the staples of the sitcom and funny-episode stable is the “she dumped him and he wants her back so he keeps bugging her” plot. And through this episode, Q continued to bother Vash. A selection of his activities:
- Came into her quarters without asking.
- Harangued her multiple times.
- Sent away a man who had come to discuss business with her.
- Made her date go to sleep for literal days.
- Started a fistfight.
- Threatened her (“are you sure you can manage without me?” “you’d be lost without me”, etc).
- Hurt her (gave her a debilitating disease — which he made go away, but still).
- Attempted to shame her (the previous point happened in public).
- Interfered with her legal business dealings (an auction).
- Tried the whole “it’s not you, it’s me, and I’ll miss you if you leave” routine.
- Went off to bother someone else (Picard and, later, Janeway).
These things are not cool. Sure, Q is an arrogant, omnipotent being, and Vash is “merely” a human, but that doesn’t give him the right to do any of the above.
I realize the episode aired almost 30 years ago, but seen through the lens of #MeToo and the other abhorrent behavior revealed about powerful men over the past five years, the episode is concerning. More so because I watched it with an impressionable young person whose favorite character just spent an entire episode behaving deplorably.
What lesson is my kid — or anyone, really — going to take away from this episode? That it’s okay to bother and nag and nudge and even hurt someone who’s left you, and that’s okay as long as their motives are pure? That is not how this works. No man — no one — has the right to make another person uncomfortable if that person has said “no” or “I don’t want to be with you.” It’s fine that Q feels disappointed or upset, but his behavior was not fine. Not at all.
Of course, if he’d been less of an ass while he and Vash were together, she might not have wanted to leave him in the first place.
Let’s take a moment, by the way, to look at how Captain Picard reacted in “Qpid” when Vash said she would be joining Q. He was incredulous, and then concerned, and he voiced those concerns. But when push came to shove, even though he cared for Vash, he didn’t stand in her way, or try to get her back, or hurt her, or hover over her. He exacted a promise from Q to take care of her while they were gone, and then he said good-bye.
That’s how you should behave when someone chooses a person that isn’t you. Be Captain Picard. Don’t be Q. And if you see someone acting like Q, call them out on it. If Captain Picard can stand up to an omnipotent being who could literally think him out of existence, then you and I can stand up and say “hey, don’t do that shit to my friend.”
You can bet that I had a little chat with my kid about Q’s behavior in that episode (and she totally understands where I’m coming from). He may be her favorite character, but even our favorite characters can be — and often are — flawed. Sure, it’s because the writers thought it was a funny premise (so they’re really the ones at fault), but the producers still produced it and the studio still released it. They’re all accomplices.
This needs to stop.
(This post originally appeared on my personal Fetlife in 2017.)