Star Trek: The Next Generation debuted on television 32 years ago today with the two-part episode “Encounter at Farpoint.” Seven seasons later, the series concluded with the two-part episode “All Good Things.” Besides both being two-parters, the first and the final episodes of The Next Generation have one crucial thing in common. They both feature Q, the near-omnipotent entity played by John de Lancie. De Lancie’s Q — one Q entity out of the entire Q Continuum — appeared in other Star Trek series, but none more than The Next Generation. He is Jean-Luc Picard's great foil. For this reason, and for the way he frames The Next Generation with his appearances, Q should have a place in Star Trek: Picard.
In Q’s first appearance in “Encounter at Farpoint,” he poses a direct challenge to Picard’s mission of exploration. Q isn't convinced that humanity is ready to go this far beyond its solar system. He puts humanity itself on trial, citing its entire history as evidence of its intolerance and the danger it poses if left unchecked.
Picard decides “If we're going to be damned, let's be damned for what we really are.” He carries out his mission to Farpoint Station. There, he discovers the Bandi enslaved a spacefaring creature to create Farpoint Station. Rather than smite the Bandi, as Q tempts him to do, Picard destroys Farpoint Station and frees the creature, thus passing Q’s test.
Or so Picard thought. Q’s return in “All Good Things" reveals that it isn’t that simple. During the episode, Picard begins seeing some of the spectators from Q's trial. Soon, the entire courtroom reappears. This annoys Picard, who believed he had passed this test. “You just don't get it, do you, Jean-Luc?” Q explains to Picard. “The trial never ends. We wanted to see if you had the ability to expand your mind and your horizons. And for one brief moment, you did… For that one fraction of a second, you were open to options you had never considered. That is the exploration that awaits you. Not mapping stars and studying nebulae, but charting the unknowable possibilities of existence.”
Picard asks, “Q, what is it you're trying to tell me?” To which Q replies, “You'll find out. In any case, I'll be watching. And if you're very lucky I'll drop by to say hello from time to time. See you...out there.”
The return to Q’s trial in “All Good Things…” reframes all seven seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation as part of Q’s trial. That works because the best Star Trek episodes are all morality plays about human existence. Q's trial takes the show's subtext and makes it text.
Q also makes it clear that he isn’t done with Picard. Having Q “drop by to say hello” in Star Trek: Picard would go a long way towards tying Picard to the themes of The Next Generation and Picard's longer character arc. If it's the first time Picard has seen Q since leaving Starfleet, then it's even more powerful as a symbol of Picard resuming his life's journey.
If Star Trek: The Next Generation was a consideration of humanity’s worth, then Star Trek: Picard may become the closing arguments in that trial. It would only make sense that Q should be there to see the trial to its end.
Would you like to see Q appear in Star Trek: Picard? Let us know what you think in the comments. Star Trek: Picard debuts on CBS All Access in 2020.