Before there was “Female Q” in Voyager there was Teen Girl Q, aka Amanda Rogers. And it could’ve been so awesome, guys! And it…well it was okay.
For anyone who needs a refresher on the plot: Amanda Rogers is an honours student who’s won an internship on the Enterprise, under the supervision of Dr. Crusher. But we realize something’s up when she displays mysterious adorable-puppy-materialization abilities.
(and adorable-puppy-dematerialization abilities, which is a little more questionable)
Q drops in to explain the situation to Picard: Amanda is Q but was raised by humans after her parents’ death. He says he’s there to train her to be a Q and take her back to the continuum, conveniently not mentioning the Q executed her parents and wants to see if they need to kill Amanda as well. Apparently that part was added in during filming, which adds tension but doesn’t really make a ton of sense and sets Q back a bit as a character who’s becoming more empathetic to “lower life forms”.
Picard figures out Q’s true intent, but not until Amanda’s already received a taste of omnipotence. Q offers Amanda the choice to live with humans and never use her powers again, or come with him to the continuum. She chooses the former but that lasts less than five minutes when she chooses to use her powers to save Riker, LaForge and a bunch of people on a planet by stopping a reactor overload. So she goes off to the continuum with Q.
As a feminist I think this episode is a missed opportunity.
One common factor in many of the great Q episodes is seeing humans rise to Q’s challenges. He comes in totally smug and yet part of him wants to be surprised or even proven wrong. It relates to that bigger Trek message that in the face of more powerful beings we need to stay true to our logic, ethics and feelings rather than following them unquestioningly.
But in “True Q”, I don’t think we get that satisfaction at the end.
First, let’s look at Q’s treatment of Doctor Crusher.
Q is always arrogant and insulting but in this episode he’s particularly sexist. It starts when Q appears in the briefing room, basically rolls his eyes at her arguing with him and then asks to speak to Picard alone.
Crusher: She has plans for herself. She wants to have a career and a family.
Q: I’m rescuing her from that miserable existence.
Crusher: That miserable existence is all she’s known for the last 18 years. You have no right to take it away from her.
Q: Mon Capitane, I really think that we need to speak privately.
(Q snaps his fingers and he and Picard disappear, then re materialize in the Ready Room)
Q: Well, there, that’s better. Crusher gets more shrill with each passing year.
“Shrill” is one of those words we see get thrown at female politicians and other women in positions of authority (along with “nagging” and “bitch”), and I definitely felt that dynamic in this scene – like Q is saying he doesn’t have time for this nagging and we’d better just let the men deal with this problem.
A bit later, Q further dehumanizes Crusher – quite literally – when he doesn’t want to listen to her argue with him about Amanda’s intern duties and he turns her into a barking dog (Amanda quickly turns her back).
Soraya Chemaly has a great article at the Huffington Post about the way female politicians (and women in general) are regularly likened to animals, including dogs, and why it’s problematic:
When women are not domesticated — i.e., operating beyond the control of white men — whether they’re white or women of color, if they debate forcefully, or demand the right to free agency, or a social safety net that spares their children from starvation, they’re often depicted as sexualized and base, making them dogs or wild animals.
Q turns Crusher into a dog for debating him, something he definitely does not do to Picard during one of the captain’s classic speeches on human morality, later in the episode.
And you know, I could be pretty much okay with this if Crusher was validated in any way during this episode. But she’s really not.
After the briefing room scene, Crusher still goes to convince Amanda to work with Q. After the argument when Q turns her into a dog, the only impact is making Amanda feel slightly guilty. At the end of the episode, everything Crusher has said has gone unheard. Amanda tells her she needs to be a Q. She says she hopes she can come back to visit, but she won’t.
Amanda’s overall power vis a vis Q in this episode is a bit more debatable. She clearly does challenge him at the beginning when he decides to not immediately just kill her. And she also gets to throw him against a wall when he tries to grab her and take her back to the continuum.
But it’s not her human qualities that force him to reconsider; it’s her Q abilities. As she tries out her powers more, this actually brings her closer to what Q wants, and Q is skillful at manipulating her, literally leaning very close and talking softly in her ear about what all the potential she has and what being a Q can be like.
Q tells her being Q is about “hav[ing] your heart’s desire instantly,” and Amanda’s skeptical. But she does try it when she sees Riker on a date with another woman in Ten Forward and decides to pop herself and him into a Jane Austen-y love scene instead.
With this scene and the puppies in the beginning I feel like the creators were thinking this is the kind of thing a teenage girl would do with superpowers (it’s interesting to contrast to “Charlie X” and the stereotypically masculine things they thought a powerful teenage boy would do).
It gets creepy when Riker rebuffs her and Amanda decides to snap her fingers to make him actually love her. Luckily she very quickly realizes his kisses are empty (not to mention assault because she’s forcing him against his will).
In that scene, Amanda learns a lesson that Q powers aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, but she ultimately has to go for the powers and all their problems and go along with Q. She does tell Q, “No”, they can’t go back to the continuum right away because she needs to explain things to her adoptive parents, but it feels hollow because her choices are so limited. If Q didn’t agree and she resisted, the continuum would likely execute her.
Again, I think “True Q” was a missed opportunity. Although Amanda is theoretically all-powerful, she is still less powerful than the two male Qs we see in this episode (the one who has sent Q appears in one scene as a shadow on the wall and speaks in a male voice).
She doesn’t convince Q to stand up for her with the continuum bigwigs. She doesn’t find a loophole that would let her go off on her own, using her powers for good (my preference). Even adding the option to choose being stripped of her Q powers, as we know the continuum can do after Season 3’s “Deja Q” (and they never bring this possibility up here), could’ve helped just by giving more choices. Any of these would’ve also helped validate Crusher’s stance and made Q seem less of a heartless creepster.
It could’ve been so awesome, guys!
Bechdel-Wallace Test: Pass. Doctor Crusher and Amanda talk about Amanda’s family, experiments, and testing tricorders. Troi asks Amanda how she’s feeling and Amanda replies.