Star Trek fans were given some amazing news yesterday when Paramount+ announced that not only has the new season of Star Trek: Picard started production, but John de Lancie will be returning as the omnipotent Q. “Despite 178 episodes of The Next Generation and four feature films,” Patrick Stewart said during a virtual discussion with Wil “Wesley Crusher” Wheaton at the announcement event, “there are events coming up in Season Two that have never been seen before.”
John de Lancie then beamed in to the chat to break the news of Q’s return. “When I met with Terry [Matalas], who is one of the executive producers, he went, ‘Well, of course you knew you were going to get a phone call,'” he said. “I said, ‘Well, not particularly. It’s been many years, so no.'”
He is not wrong there. Q hasn’t interacted with Picard since the final episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation in 1994. And he hasn’t been seen anywhere in the Trek universe since the 2001 Star Trek: Voyager episode “Q2,” though de Lancie has been a regular at conventions and did voice Q in a recent episode of the animated show Star Trek: Lower Decks.
John de Lancie’s Q character debuted in the 1987 Next Generation pilot “Encounter at Farpoint.” As you can see from this clip, he appears on the bridge of the Enterprise to call out all of humanity for their war-like and destructive nature. He ultimately puts mankind on trial and forces Picard to serve as the defense counsel.
Picard saves the day in the end, of course, and Q re-appeared seven more times throughout the course of the series. Sometimes it was in silly episodes like “Qpid,” where he sends the Enterprise to Sherwood Forest to play out a Robin Hood adventure. But he also introduces them to the Borg in the incredible Season Two episode “Q Who.” Along the way, he forms a weird bond with Picard and even starts seeing him as a friend.
The 1994 finale “All Good Things” goes right back to the pilot with Q revealing that the trial never ended. In some ways, the entire TNG series was Q’s trial as he watched the crew learn and grow from their many interactions with alien races, both hostile and friendly. And after sending Picard on a journey across three timelines in the last episode, he once again allowed mankind to continue. “I’ll be watching,” he tells him at the end. “And if you’re very lucky, I’ll drop by to say hello from time to time. See you out there.”
It sounds like this next season of Star Trek: Picard will fulfill that prophecy from 27 years ago. But as of now, we know almost nothing about the plot. “Q’s arrival is, as it often was, utterly unexpected,” Stewart said. “But it also comes at a shattering moment in the episode. And I do mean a shattering moment, which, whether it’s directly connected to Q or not, I’m still not quite sure. But there is significant trauma. At the moment, I’m working out how the trauma from this moment hangs around Picard for quite a substantial part of the episode. And then, there he is.”
The teaser trailer for the new season is even vaguer, but it does end with these cryptic words from Q himself: “The trial never ends.”