E-mail: alara @ mindspring . com
Spoilers: Contains spoilers for pretty much the entire run of TNG, plus all the Q episodes of DS9 and VOY.
Notes: As usual, my thoughts are informed by Atara Stein's work, and also the work of Annie Hamilton in her unfortunately-not-online series "More Maligned Than Malignant".
I apologize that this is two days late. I have been hammered with a very busy season at work and the kind of bad head cold that makes you want to sleep all day, except you can't sleep because your nose is stuffy.
Through and Through Q
In 1987, I was a big Classic Trek fan, and somewhat resentful of this new upstart show Next Generation. However, being a good Trekkie, I agreed to watch the first episode. Immediately I decided that I hated the character of Q. He was a ripoff of two or three different Classic Trek concepts -- I counted Trelane, the Metrons, and maybe the Melkotians as well-- and the concepts hadn't been that great the first time. Godlike being puts humanity on trial for being too warlike. Oh, spare me. Q was pompous, arrogant, hypocritical, and apparently none too bright, and I was deeply annoyed with the show for trying to tell me that highly advanced beings would behave like that. I was also mad that they were ripping themselves off. "If they can't do an original episode and not a Classic Trek ripoff next week, I'm gonna walk," I said. The next episode was "The Naked Now," more or less a direct retelling of the Classic Trek episode "Naked Time". I walked.
In 1992, I had seen a sum total of about five TNG episodes, and since they included the one where Sarek mindmelds with Picard (which is decent, but it's all about Sarek, and you don't have to know or care who the other characters are), the one where Wesley saves the ship from video games, and something about Riker and some assassin chick, I had seen no reason to re-evaluate my opinion of the show. But then TV Guide started hyping up DS9, and that interested me. Female first officer, woman who used to be a man, shapechanger... it was my kind of show and I was on board from the pilot onward.
So when DS9 showed previews about Q coming to the station, I groaned. But I wasn't going to let a character I hated stop me from watching this new show I liked. So I watched the Q episode, and discovered something shocking.
I liked Q.
He was still arrogant, but now it was clear that he was supposed to be an asshole, that he wasn't emotionally a superior being at all, and that that was the point. Q is the guy, in D&D terms, with the Intelligence of 18+ and the Wisdom of 3. He's an arrogant, overbearing, obnoxious jerk who, unfortunately, really does know everything. The character was far, far funnier than I remembered. I can still quote extensive parts of that episode, like the auction where someone bids two thousand bars of gold-pressed latinum for an artifact from the Gamma Quadrant, and Q raises his hand and declares, "Two thousand and one." Or the argument with Vash where she claimed that some species called him "the God of Lies" and he replies "They meant it affectionately." I immediately decided that, in fact, I really wanted to know more about this character, and started pulling strings to get hold of old TNG episodes with Q. (Meanwhile, since TNG was showing before DS9 and my boyfriend watched it, I started getting into that as well. After all, if Q had stopped sucking since I left the show, maybe the show didn't suck anymore either.)
Rather than being the mere plot device (and a ridiculous one at that) he was in the first episode of TNG, I found that Q was actually a character who changes and grows over time throughout his appearances on the series. Unlike every other godlike alien Classic Trek, or even TNG and DS9, presented us with, Q is just this guy. He's not merely a foil for the good guys to prove how moral, how smart, or how agnostic they are; he's a character, a person in his own right. And while his species is obviously very different from ours, it's clear that emotionally, they're pretty damn similar. Which isn't all that likely, but what the hell, it's TV, I can suspend my disbelief.
Who Is Q?
Q is a member of the Q Continuum, which is a race of nigh-omnipotent beings that appear to reside in another dimension. The term "Continuum" is used to refer to the species, the political structure, and the location. "Q" is the name of the species and is also the term of address for all members of the species (sometimes "the Q" is used to refer to the species as a whole, and "Q" for individuals, but this isn't consistent.) They can take any form they want in our dimension; we are not capable of comprehending their dimension without them performing some sort of translation to let us see an analogy of it. We have seen only a small number of other Q.
With two exceptions, Q has always taken the same form (the actor John de Lancie); the two exceptions were "an Aldebaran serpent" (a giant floating two-headed snake), and a random alien functionary as part of a test on his son. As played by de Lancie, Q is very physical, constantly moving, frequently striking elaborate poses, ignoring people's personal space. His voice, face and body language are remarkably expressive, and can occasionally pull the stunt of conveying three contradictory emotions at once, leaving the viewer to do the mental work of figuring out which one is real. Most of the time, Q appears to be acting (this isn't a flaw in de Lancie's performance; there are times that the façade falls down and Q stops posing, so it's plainly deliberate); his entire human appearance is an elaborate pose, which he accentuates with frequent costume changes, though usually he wears a Starfleet captain's uniform. Q has the ability (never used) to appear to be female, but fans are divided as to whether this means Q literally has no gender, or in some essential sense is in fact male. He certainly tends to a male archetype-- he's a trickster figure, which is almost always male, and his harsh lessons, obnoxious practical jokes, overweening pride and refusal to admit to weakness are rather easier to stereotype as male than female. On the other hand, other Q who appear as female behave the same way.
Q is an extremely complex and mysterious character. Little was ever established about him or his species canonically (and some of what was established contradicts itself), and because we so rarely get to see past his poses, it's easy for fans to project many possible motives onto his actions. Most of the time, he is an immature jerk who seems to delight in annoying people, has little actual comprehension of mortal emotions or social mores, and is constantly (and wittily) insulting everyone he encounters. But we see flashes, at times, of far greater complexity-- of the wisdom one would have *expected* of a "superior" being, of genuine feeling for his favored humans, of a political role within his Continuum that is not as simple as "hedonistic rebel", of the capacity for self-sacrifice... and also, of ruthlessness and a capacity for sheer malice.
Q's History and Character Arc
Q appears in a total of 12 episodes and 14 hours of television, spread out over TNG, DS9 and Voyager. The first episode was in 1987, and the last one was in 2001, the last year of Voyager.
In his first appearance ("Encounter at Farpoint"), as I said earlier, Q is a pompous git. He declares he represents the Q (he implies they may be a uni-mind by saying that you can call his people the Q or you could call him that, it doesn't make much difference), and that humanity has spread too far throughout the universe, and puts Picard, Troi, Data and Yar on trial for the crimes of humanity (Troi is only half-human and Data is an android) in a courtroom mocked up after a particularly nasty (but fictional) period in human history, the Post-Atomic Horror of the 21st century. Then he lets Picard take a "test" to prove humanity's worth... which turns out to be figuring out that an alien space station is, in fact, an injured energy jellyfish. Then Q snarks a bit and disappears. Overall, unimpressive.
In his second appearance ("Hide and Q"), Q is a more vivid, vivacious character... though still a complete asshole. He has come to offer Riker the powers of the Q, claiming that the Q Continuum (given as the name of his species, the political organization of his species, and the place where his species lives) has decided to study humanity by making a human a Q. In order to force Riker into using his powers, however, he's perfectly willing to stage a completely unfair and deadly game, threaten to make Tasha Yar cease to exist for, basically, annoying him, and get Wesley stabbed with a bayonet (okay, there were fans who probably were totally behind him on this one... J) He and Picard argue over the potential of humanity, and it's clear that Q believes that humanity is deeply inferior and doesn't quite believe his own rhetoric about how humanity could achieve the status of the Q someday. They make a bet -- Picard insists that Riker will turn down the powers of the Q, and Q thinks he'll accept. Of course Q loses, when Riker comes to the decision that having godlike power makes him arrogant (no, really?) and condescending to everyone and thus he doesn't really want it. The Continuum snatches Q back, rather dramatically, in a scene that foreshadows Q's rather troubled relationship with his Continuum throughout the series.
So that's that. Superior godlike alien gets trounced by strong-hearted noble starship captain, yet again. Why, it's practically the theme of Classic Trek.
It also doesn't last. In the next episode ("Q Who?"), Q turns up and wants to join the crew (and kidnaps Picard to extort him into listening to his proposal...) He claims to have been more or less told not to come home to the Continuum, and to be bored and looking for something to do. "And then I remembered all the good times I had with you!" If Picard thinks this is another elaborate test, he can hardly be faulted; Q's story is totally implausible if one assumes Q is, in fact, a superior godlike entity, rather than recognizing that Q is an immature jerk with superpowers. So, of course, Picard turns Q down, saying, "We can't trust you." Q decides to demonstrate exactly why they can't trust him by throwing them across the galaxy in a fit of anger, where they encounter the most implacable Star Trek enemy ever, the Borg. Q lets Picard lose 18 crew people to the Borg and sits around making snide comments while the Enterprise tries, and fails, to escape the Borg. Finally Picard begs for Q's help. "You wanted me to say I need you? I need you!" Q immediately relents and sends the crew back home, and leaves Picard with the comment, "If you can't take a little bloody nose, go home and crawl under your bed. The universe is full of things both wondrous and sublime, but it's not for the timid."
There is a good bit of fannish debate about exactly what Q was up to here. Some of the most diehard Q redemptionistas declare that his action was a wholly justified and necessary wake-up call to humanity to stop being so naïve. I tend to believe that Q probably justified his action to himself with that argument, but that, in fact, he introduced humanity to the Borg because he was upset over being emotionally rejected by Picard, after apparently having been exiled from the Continuum.
In the next episode ("Deja Q"), Q is actually thrown out of the Continuum, stripped of his powers (and clothes) and banished to mortality. He appears on the bridge of the Enterprise, human, powerless (and stark naked), and declares that he has been banished from the Continuum and that he's come to the Enterprise for compassion and sanctuary, "because in all the universe, you're the closest thing I have to a friend, Jean-Luc." He has no idea how to be human, and spends the rest of the episode alternating between groveling and snapping sarcastically at people, terrified and defensive, until Data is almost killed protecting him from an old enemy who wants payback for things he did while omnipotent. Q comes to the conclusion that he makes a terrible human, and decides to sacrifice himself to his enemy the Calamarain in order to prevent the Enterprise being destroyed by it. For this selfless act, his people give him his powers back. He turns up on the bridge again with a mariachi band, gives Worf and Riker cigars and "fantasy women", and then saves the planet the Enterprise was trying to rescue.
This is a turning point in Q's character. We can never take him entirely seriously as a true menace again after this; we know he's more emotionally involved than he wants to admit. In retrospect, this episode makes it clear that the "joining the crew" stunt in "Q Who?" was probably sincere, and that for some reason Q wants to make an emotional connection with Picard. Given that he starts seeking that connection after Picard has beaten him, twice, this says some really interesting things about Q's personality. For one thing, it seems that unlike the hypocrite he originally seemed, Q actually has a sense of fair play, and that he relishes losing his games a lot more than he admits to. It also seems to imply that Q thrives on and enjoys conflict, and that what he says about his emotions tells us less than his actions. We've learned that he's a very unreliable narrator when it comes to describing his own motives, that he suffers greatly from boredom, and that rather than being united with his kind as he implied in the first episode, he's actually at odds with them reasonably often.
The next episode, "Q-Pid", has Picard coming into conflict with an old lover, Vash, who's not entirely on the right side of the law. Q shows up, declaring that he wants to give Picard a gift to pay him back for saving his life in "Deja Q." (Interestingly, although Picard was assimilated by the Borg and forced to kill thousands of Starfleet officers and civilians between Deja Q and this episode, and it's obvious to most fans that the Borg took Picard in particular because Q had introduced them to him, neither Picard nor Q ever bring this up.) Picard refuses offers of Q's help. Later Q observes a fight between Picard and Vash, and turns up (in Picard's bed, in fact) to tell Picard that this thing with Vash makes him look small and inferior, that love is a weakness ("she's found a vulnerability in you, one I've been searching for for yours. If I'd known sooner, I would have appeared as a female.") When Picard refuses to let Q help him by turning Vash into a Klabian eel, Q takes off, and reappears the next day, kidnapping Picard, Vash and the bridge crew into a Robin Hood scenario. He finds Vash, a female rogue and trickster archetype, unexpectedly amusing when she won't do what he predicts, and after Picard manages to fight his way out of Q's scenario (which was ostensibly set up to teach him that love is a weakness by, theoretically, getting him killed rescuing Vash, though the whole episode is so silly one never really believes Q is putting Picard in genuine danger), Q takes Vash off on a tour of the galaxy.
He next appears in the episode "True Q", which de Lancie refers to derisively as "Q babysits." A young woman who comes aboard Enterprise as an intern turns out to be a Q, and Q shows up to convince her to come home to the Continuum. In this episode, we actually see Picard and Crusher more or less working together with Q (not well, mind you). We also see something of the nature of Continuum politics. We already knew the Q would banish one of their own for things *we* considered crimes ("spreading chaos throughout the universe" - Deja Q). But here, we learn that two Q left the Continuum, took human form on Earth, and conceived a daughter in human fashion, and when they refused to return to the Continuum and did not stop using their powers, the Continuum executed them. And Q himself has been ordered to kill their daughter if she does not turn out to be a proper Q. In this episode, Q manages to project some of the coldest, most ruthless demeanor we've ever seen from him... and yet he also shows genuine affection toward the Q child.
Next came the DS9 episode "Q-Less", in which Q continues to stalk Vash, who has dumped him. It was a funny episode, and had a few moments of insight-- Q says at the end that the reason he wants Vash as his companion is that he is completely jaded by his own omniscience, but that when he sees the universe through the eyes of a mortal, he can understand wonder, if only for a moment. It also has Q committing a benevolent act in such a way as to totally negate the benevolence of it-- he attempts to warn the crew of DS9 that Vash's artifact will destroy the station, tries to convince Vash to leave the station with him (which would also remove the artifact), and finally tries to buy the thing at Vash's auction shortly before the DS9 crew finally solve the riddle and transport the thing off the station. But his warnings are interspersed with so many gratuitous insults, posing, and general nonsense that no one takes him seriously, and his "buying" the artifact at auction is obviously an elaborate joke for a being who could simply teleport the thing any time he wanted to. (He ends up offering a million bars of gold pressed latinum, which I suspect would seriously have destabilized Ferengi currency if he'd paid it out.) Overall, however, it's not that important an episode to Q's plot arc.
Next is "Tapestry", in which Q teaches Picard a lesson in regrets. Picard dies on the operating table when a plasma bolt fuses his artificial heart, a heart he got after being stabbed in a bar fight as a young man by big, ugly aliens called Nausicaans. He wakes up to see Q garbed in white robes, claiming to be "God" (Picard doesn't believe this for an instant, and Q isn't taking it very seriously either). Q offers him a chance to save his own life by going back in time and not getting into the bar fight. However, in the process Picard completely ruins his life. Q's point seems to be that Picard's youth, in which he was capricious, reckless, and "more like [Q]", was an essential part of who he is, and rejecting his younger self (and, by extension, rejecting Q, whom Picard explicitly compares to his younger self) is a rejection of who he is. After letting Picard totally ruin his life and end up a colorless, boring minor functionary, Q relents and gives Picard a chance to undo his mistake, getting back into the bar fight and getting stabbed. Then he wakes up. It's not clear whether Picard would have survived in any case or whether Q saved him, but it demonstrates that, for all his obnoxiousness and cluelessness about human nature, Q really *is* much older and in some regards wiser than Picard.
The last episode of TNG is "All Good Things", in which Q launches a test on Picard in which he bounces back and forth between three different time periods -- the past (immediately pre-Farpoint), the present and 25 years into the future. He declares that if Picard fails the test humanity will be "denied existence". It turns out that there's a temporal anomaly that will destroy the entire galaxy, which Picard inadvertently creates with Q's help, and Picard has to figure out how to stop it. At the end, Picard thanks Q, who asks him why. Picard replies that Q helped him, and Q admits that he caused the problem in the first place-- that he was ordered to by the Continuum. "But the helping hand was my idea." Q tells Picard that the real exploration ahead of him is not new worlds and new species but the vast potential of his own mind, and that it was Picard's ability to expand his mind and think outside linear time that proved his species worthy. Picard asks Q why he helped, and Q looks as if he's going to whisper an answer in Picard's ear, then changes his mind and says "You'll find out." He also says that he will drop in from time to time. (Unfortunately, he never does, since he hasn't appeared in any of the TNG movies. In terms of Q's character arc, Q is about to have other fish to fry.)
Then Q starts appearing as a recurring character on Voyager. In the first Voyager episode, "Death Wish", the Voyager crew accidentally let another Q out of a comet, where he had been imprisoned by the Continuum for trying to kill himself. Q turns up to recapture him, the two fight to a stalemate, and Janeway, the captain of Voyager, suggests that they let her arbitrate an agreement to see whether the suicidal Q should go back to the Continuum or be turned mortal. Q actually *agrees* to this. My first reaction to this was "huh?" The notion of a species as powerful and arrogant as the Q letting mere humans decide on such a weighty matter seemed absurd. Then I thought about the test Q had just performed on Picard, and the fact that, from this point on, Q never again tests humanity. Perhaps the point to the test in "All Good Things" was to grant humanity some status to the Q that allows them to consider the word of a human legally binding.
During the trial, the other Q (he is named Quinn at the end of the episode, so I'll call him that here) attempts to prove that life in the Continuum is incredibly boring and that he should be permitted to terminate an existence he can no longer bear. Q attempts to prove that Quinn doesn't deserve to die, that the Continuum would be damaged if he killed himself, and when all else fails, tries to bribe Janeway. We see the Continuum for the first time-- the imagery Q and Quinn agree to display shows a deserted roadside outpost beside an eternal dusty road, where unresponsive people dully engage in tedious activities. Quinn argues that the Continuum was once alive and vital, but that now no one talks to anyone else because it's all been said. He believes that the Q will never return to a state of enjoying life unless they accept death. He also argues that Q's own example as a rebel in the Continuum inspired him, and that he's saddened to see that Q has stopped rebelling.
Janeway rules that Quinn has the right to kill himself if he wants, and he is made mortal. Janeway tries to persuade him to live aboard Voyager and see what being human has to offer, but he ends up killing himself with a poison that wasn't available from the ship replicator. Q admits that he gave Quinn the poison, that he now considers Quinn a personal role model, and that he intends to go back to the Continuum and try to shake things up.
This episode is extremely important to understanding Q. It clarifies Q's position throughout the series as a rebel against Continuum authority, who was brought under control by the sentence in "Deja Q". We are reminded that the Q may be omnipotent in theory, but that the Continuum appears to strictly regulate their actions by a moral code we find incomprehensible and disturbing. Q is repositioned as a freedom fighter, someone whose rebellion we can cheer for, rather than a wayward son who must be brought to heel by authority. It also makes clear, if we were too dense to notice him doing it with Picard, that yes, Q uses human sexuality as a game to irritate humans (he attempts to "seduce" Janeway in such a laughable manner, it's pretty clear he's not serious about it). It also establishes a unique relationship between him and Janeway; from then on, every time he appears to Janeway, he's asking for help.
The second Voyager episode, "The Q and the Grey", is also a vitally important character arc episode. Unfortunately, it's also horribly written. In this, Q turns up and tries to get Janeway to have his baby. His "mate" also shows up, a female Q who introduces herself as Q's companion (played by Suzy Plakson, which is why fans often call her Suzy-Q). They establish that the Q have not had sexual reproduction in so long, they don't know how to do it, which is why Q is trying to have a child with a human. The precedent of Amanda Rogers from "True Q" is simply never mentioned. After Q and his mate chew scenery and play at heterosexual marriage clichés, we find out Q's real motive-- there is a civil war in the Continuum, caused by Quinn's suicide, and Q thinks that having a child with a human will stop the war. The war is causing enormous damage in the real universe, making stars explode. Janeway's culpability in starting the war by interfering in the Continuum's affairs is not really played up, and the war, like the rest of the episode, is mostly presented for laughs. Q and Janeway are captured in the Continuum and are going to be executed by the enemy side, but Q's mate brings Voyager into the Continuum, arms them with weapons, and has them take the enemy commander hostage. How mortals are taking a guy who can *think* them dead hostage is again never explained. Janeway persuades Q and his mate to try to reproduce with each other instead. They do this, and Q declares Janeway the baby's godmother. Exactly why having this child stopped the war is, once again, never explained. The episode is a horrible mishmash of about three different episodes, all of which could have been good had they been kept separate, but together, they don't work at all unless you do a *lot* of mental gymnastics.
In the final Q episode, "Q2", we meet Q's son, now a teenager, who has even bigger impulse control problems than his father ever had. At his wits' end, Q comes to Janeway for childrearing advice, and seems to take away the lesson "treat your son like the Continuum treated you." He takes his son's powers away, dumps him on Voyager, stages a test in which Q Jr has to surrender himself to threatening aliens in order to save the life of his friend Icheb, who his stupidity almost got killed, and in general demonstrates that he's turned into his own parental figure, the Continuum. He also appears to have a much higher status in the Continuum than he had previously; when the Continuum rules to prevent Q Jr from getting his powers back, Q gets irate and declares that if they don't accept his son back, he'll leave... and he seems to believe this is an actual threat. What's more, it works. Interestingly, Q Jr's mother apparently abandoned them both-- they say she disowned Q Jr for being too much like his father-- which means that Q has actually put up with the hard work and responsibility of raising a child, alone, until the kid reached adolescence. Somehow Q, spirit of chaos, has become a respectable citizen and (relatively) responsible father.
So from single-dimensional god/demon figure, to wayward son, to good little oppressed citizen, to rebel, to leader and responsible adult... Q changes dramatically over the course of the episodes he's in, but the surprising thing is that, despite the fact that these episodes were written by people who seemed to be largely interested in ignoring their previous continuity as much as possible, there is actually a coherent arc. Q has three major human relationships, and treats them all differently; to Picard, he's an aloof, mysterious, and annoying trickster who brings chaos in his wake, and sometimes, knowledge; to Vash, he's an annoying ex-boyfriend with a really nice car; to Janeway, he's the guy who keeps turning up to ask for help, ignoring any problems she might be going through at the time (and who's also annoying.) The series has no definitive opinion as to whether Q and the Continuum are good or evil, unlike the clear opinions in Classic Trek (Gary Mitchell, Apollo and Trelane: evil, though one can understand their acts; Organians and Thasians, good, though too removed from human understanding to function well in our world). Q, like any other character in the series, is a mixture of positive and negative, and his species, for all their power, are presented as not fundamentally that much unlike other Star Trek aliens.
Why Do I Like Q?
Well, this is supposed to be an essay about why you like a character, not a summation of his history. I can't speak to other people's interpretations, but I can explain why I like Q.
First and foremost, of course, he's witty. He's also highly intelligent when he's not declaring that humanity is grievously savage. (Oh, and he uses words like "grievously savage.") Unlike the typical nerdy or emotionally repressed intellectual of TV and other media, however, Q is more emotion than reason, even if sometimes it's hard to figure out what that emotion actually is. It makes him unusual. His total lack of interest in human social niceties appeals particularly to me, a person who declared at the age of 10 that saying "thank you" was merely an outdated custom with no inherent meaning and that it was pointless to say it. Q is also very good, when he's not being pompous himself, at pricking other people's bubbles; after Picard delivers a passionate speech about human freedom and morality, Q says, "Sometimes I think I come here just to listen to those wonderful speeches of yours, Jean-Luc."
I like Q because he represents the trickster figure-- Loki, Hermes, Coyote, Anansi. I like him because he has no inherent gender and no inherent physical form -- I can turn Q into anything in my head and he's still Q. I like him because his species is intriguingly alien, more so than most other Trek species (with the exception of the Founders and the Borg, and I found them fascinating as well). I like him because he's an agent of chaos, and chaos is good when stultifying order is the danger of the day. I like him because I see him as struggling to preserve what his species should be against what their terribly long lifespan has made them congeal into, and because he is not a noble hero bravely fighting a totalitarian regime but a bored, immature kid who starts out as a rebel without a cause, gets stomped on and scared, and ends up leading a revolution. And that he quite possibly did it for love, although it can be argued whether he changed for love of a species or love of a specific person in that species. I like him because he's an asshole, but the first time in his life he's called on to make a real sacrifice, he does it. I like him because he and his kind represents a fantasy to me, not of having super powers, but of knowing that everyone around you is equally strong, equally able to defend themselves, that no one will drag you down by needing you too much, that you can insult people and keep your defenses up and be prickly and deep down you are still wholly known and understood by your fellows. I like him because he thinks that losing a game is "good times". I like him because he seems to think it's his job to be a devil's advocate, to sponsor the opposite of what he believes in order to force what he does believe in to prove itself. I like him because he can try to seduce a woman in one episode, and in the next one turn up in her bathtub and not notice where he is. I like him because he isn't good at hiding it when he's afraid, but he tries anyway. I like him because, in being something of an arrogant, thoughtless ass who eventually ends up doing the right thing most of the time, he's a lot more like a real human being than the emotionally superheroic Starfleet officers that populate Star Trek. While Picard and Kirk show no long range effects of being tortured (Picard has long range effects from the Borg but is never shown again as affected by his torture by the Cardassians; Kirk is tortured all the time and never suffers any effects), Q is punished harshly in one episode and takes six years to recover his courage, but he does in fact do so. I like him because he was responsible enough to raise a kid alone and because he was incompetent enough at it that his son ran around the galaxy starting wars. I like him because he thinks he knows everything, and sometimes, he actually does.
Here are some fanfic, profic, and academic recommendations re Q.
There are several pro novels (as well as a bunch of comics) featuring Q. Don't read anything by Michael Jan Friedman, ever; he doesn't understand Q in the slightest. (Which rules out most of the comics. In fact, don't read any of the comics except maybe the one de Lancie himself co-wrote.) Peter David's Q novels -- "Q-In-Law", "Q-Squared" and (with John de Lancie) "I, Q" are all pretty good and should be in your local library. The "Q Continuum" trilogy by Greg Cox has some glaring plot holes in it but also some intriguing speculation on Q's history.
Believe it or not, Q has actually turned up in more than one academic book or article. However, the only ones I have links to are the ones by astarte59, Atara Stein.
Q Rules! : Q, authoritarianism, and subversion of Star Trek's humanism.
Minding One's P's and Q's: Q, Picard, and homoeroticism.
The Byronic Hero in Film, Fiction and Television: Professionally published analysis of Byronic heroes, including an entire chapter devoted to Q.
I am too heavily involved in this fandom as an author to provide recommendations -- most of the authors are personal friends of mine, and while I don't write a lot of P/Q and therefore felt free to rec it for ship_manifesto, I have written a good deal of non-P/Q Q fanfic and been pretty influential in the genre. So instead I'll just provide links to archives.
Alara's Q Archive: A fanfic archive I have put together of Q fanfic I've generally enjoyed.
The Alt.Fan.Q Archive: This is a static mirror of the now-defunct alt.fan.q archive, which attempted to collect all the Q fanfic on the Internet but stopped around 1999 or so. It was founded by blog_mercutio (Mercutio) and later updated by wemblee (JJ Arrow).
Qniverse: A fanfic and discussion mailing list founded to replace alt.fan.q, which, as a low-traffic Usenet group, was eaten by spam.
Vash's Q Fanfic Archive: This archive focuses particularly on the PG-13 and under stuff, so if you prefer to avoid adult material this should be your first stop.
PiQuante: This is a mailing list specifically focusing on Picard/Q fanfic, and as such is for adults only.