John de Lancie Talks Q’s “Existential Dilemma” In ‘Star Trek: Picard’ Season 2

The return of Q has been a big part of the second season of Star Trek: Picard and there are many mysteries still to unfold. On Monday during a Paramount+ Twitter Spaces chat, actor John de Lancie offered up more details on what’s going on and what’s driving Q in season two. He also cleared up some questions about Q and Guinan’s backstory, and more.

Q’s existential dilemma… and about that slap

Last week John de Lancie was talking about how Q is trying to help Jean-Luc Picard in season two. During the Twitter Spaces event, the actor talked more about Q’s personal motivation:

It’s not only about Picard, it is deeply personal to Q… Whereas before Q seemed to be poking and prodding… this time the story is such that there’s an urgency to all of this. And the urgency is for something to be done NOW, not only for him but for me… This is a different facet from earlier portrayals and that is that Q is faced with kind of an existential dilemma… and his service to Picard is more than just getting Picard to have a more fulfilled life.

In the second episode of Picard season two, Q showed how things are different this time by striking Picard hard enough to cause a nosebleed. De Lancie talked about how that was actually his idea to emphasize the stakes:

That was something that I added… It should be shocking. I hope so. And then mostly is it should show that it’s not playtime. I don’t have the time for this to be and extended back and forth between Picard and I. I’ve come there to be helpful in the most profound sort of way for him. But also, there’s a motivation for me as well.

Sir Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard and John de Lancie as Q

How Picard relates to classic TNG episodes

The actor also talked about how Picard carries on from the last time Q and Picard interacted in the series finale of Star Trek: The Next Generation:

If you take the direct line from “All Good Things…” When he is talking to Picard at the end, I went back to look at that. I wanted to see what my subtext was at that point. And we’d moved into a more serious Q by that time. We moved into somebody who’s saying, ‘Come out and explore the infinite possibilities of existence, see you out there.’ Well, 20 years later, this is out there. I’ve now come back. And with that I am bringing a different reality to our relationship.

In the sixth season TNG episode “Tapestry,” Q changes a single choice in Picard’s youth to show him how it would change his life. When asked about the parallel with season two of Picard, de Lancie talked about what is the same, and what isn’t:

One of the things about “Tapestry,” in the best of what Star Trek is, Star Trek is kind of oftentimes a cautionary tale. The best Q episodes are the ones in which there was something of a large philosophical nature at stake. Those were the ones that I always felt were the ones that work the best, not whether Q loved Vash or Vash loved Q or some nonsense like that. So “Tapestry” is a very good example of it. “All Good Things…” is an example of it. [“Death Wish”] Voyager is another good example.

And in this Picard season 2, we are back in that kind of saddle again. But just so that you understand and that the audience understands. I’m a catalyst. Unlike when I would come on in Next Generation and be sort of wall-to-wall words. I am a catalyst in this. So I’m there to get the ball rolling. I’m there to make sure certain things happen. There’s a distinction there.

As with “All Good Things…” and “Tapestry,” Q is again playing with time in Picard, but de Lancie said there is more to it:

From Q’s point of view, time travel is a parlor trick. That’s not really what the issue is. It’s psychological. So what I am playing is psychological. The whole issue of time travel and this and that; that fits in only if it serves the psychological… It’s not just time travel. It’s why?

Q and Picard in TNG’s “Tapestry”

Explaining Guinan and Q’s history

Whoopi Goldberg’s Guinan is also in season 2 of Picard, and de Lancie was asked about the first encounter between their characters in the TNG episode “Q Who” where Guinan raised her hands in a specific way, as if she had some ability to defend herself from Q’s powers. When asked about this moment, the actor revealed that he and Goldberg came up with this on their own:

It was not implicit in the writing, when Whoopi and I had that first meeting. It was not implicit in the writing as to what our relationship was. There was certainly no talk about backstory and what have you. And this is one of those little actor tricks that can get done every once in a while. That particular scene, which I really remember well, we both read it a couple of times, we said the words out, and we both expressed a little bit of like, ‘Ugh, the scene seems a little flat. What can we do? How can we make the scene better?’ Which you see by our hands going up. Don’t get any closer! Like the sign of the cross with a vampire. Which was perhaps a cheap way of taking the audience’s eye off the fact that the scene was a little limp and gave it a little bit of a spin. Little did either of us realize that it was going to become a whole thing of ‘What is all of this stuff going on with Guinan?’ For which I go, ‘I don’t know.’ [laughs]

As for when the characters had met before, the actor joked “it was a bad date.”

Guinan guards herself from Q in “Q Who”

Up for more Q

During the chat, de Lancie confirmed he does not return to Picard in season three; however, he said he was open to returning to the franchise on any of the other shows:

Sure. Of course, It is like anything else. It comes down to what’s the story and is it something that I can do well and would I be contributing and is it a good story to do? But nobody’s talked to me about anything.

Q voiced by John de Lancie in Lower Decks’ “Veritas”

New episodes of Star Trek: Picard premiere on Thursdays on Paramount+ in the U.S. and on Fridays where Paramount+ is available around the world. In Canada, it airs on CTV Sci-Fi Channel on streams on Crave on Thursdays. Picard is also available on Fridays on Amazon Prime Video around the world.

Keep up with all the Star Trek: Picard news and analysis.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

I’m taking his comments at the end to mean that he doesn’t want to do pure cameos (like what he did in Lower Decks); he wants to have a meaningful impact/part in the story.

A respectable position.

When he says Q is the catalyst in all this, I am wondering how is that different from before? When Q showed up he was always the catalyst. He’s being awfully vague. I’m getting the sense there is more to this than what we have seen but he is not able to say anything about it. As a result, what he does say doesn’t say anything we didn’t already know about Q.

The thing about how there was no backstory between Q and Guinan is telling. It seems to help cement my thinking that there is no backstory between Guinan and Picard as well. They acted like there was something there but the reality is there isn’t and no one has ever bothered to flesh it out. But the thing is, the Picard-Guinan thing seems far more important than whatever Guinan had going with Q. Their relationship is really hard to buy without something more.

The Picard / Guinan thing could have been as simple as Picard / Boothby, and it seems surprising that nobody ever dared go there (fear of writing themselves into a corner or just not being able to pay it off enough, I wonder?)

I really think the Picard / Guinan thing could have gone in all sorts of directions even w/o explaining the backstory, and that they didn’t write for it enough, especially given her limited availability. In one of my specs, I have a Picard / Guinan scene that is probably one of the best things I wrote in my entire life, because every damn word reads like it is coming out of the actors’ mouths, and yet they are covering some new ground … ground that they should have already covered, to show that when he comes to her a lot of the time, it is out of comfort/convenience, when it honestly should be Troi who would be best suited to help him. He goes to Guinan because she isn’t going to brutalize him with a truth, because “a bartender’s prime directive is to tell ’em what they want to hear.”

The funny thing is, I have never liked PIcard (except maybe at the end of Q WHO and in parts of TAPESTRY), but always felt good about being able to write the character. The few times I tried writing Kirk and Spock in my own little stories were mostly disasters, it was like I was intimidating myself with the very idea.

The Picard-Boothby thing is understandable. It makes some sense. But the Guinan thing never did. It felt awkward that they treated it like it was some sort of deeper than family connection. And it seemed odd that it was only ever brought up for story convenience. And worse, there were lines said where they spoke of their bond but nothing the actors did or said made me believe there was something between then. There just was no chemistry there. Stewart was a darn good actor and if he couldn’t convey the feeling to the audience then there just was nothing whatsoever for him to work with. As a viewer I never bought it.

I do some writing myself, Trek characters are off limits.
that having been said I always imagined that Q and Guinean were MARRIED!
Needless to say, it did not Work Out!

That weirdly makes a little sense!

There was a 2 part episode showing Picard going back in time when the soul vampire people with the snake staff came & were kidnapping people in the past. Guinan & Picard met then & bonded briefly. It was the basis for most of their interactions in the future even though Picard does not know about it until after returning to the present from these episodes.

“Time’s Arrow”Do you remember the first time we met?
Of course.
Don’t be so sure. I just mean … if you don’t go on this mission, we’ll never meet.”
– Guinan and Picard

“Time’s Arrow, Part II”Do you know me?
“Very well.
Do I know you?
Not yet, but you will.
– Guinan and Picard, meeting for the “first” time in 1893

You know an awful lot about me.
Believe me, in the future, the tables will be turned.
– Guinan and Picard, alone together in the cavern in 1893

What’s that?
That’s history fulfilling itself.
– Guinan and Picard, seeing Data’s severed head in the cavern

I’ll see you in five hundred years, Picard.
And I’ll see you… in a few minutes.
– Guinan, before Picard returns to the 24th century

I know. This does not sound like any kind of deep or even semi-meaningful relationship whatsoever. That two part episode did not dive into their relationship in any way.

I’m really tired of people thinking this explains even a little about them. It does nothing of the sort.

Re “catalyst”, my take is that usually Q is in total control of the situation. He makes fake Sherwood Forest, he creates and controls the post-atomic trial, etc. But in this case something else is already going on, and he’s poking Picard to act on it.

Brent Spiner is right, why are actors talking about everything their character is thinking or where they might be going….leave it to the imagination!

I must say I am absolutely loving Picard S2 so far. The scenes between Stewart and de Lancie in E2 were sublime with terrific chemistry between the pair. Can’t wait for E3 and the rest of the season.

The moment with Guinan from “Q Who” has always intrigued me, since it always makes me wonder whether Guinan has some ability to defend herself from Q, and whether her “dealings” with Q was a relationship or more a traveling companion like Vash.

The real answer is that the writers hadn’t worked out the backstory for Guinan yet, and were keeping the character a mystery. In a lot of ways, never answering what it all meant was probably better than an explanation (e.g., never liked that Enterprise decided to answer the mystery of the Klingon forehead ridges, thought Deep Space Nine having Worf just say “we do not talk about it with outsiders” was perfect).

Agreed, and I hope they don’t explain it in the future. This way you can use your imagination to fill in the blanks and come up with something and usually what you come up with never gels with what others come up with so its better to just let it stay in the imagination.

Having Q back has really tugged on the nostalgia strings for me (but let’s be honest, everything in these new shows has been nothing but nostalgia bait ;)). But if it WORKS, no one is complaining and so far it’s working very well for me. Stewart and De Lancie still has amazing chemistry together.

And I agree with De Lancie, one of the great things about Q is how his stories are more philosophical in nature. That’s why Tapestry, All Good Things and Death Wish are so good. Q originally started out as an antagonist who didn’t trust humans and probably wanted them gone from existence. But then he started to see that they are not ‘bad’ but still needs to grow and while we have progressed, there is still a lot more to do.

And I hope he does come back. I would love to see him in the 32nd century on Discovery. Or he can even jump universes and meet the Kelvin characters in a movie. People are suggesting they want a multiverse story line between the Kelvin and Prime universe, Q would be the perfect foil for that obviously.

I guess they totally rewrote Picard season 3, huh? Because, originally, Mr. De Lancie was telling everyone on the internet that he was in season 2 and 3 and, in a Cameo video, he said that he was playing Q in 6 episodes of Picard across season 2 and 3. Now, he says in this interview on Twitter Spaces that he’s only in season 2. So either he’s lying or they rewrote the third season of Picard.

I think he’s playing games like Q would 😄. Also, that was pretty funny about what he said about what happened between Q and Guinan, that it was a bad date 😆! John De Lancie needs to write that story with Whoopi Goldberg and do an audio dramatization together of it so we can get that story because it sounds hilarious and absolutely crazy 🤣!!!! Live long and prosper, Trekmovie 🖖.

I’ve never been able to get enough of Q. His story can be so much bigger, than the snippet been told of him. I see Q as an incomplete work in progress. I hope De Lance does much more of Q. There’s still room to catch up with Janeway and Sisko, of course! 😉