34 – Death Wish

Grade: B+

Death Wish (1996) on IMDb


Voyager finds an object that seems to be a strange comet. They try to beam aboard a fragment of the comet, but what appears is a Q dressed in a Starfleet uniform. This particular Q, however, is at odds with the rest of the Continuum, since he really wants to die. The Q do not want to let him die, so he asks Captain Janeway for asylum. Before she will grant it, she holds a hearing to see if there are significant reasons to allow him to kill himself.


For some reason, I’m a little hesitant to rank this episode very high. I’m not sure if it’s because I didn’t really buy the story, or if I really hated the ending that much. “Hate” is probably too strong a word for how I felt about the ending, but I disliked it enough that I couldn’t rate this episode higher than B+.

Death Wish is actually one of the most memorable episodes of the series, and one of the very few that I could recall before having re-watched it last night. It involves two characters from the Q Continuum, because after all, if one Q is good, two must be better.

Actually, I’ve always considered John DeLancie’s Q to be one of the most interesting characters in the entire franchise – or rather, he used to be. Here’s a guy who obviously has enough power to do whatever he wants, and he chooses to harass and annoy the Federation for some unknown reason. He has usually been undisciplined, like a teenager. But in Death Wish, he says he has been “born again” and has changed his ways. Now he’s the defender of the Continuum – essentially the same role that Corbin Bernsen’s Q had to fill in a Next Generation episode when DeLancie lost his powers temporarily. So we’ve come full circle with the Q.

This isn’t the only time we see the Continuum, but it is presented in a rather dull and dreary way. I’m not sure why DeLancie-Q doesn’t actually present it more favorably, as an effort to win the case. The hearing is the one thing that makes this episode great. The arguments on both sides are excellent and thought-provoking. The middle part with the three “guests” is totally unnecessary, however. There’s no reason to have Riker, Newton or Ginsburg to show up. The episode could have been just as good if they had just referred to the events rather than brought the “witnesses” to testify. But that’s a minor complaint, really.

The biggest complaint that I have is how it ends. Janeway rules in Quinn’s favor, so he becomes mortal. Then she encourages him to learn to live like everyone else, and that maybe he’ll learn to like it. The speech is cheesy, just as we’d expect from Janeway. But as soon as we hear that he has chosen a name and that he’ll be given quarters and responsibilities, in the next scene we hear that he’s already dying. All I can say is that this was extremely lame. Voyager proves yet again that this is not going to be a show that takes risks. They could have killed him off at any time – why did it have to be so quickly?

Why couldn’t they have kept him on the show for a few more episodes? He could have learned over several episodes what it is like to be mortal. We spent the entire episode learning about how bored he is with immortality, and he longs for new experiences. Well, here’s a perfect chance for him to learn about what it means to be mortal. Perhaps he’d learn about fear for the first time in his life. Maybe he’d have to learn to take fewer risks. The possibilities are endless, really.

If this character actually were a real being, wouldn’t he be thrilled at the chance to learn about life as a mortal being? Well, once again, Voyager’s writers prove they are not going to take risks or create story arcs of any real consequence. They were so bent on creating a story about euthanasia that they missed a real opportunity to create something more permanent. Quinn really didn’t wan to be mortal – he just wanted to die.

With that said, this episode just exemplifies what’s wrong with the writing on this show. Even when they create good stories, they ignore characters and their motivations. Specifically in Death Wish, they cared more about creating a good “cause” show than they did about anything else. They wrote an interesting character – one who can’t die but who really wants to. And they used that only to discuss the ethical implications of allowing people to determine when they should die. But when Quinn becomes mortal and a new set of experiences are presented to him, the writers waste no time whatsoever in killing him off because that’s what their story demanded. The character himself might have made a completely different decision, and I honestly believe if there were some immortal named Quinn that he would have done something different. Why would he have even bothered to pick a name if he’s just going to die anyway?

Ironic, isn’t it. Quinn doesn’t want to live takes all of 2 seconds to decide a name for himself and the Doctor who really wants to develop more human traits and to be treated like everyone else has taken two years to decide on a name. And he still doesn’t have one.

Anyway, that’s my major complaint about this episode. But since it’s more about the writers themselves than about this one show, I won’t dock it too much.

In this episode, it was inevitable for Janeway to have another close call with getting home. After all, either Q could have taken them home with a snap of their fingers. And Q himself says the Federation was not supposed to be in the Delta Quadrant for another 100 years. If he cares about preserving the timeline as it should be, why didn’t he immediately just send them home, no questions asked? It is as if the writers realized they had to address the issue, but they had no idea how to resolve it. So they bring it up and don’t mention it again after the moment has passed. So this is another example of bad writing that I didn’t like.

But in general, this was a very good episode. You may like it more than I did.

Of Note

Neelix doesn’t appear much in this episode. When he does, he asks such a stupid question that it makes me wonder if the writer has ever seen an episode of this series. New Q arrives in the Mess Hall, and Neelix asks if Janeway is interviewing candidates for a new cook. Say what? They’re 70 years from the Federation. How could Janeway have possibly found anyone to interview for a new position on the ship? And since there are no other options for eating, Neelix should be familiar with every single person on board.