Genders 27 1998
Minding One's P's and Q's
Homoeroticism in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
by ATARA STEIN
(1) A man climbs into bed wearing very short, skimpy, and sexy pajamas with a very wide V-neck. Another man appears in the room, lifts up the bedclothes, peeks underneath coyly, then asks invitingly, "Sleeping alone?" Surprisingly enough, given the series' usual conventionality with regard to gender roles, this scene is from an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.1 The two men involved are Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and the immortal, omnipotent, and pesky superbeing Q (John de Lancie), TNG's most popular recurring guest character.2 Although Star Trek is famous for its emphasis on male bonding, Q's interest in Picard is unique in the Star Trek canon in its manifest homoeroticism.3 Henry Jenkins has used Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's conception of "male homosocial desire" to describe the relationship between the original series' Kirk and Spock, a relationship that gets transformed into explicit homoeroticism in slash fiction (stories by fans which develop a sexual relationship between two same-sex television characters, usually male--these stories are published informally in Ďzines and on the Internet).4 Jenkins argues, "Those themes Sedgwick finds in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British fiction (the triangulation of desire between male rivals, the emotional intensity of male competition, the barely repressed fantasies that bind male friends together) are equally apparent within the narrative structures of contemporary popular culture--in the 'great friendship' theme fans locate within Star Trek" (203). Slash fiction, then, "turns that subtext into the dominant focus of new texts. Slash throws conventional notions of masculinity into crisis by removing the barriers blocking the realization of homosocial desire; Slash unmasks the erotics of male friendship, confronting the fears keeping men from achieving intimacy" (205). Jenkins also notes that "A focus on how slash constructs a continuum between homosocial and homosexual desire may explain why the protagonists of slash stories are male lovers and yet often have had no previous history of gay relationships: the barriers between men must be intensified to increase the drama of their shattering; the introduction of sexual taboos requires greater trust and intimacy between the men before they can be overcome" (205). Thus, most slash fiction is predicated on the characters' predominant heterosexuality; slash stories put the characters in extreme circumstances, circumstances that allow them to overcome what Jenkins calls "the constructed boundary between friends and lovers" (205).
(2) Despite the emotional intensity of the friendship between Kirk and Spock, then, there is nothing in the episodes or the movies to suggest that either character is aware of or would acknowledge a homoerotic dimension to that friendship.5 The fans who write slash fiction, according to Constance Penley, recognized "that there was an erotic homosexual subtext there, or at least one that could easily be made to be there."6 I would emphasize "made to be." The powers-that-be who control the Star Trek universe are extremely protective of their product and despite some very tentative occasional explorations of issues involving sexual orientation, they clearly wish to avoid anything that could be construed as male homosexuality in their major characters.7 "How to Submit Creative Material," a rule sheet for potential authors of Star Trek novels, explicitly states "We are not interested in books that suggest anything other than friendship between Kirk and Spock or any other crewmembers."8 It is surprising, therefore, that Q's homoerotic attraction to Picard is developed as overtly as it is in such scenes as the one described above. In fact, Q's interactions with Picard contain elements of both Segwick's definition of "male homosocial desire" and Jenkins' description of the "continuum between homosocial and homosexual desire" that exists in slash fiction. From a somewhat different angle one might argue that slash fiction takes the characters from the realm of what D. A. Miller labels "the shadow kingdom of connotation, where insinuations could be at once developed and denied" into the realm of denotation.9 What makes Q's relationship with Picard on the series so unusual is that while the initial Q episodes remain firmly in the area of connotation--with de Lancie subversively suggesting his character's queerness through body language and vocal inflection--the eroticism of Q's attraction to Picard becomes increasingly more overt, although not outright explicit, as the series progresses. Q repeatedly subverts "conventional notions of masculinity" while unmasking "the erotics of male friendship," and the series plays on the conventional romantic trope of the mentor-student relationship to build up the tension and power dynamics between the two characters. Although Picard's heterosexuality is repeatedly emphasized in the episodes involving Q, and although Q is periodically provided with female romantic interests by the series' producers, in an attempt to sustain what Miller calls deniability (124), "Q" comes to stand, increasingly, for Queer. In an interview with The Advocate, when the interviewer remarked, "Some people have thought Q was gay," Stewart responded, "I did. Again, I would say this was an impression given you entirely by the quality of the performances rather than by anything that was deliberately placed in the script. [Laughs.] John [de Lancey [sic]], whose work was brilliant on the show, had a kind of boldness about him, a way of looking at Picard that was provocative."10 Stewart's remarks are not entirely accurate, however, since there are a few points in the scripts themselves where Q's pursuit of Picard is rendered suprisingly overt.
(3) Q's queerness, and the particular ways that queerness is manifested, take the series in some interesting directions. Q introduces the possibility of a radical destabilizing or "critique" of the traditional categories by which we constitute our identity.11 In Q's case gender becomes, to use Judith Butler's terms, performative rather than essentialist. She suggests that "Drag constitutes the mundane way in which genders are appropriated, theatricalized, worn, and done; it implies that all gendering is a kind of impersonation and approximation."12 With his penchant for costumes and a gender instability that readily allows fan writers to recreate him as female, Q, as a character, exploits the possibilites of drag in an elaborate fashion. Q is inevitably a quintessential anti-essentialist--"he" has no original form ("he" is an energy being), and "he" has no "original or primary gender" (Butler, 21); to appear in human form for "him" is itself a drag performance. The Q do not subscribe to any of the usual markers of identity. They have no fixed form or gender, and they refer to each other all by the same name: "Q" ("Deja Q," "Death Wish"), although they seem to be able to recognize each other as individuals with or without those markers.13 The Q apparently assume some kind of ungendered and indefinable essence among each other, but it is not delineated by names, physical appearance or even a fixed species identity, since a Q can be transformed into another species from human to "Belzoidian flea" ("Deja Q"). Q reveals himself to the crew of the Enterprise in the form of a human male, considerably taller and bulkier than Picard. He makes clear, however, that his gender is merely a "free-floating artifice" (Butler, Gender Trouble, 6), telling Picard that he could have appeared as a female ("Qpid"). Q is apparently equally flexible in his selection of love objects, as de Lancie intended to make clear. When asked if Q is bisexual, de Lancie has been known to reply that Q is "bispecial."14 Presumably Q's highly evolved species has advanced beyond the point when gender or species would limit one's choice of romantic partners. Fan writers often assume that Q exists as a type of formless and genderless energy being when he is not adopting a particular form; in that situation, the character is frequently referred to as "it," rather than "he."
(4) And this is perhaps one of the most radical, for Star Trek, implications of the Q episodes: that a queerness that defines itself in terms of a playfully non-essentialist flexibility about gender is a more evolutionarily advanced state of being than the current condition of the human race. For a Q there is no such thing as a biologically-determined gender or sexual orientation. Q makes very clear that the appearance he assumes is as much a form of drag as the Starfleet uniform he wears. The persistent subtext of the Q episodes, from "Encounter at Farpoint" (the series premiere) to "All Good Things . . . " (the series finale), is human evolution--both its apparent lack of progress so far and its tremendous future potential. By introducing an increasingly more overtly queer character into this evolutionary context, Star Trekís creators allow the possibility of a radical interpretation. If Q is queer and obviously more evolutionarily advanced than humans (he can manipulate space and time without effort and is apparently nearly omniscient and omnipotent), then humansí future progress may also include a complete rethinking of the ontological significance of gender. This is what Q hopes his protegé Picard will come to understand when and if he finally reaches the state of being "a little more evolved than the rest of [his] species" ("Qpid"). And this is precisely the form of personal evolution Picard undergoes in P/Q slash fiction. As Jenkins suggest, slash fiction draws on a "subtext" found in the series itself. Slash writers essentially provide their own radical readings of the series, transforming hints of erotic attraction into full-fledged sexual relationships. While the Q episodes begin to suggest that Picard will evolve as a person as a result of his relationship with Q, slash stories insist on it.15
(5) When Q tells Picard that he could have "appeared as a female" in "Qpid," he is both drawing attention to the artificiality of our construction of categories of gender and sexuality and needling Picard for remaining so rigidly bound by those artificial constructions. On the series, Picard never actually escapes those categories or evolves to a point where they are irrelevant, but he does show signs of moving in that direction. In slash fiction, however, Picard breaks boundaries right and left, with Qís guidance, learning to explore his sexuality in a wide variety of forms and evolving into a higher state of self-awareness as a result. Thus, homosexuality in P/Q slash fiction is portrayed as a liberating practice which furthers the psychological growth of the individual. That a Star Trek series would lend itself to such a reading is remarkable. Star Trek is notorious for its tentative treatment of sexuality, most notably in two episodes, "The Host" and "The Outcast," which operate in a twilight realm in which sexuality can only be hinted at, and in an ambiguous fashion at that. In "The Outcast," a member of an androgynous society falls in love with the male first officer and declares her desire to adopt a female gender identity; ultimately she is brainwashed by her own people into an acceptance of their enforced androgyny. This episode could be read, of course, as a reverse allegory of discrimination against gays and lesbians, but the fact that it is reversed (the characterís rebellion consists of affirming heterosexuality) testifies to how careful Star Trekís creators are to maintain a level of deniability. In addition, the androgynous species, presumably representative of gays and lesbians, turn out to be the bad guys, enforcing their "deviant" sexuality by means of brainwashing. In "The Host," the female chief medical officer falls in love with an apparent male, a member of a species known as the Trill, who is the host of a symbiont, a parasitical creature that coexists with willing humanoid hosts. When the symbiont is implanted into a female body, Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden) is unable to accept her lover. Again, this episode disappointed gay and lesbian fans in its suggestion that Crusher (frequently featured in lesbian slash stories) would be so restricted by her heterosexuality. As Henry Jenkins notes, these episodes "can be seen as similar plays with connotation, often threatened with being swamped by some larger, more 'universal' concern" than gender and sexuality.
(6) In a somewhat more daring exploration of gender, "Rejoined" (a DS9 episode) brings together two Trills. Both hosts are currently female, but in former lives, they were a married heterosexual couple. Their feelings are unchanged, and they engage in an onscreen kiss, but the context again obfuscates the issues. The pair must not reunite because of a Trill taboo that forbids "reassociation" with partners from previous lives, with the penalty of the eventual death of the symbiont, whose existence is the primary concern of the humanoid host. Thus, the issue of the couple's gender is tantalizingly introduced, but never explored. The powers-that-be will not allow Jadzia Dax (Terry Farrell), a major character, to engage in a long-term relationship with another woman (the episode makes clear that the pair will not reunite), and the actress herself, in interviews, emphasized her own heterosexuality. The episode continually points to the characters' gender, and generated considerable publicity in the process, while using the "reassociation" taboo as an elaborate red herring to avoid addressing the gender question directly. Given Star Trek's refusal to include gay and lesbian characters, despite years of fan requests, the entire avoidance of any discussion of gender on the episode comes off as forced and hypocritical.
(7) The Q episodes could have been similarly tentative, simply exploring the teacher-student dynamic, for instance, with little or no sexual context, or they could have displayed the farcical form of male bonding/macho homoerotics characteristic of, say, the Lethal Weapon movies or even the strongly emotional, but non-sexual, connection between Kirk and Spock. De Lancie, however, is not one to let writing or production staffs get in the way of his performance. He tries whenever possible to "bend the lines," using his voice and body language to add a specifically sexual dimension to the emotional context provided by the writers, and in his own performance, Stewart responds accordingly, helping to create an electrifying onscreen chemistry in almost every Q and Picard scene. What can not be overtly expressed in a script can be suggested by the actors, and apparently the series' producers were willing to allow playful expressions of Q's interest in Picard, but more explicit and serious expressions, such as a scene in which Q kissed Picard on the forehead (which was cut from "Tapestry"), were deemed too inflammatory.17 As D. A. Miller describes it in his discussion of connotation of homosexuality, "A-man-standing-too-close-to-another signifies homosexual behavior by being an instance of it" and "perhaps the most salient index to male homosexuality, socially speaking, consists precisely in how a man looks at other men" (131). Standing too close to Picard and gazing at him intently and suggestively, de Lancie creates a connotation of homosexuality, whereby "insinuations could be at once developed and denied" (Miller, 125). This delicate balance works out very conveniently for the series' creators. De Lancie's self-consciously queer shading of his performance appeals to those fans who understand "his evocation of subcultural codes of camp performance" (vocal modulations, poses, and gestures), without offending those viewers who don't (and don't want to) (Jenkins, "Out of the Closet," 261). The erotically-charged nuances that the actors provide manage to create a more overt homoerotic subtext than Star Trek has ever otherwise allowed, while giving slash writers some extremely suggestive material to work with. Although slash stories about the pair are considerably more sexually explicit in their readings of Q and Picard's relationship, frequently including elements of bondage and domination as a means of exploring the power differential between the two, de Lancie and Stewart demonstrate just how readily skilled actors can twist or subvert or turn a script inside out and get away with it, and in so doing, create a situation rather different from what their employers apparently intended.
(8) This essay, then, will argue that while Qís pursuit of Picard is never rendered undeniably explicit on the series, the Q episodes can be positioned along a range from connotation to something that is considerably more overt. It will also examine the ways in which certain slash stories draw on the subtext provided by the series to denote a full-fledged sexual and romantic relationship between the characters. It is my contention that the relationship between Q and Picard is portrayed in much more suggestively homoerotic and potentially romantic terms than any other same-sex relationship in the various Star Trek series and films, and yet, there is still a limit which the series cannot cross, while, of course, the fan stories have no such restriction. At the same time, this essay will also explore the evolutionary context of the Q episodes and the resulting slash stories to reveal the ways in which Star Trek, via the character of Q, makes possible a radical questioning of the categories of gender and sexuality.
(9) There is, then, a continuum from connotation to subtle denotation along which the Q episodes fall. Q's initial visits to the Enterprise locate his queerness firmly in the realm of connotation. While Q was not originally conceived as a queer character, de Lancie has consciously played him that way; his demeanor is campy, flamboyant, and seductive. My own theory is that his performances inspired writers of subsequent episodes to play up the homoerotic elements as far as they could get away with and practically forced the series' creators tacitly to acknowledge Q's "queerness," although in keeping with Star Trek's avoidance of such topics, that acknowledgment must be kept under the surface. Ron Moore, author of "Tapestry" and co-author of the series finale, "All Good Things . . . ," noted that the creative staff conceived of Q as being "in love with Picard," but further commented that Q would never admit to being in love with a human. I might add, he would never get away with it on this particular series either. But he comes close. While the writers of "Qpid" and "Tapestry" push the envelope, the actors have pushed the edge even farther, although the results have not always appeared onscreen. It is worth noting that Moore describes Q as genderless and does not see Q's love for Picard as having "much of a sexual context." The writing staff wanted to suggest that Q's "obsession/interest in Picard" is rooted in "something real, something emotional," but only as a subtext, not something the writers "set out to convey" overtly. Nevertheless, beginning with Qís fourth season visit to the Enterprise, "Qpid," the scripts themselves start hinting at Qís erotic interest in Picard. They are shading over into denotation, but, even so, these episodes are merely providing hints and clues, rather than overt declarations. By contrast, Qís appearances on Star Trek: Voyager make Qís apparent pursuit of Captain Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) unmistakably explicit, yet it is portrayed in such a ludicrously hackneyed and clichéd fashion, that it is impossible to take seriously. The relationship between Q and Picard on TNG is more erotically and emotionally loaded. At the far end of this continuum from connotation to denotation lies fan fiction, which makes Qís relationship with Picard not only explicit, but X-rated.
(10) From his earliest appearances on the series, de Lancie and eventually the writers as well connote Q's queerness by playing on a series of stereotypes of gender and sexuality, which serve to "challenge and confuse our understanding and uses of sexual and gender categories," to use Alexander Doty's terms.18 Q's demeanor toward Picard is consciously calculated to set Picard on edge; his flirtatiousness always contains more than a hint of menace as he casts Picard into the stereotypically feminine role of a passive and helpless object of desire, thereby complicating not only his own sexuality and gender but Picard's as well. For Q gender is clearly a matter of performance. In fact, for Q just about everything he does in his interactions with humans is a matter of performance; de Lancie, an experienced stage performer, infuses his character with a hyperbolic theatricality. He has an impressive range of exaggerated hand gestures, from the superfluous snap of the finger with which he punctuates displays of his powers to the irritated flick of the wrist with which he silences the mob in "Encounter at Farpoint." He wears a succession of resplendently ornate costumes, from his judge's robe and elaborate head-piece in the series premiere and finale to his white robe in "Tapestry." Q fluctuates between campily effeminate behavior and a stereotypically masculine arrogance and physical aggressiveness. He talks with his hands in a flamboyantly gaudy fashion, and he never simply sits, stands, or relaxes; he strikes poses--sitting, leaning back, with one leg stretched out, his hands wrapped coyly around a bent knee; or reclining on Picard's bed, arms folded, and legs demurely crossed at the ankles; or lying draped languorously along the bridge railing, with his head propped on his fist, in a seductive come-hither pose. He flirts outrageously with the first officer, Riker (Jonathan Frakes) in "Hide and Q," saying "You're gonna miss me," in such a seductively playful tone, that one viewer, having never seen a TNG episode before, immediately asked, "Is Q gay?" He occasionally displays a self-consciously stereotypically limp-wristed fastidiousness. In "Q Who," after Picard has had hot chocolate splashed on the front of his uniform by an overeager new crewmember, Q clucks solicitously, "There, there, haven't we been careless?" waves his hand up and down to clean Picard's shirt, and adds, "a little cleaning service I'm only too happy to provide." In "All Good Things . . . ," taking Picard back in time to the beginnings of life on Earth, Q notes the "awful" smells of sulfur and volcanic ash, brushes his fingertips on a dusty ledge, and remarks languidly, "Really must speak to the maid." The members of the Continuum may not have fixed genders, but they have an impeccable fashion sense. In "Deja Q," after having been stripped of both his powers and his clothes and dumped unceremoniously on the bridge, Q is provided with an ill-fitting gray and olive drab jumpsuit and declares petulantly, "These aren't my colors!" His Continuum colleague (Corbin Bernson) apparently concurs, remarking, "Blecch! What a dreadful color!" While the writers may conceive of Q as essentially "genderless," de Lancie plays with and exaggerates gender stereotypes in such a way as to heighten our awareness of Q's not a- but ambi-sexuality. Although Q displays an occasional effeminacy, he is ultimately not androgynous. He often, rather, strikes the pose of what Q fan Alara Rogers describes as a "hyper-male," "a queer with power," who has "the potential to rape other men," a potential that de Lancie's performances repeatedly suggest. Q repeatedly uses body language as a means of intimidation. He makes good use of his height advantage over Picard, frequently leaning over him in a simultaneously seductive and menacing posture. He shows no compunction about violating anyone's personal space, playing on the discomfort any human must feel to have an unimaginably powerful being immediately behind one and speaking directly into one's ear.
(11) Q's voice is as self-consciously theatrical as his body language, although they often seem to be at odds. De Lancie's ambiguous gendering of his character comes out in his sometimes butch/sometimes effeminate body language and his campily affected manner of speaking. In his evocation of Bugs Bunny as a queer icon, Eric Savoy describes his speech in terms of "the campy emphasis, the constant italicization, of his words," and this description could apply equally well to de Lancie's speech patterns.19 Almost every statement he makes is a vocal performance. It is impossible to convey in writing the way de Lancie uses his voice to delineate Q's flamboyant and carefully constructed demeanor. Every nuance and inflection is deliberate, consciously conceived for maximum effect on the listener. In "Qpid," for instance, Q, reclining next to Picard in bed, torments the Captain by mocking him for his susceptibility to feminine wiles. Q begins in a loftily patronizing tone: "I had high hopes for you, Picard; I thought you were a bit more evolved than the rest of your species, but now I realize you're just as weak as all the others." Then with a mockingly sympathetic tone, he adds, "Still it pains me to see the great Jean-Luc Picard brought down by a woman." When Picard demands, "What woman?" Q says flirtatiously, "Don't play coy with me, Captain." He tells Picard he witnessed his "little spat" with Vash, and adds in a voice dripping with sarcasm, "Nor will I soon forget the look of anguish on your face, the pain, the misery. If I didn't know better," here his voice drops suddenly to a bitingly malevolent whisper, "I would have thought you were already married." Furious, Picard leaps out of bed; his response testifies to just how successful at provoking him Qís performance has been.
(12) Q's interest in Picard is not revealed until the series' second season, but it still remains a matter of connotation, revealed in body language and vocal inflection, not in words or actions. Although "Q Who" is mostly remembered as the episode which introduced the Federation's new, ruthless, and extremely powerful enemy, the Borg, de Lancie and Stewart infuse their scenes together with an unspoken erotic tension that builds up throughout the episode to an explosive release. In this episode Q wishes to be admitted as a member of the Enterprise's crew as a means to alleviate his own boredom and restlessness. In order to coerce Picard to listen to him, he kidnaps the Captain on a shuttlecraft, enacting the role of the dominant and threatening romance hero forcing his attentions on the reluctant heroine, in this case Picard. The confined space of the shuttlecraft is the perfect locale for Q to execute his dishonorable intentions; he leans over Picard seductively and menacingly, emphasizing the helplessness of his captive's situation. Q's body language makes the threat of rape apparent, and Picard has no choice but to tolerate Q's violation of his personal space. Picard demands, "Q, return me to the Enterprise!" and Q taunts, "I suggest you change your attitude. Petulance does not become you. We have business, Picard." When Picard haughtily declares, "Keeping me a prisoner here will not compel me to discuss anything with you," Q whips around behind Picard, places his lips immediately next to Picard's ear, and hisses ferociously, "It will in time!"
(13) In a bitter reaction to Picard's rejection of his offer of guidance, Q throws a temper tantrum and exposes the Enterprise to a race of much more powerful and ruthless cybernetically-enhanced humanoids, the Borg. Q is at his most sadistic in this episode, announcing gleefully, "The hall is rented, the orchestra engaged; it's now time to see if you can dance." About to see his ship destroyed by the Borg, Picard has no choice but to surrender to Q; he clearly realizes that he must gratify Q's sadism in order to save his crew. He demands, "Q, end this," and Q casually replies, "Moi? What makes you think I'm either inclined or capable to terminate this encounter?" Picard then voluntarily humiliates himself in the following speech: "If we all die, here, now, you will not be able to gloat. You wanted to frighten us; we're frightened. You wanted to prove that we're inadequate, for the moment, I grant that. You wanted me to say, I need you; I NEED YOU!" Q's triumph has been complete; he has gotten exactly what he wanted, and the erotic undercurrent of this scene comes out both in the build-up of tension in Picard's voice to his climactic utterance of "I NEED YOU!" and in Q's reaction after he has returned the ship to Federation space. Q tells Picard in a surprisingly sincere tone: "That was a difficult admission. Another man would have been humiliated to say those words. Another man would have rather died than ask for help." This episode is one of many which renders Picard helpless and passive in a fashion quite unlike the original series' Captain Kirk. Despite his usual competence in dealing with more powerful forces, Picard is uncharacteristically inept whenever Q comes to call. He loses his temper, he makes foolish mistakes, or he simply appears impotent, emasculated, and out of control. As Q remarks in "Qpid," with a suggestive raise of the eyebrows, "You seem tense, preoccupied, somewhat . . . smaller." Making Picard "somewhat smaller" when faced by a more powerful male seems to be a favorite method of humanizing his character on the series; the most notable example outside the Q episodes is "Chain of Command," where Picard is stripped, bound to a rack, and tortured by a Cardassian inquisitor. Both "Chain of Command" and the Q episodes suggest Picard's vulnerability to rape; in the former he is filmed naked and from behind, and in the Q episodes, he repeatedly appears with the taller and bulkier Q looming immediately behind him and whispering in his ear. As the series progresses, Picard's heterosexuality is questioned as well; as early as "Q Who," he evinces an erotically-tinged interest in Q, saying to him, with a notable deepening of his voice, "To learn about you is frankly provocative." Of course, Picardís uncharacteristically emotional reactions to Qís teasing also serve to cast doubt on his otherwise stalwart heterosexuality, thereby giving Q more ammunition by suggesting that his interest in Picard may be reciprocated.
(14) Qís sadism toward Picard in "Q Who" as well as his evident desire to teach the good Captain a lesson has become a fruitful source of inspiration for fan authors. One type of P/Q fan stories uses the structures of dominance and submission as well as S/M to develop a relationship between the two characters. Unlike typical Kirk/Spock stories, which, as both Penley and Lamb and Vieth argue, achieve an equality between the lovers that contrasts the inequality of heterosexual relationships in the romance novel, these P/Q stories exploit the erotic edge of the immense power differential that already exists between the characters, as well as Qís sexily threatening romance-hero demeanor in "Q Who."20 In "TQ," for instance, a fan writer who identifies herself as Mercutio has Q fulfill some of Picardís more degrading fantasies, thereby forcing Picard to acknowledge those fantasies. Ruth Gifford and Atara Steinís "His Beloved Pet," Ruth Giffordís sequel-in-progress, "At the Center of Things," and Atara Steinís vignette "The Collar" maneuver Q and Picard into what becomes a full-fledged master-slave relationship, complete with extended S/M "scenes." As in "Q Who" and other episodes, Q is, among other things, teaching Picard several lessons about himself. Picard learns that his extreme submission to Q does not interfere with his professional role. In fact, "At the Center of Things" suggests that, paradoxically, it enhances it. Picard, while becoming more and more thoroughly enslaved to his lover, becomes instrumental in guiding the Federation to the next stage of its evolution. His capacity to adopt this leadership role is related in part to the lessons in self-knowledge and self-acceptance he learns in acknowledging his deep-rooted sexual submissiveness. Spinning off from "His Beloved Pet," Jeanita Danzikís stories, "Object Lessons," "Theme and Variations," and "Ruminations" also use a BDSM context, placing the characters into traditional daddy/boy roles.21 All of these stories suggest very strongly that sexual submission, for Picard, is, paradoxically, an empowering experience. Q is perpetually impressed with his "slaveís" strength, and the stories make clear that in freeing himself from repression and accepting his sexual needs, Picard grows or evolves as a person.22 In "Q Who," Picard may find learning about Q to be "frankly provocative," but the fan stories, as well as subsequent Q episodes, imply that Q is essentially a vehicle for Picard to learn about himself.
(15) Q himself becomes increasingly more provocative with each visit to the Enterprise, as his romantic pursuit of Picard begins to shade closer to the realm of denotation. The scripts themselves begin to make Q's flirtation with Picard more overt, and de Lancie, as always, uses his voice and body language to milk those scenes for all they're worth. While de Lancie can't quite seem to bring himself to generate any sexual tension with Jennifer Hetrick in her role as Vash in "Qpid," an episode from the series' fourth season, the atmosphere fairly crackles in his scenes alone with Stewart. Q initially appears in Picard's ready room in his most overtly flirtatious mode yet:
Q: Jean-Luc, it's wonderful to see you again. How about a big hug? . . . Well, don't just stand there, say something.|
Picard: Get out of my chair!
Q: And I was hoping for something more along the lines of 'welcome back, Q--it's a pleasure to see you again, my old friend.'
Picard: We're not friends!
Q: You wound me, mon Capitaine.
In his exasperation at Picard's refusal to respond to his overtures, Q declares, "You are simply the most impossible person to buy a gift for!"--the eternal lament of lovers and spouses in regard to their partners. Q is displeased at being the excluded side of a love triangle and his "gift" consists of interfering with Picard's relationship with his girlfriend Vash. Q does not perceive Picard as a rival, however; Picard is the object of his desire, and he has no intention of allowing Vash to claim him, even if he has to take Vash away himself.
(16) After eavesdropping on a quarrel between Picard and Vash, Q appears in Picard's bedroom in the scene referenced above, a scene remarkable for its homoerotic suggestiveness. Peeking under Picard's covers, Q asks, "Sleeping alone?" He then climbs into bed next to Picard (who irritably rolls over to get away from him), settles down comfortably with arms folded and ankles crossed, and proceeds to torment Picard by mocking Picard's weakness in having been "brought down by a woman"; he says "I had such high hopes for you, Picard; I thought you were a bit more evolved than the rest of your species." In evincing a conventional attraction to a woman who is obviously using him (Vashís character is motivated almost entirely by self-interest), Picard has disappointed Q, who makes it as clear as a Star Trek episode will allow him to that he is interested in Picard for himself. A "more evolved" Picard would be able both to see through Vash and transcend his straight and narrow conceptions of gender in order to respond to Qís advances. After Picard leaps out of bed in a fury and stalks into the other room, Q follows, continuing to taunt him, saying, "This human emotion, love, it's a dangerous thing, Picard, and obviously you're ill-equipped to handle it. She's found a vulnerability in you, a vulnerability I've been looking for for years. If I'd known sooner, I would have appeared as a female." This is the most explicit confession of romantic feelings from one male to another I have ever heard on a Star Trek series. Q's remark also explicitly acknowledges the gender instability that Q represents; at the same time that he asserts that he could have easily "appeared as a female," de Lancie's body language and demeanor in this scene is, if anything, hypermasculine. He both feminizes and objectifies Picard, who, in his skimpy and revealing pajamas, is clearly vulnerable to the sexual threat Q poses, a threat that de Lancie makes very clear by the way he looms over the scantily-clad object of his desire, speaking directly into his ear. Q, fully dressed, and in his adopted Starfleet uniform, clearly has the upper-hand. His comment that he would have appeared as a female is not only a reminder of Q's flexible notions of gender, but also a way to deride Picard for his extremely conventional and persistent heterosexuality (hence the earlier remark, as well, "I would have thought you were already married"). It is not that Q lacks gender; rather, he plays with gender, performing gender stereotypes with the same playfulness and theatricality that go into his costume choices. In "Qpid," he adopts a particularly stereotypically masculine role in order to assert power over Picard. For Q, romance is a form of conquest, a conquest effected by exploiting the other's vulnerabilities. He seems genuinely surprised that the vulnerability he's been looking for for years was simply a matter of something (to him) as superficial as gender. What frustrates Q is that the woman Picard has fallen for is essentially a version of Q in female form. When Picard later accuses Q of being "devious and amoral and unreliable and irresponsible and definitely not to be trusted," Vash asks simply "Sound like someone you know?" and Picard has to concede that it does. In order to punish Picard for rejecting him in favor of a female and mortal (and hence inferior) version of himself, Q takes Vash away from him, again playing a calculated role, that of the victor in a heterosexual love triangle. Much as Q would like to raise Picard to his level, it is very apparent that Picard is not ready to transcend his monosexuality, that he is not "more evolved than the rest of his species."
(17) Drawing on Qís seductiveness in "Qpid," as well as his suggestion of gender switching, several fan stories engage in a sustained genderfuck, having Q appear as a female to seduce Picard, although the "more evolved" Picard of slash fiction usually seems equally comfortable in bed when Q resumes his usual male form. Despite the gender-bending, femQ still speaks in what is recognizably de Lancieís "voice"; thanks to his ambiguous gendering of this character, his speech patterns can be convincingly transposed onto a seductive femme fatale. Taking the hint from Peter Davidís novel Q-in-Law (in which Q briefly appears as a stunning blonde female), the stories insist that Q "transcend[s]" our "paltry notions of gender."23 Alara Rogerís unfinished "Familiar Strangers," for instance, strips Q of his powers and transforms him into a human female who is being kept in a state of sexual slavery in an extremely misogynistic society. S/he reveals her identity to Picard only after a forced sexual encounter, which both engage in so s/he can avoid punishment. Picard, who is envisioned by many fan writers as the galaxyís most considerate lover, teaches the demoralized and humiliated femQ to enjoy sex. In Atara Steinís "She Moves in Mysterious Ways," Q appears in female form in order to seduce Picard and then mock him for his obtuseness in not recognizing who s/he was. The twist is that Picard recognizes Q immediately and goes along with the intended seduction, leading both characters into a confrontation in which they must acknowledge their feelings for each other. The sequel, "With or Without You," posits a continuing relationship between the two characters in which Q alternates between his male form and his female persona, Catherine Vye. These stories simply take Qís hints in "Qpid" to a much more explicit level of denotation; if Q could have appeared as a female, then why not see what happens if he actually does? Another story, Ruth Giffordís "My Fair Jeanne," takes Qís implied feminization of Picard on the series to its logical conclusion; here Picard is transformed into a female. Yet s/he remains recognizably Picard in behavior and demeanor; by severing gender from identity, the story suggests even more emphatically that gender is nothing more than a form of drag. Both characters participate in a dizzying series of gender switches, engaging in hetero and homosexual sex of every variety, and Picard becomes very comfortable with his female alter-ego, Jeanne.24 Like the bdsm stories discussed above, as well as Qís bedroom visit to Picard in "Qpid," these stories carry an evolutionary subtext, presuming that the ability to "transcend" humansí "paltry notions of gender" is a considerable advancement in Picardís awareness.25 Ultimately, it doesnít matter if Q appears as a female or not, or whether Picard himself appears as a female or not; gender becomes irrelevant to the charactersí erotic attraction toward each other. It becomes a form of sexual play and exploration rather than a fixed and inevitable state of being.
(18) Both the genderfuck and the bdsm stories also posit that Q furthers Picardís personal evolution in another manner as well--by releasing his inhibitions and allowing a freer, more playful side to emerge. The stories suggest that Picardís often inhuman self-control can be a flaw and that he benefits from Qís ability to humanize him and to force him to loosen up. (Paradoxically, for all his contempt for human limitations, Q is in many ways more human than Picard.) This notion was undoubtedly influenced by "Tapestry," an episode from the series' sixth season, and, according to de Lancie, one of his personal favorites. "Tapestry" is probably the episode that was most suggestive about Picard and Qís relationship to fans and fan authors. Qís bedtime visit to Picard in "Qpid" is overshadowed by the absurd Robin Hood scenario that dominates the episode, while "Tapestry" allows for much more direct interaction between the two characters. Even more crucially, Picard is much more receptive to Qís advances than he was in previous episodes. It is in the light of "Tapestry" that fan authors could look back on "Q Who" and "Qpid" and think "There really is something going on here."26 Such a conclusion is warranted because in "Tapestry" the slippage between connotation and denotation becomes even more pronounced. This episode, like the series finale "All Good Things . . . ," emphasizes the mentor/student relationship that has been evolving between Q and Picard; in both cases Q must teach Picard a crucial lesson, but at least one of his goals for Picard's education is to make the Captain into a more suitable partner for himself. A brief plot summary is necessary here. Having apparently died from an injury to his artificial heart, Picard encounters Q, dressed in a white robe and claiming to be God. Q gives Picard the opportunity to go back in time to a point a few days after his graduation from Starfleet Academy in order to avoid the youthful bar brawl in which he lost his real heart in the first place. It is a trick, of course. Picard does successfully avoid the fight, but in the process he manages to alienate his best friend and offend three women. One woman slaps him, another throws a drink in his face, and his formerly Platonic friend, Marta Batanides, spends the night with him but immediately regrets it, parting from him bitterly.
(19) During Picard's visit to the past, when he is not mishandling his relationships with women, he and Q are in almost continuous physical proximity. Q's demeanor toward Picard alternates between an overtly affectionate flirtatiousness and an exasperated impatience at his beloved's lack of perspicacity. Moments after Picard's return to the past, his friends Marta and Corey leave his room, joking that he probably has a date. At this moment, Q, brandishing a type of baton, appears in the room, in his trademark burst of light, and barks, "Attention on deck, Ensign Picard!" Picard irritably snaps, "Q!" and Q returns, in a markedly seductive tone, "That's Captain Q to you, young man." Once again he takes on a dominant role, in this case that of a superior officer with designs on one of his subordinates--another variation on the mentor/student dynamic. That Q makes the most of every opportunity to flirt with Picard here is no surprise. What makes "Tapestry" a unique episode in rendering both charactersí potential queerness more overt is the way Picard responds to his omnipotent pursuer. Despite the life-or-death nature of the situation, and despite Q's usual tactless and pointed mockery, Picard conveys an unspoken sense of ease, comfort, and intimacy with him, even flirting back on occasion, unlike earlier episodes where Picardís attitude toward Q consists of both resistance and hostility. When Q explains to Picard, in "Tapestry," "You're twenty-one years old again, a brash young man, fresh out of the academy" (note the pattern of emphasis--de Lancie could read a calculus textbook and make it sound sexual), Picard walks over to the mirror and remarks drily, "I certainly don't look it." Q then walks immediately up to him, looks him up and down appraisingly, then drawls, "Well, to everyone else you do." As Q and Picard look in the mirror together, Picard nods in response to Q's remark, a nod that conveys an unspoken sense of shared understanding. Unlike Picardís rigid stance in "Qpid," when Q is standing immediately behind him, here he projects a considerably more relaxed and comfortable demeanor.
(20) Throughout the episode, the series of minor tiffs Q and Picard engage in have the air of a kind of scripted banter, one in which both individuals are aware that they are playing an expected part, and they play their parts with relish, with Q flirting up a storm and Picard responding easily in his own dry and restrained fashion:
Picard: What if I don't make the changes? What if I won't avoid the fight?|
Q: Then you die on the table, and we spend eternity together.
Q: I'm glad you think so.
Q's demeanor here isn't particularly menacing despite the threat he makes; it's more a form of affectionate teasing, an affection that is clearly evident in his tone of voice, and Picard reacts accordingly. Picard even feels comfortable enough with Q to confide in him; when Q asks him why "that rather attractive young woman slapped you just now," Picard leans in toward Q in a conspiratorial manner, smiling and almost bragging that he had dates with two different women arranged for the same day. With apparent sincerity Q declares, "I had no idea you were such a cad. I'm impressed!" Several scenes show Q and Picard talking confidentially and easily together, with Q striking one of his characteristic coy poses, and Picard leaning in toward him, almost touching--"the erotics of male friendship" indeed! (Jenkins, Textual Poachers 205).
(21) Although the series' creators seemed to feel an urgent need to reaffirm Picard's heterosexuality in this episode, Q obtrudes himself insistently on Picard's love life. When Picard inadvertently manages to offend his date, Penny, who throws a drink in his face, Q, in the guise of a bartender, tosses him a towel, and remarks sarcastically, "I had no idea you were such a ladies' man." When Picard is having a conversation with his friend Marta, a conversation in which Marta is obviously discovering her attraction to this more mature Picard, Q interrupts, dressed as a flower delivery boy and brings Picard a lavish and extravagant bouquet of roses. Marta assumes they're from "another one of your conquests" (which, of course, they are!) and leaves with evident disappointment, while Q asks, "Did I interrupt anything sordid, I hope?" He practically railroads Picard into sleeping with Marta, an action which paradoxically serves to promote his own intentions, as Marta's morning-after discomfort with Picard plainly shows. With surgical precision, Q manipulates Picard into alienating his two best friends just as he neatly separated Picard from Vash in "Qpid." He continues his guerrilla strategy of trying to eliminate the competition in "All Good Things . . ." by casting Picard into a future in which he has both married and divorced Dr. Beverly Crusher.
(22) Despite his attempts to renew his friendship with Corey and to romanticize his relationship with Marta, the only person Picard can relate to without artificiality and awkwardness is Q. Both characters' body language, tones of voice, and willingness to flirt throughout "Tapestry" suggest that they have achieved a level of comfort, ease, and intimacy in their interactions with each other. Picard verbally jousts with Q in a playful manner and confides in his omnipotent companion in an intimate and self-revealing fashion. The morning after Picard goes to bed with Marta, the camera pans over his clothes strewn on the floor, then up, to reveal him lying on his side in bed. A finger reaches over to stroke his ear, Picard rolls over with a smile, and discovers Q lying next to him and greeting him with a friendly, "Morning, Darling." Picard's first reaction is to yank the covers up to his neck, but he soon relaxes into conversation with Q as they lie in bed together. Q teases Picard about his night with Marta in a dead-on imitation of Stewart's accent, "We're just friends, Q, nothing more," but doesn't press the point when Picard asserts, "And we're still friends." In an exaggerated simulation of casual intimacy, Q flops his head back on the pillow, sighs, and asks, "So, what next?" Picard answers thoughtfully, "I don't know, but what I do know is, things will be different." Q turns to look at his partner, smiles, and says warmly, "I'm sure" before disappearing. According to de Lancie, this last scene was intended to be filmed with the actors sitting on the bed, and Moore recalls that he wrote it with Picard indignantly jumping out of bed when Q appears and hastily pulling on his clothes (although he was very pleased with how it turned out), but de Lancie and Stewart took matters into their own hands (or rather onto their own backs), thereby resembling nothing so much as a comfortably married couple, as Q teases his companion affectionately, engages him in thoughtful discussion of his plans for the day, and offers warm reassurance, while Picard apparently feels comfortable enough with his bedmate not to flee as he did in "Qpid," but rather to pull his covers down to his waist in a gratuitous but endearing display of his manly physique. Although Ron Moore's script for "Tapestry" develops the relationship between Q and Picard in a delicate and complex fashion, showing two self-contained individuals, both uncomfortable with emotional display and self-revelation, achieving an unprecedented degree of intimacy and communication, de Lancie and Stewart pushed the boundaries even further. Although the powers-that-be cut de Lancie's kiss to Stewart's forehead, they could not cut the entire scene just described. Through body language, eye contact, and vocal shadings, the two actors convey an erotic dimension to the growing connection between their characters. By now we would expect Q to plant himself immediately next to Picard on every possible occasion; we would expect him to tease Picard by appearing in his bed and stroking his ear while playing the role of a lover. But Picard's apparent comfort with Q's advances is the real surprise here; his act of pulling down the covers while conversing with Q in bed and his confidential tone of voice both reveal that not only does Picard no longer consider Q an adversary, but that he and Q have achieved an unspoken trust and understanding. The casual intimacy Picard evinces in bed with Q goes a long way toward undermining the Captain's otherwise stalwart heterosexuality.
(23) Again, Picard learns a lesson in self-awareness, one designed by Q to further Picardís personal evolution. While Picard is in "heaven" with Q, looking at the injured form of his younger self, he remarks, "I was a different person in those days, arrogant, undisciplined, with far too much ego and far too little wisdom. I was more like you," to which Q retorts, "Then you must have been far more interesting. Pity you had to change." Picard has just set himself up into being forced to acknowledge that he and Q are, as de Lancie and Stewart both characterize them, alter-egos. In the Advocate interview, Stewart suggests that "Q is simply the other aspect of Picard. That notion was always very attractive to me." When the interviewer points out that such a notion indicates that Picard may be "repressing homoerotic parts of himself," Stewart replies, "It is certainly possible" (73). Q essentially forces Picard to acknowledge his younger, wilder, undisciplined self, insisting that Picard would not have achieved his professional success without that arrogance and lust for danger. He eventually learns that lesson, and Q brings him back to life. In the final scene, he confides in his first officer, Riker, that he feels he owes Q "a debt of gratitude" for his "compassion" in giving him "a second chance" and allowing him to become reconciled to a past of which he had felt ashamed: "There were loose threads, untidy parts of me that I would like to remove. But when I pulled on one of those threads, it unravelled the tapestry of my life." And the younger Riker is clearly impressed with this story of "a hell-bent-for-leather young officer taking on three Nausicaans twice his size," remarking, "I wish I'd had the chance to know that Jean-Luc Picard." That Jean-Luc Picard is the one who emerges in fan fiction--a man who is playful, arrogant, passionate and free-spirited enough to venture into a sexually unconventional love affair with Q. (Several fan writers, in fact, use Picardís wild youth as portrayed in "Tapestry" to posit that it is quite possible that Picard might have had homosexual encounters as a young man.) Significantly enough, Picard and Q look into a mirror together during "Tapestry," and what Picard has to learn is to embrace that mirror image, to realize that his arrogant, undisciplined, and Q-like qualities are essential and inextricable parts of himself. Moore has suggested that Q would really like Picard to become a Q himself, although he would never admit such a thing openly, and Q's apparelling himself in a version of Picard's Starfleet uniform further suggests the way the characters are doubles for each other.
(24) "Tapestry" concludes with Picard voicing his "gratitude" for Q's "compassion." Picard's growing trust in Q is an essential element in "All Good Things . . . ," which Ron Moore co-authored. Here, not only is Picardís personal evolution at issue, but the evolution of the human species as well, thereby neatly returning to the premise of the series premiere, "Encounter at Farpoint," where Q had put humanity on trial, forcing Picard to prove that humans are more than "a dangerous, savage child-race." In "All Good Things . . . ," Q's superiors have designed an almost impossible test for Picard, to figure out an elaborate temporal paradox or forfeit the existence of the entire human race. We find out only at the end that Q has been forced into this role unwillingly and that he is providing Picard with as much assistance as his superiors will allow. The first scene in which Q appears, however, a return to the courtroom of the series premiere, "Encounter at Farpoint," seems to indicate a regression in Q's character. He is as sarcastically misanthropic and insulting as he was in "Farpoint," bitterly lashing out at Picard. When Picard asks, "You're going to deny us travel through space?" Q returns, "You obtuse piece of flotsam! You are to be denied existence!" Q is not merely expressing the frustration of a teacher with a slow and stubborn student or that of a mentor with a protegé who has failed to live up to expectations. He is also expressing the rage and disappointment of a lover who is becoming increasingly convinced that he has bestowed his affections on an unworthy object; trying to cover for his own chagrin, he lashes out: "He doesn't understand! I have only myself to blame, I suppose. I believed in you. I thought you had potential. But apparently I was wrong." Q desperately wants Picard to succeed, to prove himself worthy of Q's attention and affection once and for all. And Picard does not react to Q's taunting with his usual anger; he realizes that something very serious is going on, and after returning to his ship, reports to his crew, "There was a deadly earnestness about him [Q]. I think he's serious." Picard realizes further, "he's always had a certain fascination with humanity, with myself in particular. I think he has more than a passing interest in what happens to me." The android Data agrees, noting, "Q's interest in you has always been very similar to that of a master and his beloved pet." This is an accurate if incomplete description; Q's favorite epithet for Picard, "mon Capitaine," is almost always delivered in a half-mocking, half-affectionate, but always proprietary tone, and if his "pet" fails this test, Q will undoubtedly be subject to the derision of his superiors.
(25) But Q is also trying to transform Picard into a more worthy partner for himself, to give him a little push toward being "more evolved than the rest of [his] species." In his final scene with Picard, Q fluctuates between a delighted pride in his protegé and an exasperated frustration at his continued obtuseness. When Picard does succeed, the relief and affection in Q's voice is tangible, as he states, "The Continuum didn't think you had it in you, Jean-Luc, but I knew you did." But when Picard asks Q, "Are you saying that it worked? We collapsed the anomaly?" Q responds irritably with the petulance of an unappreciated lover, "Is that all this meant to you, just another spatial anomaly, just another day at the office?" Mocking his recalcitrant pupil's limited ability to comprehend what was at stake, Q sighs, "The anomaly. My ship. My crew. I suppose you're worried about your fish, too. Well, if it puts your mind at ease you've saved humanity. Once again." The episodeís conclusion neatly links Qís feelings for Picard with the question of Picardís evolution. Having realized the extent of Q's assistance, Picard delivers a heartfelt, "Thank you." As if embarrassed, Q asks uncomfortably, "For what?" Picard replies, "You had a hand in helping me get out of this." Q sighs with genuine regret, saying, "I was the one who got you into it. Directive from the Continuum." At this he looks skyward with raised eyebrows, revealing his exasperation with his superiors; then he turns back to Picard, smiles warmly, and says with an unaccustomed gentleness, "The part about the helping hand, though, was my idea." Picard smiles back, and for a brief moment they reach a tentative understanding infused with an unspoken but genuine warmth of feeling for each other. De Lancie makes very clear that in this scene he wants to show that "Q has a vested interest in this man making it." The mutual admiration society convenes for only a moment, however. Clearly uncomfortable with this level of self-disclosure on both their parts, both Picard and Q draw back. Picard looks around the courtroom, declaring, "I sincerely hope that this is the last time that I find myself here," and Q snaps, "You just don't get it, do you, Jean-Luc? The trial never ends." He explains, "We wanted to see if you had the ability to expand your mind and your horizons. And for one brief moment you did." He continues, "For that one fraction of a second you were open to options you had never considered; that is the exploration that awaits you. Not mapping stars and studying nebula, but charting the unknown possibilities of existence." Given the unstated subtext that in doing so he will become a more suitable partner for Q, Picard asks uncomfortably, "Q, what is it you're trying to tell me?" This is the crucial question, and in keeping with Picard's emotional reserve and Q's mask of hypermasculine self-sufficiency, the answer must be left unspoken. Q leans forward, his lips immediately next to Picard's ear, begins to whisper something, which, if my lip-reading doesn't fail me, begins with the word "I," then changes his mind and says coyly, "You'll find out."
(26) The erotic subtext of this scene must be veiled, hinted at but not disclosed directly. TNG's creators are not ready to present a romantic connection between two men more overtly, and a large proportion of TNG's fans aren't ready to accept one (more on this below). That such homoerotic tension exists between two characters who have so much invested in not revealing what they feel, serves the series' creators well. Through body language, eye contact, and tone of voice, de Lancie and Stewart suffuse this scene with unspoken depths of emotion, feelings that seem all the more powerful by virtue of the evident control both characters are exerting to keep them restrained. Q leans toward Picard, apparently eager to answer his question, to speak the secret he has been concealing all these years into the ear of his companion, but the mask slips partially back into place, and Q leaves his secret unsaid.
(27) After all, what is this unspeakable future that Q cannot openly reveal to Picard? Well, for the members of the Q Continuum, expanding one's mind and horizons involves, among other things, the total deconstruction of gender as an ontological category. Q and his cohorts are radically anti-essentialist in regard to just about every means humans use for classification; time, space, gender, and species are all arbitrary constructs needed by lesser species to make sense of their existence. The androgynes in "The Outcast," for instance, are as rigid in their conception of gender as humans are, and in "The Host," Beverly Crusher cannot accept a lover who has moved from a male to a female body, but suggests "Perhaps someday our ability to love won't be so limited." What Q's repeated appearances on the starship Enterprise suggest is that our own evolution may take the same direction as that of his own species; the "unknown possibilities of existence" may include the ultimate transcendence of the category of gender as well as the ability to understand and manipulate time and space. Q's remark, in "Qpid" that he "would have appeared as a female" had he been aware of Picard's vulnerability to feminine wiles suggests that Picard's rigid adherence to categories of gender and sexuality is precisely why he is not "more evolved" than the rest of his species. Picard's growing comfort and intimacy with Q in "Tapestry" and "All Good Things . . . ," however, indicates that he does have some potential to accept anti-essentialist conceptions of gender and species, to embrace the unlimited possibilities that Q represents. If, so Picardís future evolution may allow him, as numerous fan authors have posited, to perceive Q as a romantic partner. Of course, such a possibility can only be hinted at in an oblique fashion on the series. While TNGís creators have begun blurring the lines between connotation and denotation in the relationship between Picard and Q, they never sacrifice the all-important defense of deniability. Qís final words to Picard in "All Good Things . . . " are again more interesting in what they leave implicit. "You'll find out. In any case, I'll be watching" suggests that Picard is not ready to hear what Q has to say, but Q will be waiting, hoping for the opportunity to present itself. Again, de Lancie delivers these words with a smile and a genuinely warm tone of voice. The forced casualness of "And if you're very lucky I'll drop by to say hello from time to time" seems to be an attempt on Q's part to restore his flippant invulnerability, but his parting words, "See you out there" ring with a fervent hope for a renewed connection with the object of his affections.
(28) Q continues his performance of gender on his first visit to Star Trek: Voyager, "Death Wish." Unlike his visits to TNG, this one places Qís dishonorable intentions toward the Captain firmly in the realm of denotation. The episode can afford this explicitness, of course, because Janeway is female, and the charactersí flirtation is furthered by the longstanding friendship and evident chemistry between the two actors. As in his interactions with Picard, Q performs a calculated role designed to keep Janeway continuously on edge. He does not abandon his queer demeanor entirely, but continues to display his usual bitchy campiness. Observing the first officer's tattooed forehead, he remarks cattily, "Facial art. Oooh, how very wilderness of you." Later, while commenting on Janeway's "delicate little hands," he coos, "Oh, so touchably soft. What is your secret, dear?" But in his interactions with Janeway, he adopts two principal roles to get beneath her skin: the sexist pig and the dangerous but alluring romance novel hero. On the bridge, Q speaks to her in a deliberately patronizing tone, questioning her ability to command with such remarks as, "Well, I guess that's what we get for having a woman in the captain's seat"; "Did anyone ever tell you you're angry when you're beautiful?"; and "But then again, that's why they made you Captain, isn't it? To handle the real tough ones. My, my, now I guess we get to find out whether the pants . . . really fit." This last remark is made while Q is ostentatiously leaning back to check out the captain's rear end while suggestively raising his eyebrows. Q's comments are part of his persistent destabilization of stereotypical gender categories; he is consciously playing a game, while simultaneously alluding to the persistent Trekker debates about Janeway's feminist and captainly credentials. At the same time, he tries to undermine Janeway's authority by objectifying her in precisely the same fashion that he did with Picard, as he does with his comment in "Qpid" that Picard seems "somewhat smaller."
(29) That Q should be intrigued by Janeway is not surprising; she is dynamic and energetic, and Q would not allow gender to interfere with his choice of romantic interests--he doesn't allow gender to interfere with anything. This episode contains a bedroom scene reminiscent of Q's bedroom scenes with Picard in "Qpid" and "Tapestry." Although Qís language and demeanor are very explicitly seductive, he is considerably less successful than he ever was with Picard. Q's appearance in the captain's bedroom is a very conscious performance. Janeway, wearing her favorite revealing pink nightgown, rolls over to discover Q in bed with her, wearing a nightshirt and a ludicrous, cone-shaped and unthreateningly limp nightcap. Despite the seductive tone he adopts, his appearance is anything but sexy--a sign that this seduction is not to be taken seriously. Unlike Picard in "Tapestry," who is apparently quite comfortable with his univited bedmate, Janeway leaps out of bed, pulls on a robe, and tells Q to "Get out." Persisting in his unsuccessful seduction, Q offers, "I'll take you home. Before you know it, you'll be scampering across the meadow with your little puppies, the grass beneath your bare feet. A man coming over the hill way in the distance waves to you. You run to be in his arms, and as you get closer you see that it's . . . me." At Janeway's incredulous response, Q insists:
I know how to show a girl a good time. How would you like a ticker tape parade down Sri Lanka Boulevard? The captain who brought Voyager back. A celebrated hero. I never did anything like that for Jean-Luc. But I feel very close to you. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because you have such authority and yet manage to preserve your femininity so well.
Although Q can be more explicit in his dialog here, there are several clues that this is, again, a performance and a game. Q's evocation of lovers meeting across a meadow is calculatedly hokey, and his evocation of Janeway's authority combined with feminity is a deliberate cliché, delivered with a slightly sarcastic edge and de Lancie's usual italicization of the words, as if he wants to reveal that his mocking romance hero pose is just that, yet another in a series of poses. Q is playing with romantic clichés and pickup lines, as he does with "Did anyone ever tell you you're angry when you're beautiful?" and Janeway resists, like a romance heroine is supposed to do.
(30) Q's statement, "I never did anything like that for Jean-Luc," can be read in a number of ways. It draws a parallel between the two captains as objects of Q's desire, suggesting again that gender is simply a non-issue where Q is concerned; Q's patronizing epithet for Janeway, "Madame Captain," thus deliberately echoes his patronizing epithet for Picard, "Mon Capitaine." It can be read as a typical pickup line, with Q trying to flatter Janeway with a favorable comparison to a former romantic interest. It can be read as patently insincere, since Q has done considerably more than throwing a tickertape parade for "Jean-Luc," both saving his individual life ("Tapestry") and assisting him in preserving the entire human race ("All Good Things . . .") . And the viewers know that Q can't bring Voyager home anyway, since it would mean the end of the series. Q's flirtation with Janeway cannot evolve beyond a flirtation for that very reason, although fan writers are beginning, of course, to find their way around this difficulty. Q can be given more overtly flirtatious dialog, since the object of his attentions is female, but the heterosexual poses he adopts in his interactions with Janeway are as much a form of drag as his alternately flaming queen and macho queer stances on TNG were.
(31) Star Trek's creators, however, seem to be backpedalling furiously in Q's most recent Voyager appearance, "The Q and the Grey." As Q fan Alara Rogers disgustedly remarked, "he practically had letters on his forehead screaming 'I AM A GENDERED HETEROSEXUAL MALE.'"27 Not only is Q trying to seduce Captain Janeway (again, unsuccessfully), in the hopes that human DNA will reform the Q Continuum, but he is also provided with a mate of five billion years' standing (never mentioned in any previous appearance), performed by a female actress (Suzie Plakson). Eventually Q and his mate produce a baby Q, and Q visits Janeway, baby in tow, while complaining about the "old ball-and-chain." Despite the apparently heterosexualizing agenda of the series' creators, there were two quintessentially queer moments. A crewman, trying to discover Q's intentions toward Janeway, mutters to his companion, "We'll never get a straight answer out of this guy." Moments later, Q sidles up to a holographic poolside bar, ordering "one of those fruity drinks." Nice try, but not enough to deflect the almost universal disapprobation with which this episode was received by Q's fans on alt.fan.q and elsewhere.28
(32) Q's visits to the Enterprise were far more subversive in that Stewart and de Lancie's highly-charged onscreen chemistry and de Lancie's determination to take his character as far as and in as many directions as possible every time he "come[s] up to bat," as he puts it, seem to have forced TNG's creators into implicitly acknowledging Q's queerness. Yet by disallowing the more overt expressions of Q's homoerotic attraction to Picard (a kiss on the forehead, for instance) and allowing the more playful ones, the series' creators can have their cake and eat it too. Fans who are interested in finding a romantic or erotic dimension to Picard and Q's relationship will be gratified, while fans who wish to deny even the possibility of such a thing can remain happily in the dark. Such are the advantages of connotation, made necessary by, as Miller puts it, "the cultural surround of legal, social, psychic, and aesthetic practices . . . that tolerate homosexuality only on condition that it be kept out of sight" (123). A survey I posted on several Star Trek newsgroups, including alt.fan.q (an Internet newsgroup devoted to Q), included the question, "What do you think is going on between Q and Picard, anyway?" Responses either zeroed in on a romantic or erotic attraction directly or avoided the topic altogether; one reply went so far as to deny, explicitly, that their relationship has a homoerotic element. And several months ago, alt.fan.q erupted in a heated debate about Q's sexuality (or lack thereof). The series' creators have clearly managed to portray this relationship with just enough ambiguity that they won't offend any of their fans while providing sufficiently tantalizing evidence for those fans who would be intrigued by Q's gayness or bisexuality. Interestingly, more recent fan debates on alt.fan.q accepted Qís pursuit of Picard as a given. Instead they were concerned with the questions of whether Q would more likely be a dom or a sub in a bdsm relationship with Picard.
(33) Such fans must then be open to the idea that gender and sexuality are neither immutable nor fixed. We have a (presumably) heterosexual male actor playing a genderless and "bispecial" omnipotent being, who, in turn, performs the role of a simultaneously butch (in his body language) and swishy (in his vocal inflections) male. In the process, de Lancie as Q also destabilizes the authoritative masculinity of Captain Jean-Luc Picard, who is played by a (presumably) heterosexual actor who, because of his very public gay-friendly stance and his delight in his first openly gay role (in the film version of Paul Rudnick's Jeffrey), is often the subject of rumors of homosexuality.29 Q's gender and sexuality remain ambiguous as his affected speech and dominating physical postures leave the viewer unclear as to how to categorize "him," and his threateningly seductive stance toward the physically smaller Picard puts Picard in a stereotypically feminine position of sexual vulnerability, a vulnerability that is reinforced in the bedroom scenes by the skimpy pajamas Picard wears in "Qpid" and his implied nakedness in "Tapestry."
(34) That Q so frequently switches gender in fanfic, and that his destabilization of gender extends to the "manly" Picard, suggests that Q's character has paved the way for many Star Trek fans to think of gender in very flexible terms. Yet while K/S stories seem to construct a homoerotic relationship with very little, if any, basis in the series itself, more recent fan fiction has actually been given some material to work with by the series' producers. Q's pursuit of Picard may be more overt, but in the relationships between Garak and Bashir on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Kim and Paris as well as Janeway and Torres on Star Trek: Voyager, there is an erotically-charged interplay and a playful flirtatiousness between members of the same sex that the original series did not afford. It remains firmly within the bounds of connotation; the series' producers have a large stake in maintaining deniability. A television series, particularly such a cultural icon as a Star Trek series, is a joint product, put together by people who may have wildly differing agendas, ranging from the producers' concern for the integrity and continuing commercial viability of their product to the actors' desire to bring their characters fully to life. In de Lancie's case, we have an actor with very strong opinions, a healthy disrespect for authority, a penchant for playing larger-than-life roles, a desire to make the most of every performance, and a determination, above all, it seems, to create a character who embodies unpredictability, an unpredictability that manifests itself in Q's stagey and highly self-conscious gender play.30
(35) Star Trek fans, in turn, are notoriously vocal, criticizing every aspect of the various films and television series, while not abandoning their loyalty to the Star Trek universe. Star Trek's treatment of race, gender, and sexuality has been criticized as not doing enough to counter contemporary stereotypes and has been criticized as being too politically correct. Voyager's Captain Janeway, for instance, has been the subject of numerous debates on the Internet and in fan newsletters about her qualifications as both a captain and as a feminist heroine. There are several groups of gay, lesbian, and bisexual Star Trek fans who have long lobbied for the inclusion of gay characters.31 Writers of fan fiction have found a particularly flexible venue for presenting their "readings" of the characters, and the dissemination of fan stories on the Internet gives them a wider audience than that afforded by fanzines alone. Fans feel free to present their own versions of their favorite characters, usually beginning their stories with sarcastic disclaimers that simultaneously acknowledge Paramount's ownership of the characters and assert the fans' right, in effect, to have their way with them. The world of contemporary Star Trek erotic fan fiction is radically bisexual. The same author will pair Picard with Q in one story and with Beverly Crusher in another; another writer couples Picard with the male android Data and with Crusher in successive stories. Other authors write stories in which Q has both male and female love interests.32 Voyager's Janeway has been paired with just about every member of her senior staff, both male and female, as well as Q himself, and her crew members themselves have been brought together in a wide variety of m/f, m/m, and f/f combinations. One Voyager story involves Q changing the gender of the entire crew; Janeway and her male first officer, Chakotay, discover that gender is irrelevant to their mutual attraction, and they have sex while "she" is in male and "he" in female form.33 As the editors of Switch Hitters (a collection of gay male erotica authored by lesbians and lesbian erotica authored by gay men) remark, "Girls will be boys and boys will be girls."34 They describe the stories in their anthology as embodying a "playful sense of shape-shifting" and "a kind of literary drag" (11) and note that slash fiction also fits the category of "woman-authored gay male erotica" (13). Yet, even apparently heterosexual stories can arise from a polymorphously queer context--for example, the bisexual author of several Janeway/Chakotay romances admits that she both lusts after and identifies with both characters. Despite Star Trek's persistent attempts to maintain a middle ground in dealing with gender and sexuality, fans have found sufficient evidence in the characterizations for a wide variety of queer readings. Paramount may not wish to reveal what Q is trying to tell Picard when he whispers in his ear, but TNG's fans have a good idea. While Q forces Picard to begin to explore the margins of "the unknown possibilities of existence," to become "a bit more evolved" by abandoning conventional conceptions of species, gender, and sexuality, he also offers fans the opportunity to create a vision of the future in which the categories of gender and sexuality are questioned, destabilized, and deconstructed in a radically playful fashion.
ATARA STEIN is an associate professor of English literature at California State University Fullerton. She is currently working on a manuscript entitled Romanticism and Popular Culture.
1. A much shorter version of this essay was delivered at the Far West Popular Culture Association meeting in February, 1995.
I have had the opportunity to consult with John de Lancie and Ronald D. Moore in the course of my continuing study of Star Trek: TNG and Q, and I am very grateful for their thoughtful responses to my questions and their assistance, but their generosity should not imply any endorsement of my conclusions. Mr. de Lancie's comments throughout this essay are from an informal phone interview on July 25, 1994 and a brief follow-up on November 21, 1994, while Mr. Moore's are from an interview at Paramount Pictures on November 14, 1994 and a phone interview on April 28, 1995.
I would like to thank Henry Jenkins for his generosity in taking the time to read a draft of this essay and for the thoughtfulness of his comments.
Also, I must acknowledge Michael Okuda, Denise Okuda, and Debbie Mirek, The Star Trek Encyclopedia: A Reference Guide to the Future (NY: Pocket Books, 1994) and Larry Nemecek, The Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (NY: Pocket Books, 1992, 1995) as invaluable sources for fact and name checking.
2. Although TNG's final episode aired in Spring 1994, Q continues to be a phenomenally popular character. John de Lancie is a frequent interview subject in fan oriented magazines, his convention appearances are mobbed, and Q has his own Internet newsgroup (alt.fan.q) and is the only Star Trek character (to my knowledge), besides Captain Picard (alt.sexy.bald.captains) to be able to claim this distinction. In addition, Q continues to be the subject of reams of fan fiction of every sort: back stories, alternate universe stories, action-adventure stories, Mary Sues, and slash fiction.
Q has appeared on eight episodes of Star Trek: TNG: "Encounter at Farpoint," writ. D. C. Fontana and Gene Roddenberry, dir. Corey Allen, first aired 1987; "Hide and Q," writ. C. J. Holland and Gene Roddenberry, dir. Cliff Bole, first aired 1987; "Q Who," writ. Maurice Hurley, dir. Rob Bowman, first aired 1989; "Deja Q," writ. Richard Danus, dir. Les Landau, first aired 1990; "Qpid," writ. Ira Steven Behr and Randee Russell, dir. Cliff Bole, first aired 1991; "True Q," writ. René Echevarria, dir. Robert Scheerer, first aired 1992; "Tapestry," writ. Ronald D. Moore, dir. Les Landau, first aired 1993; and "All Good Things . . . ," writ. Ronald D. Moore and Brannon Braga, dir. Rick Kolbe, first aired 1994. He also appeared on one episode of Star Trek: DS9: "Q-Less," writ. Robert Hewitt Wolfe and Hannah Louise Shearer, dir. Paul Lynch, first aired 1993 and two Star Trek: Voyager episodes, "Death Wish," writ. Shawn Piller and Michael Piller, dir. James L. Conway, first aired 1995; and "The Q and the Grey," writ. Kenneth Biller and Shawn Piller, dir. Cliff Bole, first aired 1996.
3. The Star Trek "canon" is generally accepted to refer to the television series and the films, not the novels, comic books, etc.
4. Henry Jenkins, Textual Poachers: Television Fans & Participatory Culture (NY, London: Routledge, 1992); Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire (NY: Columbia UP, 1985).
5. See April Selley, "'I Have Been, and Ever Shall Be,Your Friend': Star Trek, The Deerslayer and the American Romance," Journal of Popular Culture 20 (1986) 89-104 for a discussion of the portrayal of Kirk and Spock's friendship.
6. Constance Penley, "Brownian Motion: Women, Tactics, and Technology," Technoculture, Constance Penley, Andrew Ross, eds. (Minneapolis, Oxford: U of Minnesota P, 1991) 137.
7. A script with a clear parallel to AIDS and which matter-of-factly included gay crewmembers was shot down, for instance, according to James Van Hise, Next Generation Tribute Book (Las Vegas, NV: Pioneer Books, 1993) 124.
8. This is from INFO ON GETTING AND SUBMITTING CREATIVE MATERIAL, a FAQ (frequently-asked questions) document that runs on the newsgroup alt.startrek.creative, a newsgroup for fan authors.
9. D. A. Miller, "Anal Rope," Inside/Out: Lesbian Theories, Gay Theories, ed. Diana Fuss (NY, London: Routledge, 1991) 125.
10. Donna Minkowitz, "A New Enterprise," The Advocate 687/688 (Aug. 22, 1995) (72-73).
11. Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (NY, London: Routledge, 1990) ix.
12. Judith Butler, "Imitation and Gender Insubordination," Inside/Out: Lesbian Theories, Gay Theories, ed. Diana Fuss (NY, London: Routledge, 1991) 21.
13. Although Q has presumably never seen his colleague (Corbin Bernson) in human form before, when the second Q materializes in the shuttlecraft, our Q instantly recognizes him with a delighted cry of "Q!" ("Deja Q").
14. I suspect that the origin of Q's bisexuality may lie at least partially in de Lancie's Byronic conception of the character. Having played Byron himself (discovering, in the process, his remarkable resemblance to the poet), de Lancie wished to portray Q as "mad, bad, and dangerous to know." I discussed Q's Byronism in detail in a paper delivered at the Philological Association of the Pacific Coast annual meeting in November, 1994 entitled, "Star Trek's Q: A Byronic Hero for The Next Generation."
15. In that respect, Star Trek: TNG finds itself in the position of undertaking a similar project to that of Michael Warner in his essay, "Homo-Narcissism; or, Heterosexuality," Engendering Men: The Question of Male Feminist Criticism, Joseph A. Boone, Michael Cadden, eds. (NY, London: Routledge, 1990). Warner deconstructs the traditional psychoanalytic opposition of heterosexuality to both homo- and autoerotics. Where Freud and others associate homosexuality with narcissism, that is, with "an arrested form of interest in oneself" (192), Warner argues that identification (associated with narcissism) and attachment (associated with Otherness) are not mutually exclusive (197). Heterosexual attraction, according to Warner, can contain elements of narcissism, while homosexual attraction can contain desire for and attachment to the Other. Warner draws out the implications of Freudís own writings to discount the notion that homosexuality is a regressive form of sexuality, and he goes on to suggest that this notion is simply a means for heterosexuality to constitute itself by defining itself in opposition to "homo- and autoerotics" (202).
16. Henry Jenkins, "'Out of the Closet and into the Universe': Queers and Star Trek," Science Fiction Audiences: Watching Doctor Who and Star Trek, John Tulloch and Henry Jenkins, co-authors (London, NY: Routledge, 1995) 252.
17. Another example of a playful acknowledgment of an erotic subtext between two male characters in the Star Trek universe comes in the film Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. As Penley describes it, Captain Kirk, having been rescued by Spock on a Klingon ship, "moves toward Spock and reaches for him with both hands. Spock interrupts the embrace with 'Please, Captain, not in front of the Klingons'" (135). A similar instance of "'tongue-in-cheek' campiness" occurred at the Grand Slam Star Trek Convention in Pasadena, CA, March 18, 1995. Ron Moore and Brannon Braga, co-writers of the film, Star Trek: Generations, announced they would act out the original, controversial filmed ending. Using full-size Kirk and Picard cardboard stand-up figures, Braga and Moore had them kissing passionately and declaring, in the mode of slash fiction, "I've never said this to a man before, but I love you."
18. Alexander Doty, Making Things Perfectly Queer: Interpreting Mass Culture (Minneapolis, London: U of Minnesota P, 1993) xvii.
19. Eric Savoy, "The Signifying Rabbit," Narrative 3 (1995) 191.
20. Penley, "Brownian Motion," 154 and "Feminism, Psychoanalysis, and the Study of Popular Culture," Cultural Studies, Lawrence Grossberg, Cary Nelson, and Paula Treichler, eds. (NY, London: Routledge, 1992) 490. Patricia Frazer Lamb and Diana L. Veith, "Romantic Myth, Transcendence, and Star Trek Zines," Erotic Universe: Sexuality and Fantastic Literature, Donald Palumbo, ed. (NY, Wesport, Conn., London: Greenwood P, 1986) 238.
21. The first story involves Q training Picard according to the conventional structures of dominance and submission and branding him with an initial "Q." In the second story, Q continues Picardís training by taking him back in time to the 1970ís and offering him up for a gang-bang at an S/M club, and the third story is a moving and thought-provoking examination of the dominantís point of view, as Q reflects on his need to hurt and humiliate the one he loves.
22. Fan writers are remarkably flexible about their readings of characters, however, and Mercutioís "Quandary" and Jeanita Danzikís "One Night in the Captainís Quarters" involve BDSM scenarios in which Picard is on top, and Q finds himself struggling with his overwhelming desire to submit to the good Captain.
23. Peter David, Q-in-Law (NY: Pocket Books, 1991) 102. Q suggests that he might have seduced Picard while in female form, stating "I transcend your paltry notions of gender," before switching back into his more familiar form. Again, operating within the constraints imposed by the Star Trek powers-that-be, David probably could not have taken this notion much further. Instead, Q has a rather stormy interlude with Lwaxana Troi. (Since Lwaxana pursues Picard as relentlessly as Q does in her frequent guest appearances making her and Q, in effect, rivals, one might suggest that this is an interesting variation on Sedgwickís notion of triangulation of desire.)
24. Other examples of femQ stories include, Vivian Vanderburg's "Vestiges of Thought," Mark Ameen Johnson's "I Never Could Resist a Man in Uniform" (in which Q appears as his rival and partner in crime, Vash), and Christine Marie Faltz's "Inner Truths." I must acknowledge Alara Rogers' "BiblioQ," an invaluable resource in the quest for Q fan fiction.
Both Penley ("Feminism, Psychoanalysis, and the Study of Popular Culture," 484) and Jenkins ("Out of the Closet and Into the Universe," 238) acknowledge their status as fans of the texts they study. Jenkins avows his "partisan position" as a member of the Gaylaxians, a group which lobbies for gay and lesbian characters on Star Trek. I must do the same. As a fan and a fan author, I can't pretend to any rigid objectivity. My scholarly and fannish pursuits have become increasingly intertwined, but I believe the line between one's analytical and personal responses must always be blurred for scholars, whether one is discussing Byron or Star Trek. It is simply that in analyzing popular texts, that blurring becomes much more evident, and I must acknowledge the extent to which my fandom informs my scholarship and vice versa.
25. Picard also undergoes a figurative gender transformation in Jeanita Danzikís "Theme and Variations," in which he perceives his submission in archetypally feminine terms--he becomes a "vessel" or "temple" who transforms the gangbang into a sacred ritual through the strength and willingness of his submission.
26. This point has come up very frequently in newsgroup and e-mail discussions with other fan authors.
27. Alara Rogers' statements are taken from personal e-mail letters and posts on alt.fan.q.
28. This episode seems to be part of a strategy to render Star Trek more appealing to a wider (and more conventional) audience than the usual "Trekkers," a strategy various higher-ups have described in interviews. But that is, of course, the topic of another article altogether.
29. I use the word "presumably" because of my discomfort with labels, rather than as a means to question the sexual orientation of the actors. That said, both de Lancie and Stewart (Stewart more frequently) generate flurries of rumors on the Internet about their sexuality. The typical subject heading shouts "PATRICK STEWART GAY?" The more reasoned responses, I am happy report, argue that the actor's orientation is irrelevant to the roles he plays, and the roles he plays are no indication of his orientation. Some go further to question the value of the labels themselves.
30. Pamela Roller, "Much Ado About Q: An Interview with John de Lancie," Star Trek Communicator, #101 (February/March 1995) 23.
31. In addition to the Gaylaxians that Jenkins describes, there is a World Wide Web homepage for gay and lesbian Star Trek fans, providing links to groups called the USS Harvey Milk and the Planet Stonewall Gay and Lesbian Science Fiction Association. These groups are part of the Voyager Visibility Project, lobbying for the inclusion of gay and lesbian characters on the series.
32. Alara Rogersí Only Human and Mercutioís spinoff, PropinQuity, are the most prominent examples.
33. Laura Bowen, "This Is the Captain Speaking."
34. Carol Queen and Lawrence Schimel, "Introduction," Switch Hitters (Pittsburgh, San Francisco: Cleis Press, 1996) 11.\
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