Star Trek: Picard Season 2 Star John De Lancie Had No Trouble Playing Q Again

Nearly 30 years go, Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Starship Enterprise had his seemingly final encounter with Q, the godlike alien who had been tormenting Patrick Stewart's Starfleet leader since the pilot episode of "Star Trek: The Next Generation." Over seven seasons, Q had transformed from icy villain to frenemy, a literal trickster god whose distaste for humanity had evolved into a bemused curiosity. And while the series finale closed the book on a number of plot threads, it left the possibilities for Q wide open. The immortal alien entity was always going to be watching. And waiting.

Enter "Star Trek: Picard" season 2, and the return of Q, once again played by veteran character actor John De Lancie. 

After a startling (and effective) appearance as his ageless self thanks to the power of modern visual effects, Q snaps his fingers and ages himself up to better match the decades-older Picard. The stage has been set: Picard is now an old man, battling threats both internal and external, and the biggest pain-in-the-ass he ever encountered while boldly going across the galaxy has strutted back into his life.

But what does Q want? And why did he rescue Picard and company from certain doom and deposit them in a dystopian alternate timeline? Those feel like season-long mysteries. What's not a mystery is that De Lancie doesn't miss a beat in returning to his most famous character, immediately tapping into Q's arrogance and dark whimsy. He may look older, but this is the same guy who tormented Picard for seven years a few decades ago.

But was slipping back into this role after so long a problem? As De Lancie told me over Zoom ... nah.

'This is not the beginning of the party'

It turns out that De Lancie is as wryly funny as Q. When I asked him if he had any trouble playing Q again 28 years later, he deadpanned, "I got a trainer, Jack Daniels, my acting teacher, and it was not a problem." To him, playing Q again was a simple process, one that sounds fairly pain-free. "I know everybody probably wants to think I flagellated myself and hung myself upside down and stuff like that," he told me.

Still, De Lancie credits the ease of it all with the writing — they got Q right on the page, so stepping back into the role was simple:

"And also part of that comes from the writing. If the writer knows the character and knows kind of that rhythm and what have you, then that's what we're reading off the page and you kind of go, 'Yeah, oh yeah. Here we go, okay.' And then it starts to happen again. That's all."

Still, there's something just slightly ... off about Q. The sly grin and mischievous twinkle are still there, but there's now an underlying anger, an aggression, that wasn't there in his episodes of "The Next Generation." Even Picard notes it, telling an ally that something about Q has changed. In one startling moment, Q even strikes Picard, drawing blood. For De Lancie, these new wrinkles were refreshing: 

"It was decided before we even started, and something which made me want to do the role again, was that we were not going to recreate the role. It wasn't going to just be an old man in a mariachi outfit. So once that was taken care of, then the pathway is open. And then, knowing that I, I the character, have a very strong desire that what I want to get done gets done, and that you, Picard need to do this for yourself. It just heightens the stakes."

If "Star Trek: Picard" is a show about a man at the end of his life taking stock of his accomplishments and failures, does that also apply to Q? De Lancie, rather cryptically, suggests that it does:

"Before, I was a little bit of the jokester, the life of the party. But this is when the party is almost over. This is not the beginning of the party. The beginning of the party was ["Encounter at Farpoint"]. Picard is kind of at the end of the party. And it's been a long party and there's been a lot of things that have happened. And so there's a whole different feel about it."

"Star Trek: Picard" season 2 is currently streaming on Paramount+.