The away team on the alien vessel finds ship corridors very similar to the tunnels below Farpoint Station, but no sound of engines, no sign of a crew. Troi senses anger and hate (forecasting that with a nice Elvis-style lip curl.) They find Zorn being tortured within a force field, and break it. Troi realizes she’s been sensing just one alien.
Q appears on the Enterprise bridge again, this time in Starfleet uniform. He seems to prevent the away team from being beamed back, until Picard pleads with him and promises he’ll do anything he asks. The team appears with Zorn, but Troi says their return wasn’t Q’s doing—it was the alien ship.
Q, perhaps realizing they’re starting to understand, urges Picard to fire on the alien. Troi tells Picard the vessel is somehow alive. Q tells Picard to fire on it while he still has the chance, and Picard refuses. Zorn objects--“that thing was killing my people.” “Is there a reason?” Picard asks.
“It’s an unknown, Captain,” Q says. “Isn’t that enough?” “If you’d earned that uniform you’re wearing, you’d know the unknown is what brings us out here,” Picard says. “Wasted effort, considering human intelligence, ” Q says. “Let’s test that,” Picard offers.
Picard has figured out that the lifeform in orbit was firing because of a companion below, and Zorn admits that.
Picard orders that phasers be rigged to disperse an energy beam. Both Picard and Riker realize something else, for which we as viewers have been prepared by the interpolated holodeck scene. Riker had marveled that everything in the holodeck looked so real, and Data told him a lot of it was real—that like transporters, it converted energy to patterned matter. Now Riker and Picard realize that these creatures have that ability to fashion matter from energy, which solves the mystery of how Farpoint Station could have been so perfectly constructed.
Then comes one of the more visually and conceptually lovely sequences in Star Trek, as the alien ship reveals itself as a being—not unlike some of the bioluminescent creatures now being found in the depths of earth oceans, with a saucer-like body and long tendrils.
The crew figures out that Zorn had captured a creature like this one, and it was in captive despair below, while this one was angry. But it is Picard who realizes that this creature is attacking those who captured its mate. He has the energy beam aimed at Farpoint Station, and says that if he’s right, there won’t be a station anymore. “Lucky guess,” Q says, becoming more like the character we’ll meet in future episodes.
The energy allows the creature on the surface to become its real form and to escape, floating up to be with its mate. Troi reports a feeling of “great joy and gratitude.” She says it’s wonderful, and indeed it is a wonderful moment.
Picard turns with contempt back to Q, who he accuses of manipulating other lifeforms for his own amusement. Q says they weren’t that amusing, and when Picard orders him to leave, he says he will because it suits him, but he won’t promise not to visit them again.
The crew looks troubled—they have after all faced a power so much greater that they are essentially helpless, and have escaped by the skin of their teeth this time. Only Picard looks confident.
Then the members of the bridge crew are at their stations, about to go off to the next mission, the traditional original series ending. It is possibly the only moment many remember from the episode, when after professing that other missions will be much more interesting than this one, Picard says: “Let’s see what’s out there. Engage.”