the story: Q uses Vash and the tale of Robin Hood to teach Picard a lesson.
similar to: "A Piece of the Action" (original series), "Our Man Bashir" (Deep Space Nine), "Bride of Chaotica!" (Voyager)
my thoughts: "Captain's Holiday" guest character Vash makes the second of three appearances (the third occurs in Deep Space Nine's "Q-Less"), entangling herself in the affairs of Q in the process. She thusly becomes a sort of next generation Harry Mudd, a character fans hopefully identify with the series even if her overall impact is less than other familiar faces end up being.
Airing the same year as Kevin Costner's blockbuster Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, "Qpid" could very easily have come off as a bad gimmick, but the contributions of Vash and Q, as well as how the proceedings help distinguish the dynamics of the crew (notably, Worf's immortal line, "Captain, I must protest, I am not a merry man!") elevates it to a classic very easily.
Picard's near-romance with Vash is exceptional enough, and this return engagement of its very possibility helps flesh out Picard, how he interacts with the crew (Crusher is always at her best playing off of him). The only person who seems more hapless at finding love than Geordi is Picard, and this is a fun way of exploring that status.
Even better? His increasing chemistry with Q. The more flippant Q becomes, the more regular his appearances, the better he is, and this is one of his best. The more exasperated Picard becomes, the more he has to break from his most comfortable bearings. It's not even Q, but the whole Robin Hood scenario that further reveals how even in action mode he differs from Kirk. The frequent allusions to how in his youth Picard was considerably more carefree make it all the more rewarding when we see glimpses of what exactly that might have looked like, or what it looks like now, given an opportunity to stretch a little. When he climbs into Vash's chambers, for instance, he's not looking to storm the premises, but make it as quick and painless as possible (never mind what Vash does to him in return!), so that even carefree doesn't mean careless for him. (Which is not to say Kirk was careless, but certainly, reckless.)
And to fit in his archeology hobby, too seldom in the spotlight, and how he fits in to the greater galactic community outside of his role in Starfleet, and his feelings on that...This episode is just firing on all cylinders. It's the season, and the series, once again completely owning its own potential.
criteria analysis: franchise - series - character -essential (all criteria met)
John de Lancie (Q)
Jennifer Hetrick (Vash)