The universe's biggest brat is back, and the man who plays him couldn't be happier about it.

That brat, of course, is the ill-behaved-but-omnipotent Q (John de Lancie). And, after much speculation over the past 14 months or so, he's making his first appearance on "Star Trek: Voyager" (8 p.m., Ch. 14)."It's probably the best of the Q episodes I've done because it ends up taking me back to the Q Continuum and goes back and fills in a lot of back-story," de Lancie recently told TV critics.

As even the most casual Trekker knows, Q was a part of "The Next Generation" from beginning to end - he was in the pilot, the finale, and some very good episodes in between.

The character also made an appearance on "Deep Space Nine." And he's the only character who could also show up on "Voyager," given that that ship is waaaay on the other side of the galaxy.

Actually, Q brings another "Next Generation" character along with him. Briefly. Jonathan Frakes does a turn as Commander William T. Riker, but his appearance is little more than a cameo.

This is a Q episode all the way.

Titled "Death Wish," the episode opens with the Voyager in-ad-vertently releasing another Q (Gerrit Graham) from his prison in the middle of a comet.

"Oh. Well, I guess that's what we get for having a woman in the captain's seat," de Lancie's Q snidely observes.

Seems that this Q was locked up there by the members of the Q Continuum because of his desire to end his own life.

And, quite naturally, those omnipotent inhabitants of the Continuum aren't going to let this Q go free to commit suicide. So our old friend Q (de Lancie) shows up to put him back in prison. And he's as pompous, arrogant - and just as much fun - as ever.

"May I assume you're the Q I've heard so much about?" Capt. Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) inquires.

"Have you heard about little me? Oh, do tell," Q replies. "Has Jean-Luc been whispering about be behind my back?"

So the new Q petitions Janeway for asylum, and she convenes a hearing to decide what to do.

Which sets off a battle of wills that's both thought-provoking and amusing.

Being that this is "Star Trek," after all, there's a bit of heavy-handed moralizing here. Tuvok (Tim Russ), acting as the new Q's attorney, points out to Q that the Continuum has, at times, ordered some of its members executed.

"And you find nothing contradictory in a society that outlaws suicide but practices capital punishment?" Tuvok asks Q.

But, for the most part, this is very entertaining stuff. And we do get to visit that much-heard-about-but-never-before-seen Q Continuum - sort of. It does, after all, have to be represented in a fashion that our mere mortal minds can grasp.

And this is no mere stunt to get Q involved any way possible. The story, conceived by co-creator/co-executive producer Michael Pil-ler's 23-year-old son, Shawn, works very well within the "Star Trek" format. And the script, by the Piller father and son, is witty and wonderful.

Even without such a good excuse, it's great to have de Lancie back as Q once again. Yes, he's "a rude, interfering, inconsiderate, sadistic pest" - as Janeway so eloquently puts it - but he's also an awful lot of fun to have around.

And - joy upon joy - Q actually appears to fall for Janeway.

"Did anyone ever tell you you're angry when you're beautiful?" Q asks her at one point.

And, later, he tells "Kathy" that "I know how to show a girl a good time."

It's entirely possible that we'll be seeing more of Q in the future.

SCI-FI OR NOT SCI-FI: Have you seen Ch. 14's advertisements promoting its "Sci-Fi Monday" lineup?

They're clever little spots, designed to hype "Babylon 5," "Star Trek: Voyager" and "Nowhere Man."

There's just one little problem with the campaign, however. "Nowhere Man" isn't science fiction.

That's according to the show's creator and executive producer, Larry Hertzog.

"Absolutely not," he replied when asked if "Nowhere" falls into the sci-fi genre. "The feel of the show and the context of the show just don't feel science fiction to me, and we never think of it that way."

"Nowhere Man" is about a photographer (Bruce Greenwood) who caught something on film that he shouldn't have. Something that made a powerful conspiracy basically erase his life and sent him on the run looking for answers.

"I think of science fiction as being either speculative about the future, or it involves hardware, or it involves speculations of another kind of world," Hertzog said. "But I think of `Nowhere Man' as sort of an allegory in some ways"

It's not that Hertzog - who professes to be a science-fiction fan - is insulted by having his show labeled sci-fi. "Absolutely not," he said, even allowing that "there are a couple of sci-fi notions, I guess, that creep in from time to time."

And neither the producer nor the show's star took offense at being part of a sci-fi Monday lineup.

"We are part of it," Greenwood said.

"Inevitably, we are part of it," reiterated Hertzog - whose low-rated show needs all the promotion help it can get. "If they call it `Sci-Fi Monday,' well, there we are."