Tapestry begins with an Away Team being beamed directly into Sickbay with a critically wounded Picard. Apparently they were ambushed and Picard was shot in the chest. His Plot Armor kept such a shot from being fatal, but it's caused his artificial heart to malfunction. Doctor Crusher attempts to Technobabble it into working again, but apparently Picard dies. He starts to Go into the Light towards a white-robed figure...and it's Q.
After the opening credits, Q explains that he is God, which Picard rejects. Q tries to prove it by bringing his overbearing father to berate Jean-Luc for having the nerve to die in his mid-sixties after a long and successful career, as well as all the people who died as a result of his decisions. Tasha Yar is curiously absent from this. Q's real point comes up: Can Picard say that he has no regrets? He has one: the artificial heart. A real heart would have allowed him to survive that shot somehow. We then see how he got it, as described to Wesley in "Samaritan Snare": Getting into a fight with three Nausicaans, and getting stabbed in the heart, and laughing as he lay dying.
While musing on what a Hot-Blooded jerk he was back then and wishing he could have changed it, he is suddenly slapped by a woman. He realises he is alive, in a Star Trek II era uniform and being sarcastically applauded by his old academy friends, Marta and Corey, only they don't look so old. After they leave, Q appears and explains he's given Picard a chance to Set Right What Once Went Wrong. Picard, aware of the danger of how tampering with nails can lead to Hitler ruling the Universe, initially refuses to do anything, but Q is having none of it.
Picard then tells Q why he was slapped: He scheduled two dates at the same time. We see him at the other date, but with the older and more cautious Picard instead of what was apparently a Casanova Wannabe it doesn't go well and he gets a drink in the face for his troubles. His friend Corey is showing off at a pool-like game called dom-jot. One of the Nausicaans who would later start the fight challenges him to a game, and apparently wins due to cheating. Originally Picard helped Corey rig the table to even the odds, but knowing this would lead to the fight Picard now advises against it when Corey brings it up. This unexpected mature response impresses Marta, but before it can go anywhere Q walks in with flowers for "John Luck Pickherd". Q then tells Picard Corey is rigging the table anyway, so Picard goes to Corey and threatens to report him if he doesn't stop.
Corey is aghast at Picard's sudden stodgyness, but Marta is even more impressed and after a night of passion, Picard turns over in bed to say "Good Morning" to Marta, only to find Q there, Marta having slipped away. Thank goodness for the Modesty Bedsheet. Marta regrets the encounter, and Q sums up Picard's action's so far.
Picard tries to reconcile with Corey and Marta, but the Nausicaans come in and taunt them for being cowards. Corey stands up to fight, but Picard throws him to one side, preventing the fight and stabbing but breaking his friendship with Corey as well. But on the bright side, Q tells Picard he succeeded at saving his life. Hurray!
It appears Picard is now a "Lower Decks" type-character, an assistant Astrophysics officer with average evaluation reports. Talking to Riker about advancing his career, he discovers that in his career he never showed any ambition or ability to take risks, so he's effectively stuck in a dead end job. Lamenting in private about how Q is free to taunt him, Q brings him back to the white place and spells out how this is the result of his choice not to be a rash jerk in his youth.
Picard: I can't live out my days as that person. That man is bereft of passion ... and imagination! That is not who I am!
Q: Au contraire, he is the person you wanted to be — one who was less arrogant and undisciplined in his youth; one who was less like me. The Jean-Luc Picard you wanted to be, the one who did not fight the Nausicaan, had quite a different career from the one you remember. That Picard never had a brush with death; never came face to face with his own mortality; never realised how fragile life is, or how important each moment must be. So his life never came into focus; he drifted through much of his career, with no plan or agenda, going from one assignment to the next, never seizing the opportunities that presented themselves. He never led the away team on Milika III to save the ambassador, or take charge of the Stargazer's bridge when its captain was killed, and no one ever offered him a command. He learned to play it safe, and he never ever got noticed by anyone.
Picard now admits he was wrong and asks Q to let him Set Right What Once Went Wrong — again. Q notes he'll die on that table, but Picard says he'd rather die as a successful captain than live as a nobody. So Q sends him back, he starts the fight and gets stabbed in the heart for his troubles, and as he knows his life is back on track, he now knows why he laughed. He laughs still in Sick Bay, his artificial heart stabilizing. Was this all just a Near-Death Experience, a Vision Quest by Q to give him deeper insights into himself, or maybe both? Picard wonders with Riker whether it was All Just a Dream, or maybe Q has undergone Character Development of his own.
Riker is amused at the idea of a Hot-Blooded Picard, so Picard starts telling him about an earlier encounter with Nausicaans as the Enterprise flies away.
Tapestry includes the following Tropes not mentioned in the synopsis:
- Absentee Actor: LeVar Burton doesn't appear onscreen as Geordi, only as a voice calling "Lt." Picard. There was a deleted scene where they worked together, having a similar dynamic as between Geordi and Barclay in the "proper" timeline.
- Action Girl: Marta is trained at hand-to-hand, but she can't handle the larger Nausicaans.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: The main theme of the episode was for Picard to understand the value of one's past and to realize that, for better or for worse, the past has shaped him into who he is today. Every part of his life is important, even the untidy parts, and to remove any single part of his past would unravel the tapestry of his life and turn him into a different person — illustrated starkly by how changing the loss of his organic heart left him in an alternate universe where he was a lowly officer bereft of the passion and imagination that made him a Captain — and that different person is not necessarily a better one.
- Bedmate Reveal: Q showing up in Picard's bed, which if you were to remove the context surrounding the woman Picard had sex with last night you'd think the conversation they have about romance is referring to a relationship between them.
- Better as Friends: Though Marta and Picard both have a crush on each other, they come realise that this applies to them in about the most awkward and uncomfortable way possible, after their one-night stand. On top of that, depending on whether or not Picard was actually getting sent back in time by Q, said one-night stand may actually have ended up destroying their friendship, as opposed to the two just drifting apart over time, as happened originally.
- Brilliant, but Lazy: Troi's evaluation of "Lt." Picard.
- Call-Back: "Samaritan Snare" was a season two episode, keep in mind.
- Character Development: One of the episodes in which Picard becomes more open with his crew.
- Continuity Nod:
- Picard told the story about the Nausicaans to Wesley during a shuttle flight in season 2's "Samaritan Snare", and even mentioned he was smiling when he got stabbed.
- However, he apparently lied and never did Your Mom insults at them.
- Picard's father resembles Robert more than Jean-Luc.
- Cruel to Be Kind: Picard being resurrected as an unremarkable Starfleet officer is unbearable, but it makes him realize that what he'd lost from stopping the stabbing was far greater than anything he'd gained.
- Damned by Faint Praise: When "Lt." Picard talks to Riker and Troi in Ten Forward, they don't have too much to say about his performance as an officer. It's never a good sign when one of your highest praises is being punctual.
- Et Tu, Brute?: In preventing the fight, Corey is softly furious that Picard effectively supported the Nausicaans over him. Thankfully, Picard sets things straight so that he helps Corey fight them, thus saving their friendship, too.
- For Want of a Nail: Picard's near-fatal stabbing turns out to be a big nail, as it drove him to take risks and excel.Picard: There are many parts of my youth that I'm not proud of. There were... loose threads — untidy parts of me that I would like to remove. But when I... pulled on one of those threads — it unraveled the tapestry of my life.
- God Guise: Q shows up to Picard after his accident, claiming to be God. Picard doesn't buy it, as he refuses to believe the universe is "that badly designed".
- Gratuitous German: In the new timeline, "Dr." Q addresses Picard as "Leutnant Picard."
- Hell-Bent for Leather: Oddly invoked verbatim about a Hot-Blooded Picard by Riker.
- Hero of Another Story: In the altered timeline, Capt. Thomas Halloway commands the Enterprise, although we never see or meet him.
- Herr Doktor: Q when he replaces Beverly in a sickbay scene.
- I Hate Past Me: Picard hates his younger self because of how arrogant and hot-headed he was for trying to take on the Nausicaans.Picard: I was a different person in those days — arrogant, undisciplined... with far too much ego, but too little wisdom. I was more like you.
Q: Then you must have been far more interesting. Pity you had to change.
- Improbable Age: "Lt." Picard is far too old to be a junior-grade lieutenant even in the Mildly Military Starfleet where he would be promoted and given chances to command a ship or a station simply by seniority, which emphasizes his utter lack of ambition and risk-aversion. It's possible he was demoted for some mistake and people like Troi and Worf actively dislike him in a Barclay-esque manner. It's also possible Picard is actually younger, but still looks at his main timeline age, as Q did for him as a 21 year old Academy student. On the other hand, in numerous episodes there are extras with grey hair playing Ensigns clearly visible...
- In-Series Nickname: In his Academy days, Picard's friends called him "Johnny".
- In Spite of a Nail: Zig-zagged. Q assures Picard that the changes he makes to history will only affect him, and indeed, in the new present, despite Picard's changed personality, the rest of the Enterprise crew we know and love is still there, except perhaps Dr. Crusher.note It stands to reason that the USS Enterprise would still have a badass captain and a badass crew, Picard or no, because it's still the flagship of the Federation, but it's also unclear whether this is actually how things would have turned out or whether Q is deliberately setting it up this way in accordance with his promise.
- Ironic Hell: Picard's not thrilled with the prospect of hanging about with Q... forever. Life as an unremarkable Junior Grade Lieutenant isn't much better, either.
- Jacob Marley Apparel: In the alleged afterlife, Picard is still wearing his Starfleet uniform with his injuries from the opening.
- Likes Older Women: The young Picard seems to have felt this way, judging by the fact that he arranges dates with two women, one of whom appears to be at least a couple of years older than him, and the other of whom seems to be a couple of decades older.
- Major Injury Underreaction: Picard laughing after being stabbed through the heart. Even Q is taken aback by it.
- Malicious Misnaming: When posing as a flower deliverer, Q takes the opportunity to pronounce Picard's name "John Luck Pickherd" just to annoy him.
- Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The question of whether it really was Q intervening or just a near-death experience is never answered, though pondered by Picard.
- Noodle Incident: Sadly, we never hear Picard's story about being a sophomore on a Nausicaan outpost.
- Nobody Calls Me "Chicken"!: When the Nausicaans call the trio cowards, Corey is immediately itching for a fight.
- Perception Filter: Though Picard looks like his present self in the past, everyone save Q perceives him as his younger self.
- Plot Armor: It should be obvious that the first-billed star of the show isn't gonna die because of an offscreen scuffle, so even when Picard chooses to fight Nausicaans and get his heart stabbed, we know he's gonna survive somehow.
- Richard Nixon the Used Car Salesman: Alternate Picard is an extremely average, ignored junior grade lieutenant.
- Ridiculously Average Guy: The Jean-Luc Picard who wasn't near-fatally stabbed has an utterly unimpressive Starfleet career.
- Ripple Effect-Proof Memory: Probably thanks to Q, only Picard is aware of the changes caused by tampering with his past.
- Time-Shifted Actor: Played straight at first, with a different actor as young Picard when he sees himself getting stabbed, but then averted when Patrick Stewart plays young Picard for the rest of the episode.
- Trickster Mentor: Q really illustrates how good he is at playing the role of a "tough love" mentor who makes his students learn their lessons the hard way.
- We All Die Someday: Q's long-suffering response to Picard.Picard: So then I won't die?
Q: Of course you'll die. It'll just be at a later time.
- Would Hit a Girl: The Nausicaans smack around Marta pretty good.
- You Already Changed the Past: Implied: after realizing he Set Right What Once Went Wrong by getting stabbed in that brawl, Picard's response is to laugh. Now, considering that Picard laughing after being stabbed was already an established part of Picard's story...