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Recap / Star Trek: The Next Generation S6E14 "Tapestry"

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"You said you regretted a great many things in your life. Well, here's a chance to change some of them."

Original air date: February 15, 1993

An Away Team being beamed directly into Sickbay with a critically wounded Picard. Picard has been shot by an energy beam that has caused his artificial heart to malfunction. Doctor Crusher attempts to Technobabble it into working again. As she works, everything fades to white, and Picard starts to Go into the Light until he finds Q at the end of it, who promptly announces that he's dead.

Q explains that he is God, which Picard rejects. Q conjures his overbearing father to berate Jean-Luc for joining Starfleet, and the voices of all the people who have died under his command join in. Q asks if he wants to beg forgiveness, but Picard refuses to play along. Q asks if Picard can really say he has no regrets? He has one: the artificial heart. A real heart would not have malfunctioned. We then see how he got it, as described to Wesley in "Samaritan Snare": Getting into a fight with three Nausicaans, getting stabbed in the heart, and laughing as he lay dying.

Picard admits that he was a Hot-Blooded jerk back then and wishes he could have changed it. Suddenly he is 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 refuses to become a Butterfly of Doom, but Q solemnly assures him that no one will be harmed by any changes he makes to his own life.

The seems to satisfy Picard, who admits to the curious 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 isn't interested in a quick fling and accidentally insults his date, resulting in a drink in the face. 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 tells Picard that 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. Picard locates Marta and discovers that she deeply regrets the encounter, believing that they're Better as Friends. Q points out that Picard has insulted or alienated everyone he's interacted with so far.

Picard shares an awkward drink with Corey and Marta, but the Nausicaans come in and taunt them for being cowards. Corey stands up to fight, but Picard shoves him away, letting the Nausicaans cackle and walk away without a fight. Corey is outraged and severs his friendship with Picard. Even Marta is now upset by his boring prudence. But on the bright side, Q tells Picard he succeeded at saving his life. Hurray!

Picard finds himself back on the Enterprise, but he's a Junior Lieutenant in Astrophysics. He learns that his career has been safe and unexceptional. He has never showed any ambition or the ability to take risks, so he's effectively stuck in a dead-end job. In private, Picard insists that this boring, unexceptional man is not who he is. But Q explains that trying to fix his impulsive youth makes Picard this man.

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 put things back the way they were before — again. Q says "Before, you died in Sick Bay. Is that you want?" Picard responds by saying "I would rather die as the man I was, than live the life I just saw". 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.

After recovering, Picard confides his experience with Riker, wondering if it was 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.

Picard: There are many parts of my youth that I am not proud of. There were ... loose threads ... untidy parts of me I would like to remove. But I when I pulled on one of those threads, it unraveled the tapestry of my life.

Riker is amused at the idea of a Hot-Blooded Picard, so he starts telling Riker about an earlier encounter with Nausicaans as the Enterprise flies away.

Tapestry includes the following Tropes not mentioned in the synopsis:

  • Action Girl: Marta is small but trained to fight and goes toe-to-toe with the Nausicaans. She's the first to get beaten down, but all three friends lose the fight eventually.
  • An Aesop:
    • The mistakes we've made in our past shaped us into who we are now.
    • If you feel like you can do more and want to stand out, don't play it safe. Take chances and seize every opportunity to do so.
  • 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.
  • Bedmate Reveal: Picard wakes up after his fling with Marta only to discover that it's Q lying beside him. Regretting the night's events, Marta left early.
  • Better as Friends: Marta and Picard decide to actually act on their mutual attraction, but on the morning after, Marta becomes seriously weirded out by it and says that it has ruined their friendship.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Troi's evaluation of "Lt." Picard.
  • Butterfly of Doom: Picard initially refuses to change anything about his life for fear of damage to the timeline. A frustrated Q eventually has to promise that nothing bad will happen on a large scale if he does anything differently. Sure enough, when Picard arrives back into the present time of his new life, everything is the same except for him.
  • Call-Back: Picard told the story about the Nausicaans to Wesley during a shuttle flight in season 2's "Samaritan Snare." He even mentioned that he inexplicably laughed when he saw that he was stabbed, which gets explained by the events of this episode.
  • Character Development:
    • One of the episodes in which Picard becomes more open with his crew.
    • This episode becomes one giant Pet the Dog moment for Q. Even Picard is left struggling to grasp the prospect that Q would go to such lengths just to give him some good advice.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • In the first scene, Crusher mentions Dr. Selar, the Vulcan officer we last saw in "The Schizoid Man."
    • Picard's father resembles his brother 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.
  • Fake Better Alternate Timeline: Captain Picard has a dream or vision in which he is told that he died due to his artificial heart being damaged by a compressed teryon beam. He is given a chance — which he accepts — to avoid the fight which caused him to need the artificial heart. He is then shown that the attitude that he needed to avoid that fight would have meant that he would take fewer risks in the future and as a result, among other changes, he would never become captain of the ''Enterprise''.
  • 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 believes "the universe is not so 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.
  • 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. Also, despite not being the captain in the alternate universe, Picard has apparently not done any of the things that his captain duties prevented him from doing. He doesn't have a family, he apparently hasn't pursued any of his other passions, etc.
  • 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.
  • Nay-Theist: Played with. Picard refuses to acknowledge the possibility of Q being God not because he doesn't recognize Q's power - which are for all intents and purposes omnipotent - but because he refuses to believe the universe is so poorly run as to make Q its creator.
  • Necessary Fail: Picard's near-fatal stabbing motivated him to take life more seriously and become the respected captain we know and love.
  • Nobody Calls Me "Chicken"!: When the Nausicaans call the trio cowards, Corey is immediately itching for a fight.
  • Noodle Incident: Sadly, we never hear Picard's story about being a sophomore on a Nausicaan outpost.
  • 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...