Injured on an away mission and potentially dying, Picard experiences an “afterlife” in which Q appears to him, and gives him a chance to change mistakes of his youth. Picard goes back to his final days in the Academy and attempts to undo the events that led to him receiving an artificial heart. However, in doing so, he finds that his life has turned out to be an unexemplary one, lacking in purpose. He gets another chance and is able to set things on their original course again.
Written by Ronald D. Moore. Directed by Gabrielle Beaumont.
Tapestry is a strong episode, combining the excitement of the many successful “high concept” stories, like Cause and Effect, Conundrum, or Power Play, with the strong character work that we get from stories like Family or The Inner Light. Really, it’s amazing how many good stories that the series was able to tell around Picard. Patrick Stewart doesn’t always bring great vulnerability and grace to his performance, but he often does, and that quality keeps an “ordinary” man (as opposed to, say, Data, or Worf) interesting week after week.
Here, the situation doesn’t allow for the stunning sort of thespian displays that we got from episodes such as Chain of Command, part II or Sarek, but the story creates a situation that is even more defining for the character than any of those examples. We have heard bits and pieces of Picard’s sometimes rogue-ish past, but always with a sense of disbelief, and an awareness that somehow he outgrew those aspects of himself. Here we get to not only see his untempered youth, but also to discover along with him how those mistakes weren’t simply things that he left behind him as he grew to be the fleet’s finest commander, but indeed were shaping lessons that helped define his career. Though it is a bit of a simplistic notion, it is an elegant and effective piece of character development.
Adding to the fun, and of course providing the justification for everything, is the presence of John de Lancie’s Q. After the disappointment of True Q earlier this season, it’s great to see the character back in form, being a big dangerous and unpredictable, and acting like a bizarre combination of Picard’s tormentor and savior. Q is as usual an effective foil for Picard, thanks in no small part to grimness and detached wit of John de Lancie’s performance.
Finally, it must be said that the episode provides the continuity reference of the century by building it’s whole story off of a one-off conversation between Picard and Wesley from back in Samaritan Snare. Of particular note is the inclusion of Picard’s strange laugh at the sight of himself having been impaled, as well as providing a possible in-story justification for it. Indeed, Patrick Stewart’s version of the laugh, coming as it does when he realizes that his life, though it may be over, has been put right again, is a true high point of the whole episode.
Shout Out to the Past:
• There is a brief reference to Dr. Selar, the medical officer who appeared only in the episode The Schizoid Man.
• As has been noted, both Picard’s artificial heart and the story of his battle with the Nausicans were first introduced in Samaritan Snare.
Set Up for the Future:
• Dom-jot, a game that will be mentioned again in the franchise, makes it’s first appearance here.
• This is nothing official, but what happens to Picard in this episode seems a little like what happens to Alexander in Firstborn, next season.
• Great opening, throwing us right into the action. And as always, it’s great when any of the department heads are seen to have a an actual staff, as Dr. Crusher does in this episode.
• Geordi appears in this episode only as a voice.
• Fun line from Picard to Q: “No. I am not dead. Because I refuse to believe that the afterlife is run by you. The universe is not so badly designed.”
• Picard’s Father appears. That means we’ve seen his mother, brother, nephew and father.
• There are a number of other good exchanges between Picard and Q, such as
Picard: I find it hard to believe that you are doing this for the benefit of my soul.
Q: Well, now that you’ve shuffled off the mortal coil, we’re free to spend a little time together.
Q: Now you’re sure you have no regrets or feelings of guilt about your former life. I can’t have you whining and complaining through time.
Picard: If I’m really dead, then my only regret is dying and finding you here.
• It’s a little tedious but I suppose necessary that they cover the whole thing of whether Picard could actually change history.
• Q’s comment that “It gets you right there,” is both cruel and interesting.
• Q’s Picard impersonation is pretty good.
• Is Q eating a piece of celery?
• That final dinner out with Picard and his friends is very uncomfortable.
• Great scene with Lt. Picard talking to Riker and Troi about his career possibilities – a highlight of the episode. It’s funny when Riker is trying to think of positive things about Picard: “Punctual.”
• Q’s requiem for Picard: “That Picard never had a brush with death, never came face to face with his own mortality, never realized how fragile life is or how important each moment must be. So his life never came into focus. He drifted for 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 lead the away team on Milika Three 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.”
Dialogue High Point
Picard’s final line before returning to his fight with the Nausicans:
I would rather die as the man I was than live the life I just saw.