Tue
Nov 6 2012 4:00pm

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Tapestry”

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Tapestry“Tapestry”
Written by Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Les Landau
Season 6, Episode 14
Production episode 40276-241
Original air date: February 15, 1993
Stardate: unknown

Captain’s Log: An away team that includes Picard, Riker, Worf, and three security guards beams directly to sickbay. Riker says they were ambushed—Picard’s been shot in the chest, and his artificial heart has failed. As Crusher works we fade out to Picard in an all-white region, greeted by a figure in white robes: it’s Q, who declares, “Welcome to the afterlife, Jean-Luc. You’re dead.”

Picard is skeptical that he’s really deceased, since he refuses to believe that the afterlife is run by Q—“the universe is not so badly designed!” So Q produces an image of Picard’s father, Maurice, admonishing him for attending the Academy and saying that after all these years, Picard is still a disappointment. Q then provides Picard with the voices of people who died through Picard’s actions—or inactions—and gives Picard the chance to say something to them, which Picard refuses.

Q pushes Picard to see if he has any regrets, but the only regret Picard will admit to is dying and finding Q on the other side. Q tartly points out that he didn’t kill Picard, his artificial heart did. Q asks what happened to his original heart, and Picard simply says it was a mistake. Pouncing on that, Q asks if that’s a regret he hears. Picard admits that he regrets many things from those days.

With a gesture, Q displays young Ensign Picard’s fight with three Nausicaans, one of whom stabs him in the back. Young Picard looks down at the blade protruding from his chest and (just as he described it to Wes Crusher in “Samaritan Snare”) starts laughing before he collapses. Picard describes his younger self to Q as arrogant, egotistical, undisciplined, unwise—in other words, more like Q. He was young and cocky, and if he could do it all over again, things would be different.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Tapestry

A moment later, Picard is wearing the ensign’s uniform he wore thirty years ago and is being slapped in the face by a woman, while two other ensigns watch. He soon realizes that he’s back at Starbase Earhart with his classmates and best friends Cortin Zweller and Marta Batanides, who are delightfully amused at his getting slapped. They go ahead to nearby Bonestell Recreational Facility while Picard stays behind—ostensibly for yet another date.

After Zweller and Batanides leave, Q appears and assures Picard that it’s not a fantasy, but reality—a reality, anyhow. Picard is twenty-one again, and Q is giving him a chance to fix some of those regrets. Picard expresses concern about alterations to the timeline, but Q assures Picard that nothing he does will have any ripple effects on the rest of the universe—“to be blunt, you’re not that important.” The only thing at stake is Picard’s life, Picard’s peace of mind. What he chooses to do with his second chance is up to him.

Picard, Zweller, and Batanides came to Starbase Earhart after graduation to await their first deep-space assignments. It’s two days before Picard’s fateful encounter with a Nausicaan blade. If Picard manages to avoid the fight and not get stabbed, Q promises to bring Picard to what he thinks of as the present, except with a real heart. And if he doesn’t avoid the fight and does get stabbed, then he dies on Crusher’s table.

Q asks why that woman slapped him, and Picard explains that Corlina was upset because, in addition to taking her out on a date, Picard had also set another date for later that night with another woman named Penny. Q is impressed; “I had no idea you were such a cad.”

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Tapestry

Picard heads to Bonestell to meet up with Penny, an older woman who is obviously into younger men in uniform. Picard tries to act like a civilized adult, which is totally not what interests her, and she eventually throws a drink in his face and storms off. Picard goes over to the dom-jot table, where Zweller is kicking ass and taking names. A Nausicaan then challenges Zweller to a game, and Picard recognizes him as the one who will stab him in the back in a couple of days. Picard tries to convince Zweller not to accept, but his classmate’s a bit too arrogant to listen. Picard explains to Q that the Nausicaan is cheating, and that Zweller will find out and rig the table in his favor for the rematch—with Picard’s help. But the Nasuicaans are sore losers, and when Zweller wins the rigged rematch, they start the fight that ends with Picard being impaled.

Sure enough, after the game, the trio return to Starbase Earhart and Zweller proposes that they rig the table to get revenge. Picard tries and fails to talk Zweller out of it—and Batanides backs him up. Zweller isn’t happy about it, and storms out. Batanides is impressed with Picard’s newfound maturity, and starts to make a bit of a pass. Then Q enters with flowers, and Batanides remembers that “Johnny” is a big-ass womanizer and leaves. Q hopes he was interrupting something sordid, but Picard insists they were just friends, and that Picard does not regret that friendship.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Tapestry

Q also says that Zweller is at Bonestell rigging the dom-jot table alone. Picard once again tries to talk Zweller out of it, this time threatening to go to the gambling foreman. Zweller agrees, and again storms out. Later, Picard and Batanides talk about it, and this time they fall into bed together.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Tapestry

The morning after, Picard wakes up with Q next to him. (And a thousand works of slash fiction are born!!!!!) Q throws the “we’re just friends, nothing more” line back at Picard (with John deLancie doing an excellent Sir Patrick Stewart impersonation), and then Picard returns to Bonestell to find Batanides distant, as she fears their friendship has been spoiled, and now it’s going to be much harder for her to say goodbye when they go off on their separate assignments the next day. Q enumerates Picard’s tally thus far: he’s been slapped in the face by one woman, had a drink thrown in his face by another, and alienated his two best friends. Not bad, so far.

That night, the trio’s last hurrah is an awkward occasion. Then the Nausicaans show up asking Zweller for another game. The Nausicaans try to provoke the trio by calling Zweller a coward and making eyes at Batanides, but Picard keeps the inevitable fight from breaking out, even though it sends Zweller ass over teakettle. After the Nausicaans laugh at them and wander off, Zweller makes it clear that their friendship is done, and Batanides also walks away angry.

Q congratulates Picard on avoiding the fight, and the next thing Picard knows he’s on the bridge of the Enterprise—as a junior-grade lieutenant in the sciences division. Worf asks if “Mr. Picard” needs help. Picard is holding a padd which should be delivered to La Forge in engineering. Data inquires if he’s feeling all right, and Picard asks what his position is. Worf, confused, replies that he’s an assistant astrophysics officer; when Picard asks who the captain is, Data and Worf exchange worried looks and Data identifies the captain as Thomas Halloway. When Data offers to escort him to sickbay, Picard declines, saying he can find his own way.

However, Q is waiting for him there (having dressed as God, a starship captain, a bartender, and a flower delivery boy, he now is a doctor, wearing a white lab coat, suit, magnifying glass, and stethoscope). Q explains that he’s done exactly what he promised: returned Picard to the present, where nothing has changed—except Picard. He’s done exactly what he said he wanted to do, to wit, change the man he was as a youth. The result is that he now has a real heart, and he gets to live a long, safe happy life running tests and making analyses and bringing reports to his superiors.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Tapestry

Picard goes to Ten-Forward to speak with Riker and Troi about his career prospects, and their answer is less than encouraging. They don’t see him as anything other than a middling officer. Data interrupts by summoning senior officers to the captain’s ready room, and Picard has to visibly force himself not to stand up. La Forge then crankily contacts Picard wondering where the hell his statistical analysis is.

Heading to engineering, Picard finds himself instead back in the all-white space. He says he can’t live out his life as a person bereft of passion and imagination. Q counters that that’s who Picard wanted to be: someone less arrogant, someone less like Q. That Picard never had a brush with death, never realized how fragile life is. So he drifted through a career, never seizing the opportunities that presented themselves, never leading an away team that saved an ambassador’s life, never taking command of the Stargazer when her captain was killed. He played it safe and he never got noticed by anyone.

Q walks away, and Picard admits that Q is right, and says he’d rather die that live out the life he saw. Q smiles, and Picard’s back at Bonestell, the Nausicaan once again calling Picard, Zweller, and Batanides cowards. Only this time, Picard starts the fight, which plays out just as we saw it earlier. When he sees the blade sticking out of his chest, Picard laughs with relief.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Tapestry

He’s still laughing when he wakes up in sickbay, with Crusher assuring him that he’s going to be all right.

Later, after he’s recovered, Picard tells Riker what happened. He has no idea if it was a dream, a trick of Q’s, or what. But Picard realizes that he owes Q a debt. Riker, meanwhile, says he wishes he’d gotten to know that younger Jean-Luc Picard who picked a fight with a Nausicaan—which starts Picard on a story of another encounter he’d had with a surly Nausicaan....

Can’t We Just Reverse the Polarity?: A compressed teryon beam to the chest can fuse an artificial heart, which kinda sucks for Picard.

Thank You, Counselor Obvious: When Lieutenant Picard goes to see Troi and Riker, and asks them for a frank assessment of his career, it’s a rhapsody in damning with faint praise, using words like, good, thorough, dedicated, reliable, and, after a bit of a struggle, punctual. When the lieutenant makes it clear that he has delusions of command, Troi gently slaps him down, pointing out that his career is an endless stream of lofty goals with no drive to achieve them.

No Sex, Please, We’re Starfleet: Picard was apparently quite the ladies’ man as a youth, going through numerous conquests. The more mature Picard re-living that life sees Batanides as more attractive than Penny or Corlina, but after they sleep together, it ruins the friendship.

I Believe I Said That: “You’re dead, this is the afterlife, and I’m God.”

“You are not God!”

“Blasphemy! You’re lucky I don’t cast you out, or smite you, or something.”

Q claiming divinity and Picard not buying it.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Tapestry

Welcome Aboard: This is John deLancie’s third appearance as Q in the 1992/93 season, having appeared just the week before on Deep Space Nine’s “Q-Less,” as well as earlier this season on TNG’s “True Q.” Ned Vaughn and J.C. Brandy do quite well as the Porthos and Aramis to Picard’s Athos (or, if you prefer, the Harpo and Chico to his Groucho). Clint Carmichael is nasty as the Nausicaan, Rae Norman is adequate as Penny, and Marcus Nash gets stabbed well as young Picard.

But the best casting is Clive Church as Picard’s father, Maurice, who is perfect—he looks exactly like what you’d expect someone who was the father of both Sir Patrick Stewart and Jeremy Kemp to look like.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Tapestry

Trivial Matters: This episode picks up from the second season’s “Samaritan Snare,” which established that Picard has an artificial heart, and the episode provides us with the full details of the story of how he got that heart as told by Picard to Wes Crusher in that episode.

Q’s description of the method of Picard’s ascension to command of the Stargazer will be dramatized in Michael Jan Friedman’s novel The Valiant, which served as the springboard for Friedman’s six-book Stargazer series that chronicled Picard’s first year or so in command of that vessel.

Picard will briefly go to an alternate timeline that matches the one in which he stopped the fight and became a junior science officer on the Enterprise-D in your humble rewatcher’s novel Q & A, albeit at a time contemporaneous with that novel’s post-Nemesis timeframe. In the intervening eleven years, that version of Picard was promoted to lieutenant commander and made a bridge science officer on the Enterprise-E by Riker shortly before he took command of Titan. Captain Thomas Halloway is still in charge of the Big E in that timeline. In that novel, Q also brings Picard back to the all-white “afterlife,” and Picard’s laughter when he was stabbed is also critical to the plot.

Speaking of Halloway, he’s fleshed out a bit not just in Q & A but also in the bookend stories “Meet with Triumph and Disaster” and “Trust Yourself When All Men Doubt You” by Michael Schuster & Steve Mollmann in the TNG anthology The Sky’s the Limit, and in the TNG novel The Buried Age by Christopher L. Bennett, all of which establish that Halloway was in line to command the Enterprise-D, but declined the honor, at which point it went to Picard.

The Nausicaans—named after the Hayao Miyazaki movie Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, in turn based on a manga of the same name and also derived from a character in The Odyssey by Homer—are seen for the first time in this episode, after being mentioned in “Samaritan Snare.” They’ll go on to appear in “Gambit Part I” and a bunch of times on Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Tapestry

This episode also establishes the game of dom-jot, a combination of pool and pinball. Quark’s Bar on DS9 has a dom-jot table, and it’s a game at which Jake Sisko excels.

Zweller and Batanides both appear in the 11th issue of the Starfleet Academy comic book by Chris Cooper, John Royle, and Tom Wegryzn and in the Section 31 novel Rogue by Andy Mangels & Michael A. Martin. Batanides also appears in the Lost Era novel Well of Souls by Ilsa J. Bick, the DS9 novel Hollow Men by Una McCormack, the Corps of Engineers novella Echoes of Coventry by Richard C. White, the Destiny novel Lost Souls by David Mack, and the TNG novel Losing the Peace by William Leisner.

Although not seen, Dr. Selar is once again mentioned. She went on a Q-related odyssey of her own at the time of this episode, as chronicled by Terri Osborne in the short story “’Q’uandary” in the New Frontier anthology No Limits.

The Bonestell Recreational Facility was named after hugely influential astronomy artist Chesley Bonestell (after whom the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists named their annual awards for artistic achievement, given every year at the World Science Fiction Convention).

Make it So: “Is there a John Luck Pickerd here?” If you’d told me before February 1993 that a Trek riff on It’s a Wonderful Life—one of my absolute least favorite movies ever—would turn out to be one of TNG’s finest hours, I’d have laughed in your face. Yet, here we are.

And make no mistake, this is a brilliant episode. Ronald D. Moore takes what we know of Picard’s youth from the one bright spot in the otherwise dismal “Samaritan Snare” and extrapolates it to a wonderful examination of how rash choices of youth can affect one’s life. Picard is simply awful at acting like a twenty-one-year-old, which makes it hard to show any kind of camaraderie with the other two twenty-one-year-olds he’s hanging out with (well, except for sleeping with Batanides, which turns out to be a mistake). Best of all is that Moore takes the punchline of the story Picard told Wes, that he laughed when he saw the blade sticking out of his chest, and makes it critical to the episode.

The alternate Enterprise scenes are brilliant; seeing the great and noble Jean-Luc Picard as a middle-management functionary is epic. The moment when he humbly tells La Forge that he’s on his way, ending with a very subservient “sir,” your heart breaks at how the mighty have fallen. (Am I the only one who wanted the astrophysicist to whom he was assistant to be played by Gary Cole talking in a monotone? “I’m gonna need you to go ahead and take this statistical analysis to Commander La Forge, ’kay? That would be great. Thanks!”)

But what makes this episode particularly brilliant is that it embraces the element of Q episodes that makes them sing: putting Stewart and deLancie together and letting them go. The lion’s share of this episode is the two of them together and those scenes are what sell it, culminating in Q’s rant on Picard’s career, listing all the great things he did because he had that near-death experience as a youth. One of deLancie’s strengths is delivering lengthy speeches well, and this is his best since the “You can’t outrun them, you can’t destroy them” speech in “Q Who.” And the pair of them play off each other magnificently.

In addition, director Les Landau plays the transitions beautifully, keeping them quick and subtle and unobtrusive instead of the usual flashiness that we get in Q episodes. Points also for the matching choreography of the two iterations of the fight with the Nausicaans.

Just as with “Ship in a Bottle,” this is something that seems like a bad idea on the face of it, but is executed phenomenally well.

 

Warp factor rating: 9


Keith R.A. DeCandido will be at Philcon 76 in Cherry Hill, New Jersey this weekend. Check out his schedule here. He’s moderating a panel on TNG at 25, alongside Glenn Hauman, Kim Kindya, and Allyn Gibson, on Saturday at noon. Come check it out!

46 comments
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
1. Lisamarie
Well, I do love It's a Wonderful Life, but I don't know if that relates to my enjoyment of this episode :)

Really, the line you quoted in the 'I believe I said that' portion is laugh out loud funny to me, every time I watch it. And I definitely remembering asking my husband, "Oh my goodness, there is probably Q/Picard slash, isn't there?" after the bed scene, haha. (No, I am not a slash fan). This is what I mean where I say Q is able to come off as really funny here, whereas I found him as rather creepy in True Q.

I guess my only real (minor) nitpicks with this episode is this idea that in order to be successful or bold or whatever you have to be an insuffrable asshole growing up. I can appreciate the theme of understanding that certain experiences in your life really do change you - even for the better, despite the experiences being negative. And I do think it is a pretty cool idea to explore in this episode. But it always grates on me a tiny bit when there is an implication that those kinds of negative experiences are necessary to learn those lessons. But I could be reading a bit much into it. Also, does he really think of his astrophysics officers as dull people in dreary jobs?

Also, the idea of yet another one-note species is a little irritating.

What I am kind of curious about is if the 'changes' Picard made in his alternative timeline stuck. Did he actually sleep with Marta or not?

But still, I love this episode, mostly for watching Q and Picard spar with each other.
Megaduck
2. Megaduck
Unfortunately, I saw this episode when I was around 14-15 and I lay in bed sleepless that night realizing that if I wanted to get ahead I needed to be stabbed in the heart.

Now that I'm older I can see that it's a technically a good episode but I can't get over the first impression I had which is to be great you need to be stupid.

I think the issue that I had is the episode is looking backwards on a life while I was looking forward on mine.

@Lisamarie "What I am kind of curious about is if the 'changes' Picard made in his alternative timeline stuck. Did he actually sleep with Marta or not?"

I'm in the camp that it was all an illusion by Q. Mostly because Q seems to have a plan that he is going for the entire time. Q spends the first part pushing Picard to have a regret and then tempting him to change it. I see this as being very manufactured on Q's Part.
Michael Burstein
3. mabfan
I always got more of a Quantum Leap vibe off of this episode than an It's a Wonderful Life vibe. I always expected Dean Stockwell to show up holding a handlink.

-- Michael A. Burstein
Rob Rater
4. Quasarmodo
@Lisamarie "I guess my only real (minor) nitpicks with this episode is this idea that in order to be successful or bold or whatever you have to be an insuffrable asshole growing up."

I wouldn't say you need to be an asshole to be successful or bold. Picard WAS an asshole, and that asshole would've gone on to have the mediocre life that Picard experienced after he avoided the fight. His brush with death was what gave him focus, to get him out of his assholish behavior and to become the great man that he later became.
Nate the great
5. thDigitalReader
It was 40 years earlier, not 30:
http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Jean-Luc_Picard
Christopher Bennett
6. ChristopherLBennett
I'm in the illusion camp too. I never bought it when Q created some hypothetical reality and said "Oh, this is real" and never explained what that meant. I mean, it's not as if he's the most honest guy in the universe. And how the heck is a version of Sherwood Forest out of an Errol Flynn movie "real" in any way? For that matter, we have no proof that Picard actually died on the operating table or that he needed Q to "resurrect" him. If anything, the ending suggests the opposite, since Picard reversed the decision that led to Q "saving" him. Indeed, we have no canonical proof that Q actually visited Picard at all. It's implausibly elaborate for a dream, but there's no proof either way.

I liked J. C. Brandy as Marta. She was lovely in a Jodie Fosterish kind of way. Why are there no pictures of her in the recap?
Lee VanDyke
7. Cloric
I'm going to guess that Picard must have been admitted to the Academy early or skipped a couple years or something, because if his classmates were played by 21 year olds, I'll eat my left sandal (as long as some deep fat fries it and covers it in salt and catsup). At least Batanides appearing older lessend the May-December-ishness of their sleeping together.
Christopher Bennett
8. ChristopherLBennett
@7: IMDb gives J.C. Brandy's birthdate as November 1975, which would've made her only 17 when this episode was made. And I think that's consistent with her appearance at the time. I'm surprised you thought she looked older than 21.

However, Ned Vaughn, who played Zweller, was 28 at the time.
Keith DeCandido
9. krad
Start frying that sandal, Cloric, because J.C. Brandy was 18 when "Tapestry" was filmed. (Ned Vaughn was, in fact, in his late 20s.)

Never assume. :)

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Mike Kelmachter
10. MikeKelm
I have no problem with Ned Vaughn (Zweller) being 28 and in the academy, or for that matter JC Brandy (Marta) being 18 when they graduate- Starfleet Academy seems to be a little less structured than our military academies about who they let in- it seems that as long as they get through the (very wacky) approval process they are let in, so it may be that it is more based upon readiness than age.

Brilliant choice to have Patrick Stewart as his younger self (except that first scene with the white background) and just wipe it away by saying to everyone else he looks 21- if they had cast a younger actor as the 21 year old Picard , it probably would have led this episode to a quick disaster so plus 1 to the writers for explaining away that little problem.

But more than that, this is a great scene because it not only develops the captain and gives us a huge window to his past, but it also is an episode with univeral appeal. After all, who doesn't look back at the decisions they made when they were younger and wonder about the road not taken, and then maybe wonder where they'd be if they'd taken that road. In Picard's case we see that the road he did take led him to be captain, and the other road lead him to misery. I do love these episodes with univeral appeal though- no moralizing, just a fascinating take on it.

I know this was never anyone's intention back when they wrote "Fairpoint" but having Q as a reoccurring nemesis lead to an absolutely brilliant episode.
Alan Courchene
11. Majicou
Thanks to Memory Alpha, I did find Justine (C.) Brandy's official website:
http://www.justinebrandy.com/Home.html

As Tom Paris might say, "Wow." And as Tuvok might respond, "Wow, indeed."
David Levinson
12. DemetriosX
I seem to be out of the mainstream here, not in my appreciation of the episode (which is large; this is certainly one of the 10 best if not the 5 best), but in my belief that Q had absolutely nothing to do with it. To me it feels like the whole thing is happening in Picard's subconscious with Q as a symbol. Perhaps the biggest clue is that Q doesn't show up later to gloat. It's totally out of character for him. If he thought there was any chance that Picard wasn't sure who taught him this lesson, he'd be there to rub Jean-Luc's nose in it.
Megaduck
13. Lsana
@1,

"Does he really think of his astrophysics officers as dull people in dreary jobs?"

That bugged me about this episode too. Is the message supposed to be that life is only worth living if you're a senior officer? The middle management are better off dead? I guess that's why we're not supposed to care when Red Shirts die by the scores.

I suspect that if you asked the writers, they would say that wasn't supposed to be it. None the less, I would have appriciated it if we'd seen that Lieutenant Jean-Luc is unhappy because he can't make friends or something other than just he hasn't achieved the pinnacle of success.
Lee VanDyke
14. Cloric
I'll be the first to admit when I'm wrong, but WOW, she's a mature looking 18 year old. Of course, I still get surprised seeing the kids standing outside our local junior high sporting a thicker mustache than I can grow at 36.
Christopher Bennett
15. ChristopherLBennett
@9: Brandy would've been 17, not 18. She was reportedly born in November '75, and the episode was aired in February '93, which means it was probably filmed around the end of '92 or the start of '93.
Megaduck
16. RichF
One other argument in favor of this being a dream rather than the true past is that I don't completely buy Q's assertion that nothing Picard changes will have any ripple effects in the future ("You're not that important"). If that is indeed the case, then who did the Borg assimilate into Locutus? Captain Thomas Halloway? Or, alternatively, in this altered future did Q bow out of interfering with the Enterprise crew so that Encounter at Farpoint was a one parter and Q Who never happened, so The Best of Both Worlds never happened either? (On the other hand, if Q never meddles with Starfleet in seasons 1 and 2, does he still have to step in when Amanda Rogers grows up?)

Yeah, I know, I'm analyzing the (dis)continuity way too much.
Megaduck
17. RaySea2387
Easily one of my favorite TNG episodes, for pretty much all the reason you said. I have to wonder, though, if I'm the only nerd who read this and thought that young Picard was really more of an Aramis. Now older Picard, that's Athos.
Keith DeCandido
18. krad
Quoth Lisamarie: "Also, does he really think of his astrophysics officers as dull people in dreary jobs?"

The point isn't that he's an astrophysics officer, the point is that he's in his 50s, has been in Starfleet for decades, and he's only advanced one grade in rank and is still an assistant astrophysics officer.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Megaduck
19. Sanagi
No need to argue about the moral of the episode. Picard makes it clear at the same time he's explaining the title. "There were many things in my youth that I'm not proud of... they were loose threads... untidy parts of myself that I wanted to remove. But when I pulled on one of those threads... I unraveled the tapestry of my life."

And my interpretation is that it's not a dream or time travel. Q knows Picard will ultimately survive and is taking the opportunity to torment him with these illusions. It's consistent with Q's character - he doesn't want to meddle with these events or change history, he just wants to score a philosophical point over Picard.
adam miller
20. adamjmil
@11,

Indeed.

Regarding astrophysics being "dreary" I think that having been a captain, and probably the best captain in the fleet, *Picard* would certainly view that job as dreary. And this is from his point of view.

Here's a thought. What if his job was dreary but he had a fantastic family. Which route would he pick?
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
21. Lisamarie
Heh, well, maybe I just think astrophysics sounds really cool, but point taken. Also, I used to be a grad student so I know how it is - even if the subject is cool - if I found out that at 50 I'd still be a grad student I'd probably go nuts - especially compared to what I do now ;) I think part of it is just that I've never been that into things like rank or advancement, as long as I like what I'm doing. But obviously, he likes being a captain and is good at it :)

I never considered that Q wasn't really there (nor did I think he was ever really dying, I think Q was just bluffing there), and I do agree it probably makes more sense that Q manufactured the whole thing and didn't REALLY send him back in time. But if that's the case, how do we know the future isn't just Q messing with him? Then again, I'm not totally sure what his motive would be, unless it's just to do what he thinks is a favor for Picard by making him appreciate his mistakes, but in a very Q like way of doing favors.
Megaduck
22. JayBell
I absolutely love this episode. Rewatching it is an entertaining though often uncomfortable shot in the arm for me to reevaluate my own life. However this episode always left me confused as to why Ronald D. Moore chose to present Piccard's attempt to establish a meaningful relationship with Marta as a mistake. Was it that Piccard at 21, at least prior to Q returning Captain Piccard to this individual’s life, was such a player that he couldn't have established the personal connections and emotional grounding necessary to successfully deepen the relationship? Did Marta interpret the night they spent together as Piccard, one of her closest friends, enjoying nothing more than a night of casual sex, because that's the only reasonable conclusion that Piccard's personality could allow?

Maybe I'm looking at it through my own past's lament on letting someone I cared about get away. In my case, I feel I lacked sufficient boldness, but this episode underscores the advantages of even foolish and hasty boldness over tepid inaction. So I resonate with its message of regret, but this particular moment, at least as I interpret it, seems incongruent with my experience.
Christopher Bennett
23. ChristopherLBennett
@20: "Here's a thought. What if his job was dreary but he had a fantastic family. Which route would he pick?"

I think the question is somewhat missing the point. It's not about what job he had. The job is just a symptom. The problem is that in this version of his life, Picard became too cautious, never took chances, and thus never lived up to his potential. It therefore follows that he wouldn't have taken chances on a personal level either and wouldn't have found true love or had a family.

@21: "...how do we know the future isn't just Q messing with him?"

If you mean the Halloway version of the present, it could've been just an illusion Q created, but I think it's likely to be his projection, his simulation, of a possible future. Being essentially omniscient, he could predict with considerable accuracy how the timeline would unfold under many different conditions. But I think it's likely that, of the various possible futures that could've unfolded if Picard hadn't been stabbed and had been that cautious in his youth, Q probably chose the one that best suited his argument, or weighted the simulation to favor such an outcome -- so that it was still a possible future, but not necessarily a guaranteed one.

@22: With Marta, I think the idea was that Picard had always looked back on Marta and entertained a fantasy of what might have happened if he'd acted on his attraction to her, and the point was that his idealized image of "how it could've been different" wouldn't necessarily have turned out that well after all.
Joseph Newton
24. crzydroid
deLancie is just spot on in this episode. In addition to a few of the quotes mentioned here (well, you didn't mention the comedic chomping of the vegetable after his ticking off Picard's mistakes) I also like the line where Picard is telling him a story and he says, "it gets you right here." I thinking watching Q (and Picard) in this episode is what makes it great on a rewatch--because quite frankly, after seeing this an uncountable amount of times, I think the parts where he's interacting with the other ensigns gets a little dreary.

@5: Yes, according to official timelines, it is more like 41 or 42 years, but Keith is going off of the dialogue here, which says 30. Star Trek never does well with matching official timelines when characters are giving timeframes off the cuff.

@16: I was also wondering if Thomas Halloway became Locutus.

Something I thought was funny here: La Forge bugs Picard about the statistical analysis right after the senior officers were called to the Ready Room.
Rob Rater
25. Quasarmodo
Picard needs to contact Marta and see if she now remembers having sex with him 30 (or 40) years ago, assuming she's still alive. Though I suppose Q could've implanted that memory in her so she thinks they did, even though they actually didn't because it was all an illusion, or a dream, or whatever.
Megaduck
26. rowanblaze
@24 re: LaForge demanding that report. 1) I always figured Geordi need it for whatever meeting was going on in the Ready Room. 2) Looking back, it seems silly that Lieutenant Picard would be hauling the report around on a PADD when it could be uploaded to LCARS and retrieved by LaForge that way. (Retro nitpick, FTW!) (I know, it gives Picard something bureaucratic to do.)
Christopher Bennett
27. ChristopherLBennett
@26: Characters delivering reports by hand, or keeping different documents on multiple padds, continued to be a conceit of modern Trek series all the way through Enterprise, well after such practices had become outdated in real life. But that's because TV is a visual medium, and doing it the old-fashioned way is more visually informative and interesting.
Rob Rater
28. Quasarmodo
It would've been funny if Lt. Picard had a full head of hair. Captain Picard is far too big a man to be concerned with baldness, but Lt. Picard, drifting and unfocused in his career, likely continuing with his womanizing ways, probably would go to greater extremes to keep all his locks. At the very least, a toupee.
Megaduck
29. rowanblaze
@27: Yes, I'm fully aware of that, hence my ending comment. Like many things in Trek, the multiple PADDs, etc., are included because of the medium of television and cinema, not because they make any sense from a practical design standpoint.
Christopher Hatton
30. Xopher
First, a bit of pedantry (skip this paragraph if you hate pedantry). Picard was not "impaled." He was stabbed transversely through his body. Impalement would be up through the center of the body. Classic impalement is actually a torture-execution method; I won't go into details here because they're too gross.

I share your hatred for It's a Wonderful Life.

There are two possible interpretations of this episode. One is that you shouldn't wish for your life to be anything other than what it was, because it made you who you are. If you're not terribly happy with your current life, however, you may wish you could go back and get stabbed through the heart!
Christopher Bennett
31. ChristopherLBennett
@30: I think the message of the episode is that our mistakes are part of what make us who we are, that it's better to move forward using what we've learned from our mistakes than it is to linger in recriminations and wish we could erase them.

Although, of course, it was mainly Q making a point that it was the younger Picard's more Q-like qualities that helped make him the man he is. So it was really kind of a self-serving exercise on Q's part -- that is, if you believe it was really Q at all rather than a dream/hallucination.
Chin Bawambi
32. bawambi
Wow I am out of the mainstream opinion on this one. I detest this episode. I don't like the portrayal of the afterlife. I don't like the Q Picard interplay - it feels tired here to me. I don't buy the premise of a Picard with no drive to be the best assistant he could be. Ugh. 3 of 10 max.
Christopher Bennett
33. ChristopherLBennett
@32: I profoundly doubt this episode had any intention of presenting that as an actual "afterlife." We only have Q's word that Picard was "dead," and Q is an infamous liar. More likely it was just Q reaching into Picard's mind and inducing an imagined scenario, or Picard simply hallucinating the whole thing while Crusher was treating him.
Megaduck
34. Greenygal
On the one hand, they did leave it ambiguous (and they didn't have to; it would have been easy for Q to leave some sign of his presence). On the other hand, the idea that Picard had a long and complex edge-of-death dream involving Q of all people bringing him to an emotional realization about his life strikes me as significantly less likely than that Q--who is, after all, a meddling omnipotent being with a personal interest in Picard--was in fact there.

If it was a dream, that says new and interesting things about Picard's subconscious view of Q, given that this is the most helpful Q has ever been at this point in the show, and Picard acknowledges as much at the end.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
35. Lisamarie
I tend to agree with above - I think it was Q (or at least that we're meant to think it was) although never did really believe Picard was truly dying.

As for what Q gets out of it...who knows.
Christopher Hatton
36. Xopher
The term everyone is groping for is 'Near-Death Experience', or NDE for short.
Megaduck
37. DPC
It's a fantastic episode, but Picard basically insults people who don't have the same personality profile as he does. It's remarkably un-Picard... and un-PC. Picard makes command decisions, but the people Picard derided do the actual work that's needed to keep things going, especially as statisticians DO put passion into their work. Picard's insensitivity just seemed wrong.

And that we must all apparently do the same things he does and succeed - which also flies in the face of another season 2 story, where Picard states "You can do all the right things and still fail - it's called 'life'". That's the Picard that won me over. Now he's just an arrogant jerk. But in defense, Q is playing a mind game with him... still, if pressure brings about peoples' true selves, what must Picard really be like?

Kirk adored President Lincoln, as Lincoln tended to value people - and it's reflected in Kirk, who will risk his life to save others. But which political figure might Picard prefer? Pol-Pot? Mussolini? Granted, that's harsh as I don't see Picard revering either of them, but Picard's insistance on the Prime Directive to let people die has crossed my mind before ("Pen Pals", "11001001" - albeit before this aspect to Picard would be solidified but he WOULD say "no" to the Bynar request)...
Mordicai Knode
38. mordicai
After Best of Both Worlds, this might be my favorite episode.
Rob Rater
39. Quasarmodo
Let's not forget that not only did Picard find himself in a completely different career upon his return to the present, he'd also lost all the relationships he'd created with the Enterprise crew. Though he feels the same towards them, they see him as completely different and treat him as such, which is hard pill to swallow on top of finding yourself in a career you have little to no interest in.
Megaduck
40. jlpsquaredreturns
i love star trek
Megaduck
42. Adam Byrne
Classic episode.
Megaduck
44. monk
There is a difference between risking your life because you were called a coward and risking your life because someone's life is at risk (such as saving the life of an ambassador). In fact, the reason for doing so for the first is the opposite of the second.
Megaduck
45. JohnC
So the actress who played Marta was 17 when Patrick Stewart sucked face with her making this episode? I dunno, that kinda weirds me out, but no more so than the sight of the implied-nude Picard in bed with Q..... >shivers
Megaduck
46. AnchorintheStratosphere
This is one of my all time favorite episodes! If you like it I recently wrote a post on my blog inspired by this episode and it's lesson...

http://tinyurl.com/p8cmaye

I'd love for you to check it out!
Megaduck
48. Viewpoint Mine
I fail to see the appeal of this episode to so many. In order to be a success in life one must bar-hop and get into fights? Sleep with as many women/men as possible? Be a jerk first, then learn a 'valuable life lesson' and grow up? As for Picard's choosing to return to his 'death,' well really not much of a choice is it? Between being the Captain of the USS Enterprise and the hero of the Federation and being some anonymous nobody 'who never took a chance,' wow really hard decision to make. Tasha Yar 'took a chance' and died for it, an ensign in another episode 'took a chance' on infiltrating Cardassian space and died for it. Fairly sure those parts of their personal tapestries are ones they'd like to get a do-over on. This episode is a textbook example of 'no mustn't change the past in any way the results are always horrible' meme. An episode in which Picard had a different life that was as good or better than his first, but in which he chose to return to this one, that would have been challenging. As it is, Tapestry is The Emperor's New Clothes of ST:TNG.
Megaduck
49. therealarod
Those of you who commented that this episode somehow communicates that you have to be wild and fight in your youth to be successful are missing it. Picard realizes that he is the man he is today because of ALL of his past experiences and lessons. Not just the events where he acted responsibly or honorably. ALL of it is woven into the tapestry of his life. Living life with regrets about the past does nothing for your present, and attempting to undo events in your past can only undo who you are today. Maybe that helps. BTW this is definitely a Top 10 all-time episode, great review.

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