Star Trek: The Next Generation “Tapestry”
Just a few weeks after “Q-Less” aired, Q returned to The Next Generation for the next installment of…
The episode begins with Crusher receiving emergency patients, including Picard, Riker, and Worf, who are being beamed up after a surprise attack at a conference they were attending. Picard is unconscious with a huge burn in the center of his chest and gets carried by Worf to a bio bed.
Crusher attempts to revive him, but Picard’s artificial heart is fused.
We fade to white, and Picard is walking around. He sees what appears to be a shadowed angelic figure. Picard takes the figure’s offered hand only to discover that the figure is Q, who welcomes him to the afterlife.
Understandably asking WTF?, Picard scoffs at Q’s comment that he’s God. But Q states that Picard died just five minutes ago. To back up his claim, the spirit of Picard’s dad pops up and scolds his son for joining Starfleet against his wishes, especially since he’s now dead. Never mind that Picard saved humanity more than once by this point in the series. There’s just no pleasing some fathers!
Picard also hears random voices that Q says are the voices of those who have indirectly died because of the captain over the years. But Q says that the good news is that since Picard no longer requires the bathroom, they can now travel through eternity together.
Q points out the reason Picard is now dead and holds up his artificial heart, which Picard had previously told Wesley about in the second season episode “Samaritan Snare”. He says that Picard may have survived the blast that hit him had his heart been a real one. They witness a younger Picard fighting three Nausicaans until one of them sticks a knife in his back, which goes through his heart. Young Picard laughs at the sight before collapsing to the ground.
The present Picard explains to Q that he was reckless and arrogant at that time, which are traits Q wishes he still had. This arrogant streak led to him starting that fight and hence losing his heart. Picard confesses that things would be different now if he hadn’t started that fight.
Picard is surprised by a slap on the face by a woman who quickly walks out. He turns around to see that this little episode is being cheered on by his Academy BFFs Cortan “Corey” Zweller (Ned Vaughn) and Marta “Marty” Batanides (J.C. Brandy). They briefly joke with Picard, who went by the nickname “Johnny” during this time. After Corey and Marty leave, Picard briefly takes in his surroundings, including the cool Starfleet uniform Kirk and company wore in Star Treks II through VI.
Q pops up and says he’s given Picard a chance to change things so he won’t die that premature death. After assuring him that history won’t be altered by what Picard does or doesn’t do, Picard recognizes the setting as Starbase Earhart, where he, Corey, and Marty were awaiting their first postings. Q asks about the lady who slapped him, and Picard says it was one of the many ladies he bedded during this time, and the slap was her reaction when she learned that Picard had another date that same day.
Picard is now in a bar chatting it up with that same date. But the polite respect he now shows leads to her throwing a drink in his face and storming out, to Q’s amusement. Meanwhile, Corey is amazing a crowd with his skills at the billiards-like game of dom-jot. That’s when Nausicaans come in and challenge him to a game. Despite Picard’s warnings, Corey agrees to the challenge and subsequently loses.
In a huff, Corey goes back to his room with Picard and Marty. Corey insists that the Nausicaans had some kind of knick-knack that allowed them to win the game. He plans revenge by rigging the table so the device fails the next time. Picard tries to tell him that this is a bad idea. Corey walks out while Marty notes that Picard is acting differently than usual, saying that he would usually be the one to suggest the revenge idea.
Q walks in with flowers, amusingly saying they are for “John Luck Pickerd”. Marty leaves, prompting Q to note that she’s hot. Picard admits that he wishes he and Marty had been more than friends. But Q is also here to inform Picard that Corey has ignored his advice and is currently rigging the dom-jot table.
Going to the bar, Picard confronts Corey. He eventually says that he’ll rat Corey out to the bar’s owner if he goes through with it. Corey storms off. Back in his quarters, Picard pours his heart out to Marty, while she notes that she likes this new sense of responsibility in Picard. They end up spending the night together.
The next morning begins with a nightmare of sorts, as Picard awakens to find not Marty but Q next to him. Q gloats about what Picard has done so far before vanishing.
Picard meets with Marty in the bar, although she’s not in a happy mood, regretting their romantic evening. They’re joined by an equally unhappy Corey, and they toast to the assignments that await them.
That’s when the Nausicaans return and challenge them again. Picard ends up avoiding the fight and thus saving his real heart by shoving Corey to the ground. The Nausicaans leave laughing their asses off, while both Corey and Marty tell Picard to piss off and walk away.
Q congratulates Picard for avoiding the fight, and the captain is back in the present on the Enterprise. Only now, he’s not a captain. He’s wearing a blue uniform while Worf informs him that he’s a junior grade lieutenant, and Data talks about someone else being the captain. Picard goes to Sickbay, but instead of Crusher, he finds Q, who tells him that he did what he promised: returned Picard to the present as he knows it. All that’s changed is Picard himself, because Picard changed who he was in the past.
Picard goes to Ten Forward and sits with Riker and Troi, asking for their opinion of him as officer material. They both state that, while Picard dots his i’s and crosses his t’s, he’s never acted on the impulse to go above and beyond in order to get into the lucrative command field. In the plus column, he still outranks Harry Kim.
Picard angrily goes to Engineering to give a report to La Forge. In the turbolift, Picard asks Q if he’s amused that Picard is now leading a boring life. The doors open and Picard is back in the all-white setting with Q, who’s bitching about his ungratefulness.
Q points out that, by being less arrogant in his earlier years, Picard didn’t become the commanding figure we met in “Encounter at Farpoint”. As a result, Picard is now stuck with a career that’s almost as bad as being a regular on Andromeda. Of course, there are numerous reasons why TNG was an awesome series and Andromeda was anything but. One of those reasons was that Picard is more interesting and relatable than Sorbo’s Dylan Hunt. We get another example of this as Picard admits to Q that trying to change things wasn’t a smart move, and he asks Q to send him back in order to start the fight this time. Q reminds Picard that this will still result in his eventual death, but Picard doesn’t care. De Lancie does some great acting here; while his facial expression doesn’t change, he’s clearly impressed by Picard yet again.
Picard is back in the bar and this time starts that fight. He gets in a few good punches before that knife goes through his heart, causing him to laugh his ass off all the way back to Crusher’s Sickbay… where she tells him that he should pull through.
The episode ends with a recovered Picard in the observation lounge telling Riker about his experience. Riker notes that he’s never heard of someone having such a detailed near-death experience, and is surprised when Picard admits he’s thankful to Q for the new insight, because he’s always been less than pleased about things he did in his past. Q helped him realize that those stupid acts helped forge him into the person he is now.
“Tapestry” is a wonderful take on Frank Capra’s classic movie It’s a Wonderful Life. Picard isn’t depressed by his life, but rather thinks that if he removes one foolish act he performed in his youth, he won’t die a premature death years later. But Q helps him actually appreciate that act, and realize that in the end, it wasn’t so foolish after all.
“Deja Q” ended with Picard grudgingly admitting that Q was more than a pain in the ass. “Tapestry” ends with Picard openly thanking Q for helping him actually appreciate an event that he had previously viewed with embarrassment and even humiliation. As a result, this episode marks a new point in Q which wouldn’t have been effective had it aired prior to any of his previous appearances, including his pit stop at Deep Space Nine. Q’s relationship with Picard is especially changed, as he’s the only one of TNG’s regulars who Q interacts with here, although Picard keeps the other regulars in the know about what happens.
All this would certainly influence the dramatic direction of Q’s next appearance, which was, of course, the TNG finale “All Good Things…” I’ve already written a review of that episode and can’t think of much to say that I haven’t already said about that masterwork. This is why I’m jumping ahead to Q’s following appearance, which was the Voyager episode “Death Wish”, and this is sadly where the “fall” aspect of the Rise and Fall of Q begins.