[Retro Review] Tapestry, TNG
In a diplomatic mission gone wrong, Captain Picard is beamed back home to the Enterprise after being shot in the chest and dies. The shot blew out his mechanical heart and as he crosses the celestial border from life to death, he’s met with his creator. Or at least someone claiming to be God, his old pal Q.
Q explains the situation. The heart, or lack of, killed him. Then he plays back the fight that made him lose hos actual heart; a bar room brawl with a Nausican when the Captain was a newly minted Ensign. As Picard watches his young self being stabbed through the chest, leading to an artificial heart being implanted leading to it being shorted out decades later, Q gives his old pal a choice. Stay dead, or go back and fix the mistake.
Early on in the Next Generation, Picard quickly recounts how he lost his original heart to Wesley Crusher who seems bemused that the stuffy old Captain used to be a bit of a rebel. Tapestry nicely picks up on that story and offers a first look at the young Picard we could never imagine by swapping out the Captain we know fr his younger self. A recent Starfleet Academy graduate who’s awaiting his first assignment alongside his classmates and best friends of his youth.
Reliving his younger days thankfully means we get Patrick Stewart in the role because thats how he and Q see him. Avoiding casting a younger person in the role gives us a chance to see Captain Picard properly looking back at his younger self as he relives the mistakes he made as an ensign with sombre and often awkward replays. Also, who wants to watch a Picard growth episode with someone else in the role. We’ve learned a lot from the episode where he was a teenager with weirdly brown eyes….
The episode doesn’t have the “second chance” weight of others, such as DS9#’s The Visitor. But it does show a mature Picard dealing with his stupid younger self and trying to make up for mistakes. His regret of never having a non platonic relationship with his bestie is resolved, but he ruins it all by fighting his other best pal instead of the Nausican that stabbed him. Basically ensuring he never gets stabbed through the chest while simultaneously shattering his friend group.
Then the butterfly effect. What happens if he never gets in that fight and loses his friends? Turns out he ruins everything. In a jump to the present day after saving himself shows a lonely man avoiding risk means he avoided the risks on the Stargazer that led him to take command. He never became Captain. He instead jumps into a life where he never became a Captain. Never became anything really. Just a basic lower decks science officer known to never take risks and just be comfortable in his lower tier job. Even when asking about promotion Riker would clearly be more confident in letting Worf become a relationship counsellor.
I’ve always seen this as the episode where Q shows his true colours. He may have been a bit misguided, but nearly all of Q’s appearances seem to be a lesson for his favourite human. There’s a closing statement of not being sure if this happened or was imagined in a death delirium. But eventually Q told Picard outright he was messing with him to guide him in Picard Season 2, which gives the idea of Q being an agonistically nice guy more weight.
The entire point of the episode is about owning your mistakes. No ones perfect and we all mess up sometimes. Sure, some themes don;’t resonate well. There’s nothing wrong with being a play it safe guy living a comfortable low key life and that’s not really acknowledged as well as it should be. Everyone’s amazing in their own way and doesn’t need to be an all out hero. And the emotional weight of the episode trails at the end as Picard resets his timeline and cheats death with a little help from a friend.
The moral of the story is very heavy handed. Take risks. Be bold. Be brave. Mistakes are character building and make us who we are. And it does work well. But at the same time, it’s mostly an episode to show Q for who he really is. A story we wouldn’t see come to an end for 29 years. For it’s flaws, it’s one of the best Picard episodes and one of the best Q episodes in the grant tapestry of Star Trek itself.
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