Season Six - TNG

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Tapestry

Written by Ronald D. Moore, Brannon Braga, and Rene Echevarria
Directed by Les Landau

How many of us wonder about decisions we’ve made in life? I wonder a lot about how different my life would be if I’d made different choices. Maybe it’s just a result of a year that has had more downs than ups combined with a sort-of mid-life crisis, but I find myself asking that question more and more lately.

In Tapestry, Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) has the opportunity to see what his life would have been like had he done some things differently. After being attacked at a conference by a Lenarian, he “dies” and goes to “heaven” where the omnipotent being Q (John deLancie) is “God”. Q tells him he might have lived had he had a real heart instead of the artificial one present in his body after getting into a fight and being stabbed by a Nausicaan.

Q gives Picard the opportunity to “do it all over again” and make different choices. Q tells him that if he can get through these particular three days without getting into the fight and getting stabbed through the heart, he will still be alive in the future.

When he succeeds, he learns that there are unforeseen consequences to his actions (or inaction as the case may be).

…. There were 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…

This episode felt almost like two separate stories rather than one. On first viewing, the suspense comes from whether or not Picard will be able to change what’s happened in his life. The first time I watched it, I was shocked that he did succeed at doing this rather than succumbing after fighting his fate for some time. This is the first story; the story of Picard in his youth and his attempt to change his future.

The second story comes when Picard succeeds in changing his fate and learns what his life would be like. Everything else has stayed virtually the same. All of the same, familiar faces are still on board the Enterprise. All that’s changed is Picard and his place on the ship. Many people often lament “I wish I’d known then what I know now…” When Picard gets that chance, it ends up costing him everything. Instead of taking chances and rising to the top, he holds back.

Although this is a theme that’s been addressed in a variety of ways by many others, it’s very well done here in the Star Trek universe. Much of the credit here goes to Patrick Stewart who does a terrific job here as Picard. That’s no surprise considering he did a one-man version of A Christmas Carol on Broadway, giving him insight into the role. The themes of the two are quite similar, though the stories are different, and this probably aided Stewart in finding his footing with Picard in this situation.

He is just as believable as the young Picard as the older one. Though viewers are seeing the older Picard, his friends are seeing him as his younger self. It’s a bit of insight fans have never had into the Captain before – him as a young rabble-rouser and ladies’ man. Had that side of his personality been silenced too soon, what would the repercussions be?

John deLancie is once again terrific as Q. Seemingly dispassionate about whether Picard lives or dies, it keeps his purpose here a mystery all the way through. Is he being benevolent to Picard or is he torturing him as usual? Even by the end, it seems as though he has given the Captain a great gift, but was that his intention, or was it to teach him a lesson? Why does he resolve the situation the way he does?

I am glad the writers didn’t give me all the answers about Q as it leaves this character more mysterious in his actions and motivations. He’s one of the great characters created in the Star Trek universe and putting all his cards on the table would really detract from what is best about him. I’m almost afraid that they would ever consider using him in a movie as the producers seem to take away what has made many of the villains great in the films.

One nit-pick I have, and it’s not really with this episode as much as it is in future writers not picking up clues about the character of Picard in the future. When we see the young Picard attacked by the Nausicaan, he looks nothing like the cloned – much younger – “Picard” seen in Star Trek: Nemesis. The Picard shown briefly in this episode is the model they should have used for the Tom Hardy character in that movie.

If you want an episode without a lot of special effects and techno-babble to introduce someone to Star Trek, this makes a great piece. It’s character-driven around one character, and it’s not necessary to really understand any history. It’s A Wonderful Life Captain Picard, now you better appreciate it!

Previous episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – Face of the Enemy

Next episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – Birthright Part I

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