Ricky Church revisits the essential Jean-Luc Picard episodes as we count down to the premiere of Star Trek: Picard…
Some of the best Star Trek stories aren’t big battles or galactic intrigue, but rather introspective episodes for the characters that challenged their assumptions and choices. Already on the Essential Picard list there have been two such episodes with ‘Measure of a Man‘ and ‘The Inner Light‘ and once again another insightful episode into Picard’s character is placed here through what turns out to be an essential moment in Picard’s life. ‘Tapestry’ examines the young man Picard was and how some of his reckless choices led him to become the man who captains the Enterprise.
Picard suffers a near-death injury and as Dr. Crusher and her medical team attempt to save him, Picard finds himself in a purgatory ruled by none other than Q, the extradimensional being who has taken a liking to (torturing) Picard. Q takes Picard back to another near-death experience for the captain and, faced with the choice to do it all over again, finds even his bad choices helped shape him into the man he currently is.
On a few occasions we’ve heard about Picard’s youth and how different he was then compared to the present, and though we don’t technically get to see what Picard was really like since the older version of the man is inhabiting his younger self’s body, we see and hear enough to understand the complete difference between them. Young Picard was a charming, laid back, arrogant womanizer who loosely followed the rules and had no problem cheating or ruffling peoples feathers. This lends some credence to what his brother Robert thought of Jean-Luc back in ‘Family‘, as he seemingly got away with everything and left his family behind for Starfleet as soon as he could. His two best friends at the time are just like him and encourage him in his reckless actions, finding everything they do more amusing than consequential. Even Q is taken aback by what Picard was like in his youth. The moment that made him snap out of this bad behaviour was when he picked a fight with a group of giant Nausicaans and got stabbed through the heart, causing him to gain the artificial heart he has.
As he relives the events leading up to his stabbing and is given the chance by Q to change things, Picard’s new actions shock his friends to the point their friendships start fracturing. Picard just tries fixing everything in all the wrong ways, only alienating his friends further and when Q brings Picard back to the present, everything is changed to an even worse position for Picard. He is no longer captain of the Enterprise, but a lowly junior officer who most others don’t take notice of or seem to barely tolerate. As Riker and Trio tell Picard in this timeline, he has no ambition and plays it safe too much.
The actions in ‘Tapestry’ show that while one may regret the choices of their youth or wish for a terrible event to never have happened, they ultimately serve in developing them into the person they grow to be. As Q relates to Picard, his stabbing taught him a valuable lesson about life and how to treat time and people. If it weren’t for that moment, Picard would have stayed as that reckless man and never found the focus he so desperately needed or appreciated the responsibility he has as a Starfleet officer. It’s an important lesson for Picard to learn he can’t change everything and instead open himself up a bit more to the people he has in his life now. More than that though, it is also an important thought to pass onto viewers that while they can regret past actions or wish for change, sometimes the bad can lead to something better.
One interesting aspect to ‘Tapestry’ is Q’s involvement and whether or not he was really there with Picard. As a near-death experience, it might have just been a dream Picard had as the crew revived him or Q just saw the opportunity to mess with Picard. Some reasons to think Q was just a figment of Picard’s imagination is how, despite all of Q’s usual eccentricities and sarcasm, he seems rather un-Q-like as he acts as more of a guide to the captain and seems to genuinely want to help him understand the impact of his choices, both the one leading to his stabbing and the one to wish it away. However, at this point in the series Q had become less of an antagonist to Picard and more of an annoying trickster who saw Picard as a friend. Through his few appearances Q’s interest in Picard changed slightly where he gave Picard and the Enterprise a helping hand, albeit in his own way. Either way, John de Lancie makes his appearance a very entertaining one as he goads Picard and takes a few different appearances to great hilarity, comically being a mailman asking for “John Luck Pickherd”.
‘Tapestry’ is a good episode that examines the past choices of Picard and how he changed into a better man and Starfleet officer. The examination of how one’s bad choices can still lead to something positive and allow for growth is a particularly significant one. Patrick Stewart does a great job conveying Picard’s need to fix his past and then the sudden shock at how his life turned out, exemplifying the old adage ‘be careful what you wish for’. It’s a fun episode with a touching message and great performances from Stewart and de Lancie, making it another important step to Star Trek: Picard.
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