Star Trek The Next Generation: Tapestry

"Welcome to the afterlife, Jean-Luc. You're dead."

The best Q episode? I certainly think so.

But is it even really a Q episode?

It's entirely possible, as Picard suggests at the end, that everything we saw in this episode was nothing more than a hallucination brought on by his brush with death. Q himself is never once seen in the present. But I like to think that it really was Q. He saw that Picard was dying and, because he loves Picard so much, decided to do something about it. But, since it is Q, he decided not to make it easy for the captain. I mean, why simply settle for saving a mortal's life when you can mess with them and teach them an important life lesson as well?

Anchored by two great performances from Patrick Stewart and John de Lancie, who really cement their position as Next Gen's best double-act with this episode, 'Tapestry' is not only the best Q episode, it is also the best episode of season six and certainly one of the top five best episodes of Next Gen overall. In a nice bit of continuity, it builds on the story Picard told Wesley way, way back in 'Samaritan Snare' about how he had to have his heart replaced with an artificial one after getting stabbed in the back during a fight with a trio of Nausicaans. 

Everything gets off in rather dramatic fashion with Picard being injured after an away mission has gone south and promptly popping his clogs. To make matters worse, he finds the doorman at the pearly gates is none other than Q. He explains that Picard died because his artificial heart malfunctioned. He also throws in a jab at Crusher's skill as a doctor. Q then offers Picard the chance to go back in time, into his younger self (I really could've phrased that better), so that he can change history and avoid the fight that cost him his original heart, thus saving his life in the present. And so Captain Picard finds himself leaping from life to life, striving to put right what once went wrong, and hoping each time that his next leap will be the lea– oh wait, that's a different Enterprise captain.

Sorry.

Anyway, thanks to Q's plot friendly powers, Picard finds himself reliving his carefree youth. He's 21-year-old Ensign "Johnny" Picard again, a hot-headed junior officer, fresh out of the Academy, young, dumb and full of... hair. Well, at least to everyone else he is. To us and Q, he's still Patrick Stewart flavour. Which is a good thing because this episode would not have worked at all if they'd gone with that other actor as young Picard. No one wants to watch a character-rich Picard-centric episode starring someone other than Patrick Stewart as Picard.

Rather than put right what once went wrong, Picard instead goes about his old life making a complete mess of everything. His whole strategy for fixing that one mistake seems to be making a load of new ones and hoping one of them will cancel the original one out. He acts on his old attraction to Marta and sleeps with her, something he doesn't regret, but she does, ruining their friendship. And to prevent the fight, he turns on Corey, attacking him instead of the Nausicaans, ruining yet another friendship. The only thing he manages not to screw up completely is the very thing he's there to prevent. He doesn't get into the fight, doesn't get stabbed in the back, and doesn't lose his original heart.

So, at least he gets to love happily ever after, right?

Not quite.

"I've made a huge mistake."
Quicker than you can say “Be careful what you wish for” Picard finds himself back in the present and rocking the blue uniform. Instead of captain he’s now Lt. (Junior Grade) Jean-Luc Picard, a nobody working in astrophysics. Hey, he wished he'd been more cautious in his youth and this is the result. A safe and ordinary life full of tedium and mediocrity. For some, that is all they are looking for. Many just want the quiet life and simple job. I know I do. But for Picard it is a complete horror show. He'd rather die than live out this life. And he's only been there, what, ten minutes?

Oh boy, he must really hate wearing blue.

If 'Tapestry' has a flaw it's that the ending doesn't quite deliver the emotional punch you're expecting. But that's fine, because what makes this episode great isn't really how much it makes you cry, it is how it changes Picard's relationship with Q. Before this episode, Picard only saw Q as nothing more than a recurring annoyance. A cosmic pest you just had to put up with. Now, though, he has started to realise that Q does genuinely care about him, in his own twisted Q-like way.

Plus, we get to see the two of them in bed together. That alone is worthy of top marks.

"Was it good for you too?"
Notes and Quotes

--Showing Picard his still disapproving father and letting him hear the voices of all those who have died under his command was a little cruel, even for Q.

--This episode was originally meant to feature multiple flashbacks to Picard's life including his childhood and his time on the Stargazer.

--All the other Starfleet officers in the bar do nothing to help out during the fight. Even after Picard is stabbed they just stand their gawking.

--Alternative Picard may have only been promoted once in his career, but that is still more times than Harry Kim.

Picard: "Q, what is going on?"
Q: "I told you. You're dead, this is the afterlife, and I'm God."
Picard: "You are not God!"
Q: "Blasphemy! You're lucky I don't cast you out or smite you or something."

Q: "I refuse to believe that the afterlife is run by you. The universe is not so badly designed."

Picard: "My only regret is dying and finding you here."

Q: "Flowers! Is there a John Luck Pickerd here?"

Picard: "I'd rather die as the man I was than live the life I just saw."

Picard: "There are 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."

Four out of four blue uniforms.
--
If Mark Greig could turn back time, if he could find a way, he'd take back those words that hurt you and you'd stay More Mark Greig

1 comment:

Billie Doux said...

This is one of my very favorite episodes, not a surprise since I'm a Patrick Stewart fan. I think it really was Q, too, but I love that they left it open to interpretation. And they get big points from me for using the uniforms from the Star Trek II-IV movies.

I enjoyed your review, Mark. Especially that little QL segue. :)